Confused in China

Have just returned from six weeks in China: Shanghai, Beijing, Xi'an; Hangzhou, Sanya and few other smaller cities.
This was my second visit (previous one was 3 years ago) and during that time I found a dramatic improvement in quality of locally produced red wine..
To the locals, wine comes in three "colours"; red, yellow and white - but all is not what it seems !!!
Believe it or not, China is now the world's largest market for red wine - products from France dominate the imported market, but the locally made cabernet sauvignon is more than acceptable. In fact, some is very good.
The volume being produced is massive - of course, over 95% is locally consumed, but don't be too surprised if a Great Wall Cabernet appears in a store near you in the not-too-distant future.
Now, this is where things start to get confusing.
White wine, as we understand it to be, is not the case in China.
To my Chinese friends, "white wine" is actually, a clear distilled grain spirit, called "baijiu" - usually 50%+ ABV - something of an acquired taste.
I was served (in a small liqueur glass) Xiao Hu Tu Xian (literally meaning "confused immortal")
Distilled from sorghum and wheat, Xiao Hu Tu Xian, is a"rich fragrance" baijiu, with complex aromas of nuts and dried stone fruits, with a slightly medicinal edge to it.
No delicate nuance here - you can smell it across the table.
I was served a small portion to begin, and with the toast "ganbei" - it was bottoms-up !
Or was it? I could not get it down my throat. OMG ! Thank goodness we were in a Sichuanese restaurant and I was drinking beer with the spicy food.
I did venture a couple very small measures - and sipped them. Not like anything I have ever tried and I have tried a few: poteen in Ireland earlier this year; akvavit; rakia; slivovitz, some rough grappa and even a pretty pure and potent "moonshine".
But this was the first which I could not get down my throat ! (Well, not at first).
Yellow wine is a different beast again - made from water, grain and a starter culture, this is pasturised after fermentation - is generally 16-20% ABV and comes with varying sugar content from dry to quite sweet.
I was served Jiafanjiu (literally "Added Rice Wine") as a special treat for my birthday: slightly off dry I found it slightly reminiscent of Japanese sake.
Yes, I did see a tiny amount of "white wine" (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc) on the shelf in TESCO - and when I pointed this out to my companion, she was confused.
I said "white wine" - she said No! No! No! and pointed out the bottles of baijiu.
China is a growing market - but I fear producers of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay or Riesling should be prepared for a long struggle to get any form of acceptance in China.
Great country; wonderful people - but great caution needed when considering a tipple. Better stick to Tsingtao or vin rouge.
Reply to
st.helier
"Mike Tommasi" wrote .........
Nope - nor "cat's pee on a gooseberry bush".
I did see a couple Italian and Spanish reds and heaps of very ordinary French stuff (mainly basic Bordeaux) all very expensive.
I encountered one outlet entirely devoted to a Château François-Olivier offering AOC Bordeaux for 480RMB (65 Euros) and a Bordeaux Superieur for 925RMB (120 Euros) - and this from a "Château" of which I can find no reference.
However, the Chinese are learning very quickly. There are now 500 wineries in China; demand for locally produced product is growing (mainly because imported product is very expensive), and the previously imported vin ordinaire is losing market share rapidly.
I did see some Jacobs Creek red on sale in TESCO; I know both Chile and NZ export into that market, but I did not see any evidence on shop shelves.
Personally, I fell in love with the spicy cuisine of Sichuan - beer was my choice of accompaniment.
Reply to
st.helier
On 2014-11-15 10:56:34 +0000, st.helier said:
Speaking of just that, what foods in their cuisine do they eat to accompany their new-found love of red wine? I also tend to drink beer when eating Chinese.
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Bill O'Meally
Reply to
Bill O'Meally
Bill O'Meally wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@news.giganews.com:
I have always liked Riesling with Chinese food, Kabinett or Spatlese depending on how spicy.
Reds... I don't see them.
I think they started to know about wine with Lafite and Angelus as the paradigm of fine wine, but they might eventually find the right pairings.
Or not. Who cares.
s
Reply to
santiago

I brought home a bottle of the 50% chinese white wine, and my colleagues ha ted it haha. People often had it with peanuts. When I ordered it, the waite rs were laughing and going to other waiters, pointing at me and laughing. A lso on the night train from beijing to shanghai tehy served peanuts and thi s strong rice wine.
I was most curious of two rice wines. one that had white rice in it, all s oaked in the wine. around 5 % alc. That was used for a special fondue soup. A cooking wine of sorts. They also had a brown rice wine (it was dark brow n!) that was around 10-14 % and it was quite nice.
Reply to
Michael Nielsen

hated it haha. People often had it with peanuts. When I ordered it, the wai ters were laughing and going to other waiters, pointing at me and laughing. Also on the night train from beijing to shanghai tehy served peanuts and t his strong rice wine.
soaked in the wine. around 5 % alc. That was used for a special fondue sou p. A cooking wine of sorts. They also had a brown rice wine (it was dark br own!) that was around 10-14 % and it was quite nice.
I tried Japanese wine while in Japan over the last month. Despite trying 6 producers and 20 bottles from these, not one was good enough to sell at Wal greens. Tried several Chinese as well and not good on any of them. Rice win e, well there is incredible Sake out there or you can try Shoju that is rea lly rice Vodka but that is also nasty stuff to me.
Reply to
lleichtman

6 producers and 20 bottles from these, not one was good enough to sell at W algreens. Tried several Chinese as well and not good on any of them. Rice w ine, well there is incredible Sake out there or you can try Shoju that is r eally rice Vodka but that is also nasty stuff to me. Chinese rice wine is something completely different from sake. No relation, other than rice. Even the 10-15% stuff didnt even come close to being like Sake.
I do prefer sake. Always get it at sushi restaurants, and finish with japan ese plum wine/brandy. Thats like a dessert in a cup, with plum, caramel and custard notes. I dont like Asian desserts, so the plum wine is perfect :)
Reply to
Michael Nielsen
"Bill O'Meally" wrote ....
Interestingly Bill, there was no attempt to match a suitable wine with the food being served.
On several occasions, I sat down to meals (Cantonese, Sichaunese etc) where bottles of red wine were on the table and being consumed (small servings in small glasses) where, every five minutes or so, someone would say "ganbei" which was the signal to empty the glass.
In short, red wine is "the thing to drink" at dinner - both formal or informal.
Because, in general, there were many separate dishes on the table*, being shared by all diners, selecting a separate wine for each dish was not practical - especially if there are no white wines (as we understand them to be) on wine lists containing very limited selections.
* I was constantly amazed that no attempt was ever made to limit the number of dishes ordered according to the number of diners. On one occasion, I sat down with 9 others, where 19 separate dishes were selected. At the end of the evening, the leftovers (and there was a lot left) were placed in plastic containers to be taken home.
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st.helier
Reply to
st.helier
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On 2014-11-15 21:07:59 +0000, st.helier said:
Perhaps they will learn to pair their new-found love of red wine with their new-found love of cheese!
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Bill O'Meally 
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Bill O'Meally

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