The Chinese Wine Renaissance written by Janet Z Wang is a fascinating, interesting and eminently readable book. So fascinating in fact that I have promised myself that I will find time to sit down and read it cover to cover, instead of what I have been doing – dipping in and out as my fancy takes me.
A gentle journey through Chinese history and wine
It is not just a book about wine production. Janet effortlessly takes the reader on a gentle journey through the history of this vast and fascinating country including its dynasties and their rulers, its art and its poetry.
Several years have elapsed since my last visit to China. Most of the time then, and especially when we were up country, we only drank beer or tea; but the white wine that we did have in a big, modern hotel in Beijing was actually very acceptable.
A fast growing wine-from-grape producing country
Thanks to Janet Wang I learn that the Chinese have been making and appreciating wine for thousands of years, probably long before the rest of the world was beginning to even think that those wild grapes might be capable of being cultivated and turned into a delicious beverage.
Today China is one of the fastest growing wine-from-grapes producing countries in the world, and also has the largest planting area of Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the world. (It rather looks as if the Chinese favour red wine over white.) Incidentally she doesn’t ignore Chinese wines made from grains; plus spirits and beer.
As Janet points out the area capable of producing grape wine extends from the Tibetan Plateau to the Yellow River valley taking in a wide range of altitudes and extreme temperatures. A challenging task in some of the areas but one the Chinese are rising to, and successfully too.
Wine tourism, etiquette and history
Wine tourism in China is starting to become popular, as is pairing wine with food. Usefully for those of us new to Chinese wines Janet is not afraid of taking the regions, along with their cuisines, and suggesting wines which complement the diverse dishes. She also instructs us on Chinese wine etiquette, and introduces us to many annual festivals.
I found the Vertical Tasting of History section of the book particularly fascinating – for instance sites along the Yellow River have yielded up many bronze wine vessels; she also includes wine references in poetry, and in war; the importance of the Silk Road and other important events up until the 20th century.
Whilst there are not a lot, there are some charming illustrations of wine artefacts, some in full colour along with pictures of vineyards and scenery.
Interested in trying some Chinese wine yourself? Turn to page 225 – Janet has thought of that too and lists several UK stockists.
As i said, a fascinating and interesting book , useful too.
The Chinese Wine Renaissance: A Wine Lover’s Companion. Janet Z Wang. Foreword by Oz Clarke. ISBN: 978-1-52910-360-1. £25. Ebury Press. www.eburypublishing.co.uk