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Ningxia in Chine, a new wine for Stéphane Toutoundji, flying winemaker from Bordeaux


Stéphane Toutoundji

Sparsely populated and hosting an important community of Hui muslims, the region of Ningxia located in the centre of China at an altitude of 2,000 meters has many assets for the wine growing: its soils are protected from the westerly winds by the Helan mountains and irrigated by the Yellow River, whereas plentiful sunshine and a difference of temperature between day and night favour the maturing of the grapes. Although vineyards have been planted as from the 70s the real start dates back 2005 and ten years later Ningxia totals 35,000 ha of vines and 184 wineries. Pernod Ricard and Moët Hennessy with its sparkling wine production unit Chandon China have been among the first foreign investors, numerous today, to have interest in what is also called “the oasis of the desert”. And there are plenty of development projects although, as says Jim Boyce, consultant and creator of the website Grape Wall of China, the biggest challenge for Ningxia remains to be able to make fine wines in a region where the climate conditions are difficult to control.



“Ningxia and Ho-Lan Soul … new wine adventures, a complete freedom
to experiment and find the best combinations between the soils and the climate.
And a beautiful Eldorado for quality”
Stéphane Toutoundji


A challenge for Stéphane Toutoundji, one of the great figures of wine that some call the “flying winemakers” and settled on the right bank in the region of Bordeaux. Running Oenoteam with two other enologists Thomas Duclot and Julien Belle, Stéphane consults for 180 properties in Bordeaux, in the southwest of France and in China. And it is during a conference in this country in 2012 he met the owners of one of the most important wineries of Ningxia, Château Ho-Lan Soul, entity of the Thai Daysun group. Immediately charmed by this wine region with the vine stocks buried under 30 cm of earth in winter and the soils adapted to the culture of Cabernet Sauvignon, Stéphane started working with them for the 2013 vintage. With Mr Chen, the owner, and his team, he builds up a five year plan to restore the vineyard and improve the vinification processes.

M. Chen et S. Toutoundji

Fertilization, pruning, irrigation and adapting the dates of harvest, while favoring Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz; by-plot sorting, optimization of the écoulage and élevage in barrels, and preparation of the bottling for the work in the cellars. Recognition comes soon, with many medals for the 2014 vintage at the World Contest of Brussels and in the international tastings for fine estate wines.

And in 2017, Stéphane Toutoundji plans five more years “to be able to draw the very essence from these Chinese terroirs” by improving the agronomy or the management of the water supply in this young vineyard while perfecting the vinification and élevage techniques.

At the Chinese scale … Ho-Lan Soul is a winery of 1,500 ha of organic vineyards, ultra-modern installations for the production of three wines in the three colours, from the entry level wines to the top of the range aged in 2,000 barrels and sold 300€ on the local market, and future developments with the implementation of 200 estates on 15,000 ha of vineyards … That’s China!