Grape Expectations

When I first came to China some 20 years ago, the DH and I would only ever drink beer or tea when eating in a restaurant. Sometimes there was wine on offer but in those days there only seemed to be two brands of red wine available, Dragon Seal and Great Wall and both were fairly ghastly. The Chinese did not drink wine much.  They drank Baijiu, beer, plum wine and other beverages, not forgetting tea!

Then, a few years ago, some person of influence here in China announced that ‘drinking red wine is good for your health‘ and within an incredibly short time the Chinese started buying and drinking red wine in vast quantities.  Of course China is a huge country with a massive population and a helluva lot of red wine is needed to satisfy their demands.  Consumption has risen to the extent that in 2013 China became the world’s  biggest market buyer of red wine with some 1.86 billion bottles in that year alone.  The market here has grown 136% in a mere five years. At first Chinese winemakers concentrated on quantity rather than quality which is why there is still so much appalling Chinese wine on the market here.  I should just say at this juncture, that on the whole the vast bulk of the wine produced in China is red wine, white wine has been very slow to catch on.


Needless to say some Chinese were not slow in realising  that this is the ideal time for China to start producing wines that can compete with the foreign imports; and with the assistance of western oeneologists and viticulturists, new wineries have sprung up in many parts of China.Map-of-China-Wine-Regions_wBecause it is such a big country with every type of terrain, it has not been difficult for experts to find areas which have land matching the prized ‘terroirs’ of France, Spain, California, Australia, Chile etc.  As a result reputable companies from the western world have developed partnerships with Chinese wine producing companies, and their products are now comparing very favourably with what is available from other countries. Approximately half an million hectares of land in China are now planted with vines (three times as much as Australia) .  There is a growing determination to get things right, and I have no doubt that China will succeed to the extent that within 10-15 years it will be a big player, producing world class wines which will challenge many wines from the traditional wine producing countries.Changyu_Off

Jancis Robinson, the doyenne of British wine writers, has been visiting China every two years since 2001 and in a recent Financial Times article she said:“in recent years the number of entirely respectable reds has grown at an impressive rate.”

As a family we have always followed the mantra ‘Eat and drink local wherever possible’, so naturally we wanted to find decent Chinese wine.  We have been helped in our quest by a chap here who is a bit of a local legend – using the moniker Beijing Boyce, he writes a blog called ‘The Grape Wall of China‘ as well as regular articles about Chateau Chengyu Moser XVbeer and wine in newspapers and magazines here. If you have any interest in wine, and want to know about what may well start appearing in your local wine merchants, I urge you to read his blog.

And speaking of local wine merchants, Berry Bros & Rudd the prestigious firm in London,  who supply the Queen and other members of the royal family with their wines, are now stocking 2008 Chateau Changyu Moser XV which retails at a mere £39 a bottle. A little steep for our domestic budget!Changyu1

As a result of the DH’s efforts to track them down, we now have a mini-cellar (its a Grace Vineyard Merlot 2010mini-cellar because we keep drinking the wines!)  of some really good Chinese wine to offer guests from overseas. We want to show  visiting (and local) westerners that contrary to long held belief, not all Chinese wines are crap. In fact many are truly excellent and can hold their own with good wines from both the old and new worlds.



Apart from the more expensive end of the wine producing spectrum,  China has now got some of its own really good ‘quaffable’ wines:  The People’s Series which are produced by Grace Vineyards – one of the leaders in China’s new wine movement which has been aided and abetted by Torres the famous Austrian wine producers.

The People's Wines

We have also discovered  delicious Rosé, perfect for summer drinking, which is also  produced by Grace Vineyards.

Grace Vineyard Rose

So please join me in a rousing parody of the famous Marxist anthem,  ‘The Red Flag’

The people’s wine is deepest red
And Cabernet is king it’s said,
With Pinot Noir and Merlot bold,
For vintners here its liquid gold.

Then raise a scarlet glassful high
With just one gulp we’ll live not die!
Though Foodies flinch, and Wine Snobs sneer,
We’ll keep the red wine flowing here!

Taking inspiration from the immortal words of the great Karl Marx himself, I would like to say:    ‘Wine lovers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose…but your prejudices.’

About herschelian

Started my 60s by moving to China with my DH. Surprised to find I am still here in Beijing eight years later - still finding it an adventure!
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9 Responses to Grape Expectations

  1. Wow Chinese wine, I had no idea! Before reading this, if someone had asked me whether China produced wine, I’d have guessed only rice wine, which now makes me feel totally ignorant! I’m going to look out for it appearing in my local Tesco, and I’ll be able to say I heard it heard it here first.

  2. Wow, I had no idea. I love a good merlot and will have to do some international experimenting. Thank you for sharing.
    Have a wonderful weekend and happy sipping 🙂

  3. Sheila Taylor says:

    It was only a matter of time … Wine is simply another thing on the route to world domination! This post is a veritable ‘tour de force’ – I especially love the rewriting of the Red Flag – must send on to Nick! Xxx

  4. I was recently in China. Before my trip, I checked out the wine supply there. Yes, I read China has the ability to compete with the best of them and on arrival, we were told Dynasty and Great Wall were a good buy. On our cruise, we had really crappy wine with Australia’s Jacob’s Creek on offer on every table (priced at $40.00 per bottle) but with no takers. I wonder why we were not introduced to good Chinese, instead of another country’s wine, to promote it.

  5. Lee Rodwell says:

    Fascinating – will try to track down a bottle or two …
    Just one teeny query – isn’t Torres Spanish?

  6. herschelian says:

    OMG you are ABSOLUTELY correct – Torres IS Spanish, what on earth induced me to write
    Austrian I will never know. Thank you so much for spotting my mistake and correcting it!

  7. There’s a documentary called Red Obsession. It discusses China’s love for fine french wines and the ability to go from exporting the wines to competing directly against it.

    Great Post!!

  8. Jean says:

    I just hope most the of the Chinese brands are real wine. There have been forgeries the wine world. Such as ice wine.

    • herschelian says:

      Hi – welcome to my blog! Oh these wines are genuine for sure – the international wine critics are now visiting China in droves as they have woken up to the
      fact that China is now beginning to produce some truly excellent wines – and my DH has done his bit by sampling them regularly!!

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