Located in the central part of Northeast China near the borders with North Korea and Russia, Jilin has emerged as one of China’s most famous regions for ice wine. The region encompasses 187,400 square kilometers, or approximately two percent of China’s total territory. One of the primary geographical features of the region is the Changbai Mountains, also known for its ski resorts.
There is nearly a 100-year tradition of winemaking in Jilin. Today, attention is primarily focused around the Amur grape (Vitis amurensis), which is renowned for its resistance to both cold and frost. The grape produces wines with high color and acidity. Moreover, it is extensively used for grape breeding purposes. Winemakers are able to hybridize the grape with more traditional European grape varieties to breed wine grapes capable of growing in severe winter conditions.
Two cities are especially prominent in terms of the region’s wine production and sales. One is the provincial capital of Changchun. The other is the city of Tonghua, which is currently being promoted by the government authorities as the “city of wine.” Today, the city of Tonghua has 3,500 hectares of vineyards and more than 70 wineries. The top wine companies in Tonghua include China Tontine Wines (which produces more than 20 dry and sweet wines under brands such as Tongtian and Tongtian Hong) and Tonghua Grape Wine (which produces wines under the brands Tonghua, Jie Bei Na and Yasay). Tonghua has a winemaking tradition that stretches back to 1937, while China Tontine Wines was established in 2001. To give you an idea of just how quickly the quality of wines in Jilin is changing – at the Decanter World Wine Awards, Tonghua Winery recently won a Bronze medal for its 100% Vidal wine with aromas of chamomile and dried fruit.
While Jilin is mostly known for its extensive commercial grain production (including sorghum, soybean, corn, millet, rice, wheat), it is also taking serious steps to showcase its regional wine industry. One centerpiece project is the 13-hectare Huiyaunlongyun Chateau, which opened in May 2017 at a reported cost of $58 million. This chateau is part leisure park, part vineyard, and part winery. The goal is to make this new chateau a sightseeing destination and raise awareness of the winemaking capabilities of the region.
In terms of geographical features, Jilin is high in the southeast, low in the northwest, and relatively flat elsewhere (including a vast plain in its midwest section). The city of Tonghua is located at a latitude of approximately 40-43 degrees north, which places it at nearly the same latitude as the best winemaking regions of Italy and Spain. To the south of Jilin is the wine region of Liaoning, which is also known for its ice wine.