XINJIANG: The wine industry grows

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Seedless White grapes
“Seedless White” grapes at Jushi Vineyard in Turpan.

From the series XINJIANG: Exploring China’s new frontier

The number of Chinese wineries more than doubled over the past decade, propelling the country to become one of the world’s largest producers. China’s largest wine producer is Xinjiang. The regional government is encouraging investment in the wine industry. In our series Xinjiang: Exploring China’s New Frontier, reporter Han Bin takes us to Turpan, long famous for its grapes, to see developments there.

It’s grape season in Turpan. The family of Nurdin Mummet has grown them for generations. Today, his grandson joins him in the harvest.

Xinjiang is famous for grapes. At the southern edge of the Tianshan Mountains, viticulture in Turpan is thriving, and wine grapes are a big reason.

One of best is the “Seedless White”. They bring Nurdin’s family some 150,000 yuan a year.

“The secret of high quality grapes is that we do not use chemical fertilizers, but only natural fertilizers like sheep dung,” said Mummet. “Though the grapes may not look so big, they are much sweeter and the quality guaranteed.”

Nurdin Mummet and his grandson

The family of Nurdin Mummet has grown grapes for generations. Today, his grandson joins him in the harvest.

Vineyards surround the city on every side. And wineries are a natural partner.

Li Tianchong joined the wine industry just two years ago. He left the oil sector because he thinks wine has greater profit and potential in Xinjiang. Li used to only drink the Chinese liquor known as baijiu, for social and business occasions. Now he’s an expert on wine culture and every step in production.

Li’s company, Jushi Vineyard, is creating a new brand, now in trial production. He’s aiming for the middle and finally the high-end market.

Jushi Vineyards

Li Tianchong gives a tour of Jushi Vineyards.

“When I opened this winery, I decided to use Turpan’s seedless white to create brandy. Chinese don’t have a culture of drinking brandy and the market now is almost empty.  But I hope with Turpan’s grapes, I can produce the best Chinese brandy in the world,” he said.

Li’s company has brought in a world-class production line. He understands that inexpensive wines don’t impress palates or the market. The industry is switching its focus to quality. This means smaller chateau-style production, like Jushi Vineyard.

Although China has been making wine for three thousand years, most westerners don’t find Chinese wines appealing. At least, not yet.

“Brandy has a huge overseas demand, and the domestic sales will gradually increase,” Li said. “I hope through our efforts, our wine can finally get into the international markets in a few years.”

Jushi Vineyards

Li Tianchong gives a tour of Jushi Vineyards.

Quality is the key for the market. While China’s frugality campaign has hurt sales, he believes a growing number of Chinese still want the finer things in life – and value for their money. Li says drinking wine is a symbol of sophistication and wealth. He’s confident Chinese-made wines will rock the world in the near future.

It’s clear that Xinjiang can produce excellent wines, and some labels have found a loyal domestic following. What remains unclear is when these wines will find a place on the crowded shelves abroad.

Jushi Vineyards

Nurdin Mummett and other workers place seedless white grapes into cartons.

Turpan is short on resources, and the summer heat stifles most industrial development. But with the wine industry’s rise, the local government sees new hopes for Turpan’s future.

Nurdin is a Muslim and may have never tasted wine. But the wine industry here is making life sweet, with the fruits of his labor.

Stephen Rannekleiv on Chinese wine industry

To discuss the popularity of the wine industry in China, CCTV America’s Michelle Makori spoke with Stephen Rannekleiv, global beverage sector strategist for Rabobank International.