Chinese Wine: The State of the Art

In his annual series of tastings and estate visits to Chinese wineries, Ian D’Agata tastes hundreds and hundreds of Chinese wines each year. In this article, he tells us about what are currently some of China’s best wines.
by Ian D’Agata

The very high quality of Chinese wines, some of them at least, still flies under the radar world-wide: fact is, there are some really noteworthy wines now being made in the land of the panda, the snow leopard, the six or seven different species of tiger (at the very least) and so much more. Numerous estates have invested seriously in vineyards and cellar equipment, not to mention consultants and knowhow. Not surprisingly, the best estates, and by far the best wines, are those made where the Chinese have not caved in to Western viewpoints that run after some idealized version of “great wine” that harkens to western stereotypes (“Whadda dya mean you don’t have Cabernet?”; “Awwwmygawd, how do you poor guys survive without Chardonnay?”; “Where’s your Syrah? You never have enough Syrah”; “What are all these crappy native grapes you’re growing here for? Merlot is where it’s at, man”). Even worse, supposedly great wines that have absolutely no place with Chinese culture or cuisine: to be crystal-clear, there are truly fewer grapes and wines more ill-suited to Chinese cuisine than wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon. And even Chardonnay wines, once you get past some of the more delicate fish dishes of the coast, are hardly the enlightened first choice of any serious gourmet looking to drink something with his dish from, say, the Yunnan or Sichuan provinces.

Without question, there are some very good, even excellent, Chinese Cabernet Sauvignon wines and blends thereof, not to mention just as excellent Chardonnay wines (when it comes to this last grape, Silver Heights, Mystic Island and Chateau Nine Peak’s Qi bottling immediately spring to mind). Furthermore, in some regards at least, China’s Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc wines hold even more potential: some of the wines made with these three varieties are truly remarkable, clearly showcasing that China really is making world-class wines. However, for the most part, China’s best wines are made by those estates that over the years have invested not just in know-how, equipment and vineyards, but who have remained true to a Chinese viewpoint and visibility. To their culture, even. By identifying grapes that have adapted well to the specific and various Chinese territories and express wines that are not just wonderful, but even better, unique. And so it is that the country’s best wines are practically never those made with the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but rather those made with highly local varieties such as Marselan, Petit Manseng, Muscat hybrids such as and Cabernet Gernischt (which should not be taken, knee-jerk reflex-like, to be Carmènere despite what you will read elsewhere. See my article here in the TerroirSense Wine Review: September 24, 2021: Cabernet Gernischt: A Chinese Grape Variety and Wine).

In fact, what the world does not need right now is more of cheap Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, that the discounted bins of wine stores all over the world are full of, in desperate attempts to rid the premises of wines frankly nobody really wants to drink anymore. But there are always exceptions, and it is genuinely startingly to me how good some Chinese Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines are: no, Burgundy need not quiver in its boots just yet (and for that matter, Oregon, New Zealand and Ontario’s Niagara are safe too), but still. The country is also making some very interesting wines from the likes of Syrah, Viognier, Rose Honey (a hybrid), Vidal (another hybrid), Clovine (yet another hybrid). and like in Canada, used mostly to make Icewine), Welschriesling (Italian Riesling), Saperavi, Aglianico, Sangiovese, Rkatsiteli, and Petit Verdot, besides the usual Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay (Sauvignon Blanc wines are mostly rare in China). But for the most part, China’s most exciting wines are not those made with those three famous wines. Good wines are being made all over the country, and while Ningxia and Shandong are the country’s best known and most famous wine production areas, there are in fact many excellent wines being made in the likes of Yunnan, Shanxi, Xinjiang, Jilin and other provinces still.

The wines in this tasting report

I have tasted practically every wine in this report numerous times in July, August, and October 2022 in my office here in Shanghai, where I work and live, and directly at the wineries that I visit regularly -always at my expense, as I do not accept any offers of free travel or accommodation- throughout the year (Covid permitting). The tasting notes and scores in this report are not an average of those repeated tasting opportunities, but rather those handed out during the blind tasting conducted for the 5th edition of the China Wine Summit, China’s premier wine competition devoted to Chinese wines. (In the article, wines receiving the same score are placed in alphabetical order.)

Chateau Bolongbao 2019 Marselan Dry Red Wine                    95

Good full ruby. Enticing aromas and flavours of ripe red fruit, black cherry syrup, peach jam, sweet spices, and minerals. Dense and lifted but very refined, with a long, luscious and seamless mouthfeel and just a touch of rising heat at the back, but very well held in check by this gorgeous wine’s exuberant fruitiness and spiciness. Knockout Marselan. Drinking window: 2023-2028.

Chateau Xianmiao 2018 Vidal Icewine Taihang Valley Shanxi              95

Pale, lively golden yellow colour. Extremely intense, deep nose of crystallized apricot, peach syrup, honey, barley sugar, passion fruit nectar and pineapple coulis, complicated by honey and sweet spices: this couldn’t be anything but Vidal, but it’s an exceptionally refined Vidal wine at that. Uncommonly so, in fact. Then remarkably light and lively in the mouth, with really zippy acidity lifting the boatloads of honey, tropical fruit (both fresh and in syrup) and sweet spices on the long suave and multilayered finished. There is no hint whatsoever of heaviness or of being in any way cloying: a hint of lemon jelly adds freshness at the back end. Remarkably pure Vidal Icewine that smells even better than it tastes: my score is an average between the incredible nose (98) and the body (92). Drinking window: 2022-2028.

Copower Jade Wines Limited Fei Tswei 2018 Petit Manseng Sweet White Wine Helan Mountain Ningxia                                                             95

Bright yellow. Drop-dead gorgeous nose of tropical fruit, canned pineapple, caramel, honey and lemon curd. Enters rich and ripe, then lifted in the middle by harmonious acidity, which nicely extends the ripe, sweet fresh citrus and tropical fruit flavours on the long, caramel-accented and lively finish. Boasts in your face luscious sweetness but also truly outstanding balance for such a sweet rich wine, such that it remains refined and lifted at every sip. A world class sweet wine, one that is about a lot more than just sweetness. Chapeau! Drinking window: 2022-2027.

Domaine Franco-Chinois 2017 Petit Manseng Hualai Hebei            95

Vivid, deep golden-yellow colour. Extremely intense and piercing aromas of ripe papaya, mango, tropical fruit cocktails, honey, and sweet spices. Downright decadent in the mouth, boasting exceptional inner-mouth perfume and honeyed flavours of tropical fruit jellies, vanilla, and passionfruit nectar. So rich and thick it coats the mouth from start to finish, but despite it being so massive, harmonious acidity leaves an impression of balance and grace behind on the long suave aftertaste. To be crystal-clear, this is a world class Petit Manseng wine: richer and bigger if perhaps less nuanced than the best of southwestern France, but make no mistake about it, this is very much in the same league. Very, very well done here, from what is a recognized Chinese Petit Manseng expert. Drinking window: 2022-2027.


Longting Vineyard 2020 Marselan Lan Penglai Shandong              95

Purple-ruby. Intense perfume of violet soars from the glass, but also very fruit-forward aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, and minerals. Very fresh and juicy, with a polished tannic backbone nicely framing the rich, dense and very pure blue and red fruit flavours. Long and elegant on the delicately spicy close, this is no blockbuster but rather a medium-bodied red that is easygoing, approachable and vibrantly fresh, endowed with impeccable balance and is simply irresistible to drink (I almost wrote “guzzle”, but thought better of it). This is the first vintage ever of this wine for Longting, and imagine that it is meant to be an entry-level wine: and yet, this Marselan is just a knockout, and the best possible evidence of just how much talent Longting’s winemaker, Larson, is blessed with (and don’t miss out on his even better, downright fantastic, Petit Manseng wines). Fantastic stuff. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Amethyard Vineyard 2017 Merlot Classic Hualai                      94

Good full ruby. Very perfumed violet and plum aromas are complicated by a hint of smoke. Then fresh, juicy and very smooth in the mouth, with similar flavours to the aromas, this beautiful Merlot wine (actually a 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Marselan blend) is very nicely balanced and very precise, boasting a long, clean and elegant finish. The tannins are extremely polished though they rise noticeably on the long back end, leaving an impression of building youthful chewiness. This is a dead ringer for a typical Bordeaux right bank wine. Make sure you don’t miss out on this winery’s outstanding Marselan wines (and actually a lovely, delicate and good Gewurztraminer wine too). Drinking window: 2022-2029.

Canaan Winery 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Chapter and Verse Mastery Hualai Hebei                                                                                       94

Vibrant moderately saturated ruby. Blueberry, raspberry, white pepper and aromatic wood on the knockout nose. Very smooth in the mouth, with refined flavours of small red berries and peppery spices. The highly polished tannins provide more than adequate spine for the ripe fruit nuances that linger impressively on the aftertaste. A lovely wine that does not rely on the oak to showcase its quality, and is completely devoid of any green edges. Offers building complexity and the potential to age. Nicely done from what is one of the Chinese wines quality leaders. Drinking window: 2022-2029.

Helan Qingxue 2018 Jia Bei Lan Reserve Ningxia               94

Deep vibrant ruby. Smoky and flinty nuances complicate the rich aromas of blue and black fruit, noble wood, and herbs. Then more linear and lifted in the mouth, with an extremely refined and multilayered floral quality (it’s the Cabernet Gernischt) to its black fruit, cedar, and herb flavours. Clean and long on the juicy, suave finish which features rising tannins of real polish not to mention noteworthy depth, richness and focus. Lovely wine that should age well too. An 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Gernischt blend. Drinking window: 2022-2030.

Tigerose 2020 Marselan Marceland Dry Red Wine Ningxia            94

Very deep ruby. Slightly porty on the nose, with very ripe chocolaty and sweetly spicy red and blue fruit aromas. But then very elegant on the palate, boasting outstanding inner-mouth perfume and lusciously smooth cocoa and mineral strokes to the berry and cherry flavours. Lovely long wine that is absolutely suave and seamless.

XiaoLing Estate 2019 Xiaoling Grand Vin Yunnan                          94

Bright red-ruby. Strawberry, blackcurrant, vanilla, green peppercorns and spicy herbs on the nose and in the mouth. Very juicy thanks to noteworthy, currently slightly spiky acidity, but that nicely extends the flavours on the long, perfumed back end that features a cool minty pepperiness. A really refined wine sporting a cool-climate quality to it, especially on its nose. A 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot blend. Drinking window:2024-2032.

Chateau Rongzi 2016 Red Label Dry Red Wine Vin Rouge Shanxi             93

Medium red colour. Perfumed, lifted aromas of redcurrant, sour red cherry, minerals, eucalyptus, and aromatic herbs. Then bright and juicy in the mouth, where laser-like, even shrill acidity gives noteworthy precision to its red berry and cherry flavours, complicated by minty herb nuances. Finishes long and juicy, with real energy and focus. This lively full-bodied red avoids seeking unnecessary “blockbuster” status or heft, but is very elegant and nuanced: it tastes like it has a good dollop of Marselan, Cabernet Gernischt or of Cabernet Franc in it.  And in fact it does: mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, but with 16% Marselan and 9% Cabernet Franc, and those two varieties make their presence felt in what would otherwise be a solid but ultimately all too common Cab Sauv wine. Jean-Claude Berrouet, for forty plus years the technical director of Petrus and the other JP Moueix properties, consults here, and the results speak for themselves. Drinking window: 2023-2030.

Mystic Island 2020 Chardonnay Reserve YIHU Dry White Wine Shandong     93

Pale straw yellow. Clean, fresh aromas and flavours of orchard fruit, sweet spices and botanical herbs. Smooth and suave, with a multilayered quality to its banana and pear flavours on the long, smooth back end. Still relatively young, this hints at there being much more lurking beneath the surface. Try it again in six to twelve months to see if it has picked up further nuance and complexity: my guess is it will. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Jade Vineyard 2019 Merlot Heshan Single Ningxia                   93

Inky-purple: Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir or Sangiovese this is definitely not! Wonderful clarity and lift to the dark berry, mineral and herbal aromas. Rich and dense in the mouth, with a nicely peppery edge to the ripe cocoa and blue fruit flavours. Closes with impeccable balance and impressive length.

Puchang 2018 Muscat Dry Xinjiang                                    93

Bright yellow-gold. Peach, apricot, lemongrass, lavender, crystallized and fresh ginger, and white pepper on the intensely aromatic, penetrating nose that I guarantee is quite unlike anything you will have ever sniffed before. Very vibrant and juicy in the mouth, but with noteworthy pungent mintiness to its ripe tropical and orchard fruit flavours. This starts sweet, but finishes classically dry and long, not to mention with crystalline purity. Made with a local hybrid Muscat variety, this offers a real boatload of flavour that provides a truly mind-bending experience unlike any other wine you have tried before.  Drinking window: 2022-2025.

Silk Road Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Gernischt Selection Xinjiang        93

Full red-ruby. Plum, violet, milk chocolate, forest floor and menthol on the inviting nose. Then flavours of fresh raspberry, cherry jam, cinnamon and nutmeg on the juicy refined mouthfeel. Boasts sneaky concentration and depth of flavour. Closes long with a nuance of white pepper: this is really quite good. Very impressive, in fact. Cabernet Gernischt may or may not have once been Carmenère (some researchers believe it to be Cabernet Franc), but the grape variety has now lived in China for over a century, adapting to the local terroirs; through the mutations that commonly take place over time in all grapevines when planted, Cabernet Gernischt is today most correctly viewed as a Chinese biotype of Carmenère or of Cabernet Franc, offering a Chinese expression of wine made with this grape. And to be crystal-clear, a world class wine at that. Drinking window: 2023-2030.

Xige Estate 2019 Gernischt “Cuvée.X” Ningxia                  93

Vivid red-ruby. Initially reticent on the nose, but opens with aeration to showcase truly enticing and very deep raspberry, strawberry and green peppercorn aromas and flavours. Finishes with building creaminess and sweet spicy hints of cedar, chamomile and eucalyptus. Very complex, beautifully balanced Cabernet Gernischt that is totally clear of any green notes that can plague the variety’s wines. This new premium Cabernet Gernischt bottling from Xige (the estte prefers to call it “Gernischt” only) showcases just how different the wines of this grape variety are compared to the Carmenères of Chile and France. For maximum enjoyment, I suggest decanting this beautiful full-bodied, luscious red at least an hour ahead, and then watch how it changes in the glass. It’s a knockout wine that will turn more than a few heads and that offers a lot to think about. Drinking window: 2024-2032.

Amethyard Vineyard 2017 Marselan Classic Hualai          92

Deep ruby. Herbs and red and black cherry plus hot stones and cocoa on the nose and in the mouth. Fresh and linear on the long finish, not especially showy but more elegant and more classically dry than many Marselan wines. I love this wine’s almost stately austerity that has much in common with the mouthfeel of a great Saint-Julien, for example: really very well done. This ought to age very well too. Drinking window: 2022-2028.

Canaan Winery 2019 Chardonnay Reserve Chapter and Verse Hualai Hebei                       92

Luminous straw yellow. Boasts deep aromas and flavours of ripe orchard fruit and honeysuckle, complicated by a strong dose of sweet spices. Rich and ripe but lively, with good harmonious acid lift on the long mouthcoating juicy ripe finish. Lovely balance here; nicely done. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Canaan Winery 2017 Merlot Reserve Chapter and Verse Hualai Hebei                                         92 

Inky. Initially quite oaky with plenty of coffee on the nose and little in the way of fruit or floral elements. Then improves with aeration, with flavours similar to the aromas, and becoming smooth and balanced in the mouth as well finishing long, with an inviting peppery bite and very suave tannins. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Canaan Winery 2018 Syrah Mastery Chapter and Verse Mastery Hualai Hebei                     92

Bright deep red. Aromas of sweet spices, red cherry and minerals. Then light and lively and though creamy, has less concentration that the nose suggested. Finishes long and floral, with an aromatic nuance. A really beautiful wine. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Chateau Loulan 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Red Wine (Presidential Grade) Xinjiang                          92

Deep purple-red. Intense nose of violet, black pepper, minty herbs and balsamic oils. Knockout wine finishing long with a little alcohol-derived heat but good clean dark fruit flavours linger long after the last swallow. Good quality oak here complements rather than dominates the also good quality fruit.  Very pretty, lifted and perfumed wine. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Chateau Reifeng-Auzias 2014 Cabernet Franc Dry Red Wine Shandong           92

Good full ruby-purple. Smoky and peppery with rich ripe blue and red fruit aromas and flavours. Very light on its feet for such a big wine, finishing with a beef broth note and a savoury quality. This improved markedly with aeration. Recent vintages from this winery have been less impressive, but this is a gem. Drinking window: 2022-2028.

Longting Vineyard Jade Petit Manseng Late Harvest Wine Art Series Penglai Shandong             92

Pale yellow. Clean fresh white flowers, nectarine, pear and lemon flower honey on the extremely pure, refined nose. Really lovely freshness leaves an impression of finely chiseled sweet tropical fruit and honeyed flavours. There’s really noteworthy easygoing but sneaky concentration and complexity to this mesmerizingly beautiful, impeccably balanced wine. World class Petit Manseng made in a not excessive overly ripe style but that walks the tightrope of sweetness and freshness with unbelievable grace and charm. Let me be crystal-clear: this is about as good as any sweet wine you will try this year, and though this bottle was slightly more subdued than others I have tried this year and scored at 95 points and above, it was still a remarkably great wine. Well done. Drinking window: 2022-2030.

Shangri-La Winery 2016 Sacred Legend Yunnan                            92

Good full saturated ruby. Smoky chocolate, coffee and plums on the nose and in the mouth. A little coarse, with gritty tannins and a porty cigar box quality. Tasted twice with very different results. The second time it was a lot more elegant and refined, so I’m not sure what to think: will the real wine please stand up? The better version is not unlike an older Saint-Estèphe, and it’s such an impressive wine I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) and other red varieties. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Silk Road Vineyards 2018 Harvest Red Xinjiang                92

Deep ruby-red. Offers a hint of a sweet peppery herbs complicating dark blue and black fruit aromas and flavours. Enters soft and warm then somewhat more austere in the middle, finishing increasingly peppery but with good balance, depth and juiciness overall. This very impressive wine is a 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Tiansai Vineyards T95 Xinjiang                                     92

Deep purple. Dark blue fruits (plums, blackberry, blueberry), cocoa and herbs on the rich ripe nose. Polished tannins support the black and blue fruit flavours with laser-like acidity nicely extending them on the long juicy spicy back end. 100% Marselan. Drinking window: 2022-2028.

XIGE Estate 2017 Red Wine N50 Ningxia                           92

Good full ruby. Knockout aromas of red and dark berries, plums, sweet spices and potpourri. Smooth long suave and very refined, with the pure and silky peppery red fruit lingering along nicely with spicy herbs on the long clean finish. Very good, really, excellent here. Drinking window: 2022-2027.

Xinjiang Tangtingxialu Winery Co. 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Beiting Berries selection Dry Red Wine Xinjiang                                                              92

Now this is beautiful. Deep ruby-red. Focused and very energetic aromas and flavours of pure blackcurrant, dark plum, minerals, pot pourri and cedar. Ripe but lifted, nicely concentrated and pure on the long suave finish. Outstanding. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Amethyard 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Classic Hualai         91

Deep ruby. Very intense nose of licorice coupled to notes of plum and cassis. Closes long, with a strong dose of spicy black pepper, very juicy and fresh and showcasing a very noble tannic architecture. Drinking window: 2022-2027.

Chateau Anuo 2020 Juno Shandong                             91

Deep purple-ruby. Peppery and floral nuances dominate on the nose and in the mouth. Smooth long and clean, with sweetly spicy note dominating and persisting on the cool lifted finish. Nice. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  Drinking window: 2022-2027.

Chateau Chanson 2017 Cabernet Gernischt Music Score Ningxia         91

Deep ruby. Very closed initially and opens only slowly to reveal a big brooding red with aromas and flavours of red cherry syrup, allspice, chili pepper, and camphor. Very smooth and suave with polished tannins nicely supporting the red fruit flavours and the boatload of peppery spices on the finish. Another knockout wine: China does Cabernet Gernischt so well. Drinking window: 2022-2027.

Chateau Mihope 2019 Reserve Dry Red Wine Helan Mountain Ningxia                                         91

Very deep colour, with inky tinges. Intense blackberry jelly and blackcurrant coulis on the nose coupled to minty herbs and forest floor. Rather big and ripe, but well-balanced with lingering minutiness on the suave, juicy finish. Very impressive blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon nd 48% Merlot. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Jade Valley 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Stone Hall Shanxi              91

Moderately saturated ruby. Herb and cardboardy notes detract from this wine’s nose initially, but these clear up with aeration to reveal pretty floral and blackcurrant notes. Pleasant flavours similar to the aromas are nicely framed by smooth tannins and ripe acidity on the long floral finish.       Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Lansai Wine Industry Co. 2019 Marselan Ningxia                     91

Good deep ruby. Sweet aromas and flavours of red and blue fruit, star anise, underbrush and minerals. Very smooth and luscious, with a hint of residual sweetness, this closes long and fresh with a touch of building alcohol-derived heat. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Mystic Island Winery 2020 Dry Red Wine Mystic Valley Shandong             91

Good full ruby-purple. Fresh linear and intensely perfumed, boasting a very strong presence of violet, sweet spices and minerals from start to finish. Downright lovely and long, this is a winner. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Puchang Vineyard 2016 Muscat Sweet Clovine Xinjiang         91

Golden orange colour. Strongly aromatic and very fresh on the nose, with aromas of honey, cinnamon, lavender and minerals. Then also very aromatic in the mouth, but with very good balance to the sharply concentrated and complex flavours similar to the aromas. Closes long and luscious but with real lift and lightness of being. Superb wine that will gain from aging in a good cellar so as to take the aromatic edge off, which is really penetrating right now. The 2015 is even better, because slightly less pungent. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Skyline of Gobi 2020 Chardonnay Reserve Dry White Wine Xinjiang               91

Good full straw yellow. Banana and sweet spices dominate the nose and in the mouth. The aftertaste is long and ripe, with hints of tropical fruit and hazelnuts that are nicely persistent. Really a pretty good Chardonnay wine. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

XIGE Estate 2019 Malbec N28 Red Wine Ningxia                    91

Very deep dark ruby purple. Strong note of pepper and violet on the nose, then ripe and chocolaty with more pepper on the finish. A lovely wine with impeccable balance; a bit of finishing heat and a touch of a green streak lower my score slightly, but this is still a beauty that showcases what other wines I have tasted recently are saying, and that is that Malbec can do very well in Chinese terroirs, and Ningxia especially.  Drinking window: 2022-2029.

Canaan Winery 2017 Tempranillo Mastery Chapter and Verse  Hualai Hebei             90

Very deep inky-ruby. Plum, coffee and pepper aromas are pure and clean. Enters rich and ripe, then slightly shrill thanks to slightly sharp, disjointed acidity. Very peppery and spicy on the long surprisingly smooth, juicy and smoky finish. A big wine but that currently doesn’t convey a sense of harmony. Needs to be cellared to showcase all it has to offer, which is plenty. Drinking window: 2024-2029.

Castaly 2020 Shimeng Ningxia                                90

Crystal clear straw colour. White peach, apple and white flowers on the simple but clean nose. Then light and lively in the mouth, with some texture building with aeration and on the long mouthcoating finish. Starts out better (perfumed) than it finishes (slightly coarse), but it’s an excellent wine that really broadcasts very good quality of fruit and a judicious wine. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Chateau Anuo 2021 Petit Manseng Dry White Wine Shandong                    90

Bright straw hue. Clean, fresh and crisp aromas and flavours of minty herbs and orchard fruit, but just a little oaky on the finish. I’ll be generous in my scoring because I think there is plenty of good fruit here. I’ll also add that this estate is a real Chinese Petit Manseng wine expert.  Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Chateau Bolongbao 2020 Organic Dry White Wine Hualai Hebei   90

Bright straw yellow. Apple, pear, spices and herbs on the nose and in the mouth. Tis is rich and ripe but also very fresh and clean. Maybe a tad simple on the long finish, but also really quite good and very enjoyable to drink. A blend of 45%Petit Manseng, 28.5%Chardonnay, 16.5%Roussane, and 10%Viognier. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Chateau Bolongbao 2019 Collection Dry Red Wine Hualai Hebei          90

Fully saturated red-ruby. Clean smooth and rather straightforward aromas and flavours of ripe plum and herbs. Not especially complicated and seems to have little incipient oxidation that leaves one with an impression of it fading somewhat and of being tired on the medium-long finish. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Chateau Chanson 2019 Chardonnay Heart to Heart Ningxia          90

Luminous straw yellow. Hints of banana, almond paste, butter and balsamic oils on the inviting nose. Enters rich and creamy, with buttery, minty and tropical fruit flavours, then turns sharper in the middle, and closes long with a noteworthy peppery edge and a slightly green streak. A hint of finishing bitterness detracts from my score. Drinking window: 2022-2025.

Chateau Loulan NV Shengen V12 Dry Red Wine Xinjiang                   90

Bright dark ruby-red. Inviting aromas and flavours of strawberry, cinnamon, cumin and violet. Lovely balance with a rich, big mouthfeel to its structured body, but still boasts noteworthy precision of flavour. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Chateau Nine Peaks 2020 Cabernet Gernischt Collection Qingdao Shandong          90

Good full ruby with a pale rim. Notes of green leaves of sweet potato, red cherry, underbrush and damp moss on the intense, precise nose. Clean and balanced flavours of red berries and plums linger nicely, lifted by a perfumed violet note. Finishing with a little alcohol-derived heat, but this is delicious. Previous vintages have been even better, as this estate is a real Gernischt expert. Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Chateau Nine Peaks 2021 Pinkker Rose Qingdao                      90

Medium-dark pink. Very juicy fruity and saline, this boasts lovely density to its aromas and flavours of red berries. Finishes very classically dry but balanced, there is no cloying sweetness here of the many world pink wines of today; much more serious than those wines, there’s lots to like here. A ble3nd of 70% Syrah and 30% cabernet Franc. Maybe the best Chinese Rosè wine I have tasted this year. Drinking window: 2022-2026.

Chateau RongZi 2017 Blue Label Dry Red Wine Vin Rouge Shanxi            90

Medium dark ruby. Floral, broad open-knit aromas and flavours have a saline edge to them. Closes long, clean and fresh, but a little simple. An 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot blend. Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Copower Jade Wines Limited 2019 Syrah Reserve Fei Tswei Reserve Ningxia         90

Bright red. Floral red berries and herbs on the nose and in the mouth. Finishes long with a whiplash of acidity and building tannins but stays this side of smooth. Outstanding stuff. I hve tasted a bunch of cask samples of Syrah from this estate when visiting the winery and I have to say I’m impressed by their Syrah: something to keep an eye on. Drinking window: 2023-2029.

Helan Qingxue Vineyard 2018 Jia Bei Lan Ningxia                 90

Lively medium dark ruby. Sweet red and dark fruit, flint, cocoa and mint make for an enticing nose and the palate. Smooth and spicy on the long, supple finish. Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Jade Vineyard 2019 White Wine Aria Ningxia                           90

Pale straw yellow colour. Very perfumed, peach and apricot with white flowers and sweet spices for added complexity. Smooth and creamy in the mouth, with a spicy nuance to the orchard fruit and vanilla flavours. Closes long with rising complexity. Drinking window: 2022-2025.

Legacy Peak Estate 2018 Kalavinke Ningxia                              90

Inky ruby. Very ripe, round long with a noticeable peppery twist at the back: very spicy merlot, with nuances almost of Petit Verdot. Maybe not the last word in complexity but really pretty good. An 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot blend. Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Mystic Island Winery 2020 Petit Verdot Reserve YIHU Dry Red Wine Shandong        90

Bright medium-deep, brilliant red: very pretty colour. Refined aromas and flavours of raspberry, strawberry, violet and spicy herbs. Juicy and linear, with a thunderbolt of harmonious acidity nicely extending the flavours on the very pure, long and extremely suave finish. Maybe not the most concentrated wine in this tasting but lovely and with a seamless quality that is hard to forget. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Ningxia Holyfun Estate 2017 Merlot Dry Red Wine Helan Fanghua 172 Ningxia     90

Deep blue-red. Candied and confected on the nose, with a dominating coffee presence. Enters herbal and bitter, then softer and sweeter in the middle, finishing long with repeating notes of coffee- tinged dark fruit. Very pretty wine. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Puchang Winery 2017 Saperavi Red Xinjiang                            90

Deep red ruby. Sweet maraschino cherries, Morello cherry, sweet spices and flowers on the enticing nose. Vanilla cream soda-like nuances in the mouth, with some rising alcohol-derived heat to the ripe black cherry and forest floor flavours. The finish is long and irresistible.  Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Silk Road Vineyards 2019 Riesling Harvest Xinjiang                90

Crystalline straw-green. Lovely bright and fresh minty green apple, jasmine and lemon verbena on the nose and in the mouth. Shows a little building grassiness and pepperiness on the back end. Finishes a little drying, otherwise I would have scored this very pretty wine even higher. Excellent Riesling wine that successfully broadcasts the juicy levity of something made on the Mosel. Well done.  Drinking window: 2022-2026.

XIGE Estate 2019 Chardonnay N28 White Wine Ningxia               90

Vibrant straw yellow. Apple, pear and white flowers on the nose. Clean and nicely balanced with clean flavours of orchard fruit that have medium intensity and length. A little oak shows through on the back end. Drinking window: 2022-2025.

Xinjiang Datang Xiyu Winery 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Manor Cellar Xinjiang   90

Very deep purple -ruby hue. Then also very dark aromas and flavours of dark chocolate, coffee and smoky plum. Big and broad, but actually very well balanced and finishing with repeating nicely lingering notes of coffee. Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Xinjiang Datang Xiyu Winery 2018 The Ultimate Collection Xinjiang                90

Deep ruby. Dark and red berries, plum, figs and violet are complemented by minerals on the nose and in the mouth. Closes long, with abuilding enticing fruitiness and noteworthy freshness. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Silver Heights 2019 The Summit Ningxia                             90

Vibrant purple-ruby. Very spicy on the nose, but with strongly peppery flavours too, that hint at cocoa but also a hint of forest floor and pepper. A fleshy, peppery wine that finishes long and vibrant with a noteworthy tactile mouthfeel and piercing pungent floral-herbal quality at the back. Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Amethyard 2019 Gewürztraminer Semi-sweet White Wine Hualai       90

Bright pale yellow. Lovely, bright floral perfume to the tropical and orchard fruit aromas and flavours. Finishes long and lively, with lively juicy acidity and delicately sweet. Lovely balance here and real Gewurztraminer character: though it’s not as intense as the best Alsatian examples (no Gewurz wines ever are) it offers true-to-type Gewurz aromas and flavours (easier said than done) in a more delicate, graceful manner that many will like. Plus, this goes perfectly with many more delicate Asian dishes, far better than any Chardonnay wine ever will. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Chateau Xianmiao 2018 Icewine Taihang Ice Shanxi                90

Golden yellow. Big, creamy, rich sweet wine with aromas and flavours of beeswax, caramel, vanilla, molasses and maple syrup. Very good acidity provides lift and nicely extends the flavours on the very rich and sweet finish. Not the last word in refinement but this is absolutely irresistible. A second-tier of Icewine that is less concentrated and and intense than their top category, but still lovely. From an estate that specializes in Icewine production (and is really pretty good at it). Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Zangdong Treasure Wine Company Dameiyong 2021 Rose Honey Dessert Wine Tibet           90   

Deep red-ruby. Very pretty sweet red wine offering accessible aromas and flavours of dark plum, blackberry reduction, and fresh blueberries. Boasts excellent acid-sugar balance and a very pure mouthfeel that lingers impressively. This is really quite good, not overly sweet but long, fresh, vibrant and clean with repeating notes of red cherry, plums and sweet spices. Well done. Made with a local variety that may or may not be Baco Noir, this is an absolutely irresistible sweet red wine that’s light and lively and besides just being fun to drink on its own, will match heavenly with any chocolate dessert you can think of. Drinking window: 2023-2025.

Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata