Toasting 70 years of yellow wine
YELLOW rice wine (huangjiu) is a beloved part of Chinese culture, and one of the most famous labels is Jinfeng Yellow Wine, a 70-year-old enterprise in Fengjing Town, Jinshan District.
It is brewed in Shikumen Winery, which is expanding.
Jinfeng Yellow Wine celebrated 70 years of wine making last month by signing an agreement with the district government to develop a yellow wine production base in Jinshan.
The company is sponsoring projects and events to improve winery technology in the Fengjing Industrial Zone. The first phase is to be completed by next September at a cost of 235 million yuan (US$34.4 million).
Production is expected to exceed 100,000 tons a year, compared with more than 80,000 tons in 2008.
The district will support the winery project in the ancient town of Fengjing, and the Bright Food (Group) Co Ltd, which owns Jinfeng Wine, will build up a production center for the Chinese yellow wine industry.
The Bright Group will also promote the yellow wine, stage a Shanghai International Yellow Wine Festival and build a new yellow wine museum. The existing exhibition hall is part of the winery.
About Yellow Wine
Yellow wine (literally yellow jiu or liquor) is strongly identified with Chinese culture and has been hailed by many poets and scholars who often wrote under its influence.
In traditional Chinese medicine, yellow wine is recommended for its health benefits, such as warming the body and promoting blood circulation.
Yellow wine is brewed from fermented grains, today usually rice. It is orange-yellow in color, fragrant, tasty, low in alcohol (15-20 percent) and usually served warm.
It is considered ideal with hairy crab, which is considered to promote cool yin energy.
Baijiu or clear distilled alcohol is made from yellow wine. The major jiu are beer (pijiu), yellow wine (huangjiu), distilled or white liquor (baijiu) and grape wine (putao jiu), which became popular through Western influence.
Yellow wine is brewed with yeast from grain (rice, wheat, corn, millet) and is rich in nutrition, including as many as 20 amino acids, proteins and carbohydrates.
It is known as "liquid cake."
Because it is warming and low in alcohol, it is recommended for elderly people.
It is believed that yellow wine was first made, or discovered, about 5,000 years ago when people produced surplus grain and stored it in damp caves. There it fermented and produced alcohol, delicious and intoxicating.
Over 1,000 years later people developed wine-making skills.
Early in the Xia Dynasty (around 2000 BC), wine was brewed with aspergillus (a common mold or fungus) yeast.
From the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) to the Northern Song Dynasty (200 BC-AD 1000), the brewing technology developed to include soaking rice (or other grain), cooking, drying, fermenting, stirring, fermenting again, distilling and sealing in jars or bottling. The procedure is still the basis of modern brewing.
Before the 20th century, people didn't know the exact chemistry or science of wine making - they just knew what worked. There was also no criterion to judge quality.
After 1900, Chinese wine makers learned from the West about biochemistry and engineering and developed modern facilities that saved labor and improved quality.
Jinfeng Yellow Wine, a 70-year-old brand, is the only high-quality yellow wine produced in Shanghai.
It all began in 1939, when three wineries in Pudong moved to Fengjing Town and merged into a new winery, Pingkangfu Winery. In 1966 it became a state-owned enterprise, and in 1979 it was renamed Fengjing Winery.
Since then Jinfeng Yellow Wine has become popular around China. In the 1990s the company was reorganized and became Shanghai Jinfeng Wine Co Ltd.
Today it is a listed company with two popular brands of yellow wine, Shikumen (named after the traditional Shanghai stone-gated house) and Hejiu (he means harmony).
Today its sales, production, technology and quality make it among the top yellow wine brands in China.
Jinfeng Yellow Wine has won numerous awards.
Of its products, 80 percent are classified as tejiafan, meaning more rice. These use the best glutinous rice and they use more rice than many other wines.
Generally, 0.45kg can make 1kg of wine, but tejiafan uses 0.6kg rice per kilo, giving it a more distinct taste and fragrance.
Jinfeng Winery production has increased from 45,000 tons in 1993 to more than 80,000 tons last year.
When the new project in Fengjing is completed, capacity will exceed 100,000 tons a year.
Jinfeng Wine Museum
Since 2006, Jinfeng Yellow Wine has operated an exhibition hall in Shikumen Winery in Fengjing Town. It covers the history, culture and brewing of Chinese yellow wine through the ages.
Ancient wine pots and cups are exhibited, as are paintings about wine and wine drinking, as well as poetry and calligraphy.
Drinking wine was a favored pastime of literati who played intellectual drinking games, recited poetry and guessed riddles.
Through glass walls visitors can see the stages of production in the winery and watch the bottling process.
After a tour of the winery, it's time to relax with a cup of warm yellow wine.
How to enjoy yellow wine
Yellow wine is traditionally warmed and served in small cups. It is usually heated to 60-70 degrees Celsius, then cooled to around 35 degrees for drinking.
Briefly heating removes small amounts of chemical compounds, such as methanol and aldehyde, without losing the alcohol.
Thus, warming before drinking is good for health, but heating for too long will remove the alcohol and make the wine tasteless and of less benefits.
Young people in Hong Kong and Japan are drinking chilled yellow wine. They put it in the fridge, then serve it on ice with a piece of lemon or plum.
Different side dishes complement different kinds of yellow wine.
Cold dishes, such as vegetables and jelly fish, go well with dry wine; meat and crabs are good with half-dry wine; chicken and duck are best appreciated with half-sweet wine; beets are ideal to serve with sweet wine.
How to distinguish yellow wine
There are four major kinds of yellow wine, with different sugar content.
Knowing the sugar content is especially important for diabetics. In China the majority of yellow wine drinkers are above middle age and diabetes is common in this group.
Here "dry" refers to relatively low sugar content, usually less than 15 grams per liter. It tastes mellow and fresh.
"Half-dry" means not all the sugar in the wine has fermented into alcohol.
In production, less water is added so the sugar is more concentrated. Sugar content ranges from 15 to 40 grams per liter.
It tastes mellow and soft. Most top-grade yellow wines are half-dry.
This wine is produced by adding some dry wine - not water - to the rice.
When fermentation begins, the level of alcohol is high. This limits the growth of yeast, so more sugar is not fermented into alcohol.
Sugar content ranges from 40 to 100 grams per liter.
It tastes rather sweet.
To produce this wine, the rice is first made into "jiuniang" (sweet fermented rice), and then white wine or alcohol (40-50 percent) is added. Sugar content is above 100 grams per liter.
It is the sweetest wine.