Ningxia Xiaopu Winemaker Ian Dai on China’s Evolving Industry

Ian Dai began out as a sommelier and one blueprint or the opposite grew to change into a wine purchaser, nonetheless knew he constantly craved something more. So, in 2017 he purchased grapes from Ningxia growers and commenced experimenting with a few of his personal tips of what wine can and desires to be. We sat down with Dai to debate China’s changing wine exchange, and the blueprint in which he believes it’ll proceed to develop and exchange. 


Image courtesy of Ian Dai

What’s your background, and the blueprint in which did you rep into winemaking? 

I started my career doing sales in a wine shop, nonetheless later made up our minds to change into a sommelier. Sooner or later, I used to be employed to work at the Fairmont Peace Resort, and I used to be fervent with organizing the WINE100 wine declare – peaceable basically the most influential wine competition in China to at the 2d. Concurrently, I began to educate for the WSET wine examination and diverse wine associations, fancy Wine Australia. 

In 2016, I labored with Penguin Data as a wine purchaser and acquired wine for Amazon China. But, I felt unfulfilled and made up our minds I needed to originate wine, which is how I made up our minds to open Xiaopu, my vineyard. Support in 2017, the wine scene in China used to be undeveloped and severely uninteresting – the identical kinds, identical recipes, but no philosophy. I knew I’m able to also originate something diversified and higher. 


Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

How has the wine-making scene modified in China in the ideal five years, specifically in Ningxia? 

There are smaller wineries taking drugs in Ningxia, ensuing in extra cheap costs and more vary of types. There would possibly per chance be also so worthy higher vary in wine fashion and grape vary. 


Image courtesy of Graeme Kennedy

How and why did you delivery up your personal vineyard? 

Technically, I don’t like a vineyard but – Xiaopu is peaceable a wine-making mission, a ‘virtual vineyard.’ This form that I rent location at a greater vineyard and pause my personal thing there, processing the wines the fashion I favor to.

In my realizing, it is some distance unnecessary for me to create a complete vineyard from day one. First, I’m lift Xiaopu’s tag and sales channels, which takes less of a money inflow upfront. Thru the lend a hand of angel investors, I used to be in a divulge to efficiently delivery Xiaopu as is and would possibly per chance doubtless well develop it additional in time. 


Image courtesy of Ian Dai

What pause you witness most attention-grabbing or uncommon about winemaking in Ningxia?

To be fully appropriate, I don’t know but. I’m at the 2d most productive on my fourth traditional, with the fifth coming later this 365 days. The divulge is so younger, and we all like so worthy to be taught from this predominantly crimson wine divulge. I peaceable haven’t made up our minds in my personal mind what’s basically the most factual vary or exactly where is the acceptable terroir. Every 365 days, I be taught so worthy and it’s unbelievable how worthy more there is peaceable to be taught.


Image courtesy of Graeme Kennedy

How has ‘wine tourism’ modified Ningxia? Develop you watched it is for the higher or worse?

Wine tourism didn’t in actuality exist prior to 2020. Previous to this, wineries didn’t like many drag-in vacationers; there like been few wine divulge guides. Now, tourism is beginning to develop as wineries change into more open to the general public. We are also beginning to understand tourist guides exhibiting company around. 

Here’s good for the exchange, and I’m hoping it lasts because the divulge matures, because wine tourism creates a undeniable connection between the user and vineyard. Ningxia is severely some distance from mountainous cities when in contrast to diversified favorite regions, fancy Napa Valley, for instance. In theory, wine tourism most productive works for regions come city centers. 


Image courtesy of Ian Dai

You would possibly per chance doubtless well well doubtless even be identified as one among the essential natural winemakers in China. What makes a wine a ‘natural wine,’ and why are you weird about natural wines? 

I’m undoubtedly influenced by the natural wine movement, nonetheless I don’t and would possibly per chance doubtless well’t call my wine natural wine. Pure wine is how wine used to be made prior to the 1950s, with out the lend a hand of electrical energy, tidy volume tanks, cultured yeast, many additives, and diverse others. So to originate wine naturally is in actuality no longer sophisticated at all – excellent don’t teach any as a lot as date companies and products created after the 1950s! 

The loyal query right here is if the identical batch of grapes is made in a natural manner or a more earlier, as a lot as date manner, why is one higher? I don’t like a decided resolution myself, nonetheless I imagine that minimal intervention, so following a more natural approach, is how we as tiny producers must peaceable originate wine.

While this does recede away more as a lot as likelihood, nothing can recede severely wicked, and for the reason that scale is worthy smaller, we can employ more time caring for and tailoring each and every batch the fashion we would fancy it to be. 


Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What does the long speed glance fancy for wineries in China? 

China will like each and every originate of wineries, from luxury to mid-tier to funds friendly. Nonetheless, total, the total vineyard growth, no topic what kind, can also lend a hand enhance the wine exchange, making it more recognizable and accessible to the popular public, garnering interest in this growing exchange. 

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[Cover image courtesy of Ian Dai]

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