-ANI): It may not be known yet if and when French president-elect Francois Hollande will pay his first official visit to China, but Chinese are already guaranteed the arrival of one famous French export-wine.
The French agriculture ministry has promised 400 types of wine from 12 regions all over France will land in China in batches over the next three years. Perhaps more importantly, its new campaign to promote the products is aiming to educate this most populous country about the famous beverage through a series of events.
At one of the tastings involved, Noel Chi walked from table to table with a glass of wine, inviting each person to have a sniff and catch the lingering scent.
This two-hour training course was held in Beijing's Sanlitun, an area with clusters of exotic bars and international stores.
Participants, all locals, had a chance to taste wines from eight different French vineyards while learning the history of their producing regions, the characters of various types of grape and even the climate of a particular wine-making year.
Chi, the first Chinese honored with a diploma of enology by Burgundy University in France and a tutor recommended by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), has his own understanding of different flavors. "A wine 'narrow' in flavor is like a slim woman with a slender waist, while 'thick' flavor reminds me of a woman who is more plump and passionate," he explains.
Targeting both wine trade insiders and common consumers in China, the three-year campaign, starting from 2012, will help instill wine knowledge in domestic importers, distributors, cellar owners and chefs, as well as invite consumers to wine tasting parties and French cuisine courses.
The 12 wine regions included in the campaign are Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Corse, Jura and Savoie, Languedoc Roussillon, Provence, Sud-Ouest, Val de Loire as well as Cotes du Rhone.
France exports wine to more than 190 nations. In 2011 alone, it exported a total of 1.33 billion liters of wine valued at 7 billion euros, 800 million euros more than that of 2010.
Although the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom remain the three major destinations for French wine, Asia has risen to be a new growth engine, with China as one of the most promising markets.
China is the fifth biggest importer of French wine both in terms of volume and value. The value of wine that France exported to the mainland increased by 75.5 percent and Hong Kong, 36.4 percent, in 2011, compared with 2010. A considerable amount of French wine sold to Hong Kong was later resold inland.
Despite the growth in consumption, public understanding of French wine culture still has much room to improve. Chi finds that many Chinese consumers still add Sprite or ice cubes to wine for a sweeter or lighter taste. Few know what the best temperatures are for preserving and drinking wine.
Chinese connoisseurs seem to have a particular penchant for top-notch French vineyards such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Margaux, but Chi hopes that more will realize wine is not just about brands and price.
"Those are good wines. However, you can also pick up some wine that is not so expensive but still fits for you," he says. "It's the soul of wine that we should really care about." (Xinhua-ANI)