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Lychee wine (Chinese: 荔枝酒, lìzhījiǔ) is a full-bodied Chinese dessert wine made of 100% lychee fruit. This wine has a golden colour and rich, sweet taste. It is usually served ice cold, either straight up or on the rocks with food. Lychee wine is believed to pair better with shellfish and Asian cuisine than with heavier meat dishes. This refreshing beverage can also be used as a cocktail mixer paired with other spirits.
Lychee wine is a low- alcohol and high-flavored Chinese beverage made of fresh lychee fruits using partial osmotic dehydration techniques. Most of the time, it contains 10-18% alcohol, 1-4% sugar and 0.3-1%% acid. The nutrients and flavour are concentrated and retained thanks to dehydration pretreatment and this is also can tell from the product the usage of untreated fruits. 
Lychee is made into wines that can be consumed fresh or a few years before serving. Lychee itself has a golden color and unique rosy flavor and lychee wines keep the subtle flavor of the berry in the wine but it is not overpowering. This wine is inherently sweet and pungent. However, additional tannin is usually added to the wine, in order to get rid of the loamy mellow tones.
Archaeology has proved that ancient China brewed wine, although the winemaking technique and flavor might be completely different from the modern age. Lychee wine has been devised in China since at least the Tang Dynasty. The Xuzhoufu lychee wine used to be exclusive for the imperial family in the Qing dynasty.
Lychee wine is a healthy fruit wine made of high-quality fresh lychee as raw material, which is fermented at low temperature after washing, draining, peeling, pitting, and juice extraction. The market prospect is broad. Lychee, as one of the unique fruits in the Lingnan region of China, has developed rapidly since the 1990s. The planting area has continued to increase and the lychee yield has continued to increase.
However, due to the short harvest period and unsuitable storage of lychee, farmers growing lychee did not get enough profits when the lychee was harvested, which significantly restricted the development of the lychee industry. Although the country has done a lot of research on the preservation and storage of lychee, and the researchers have come up with some solutions, it is still difficult to expand it on a bigger scale due to high costs. Therefore, vigorously producing and developing lychee wine will help solve the problem of first, the short period of time of storage of lychee, and second, the lack of development of the lychee industry. Moreover, lychee wine is comparatively a healthier alcoholic drink and it can meet the needs of people's healthy drinking lifestyle.
The annual production of fruit wine in the world is about 30 million tons. The annual production of lychee fruit in Guangdong Province is more than 5 million tons. If all the fresh lychees produced in Guangdong are used for winemaking, only 1.5 million tons of lychee wine can be produced. In the domestic market in China, Guangdong ’s annual consumption of fruit wine amounts to 300 thousand tons, but China ’s per capita annual consumption of fruit wine is only 0.2 to 0.3 L, which is a big gap between the world ’s per capita consumption of 6 L.
Right now, there are not many manufacturers of lychee wine in China, and most of them manufacturers' production is relatively small. The companies that produce lychee wine are mainly Guangdong Huilai Di Nong Liquor Co., Ltd., Guangdong Changle Shochu Industry Co., Ltd., Guangdong Yinzhou Group Co., Ltd., Guangdong Conghua Shunchangyuan Winery, Guangdong Twelve Ling Liquor Co., Ltd., etc.,
Lychee in China is mainly harvested by hand. The cost of picking is high and therefore the supply is relatively slow. Although the production process of lychee wine is relatively strict, it is still difficult to ensure that the lychee wine has a good quality and great taste due to the difficulties caused by the storage of lychee.
The Chinese traditionally serve lychee wine at room temperature or mildly chilled. In China, instead of being the main beverage in wild drinking parties, lychee wine is often served as a dessert at gatherings to complement the meal. As a fruit wine with a unique flavor, people have developed several recipes that integrating lychee wine into cocktails. Several bars around the world have added lychee wine to their cocktail programs.
Lychee fruits of optimum maturity are washed and peeled, The treated fruits are taken out, followed by pulping in a pulper. Then the lychee fruits are drained into a bucket for 4-8 hours at 10~15°C, then cool to 8-10°C and drain for another 10 hours. The sugar contents are adjusted to 22° Bx by dilution with water then mixing thoroughly together with 100mg/L sulfur dioxide and 80~120mg/L activated liquid pectinase. Freeze the treated lychee juice to get the condensed juice that is full of sweet and sour flavor. Afterward, warm up the condensed juice to 10-12°C. A 24h-old active culture of yeast, cerevisiae, is added at 5% to the sterilised lychee juice to carry out the alcoholic fermentation. The fermentation is carried as a routine practice and allowed to continue until the TSS comes to 7°Bx, this procedure usually takes several weeks. The wine is filtered and stored at 10-15°C, the ideal mature process takes about three months. Make slightly adjustments based on the flavor and alcohol content of the wine, followed by sterilization and dispensed into glass bottles, which are closed with crown corks. A large amount of fermentable sugars and high acid content present in the concentration were found to be suitable for its use in winemaking. The lychee wine produced from reconstituted lychee juice concentrate under the optimized conditions contained 11.6% ethanol, 92mg/L total esters, 124mg/L total aldehydes, and 0.78% titratable acidity. The sensory evaluation revealed a clean, light amber color, an attractive aroma of natural lychee fruit, and a harmonious wine taste.
It is the first step in lychee wine production. After picking, the lychee fruits of optimum maturity are washed, peeled and seeded by hand or husking machine. The treated fruits are taken out, conveyed by a screw mechanism, followed by pulping in a pulper.
After peeling, the lychees are lightly or fully crushed. Crushers usually consist of several stainless steel rollers and gaps. They can be adjusted to different modes, light, strong or no crushing, depending on the winemaker's preference.
The mix of lychee fruit and juice is then transferred to a vessel, usually a tank made of stainless steel or glass for fermentation.
Sulfur dioxide is added when the lychee pulp is pumped to the containers. The addition rate varies from 0-100mg/L. The purpose of sulfur dioxide is to prevent oxidation and delay the onset of fermentation.
Pectinase is added at this stage to improve the extraction of the color and flavor from the lychee and to facilitate pressing. The addition rate of macerating enzyme ranges from 80-120mg/L. According to the previous experiment, 0.2% activated liquid pectinase is usually the preferred reception.
Tannin is the optional addition in the winemaking process. It can contribute to help stabilize color and prevent oxidation to remove the effects of rot.
The sweetener may be added now, later or even not at all according to the preference of winemakers.
It is a process of transferring the sugar present in the fruit into alcohol with heat as the byproduct. The natural yeast from the fruit and the environment start to carry out the alcoholic fermentation once the lychee pulp is in the fermentation vessel. Different winemakers have their own choices of specially selected yeast and the addition rate of yeast. There are hundreds of different strains of wine yeast are commercially available, many winemakers believe that specific strains of yeast are more or less suitable for different lychee varieties and different types of wine.
Winemakers need to check the density and temperature of the wine once a day and may make slight adjustments based on the flavor and alcohol content of the wine.
Most winemakers choose to filter the wine before bottling, although some of them use the absence of filtration as a marketing tool. Filtration is designed to clarify the wine and eliminate any remaining yeast and bacteria, which can stabilize the microenvironment in the bottled wine. Lychee wine is often dispensed into glass bottles with cork stoppers, but sometimes aluminium screw caps.
This is the formal classification for all Chinese wines. There are three categories: dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet. Classified by sugar content (g/L)
- Dry (Gan, 乾, 干): with sugar content ≤4.0
- Semi-dry (Ban Gan, 半乾, 半干): with sugar content 4.1-12.0
- Semi-sweet (Ban Tian, 半甜): with sugar content 12.1-50.0
Typical lychees used for lychee wine production are Feizixiao, mainly in Guangdong, China, considered to be the noblest variety by Chinese winemakers. The fragrance, sugar and acid content of lychee are the main factors of wine quality. Many vintners are experimenting with making lychee wine from other varieties, such as Nuomici and Sanyuehong.
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