China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wine and Alcohol Use in China

This is a strange subject to write on but interesting. I had a client complain when she returned home that her guide ignored her when she asked for some wine at dinner one night in Beijing. When asking about wine; you must clarify that you wish to have some GRAPE wine. Normal Chinese wine is understood to be like Mao Tye or as much as 72% alcohol. Like taking a shot of straight gin, vodka or whiskey. Their wine ranges from 34% to 72% alcohol and most western people do not like it. It is also expensive so the guide was trying to avoid an unpleasant experience for the client. A request by a foreigner should always be considered with a positive answer rather than a negative according to Chinese culture. Therefore vague answers usually mean "No". The guide didn't want the client to have to pay a large sum of money and then be unhappy with it so she avoided giving an answer that would not be positive. A savvy guide may have known what she wanted and would have tried to please her by requesting some grape wine although expensive too in China by our standards as much is imported. I love the sweet wines of Turpan grown on grapes in the desert areas but the wine industry in China has a long ways to go before it will approach international standards of quality but I am sure that is on the horizon as they gain experience and demand by the Chinese public.

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