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Ningxia wines look to make splash in US

By AMY HE in New York | | Updated: 2017-04-10 10:04

Two bottles of red, a bottle of white and one sparkling could put customers in the mood to buy some Chinese wines for the first time in the US.

The wines — Chandon Brut, riesling, syrah organic red, cabernet sauvignon and merlot — come from Ningxia province, known as China's wine country.

"Ningxia is one of the most suitable places for growing grapes and producing wine," said Li Jianhua, Party chief of Ningxia Hui autonomous region, at a promotional event for the region on Sunday in New York's Chinatown.

If there are Chinese wines that win awards at wine-tasting competitions, those wines must have been produced in Ningxia, Li said.

"Even champagne is produced in Ningxia wineries," he said, including Chandon Brut, a sparkling wine consisting of chardonnay and pinot noir, a product of Domaine Chandon China, a joint-venture winery created by a Chinese company and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), the French multinational luxury goods company.

LVMH co-invested $28 million with a Chinese company to create the Chandon state-of-the-art winery in Yongning county in northwest Ningxia. The French company is betting that the Chinese market will support major growth in the wine sector, which is worth about $22.3 billion, according to Euromonitor International. China has more land for vineyards than France.

Ningxia, which has the third-smallest GDP in China, has in recent years become known for its burgeoning wine production. The region has close to 60,000 acres of vineyards, which is more than double what it had in 2000.

"I was in Ningxia last year and was frankly extremely surprised by the quality of the wines," said Karen MacNeil, wine expert and author. "The top wines easily would compete with the best wines of California and France."

Much of China is too humid or wet for wine grapes, she said, but Ningxia is perfectly positioned and has a suitable continental climate.

Edward Korry, former president of the Society of Wine Educators, said that he was impressed with the level of quality that was achieved by wineries in Ningxia in a short period of time.

"I think the wines are very good, and I can see much future progress as there's more understanding of the terroir of the region," he said.

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