China’s ‘Wine City’ is like an amusement park for wine
This story originally appeared on FoodandWine.com.
If the mere thought of a place called “Wine City” doesn’t excite you, either you’ve become hopelessly attached to your country mouse lifestyle or you’re nursing a terrible hangover. But though an entire “city” built around wine might simply sound like a drinker’s dream, in China, “Wine City” is a real place – an $870 million project encompassing more than 1,000 acres. That’s an area larger than Hoboken, New Jersey, and could be an even a more exciting destination! (Maybe!)
Though still a work in progress, Wine City is already open to the public in the Chinese coastal city of Yantai located on the Korea Bay. In a piece for Bloomberg, writer Mark Ellwood visited the giant complex, dubbing it “a Disney World for wine.” (Take that, California Adventure!) The project, originally announced back in 2012, was developed by the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company, China’s oldest and largest wine brand, with significant help from the Italian wine company Illva Saronno Holding Spa, which also has a stake in Changyu. The result sounds like a mix of modern Chinese bravado with plenty of Italian influence.
At the heart of Wine City is a production facility billed as the largest in the world—featuring a potential peak capacity of 450,000 tons of wine and brandy per year. But tourists will probably be more interested in the area’s other attractions. “There’s already one chateau, a white neo-Gothic structure that looks like the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and two others are nearing completion,” Ellwood writes. “Another Gothic-inspired pile, complete with an artificial moat, will be dedicated to championing and producing red wine, while the squat and sturdy Romanesque chateau next door—imagine the home of any Disney princess—is a temple to brandy making, a first for the company.” Also under construction, a wine “skyscraper” known as the Wine Research Institute, a place not just for working scientists, but also for tasting rooms and bars with views of the countryside. Between a temple to brandy and a skyscraper for wine, it sounds like a decent place to kill an afternoon.
Much like Wine City itself, global perceptions of Chinese wine are still in the building stages. No matter how cool the idea of a thousand acre wine complex sounds, for now, the idea of visiting Yantai probably still doesn’t conjure the same sort of excitement as the idea of visiting Tuscany, no matter how much influence the Italians have had on Changyu’s project. Still, the wine world continues to evolve and as the world’s largest consumer of red wine, China isn’t a market to scoff at. Who knows? Maybe one day Wine City will become a Wine Capital.