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China's capital eyes growing wine tourism

Reporter: Grace Brown 丨 CCTV.com

09-05-2014 04:13 BJT

China's corruption crackdown may have hurt sales of fine wines. But affordable wines are on the rise. Now, domestic wine-makers are stepping up production, to quench an increasingly thirsty public. With China currently the world's fifth-biggest wine producer.

In this vineyard north of Beijing, thousands of vines are bearing new fruit.  And new admirers.

"The International Grape Exhibition Center was set up this year. It offers tours to educate visitors about the history and culture of grape-growing. We receive a wide range of tourists, from 8 year-olds, to the elderly," Li Wenjie, media officer, of Badaling Travel Service Ltd., said.

The center grows more than a thousand types of grape from 40 countries.

In recent years, the government’s frugality campaign has hit sales of expensive wines. But while fewer officials may be buying it, an interest in wine among ordinary Chinese is growing. And the country is stepping up wine production - and tourism - to meet that.

While vineyard visits are new in China, they are increasing.

"I came because I enjoy wine... I drink it on happy occasions, not every day," A visitor said.

"I’m delighted! It’s so green here and there’s a huge variety of grapes. I tasted one kind from Japan, Xia Mi. It felt like I was in Japan," A visitor said.

Professor Ma - a wine researcher and judge - says the region is ripe for growing. But that it could take time, to turn its grapes into wine.

"Yanqing compared with other parts of Beijing has much less rainfall and a cool climate. In general, I would say it’s fit for grape growing and its possible to make good wines. The history of grape growing started 1,500 years ago. They grow a variety, mainly served as a table grape. So grape growing is very long, but there’s no specific record indicating that those grapes are used for wine making," Professor Ma

But demand is there. Retailers say sales of lower-priced wines are rising fast. And that Chinese wines are, too.

"The wine market has changed completely in the last couple of years. Now young people are more interested to learn about wine. The younger generation buy on average around 60-70 yuan wines. China is already the fifth-biggest wine producer in the world. Chinese wines are hardly exported.  98 percent is consumed in China. So Chinese do drink a lot of wine," Claudia Masuger, CEO of Cheers Imported Wine Wholesaler, said.

While pollution is a concern in China, experts say vineyards are safer in areas like this, away from heavy industry.

And, as the country’s thirst for wine grows, it’s likely much more will be made there.

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