Across China: Int'l winemakers, professionals chase dreams in China's Ningxia

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YINCHUAN, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- For a long time, the Chinese people typically believed that the best wines could not be manufactured domestically, but that is no longer the case.

As a thriving wine industry develops in China, an increasing number of winemakers and professionals from around the world are flocking to China to pursue their winemaking dreams here.

Since the beginning of the wine grape harvest season in early Autumn, Maria Teresa Romero Ponce has been hard at work in a vineyard in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region along with her coworkers and the locals.

"China has the potential to produce really good wines," said the 30-year-old viticulturist at Stone & Moon Winery, one of over 200 trendy wineries located at the eastern foothills of Ningxia's Helan Mountain. "We cultivate the varieties suitable for our region and produce wine in a manner that expresses Ningxia."

Ponce has traveled to many renowned wine regions across the world, including France, Spain and her native Chile. But she believes that Ningxia, where she first set foot last year, is an ideal destination to help her achieve her dream of being a top winemaker.

The unique climate here contributes to the production of high-quality wine grapes, making the region a rising star on the world wine map, Ponce said.

After spending over a year and a half in Ningxia, Ponce feels that she still has a lot to learn and she can share the knowledge she has gained in Ningxia with winemakers worldwide.

Over the years, Ningxia has grown into a major wine-producing region in China with an annual output of 130 million bottles. According to official data, the coverage of vineyards in Ningxia reached 35,000 hectares in 2021, accounting for nearly one third of China's total.

About 60 international winemakers from over 20 countries have been invited by the regional government of Ningxia to help enhance local vineyard management and winemaking skills.

The region's burgeoning wine industry has also attracted winery owners and promoters from around the world. Christelle Chene, 36, was born in Burgundy, France, a place with a long-standing reputation for winemaking. Before coming to Ningxia, she worked for a wine company, selling French wines to Chinese consumers.

However, since 2019, she has been working for Xige Estate at Helan Mountain, promoting Ningxia wine to the international market.

She initially thought it would be a tough job as few wine importers outside China knew about Chinese wines. But as a result of China's vast and rapidly expanding wine market, more and more people are paying attention to wines produced here.

Chene said she would send samples to wine vendors worldwide, and the quality is often convincing enough for them to consider further business cooperation.

Moreover, Ningxia wine has won many awards in international competitions in recent years, which has greatly improved its popularity.

Despite the impact of COVID-19 on global logistics, Xige Estate's wine sales have remained stable. "An increasing number of Chinese people and expats in China are willing to choose local wines and it's a good change," Chene said.

Chene's career has flourished in Ningxia, where she has also witnessed the development of China's wine industry. She purchased a home in Ningxia and plans to stay here for the next few years.

"I've tried my best to promote Ningxia wine. It's not just a job, but a passion for me," she said. ■

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