By Jim Boyce
China Wine Tours will bring its first official group to the Middle Kingdom this March for a 13-day itinerary that takes in wineries and cultural and historic sites. Last Sunday, I met Marc Curtis of China Wine Tours in Beijing and talked to him about the project.
What’s the concept behind China Wine Tours?
People outside China don’t know much about the wine here. When I talk about the tour, nine out of ten times people say, “There’s wine in China?” And they sometimes also say, “Leaded or nonleaded?”
When we started setting up China Wine Tours, it struck me to use the line, “Taste the culture of 5000 years.” The idea is to combine the history and culture of China with some of the country’s wine and food to get the full flavor of China. We will bring people in when the Chinese wine industry is young, in terms of good wine, so they will be early on a trend that’s going to progress over the next 5-10 years.
We’ll visit Xi’an, Taiyuan [in Shanxi], Beijing and other places. I want people to experience the wine, to take them to wineries like Grace and Great Wall, and let them see what’s happening.
How did China Wine Tours get started?
A year ago in June, the China National Tourism Organization brought me over on a field trip to Xinjiang. I saw grapes in Turpan and wondered, “Where are the wineries?” When I asked if I could see them, I was told, “No, not on this trip.”
When I returned home, I Googled like crazy and found information about wine in China. I did two or three months of research and thought, “I have to do a wine tour.”
I found no other similar tours. Maybe this is because the wine is generally not good here, but it will be, and this market will open up. I think the lack of tours is mostly because Chinese do not drink wine, so there is not a big push to bring people in to see the wineries. But there are people from other countries working here in the wine industry, so there are going to be wine tours and they are going to be good.
What Chinese wines have you tried?
I tried some Chinese wines and was horribly disappointed. I kept searching – I knew some of it would be good. Then we went to Grace Vineyard two months ago and had the most wonderful experience, mainly because the wine is good.
There is another wine, from Xinjiang, called China Silk Road, that isn’t sold in China. They sell it for USD8 and USD16 in the US. I’m in contact with the president and hopefully will get to try it soon.