Wine enthusiasts sample some of the vineyard's produce. A surprise hit was the 2005 Marselan. By Marc Checkley
The 22-hectare vineyard is located 500 meters above sea level, with hotter summers and cooler winters than Beijing by four to five degrees during the day, and up to 10 degrees in the evening.
Thirty-year-old vice-general manager and winemaker Zhao Desheng speaks fluent French, having studied viticulture in Bordeaux for a year and a half before he began supervising the vineyard.
“Before I went to France, I was influenced by French culture and wine and decided to study winemaking,” he says.
Zhao says 16 grape varieties are grown here, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Viognier, and Marselan, a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.
They are harvested by hand between September and October and then taken to the distillery where they are cleaned and crushed. The juice is then placed in stainless steel tanks for fermentation before aging in French oak barrels and then filtered and bottled.
Wine is a tricky business at the best of times. Zhao says Chardonnay, Reisling and Sauvignon Blanc grapes perform best, while Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Marselan are more difficult to grow. Pinot Noir, added Zhao, was the most difficult.