Red China: New recognition for Chinese wine

China is a major market for wine, especially for reds - and it's still growing.

But its own wineries have had to battle an image problem with buyers wary of their quality against bottles from overseas.

But in recent years, that's been changing.

33-year-old Ian Dai is one winemaker on a mission to find grape varieties that can represent China.

He dropped out of university in Sydney and found his passion in wine sales.

His quest has taken him to the desert foothills of Ningxia, near the Mongolian border.

"So putting in a romantic way, I want to explore terroir in China. I want to figure out how different region tastes like, feels like. In Spain, they have similar project, there are winemakers who make wine all over Spain."

Dai is experimenting with less industrial ways of making wine.

He is shying away from changing the taste by adding yeast or adjusting the acidity while the wine ferments.

He is proud of his wine brand, "Xiaopu".

The first batch only sold around 5,000 bottles in 2018-19, but a year later that number jumped to over 20,000.

"As a winemaker, I should have the ego to make the best wine in this planet one day, in the land of China with the grapes we grow in this land. So I think in twenty or thirty years time I should make interesting wine and it's also super good..."

China's modern-day winemaking dates back to the 1980s.

Leader Deng Xiaoping had just opened the door to foreign business and French firms poured money into wineries.

By the 2000s, domestic wines has improved in quality thanks in part to a focus on growing healthier and riper grapes.

Wine consultant Fongyee Walkers says Chinese wine seems to be drawing in a wider range of customers.

""There are more people drinking wine in China and more people wanting to know about wine. And because they're drinking a lot of international wine, they kind of think, hey, what about China? Doesn't my own country make some great wine? So that's one of the reasons it's been growing."

The majority of Chinese wine lovers still reach for reds and as a side effect, wineries there often tried to craft Bourdeux imitations

But now they are embracing alternative varieties like Marselan, as winemakers like Dai experiment and search for China's signature variety.

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