China has always had three basic problems with trying to vitalize its wine industry and appeal to an international audience. First, Chinese wine has traditionally been very sweet, too sweet for most Western palates. Second, Chinese wine producers seem to be more eager to produce and sell wine, than to be patient and careful in winemaking techniques to produce excellent wine. Third, wine has not traditionally been very popular with Chinese consumers: they tend to prefer beer, or their own baijiu (liquor distilled from sorghum).
Today is the Ides of March in the West, and since the Romans loved wine so, I thought it fitting to carry out a wine tasting. I am fascinated with the state of wine in China, partly because I really love wine, and partly because I really love China. I have conducted tastings and written reviews for Chinese wine before, but whenever I try out a new label, I like to write about it as well. I found Kaweisi (卡维斯) Merlot on sale. Usually 68 RMB (about $11), it was marked down to 20 RMB (about $3.25). Keep in mind, however, that the price of wine in China means even less than it does in the US.
Chinese drinking culture seems so foreign to us Westerners. The Chinese are very moderate and modest about everything in most cases. For a man to drink one beer, or one glass of rice wine, per night, is seen as quite enough. Yet at formal business dinners and at nightclubs — two situations where a single host is trying to outdo his friends in generosity and face — the Chinese can out-drink the best of us any day. But to the Chinese, the Western habit of going to a bar alone and drinking all night, is equally odd.
Salmon and dill; pizza and beer; sushi and green tea; Laurel and Hardy: what do these all have in common? They are all perfect matches, perfect pairings. Well, in the Western culinary world, almost nothing pairs quite as divinely as wine and cheese. There is just something about the sharp, tangy complexity of each, the smooth, luscious richness, that draws wine and cheese together like Romeo and Juliet. But unlike the fate of those two lovers, pairing wine and cheese ends happily.