China's Homegrown Wine
    2011-09-09 17:30:40         Web Editor: Mao

The Mid-Autumn Festival is approaching, and now is a good time for Chinese people to enjoy the traditionally family-oriented festival by eating moon cakes, fruits and perhaps drinking a little wine together. The combination of wine and moon cakes has become a popular trend for up-and-coming young professionals, giving the festival a new lease on life.

To learn more about the growing wine culture in China, I had the chance to visit the Chateau Changyu AFIP in the Miyun suburb in Northern Beijing.  AFIP represents the four nations investing in the project ¨C America, France, Italy and Portugal.

Zhao Jing, Manager of the Marketing Department of the Chateau Changyu AFIP tells us about China's wine producing history.

"Many westerners are unaware of the ancient history in China of producing wine, in fact, China has a long history of producing grape wine and in our Han and Tang Dynasty, and even dating back to the Shang and Zhou Dynasty, we have our own Chinese grape wine, and you can also see 40 grape varieties originated from China."

In June, 2007, the Chateau Changyu AFIP museum officially opened to the public, which features the history and culture of grape wine in China.

"In our museum I would recommend two interesting and important places for visitors to pay attention to, one is our 'Wine Output Scene Zone', a picture which records the first Changyu wine produced hundred years ago, and the second is an inscription written by Sun Zhongshan as you know, he is a very important political leader and he wrote "Pin Zhong Li Quan" to Changyu to praise a high quality of the wine and the high spirit of the founder."

The development of China's wine industry and culture lags behind the West due to China's unique history, food culture, and drinking habits. To develop people's knowledge of wine, the Chateau has organized a variety of activities.

"This is a wine-making activity, and through these outdoor workshops, participants gain a greater understanding of how to make grape wine."

"I drove up here. The air is very fresh, and I like wine."

"We like wine very much, and I often drink a little wine from various countries. Today, we drove up here to get a feel for picking grapes and making wine ourselves. It feels great. I think that it's very beautiful here and wine making feels quite romantic."

Those who attend the workshops here often leave having experienced something completely new. Under from the outdoor workshops, the winemakers age the wine in the Chateau's cellars. The winemakers are experienced professionals. The wine is produced using a very complicated process to ensure the quality of the wine.

"My work is measuring the conditions of the grapes, such as their age and temperature, and predicting when the right time is to pick them. I also prepare them for fermentation and processing. It sounds easy, but the process is very complicated and requires concentration. During the fermentation period, we are very busy. To ensure the quality of the wine, we continue measuring the temperature throughout the whole process. Once it's finished, I think that wine enthusiasts can appreciate its special charm, color, taste and the effort thatĄŻs gone into producing it."

Today, due to China's increased interaction with the rest of the world, wine plays an important role as a social and cultural link, providing a familiar platform for curious foreigners who wish to learn about China. China has developed advanced methods of wine production and distinctive styles of wine, and the market looks set to grow in terms of size and popularity. Zhao Jing takes an optimistic attitude towards China's wine market.

"Wine market is a large market in the world, and for Chinese, we want to see more market share, and for more and more people, wine is good for our health, if maintaining for beauty, and good for improving life quality and life taste."

In Asia, wine sales have doubled over the past decade, with sales in China and Japan accounting for 80 percent of the total Asian market. China only began importing bottled wines in the last 15 years or so, and only in recent years have consumers begun to develop a taste and preference for particular wine types that compliment certain foods. However, the affinity for drinking wine in China is still low; The amount Chinese people drinking wine is just one percent of the total population, compared to the worldĄŻs average of six percent.

Chinese wine producers have a long way to go to become competitive in the international wine market, but now it's time for us to enjoy the Mid-Autumn Festival by drinking a glass of wine. Cheers!

An exhibit in the Chateau Changyu AFIP museum shows ancient methods of wine production in China on August 24th, 2011. [Photo:]

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