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Ningxia Wine Challenge brings Experience to Two Indians

Posted: Wednesday, 06 September 2017 10:52


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Ningxia Wine Challenge brings Experience to Two Indians

Sep 06: The second Ningxia Wine Challenge, the unique 2-year winemaking competition in which a South African won the top award, may not have won any medals for the two young participating Indian winemakers but it would have been an excellent international exposure for them, writes Subhash Arora who has been following their progress and hopes it was a valuable experience they would share within the Indian wine industry and that more Indians would participate in future

Click For Large ViewThe panel of 10 judges awarded 5 gold medals to Australian Tony Kalleske (Kalleske Wines), American Brent Trela (Alert Aesthetics) and winemaking consultants Slavina Stefanova from Sweden and Sarah Williams from UK. Justin Corrans, CEO at Mountain Ridge, emerged as the judges’ overall pick for the best winemaker. Each gold medalist won RMB100, 000 (US$15,000).

Ten silver medalists won RMB 20,000 (US$3160) each. One of the medalists, Nova Cadamatre (US) had fortune smiling on her more than once-she finally cleared her Master of Wine a couple of days later, after completing 8 laps (years) on the MW circuit but not losing hope despite failures.  

Over 140 winemakers applied for NWC during an online campaign in the summer of 2015. Six judges with China wine experience chose the finalists; Parikshit Pramod Teldhune of Nashik and Priyanka Kulkarni of Mumbai made the cut to the Top 48 (60 had been selected but 48 showed up for the project). They had all traveled to Ningxia last month to have their final wines tasted by the panel of 10 judges.

The winery with which each contest was assigned was chosen by draw of lots in 2015. Each contestant was given Cabernet Sauvignon grapes but had to make it in their own style in the  wineries assigned to them.  

Ningxia has 187 registered wineries and about 40,000 hA wine grapes, about a third of the area cultivated in Bordeaux and double that of Napa Valley and over 10 times the area of wine grapes cultivated in India. It has also been undertaking other initiatives, including wine shows, festivals and conferences, joining the OIV, investing in tourism infrastructure, and promoting equipment sharing by small operations, says Jim Boyce, the Consultant to the project since 2012. Ningxia held the first winemakers challenge from 2012 to 2014 with only 7 candidates participating.

Ningxia wines have won over 150 medals in international contests, received kudos from critics like Jancis Robinson and Karen MacNeil and attracted a steady flow of investors, winemakers, academics and writers. The 48 winemakers have helped fill knowledge gaps in fast-developing Ningxia and brought much-needed diversity to a region where many have a fixation with Bordeaux, says Jim Boyce.

Parikshit says although he did not win a medal, his wine was really appreciated by everyone and he is very happy about his results. He adds that the wine was matured in French barriques and bottled in March. Over these two years he made several trips to China to make and look after his wine. 'I have also made Chardonnay barrel fermented, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon for Chateau Yuquan Xixia King in Ningxia. These wines will be bottled next year with my name reference.' he says proudly. Incidentally he joined Grover Zampa Vineyards a couple of months ago as Assistant winemaker, ostensibly as a replacement for Abhay Rajoria.

Priyanka Kulkarni is currently in Poysdorf in Weinviertel, Lower Austria, working the current harvest at the Max Riegelhofer winery, assisting the young winemaker couple, Susanne and Max Click For Large ViewRiegelhofer. She also seems to have overcome her disappointment. She admits, ‘I was very disappointed at first. I was representing India on such a big platform and hoped I would bring back some glory. Nevertheless I'm bringing back lots of love from many new friends, amazing stories, experiences and new lessons about life that make me a better person. All this is nothing less than a gold medal for me.' Praising the Chinese hosts, she adds, ‘the friendship and love I have received from my fellow Chinese mates is priceless. The way they have looked after me during each trip is simply overwhelming.’

The Judges

The ten NWC judges included: Andrew Caillard MW who was also an associate producer of the China wine documentary Red Obsession, Monica Christmann: president of the Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and Department head for Oenology and Wine Technology at Geisenheim Research Institute, Alberto Fernandez, managing partner of Torres China, Stephen Li- a consultant and Speaker at the first Must Wine Summit in Cascais Portugal 2017, which I attended in May 2017 and Huiqin Ma, professor, wine marketing expert who was also a Speaker a the same conference. She has also been a fellow judge with me at HKIWSC, Hong Kong. Details of judges are available HERE

Good luck to our two Indian contestants for their future winemaking endeavours. If any of our readers would like to participate in the next contest (hopefully in 2018, if we were to go by the trend) stay in touch with Jim Boyce on his Facebook page or follow his website

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Ningxia Wine Challenge, Indian wine industry, Tony Kalleske, Brent Trela, Slavina Stefanova, Sarah Williams, Justin Corrans, Nova Cadamatre, Parikshit Pramod Teldhune, Priyanka Kulkarni, Ningxia, Grover Zampa Vineyards, Max Riegelhofer winery, Andrew Caillard MW, Monica Christmann, OIV, Alberto Fernandez, Huiqin Ma,


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