Even though China with its 800.000 ha cultivation area appears to be the second largest winegrowing nation after Spain, wines and producers from this country are little known over here. Due to its size China covers many different climate zones. For instance, Provinces Xinjiang, Shandong, Liaoning, Henan as well as municipality Tianjin rank as ideal cultivation areas. Chinese winegrowing expands also within more southern and nothern regions, for example, the Inner Mongolia, being home for Chateau Hansen since the 80’s and nowadays managed by French wine grower Bruno Paumard. Our PAR colleague and the China expert Joerg Philipp von Degustar who lives in the Middle Kingdom, has interviewed Bruno for us.
Jörg: When did you come to China and decide to make wine here?
Bruno: As the wine maker of still wines for Bouvet Ladubay (Saumur/Loire) the winery 2005 came to participate in fairs in China, where I met my wife and decided to stay.
Jörg: So wine making in China was not the first step.
Bruno: At the beginning, I founded a wine import company and wrote books about wine. In 2010, the Han family asked me to join the Hansen Winery and be there wine maker.
Jörg: What were your first challenges in China as wine maker?
Bruno: When I arrived at the winery, first I started to have a closer look at how Hansen handled wine growing and making. My goal was to figure out the terroir, make experiments and handle Chinese pruning.
Jörg: Chinese pruning?
Bruno: Yes, the plants grow to a height of around 1.5 meters and pruned in a special way. Reason is that in winter we need to bury the vines to protect them from the cold temperatures in Inner Mongolia. We reach easily up to -20 degrees Celsius and over long periods. Before winter, we reverse the vines to the ground and bury them under soil.
Jörg: Which are the daily challenges working in the winery?
Bruno: (Laughs) Many! After I have been looking at the wine making for around 2 years, I decided to take things over and change certain aspects. One was the way of pruning, as we need to live with the weather conditions, but it needs to be in a perfect way for the plant. Explaining the workers how to prune the vines is a daily work. You explain you come back explain again and so on. It might help for a short period and then they fall back again to the old way of doing. This means you need to do it continuously for years and control the work as often as possible. Important for the work is to understand, that nodding in China means: I have heard you said something. This does not automatically means that it was understood.
Jörg: You have inserted some wines to the international organic wine award. Why did you choose those ones?
Bruno: Today I have to cancel one submission. When asking where is my iconic wine, the 2013 Cabernet-Gernischt, which we will bottle soon, nobody could tell me. After some research I figured out it went into a blend of the entry level wine. This is China. For sure, I want to show the most indigenous grape variety, the Cabernet-Gernischt. The grape is supposed to be pre-phylloxera and came to China from Europe in the late 19th century. Interesting for the Germans might be that due to a German person in 1950 the grape got the name Cabernet Gernischt. The roots are very likely to an expression about the grape variety in a vineyard. The résume of the person was “Das ist Cabernet gemischt.” According to mixed plantations during this period. From Gemischt it seems to be a mistake in the writing from the “m” to “r n”. The result was Cabernet Gernischt.
Jörg: How will be the future of Chinese winegrowing in your opinion?
Bruno: Winegrowing in China is very young. While some countries have several thousand years of experience, everything in China developed in the last 30-40 years. In my opinion, some wineries are on the right track. As we did at Hansen over the last years, to find the perfect way of pruning, selecting the right grapes and making the according blends, other wineries will follow. The most important point will be, if China manages to make a suitable marketing. Until now very few is known about Chinese wine and even in China few consumers are looking for it. If we manage to get consumers interested in Chinese wine, it will have a bright future.