22 to 24 May 2021

Concours Mondial de Bruxelles

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28th Edition

Concours Mondial de Bruxelles

The city of Yinchuan will host the 28th Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. The tasting sessions will take place from 22 to 24 May 2021.

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From 22 to 24 May 2021 in Ningxia, China

Ningxia’s crimson dream

Il y a mille ans, l’ancienne route de la soie qui traversait le continent eurasien ouvrait la porte à la transmission économique et culturelle entre les pays de l’Est et de l’Ouest. Aujourd’hui, ce qui était autrefois l’épicentre du commerce international est devenu la plus grande région viticole de Chine, qui compte plus de 90 A thousand years ago, the ancient Silk Road cutting across the Eurasian continent opened up both trade and cultural exchanges between East and West. Fast forward to now, and what used to be the epicentre of international trade has become China’s largest wine region with over 90 vineyards covering 40,000 hectares.

In 2018, Ningxia produced in excess of 100 million bottles of wine. Concurrently with this, revenue from tourism for Yinchuan alone exceeded 15 billion RMB, up 15.83% on the previous year. Over half of international travellers to Ningxia over the past few years have gone there for its wine. Winegrowers and winemakers have spent years perfecting their techniques and many wines have won awards in numerous international competitions, including the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Without doubt, wine has become a ‘crimson brand’ for Ningxia.

The Eastern foothills of the Helan Mountain

In 2013, the Eastern foothills of the Helan Mountain officially became a protected area for geographical indication wines from China. From North to South, between the foothills of the Helan Mountain in the West and the Yellow River in the East, Shizuishan, Helan, Yinchuan, Yongning, Qingtongxia and Hongsipu are the area’s six sub-zones. Vines grow along a narrow strip, collectively known as the Eastern foothills of the Helan Mountain.

Ningxia has a cool continental climate, with very hot, dry summers followed by extremely cold winters, forcing winegrowers to bury the vines to ensure they survive the winter. Average annual rainfall is a diminutive 240 mm, making irrigation a requisite – drip irrigation is therefore commonplace throughout the region’s vineyards. Average elevation is over 1,000 m above sea level and drops from North to South. The combination of long sunshine hours, high day-night temperature variations of up to 15°C and a fairly long ripening season enable the fruit to reach peak ripeness, both in terms of sugars and phenolic ripeness, whilst retaining balanced acidity. Red grape varieties are still in the majority – over 90% of vineyard area is planted to red cultivars – with Cabernet-Sauvignon accounting for over 70%, followed by Cabernet Gernischt and Merlot. Marselan has proved to be an excellent second choice in recent years and is considered by many as the future of Chinese wines. For the white varietals, Chardonnay represents over 70% and is often highly perfumed with notes of tropical fruits and high alcohol content. Other white varieties include Welschriesling, Riesling and, to a lesser extent, Vidal.

Over the past few years, with the support of the Ningxia Autonomous Region Party Committee and the Central People’s Government, it is estimated that across the Helan Mountain region, nearly 100,000 tonnes are produced annually, generating over 20 billion RMB in value.

Yinchuan, at the centre of the ancient Silk Road

As the capital of the Autonomous Region of Ningxia Hui, Yinchuan overlooks the Yellow River to the East and takes pride of place beneath the majestic Helan Mountain to the West. A former fortified city, with a long history and diverse culture, it is located on the site of the former capital of the Western Xia, making it an important crossroads for trade along the ancient Silk Road and a central hub for North-West China. Many historic sites such as the mausoleums of the Western Xia and Cheng Tian temple are still the city’s main focal points today.

Yinchuan has a distinctively wide temperature range and generous sunshine with compound annual sunshine levels reaching 2,983 hours a year. The soil is laden with gravel due to the influence of the Helan Mountain’s alluvial fan, making it one of the mountain’s most stunning wine regions and the first one to be developed in Ningxia. To put things into perspective, among Ningxia’s 90 vineyards, 58 of them are in Yinchuan and 33 of them are classified as growths under Ningxia’s latest classification. Varied approaches to winegrowing and winemaking along with different philosophies have paved the way for a diversified environment, where wineries can break ground and thrive. Burgeoning wineries such as Helan Qingxue, Kanaan Winery and Changyu Moser XV, to name a few, have made Yinchuan their home.

Marselan has proved to be an excellent second choice in recent years and is considered by many as the future of Chinese wines.

Ningxia’s classification system

The system was introduced in 2013 by the grape industry development bureau of the Ningxia Autonomous Region, making the Eastern Foothills of the Helan Mountain the first and only wine region in China to officially implement a systematic classification approach to its wines. The system comprises five levels, with first growth status at its pinnacle. It is thoroughly reviewed every two years and wineries can be promoted to a higher level or stay at the same level. To qualify for growth status, a winery must fulfil certain obligations such as the end quality of the wine, vineyard management techniques, yields and marketing.

The evaluation panel members are wine experts, professional judges, wine critics and trade and association representatives, whose names are made public a month before the assessment. The staff charged with monitoring quality and a legal expert are tasked with testing samples of wines through a number of means, including a probe at the winery, technical analyses and a tasting of wine samples.

The last review was conducted in 2019 and 47 wineries are now included in the system, which currently has no First Growth wine. Helan Qingxue Vineyard, Chateau Yuanshi and Chateau Bacchus are the only three wineries classified as Second Growths with 7, 21 and 16 other wineries respectively classified as Third, Fourth and Fifth Growths.

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