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New Shaanxi chateau for top winemaker Changyu

By Ju Chuanjiang and Wang Qian | China Daily | Updated: 2013-10-15 07:38

Changyu Pioneer Wine Co, China's oldest wine company and largest winemaker by sales, opened a new chateau in Shaanxi province on Oct 9 to further increase its product lineup and cater to a wider range of consumers.

The 600 million yuan ($97.98 million) Chateau Changyu Reina covers 73.3 hectares in Xianyang, which was the capital of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). It is expected to produce 3,000 tons of premium wine a year.

The chateau integrating grape cultivation, winemaking, sightseeing and recreation is the first of its kind in the northwestern province to be developed to meet international standards, according to the company.

It includes an Italy-style castle, advanced winemaking facilities and a vast expanse of vineyards. It also has a 15,800-square-meter underground cellar, the largest of its kind in Asia, where up to 150,000 oak barrels can be stored.

To ensure quality, Changyu invited the Italian wine master Augusto Reina, whose family and forebears have been making wine and growing grapes for 500 years, to be the chateau's honorary president and chief winemaker.

Reina said the underground cellar has more than 20 varieties of oak barrels produced in different countries and regions across the world.

"Wine has different fragrances when stored in various kinds of oak barrels. I have to select suitable types of barrels according to the features of grapes harvested here every year to make the wine age perfectly and have a rich fragrance," he said.

Due to its quality, the dry red wine made at the chateau was chosen as the only wine to be served at the welcoming banquet of the 2013 Euro-Asia Economic Forum in Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, last month. It was well received among guests from more than 70 countries and regions.

Wang Yancai, head of the China Alcoholic Drinks Industry Association, was also won over. "After tasting the Changyu Reina dry red wine, I was even more convinced that there is no lack of good vineyards in China to produce premium wines that can rival the world's best," he said.

Chateau portfolio

Chateau Changyu Reina is the third chateau opened by Changyu this year following the 630-million-yuan Chateau Changyu Baron Balboa in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and the 600-million-yuan Chateau Changyu Moser XV in Ningxia Hui autonomous region, all located in Northwest China.

Today Changyu has a wide assortment of vineyards on 20,000 hectares of land in China's six main grape-growing areas: Shandong, Liaoning and Shaanxi provinces, Xinjiang Uygur and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions, and around Beijing.

The company has six high-end chateaux in the six areas and is still expanding its portfolio by building the Tinlot Wine Chateau and a brandy chateau at its home in Yantai, Shandong province.

"Wines produced in different areas have different flavors, so we have built chateaux in different kinds of grape-growing areas across the country to cater to a wide range of consumers," said Zhou Hongjiang, general manager of Changyu.

In Shaanxi alone, Changyu has planted and cultivates vines covering 1,000 hectares.

Li Hua, vice president of Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, said that soil rich in minerals, abundant sunshine and huge day-night temperature differentials makes Shaanxi is one of the best places in China for quality grapes, although it is not as famous as China's other major wine production bases, which include Yantai and Xinjiang.

A total of 2,667 hectares of grape vines were planted in the area last year.

"Thanks to the sound terroir conditions, we believe that the wine produced here, integrating Chinese and Italian production techniques, can compete with world-class wineries," said Zhou.

Different from the company's other chateaux which mainly target the upper-end wine market, wine from the new chateau is intended for the more than 10 million middle-class customers in China, Zhou said.

Chen Zhuang, a Chinese wine expert, predicted that wines for mass consumption priced between 100 and 300 yuan will be more popular in the future as Chinese government has launched a national austerity campaign to reduce lavish spending.

 New Shaanxi chateau for top winemaker Changyu

Italian wine master Augusto Reina tastes wine at a Changyu chateau. Ju Chuanjiang / China Daily

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