Silver Heights – a taste of Ningxia

02-Nov-2021

Thanks to Instagram for the connection, I was lucky to receive a few wines from Silver Heights a couple of months ago. They sent me six bottles, Bloom (a pet-nat made from Italian Riesling*, Sauvignon Blanc and rice wine), The Last Warrior white blend (a blend of Chardonnay and Italian Riesling), Family Reserve Chardonnay (Signature Chardonnay), Ningxia Jia Yuan Pinot Noir, Ningxia Jia Yuan Marselan (both are wild fermented, unfiltered wine made from organically grown grapes) and Emma's Reserve (from the Signature range, a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot). I shared the wine with Queenstown Sommeliers Club because it's always more fun to share and the wines are not available in NZ (Ao Yun is the only Chinese wine imported, a brand under the LVMH umbrella, priced at NZ$400-$500/ bottle). I thought the range was very modern, the pet-nat was a surprise to me, and the Ningxia Jia Yuan range is quite daring compared to the Bordeaux influenced vineyards in China.

Silver Heights is a family-owned winery from Ningxia, founded by Gao Lin and his daughter Emma Gao in 2007. Emma is the owner and winemaker; she finished her Diplome Natiotel d'Enologie in Bordeaux and several winemaking experiences in top chateaus, such as Calon Ségur, before returning to Ningxia to develop their piece of paradise.

The 70 hectares of the estate acquired in 2012 comprised two vineyards, Jinshan vineyard (40 ha) to the south of Xiayingzi vineyard (30 ha) are within a short drive. By 2015, all Silver Heights wines are produced from estate-grown fruit, advanced water conservation system, using targeted drip irrigation. There are horses, donkeys, sheep living on the farm to enhance biodiversity. In 2017, Silver Heights started converting to biodynamic practices from organic (since the beginning), producing their top cuvées with minimal intervention winemaking, using only wild yeast fermentation, minimal sulphur, and without filtration; all the wines I received are from 2017 and beyond.  The vineyards have been Chinese Organic certified since 2020 and currently converting to Demeter Biodynamic Certification.

Ningxia is an internationally recognised wine region and is the largest wine region in China, with 38,000 hectares under vines. Located in the central-northern area, it has a dry continental climate. The plateau is protected from the north-westerly weather by the Helan Mountains, and the Yellow River provides irrigation, situated parallel to the east. Over 1,000 meters above sea level, sunshine hours range 1,700-2,000 with an annual rainfall of around 200mm, making the region extremely arid, producing grapes with concentrated flavours, high alcohol levels and firm tannins.

The wines are delightful, with seamless, soft acidity and calm energy throughout the range. The Reserve Chardonnay possesses a caramel-butterscotch feature with a balanced, lean fruit integration and the reds are integrated with the use of new oak, presenting varietal characters. I especially enjoyed the Pinot Noir, an enticing bouquet and silky palate with a lingering, unique bittersweet nuance, and the Emma's Reserve is packed with radiant fruit and graceful power. Read my full reviews below.

www.silverheights.cn

*Welschriesling is known as Italian Riesling in China.


FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW

  • Silver Heights Bloom Brut 2019, Ningxia, China
  • Silver Heights The Last Warrior White Blend 2020, Ningxia, China
  • Silver Heights Family Reserve Chardonnay 2019, Ningxia, China
  • Silver Heights Jiajuan Marselan 2017, Ningxia, China
  • Silver Heights Jiayuan Pinot Noir 2017, Ningxia, China
  • Silver Heights Emma’s Reserve 2017, Ningxia, China

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