By Jim Boyce | Photos from a banquet featuring leaders Xi Jinping of China and Kim Jong-Un of North Korea yesterday had people wondering what exactly was in their glasses, as Xi held a red liquid and Kim a “white” one. (The photos show the latter is anything from “white” to straw yellow in color and clear to slightly cloudy in clarity).
Let’s start first with Xi’s glass, since it seems an easier call.
State banquets in China tend to favor wine from mega-producers like Greatwall or Changyu. During the Donald Trump visit, for example, both the red and white wines hailed from Greatwall’s Chateau Sungod in Hebei. Meanwhile Changyu AFIP has been cited as the most-used wine at high-profile dinners and been served at events for Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Vladamir Putin.
We also have an outlier in terms of Ningxia, which has emerged as the nation’s top wine-producing region and with which Xi has a relationship going back two decades.
Xi visited in 1997, as deputy secretary of the CPC in Fujian province, in an effort to improve Ningxia’s economy. On a 2016 return visit, he “said that Ningxia’s winery industry has huge market potential.”
As for Kim’s glass, that seems a tougher call. The obvious answer is white wine but North Korea and its leader are nothing if not mysterious. Some are likely surprised to see a light-colored liquid given Kim reportedly claimed to have guzzled ten bottles of Bordeaux in one night and enjoys both Cognac and whiskey, notably Johnnie Walker.
But he has also been said to drink snake wine, to inspire, um, vigor, and that would be closer to the color of what’s in his glass. Still, it would seem weird to request such a tipple of your hosts or to bring, with critter tightly coiled inside, your own bottle.
So, I’m going to consider some other clear alternatives.
Baijiu. Could Kim be “doing as the Beijingers do” and sipping China’s national spirit? Seems unlikely given the glass shape and size and that his counterpoint has red wine.
Soju. Could he going a more traditional route, as with his attire. When a delegation from South Korea visited him earlier this year, he served soju and ginseng wine, so he’s not averse to his country’s alcohol. Also, it might be safest to stick with something produced by those closest to you.
Vodka. Kim reportedly had a penchant for this in his teenage years and still enjoys a glass or two. Maybe he brought his friend Dennis Rodman’s “Bad Ass” vodka. According to The Diplomat, in 2013, “[Rodman] brought a case of said vodka to North Korea during his last trip. Evidently, Kim Jong-Un is a fan.”
Cristal: He has been known to enjoy bubbly.
Finally, there is this supposedly hangover-free booze invented in North Korea using indigenous ginseng. Things are pretty hectic these days, after all, and he can ill afford taking the next morning off.
So, what can we conclude?
Safest bet: Xi has red wine and Kim has—boring answer—white wine, from either GreatWall or Changyu. Kim is toasting with white wine because he already emptied his red and grabbed the closest glass.
Riskier bet: Xi has one of the many Cabernet-driven reds made in Ningxia, perhaps from Silver Heights, Kanaan or Greatwall branch Yunmo, while Kim is cutting the stress of his trip with an extra-large pour of baijiu.
Long odds: Given his Burgundy-style glass, Xi has a Chinese Pinot Noir, or perhaps the Meursault Santenots Premier Cru 2007, from Domaine Marquis d’Angerville, that he enjoyed at Buckingham Palace in 2015. Kim has gone Bad Boy / BYOB and brought in Rodman’s hooch.
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