Almost incredibly, China is now the world’s sixth most important producer of wine with some 560,000 ha (1,384,000 acres) under vine. Despite considerable investment and improving communication between Chinese and foreign winemakers, quality is still extremely variable. Until quite recently, Chinese producers seemed intent on aping the most difficult wine style in the world to sell: thin red bordeaux, largely because red wine is favoured over white and French wine is seen as more sophisticated than any other. Things are changing, however, and a vanguard of more ambitious winemakers is producing wines worthy of attention. 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 Shandong Peninsula south of Beijing is home to about a quarter of China’s wineries, with Changyu the most-established producer here. Ningxia province in the interior of the country has been successfully attracting domestic and international investment from the likes of Pernod Ricard and LVMH.

In a nutshell

The new frontier