Chinese wine may appear on store shelves | Don C. Brunell

There was a time when wine connoisseurs looked with distain on wines produced in the United States.

There was a time when wine connoisseurs looked with distain on wines produced in the United States. Then, when California wines gained popularity, those made in Washington were viewed with skepticism. Wines fermented in Chile, Argentina and Australia were dismissed for years before finally being stocked on store shelves.

Well, in the years ahead, you may see Chinese wines appearing in America and they may compete with Washington’s award-winning fine red wines.

Surprisingly, some wines produced in China are getting good reviews, wine expert and author Karen MacNeil told CBS news.

“I’ve been to every other wine region in the world, and I thought, ‘Wine near the Gobi Desert, impossible, right? Unthinkable.’ But, boy, wine near the Gobi Desert – it is a reality, and it’s a big reality. Our grandchildren will probably know this like they’ll know any other wine region in the world.”

The idea that a barren area of China might be the world’s next great wine region is mind boggling, but converting a vast desolate tract to fertile crop land is possible with water.

That’s just what happened in Washington starting with the completion of Grand Coulee Dam in 1942. The dam’s reservoir now supplies water to irrigate 671,000 acres of cropland including wine grapes.

Today, irrigation water from a network of dams on the Columbia, Yakima and Snake rivers has transformed our state into one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions which produces some of the world’s most prized wines.

Similarly, the dry lands in Ningxia, about 500 miles west of Beijing, have had an infusion of fresh water from government-sponsored water projects. It is now home to more than 50 wineries

There are about 80,000 acres of vineyards under cultivation in Ningxia and they plan to expand to 160,000 acres by 2020. That will be more than three times the acreage in wine production in the entire state of Washington, our nation’s second leading wine producers.

China is the fifth largest producer and consumer of wine. As the country’s standard of living continues to increase and people have more disposable income, they are drinking more fine wine.

While the history of Chinese grape wine dates back more than 4,600 years, the renewed taste for wine has grown rapidly over the last decades with China’s economic boom. Because domestic production could not keep pace with demand, China has relied on imports – including wine from Washington State.

In 2014, China’s wine imports from Washington took a 25 percent nosedive. China’s economy slowed down and the Chinese government’s austerity programs left its citizens with less money to spend on wine. However, the long-term outlook is brighter even as China increases it acreage in grape wine production.

Ningxia vineyard owners are rapidly expanding. As MacNeil noted, it took the Napa Valley growers in California a century to build a market, something China’s Ningxia region has done in a decade.

The wildcard for Ningxia growers is the frigid winters and harsh Gobi winds. Vineyard owners must bury their vines after the fall harvest to protect them from the extreme cold. Then they carefully uncover them at the right time to encourage the grapes to grow again.

Washington wines can be competitive in China but China’s growing presence in the wine business is something we should watch carefully as they start to compete for shelf space in the USA.

With more than 200 million Chinese now in the middle class, the market for fine wines is growing. As the quality improves, as MacNeil pointed out, Washington winegrowers now need to pay attention to Chinese labels.

 

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Business

Stock photo
Grocery store workers have right to wear Black Lives Matter buttons

National Labor Relations Board ruling against ban by Kroger-owned QFC, Fred Meyer

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Bush’s 9/11 epilogue needs to be America’s prologue

We needed a reminder of the way our country came together after 9/11. We got it from George W. Bush.

Carolynn Bernard, owner and operator of Bless Ewe Sheep Company pets one of the sheep on her farm in Enumclaw on Aug. 17, 2021. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
COVID, droughts put local sheep sanctuary in jeopardy

Owner Carolynn Bernard took to GoFundMe in hopes of raising money to make it through the winter.

Don Brunell
Recycling batteries key to protecting our planet

Americans already toss about 180,000 tons per year, and electric cars are just hitting the scene.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Stop, Rethink State’s Long Term Care Law | Brunell

People need long term care. But the Washington Cares Act might not be the best answer.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Japan’s hydrogen pilot may work in Washington

The Evergreen state already excels at using renewable energy. What if we added hydrogen to the mix?

A Darigold dairy worker practices picketing as a strike is approved by the union. Photo courtesy of Julia Issa
Puget Sound Darigold workers on verge of strike amid contract negotiations

Workers cite lack of medical leave, outsourcing and bad-faith negotiations as reason for strike.

Don Brunell
Massive reforestation effort needed

Forestry effort would control future wildfires, create jobs and help fight climate change

Don Brunell
Don Brunell
Bumper car therapy | Brunell

The joy of bumping around in the small electric vehicles could mean more than family fun

Don Brunell
Power of Our Interconnected Grid with Ample Supply | Brunell

Cheers to the Pacific Northwest power grid for weathering our recent heat wave

Don Brunell
Family Tree Farms Key to Cutting Greenhouse Gases | Brunell

Small-time tree farmers are the unsung heroes of our healthy forests

Dave and Buster's restaurant and entertainment venue looks to hire 130 people to staff its Bellevue venue, set to open in August. Photo courtesy Dave and Busters.
Dave and Buster’s hiring 130 for August opening in Bellevue

Dave and Buster’s restaurant and entertainment venue opens in downtown Bellevue on… Continue reading