Chapter 5.2 Wine Production in China

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      Ancient Eygptian and Mesopotamians first planted the grape and made wine according to the archaeological data. It could be seen from the living scenes that Egyptian planted grapes, made wine and wine business from a piece of grave frescoes about 5000 years ago.

      When Chinese began to produce wine is still a question hard to answer, for there is no convinced proof to answer it. In 1980, a tightly sealed copper container with liquid was unearthed in an ancient tomb in Henan Province. The dead was believed to be living in later period of Shang Dynasty (3000 years ago). After having been analysed by Beijing University, the liquid in the copper container was considered to be wine ("wine which preserved for 3000 years", <<Niang Jiu>>, May, 1987), So, scholars have put forward recently a standpoint that production of wine already existed in China in Shang Dynasty. But, it is not clear whether the grape was planted or wildly grown at that time. But archaeologists had extravated the remained fruits and kernel of peach, plum and jujube in a pottery jar found in a wine workshop of the middle period of Shang Dynasty. Although without sufficient written proofs, it is certain that wine made from fruits was a kind of alcoholic drink in the remote antiquity, according to the archaeological data mentioned above and the simple techniques required for making it.

5.2.1 Wine Production in Ancient Times

      Generally speaking, wine was not the major sort of alcoholic drinks in ancient China. But it had been basically the major variety in some areas, for eaxmple, the Northwest China ( Xinjiang). There could be three periods in the history when the wine production and consumption had been popular: Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty. The historic records about the phenomenon were fairly abundant.
      Wine was first recorded in �<<SSHI JI>> ( A Historical Record written by Si Maqian in Western Han Dynasty). In 138 B.C.,Emperor Han Wu Dia sent a diplomat, Zhang Qian, to the West Region on a diplomatic mission.Zhang Qian found out that the most popular alcoholic drink in the locality was wine produced from grapes. The rich people stored more than ten thousand `Dan' ( a unit of dry measure for grain and 1 `Dan' is equal to 0.3425 hectolitre) of wine which could be kept for about ten years. People enjoyed drinking wine. The Han Dynasty messenger learnt the techniques of planting grapes and wine- making. The plantation of grape and wine-making in the Imperior Palace was undergoing in large sclae according to historic records. This historical data fully explained that the Han nationality had learned and grasped the techniques of grape platation and wine-making at least in 2000 years ago.
      The processes of wine-making is simpler than those of rice wine -making, but the production of wine in ancient China was not so popular for several reasons: grape harvest was a seasonal work, so it was not ease to get grape at any time. The techniques of wine-making had not been widely spread out. The Hans in Han Dynasty failed to grasp the main points of wine-making. After Han Dynasty, probably people did not plant grape any more at Central Plains. Some outlying districts often presented wine as a tribute to the imperial families of sucessive dynasties.
      Wine was still a valuable drink in Eastern Han Dynasty. It was recorded that Meng Tuo in Fufeng sent wine as a gift to Zhang Rang. Zhang offered him prefectural governor of LIang Zhou. In the begining of Tang Dynasty, the people at Central Plains knew nothing about how to make wine at all. According to the historic records, Emperor Tang Tai Zong learnt the wine-making techniques from the West Region. The Emperor himself made wine in the Imperial Palace and awarded a variety of wine to aristocrats, The aristocrats had just knew the wine. Gradually, the people in Chang'an City began to enjoy the wine." Many famous poets such as Li Bai, Bai Juyi also wrote poems to praise wine. Moreover the people of minority nationalities set up wineshops to sell wine brought from the West Region at that time.
      The rulers of Yuan Dynasty were very fond of wine, and stipulated that people must use wine when they offered a sacrifice to Temple.The scale of wine production reached the largest in the ancient times in Yuan Dynasty and the production of wine was centered in Xinjiang and Tai yuan. The West Region had always been the major wine producing area in ancient China. Some historical data in < Unearthed Document of TuLuFan >� (compilation according the unearthed documenst ) recorded situation of the grape planting, wine production, and wine business in TuLuFan area from 4th centurty to 8th century. It can be inferred that the wine producing scale was fairly large at that time.
      Because of the development of distillation techniques, people in Yuan Dynasty began to produce distilled spirit from wine ( brandy), it was recorded in in << Shan Zheng Yao>>�, LI Shizheng also recorded the West Region's grape spirit in his << Ben Cao Gang Mu >>� in Ming Dynasty.
      Xu Guangqi in Ming Dynasty ever recorded the varieties of grape cultivatied in ancient China as following:
  • The crystal grape, pink white , as powder at surface, large and long, sweet taste.
  • The purple grape, black color, large or small, acidic or sweet taste.
  • The green grape, produced in the Middle of SiChuan Province, green when it matured. As it concerned green grape in the West Region, its name
  • called "Rabbit eyes", sweeter than honey, the seedless grape is precious.
  • The "SUO-SUO" grape, produced in the West Region, small as peppers, but that produced in YunNan, large as jujube, good tasted.

5.2.2 Methods of Wine-Making in Ancient China

      The techniques of wine-making in ancient China included natural fermentation and fermentation with Qu.

5.2.2. 1 Natural Fermentation

      The methods of wine-making which were introduced from the West Region should be the natural fermentation. In 《Xin Xiu Ben Cao》 of Sujing in Tang Dynasty, it was said that "the rice wine should be made with Qu, while wine-making needed no Qu." A poet in Yuan Dynasty ever wrote a poem to discribe the the whole process for wine- making by natural fermentation at that time. Fernentation with Qu

      The Chinese people had made rice wine with Qu for a long time, so the traditional conception influenced greatly the practice of wine -making . From some historical records about the techniques of wine-making, we can often read some funny descriptions about wine-making procedures with Qu as starter. Even in Yuan Dynasty, some people did not know the method of wine -making with natural fermentation.

5.2.3 Wine in Modern China

      In later Qing Dynasty, wien was imported to China from the West. In 1892, a overseas Chinese Zhang Bishi established vinery and winery( Zhang Yu Wine Company) in Yantai, Sandong Province. This was the first large scale winery owned by Chinese. This winery introduced good varieties of vine and production equipment from the West. From then on, the techniques of wine-making in our country came up to a new stage.
      After the foundation of the People's Repblic of China, wine -production industry was recovered. From 1950's to the beginning of 60's, varieties of good-quilified vine had been introduced from East Europe. At present, vineries and wine production centers have been set up in Xinjiang, Gansu Province, the plain along the bank of Bo Hai, the ancient reach of Yellow River, and the area of Huangtu Plateau, Huaihe River valley and Changbai Mountain area of Northeast China.The annual output of various wines amounts to 200,000-400,000 tons.

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