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The history of wine in China

Origins of wine in China

Several archaeological finds show that the vine was present in Xinjiang, a region north-west of China, already more than 2,600 years ago. However, historians do not agree on the birth and diffusion of viticulture in this country: some claim that more than 2000 years ago, a group of merchants went from the Iranian plateau to central Asia, passing through Kashmir; others refer to much more recent times, around 600 BC, and propose Greece as a starting point for those expeditions. In both cases, the official historiography leaves no doubt that the grape wine and the cultivation of the latter are not native Chinese.

Regarding the origins of viticulture in the most internal regions of China, the scholars share the thesis according to which in 138 BC, Zhang Qian (200-114 BC), sent by the emperor to discover the western regions, was fascinated with wine production and decided to import it and to spread what he had learned.

During the successive dynasties, wine in China did not make much progress and production remained always at the family level.

The year 1892 is officially considered the year of the turning point, when the first industrial wine cellar was founded. The Changyu was not only one of the most famous cellars of the twentieth century, but also one of the few to be managed only by Chinese people.

If at the beginning of the twentieth century, the newborn Chinese winemaking industry could be considered well established, thanks also to the contribution of Catholic activities in China, the events following the end of the Qing dynasty led to a profound slowdown. The situation caused by the wars between the warlords and the corrupt state bureaucracy prevented its development.

In the 1970s, the wine-growing industry grew considerably and total production reached 640000 hectoliters. However, considered a luxury item, wine was sold only in state-owned shops at prohibitive prices.

After Mao’s death, the new policy of openness and the arrival of a large amount of foreign capitals, supported large-scale production. Today China is in second place in terms of wine production, having increased its area of 17,000 hectares of vineyards between 2015 and 2016. Not only that: China is the world’s largest producer of grapes, with 14.6 million tons (the 19% of the world total, which amounts to 76 million tons). (OIV Report 2017)

The main producing regions

The Hebei Region, located about 100 kilometers northwest of Beijing, is famous for its dry white wines produced especially from the Longan grape. It is a very sunny and relatively dry region.

The Shandong Region is the first to have produced up to 60% of Chinese production. It is a sunny and very humid region, which allows the cultivation of some international vines, including the famous Cabernet Gernischt.

Ningxia, also called the “new Eldorado” of Chinese wine, is also one of the poorest regions of the country.

The Xinjiang region, located at the western end of the country, is the largest province of the country with an area three times greater than that of France.

The most cultivated varieties

In addition to international vines, China cultivates some “traditional” varieties. Longan is used to produce soft white wines and brandy in the Shandong and Hebei regions; a particular mountain grape of the species Vitis amurensis, is planted in some vineyards in the north of the country for its resistance to extremely negative temperatures; the Beimei, a hybrid of Vitis amurensis and Muscat of Hamburg, and n. 73 of Yantai.

The other international varieties present in China are Kyoho, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Syrah, Rhein Riesling, Italian Riesling, Ugni Blanc, Pinot Bianco, Chenin , the Semillon and the Vidal, a variety used in Canada for the production of icewine.

 

We have selected for you the best Chinese wines from the most important producers of the region.

All the products listed here are available in limited quantities, we will process orders in the order we have received them.

 

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*Prices doesn’t include VAT and shipping.

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