Gazing across the scenery, one can take in a Byzantine-style castle, a palace-like building, beautiful statues and a lush vineyard. While visitors may feel as if they are walking the streets in Europe, this scene can be found in northwest China.
The area described is the home of a winery in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Named Chateau Changyu Moser XV, the winery is a major production base of Changyu, one of China’s largest wine producers.
Lenz Moser, known as Moser XV, is the Chief Winemaker. He is now pursuing his dream of making the world’s finest wine at the winery located at the foothills of the Helan Mountain in Ningxia.
Born into a famous Austrian family with 15 generations of world-class winemaking, Moser was enamoured by the wine-making process at the age of six when his grandfather would frequently take him out to the vineyards.
“Every weekend he would come and say ‘Hi, grandson; let’s go to the vineyards.’ And that’s where we started. He planted the seed of my love for wine at a very early age,” Moser said in an interview.
In the 1930s, Moser’s grandfather invented trellis cultivation and earned the honour of being called “the Father of Modern Grape Cultivation.”
In honour of the Moser Family’s contribution, the Changyu winery was named after the Moser family, and Lenz Moser was appointed the chief winemaker.
Moser set foot in Ningxia in 2004, when he came to explore China.
“I had the feeling that one day China would be a very good wine destination,” he said. “I found this little spot in Ningxia where experts and myself decided would be a hot spot for making China’s top wines.”
The foothills of the Helan Mountain are a perfect location for growing grapes. The soil is full of minerals, and the area has about 3,000 hours of sunshine each year, with an annual rainfall of less than 200 millimetres. Located just 1,100 meters above sea level, it is easy to use the Yellow River for irrigation.
At 40 degrees north latitude, the vineyard sits roughly at the same latitude as the Bordeaux wine region.
Moser said managing the vineyard is his top priority. When he returns for harvest around September, he looks for “the perfect grape.”
“We have a desert climate here. The small grapes have thick skin, which gives a very good juice to skin ratio, perfect for making a good cabernet,” Moser said.
Ningxia is rapidly transforming itself into a major wine-making region in the country and has become home to some of China’s most high-quality wines.
Currently, the region has about 38,000 hectares of vineyards for winemaking, making it the largest region for grape cultivation in China. Each year, there are about 120 million bottles of wine produced from 86 wineries in the region, bringing in at least 500,000 tourists annually, according to the regional grape industry development bureau.
“I visited some wineries (in Ningxia), and I had some wines which really are on the world class scale,” said Rene Gabriel from Switzerland. Being one of the top wine critics in Europe, he has written six books on the subject, including the bestseller “The Wine Bible.”
Rene agrees that the cabernets here are great. He said he was “astonished” that this vineyard has international grape varieties. “What makes Ningxia’s wine great is the unique taste.”
“I really hope they focus on their own taste to be one of the greatest Cabernet in the world with a different taste,” Rene said.
Chinese winemakers are now eyeing the overseas market. Moser said that the winery now exports to about 40 countries and regions across the world, and the number is on the rise.
Moser said he is happy to have benefited a lot from China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and that he would like to expand wine trade with more partners.
“We can sell the wine to all the countries along the Belt and Road, not just in Asia but also in Eastern Europe; my big hope is also to go to Africa,” said Moser with a big smile. “I couldn’t be happier with all of this.”