Grapevine from Yanghai, said to be the ancester of wine in China. Turpan Museum.[1]

Wine (Chinese: 葡萄酒 pútáojiǔ lit. "grape alcohol") has a long history in China. Although long overshadowed by huangjiu (sometimes translated as "yellow wine") and the much stronger distilled spirit baijiu, wine consumption has grown dramatically since the economic reforms of the 1980s. China is now numbered among the top ten global markets for wine. Ties with French producers are especially strong, and Ningxia wines have received international recognition.


"The Song of the Grape" (葡萄歌), by Liu Yuxi (772–842)
自言我晉人    We men of Tsin [Jin 晉 = Shanxi], such grapes so fair,
種此如種玉    Do cultivate as gems most rare;
釀之成美酒    Of these delicious wine we make,
令人飲不足    For which men ne'er their thirst can slake.
爲君持一斗    Take but a measure of this wine,
往取涼州牧    And Liang-chow's [= Liangzhou's] rule is surely thine.[2]
During the Tang dynasty (618–907), China started to import grape wine from Central Asia. Tang tricolor figurine of a Sogdian wine merchant holding a wineskin.
Illustration of the cultivation of grapes and winemaking in Materia Dietetica (Shiwu Bencao 食物本草), Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

Use of wild grapes in production of alcoholic beverages has been attested at the Jiahu archaeological site (c. 7000 BC).[3][4][5] High quality wine called qióng jiāng yù yè (Chinese: 瓊漿玉液) is mentioned in the Complete Tang Poems (Quan Tangshi), an 18th-century collection of around 50,000 poems compiled during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor.[6] The phrase, which translates literally to "jade-like wine", but has an idiomatic meaning along the lines of "wonderful wine".[7]

In 1995, a joint Sino-USA archaeology team including archaeologists from the Archeology Research Institute of Shandong University and American archaeologists under the leadership of Professor Fang Hui investigated the two archaeological sites 20 km to the northeast of Rizhao, and discovered the remnants of a variety of alcoholic beverages including grape wine, rice wine, mead, and several mixed beverages of these wines. Out of more than two hundred ceramic pots discovered at the sites, seven were specifically used for grape wine. Remnants of grape seeds were also discovered.[8] If grape wine consumption was once present in Bronze Age China, however, it was replaced by consumption of a range of alcoholic beverages made from sorghum, millet, rice, and fruits such as lychee or Asian plum. In the 130s and 120s BC, a Chinese imperial envoy of the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) named Zhang Qian opened diplomatic relations with several Central Asian kingdoms, some of which produced grape wine. By the end of the second century BC, Han envoys had brought grape seeds from the wine-loving kingdom of Dayuan (Ferghana in modern Uzbekistan) back to China and had them planted on imperial lands near the capital Chang'an (near modern-day Xi'an in Shaanxi province).[9] The Shennong Bencao Jing, a work on materia medica compiled in the late Han, states that grapes could be used to produce wine.[10] In the Three Kingdoms era (220–280 AD), Wei emperor Cao Pi noted that grape wine "is sweeter than the wine made [from cereals] using ferments and sprouted grain. One recovers from it more easily when one has taken too much."[10] Grapes continued to be grown in the following centuries, notably in the northwestern region of Gansu, but were not used to produce wine on a large scale. Wine thus remained an exotic product known by few people.[11]

Not until the Tang dynasty (618–907) did the consumption of grape wines become more common. After the Tang conquest of Gaochang – an oasis state on the Silk Road located near Turfan in modern Xinjiang – in 641, the Chinese obtained the seeds of an elongated grape called "mare teat" (maru 馬乳) and learned from Gaochang a "method of wine making" (jiu fa 酒法).[12] Several Tang poets versified on grape wine, celebrating wine from the "Western Regions" – that from Liangzhou was particularly noted – or from Taiyuan in Shanxi, the latter of which produced wine made from the "mare teat" grape.[13] Meng Shen's 孟詵 Materia Dietetica (Shiliao Bencao 食療本草) and the government-sponsored Newly Compiled Materia Medica (Xinxiu bencao 新修本草; 652) record that Tang people produced naturally fermented wine.

China's "first modern winery" Changyu was founded in 1892 in Shandong province near the treaty port of Chefoo (now called Yantai) by the overseas Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Bishi.[14]


National trends

Château Changyu, Beiyujia Vineyards, Shandong, China

French wine was the first foreign wine imported into China. In 1980, at the beginning of Chinese economic reform, Rémy Martin ventured into China to set up the first joint-venture enterprise in Tianjin: the Dynasty (Wang Chao, 王朝) Wine Ltd., which was also the second joint-venture enterprise in China. Over the years, the company developed over 90 brands of alcoholic beverages, and its products won numerous awards both domestically and abroad.

However, most of its products were exported abroad in the first two decades due to the low income of the local population, and it was not until after the year 2000 when the economic boom finally provided the domestic population with sufficient disposable income to support the domestic market; this relatively recent occurrence coincided with the increased popularity of French wine in China. Other companies, including China Great Wall Wine Co., Ltd, Suntime and Changyu, have also risen in prominence, and by 2005, 90% of grape wine produced was consumed locally.[15]

Also, as globalization has brought China onto the international economic scene, so too has its winemaking industry come onto the international wine scene. China has a long tradition of the fermentation and distillation of Chinese wine, including all alcoholic beverages and not necessarily grape wine, but is one of the most recent participants in the globalization of wine that started years ago in Paris, when several countries such as Canada realized that they may be able to produce wines as good as most French wine.

Quite recently, Chinese grape wine has begun appearing on shelves in California and in Western Canada. While some critics have treated these wines with the same type of disregard with which Chilean and Australian wines were once treated, others have recognized a new frontier with the potential to yield some interesting finds. Others have simply taken notice that China is producing drinkable table wines comparable to wines from other countries. Among the latest developments is the production of organic wine in Inner Mongolia.[16]

As of 2012, a small number of large companies, such as Changyu Pioneer Wine, China Great Wall Wine Co., Ltd. and the Dynasty Wine Ltd., dominate domestic production. The total production of wine in 2004 was 370 thousand tons, a 15% increase from the previous year.[15][17] The total market grew 58% between 1996 and 2001, and 68% between 2001 and 2006.[18][19]

In 2008, wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd predicted that within 50 years the quality of Chinese wine will rival that of Bordeaux.[20][21]

Wine-producing regions

Notable wine-producing regions include Beijing, Yantai, Zhangjiakou in Hebei, Yibin in Sichuan, Tonghua in Jilin, Taiyuan in Shanxi, and Ningxia. The largest producing region is Yantai-Penglai; with over 140 wineries, it produces 40% of China's wine.[22]


China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region have an ancient history of viticulture going back to around the 4th Century BC, when Greek settlers brought the vine and more advanced irrigation techniques.[citation needed] However new archeological evidence has shown this to be untrue, because China produced grape wine, rice wine, mead (honey wine) 9000 years ago (7000 BC).[3][4][5][23] The area around Turfan was, and still is, particularly noted for its grape production, and production of grape wines is mentioned in the historical record as well; Marco Polo mentioned that Carachoco (the name he used for Turfan) produced fine grape wines. The modern wine industry is largely patterned after French methods with a concentration on varieties like Cabernet. However, the Uighur traditional technique has survived especially in counties surrounding Kashgar. The Uighur home-made wine generally called "museles" (from Arabic "المثلث ", meaning "the triangle") is still being brewed by households in many villages. Unlike wines west of Xinjiang, the brewing of museles requires crushing of local varieties of grapes by hand, then strained using the Uighur atlas silk, then boiled with amount of water equal to the juice and desired portion of sugar, until the volume of the mixture is down to the original volume of the juice, then stored in clay urns together with folk recipes varying by localities---in some counties, traditional Uighur herbal medicines, and goji, mulberries, sea-buckthorn, cloves, etc. in others, and even raw and unfeathered pheasants or poussin in others. The brew usually takes more than a month to accomplish. It is then un-urned, filtered and bottled to be stored for long periods. In some villages, the ritual of communally gathering a mixture of folk museles brews in a large village urn marks the occasion following the harvest and process of grapes. Museles is now being standardized by the wine producing industry in China and marketed under the brand-name of Merceles.


Main article: Ningxia wine

In September 2011, Ningxia winery Helan Qingxue won the Decanter World Wine Award's Red Bordeaux Varietal Over £10 International Trophy for its 2009 Jiabeilan, a Cabernet sauvignon blend.[24] This win was widely considered an upset, with some wine experts even questioning the veracity of origin of the wine.[25][26][27][28][29] On 14 December 2011 in Beijing, in a competition tagged "Bordeaux against Ningxia", experts from China and France blind-tasted five wines from each region. Four out of five of the top wines were from Ningxia.[30][31] Emma Gao of Silver Heights Vineyard is one of the top winemakers in the region, her first vintage was praised by Chinese and international winemakers, and two of her red wines are among the best known produced in China.[32][33]


In the "Bordeaux against Ningxia" wine challenge held in Beijing in October 2011, Grace Vineyard's 2009 Chairman's Reserve, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, was voted best.[34][31]


Market trends

China is among the top ten wine markets in the world. According to a study by Vinexpo and International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR), China was the world's fifth-largest consumer of wine (both domestic and imported) in 2011.[35] A study by the same organizations revealed in 2014 estimates that 2.17 billion bottles of wine were consumed in China in 2013, keeping China in fifth place. Because Chinese mostly drink red wine, China is now the world's largest market for red wine.[36] China's consumption of red wine has grown by 136% since 2008, whereas it has declined by 18% in France, the second-largest consumer.[37] The United States remains the largest market for all types of wine (red, white, rosé, and sparkling), with total sales of approximately 4 billion bottles, slightly ahead of France and followed by Italy and the United Kingdom.[36]

The Chinese wine market has experienced a 20% annualized growth rate between 2006 and 2011, and is forecast to grow by another 54% by 2015.[35]

In 2009, Sotheby's reported that Hong Kong had become the world's largest market for fine wines at auction, surpassing previous leaders New York City, and London.[38]

Products and availability

Most medium to large restaurants, regardless of the fare, sell wine by the bottle, usually only red. Generally, only high-end restaurants serve wine by the glass. Wine sold by the bottle is also available at large KTV establishments, and major hotels.

Since around 2008, many small convenience stores have begun to carry a small selection of wines, with specialty wine shops emerging in cities throughout the country. These specialize in both foreign and domestic brands. Meanwhile, major supermarkets have steadily increased their selection, from several domestic brands, to a wide variety of wines from around the world. In addition, plenty varieties of wines are also available through online shops and platforms. Among these are sweetened, flavoured wines. These are made of a mixture of grape wine and a sweetened, flavoured drink similar to Kool-aid. These wines have similar labels to genuine wines, have an alcohol content of approximately 6%, and are much lower in price.

Demographics and preferences

A survey conducted with 1,440 respondents reveals that Chinese prefer red wine to white wine. 94% of the respondents consumed red wine, while only 35% of them drank white wine.[39] This trend is, however, contrasting when measured among younger generations. Chinese young people prefer white to red wine and they consider the latter traditional and outdated.[40]

Statistics show that the main market for white wine is among females, who prefer it over beer, still the main alcoholic beverage for most males; red wine has become a symbol of the elite and rich and is usually used as a table wine. In 2005, 80% of vineyards produce red wine and 20% of vineyards produce white wine, while 90% of wine consumed as of 2007 is red wine.[15][19]

Method of consumption

Further information: Customs and etiquette in Chinese dining § Drinking

Both red and white wines are commonly served chilled. The wine may be poured into ordinary wine glasses in tiny amounts, or very small, glass baijiu glasses. When served at a table with more than two people, similar to the style of drinking baijiu, it is typically consumed during a group toast, and often with the entire glass being finished at once. This is particularly true when served during restaurant meals.

See also



  1. ^ Jiang, H. (2009). "Evidence for early viticulture in China: Proof of a grapevine (Vitis vinifera L., Vitaceae) in the Yanghai tombs, Xinjiang". Journal of Archaeological Science. 36: 1458–1465. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2009.02.010. A stem was discovered in the Yanghai Tombs, Turpan District in Xinjiang, China. Anatomical features showed it to be of grape (Vitis vinifera L.). Radiocarbon dating indicates it to be nearly 2300 years old, which would suggest that there was grape cultivation at least from that time. To date, this is the earliest physical evidence of V. vinifera cultivation in China.(...) By the studying of the ancient grapevine, we have gained new insight into the viticulture in China. Based on the physical evidence, we have been able to confirm one of the conclusions drawn by Yang (2003), namely that the cultivated grape (V. vinifera) was introduced into Xinjiang around 300 BC. On the other hand, we would also argue that the earliest grape cultivation in China was not in the western and southern part of the Tarim Basin, but in the Turpan Basin, based on the evidence to date.
  2. ^ Sampson 1869, p. 52, cited in Shafer 1963, p. 145.
  3. ^ a b [1]. Prehistoric China - The Wonders That Were Jiahu The World’s Earliest Fermented Beverage. Professor Patrick McGovern the Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia. Retrieved on 3 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b Castro-Sowinski, Susana (17 November 2016). Microbial Models: From Environmental to Industrial Sustainability. Springer. p. 42. ISBN 9789811025556.
  5. ^ a b Hames, Gina (2010). Alcohol in World History. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 9781317548706.
  6. ^ "卷八百五十九:卷八百五十九". hinese Text Project. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  7. ^ Su, Xinchuan (2014). Chinese Lexical Semantics: 15th Workshop, CLSW 2014, Macao, China. Springer. p. 435. ISBN 978-3319143316. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  8. ^ History of Chinese wine (in Chinese) Archived July 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Sima 1993, pp. 244–45 ("The Han envoys brought back grape and alfalfa seeds to China and the emperor for the first time tried growing these plants in areas of rich soil. Later, when the Han acquired large numbers of the 'heavenly horses' and the envoys from foreign states began to arrive with their retinues, the lands on all sides of the emperor's summer palace and pleasure towers were planted with grapes and alfalfa as far as the eye could see." [Shiji, chap. 123]); Black 2006, p. 167 ("it seems that grape seeds were brought back from Ferghana in modern Uzbekistan by General Chang Chien [Zhang Qian] during the Han dynasty between 136 and 121 BC and planted in Xinjiang and Shaanxi (Xian)").
  10. ^ a b Huang 2000, p. 240.
  11. ^ Huang 2000, pp. 240–1, citing Tao Hongjing's Mingyi Bielu 名醫別錄 for the claim that vines were successfully grown in several parts of Gansu, notably in Dunhuang.
  12. ^ Huang 2000, p. 241.
  13. ^ Huang 2000, pp. 241–2.
  14. ^ Godley 1986, p. 383.
  15. ^ a b c Wine production in China - wines-info Archived November 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Hansen bioWine Group. "Hansen BioWine from Inner Mongolia". Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  17. ^ Chen Jun (September 2003). "Who Can Change Chinese People's Consumption Patterns?". Wine Business Monthly. Retrieved 15 May 2014. (subscription required)
  18. ^ Chinese Markets for Wines - wines-info Archived November 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ a b Chinese Wine Marketing Conference Highlights Advantages & Issues in China's Wine Industry - wines-info Archived November 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Oliver Styles (9 May 2008). "China to become leading wine producer?". Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  21. ^ James Meikle (9 May 2008). "Chateau China, a taste of wines to come with climate change". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  22. ^ "The wine output of Yantai will reach 230000 kiloliters in 2008:wines-info". Archived from the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
  23. ^ Odinsson, Eoghan (2010). Northern Lore: A Field Guide to the Northern Mind-Body-Spirit. Eoghan Odinsson. p. 159. ISBN 9781452851433.
  24. ^ "Chinese wine wins top honour at Decanter World Wine Awards - Decanter". Decanter. 2011-09-08. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  25. ^ "Decanter magazine and Jia Bei Lan 2009: Was it really Chinese wine?". Grape Wall of China. 2011-10-30. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  26. ^ "Let's raise a glass to China's wine". Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  27. ^ esperegus (2011-05-23). "Chinese Wines Triumph in Decanter Awards". Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  28. ^ "Wine advances on China | Articles |". Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  29. ^ "Silver Heights Wine - The Rise Of Chinese Wines". On The Gas | The Art Science & Culture of Food. 2013-03-19. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  30. ^ Laurie Burkitt (15 December 2011). "Ningxia Beats Bordeaux. Or Does It?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
  31. ^ a b Alexander, Patrick (2017-09-19). The Booklovers' Guide To Wine: A Celebration of the History, the Mysteries and the Literary Pleasures of Drinking Wine. Mango Media Inc. ISBN 9781633536074.
  32. ^ "Q&A: Emma Gao, winemaker-director, Silver Heights - Harpers Wine & Spirit Trade News". Retrieved 2022-02-18.
  33. ^ "Top 10 most influential women in China's wine trade". The Drinks Business. 2019-03-08. Retrieved 2022-02-17.
  34. ^ "About Grace Vineyard". Grace Vineyard. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  35. ^ a b Alan Lodge (11 January 2012). "US Tops Global Wine Consumption Chart". the drinks business. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  36. ^ a b Jason Chow (29 January 2014). "China is now World's Biggest Consumer of Red Wine". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  37. ^ Gabriel Savage (28 January 2014). "China Leaps Into Top Spot for Red Wine". the drinks business.
  38. ^ Malcolm Moore (6 October 2009). "Hong Kong becomes world's largest wine market". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  39. ^ Poon, C H (26 November 2020). "China's Wine and Spirits Market (1): Wine Consumption Trends and Habits". HKTDC Research.
  40. ^ Capitello, Roberta; Charters, Steve; Menival, David; Yuan, Jingxue (Jessica) (2017). The Wine Value Chain in China. Elsevier Ltd. pp. 63–79. ISBN 978-0-08-100754-9.

Works cited

Further reading