4 Sep 2008 by Jancis Robinson

Almost incredibly, China is now the world’s sixth most important producer of wine and fourth most important grower of grapevines.

Quality is still extremely variable, with Chinese wine typically aping the most difficult wine style in the world to sell: thin red bordeaux, presumably because red wine is seen as more sophisticated than white and French wine more sophisticated than any other. Technical faults are still common but gradually becoming less so as communications between Chinese and foreign winemakers improve.

So far it has been difficult to find the vine’s ideal spot in this vast country. Vines have tended to be planted either in the far west, effectively an extension of Kazakhstan, where winters are so cold that each vine has to be banked up by hand, or in the east, especially on the eastern coast, where summer rains can result in widespread rot or underripe grapes.

The Chinese are determined, however, and already producers such as Grace Vineyards and Sino-French have shown just what is possible.