Cimate and Grape growing
Located in the southwest of China, lying at the far eastern edge of the Himalayan uplift, bordering Tibet to the west, and the countries Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar to the south, Yunnan covers an area as large as Switzerland. This province is situated in a mountainous area, with high elevations in the northwest and low elevations in the southeast.
Here the climate is more defined by altitude rather than by latitude. Despite the lower latitude, Vineyards in Yunnan enjoy a moderate climate with pleasant and fair weather for being located on south-facing mountain slopes, receiving the influence of both the Pacific and Indian oceans, which results in a long growing period. Besides, high altitude has provided plentiful sunlight for grape vines. The climate is further influenced by the major rivers flowing through this area, like Lancang River, Dadu River and Minjiang River, etc. Yunnan province has a great advantage over most other Chinese wine regions for the winter here is so warm that vines do not have to be laboriously buried every autumn.
Average annual rainfall ranges from 600 to 2,300 mm, with over half the rain occurring between June and August. Based on the rainfall, there are two distinct seasons in Yunnan, the dry season and the wet season. Utilizing favorable climatic conditions in the dry season to plant Vitis Vinifera has become a unique characteristic of Yunnan province.
Wine Regions and Grape Varieties
Viticultural History of Deqin
The viticultural history of Deqin can be dated back to 150 years ago when French missionaries arrived here in the late 1960s. The French missionaries built a Catholic church in Cizhong village, still well-preserved, and started viticulture and winemaking in this area. Ci Zhong locals inherited the techniques of vineyard cultivation and wine making techniques from the French, and till now, they are still planting the grape variety, Rose Honey, grown by the French a century ago.
Rose Honey, a grape variety now considered unique to Yunnan, was preserved within the church walls of Cizhong. This variety has small berries with thin skin, and is said to have high adaptability to the environment and disease-resistance with high productivity. It is considered to be brought by the missionaries from France but in the 1990s was completely wiped out in Europe by phylloxera. However, this saying is questioned by some wine experts because the traits of this variety are more like American Vines than Vitis Vinifera, and also some DNA sequencing results showed that Rose Honey is not related with Vitis Vinifera.
Despite the long viticultural history, it turned out that Rose Honey along with the winemaking tradition has long been confined to the small village of Cizhong, rarely seen in other parts of the province of Yunnan. From 1999, the local government started to encourage the Tibetan farmers to witch from barley to vines, mainly Cabernet varieties. In 2000, Yunnan Shangri-la Wine company who previously focused on Tibetan barley wine, was persuaded to purchase and process the grapes from the farmers in exchange for being granted a monopoly on all Yunnan grapes (with the exception of those now grown a few miles downriver of the Moët project ). Attracted by the favorable terroir for wine grapes, Moët Hennessy in cooperation with the Chinese liqueur producer VATS, established Moët Hennessy Shangri-La(Deqin) Winery Company in this area in 2012, who mainly produce Bordeaux blends.
Climate and Grape Growing
Deqin is located 27°33’°N—29°15’°N, in the Upper Mekong Valley, south to the legendary city of Shangri-la which was described as a mystical Himalayan paradise in James Hilton’s 1933 novel, Lost Horizon. The topography of this town features big mountains and incredibly steep valleys. Vineyards are planted on the two sides of steep slopes of Lancang River and Jinsha River running north and south, with an altitude of 1600-2800m. The great variation in altitude has resulted in a diverse microclimates in different vineyards. In general, the climate is dry enough in summer to make fungal diseases a rarity.
Vineyards are located in isolated plots far from each other due to the limited arable land on steep mountain slopes. As a result, it is not rare to see that ten patches of lands in total are less than 1 hectare, and thus the vineyards are expensive and time consuming to manage. Another challenge in Deqin is the shortage of qualified workforce, as there is little viticultural history in most parts of this province. Furthermore, relatively lagged-behind infrastructure, poor transportation and and the shortage of electricity are all limiting factors for further development of local wine industry.
Mile is located in the southeast of Yunnan province, within 2 hours drive from Kunming- the capital city of Yunnan province. It is located in a limestone plateau with karst topography and unnavigable rivers flowing through deep mountain gorges, featuring red soils and brown soils which are infertile but rich in hematite. It has a subtropical climate, and a significant vertical climate with great climatic variation. The most suitable area for viticulture is the warm and dry river valleys and canyons characterized by ample sunshine, sufficient heat, and moderate rainfall .
Yunnan Hong Wine company is the first- established and most renowned wine company in this county, who claims to be one and only winery producing wines without any preservatives in China. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rose Honey and French Wild are the main red varieties，and Crystal is the main white variety, which can also be used for making Brandy.
Due to the low latitude, there is plenty of rainfall in this area, which can promote rot and dilute the flavors in the grapes at harvest. As a result, wines using indigenous varieties are lighter in body and have a more acidic mouthfeel compared with those made from Vitis Vinifera. Besides, the wines produced in Mile tend to have an unpleasant smell of animal fur.