Popping the cork(ed) wine in China

Don’t know what makes a wine corked? You are not alone, we were served up ‘off’ wine in China but it was a great opportunity to find out more about how and why this happens.   It was all part of an adventure filming The Flying Winemaker from the coast to the mountains, cities to the deserts of the most populated country in the world.

This week’s premiere of The Flying Winemaker China episode (TLC Channel on Foxtel 7:30 Tuesday, just saying) flooded back memories of what was one of the most challenging shoots in my life, but also one of the most amazing.


We filmed two episodes in China and our first stop for this Ep was Yantai- haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry for most of the western world this Chinese coastal town, and its 8 million (plus) inhabitants isn’t a blip on the radar, but it is popular with Chinese as a tourist destination and is proclaimed to be the home of commercial wine production in China, hence our visit.

It was an interesting insight into a place I was fascinated to see. Renowned Wine Journalist, Denis Gastin told me it was like Disneyland wineries, replica French castles lining the roads built because to the Chinese there that’s what wineries look like. Seriously mind boggling.

Changu Winery Yantai China

But I found it quite strange that their was such a lack of knowledge about wine, when you think it’s been grown and made here fore more than 100 years (Changyu Winery here was establish back in 1892).

We asked our guide at Changyu how many varieties they produced, she didn’t know? How many litres? No idea.  And then they served us corked wine and didn’t understand it was off (truth be told I’ve probably drunk corked wine in my time, actually I’d bet I would have but I don’t proclaim to be a wine expert or tour guide).

Changyu Wine

Moving on, the ‘corked wine’ fiasco actually made for what I thought was great TV, enabling us to explain a concept many people (myself included) may not have fully understood. So thank you Changyu Winery (and to find out the details you’ll just have to watch)!

Eddie McDougall and Jim Sun, Wine China

It was great however, to find a new movement in wine in China and hear about the many growing wineries and labels that are doing it well. Jim Sun from Wine China pulled out some cracking bottles from across China and even one from Tibet and completely showed us that China does make great wine.

Not far from Yantai, the township of Penglai was our next stop where I had been in touch with Treaty Port Winery after a recommendation through the wonderful Denis Gastin yet again (yep he was a godsend)!

Treaty Port in Penglai

Like the other grand wineries we had passed on the way there Treaty Port was also an amazing building, not a French but rather a Scottish castle. Inside was decked out exactly as you would expect to find on the other side of the world, far from a land of Peking Duck and Sichuan Chilli. Definitely a surreal experience and for those wanting to prolong their visit, or consume copious amount of wine, they also offer accommodation.

Crew dinner at Treaty Port Winery

The winemaker at Treaty Port was brilliant. He’s studied in New Zealand and was making some cracking wines (or so Eddie told me, 3 months pregnant all I could do was swirl, sniff and dream).  I was however, able to sample to organic apples grown next door – yum!

Barrel tasting at Treaty Port

Amy Peel producer The Flying Winemaker

Yantai definitely was an adventure, the language barrier was a challenge as was the lack of wine knowledge (but that is also why or show exists), it’s a place I would have never visited otherwise but one that I will forever remember… now where can I buy Treaty Port wine in Australia??

Next stop the big smoke… Beijing!

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