Bottle Benevolence | Three Charity Wine Projects in Beijing

By Jim Boyce

I’ve spent much of the past three Novembers helping to organize a month-long charity project called Maovember. The idea is for small bars, restaurants and vendors to partner with their customers for good deeds, whether that means furnishing a reading room via The Library Project or, this past year’s goal, funding cataract surgeries for the elderly poor in rural China via Orbis. The “mao” refers to the money of that name — a tenth of one renminbi — and the idea small things lead to big results.

Three of this year’s events had a wine focus. The weather gets chilly about the time Maovember starts and few things are as warming as a hot mug of mulled wine. For the third straight year, wine shop chain CHEERS used this winter drink to support Maovember. In 2013, it served mulled wine from its Sanlitun shop on the campaign’s final day. In 2014, owner Claudia Masueger upped the effort to two stores over several weekends. This year, it went even further with a three-day mulled wine marathon at all 15 Beijing shops. The result: a rmb10,000 donation to Maovember.

cheers wine shop beijing maovember project 2015.jpg

Meanwhile, Cafe de la Poste tested wine aficionados’ palates with a blind tasting of French and Chinese wines. Each taster paid rmb100, which went to charity, to try four pairs of wine, each with a French and a Chinese pour. Tristan McQuest and Justin Barthelemy led the tasting and there was plenty of discussion and debate — and general agreement that picking wines with labels unseen is no easy task!

The French wines were provided by Cafe de la Poste while the Chinese wines were donated by East Meets West (Chateau Nine Peaks), Torres / Everwines (Grace Vineyard), 1421 Wines (1421) and Grape Wall of China (Kanaan). The evening, which included numerous rounds of “Office Basket-Bola“ (see here), raised rmb1664.8.

maovember 2015 cafe de la poste french and chinese wine challenge.jpg

Finally, despite a rare snowfall in Beijing, there was a strong turnout for the ‘Mystery Wine Party‘ at the shop La Cava. The idea? Customers paid rmb100 and picked one of 50 gift-wrapped wines — each retailing from rmb120 to rmb2000 — then tore open the packaging to see what they got. All 50 bottles were snapped up in an hour. Given most people then opened their wines to drink, and share, it wasn’t surprising the event lasted well beyond it’s scheduled three hours.

The more sporting imbibers signed up for the Wine Flights Paper Airplane Race. Eleven contestants each paid rmb50 for a flight ticket, carefully designed their craft, then raced for glory–and a bottle of Charles Ellner Champagne–in the hallway outside La Cava. The Mystery Wine Party, airplane race and donation spittoon raised rmb6000.

The wines were donated by Randy Svendsen of 1421, Nick van Leeuwen and Ross Tan of Australian Natural, Jim Boyce of Grape Wall of China, Mariano Larrain of La Cava, Vicente Muedre of Le Sommelier International, Alberto Pascual of Pasion, Helene Ponty of Ponty, Edouard Simon of Seina and Mike Signorelli of Signature Wine Club.

Mystery Wine Party La Cava de Laoma Beijing 2

For more info about Maovember, see the official website here. And if you’d like to get the free Grape Wall of China e-newsletter, sign up below.

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