China Wine Summit 2023: Tasting Notes and Scores of the Chinese Medal-Winning Wines

The sixth edition of the China Wine Summit, China’s premier wine event devoted to Chinese wines, took place on May 27 and 28, 2023 at the W Hotel in Shanghai, showcasing some of the best China has ever made.
by Ian D’Agata and Michele Longo.

The China Wine Summit: Wine Competition, Show and Much More

by Michele Longo

The China Wine Summit (or CWS) is China’s premier wine show dedicated to quality Chinese wineries and wines. Outside of unforeseen circumstances, it is held annually in Shanghai: this year saw the sixth edition taking place on May 27 and 28, 2023 at the W Hotel. Since the beginning, the CWS has been jointly organized by the Shanghai United Media Group, a Chinese leader in omnimedia (the company is the country’s largest owner of news dailies) and TasteSpirit, one of China’s leading wine education and media companies. Initially envisioned as an event that would take place every two years, the first CWS was held in 2014; then the arrival of Covid caused some editions to be postponed and/or cancelled, and this is why even though nine years have elapsed since its first edition, the CWS is still only celebrating its sixth edition as of 2023. However the event is going from strength to strength and is growing at a steady pace: this year’s edition saw about fifty wineries and hundreds of wine lovers and wine professionals attended the event. Most importantly, the wines presented in both the competition and the salon were the best ever.

Habitually organized in May of each year, the CWS consists in: a general tasting salon, a series of daily masterclasses; an academic conference, and a gala dinner featuring the awards ceremony for all those wineries the wines of which won medals during the CWS Blind Tasting Competition. The latter always takes place the week before the start of the weekend-long main CWS wine event. The competition originally had only three judges, as Ian D’Agata (the current Wine Tasting Committee Chairman) used to share the tasting duties with two other world-renowned wine personalities, France’s Bernard Burtschy (by everyone’s account, one of France’s two leading wine critics in those days, in charge for the weekly wine column in the Le Figaro newspaper, France’s biggest news daily) and Jancis Robinson MW.  Today, Ian D’Agata is the sole chairman and he has proceeded to increase the number of judges: every year, he chooses a panel of well-regarded experts in Chinese wines (people who actually live in China full-time and drink these wines on a regular basis) to assist in the blind tasting and the decisions to award which medals to which wines (by averaging the sum of the scores given by all the judges to each wine). The blind tasting competition saw the best group of Chinese wines ever entered into the competition.

As mentioned, the CWS is made up of many different components. The wine tasting salon, open to both the public and wine professionals as well as the masterclasses took place on the Saturday; the academic conference and gala dinner and awards ceremony took place on Sunday. The masterclasses this year were some of the strongest ever, focusing the spotlight on a dizzying array of truly noteworthy wines. (This year’s masterclasses will all be written up in separate, upcoming, tasting reports here at the TerroirSense Wine Review.) For example, one masterclass featured the wines of Yantai (a wine sub-region of the Shandong peninsula), an area rife with beautiful, mostly cool-climate wines high on lifting acidity and perfume; three other separate masterclasses were each devoted to the wines of three of China’s leading wine estates, Ningxia’s Fei Tswei and XIGE Estate wineries, as well as Shandong’s Longting vineyard. Ian D’Agata led all the masterclasses making for a fun but undoubtedly long day’s work; importantly, the owners of the three wineries were present to co-guide with Ian the masterclass pertaining to their estate. The academic conference saw numerous important academic, university and professional speakers broaching specific topics in the areas of their individual expertises: Prof. Duan Changqing and Hao Lin Hai, respectively Professor of the China Agriculture University and Vice Chairman of the Ningxia Hui Wine Bureau were amongst those who presented at the conference.

Tasting Notes and Scores of the Medal-Winning Wines

by Ian D’Agata

It is no exaggeration to state that the 2023 CWS saw the best ever group of wines entered into the medals awards blind tasting competition and in the general tasting salon. The improvement in Chinese wines over just the last ten years is nothing short of phenomenal, and the wines just keep improving year after year. Most interesting, the country, after a spell planting all the usual wine grapes you can think of (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah) the wines of which can be found anywhere, has since inverted its way of doing things, hitting is stride with at times unexpected varieties that are not commonly grown much anywhere else in the world. For example, there can be no discussion about China’s Marselan wines, which are, without any question whatsoever, the world’s best; but the country is making also remarkably great wines with the likes of Petiti Manseng, a wine grape that outside of France’s Jurançon region is hardly ever seen. Cabernet Gernischt, or Gernischt as it is being increasingly called, which is either a Chinese biotype of Carmenère or of Cabernet Franc (both origins have been described and documented cleanly incredible, peer-reviewed scientific journals and so it is incorrect to say or write that Gernischt is the same as just one of those two grapes, because it is not so; and especially not if you are citing information from books in which the scientific statements made are not documented by scientific data presented to and accepted for publication as such incredible scientific journals). There is actually an argument to be made that Gernischt is actually a distinct variety altogether. Interestingly, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Viognier and even Welshriesling are giving some world-class wines in China too. And moving beyond Vinifera grapes, China is making world-class wines from grape hybrids too like Beichun and Vidal, the wines of some of which were entered in this year’s CWS medals competition and came away with awards too.

This year’s medals results showed that award-winning wines are being made all over China. Double gold medal winning wines were distributed between seven wine-making Chinese provinces: Ningxia (7), Shandong (5), Shanxi (3), Hebei (2), Xinjiang (2), Beijing (1), and Shaanxi (1). Gold medals were awarded to wines from Ningxia 11), Xinjiang (3), Hebei (3), Beijing (2), Shandong (1), and Yunnan (1). Wines winning silver medals were made in: Ningxia (12), Shandong (8), Hebei (4), Xinjiang (3), Yunnan (2), and Tibet (1). Much of the medals breakdown reflects a preponderance of wineries in specific provinces: for example, Ningxia has the largest number of wineries making fine wines today, and so it does not surprise that the majority of medals went to that region. That fact being recognized, there are truly world-class wines produced in every single Chinese wine province, which is truly something exciting to witness. The noteworthy quality of the wines entered into the 2023 competition is well-documented by a look at the medals numbers: the double gold medals (wines scoring 93 and above) in 2023 were twenty-three compared to 2022’s sixteen; the gold medals (wines scoring 92 points) in 2023 were twenty-one compared to 2022’s twenty-two; and the silver medals (wines scoring 90 and 91)were thirty in 2023 and twenty-five in 2022. Overall, the total number of medal-winning wines were seventy-four in 2023 and sixty-eight in 2022, with the average scores in each category also much higher in 2023 than in 2022.

In fact, the high-quality of this year’s wines entered into the competitions was clearly shown by the fact that the 2023 edition of the CWS recorded the highest-ever number of medals awarded to the participating wines, with close to 60% of the wines gaining silver, gold or double gold medals. This high figure does not reflect an over-inflation of medals being awarded or a too generous scoring system (which are the two of the many problems plaguing ultimately useless medals competitions all over the world) but rather the fact that the CWS performs a pre-selection of wineries allowed to participate in the event: in other words, only those wineries that are believed to be of a high enough quality are allowed to enter their wines into the competition. In effect, the wines entered into the CWS are all potentially of silver medal-winning potential, then the vintage’s growing season characteristics and individual winery variables determine the medal’s specific colour, or of there is any medal to be won.

Last but certainly not least, the judging panel of the CWS is all important, and as I am in charge of and responsible for, it is something I take very seriously and am proud of. It is the CWS’s position that a wine competition is only as good as its judges, and inviting hundreds of people with very different tasting experiences and backgrounds to taste and judge wines is not in the view of the CWS the best approach by which to proceed. The whole endeavour becomes even less useful if said individuals have extremely limited experience tasting Chinese wines. For this reason, the invited expert judges of the CWS are individuals who live in China full-time and taste Chinese wines regularly, while also being able to count on a large body of experience tasting wines from all over the world. In 2022, CWS judges included James Teng, manager The Middle House Hotel, Camilla Mora, head Sommelier of New Wave Restaurant in the UUCA-The Edge Museum of Shanghai, and Simon Briens, owner of Shanghai’s Blaz restaurant and of the city’s three RAC bistros. In this year’s 2023 edition, the invited judges were: Emanuele Restelli (Restaurant Manager and Head Sommelier, Da Vittorio Ristorante, two Michelin stars), Iven Sha (independent consultant and co-highest scoring student of the TerroirSense Wine Academy’s Advanced course on Italian wines), Zeyu Liu (professional sommelier, Da Vittorio Restaurant); Zisong Qiu (professional sommelier and 2021 Black Glasses China Blind Tasting Champion and 2020 and 2021 Rvf World Blind Tasting of Qingdao winner), along with Jinyu Hou, Miao Echo, and Zihong Zhang, all wine staff members of TasteSpirit, one of China’s premier wine education and media companies, and Zhu Siwei, founding partner and Chief Technical Officer of TasteSpirit, all four of whom have numerous years of experience tasting Chinese wines.

The wines in this tasting report

Chateau Nine Peaks Petit Manseng Collection Qingdao Shandong                        96

Deep pale-yellow gold. Penetratingly perfumed and offering complex and deep aromas of mango, papaya, grapefruit, vanilla, guava, orange jam and lemon peel on the nose. Beautiful wine that boasts knockout acid-fruit-sugar balance, with an elegant harmonious personality and noteworthy acidity lifting and extending the very sweet flavours on the long complex finish. One of the ten best wines I have ever tasted from China, this is an absolutely breathtaking Petit Manseng wine that is all about finesse rather than power. Drinking window: 2023-2033.

Chateau Xianmiao 2020 Taihang Valley Vidal Icewine Zioquan Shanxi              95

Luminous golden yellow. Honey, mango, guava, peach, papaya and grapefruit on the nose are complicated by delicate hints of caramel and flowers. Then similar flavours to the aromas are rich, layered, complex and very pure. Very pretty and well-balanced, this is a compellingly rich and sweet Vidal wine that boasts uncommon levels of elegance and lift thanks to a perfect acid-fruit-sugar balance. Very well done. One of the best Vidal Icewines I have ever tasted, and being Canadian, you can trust me when I tell you that I’ve had more than a few. Drinking window: 2023-2033.

Silver Heights 2020 Marselan Jiayuan Jinshan Ningxia                95

Purple-ruby. Clean aromas of red and blue fruit are sexed up by hints of sweet spices, tobacco and herbs. Very light on its feet for such a concentrated red wine crammed with ripe fruit flavours, it finishes long and multilayered. This is not the first breathtakingly good Marselan wine Emma Gao has made, providing further evidence that Ningxia is ideally suited to this variety (perhaps not surprisingly, given that Marselan, a Grenache x Cabernet Sauvignon laboratory crossing, was created in 1961 by Paul Truel especially to live in hot climates such as Ningxia). Drinking window: 2024-2030.

Amethyard 2019 Marselan Classic Dry Red Wine Hualai Hebei                      94

Moderately saturated red. Sweet and ripe red fruit and coffee on the nose and in the mouth. Quite oaked for a wine by Amethyard, but with plenty of rich fruit beneath the oaky veneer, so this ought to come around just fine in a  few years time. 91%Marselan, 3%Petit Verdot, 3%Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petite Syrah. Drinking window: 2026-2030.

Chateau Nine Peaks 2020 Qi Red Qingdao Shandong                          94

Deep opaque ruby. Savory spices and earth tones colour the black fruit notes, that are also complicated by a cracked black pepper note. Finishes long and youthfully chewy with bright saline tang. The Qi red is almost always a great Chiense red wine and this year it’s no different. This vintage is a blend of 37.5% Marselan, 37.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Petit Verdot, and 12.5% Syrah. Drinking window: 2025-2031.

Chateau Rong Zi 2018 Black Label Dry Red Wine Xiangning Shanxi                            94

Bright dark red. Very beautiful nose of strawberry, raspberry and aromatic spices, lifted by flowers and wild herbs, very juicy and fruity in the mouth too, where its lingers elegantly and silky. Great wine that clearly bears the signature winemaking style of Jean-Claude Berrouet (for over forty years the winemaker at JP Moueix, and hence of Petrus, Trotanoy and the likes) who consulted for years at Rongzi before Covid took its toll. This is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16.3% Cabernet Franc, 5.3% Marselan and 2.4% Merlot. Drinking window: 2025-2032.

Chateau Xianmiao 2021 Taihang Ice Vidal Icewine Zioquan Shanxi                     94

Bright pale golden yellow. Gorgeous benchmark Vidal perfume is amazingly pure and showcases the variety’s typical ripe apple, peach, apricot, and tropical fruit nuances. Then less complex in the mouth with a hint of slightly tough tannins showing that detracts from my score, but still a world-class sweet wine that features fantastic levity to its flavours of (easier said than done with Vidal) honey, caramel, peach, apricot and sweet spices on the long crystalline finish.  Drinking window: 2023-2030.

Helan Qingxue Vineyard 2019 Jiabeilan Estate Yinchuan Ningxia                                94

Moderately saturated bright ruby. Super-oaky and heavily torrefacted on the nose and on the sweet mouthcoating palate, but with plenty of nicely concentrated red cherry and dark berry notes lurking beneath that polished oaky cloak.  Closes long and rich. This will need plenty of time to buffer all that oak; but it’s so crammed with fruit it won’t have any trouble doing so. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Gernischt. Drinking window: 2026-2033.

Jade Valley Creek 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Lantian Shaanxi                               94

Very deep purple. Elegant aromas and flavours of dark berries, red plums, balsamic oils and traditional vinegar. At once sweet and savory, this has a creamy personality that suggests it was made with very ripe grapes. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Jade Vineyard 2020 Merlot Heshan Single Vineyard Jinshan Ningxia                           94

Purple ruby. Brooding, marmelady aromas of blue and black fruits are complicated by herbs and spices. Then slightly oaky in the mouth, with an austere quality to its middle palate. Juicy and clean, and hinting at noteworthy underlying complexity, but needs plenty of cellaring. Drinking window: 2026-2032.

Longting Vineyard 2020 Cabernet Franc Reserve Yantai Shandong                        94

Very pretty dark red-ruby. Cocoa and coffee complicate ripe strawberry and red cherry aromas and flavours that also feature a pretty violet lift. Then also very floral and still more oak on the long finish that offers repeating red berry and herb notes. Needs time in a good cellar. Drinking window: 2026-2034.

XIGE Estate 2021 Chardonnay N28 Qingtongxia Ningxia                                 94

Medium straw colour with gold tinges. Very intense notes of green mango, banana and sweet spices on the nose and in the mouth. Clean and saline, with textured, still youthfully oaky mouthfeel and some alcohol-derived heat on the long back end. A nicely complex Chardonnay wine that will be even better in a year’s time when the slight oakiness will have resolved. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

XIGE Estate 2019 Cabernet Gernischt Jade Dove Single Vineyard Qingtongxia Ningxia                             94

Bright red ruby. Archetypal nose of strawberry, violet, cocoa, gentle spices and leafy underbrush. Very fresh and nicely delineated, showcases a very elegant mouthfeel and mounting notes of fresh pepper and coffee on the long suave finish. Outstanding. Cabernet Gernischt has adapted remarkably well to various China terroirs: though it has been identified with Carmenère and with Cabernet Franc, the grape has lived long enough in China to mutate over the years to a degree sufficient to give different tasting wines from those made with those two other varieties. Hence, Gernischt is best viewed as a Chinese biotype of those two if not a distinct variety altogether. Drinking window: 2024-2032.

Chateau Bolongbao 2020 Marselan Organic Dry Red Wine Fangshan Beijing                           93

Bright deep red. Very pretty nose of sweet spices, coffee, aromatic herbs and red berries. Then very smooth in the mouth but the red fruit and herb flavours are a little too sweet, which is a shame. Then again, this pretty red wine is very well-balanced so, so why quibble? The aftertaste is juicy and bright. 100%Marselan. Drinking window: 2025-2032.

Chateau Mihope Viognier Dry White Wine 2021 Yinchuan Ningxia                       93

Bright straw yellow. White pepper, white flowers and nectarine on the nose and in the mouth. Boasts very good acid-fruit balance, and a hint of honeyed opulence and on the spicy long back end. This is really a remarkably good Viognier wine, given that Viognier is not easy to work with, as it’s much too easy to make either shrill or blowsy wines with this variety (it drops acidity quickly). Well done, though a second bottle I tried was admittedly less impressive.  Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Copower Jade Wines 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Red Wine TSWEI Yongning Ningxia                  93

Medium full ruby. Fresh, precise aromas of dark cherry, blueberry and licorice, plus a very ripe suggestion of prune. Then sweet and smooth on the palate, with blackberry and dark cherry flavours complicated by a coffee nuance and nicely lifted by strong but harmonious acidity. This ripe, big wine manages to stay just this side of opulent and overdone: good show. Drinking window: 2024-2030.

Domaine Franco-Chinois 2017 East Garden Hualai Hebei                                   93

Bright red. Very pretty nose of sweet red fruits, violet, and vanilla on the perfumed nose. Then similar flavours with bright acidity lifting and extending the flavours on the long smooth back end. Lovely stuff. Good flesh and size here. This vintage is a blend of 46% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Petit Verdot. Drinking window: 2025-2031.

Jiangyu Ferment 2021Chardonnay Yantai Shandong                    93

Medium pale straw yellow. Minty apple and pear on the nose and in the mouth, with building sweetness of fruit. Leaves an impression of gently mouthcoating mineral chalkiness behind that provides freshness. Very nicely delineated and precise cool-climate Chardonnay wine. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Legacy Peak 2018 Kalavinka Yinchuan Ningxia                               93

Good full ruby. Exhilarating nose of wild berries, violet, wild sage, and vanilla. Wonderfully dense and sweet, but with a light touch to the black fruit, floral and spice flavours. Very pretty violet flavours repeat on the smooth vanilla-laced finish. This is undoubtedly heavily oaked, but the oaking has been done so well the wine comes across as being discreet rather than bombastic. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Mountain Wave Winery 2020 Malbec Jinshan Ningxia                  93

Deep ruby. Austere, even subdued initially, with not much fruit showing, then really blossoms with aeration, developing nuance and size to its red and black fruit flavours. Drinking window: 2023-2028.

Mystic Island Winery 2021 Petit Verdot Reserve Dry Red Wine Yantai Shandong                     93

Deep purple. Ink, roasted chestnut, violet and black pepper on the fresh nose and juicy palate. Closes penetrating, harmonious and long. Mystic Island is one of the two best producers of Petit Verdot wines in China and this is really a world-class wine made with a variety that is rarely used to make monovariety wines. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Puchang 2017 Viaseres Saperavi Turpan Xinjiang                   93

Deep red-ruby. Aromas of ripe plum, cherry, cocoa and spices. Superripe at first, but settles down with aeration becoming more nuanced and less obvious, losing the tomato paste note and becoming gently aromatic and fresher. Still very youthfully oaky, finishing long with lingering sweet spice notes. Puchang is remarkably adept at making good Saperavi wines. Drinking window: 2026-2030.

Tiansai Vineyards 2020 Syrah/Viognier T35 Dry Red Wine Yanqi Xinjiang                  93

Saturated purple-ruby. Savory aromatic and salty herb, smoked ham and grilled sausage nuances complement the dark red fruit aromas and flavours. A big mouthcoating wine that closes a little peppery on the rather showy finish. Not the most elegant wine you’ll ever drink, but certainly leaves an impression. A blend of 97% Syrah and 3% Viognier. Drinking window: 2025-2028.

Amethyard Classic 2019 Cabernet Franc dry red wine Hualai Hebei                    92

Medium ruby. Musky dark fruits, dried flowers, earth, and tobacco on the expressive nose, all lifted by mineral and leafy nuances. Silky-smooth on entry, then broad and fine-grained in the middle, with outstanding lift and focus to the flavours of redcurrant, red cherry, candied violet and minerals. Closes long, clean and very fresh, with hints of herbs, black fruit and vanilla repeating. 90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot. Drinking window: 2025-2030.

Amethyard 2019 Merlot Classic Dry Red Wine Hualai Hebei                                      92

Deep ruby. Herbal coffee, cocoa and black fruit aromas and flavours are pure and precise. Very savory and saline on the building suave finish, that features a nice finishing note of cassis. 95%Merlot and 5%Cabernet Franc. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Anuo Vineyard 2021 Petit Manseng Dry White Wine Yantai Shandong                           92

Medium deep straw yellow. Captivating aromas and flavours of ripe yellow fruit, sweet spices and crystallized ginger. Boasts the variety’s typical fleshiness in the mouth, closing long and tactile and with a minty nuance. Very Petit Manseng, but also very Shandong, and that sort of recognizability is a real plus. Well done. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Canaan Winery 2017 Merlot Shengtang Chapter and Verse Hualai Hebei             92

Dark ruby. Smoky black fruits, coffee and cocoa on the knockout, very Merlot, nose. Then smoky in the mouth too, with a long and clean set of blue and black fruit flavours that are just this side of syrupy. Closes long and remarkably fresh. A wine that walks a tightrope very effectively, this is very well made, like all the wines in the Canaan winery’s Chapter and Verse portfolio of wines. Don’t confuse this winery with the similarly named and sounding Kanaan winery of Ningxia. Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Chateau Bolongbao 2019 Prestige Organic Red Wine Fengshan Beijing              92

Bright red. Cinnamon, coconut and citrus fruits on the very elegant nose, but also on the palate. Velvety tannins., plenty of complexity, and very nice balance make for a winning formula. The finish showcases lovely inner-mouth perfume of violet and blue fruits. A very pretty red wine that is a blend of 55% Merlot and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon. Drinking window: 2023-2028.

Chateau Bolongbao 2018 Prestige Organic Red Wine Fangshan Beijing                   92

Good full ruby. Very pretty, flinty, red fruit and herbal aromas and flavours. Not so concentrated but harmonious and smooth, this finishes long and precise. Lovely, elegant wine that is a 68% Merlot, 30.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1.5% Marselan blend. This is really a knockout and all those who like their red on the refined higher acid side will love it. Drinking window: 2024-2029.

Chateau Mihope 2020 Reserve Dry Red Wine Yinchuan Ningxa                  92

Good full ruby. Lovely aromatic red wine with strong notes of vanilla, cocoa and sweet spices. Long and clean on the vibrant finish. 73% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Merlot. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Chateau Zhongfei 2021 Marselan Zhong Fei Reserve Dry Red Wine Yanqi Xinjiang              92

Deep purple ruby. Deep, spicy and complex with compelling sweetness of its red fruit, licorice and tar on the nose and in the mouth. Finishes very smooth and long. Yet another lovely Marselan wine from China that boasts a multilayered quality. 100% Marselan. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Copower Jade 2019 Marselan Dry Red Wine Yongning Ningxia                    92

Bright full ruby. Expressive, floral nose offers blackberry syrup, mocha and violet. Lush yet high-pitched on the palate, with fruit-driven flavours of blueberry, blackberry, licorice and some minerals. Boasts superb fruit concentration, but with complicating soil tones and a nicely layered texture; very pretty wine that is an 80% Marselan, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot mix. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Helan Qingxue Vineyard 2019 Jiabeilan Reserve                                 92

Good bright, dark ruby. Lifted perfume to the aromas of dark cherry and violet. Juicy, pure and firmly built, even youthfully tight and very tannic presently, with juicy and pure dark fruit and herbal flavours that are kept under wraps by the strong tannins presently. Cellar this for a couple of years prior to poping a cork. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Drinking window: 2025-30.

Holyfun Winery 2019 Helan Fanghua 195 Red label Qingtonxia Ningxia                       92

Vivid red colour. Coffee, orange, soy sauce and some herbs dominate on the nose and in the mouth. A hint of residual sugar peeks through on the finish, or perhaps its just the glyceral sweetness of fruit showing.  Closes long with hints of coffee. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 10% Marselan. Drinking window: 2023-2027.

Jade Vineyard 2020 Aria White Wine Jinshan Ningxia                                92

Straw-green colour. Minerals, iodine, banana, and lemon ice on the inviting nose. Beautifully delineated, this boasts noteworthy clarity and cut to its orchard fruit and lemony flavours. Not unlike a great Chablis, this is really a knockout. Well-done. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Jinfulan 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Sheng Wei Lan Yinchuan Ningxia            92

Deep ruby-red. Memorable, very perfumed nose of cherry-cola, cassis, milk chocolate and smoky minerals. At once structured and floral in the mouth, with red and dark fruit rising on the strikingly pure, very long finish that shows some alcohol-derived heat with aeration. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Drinking window: 2024-2030.

Kanaan 2020 Pretty Pony Yinchuan Ningxia                                     92

Deep ruby-red. Very ripe aromas and flavours of dark berries, cocoa, vanilla and herbs. Quite oaky presently, so cellar for a couple of years at least. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot.  Drinking window: 2026-2030.

Lisi 2020 Shiraz Reserve Dry Red Wine Yinchuan Ningxia            92

Good saturated ruby. Deep, brooding nose offers superripe scents of plum, mocha, and dark chocolate, all lifted by a floral nuance. Then very tannic in the mouth with flavours of balsamic oils and  dark chocolate and very good pliancy of texture. Finishes long and sweet, with ripe but very substantial tannins that will need time to round out fully.  Drinking window: 2026-2030.

Lisi 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Dry Red Wine Yinchuan Ningxia            92

Good medium bright ruby-purple. Complex nose combines fresh, clean floral plum, blackcurrant and wild herb nuances. Nicely delineated and broad with a texture of liquid silk, but also plenty of tannic structure to support the energetic flavours of blackberry, black cherry and violet. Closes with a suave dusting of tannins and lovely finesse.` Drinking window: 2023-2028.

Puchang Vineyard 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Turpan Xinjiang               92

Medium ruby. Highly perfumed aromas of strawberry, blackcurrant, graphite and underbrush. Seamless and elegantly styled, with a perfumed quality and sneaky energy to its high-acid dark fruit flavours. Shows and obvious divergence between riepenss of fruit flavours and high acidity levels, but manages the neat trick of not coming across as disjointed. Closes long and energetic.  Drinking window: 2023-2028.

Silk Road Vineyards 2020 Harvest Red Yili Xinjiang                 92

Very dark purple ruby. Very pretty, perfumed and saline nose hints at rhubarb, strawberry and tangerine. Then notes of coffee and cocoa complement the dark berry flavours. The savoury aftertaste is long and smooth. 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Xiaoling 2018 Jiunongding Yunnan               92

Bright red. Musky red fruits, herbs and sweet spices on the nose are lifted by a bright violet topnote. Taut and pure, with an attractive inner-mouth floral quality that gives it considerable early appeal to the surprisingly open-knit red fruit flavours despite the high, juicy acidity that though noteworthy is not disjointed. Finishes elegant with outstanding length. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Drinking window: 2025-2032.

XIGE Estate 2020 Marselan Jade Dove Single Vineyard Qingtongxia Ningxia               92

Bright red ruby. Very spicy, sweet and almost aromatic (cinnamon, nutmeg, Oriental wood) on the nose and in the mouth, with hints of tar and coconut complicating bright red fruit flavours. Multilayered and concentrated, and still very youthfully oaky on the long close. Cellar this for a couple of years and enjoy for another six to seven years after that. Drinking window: 2025-2032.

XIGE Estate 2021 Malbec N28 Qingtongxia Ningxia                   92

Deep purple. Malbec-typical aromas and flavours of blackberry and violet are rich and round. Closes suave, long and fleshy, featuring a slightly smoky nuance on the rising finish. Beautiful stuff. Drinking window: 2024-2029.

Bainian Manor 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Organic Wine B70 Heshuo Xinjiang                                91

Good deep ruby. Rather wild aromas and flavours of plum, oak and truffle, plus a resiny nuance. Austere and powerful with very structured tannins providing plenty of support on the long aftertaste. Drinking window: 2025-2029.

Canaan Winery 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Chapter and Verse Yunlü Hualai Hebei                         91

Good full red. Reticent strawberry and plum aromas are complicated by a smoky component. Round and sweet in the mouth, with excellent inner-mouth lift for all its oakiness and fullness. Closes long with repeating smoky nuances and balsamic oils. Drinking window: 2023-2028.

Chateau Chanson 2018 Chateau Chanson Cabernet Franc Qin Yongning Ningxia                              91

Deep red. Red berries, vanilla and violet are complemented by sweet, smoky oaky spices. Fresh and with similar flavours in the mouth, there’ s quite a bit of oak still present leaving a mouthcoating impression on the long finish. Drinking window: 2024-2029.

Chateau Reifeng-Auzias 2018 Cabernet Franc Yantai Shandong                     91

Good medium ruby. Expressive, very pure aromas and flavours of strawberry, sweet pipe tobacco, mocha, dried violet, and truffle. Sweet, dense and seamless, closing with suave tannins. Quite glossy in its fruity personality, this will find lots of fans.  95% Cabernet Franc, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot.

Chateau Roduit 2018 Yves Roduit Red Wine Shangri-La Yunnan                                     91

Good full medium ruby. Penetrating, very pretty aromas of dark cherry, blackcurrant, dried flowers and orange peel. Sweet on entry, then more austere but refined in the middle, hinting at outstanding floral perfume to its small berry and dark cherry flavours. Finishes with fine-grained tannins and outstanding balance and length. Very pretty wine. Drinking window: 2023-2030.

Copower Jade Wines 2021 Chardonnay Reserve Dry White Wine Yongning Ningxia                 91

Cloudy straw-green. A minty herbal note lifts the ripe orchard fruit and yellow melon aromas. Then also very good freshness in the mouth, with an easy-going quality to the approachable apricot and melon flavours, complicated by a hint of banana and of spicy oak. A little more concentration of fruit and I would have scored this even higher. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Copower Jade Wines 2019 Chardonnay Reserve Dry White Wine Yongning Ningxia              91

Luminous straw yellow with some gold. Perfumed orchard fruit, spices and banana on the nose. At once fresh and round, with a juicy sappy quality top its apple, pear and banana fruit flavours. Closes long and lively, with a hint of minerality. More Puligny than Chassagne, this is really a pretty good Chardonnay wine that is neither hopelessly over-oaked nor over-tropicalized as far too many of the world’s vastly overrated Chardonnay wines are. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Holyfun Winery 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Kai Fang Kai Hua 181 Qingtngxia Ningxia             91

Good bright, full ruby. Crushed blackberry, violet, cedar and a whiff of graphite on the nose. Very clean and fresh on the palate, with a saline quality to its flavours of dark chocolate, herbs and dark berries. Needs time in a good cellar. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot.  Drinking window: 2025-2028.

Jiangyu Ferment 2022 Grechetto Yantai Shandong                 91

Luminous straw yellow. Nuanced, ripe citrus and orange marmelady notes on the slightly oak- and yeast-dominated nose. On entry, a little of youthful oakiness currently camouflages the apple and pear fruit flavours, with hints of yeast-derived banana emerging in the middle and on the slightly tannic finish (a result of both the oaking regimen used and the variety, as Grechetto di Todi is a rare tannic white grape). Closes log and bright, with very good lift and depth of flavour, but I suggest cellaring this for a year to see if the oak gets digested. Very promising Grechetto wine, not exactly a common thing to find outside of Umbria in Italy. I look forward to trying future vintages of this potentially very exciting wine. Drinking window: 2024-2026.

Longting Vineyard 2020 Chardonnay Reserve Sea Breeze Yantai Shandong               91

Vivid straw-green. Very clean but almost neutral on the nose where mineral nuances dominate the pristine orchard fruit aromas. Then long and fresh in the mouth, with lively flavours of apple, banana, herbs and pear. Maybe not the most complex Chardonnay wine you’ll ever drink, but very elegant with mineral, herbal, apple and guava nuances emerging on the long back end where a tofu-like note also becomes apparent with aeration. Drinking window: 2023-2025.

Martin Vineyard 2016 Cabernet Franc Merlot Single Vineyard Dry Red Wine Hualai Hebei            91

Good deep ruby. Ripe but vibrant aromas and flavours of red plum, blackcurrant and minerals. In the mouth it displays lovely perfume of dark cherry, plum, and truffle flavours. Closes clean and long. A blend of 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot. Drinking window: 2025-2030.

Mountain Wave 2019 Pinot Noir Jinshan Ningxia             91

Dark red. Herbs and mushroom notes complement ripe spicy red and blue fruit aromas and flavours. Very New World in style (think Australia and South Africa style) and perhaps not the last word in nuance, but this is delicious. You can tell the grapes come from a warm place, but this manages to be fresh and lively, its trump cards. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Mystic Island 2021 Cabernet Franc Reserve Yihu Dry Red Wine Yantai Shandong              91

Very dark red. Heavily toasted oak dominates initially, with coffee, cocoa, black pepper and spice nites dominating the red and black fruit present. Too youthfully oaky at present to be enjoyed fully, but this beautifully structured wine ought to develop splendidly in a good cellar. Drinking window: 2026-2032.

Mystic Island Winery 2020 Chardonnay Reserve Yihu Dry White Wine                  91

Pale straw. Slightly subdued nose hints at guava, minerals and minty herbs. Then similar flavours to the aromas, but just a little fruit-challenged. Finishes nicely tactile and precise, not to mention long. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Silver Heights 2020 Bloom Sparkling Wine Jinshan Ningxia              91

Bright straw-green with a soft persistent foam. Fresh yellow apple and pear aromas and flavours are nicely creamy yet fresh. Closes long and nicely juicy, with a hint of welcome sweetness leaving an impression of welcome creaminess. Not unlike an entry-level Prosecco wine of good quality, this very juicy, fun sparkling wine from Ningxia can play a very similar role to that famous Italian bubbly at parties and dinner tables everywhere. It’s made with a rather singular recipe that features a percentage of rice wine in the blend, a creation of Silver Heights owner and winemaker Emma Gao, who has a real knack for experimentation and is always trying new things (usually successfully, as is the case with this wine). A blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Ningxia Rice wine, and 10% Pinot Noir, the bottle sports a remarkably pretty and colorful label. Only the third vintage made, but each has been special in its own way: they have a real winner here. Wine lovers might like to know that, as of this year, Gao has also begun making a super-delicious apple cider too. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Silver Heights 2020 Pinot Noir Jiayuan Jinshan Ningxia                           91

Good full medium red. Very Burgundy-like, with a flinty cast to the small red and dark berry aromas and flavours. Finishes slightly bitter but also very food-friendly with nicely harmonious acidity extending the juicy, precise flavours at the back. Call me impressed: knowing well how hard it is to make good Pinot Noir wines outside of Burgundy and very few other viticultural areas, this is really very good. But then owner and winemaker Emma Gao has been studying her Pinot Noir vines extensively as well as trying different winemaking techniques. All that effort clearly shows in a wine like this one, the first taste of which will have you thinking it might be a good Burgundy Villages or even lieu-dit. Drinking window: 2023-2028.

Xiaoling 2020 White Wine Shangri-La Yunnan                     91

Crystalline, pale straw yellow. Aromas and flavours of yellow melon, green apple, and riper notes of quince and baked pear. Showcases noteworthy acid tang, but the acidity has been managed so well that the wine seems well-balanced. Closes long and saline, with Chablis-like nuances. 100% Chardonnay. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

XIGE Estate 2020 Xige N50 Qingtongxia Ningxia                  91

Glass-staining ruby. Deep, youthfully brooding cassis, leafy and dark cherry aromas and flavours boast noteworthy inner-mouth perfume. A strong licorice and earthy note builds on the juicy, sappy and long finish. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Gernischt.  Drinking window: 2025-2030.

Amethyard 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Classic Dry Red Wine Hualai Hebei                 90

Deep red-ruby. The nose shows distinctly black fruits with a smattering of smoky medicinal herbs and licorice. Tight and primary in the mouth, but not especially complex presently, this suggests terrific intensity of flavour and brooding power but is a little inexpressive and straightforward currently. Drinking window: 2026-2030.

Dameiyong 2022 Syrah Seven Star Dry Red Wine Yanjing Tibet               90

Deep ruby. Very pretty wine with intense strawberry and violet perfume on nose and in the mouth. Silky and fresh, this boasts a long sweet finish. Not a blockbuster, but beautifully balanced. Very well done here.  100% Syrah. Drinking window: 2023-2028.

Jade Vineyard 2017 Messenger Reserve Jinshan Ningxia                  90

Good deep, bright saturated ruby. Very balsamic perfume to the aromas of blackberry, smoke and minerals. At once silky and firmly built, with noteworthy juiciness and grip to its dark fruit and chocolaty flavours. Big ample, ripe and sweet with a very balsamic personality persisting from start to finish but actually surprisingly well-balanced in its acid-fruit-tannin components, if not especially nuanced. Finishes with a persistent aromatic character. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Drinking window: 2023-2028.

Kanaan 2021 Riesling Yinchuan Ningxia                                        90

Straw-yellow. Herbs, quince and green pineapple on the nose. Then slightly monolithic in the mouth, with a delicately bitter nuance to the apple and pear flavours. Closes juicy and with repeating herbal notes on the classically dry persistent finish. Drinking window: 2023-2025.

Martin Vineyard 2020 Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Dry Red Wine Hualai Hebei                90

Bright ruby-red. Fruity, rich and round, boasting elements of both Savigny and Pommard, as it is lively like the wines of the former commune but also has the but fleshy sweet fruit like the latter’s wines. Closes juicy and with plenty of fruit sweetness. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Runaway Cow 2019 Marselan Mulan One Red Wine Yantai Shandong                90

Luminous dark red. Fresh aromas and flavours of red berries, sweet spices and minerals. Very lively as is typical of the Marselan wines of Shandong, the aftertaste is juicy and fresh. Needs some time in the cellar to round out fully, as its currently a little too oaky and drying, but this is very promising. Runaway Cow is one of the most beautiful wineries you will find anywhere in the world, and is well a worth a visit. It helps that bthe wines are improving rapidly. I plan to follow these wines closely in the years to come. 100% Marselan. Drinking window: 2025-2030.

XIGE Estate 2021 Sauvignon Blanc Jade Dove Single Vineyard Qingtongxia Ningxia                  90

Medium straw colour. Lemon, herbs and gooseberry aromas and flavours. Very well-made, but a little simple presently. Not made in the classic, very pungent New Zeland-style of Sauvignon Blanc, but rather more in the style of France, with a creamy, round mouthfeel. The aftertaste is a little subdued but smooth and lingers nicely. Drinking window: 2023-2025.

Chateau Nine Peaks 2020 Cabernet Franc Collection Qingdao Shandong                      90

Vibrant deep red. Initially a little musty, but cleans up rapidly with aeration to showcase bright aromas and flavours of peppery red fruits, violet and coffee, plus a hint of greengage and leafy underbrush. Long and fresh on the finish that boasts a rising, smooth tannic quality and plenty of Shandong freshness and juiciness. Cellar this for another couple of years at least for maximum drinking enjoyment. Drinking window: 2025-2032.

Mountain Wave 2020 Mere Wave·PMM Jinshan Ningxia                     90

Saturated purple ruby. Sweet coconut, dark chocolate, and vanilla on the nose and in the mouth camouflage currently the bright red fruit that lies beneath. The long aftertaste is also marked by vanilla. Needs time in a good cellar. This lovely wine is a blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Malbec, and 30% Marselan, hence the monogram of “PMM” in the wine’s name. Drinking window: 2025-2030.

Mystic Island Winery 2019 Yueyun Qiupin Dry Red Wine Yantai Shandong                    90

Deep ruby. Strong notes of coffee dominate the nose. Then better, smoother and more nuanced, in the mouth, with hints of tar, licorice, and dark berries. Very long on the aftertaste, with rising notes of violet and chocolate. A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Tiansai Vineyards Chardonnay T20 Dry White Wine Yanqi Xinjiang                         90

Straw yellow. Slightly bitter nuances to the orchard fruit and herb aromas. Then richer and riper in the mouth, with almost syrupy citrus fruit flavours dominating in the mouth. Fleshy and smooth on entry, but features, sharp, rising acidity in the middle, so that the long finish leaves a disjointed impression behind. Drinking window: 2024-2026.


TerroirSense Team
All Articles by the Author
Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

TerroirSense Team