Chinese officials swap baijiu for wine at APEC summit dinner


Organisers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Beijing have recognised China’s emerging wine sector by serving two Chinese wines at the meeting’s opening dinner.

Image © Chateau SunGod, Great Wall

The two wines, a Gran Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and a Reserve Riesling 2011 from Hebei province, are both produced by Great Wall’s Chateau SunGod, which has employed Bordeaux-based wine expert Michel Rolland as a consultant for the past three years.

They were served at the welcome dinner for APEC’s Economic Leaders’ Meeting earlier this month, which was hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, in the former Olympics venue for swimming, known as the Water Cube.

The wines’ presence on the table suggests the growing importance of the industry to China’s government. Several local media outlets said the choice was surprising. They had expected baijiu Moutai to be served, which would have been a more traditional choice for a state-level dinner given baijiu’s status as the ‘national drink’.

According to a menu, the two wines were served alongside four main dishes, including Beijing roast duck and emerald lobster, as well as conch soup.

The Hebei-based Chateau SunGod was originally a viticultural research base owned by the government and was built in 1979. It is considered to be the first winery to produce dry white wine in China. Its wines have been served at various national-level occasions, including the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and Shanghai World Expo in 2010.

‘Flavour-wise, wines are more widely accepted internationally,’ said a spokesperson for COFCO, which owns Great Wall. ‘Using wine to welcome international guests at APEC reflects a more international approach in China’s diplomatic protocols and concepts,’ the spokesperson said. ‘It’s a sign of changing times for the “national drink” in China.’

Menu at the welcome dinner:

Cold dish
Conch soup
emerald lobster
lemon juice and snow beef
chestnuts cabbage
Beijing roast duck
Fruit, Ice cream
Coffee, Tea

Chateau SunGod GreatWall Gran Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Chateau Sungod Reserve Riesling 2011

Additional report by Chris Mercer.

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