History of wine in China

Wine production has a long history in China, dating back to the Neolithic, almost 5,000 years ago. Not only grape wine, but also the well-known rice wine and meat were made long before time was counted. As famous as wine became in China in the Bronze Age, it almost disappeared during ancient times. A variety of other Chinese beverages, made from millet, rice, sorghum, or plums, replaced the grapes. Finally, wine consumption increased again in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and began to become an inherent part of Chinese culture.

Aside from many of the nations of the world where wine often appears for dinner, worship, or with the connotation of public decency, the purpose of drinking wine was different in China during the early days. Scientists like Luan Feng, director of the archaeological research center at Shandong University, China, believe that the wine was originally drunk during funerals. This find is based on wine vessels, jars and pottery from ancient times, which were found in Central Asia.

Later, the Chinese used the wine as a libation for their ancestors to express reverence, or enjoyed it alone while writing poetry or prose, or to toast their family and friends during a party.

During past centuries, Jesuit priests also planted grapes that needed the wine to celebrate Mass. The first winery (Zhangyu Winery) was started in Yantai in 1892 and is still one of the largest in China. In 1910 he started the Beijing winery, which for the first time produced wine in mass for use in religious services. After 1949, the government paid a lot of attention to wine. Beijing East Winery was established around 1956. For a deeper understanding of the history of wine in China, it is recommended to read the article written by Pieter Eijkhoff: “Wine in China: Its History and Contemporary Developments”.

Wine market in China today

The capacities for viticulture in China are generally good. You can find a wide variety of soils, many different climates, indigenous and imported grapes. The most important wine regions in China today include the areas around Beijing, Shanxi, Ningxia, Sichuan, Yantai, Hebei, and Jilin.

Today, China ranks among the top ten markets when it comes to wine consumption. The increase began with the importation of foreign wines during the 1980s and growth in domestic demand is expected to continue. But still, the current consumption of around one liter per capita per year is quite low compared to the largest consuming countries (around 30-40 liters per year).

Recently, grape wine from China appeared more often on the shelves of Western supermarkets and specialty stores. As one of the last recognized members in the globalized world of wines, China is slowly gaining a better reputation for its domestically produced and exported products. The most popular Chinese brands are China Great Wall Wine, Dynasty Wine, and Changyu Pioneer Wine.

A limited range of wines can be found in all Chinese supermarkets and even many of the small convenience stores. Most of the big restaurants, hotels and cafes sell it by the bottle and some high-end establishments also by the glass. The selection of wines, especially imported varieties, is constantly increasing.

Chinese Wine Consumers Preferences

Since foreign wines were imported into China, the taste of consumers began to change. Influenced by French wine and later by other types of imported wine, people began to develop a more subtle sense of taste for wine. Consumer taste matured with diversification through imported wine.

Most Chinese wine drinkers still prefer to consume domestic products. The decision of a particular wine depends, first, on the recommendations of friends or family, followed by the origin of the wine. The daily consumption of imported wine hardly exists, so the main reason to buy the most expensive imported wine is still for gifts, parties or special occasions.

In general, red wine is preferred by Chinese wine drinkers and is historically predominant. But there are also regional differences in the taste and way of drinking wine. Some consumers like to mix wine with lemon, ice, or soda for a sweeter taste.

Imported wine in China

France was the first country to export wine to China. With the beginning of Chinese economic reforms in 1979, they began to build joint ventures with companies in China. Due to the low median income in China, the first attempts to vin


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