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
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
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
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
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
I said "white wine" - she said No! No! No! and pointed out the bottles of
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.
- posted 5 years ago