By Huiqin Ma
Campbell Thompson of The Wine Republic was a recent guest lecturer in my Wine Culture and Appreciation course at China Agricultural University, on the outskirts of Beijing near the Summer Palace. He presented on China’s wine market to about 120 students from universities throughout the city.
None of the students are in majors related to the wine business. They venture to the school every Saturday afternoon because they find wines attractive, mysterious and romantic – and want to know more about it. My course is an elective that started in 1999 and is open to university students in Beijing every spring semester. The same course is held in the fall every year for students from my university.
My philosophy on wine is accessibility, not exclusivity, so I ask people from different areas of the wine business to give presentations and thus expose my students to many voices. Along with businesspeople like Campbell Thompson, they include wine maker Li Demei, wine writer Frankie Zhao and Grace Vineyard CEO Judy Leissner. By listening to wine industry people, the students gain confidence and are encouraged to try different wines and different food and wine pairings. Enjoyment of wine arises from an individual’s own taste preferences, rather than a reliance on big names and famous regions.
International wines represent 50 percent or more of those included in each tasting. One reason is that the varieties and styles of Chinese wines are still very limited. The other reason is that for many students, the course is their first chance to taste foreign wines – this is a good opportunity to compare wines and talk about them with their peers.
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