French winemaker Domaines Barons de Rothschild (DBR) is seeing the results of its Chinese vineyard come to fruition for the first time. The owner of the famous Château Lafite-Rothschild wines described its first Chinese vintage as “experimental,” according to wine news site Decanter China, stating that it would take at least three more harvests to perfect a wine before it is ready for the domestic market.
The 2013 harvest comes from the winemaker’s seven hectares of vines planted in its Penglai vineyard, located in the Shandong province of coastal eastern China. The harvest comprises four hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.7 hectares of Syrah, and 1.3 hectares of Marselan grapes.
DBR began its vineyard project in 2008 to target local tastes, in partnership with Chinese state-owned investment company CITIC. Since then, it has been planting vines at the site, and has plans to expand the site to 25 hectares by 2016.
“Of all the regions explored the Shandong peninsula showed the best potential for the production of a great wine, both for its climate and its geology,” Olivier Richaud, DBR-CITIC wine estate’s technical manager told Decanter China. He said the estate’s first commercially viable wines for the domestic market could come from the 2016 vintage, but that project is still in its early stages.
“Considering that local conditions are completely different from what the group has experienced in other regions, and that very little external information was available on the real and practical challenges viticulture has to face in this particular region, 2013 was an experimental vintage,” said Richaud, saying that the 2013 harvest will provide valuable information during vinification and maceration.
DBR is not alone in having vineyards on Chinese soil—Chinese high-end wine e-tailer Wangjiu.com and French wines and spirits producer Moët Hennessy are also producing wine locally. China’s wine market is projected to take off in the near future, and it seems that winemakers are settling in early by growing local so they’ll be ready with wine glasses in hand when the projected demand increase kicks in.