Fête le Vin! | Bordeaux gets festive in Beijing’s Miyun County

No wine region has as much influence in China as Bordeaux. Bordeaux is the most recognized name among consumers. It is cited as an inspiration by producers across the country. It is a name used by banks and housing estates and restaurants, among other businesses, to boost the prestige of their brands.

That doesn’t mean Bordeaux has it easy. France, including Bordeaux, has lost share in a China wine market that is diversifying and, over the past year, noticeably slowing. Nonetheless, promotion remains strong, though it tends toward small-scale dinners, tastings and classes. Or major events held in hotels, such as the Simply Bordeaux and Union des Grands Crus tours, where attendees tend to already be Bordeaux fans.

Rarer are events that expose Bordeaux brands to the consumer at large. Miyun County in Beijing held such an event this month, an inaugural Bordeaux wine festival, a Bordeaux Fête Le Vin. It was a test version of the kind of festival Bordeaux now holds in spots like Brussels, Liverpool and Quebec City.

I’m working on a detailed story about my three days in Miyun. For now, here are some images from what I hope will become an annual event that attracts a good number of Beijing’s ~25 million residents as well as some of the tens of millions nearby. (Note: The organizers funded my three-day trip. I joined a bus from Beijing with a group of French guests and stayed two nights in Miyun.)

The festival was in the stunning Gubei Water Town, set at the base of the Simatai section of the Great Wall of China. This replica of Wuzhen Water Town in southern China covers nine square kilometers and comes complete with towers, bridges, waterways, winding alleys, restaurants, and more. On our Sunday there, we were told 18,000 people had bought tickets at about 20 euros per person.

Gubei Water Town is impressive by day and even more so by night, when the Great Wall sits illuminated high above. I wish my photos did this place justice.

The festival was held near the center of Gubei, with dozens of tents, each housing a Bordeaux brand, encircled the Bordeaux wine school. The festival was founded by Zhang Dongli and backed by He Lijuan, the vice chair for Miyun of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Zhang also coordinates with the CIVB on the project.

The goal is to attract more visitors to Miyun via wine–the county also has five of its own producers. Visitors could learn about the Bordeaux festival from banners and maps posted around Gubei and then get wine tickets and glasses near the entrance.

The Bordeaux Wine School / Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin was in the middle and included a steady stream of classes, from “how to taste” to sessions devoted to different wine styles. There was also a VIP gathering with Miyun officials, French embassy and chamber of commerce members, and Vins de Bordeaux Communications Director Christophe Chateau.

Attendees could then circulate to the booths and taste. I talked to a bunch of vendors–and tried some wines!–and will post separately about this.

The festival area also included everything from restaurants and cafes to jugglers and Peking opera shows. And at night, it was an excellent spot to watch the daily drone show. Given it was the People’s Republic of China’s 70th birthday, the founding and current years were displayed in the sky.

The festival weekend included many other activities, such as a trip to the Great Wall, a conference, a tasting of local wine, meetings between the organizers and VIPs to discuss future cooperation and a colorful opening ceremony.

By the time of the closing ceremony, the Miyun video team had already put together the highlights from the three days.

On top of all this, was a nonstop flow of delicious food. And some pretty serious ganbei-ing.

I’ll have more on this event soon, including posts about the organizers, the festival and wine school, and the handful of Miyun wines I tried. As for Gubei, if you haven’t visited there or the Simatai section of the Great Wall, they are worth checking out. Finally, here’s a fun video, complete with tumblers, from the opening ceremony.

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