Wine in China

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Two bottles of Chinese grape wine

Wine (Chinese: 葡萄酒, p pútáojiǔ, lit. "grape alcohol") has a long history in China. Although long overshadowed by the stronger huangjiu (sometimes translated as "yellow wine") and the much stronger distilled spirit baijiu, wine consumption has grown dramatically since the economic reforms of the 1980s and China is now numbered among the top ten global markets for wine. Ties with French producers are especially strong and vinyards in Ningxia have received international recognition.

History[edit]

The history of Chinese grape wine has been dated back more than 4,600 years. In 1995, a joint Sino-USA archeology team including archaeologists from the Archeology Research Institute of Shandong University and American archaeologists under the leadership of Professor Fang Hui (方辉) investigated the two archaeological sites 20 km to the northeast of Rizhao, and discovered the remnants of a variety of alcoholic beverages including grape wine, rice wine, mead, and several mixed beverages of these wines. Out of more than two hundred ceramic pots discovered at the sites, seven were specifically used for grape wine. Remnants of grape seeds were also discovered.[1]

If grape wine consumption was once present in Bronze Age China, however, it was replaced by consumption of a range of alcoholic beverages made from sorghum, millet, rice, and fruits such as lychee or Asian plum. It was not until the Han Dynasty that the ancient Chinese became reacquainted with (or at least left a literary record of) the consumption of grape wines (via Zhang Qian's travels from 139 to 125 BCE in Central Asia), and not until the Tang Dynasty that consumption of these wines became more common.

Modern Chinese wine[edit]

Production[edit]

Chateau Changyu, Beiyujia Vineyards, Shandong China

French wine was the first foreign wine imported into China. In 1980, at the beginning of Chinese economic reform, Rémy Martin ventured into China to set up the first joint-venture enterprise in Tianjin: the Dynasty (Wang Chao, 王朝) Wine Ltd., which was also the second joint-venture enterprise in China. Over the years, the company developed over 90 brands of alcoholic beverages, and its products won numerous awards both domestically and abroad.

However, most of its products were exported abroad in the first two decades due to the low income of the local population, and it was not until after the year 2000 when the economic boom finally provided the domestic population with sufficient disposable income to support the domestic market; this relatively recent occurrence coincided with the increased popularity of French wine in China. Other companies, including China Great Wall Wine Co., Ltd, Suntime and Changyu, have also risen in prominence, and by 2005, 90% of grape wine produced was consumed locally.[2]

Also, as globalization has brought China onto the international economic scene, so too has its winemaking industry come onto the international wine scene. China has a long tradition of the fermentation and distillation of Chinese wine, including all alcoholic beverages and not necessarily grape wine, but is one of the most recent participants in the globalization of wine that started years ago in Paris, when several countries such as Canada realized that they may be able to produce wines as good as most French wine.

Quite recently, Chinese grape wine has begun appearing on shelves in California and in Western Canada. While some critics have treated these wines with the same type of disregard with which Chilean and Australian wines were once treated, others have recognized a new frontier with the potential to yield some interesting finds. Others have simply taken notice that China is producing drinkable table wines comparable to wines from other countries. Among the latest developments is the production of organic wine in Inner Mongolia.[3]

Market trends[edit]

China (including Hong Kong) is among the top ten wine markets in the world, having been described as the world's fifth-[4] and seventh-largest[5] wine market in sales, account for both domestic and imported brands. Sales in 2011 were estimated to be 1.6 billion bottles. The top two markets, the United States and France, had sales in 2011 of 4.0 and 3.9 billion bottles, respectively.[5]

The Chinese wine market has experienced a 20% annualized growth rate between 2006 and 2011, and is forecast to grow by another 54% by 2015.[4] Currently, per-capita wine consumption in the country is only 0.35 liters.

In 2009, Sotheby's reported that Hong Kong had become the world's largest market for fine wines at auction, surpassing previous leaders New York City, and London.[6]

As of 2012, a small number of large companies, such as Changyu Pioneer Wine, China Great Wall Wine Co., Ltd. and the Dynasty Wine Ltd., dominate domestic production. The total production of wine in 2004 was 370 thousand tons, a 15% increase from the previous year. [2][7] The total market grew 58% between 1996 and 2001, and 68% between 2001 and 2006. [8][9]

Notable wine-producing regions include Beijing, Yantai, Zhangjiakou in Hebei, Yibin in Sichuan, Tonghua in Jilin, Taiyuan in Shanxi, and Ningxia. The largest producing region is Yantai-Penglai; with over 140 wineries, it produces 40% of China's wine.[10]

In 2008, wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd predicted that within 50 years the quality of Chinese wine will rival that of Bordeaux.[11][12]

Xinjiang Region[edit]

China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region have an ancient history of viticulture going back to around the 4th Century BC, when Greek settlers brought the vine and more advanced irrigation techniques. The area around Turfan was, and still is, particularly noted for its grape production, and production of grape wines is mentioned in the historical record as well; Marco Polo mentioned that Carachoco (the name he used for Turfan) produced fine grape wines. The modern wine industry is largely patterned after French methods with a concentration on varieties like Cabernet. However, the Uighur traditional technique has survived especially in counties surrounding Kashgar. The Uighur home-made wine generally called "museles" (from Arabic "المثلث ", meaning "the triangle") is still being brewed by households in many villages. Unlike wines west of Xinjiang, the brewing of museles requires crushing of local varieties of grapes by hand, then strained using the Uighur atlas silk, then boiled with amount of water equal to the juice and desired portion of sugar, until the volume of the mixture is down to the original volume of the juice, then stored in clay urns together with folk recipes varying by localities---in some counties, traditional Uighur herbal medicines, and goji, mulberries, sea-buckthorn, cloves, etc. in others, and even raw and unfeathered pheasants or poussin in others. The brew usually takes more than a month to accomplish. It is then un-urned, filtered and bottled to be storred for long periods. In some villages, the ritual of communally gathering a mixture of folk museles brews in a large village urn marks the occasion following the harvest and process of grapes. Museles is now being standardized by the wine producing industry in China and marketed under the brand-name of Merceles.

Recent success of Ningxia wine[edit]

The Ningxia province has also been in the limelight for its high quality wines. After a red wine won the Decanter trophy in May 2011, on 14 December 2011 in Beijing, in a competition tagged "Bordeaux against Ningxia", experts from China and France tasted five wines from each region. Ningxia was the clear winner with four out of five of the top wines. The best of all was the 2009 Chairman's Reserve, a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Grace Vinyards.[13]

Domestic consumption[edit]

Products and availability[edit]

Most medium to large restaurants, regardless of the fare, sell wine by the bottle, usually only red. Generally, only high-end restaurants serve wine by the glass. Wine sold by the bottle is also available at large KTV establishments, and major hotels.

Since around 2008, many small convenience stores have begun to carry a small selection of wines, with specialty wine shops emerging in cities throughout the country. These specialize in both foreign and domestic brands. Meanwhile, major supermarkets have steadily increased their selection, from several domestic brands, to a wide variety of wines from around the world. Among these are sweetened, flavoured wines. These are made of a mixture of grape wine and a sweetened, flavoured drink similar to Kool-aid. These wines have similar labels to genuine wines, have an alcohol content of approximately 6%, and are much lower in price.

Demographics and preferences[edit]

Statistics show that the main market for white wine is among females, who prefer it over beer, still the main alcoholic beverage for most males; red wine has become a symbol of the elite and rich and is usually used as a table wine. In 2005, 80% of vineyards produce red wine and 20% of vineyards produce white wine, while 90% of wine consumed as of 2007 is red wine. [2][9]

Method of consumption[edit]

Both red and white wines are commonly served chilled. The wine may be poured into ordinary wine glasses in tiny amounts, or very small, glass baijiu glasses. When served at a table with more than two people, similar to the style of drinking baijiu, it is typically consumed during a group toast, and often with the entire glass being finished at once. This is particularly true when served during restaurant meals.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]