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Exploring China's new frontier ep.6: Wine industry boom: Turpan: From vine to wine, how sweet it is

Reporter: Han Bin 丨 CCTV.com

10-06-2016 05:59 BJT

Full coverage: Xinjiang: Exploring China’s New Frontier

The number of Chinese wineries has more than doubled over the past decade, propelling the country to become one of the world's largest wine producers.  Xinjiang is known for its grapes, and in particular, a certain sweet white variety. The region contributes a big portion of China's wine output. The Xinjiang Alcohol Industrial Association puts the figure at nearly 50,000 liters last year, bringing a profit of more than 500 million yuan, or 75 million US dollars.

It's grape season in Turpan. The family of Nurdin Mummet has grown them for generations. Today, his grandson joins him in the harvest. Xinjiang is famous for grapes. At the southern edge of the Tianshan Mountains, viticulture in Turpan is thriving, and wine grapes are a big reason. One of best is this type - the “Seedless White”. They bring Nurdin’s family some 150,000 yuan a year.

"The secret of high quality grapes is that we do not use chemical fertilizers, but only natural fertilizers like sheep dung. Though the grapes may not look so big, they are much sweeter and the quality guaranteed," Nurdin Mummet said.

Vineyards surround the city on every side. And wineries are a natural partner.
Li Tianchong joined the wine industry just two years ago. He left the oil sector because he thinks wine has greater profit and potential in Xinjiang. Li used to only drink the Chinese liquor known as baijiu, for social and business occasions.
Now he's an expert on wine culture and every step in production. His company is creating a new brand, now in trial production. He's aiming for the middle and finally the high-end market.

"When I opened this winery, I decided to use Turpan’s seedless white to create brandy. Chinese don’t have a culture of drinking brandy and the market now is almost empty. But I hope with Turpan’s grapes, I can produce the best Chinese brandy in the world," Li said.

Li’s company has brought in a world-class production line. He understands that inexpensive wines don't impress palates or the market. The industry is switching its focus to quality. This means smaller chateau-style production, like this one.
Although China has been making wine for three thousand years, most westerners don’t find Chinese wines appealing. At least, not yet.

" Brandy has a huge overseas demand, and the domestic sales will gradually increase. I hope through our efforts, our wine can finally get into the international markets in a few years," Li said.

Li took us to the test lab. Quality is the key for the market. While China’s frugality campaign has hurt sales, he believes a growing number of Chinese still want the finer things in life--and value for money. Li says drinking wine is a symbol of sophistication and wealth. He's confident Chinese-made wines will rock the world in the near future.

It’s clear that Xinjiang can produce excellent wines, and some labels have found a loyal domestic following. What remains unclear is when these wines will find a place on the crowded shelves abroad.

Turpan is short on resources. And the summer heat stifles most industrial development. But with the wine industry's rise, the local government sees new hopes for Turpan’s future. Nurdin is a Muslim, and has never tasted wine.
He may not even know that Turpan’s grapes are not just for the table or raisins.

But the wine industry is making life sweet, with the fruits of his labor.

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