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5.2 Wine Production in China
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.
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
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 ¡Yin << Shan Zheng Yao>>·, LI Shizheng also recorded
the West Region's grape spirit in his << Ben Cao Gang Mu >>· in Ming
Xu Guangqi in Ming Dynasty ever recorded the varieties of grape
cultivatied in ancient China as following:
The techniques of wine-making in ancient China included natural
fermentation and fermentation with Qu.
- The crystal grape, pink white , as powder at surface, large and long,
- 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
- The "SUO-SUO" grape, produced in the West Region, small as peppers,
but that produced in YunNan, large as jujube, good tasted.
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.
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.
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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