Tiansai winery and its buildings have been built to inspire associations with the swan, with outstretched wings and a tower that resembles its elegant long neck. The organic vineyard is entirely hand-harvested. Temperatures in winter can dive to minus 25º Celsius. Vines have to be buried in order to survive the severe cold.
The first plantings of Tiansai in Yanqi, Xinjiang, took place in 2010. These were cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Then followed syrah, cabernet franc and chardonnay in 2011. In 2014, marselan and petit verdot were added. There is also a bit of malbec, viognier and petit manseng. The total vineyard is 93 hectares.
Tiansai’s organic vineyard is entirely hand-harvested.
The dry weather and poor soil make for good, even great, wine. Water being scarce, there are however underground springs. Just as summer can be very hot, so winter is extremely cold.
In Yanqi, they have to bury the vines in autumn and bring them out of the ground in the spring so as to survive the freezing weather which can dive to minus 25º Celsius.
The arid climate and dry weather (only about 80 mm of rain a year) means there are practically no agricultural pests in Yanqi nor problems with mildew or rot. The soil being sandy – with clay and pebbles – phylloxera has not rear its ugly head.
Chardonnay is something of a star wine for Tiansai. Their Chardonnay Selection won Gold at Chardonnay du Monde 2018 in Burgundy. Both Tiansai Selection and Reserve Chardonnay have also scooped Silver Medals at London’s IWSC – International Wine & Spirit Competition – and Decanter World Wine Awards.
The Chardonnays are elegant, fresh, with good intensity of fruit, and balancing French oak. Three tiers are produced, starting with Classic, Selection, and highest tier Reserve. Personal favourite is their Selection range.
Tiansai also produces a delicious Selection Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. And a stunning Selection Cabernet Franc. The best wine, though, is their Grand Reserve Marselan 2015. Incredibly, that’s the inaugural vintage.
You may also want to read … Tiansai Selection Marselan 2015
After graduating from Beijing’s prestigious Renmin University of China Law School, CHEN Lizhong was assigned to a court and worked as a judge for several years. Then in 1992, she resigned her post and started Beijing Shihe Auto Company (which she still owns). In 2010, Chen planted her first vines in far-flung Xinjiang Province.
LI Demei is consultant to Tiansai. The associate professor at Beijing Agricultural College is the “Father of Marselan in China”. Li ﬁrst planted the hybrid in Domaine Franco Chinois, the Sino-French government joint-venture outside Beijing in 2001. Marselan is a crossing between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache made by the late Frenchman Professor Paul Truel in 1961.
Then again, Tiansai is helped by LI Demei, the “Father of Marselan in China”.
The associate professor at Beijing Agricultural College was the first to plant the hybrid outside Beijing in 2001. Li was chief winemaker of Domaine Franco Chinois – the Sino-French government joint-venture – having graduated from ENITA de Bordeaux (attached for nine months at Chateau Palmer in that same year).
More about Tiansai at https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/FEcO-ds_C2cC7taTpNT-zQ (Videos and article in Chinese).