China is not just a giant potential import market for Western wines. The Middle Kingdom is also a serious producer of fine wine – almost 80% of wine consumed in China is produced domestically.
“Strive to develop the production of grape and wine, and bring more wine for the people.”
Mao Zedong, 1954
Over sixty years, the wish of the Chairman has been realised in ways he couldn’t have imagined. With vineyard acreage triple the size of the US and a total production of well over 306 million gallons (11.6 hectolitres), China is ahead of South Africa and Chile as a wine super power (and only behind France, Italy, Spain, the US, Argentina, and Australia)!
Chinese Consumers Prefer Reds
The Chinese overwhelmingly prefer red wines, which accounts for 80% of total consumption. China became the largest market for red wines globally in 2013, ahead of France and Italy. The Bordeaux-favourites, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, are the most widely grown varieties. However China also has its own popular grape known as Cabernet Gernischt, which is believed to be a variant of the Bordeaux region’s Carmenère.
The Beginnings of Wine-growing in China
The first winery was established in the 19th century on the Shandong peninsula in Eastern China. With the population not warming to the taste of fermented grapes, wine has lived a long existence in the shadows. Rice wine, millennia old by that time, was far more popular. It was only when China’s economy surged and wine experts from around the world started to consult the local vintners that wine-growing evolved into a giant industry. And this has accelerated over the last decade. The younger generation of the growing urban-middle class in the big cities has made wine part of their trendy Western-influenced lifestyle.
Wineries That Resemble European Castles
Chinese vintners not only take great pride in the quantity and quality of their wines. Many wineries have been designed after European castles and seem otherworldly in the provincial Chinese landscape. The vast estates often give off a “Disney for Wine Enthusiasts” vibe, with dimensions that some might consider over the top.
Only recently Château Changyu Reina Winery opened outside the Chinese metropolis of Xi’an, best known as the place where the stunning terracotta army was discovered. A joint venture of Changyu Pioneer Wine Company and Reina Family of Italy, this winery has the size of Schloss Neuschwanstein, the famous Bavarian castle. Surrounded by an impressive 115 feet high wall, Changyu Reina aims to have one million wine aficionados discover this estate annually.
You can see that it is not only wine itself that became fashionable – wine tourism has become a blooming industry in China. And if you enjoyed this article or is a wine collector, you will want to visit our website to discover our full range of wine cabinets!