The Chinese don’t really care much for wine – so why do they drink so much expensive Bordeaux and Champagne? And why are they hosting their own wine festival?
The Chinese people don’t drink in amount the Western world do but Chinese have a taste for labels and that’s why they are a huge importer of the most prestigious wines such as Chateau Lafite. Fine vintages are drunk in China not so much because they like them but because they are status symbols. And with China’s growing middle class hoping to be seen as sophisticated but at a cheaper price, then the demand for cheaper foreign wine keeps growing too and the potential market is huge.
China has been producing a kind of syrupy wine for thousands of years for religious ceremonies, usually red because it’s the colour of luck and celebration. But the country boasts such a huge variety of topography, soil and climate that winegrowers from around the world including Domaines Baron de Rothschild have been investigating different regions in search of a winning combination to compete with the very finest wines from France, and in Shandong Province near the Olympic city of Qingdao, they might very well have found it. Here at Yantai and Penglai the coastal, south-facing slopes are on the same latitude as Bordeaux and Napa Valley, and it’s actually known locally as Nava Valley. This area produces a third of all China’s wine (and China is the world’s sixth largest producer) and there are serious efforts to produce really high-quality wines for the international market that rival more traditional wines for both taste and price.
So this is why China is hosting a wine festival – the 5th International Wine Festival in Yantai takes place on 23-26 September 2011, supported by vintners in Germany, Spain, Portugal and Chile. More than 50,000 exhibitors are expected from the Chinese wine industry and 2,500 from more traditional wineries in the Old and New Worlds. Yantai is the only city in Asia to have been honoured as an OIV International Vine and Wine City, and it is home to the oldest Chinese winery, the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company, which was founded here in 1892. It had Asia’s largest wine cellar already by 1905 and won the Gold Medal in 1915 at the World Expo, and nowadays you can enjoy a tour of the wine museum and a wine tasting at its chateau-like headquarters. It’s a new but essential attraction for the blossoming tourist industry of Shandong.
If you are travelling to China and would like to visit Shandong’s wineries, ReadyClickAndGo offers customised day trips in Qingdao, Penglai and Yantai with your own guide, car and driver from £135. Private day trips throughout China and Asia are also available, visit www.ReadyClickAndGo.com or email info@ReadyClickAndGo.com.