The Noteworthy Wines of Fei Tswei in Ningxia

by Ian D’Agata

Copower Jade Vineyard, the official name of the winery better known as Fei Tswei (its Chinese name, or “jade”), is one of China’s up and coming wineries making some of the country’s most exciting wines.

Located in the Huangyantan Farm No.3 District of Ningxia Farming Group, between a pretty water reservoir and the southern tip of the Helen Mountains, the very beautiful, downright impressive winery building was designed with the intention of blending local material and culture into both building and landscape. The complex currently houses the office, clubhouse, cellar, shop, and three tasting areas, not to mention a collection of artworks depicting pandas in all shapes and sizes. It all started when owner Zhang Yanli (“Lily”) tasted Helan Qingxue’s wine in 2012 in Hong Kong and decided she too wanted to make a wine that she could call her own, and from Ningxia. This is not without interest, because you need to know that she and her husband had been offered a winery in France, ancient castle and all. And yet, after visiting France and Ningxia, Zhang Yanli decided to build a new vineyard in Ningxia. That should tell you just how far the wines of China, and Ningxia in particular, have come in a very short time. And in keeping with the artistic bent of the winey and its owner, the appeal of creating something from scratch, of “painting something new with my own palette of colours” held undoubted appeal.

The estate’s vineyard area covers 1236 Mu or roughly 83 hectares, with seventeen different planting areas and a large diversity of white and red wine grapes grown: Chardonnay, Viognier, Petit Manseng are the white grapes, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Marselan, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Dunkelfelder, and Petit Verdot representing the nine red grapes. It is not without interest that the three biggest vineyard extensions are all of Marselan, the crossing that has taken China by storm and is the source of many of the country’s best wines. There are also several small experimental varieties planted too, including: Moscato Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Malvasia, Barbera, Sangiovese, North Ice Red, Double Red, and still more. One plot of Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in 2013, and other plots and varieties were planted from 2014 to 2015. At present, the winery makes single-variety wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Marselan, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng and Cabernet Franc. The estate’s wines are being exported to countries like Japan, and given their intrinsic quality, will no doubt soon find other and new export markets as well.

The wines in this tasting

Fei Tswei 2021 Chardonnay Lava Chardonnay Dry White Wine                     91

Bright straw yellow. Aromas and flavours banana, grapefruit, and hazelnuts. Closes long and fresh with very good weight and texture. Another really pretty good white wine that is nicely approachable and easy to like. These grapes were planted in 2013. Drinking window: 2023-2026.

Fei Tswei 2019 Lava Joyous Copower Lava Joyous Dry White Wine             89

A pretty good white wine that needs to be drunk up given relatively low but harmonious levels of acidity. Chardonnay and Moscato Bianco. Drinking window: 2023-2024.

Fei Tswei 2019 Chardonnay Reserve Copower Jade Dry White Wine           93

Good full straw yellow. Deep, complex aromas of citrus and orchard fruit complemented by sexy vanillin spices and flowers. Finishes very long with good creaminess and fruit/acid balance. Clean and a little oaky at present, but obviously a serious, important white that needs time but will age well. Drinking window: 2025-2029.

Fei Tswei 2020 Pinot Noir Copower Jade Reserve Pinor Noir Dry Red Wine 2020              91+

Darker coloured than the 2019, with a very pretty purple-ruby hue. Then also deeper and richer than that wine, but currently more monolithic, but very promising. The aromas and flavours of violet, plum and blueberry are pure and lifted, and the aftertaste is gentle, flavourful and long. Honestly, it’s not easy to make a Pinot Noir wine this good, in China or anywhere else, and that holds such promise. Drinking window: 2026-20230.

Fei Tswei 2019 Pinot Noir Copower Jade Reserve Pinor Noir Dry Red Wine                     92

Really pretty red colour. The also very pretty on the nose, with very Pinot Noir-like spicy and minty aromas and flavours that are enticingly clean and precise. Finishes very long and mineral, with captivating inner-mouth perfume. This is really pretty good and my favourite of the three Pinot Noirs I tasted from Fei Tswei. Drinking window: 2024-2028.

Fei Tswei 2021 Lava Cabernet Franc Lava Cabernet Franc Dry Red Wine                             91

Luminous red-ruby. Herbal coffee, cocoa, violet and very pure strawberry aromas on the inviting nose. Then a little ripe and hot in the mouth, with slightly syrupy red berry flavours given just enough freshness by good inner-mouth floral perfume. The aftertaste is long and fresh, with mineral hints. Drinking window: 2023-2024.

Fei Tswei 2019 Lava Joyous Red Lava Joyous Dry Red Wine                              89

Bright red-ruby. Round and smooth flavours of blackberry and eucalyptus but finishes a little short. An initial rising bitterness smoothens and sweetens with aeration. Drinking window: 2023-2025.

Fei Tswei 2019 Lava Cabernet Sauvignon Lava Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Red Wine                    90

Bright ruby. Minty and herbal, with soft and smooth tannins providing the ripe fruit with adequate backbone. Long and clean, this is a very typical Ningxia Cab Sauv wine.  Drinking window: 2024-2026.

Fei Tswei 2019 Joyous Red                    90

Bright red. Aromas and flavours of red cherry, blackcurrant, cocoa and herbs. Clean, very modern red wine that is sweet round and approachable. Offers plenty of easy-drinking charm. Drinking window: 2023-2024.

Fei Tswei 2019 Merlot Crianza Copower Jade Merlot Dry Red Wine                            90

God full ruby. Candied black cherry and cocoa dominate the nose and the mouth. Lovely and very uncomplicated, there’s plenty to like here for the money. Drinking window: 2023-2024.

Fei Tswei 2019 Marselan Dry Red Wine               90

Deep purple-ruby. Slightly monolithic currently, offering chunky aromas and flavours of spicy dark cherry, tobacco and menthol. Needs time tom unfold and develop. Drinking window: 2024-2027.

Fei Tswei 2019 Marselan Reserve Dry Red Wine                        92

Inky black colour. Concentrated aromas and flavours of dark fruit, tobacco, soy sauce and cumin. Fleshy and with youthfully chewy tannins nicely framing the deep rich black fruit on the long rising finish. Drinking window: 2025-2029.

Fei Tswei 2019 Syrah Reserve Copower Jade Reserve Syrah Dry Red Wine                  93

Deep ruby with inky touches. Peppery, sweet violet and green peppercorns aromas and flavours. Very suave and deep, this boasts noteworthy complexity and interest on the long finish. This is actually an outstanding example of Chinese Syrah wine. I’m not surprised given how every time I have tried barrel samples of Fei Tswei’s Syrah wines I have come away nothing but impressed. Frankly, though much planted in Ningxia, Syrah is not a variety that does as well at other Ningxia wineries, so there’s something about Fei Tswei’s terroir  the grape just seems to like.  Drinking window: 2025-2031.

Fei Tswei 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Owner’s reserve Copower Jade Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Red Wine             92

Good full ruby. Brooding aromas and flavour sof rich deep black fruit, Oriental spices, aromatic herbs, balsamic vinegar and dark peppercorns. Very smooth and very long, this is a very refined wine. It is also the only estate wine with a panda on the label. Drinking window: 2025-2032.

Fei Tswei  2020 Fei Dry Red Wine                             93

Fully saturated ruby. Perfumed complex ripe black and red fruit is complemented by cinnamon, balsamic vinegar, cocoa and coffee beans. Big rich and dense, but also nuanced on the long finish, this huge red wine comes in a very heavy bottle which is a shame because the wine is more than good enough to stand on its own. (But the fine wine market in China still responds to these heavy bottles). Drinking window: 2026-2032.

Fei Tswei 2018 Petit Manseng White Wine Jade Petit Manseng Sweet White Wine                         92

Golden amber colour. Simple sweet and caramelly on the nose and in the mouth, this finishes long and fresh with hints of barley sugar, peach, tropical fruit. Only 11% alcohol and lots of flavour. Should be drunk up soon given a relative low acid mouthfeel. 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