The contents of 200 clay pots found in 1995 near Rizhao (Shandong), which were dated to 2,600 B.C., indicate that wine was cultivated in China as early as 4,600 years ago. Residues of grape wine were found in these. The explorer Zhang Qian (195-114 BC) returned from his travels in the West in 138 BC during the Han Dynasty, bringing with him knowledge of viticulture. The first written documents date back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), when Emperor Li Shimin vulgo Taizong (599-649) noticed the special quality of the grapes from the Turpan Basin, which is why he had his domain extended to the northwestern region of Xinjiang. As early as the mid-7th century, vinifera varieties called Snake, Mare's Nipple and Dragon's Pearl were probably introduced from Russia. Marco Polo (1254-1324) reported vine plantations and excellent wine in the northeastern Taiyuan region. In the 14th century, however, many vineyards were cleared by imperial order in favor of grain crops.
Wine never became an important part of life in China as it did among all other great civilized peoples. Apart from the climate, which in large areas is characterized by cold winters and extremely hot summers, this is probably also related to the eating habits, as in Chinese cuisine particularly spicy dishes are popular, to which rice liquor goes much better than wine. Even among the lower-alcohol drinks, grape wine (grape alcohol), as it is called in China, played a subordinate role next to rice wine (mijiu) for a very long time. Wine remained an exclusive rarity for a wealthy minority for over a thousand years; this is only beginning to change rapidly today.
The modern Chinese wine history began in 1892. The businessman Cheong Fatt Tze vulgo Chang Bishi (1840-1916) bought land in Yantai (Shandong), introduced 150 varieties with 500,000 vines from Europe and the USA and founded the Chang Yu winery. Baron Max von Babo (1862-1933), an Austro-Hungarian consul, was engaged as consultant and cellar master. He imported barrels, presses and 400,000 Welschriesling seedlings from Austria and brought the winery to international reputation. This was the birth of the multinational Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine Company. At the beginning of the 20th century, other big wineries were founded, like Shang-Yi (today Beijing Friendship Winery) in Shandong by French missionaries in 1910, Melco in Quingdao by German missionaries in 1914, and Tung-Hua in Jilin by Japanese.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, extensive vineyards were established along the Yellow River. From the end of the 1970s onwards, foreign investments were promoted. The first partner was the French company Rémy Martin (today Rémy Cointreau) in 1980, which produced the Dynasty brand with Chinese investors. The "Huadong Winery" in Qingdao (Shandong) was built up by investors from Hong Kong in 1985 and was purchased by Allied Domecq in 1990. And the French...