China has woken up to wine in the same way that it has done in most of the areas in which it has imposed its presence in this new century: spectacularly chaotic. Consumption of grands crus, boosted in the early 2010s, came to a halt with the anti-corruption laws introduced following the election of Xi Jinping in 2013. The ‘gifts’ in the form of cases of great Bordeaux have disappeared, but the consumption of fine wines has taken deeper root among new consumers who are increasingly connoisseurs. At the same time, local wine production has expanded, both for inexpensive wines and for much more elaborate and ambitious cuvées. China is a vast country, with several regions wellsuited to viticulture. Ningxia, a small autonomous region in the centre and north of the country, is one of these. The climate is mild and sunny from spring to autumn, but very cold winters mean that winegrowers have to cover their vines with soil to avoid the risk of them freezing a few weeks later. These risks have not discouraged some ambitious and courageous producers.
Emma Ding is certainly the most emblematic of these extraordinary Chinese pioneers of fine wine. After brilliant studies in economics, this young woman discovered the civilisation of wine by importing illustrious French cuvées into her country. In 2013, she made the plunge and chose an unspoilt terroir — untouched by agriculture since the beginning! — at
the foot of the Helan Mountains, an impressive rocky barrier that provides this alluvial plain with a microclimate beneficial to the vines. She plants Bordeaux varieties for the reds, in particular the Cabernet Sauvignon that has made the Médoc famous, and Burgundy Chardonnay for the whites. Unlike other newcomers to the very specific world of viticulture
and oenology, Emma Ding impresses with the professionalism of her estate, which she calls Jade Vineyard: an ultra-competent team of local women, gleaming cellars and a vineyard on a human scale — 22 hectares planted today — and a constant search for finesse in the expression of the wines rather than a desire to impress with power or woodiness. In less than ten years, Jade Vineyard has established its own style, with a seductively arty
personality. Superbly crafted and splendidly bottled, Emma Ding’s wines speak with nuance and delicacy of a China of wine that is moving forward.
THREE MAJOR WINES FROM JADE VINEYARDS
FEI, RED 2018
Made from 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, complemented by other Bordeaux grape varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), this wine has a brilliant ruby colour and seduces with its finesse and fragrance, combining notes of peony and redcurrants. Delicate tannins, velvety flesh and a peppery freshness on the finish.
CUI, RED 2021
A brilliant expression of Cabernet Franc complemented by a pinch of Syrah: superb aromas of very fresh red berries, subtlety and delicacy on the palate, fine tannins supported by tender acidity. Remarkable aromatic persistence.
ARIA, WHITE 2020
This Chardonnay wine also offers an elegant profile without heaviness, developing a floral aromatic register enhanced by notes of orange zest and mandarin orange, a tender, well-balanced, slender palate.
photos Jade Vineyard
This article is part of the B+D Ultimate 2024 Guide to Wines of China available https://bettanedesseauveasia.com/wines-of-china-2024