Monday, August 11, 2008

Chinese Chardonnay Anyone?

How do you say Cheers! in Chinese?
Just as Bottle Shock opened in L.A. -- a movie based on the true story of California wines beating their French counterparts at an experts' blind tasting in 1976 -- Slate came up with a fascinating account of China's infatuation with wine: as consumers, but also as producers.

In Bottle Shock, Paris-based British seller of grands crus français Alan Rickman predicts (with a superb dismissive pout) that France's defeat to California wines will open a Pandora's box to crus from Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and, Good Lord! China.

Here we are, three decades later. The Chinese are not newbies, actually: "China has been producing wine since at least the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-A.D. 907) and possibly as early as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 220), when the first vinifera grapes were known to have arrived there," writes Slate.

Though Chinese wines are traditionally sweet and syrupy, "Recent years have seen the rise of a small number of boutique estates that aim to produce upscale wines with international appeal and that are using foreign consultants to help them achieve that goal."

U.S.-based importer Bartholomew Broadbent concurs: "They have absolutely got the land and the climate to make great wine; it is just a matter of training." We can trust them on that part. Maybe not so much on the art de vivre, and on the questionable "additives" they seem so keen to use to "enhance" their products/productivity.
photo via flickr/longhrndave