Who Thinks of Wine-growing in China?

The Middle Kingdom is not only known for its rice and noodles, but has since become an emerging wine country. In addition to the popular rice wine, the Chinese are more and more interested in their own and international wines. In the last five years, China has become the fifth most important wine import market and the fifth largest wine consumption market in the world.

But the Chinese not only drink more wine, but also build it up. According to recent figures from the International Organization of Wine and Vine, nearly 800,000 hectares of wine were grown in China in 2014. Thus, the Middle Kingdom surpasses even the wine country of France, which fell in terms of area with 792,000 hectares only in third place.

The monsoon shapes the climate of China. In winter, cold and dry winds determine the weather. They have their origin in the Siberian cold high and cause low temperatures in the regions north of the Yangtze River and drought in the other parts of the country. In summer warm and humid air flows from the sea (Pacific), which can lead to heavy rainfall in the form of tropical cyclones (gravitational vertebrae).

The first wine in the world was apparently not pressed in Persia, but in China. Anyway, the latest findings point to this.

Scientists discovered in 9000-year-old clay pots in the Chinese province of Henan remains of a fermented drink containing not only rice and honey, but also grape residues.

2000 years before our era, the wine in China seems to have initially served only to religious human sacrifices in the Shang period. Written documents on wine making date from the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century AD. and concern the varieties introduced from Russia i.e. snake, mare's titmice and dragon's pearl. Also, Marco Polo (1254-1324) tells in his travelogues of excellent wine in the region Taiyuan. Later, in the 14th century, its extraction and use was prohibited, and most of the vineyards had to be cleared by order of the Emperor. In their place, grain was grown.

In 1892, Zhang Bishi founded the first Zhangyu Winery in Yantai, Shandong Province. Bishi came from the Meixian region of Quandong Province. At the age of 16, he migrated to Malaysia and came there to great wealth. He learned that the Yantai region was well-suited to viticulture, initially bought 70 hectares of arable land, sourced from Europe and various locations in China to the 120 different grape varieties and took the first steps to a successful wine company, which still exists today. Because of the lack of know-how in China, he hired a recognized wine expert from Austria, Baron Max von Babo. Zhang Bishi spent large sums to achieve similar quality in his production as in Europe. He even bought oak barrels and other equipment there.

The success came and the Zhangyu wines were even honored internationally with an award (Panama Pacific Exposition, San Francisco 1915). After World War II the production collapsed, a closure threatened and there e.were only 5 employees working in the vineyards near Yantai. Today, the company has more than 4,000 employees and exports its products to more than 30 countries worldwide. The modest number of indigenous grape varieties - all outside the Vinifera family - are mainly used for table grapes or for raisin production and not for wine production. The most common native red grape variety is the "longyan" (dragon's eye), which originates from a cross with imported varieties. Also known is Heijixiu (Black Chicken Heart).

Wine is rarely drunk in China and does not go well with local food. Mostly the Chinese drink wine made from grain, rice or fruits. It is not distinguished according to the alcohol content. For all alcoholic drinks, a common Chinese expression is used. The leading Chinese national drink is the rice wine of the brand Nu-Er-Hong (translated: Red Girl). Rice wine was first produced in China and later found its way to Japan (sake).

Wine accounts for only one percent of this market. The annual consumption per capita is a little less than half a liter per year (in contrast to the world average of 7.5 and the Western European average of 24 liters - hard to imagine what will happen when the 1.3 billion Chinese approached this limit).

However, experts predict a growth of more than 16% annually in the consumption of wine throughout Asia until the year 20018. In particular, the red wine market could be interesting in China. Wine is a popular gift for important festivities.

The three largest wine producers in the country are the market leader Zhangyu in Yantai, Beijing's Great Wall and Tianjin's Dynasty, which wants to go to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Together, they control over 50% of the market. Other producers include Beijing Red Star, Weilong, Chizhiwang, Xixia King, Baiyanghe, Suntime and Yeli.

China today is divided into the following wine-growing regions: North Eastern Plateau, Bohai Bay in the east of the capital Beijing, Shacheng District, Ancient Yellow River Area, Northwestern Area and south Shandong / Shanghai / Hubei. About 70% of the 260,000 hectares of vineyards are planted with red grape varieties.

Today the most important grape varieties for wine production in China are: white wine - Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and red wine - Blaufränkisch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Malbec and Gamay.