Ningxia, China’s premier wine region in northwestern China, saw a 256% growth in export value in 2021, thanks to strong government support and a new generation of committed winemakers in Ningxia.
Last year, Ningxia wine export value soared 256% from the previous year, according to the latest figure announced in the Ningxia wine industry work conference. Domestically, the region’s total wine sales volume and value jumped by 8% and 15%, respectively.
In terms of wine output, Ningxia produced 130 million bottles of wine last year, totalling RMB 30 billion (US$4.7 billion) in overall production value.
The success of Ningxia wine today came a long way with continuous government support and efforts of quality-driven winemakers in the region.
Ningxia is widely renowned as “China’s Bordeaux” for its similar latitude with the famous Bordeaux region. The eastern hillsides of Helan Mountains, which runs north from south separating Inner Mongolia’s encroaching desert to the valley area near Yinchuan, is reputed as the most promising wine growing area in Ningxia.
Last year, the economic and cultural significance of “Wine in the Helan Mountain East Region” was recognised by the European Union when China and the EU mutually extended their protection to more geographical indications, giving Ningxia wine the same protective status as Champagne.
Three decades ago, growing grapes was merely a method to combat desertification in Ningxia, but now the region is deemed as the growth engine for Chinese wine in President Xi Jinping’s 15-year plan.
To rival international wine regions, China aims to ramp up Ningxia’s production capacity to 300 million bottles and RMB 100 billion (US$15.57 billion) by 2025, close to four times of its current industry size. By 2035, the annual production should double that of 2025.
The ambitious expansion plan gave green lights to many wine growing projects and promotional efforts of Ningxia wineries, with ample financial assistance from provincial governments to boost Ningxia’s wine brand recognition.
Amid the pandemic and global supply chain jam, the customs agency of Ningxia has also been smoothing out the region’s wine export by streamlining clearance procedures on wine.
Last year, the first national level wine expo, China (Ningxia) International Wine Culture and Tourism Expo, was held in Ningxia‘s capital Yinchuan to promote Ningxia wines to global wine-producing countries.
The expo was considered as “an important mission” entrusted by the central government to Ningxia, and has successfully included 620 wine brands from 16 countries to compete in a wine contest during the expo.
Another critical backbone of Ningxia’s wine exports growth is the new generation winemakers who are producing high quality wines and winning approvals from international wine critics and drinkers in recent years.
While Government-backed wine producers like COFCO’s Great Wall or international flagships like LVMH’s Chandon are well-resourced to boost overseas drinkers’ interest towards Ningxia, some boutique wineries and independent winemakers are exploring different winemaking methods to produce wines that reflect the unique terroir of Ningxia.
In the first edition of top 10 fine wines in China rated by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate last year, none of the wines were produced by government-backed wineries.
In the report, Edward Ragg MW, the Chinese wine reviewer for the publication, particularly credited the “greater adventurousness” of Chinese winemakers and progressive winemakers for levelling up Chinese wine quality and creating “interesting” wines to explore.
As boutique wineries in China are gaining more attention in the wine world, the founder of Kanaan winery Wang Fang revealed to Vino Joy News earlier that her winery recorded sales growth in export markets when its domestic sales also increased during Chinese New Year.
Ningxia’s iconic Silver Heights winery which is also converting to biodynamic viticulture currently exports about 25% of its wines overseas and aims to increase the percentage to 40% in the near future, as we have reported before.