The Caina Township of Lhasa City in the Tibet Autonomous Region is believed to be the highest vine growing area in the world. Vineyards here are planted on an average altitude of 3,563.31 meters, beating the record set by Salta of Argentina by some 450 meters.
The readings were taken by a Guinness World Record certified officer last week and the Township was awarded a Guinness World Record for being the “Vineyard with the Highest Altitude”.
Run by the Rongshun Biotechnology Company with support from the local government, the vineyards have an area of 1000 acres and are planted with 11 grape varieties. Most of the varieties planted are cold- resistant hardies including Vidal, Muscat Hamburg/Black Muscat and hybrid varieties developed by Chinese agricultural researchers.
The Caina Township sits in the Lhasa River Valley, in an area 42 kilometers to the Southwest of Lhasa City. Though water supply is abundant in the valley floor, irrigation is needed in the vineyards which are planted on high ground.
Sunlight is also in ample supply, but the extreme altitude means very high ultra-violet rays which can cause problem of sunburn. Other challenges of vine growing in this terrain include spring droughts and frosts, summer hails and rain, early autumn frosts and severe winter wind.
However, the soil on the high ground has good water retention, it is well drained and infertile, very suitable for vine growing. The extreme altitude also helps prevent pests and diseases, making pest and disease management much easier than on normal altitude.
It took the team 8 years to overcome these challenges. They almost decided to give up in 2013 after severe drought in spring which was followed by torrential rain in the summer.
The introduction of drip irrigation, protective farming and late harvest techniques saved the vineyards.
Having successfully planted vines on extreme altitude, the team now has to focus on improving their winemaking techniques to come up with products that can reflect this extreme terroir.
(the writer can be contacted at: DavidMa@thewinechronicle.com)