Location and Geography
The province of Shaanxi lies in the central part of China, in the middle part of the Yellow River, separated by the Yellow River from the province of Shanxi to the east, bordering Gansu, Ningxia to the west, and Inner Mongolia to the north. The provincial capital, Xi’an is has served as capital in 13 ancient dynasties.
The geography of this area is described as being part of the Ordos Desert in the north along the border with Inner Mongolia, the Loess Plateau in the central part of the province, the Qin Mountains (Qinling) running east to west in the south-central part. In between the Loess Plateau and the Qinling lies the Wei River Valley, or Guanzhong, a cradle of early Chinese civilization.
In addition to its long cultural history, this region also has a long viticultural history. Zhang Qian (Chinese: 張騫; d. 113 BC), a Chinese official and diplomat who served as an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the 2nd century BC during the time of the Han dynasty, brought back Vitis. Vinifera grape vines from the west to Xi’an. The grape growing and wine making reached its prime during Tang dynasty, as the first and second emperors of Tang dynasty had cherished a great passion for grape wines. According to historical research, the north Wei River Valley used to be the royal vineyard for Lishimin, the second emperor of Tang dynasty. In Qing dynasty, an italian missionary arrived in China, who along with a Chinese businessman Huaguowen made the first barrel of red wine with Longyan grape with the italian winemaking techniques.
From 1998, the local government started encouraging wine industry in Tongchuan and Yangling, and introduced cabernet varieties from France. The years following 2006 has seen a rapid growth in grape growing areas in Shananxi.
Climate and Grape Growing
Due to its large span in latitude, Shaanxi has a variety of climates. The northern parts, including the Loess Plateau, have a cold arid climate, with cold and very dry winters, dry springs and autumns, and hot summers. The area known as Guanzhong is mostly semi-arid, though there are a few areas with a humid subtropical climate, with cool to cold winters, and hot, humid summers that often see early-season heatwaves. The southern portion is much more humid and lies in the humid subtropical zone, with more temperate winters and long, hot, humid summers.
In the northern part of this province, vines have to be buried in earth to survive the cold winters, while in the south, this practice is unnecessary.
Shananxi has a wide range of soil types. Deep, loose and infertile Heihu soil and porous and light loam with low organic matters, are well suited to the growing of grape vines.
Main red varieties grown in Shanxi province are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Gernischet, and Weibei 1; white varieties are Chardonnay, Riesling and Longyan. In addition, there are also ice wine grapes, which are named as Hutai 8, 9 and 10.