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Hebei province winery Canaan, which ranks among the country’s most promising operations and refers to the “Promised Land”, has chosen a new name for the long-awaited commercial release of its wine. Canaan will use the label Shī Bǎi Piān (詩百篇), translatable to One Hundred Poems.
The move aims to avoid confusion with brand Kanaan in the Ningxia region, says Richard Li, president of both Canaan and sibling winery Domaine Franco-Chinois. And because the poem story is really cool.
Before I get to that story, a bit about Canaan. It was established in 2006, just outside Beijing in Huailai County, and partnered a few years later with nearby Domaine Franco-Chinois, a groundbreaking project created up by the governments of France and China two decades ago.
A dozen years of painstaking effort have gone into Canaan’s vineyards, spread over several plots and altitudes, and hosting grapes from Merlot to Marselan, Syrah to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Petit Manseng. The resulting wines, including the delectable Cabernet, have already won kudos. (I’ll post more re the wine as soon as I type up my notes from a recent visit.)
The name Shi Bai Pian / One Hundred Poems refers to China’s beloved poet / drinker Li Bai. Fellow Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu wrote Song of Eight Drunken Immortals and included a section on Li that inspired Canaan. Here is one translation:
[Li Bai] drinks a gallon of wine, writes a hundred poems
Then sleeps it off in the back of a wine shop in Chang-an
When the Emperor asked him to board the royal barge
He shouted back, I am a drunken immortal!
(Chang An was then capital of China).
The name Shi Bai Pian will resound with Chinese, given the fame of the poem and especially Li Bai. But it won’t be easy for non-Chinese to pronounce or remember. That’s fine, it can simply become known as 100 Poems, in the language a given drinker chooses.
In fact, that might be a fun touch, to put “100 Poems” in 100 languages somewhere on the label–100 Poèmes, 100 стихов, 100 Poemas, 100시, 100 ποιήματα, and so on. While Li Bai and Du Fu were Chinese, their love of drinking with friends is universal.