Wine and Coke anyone? Jancis Robinson on China's wine-drinking faux pas

Wine and Coke anyone? Jancis Robinson on China's wine-drinking faux pas

As wine critic Jancis Robinson promotes her new wine atlas, we discover some strange truths about how wine is consumed in China
Jancis Robinson
"For most people in Shanghai, wine is unknown," says Jancis Robinson. "In Shanghai wine is completely misunderstood and something people feel like they ought to taste because it’s fashionable."

Foremost wine critic and author Jancis Robinson stops in Shanghai for an ACS wine dinner and discusses the new edition of "The World Atlas of Wine", the lack of good local wines and how climate change is changing the game. 

The sixth edition

CNNGo: What can we look forward to in the sixth edition of The World Atlas of Wine?

Jancis Robinson:
There is no other product [like wine] that signals where it comes from so explicitly. The biggest benefit of the world atlas is that you can see every region producing wine today. One thing that’s changed is the distribution of vineyards around the world. Another is the growing importance of Asia.

The story goes that some [Chinese] people with a lot of money buy very expensive French wine, but don’t really like the taste, so they pour something like Coca Cola or Sprite into it.— Jancis Robinson

CNNGo: We hear you've made change to "The World Atlas of Wine" in part due to issues caused by global warming. Are there any areas actually benefiting from climate change and where can we look to in the future for our wine?

Jancis Robinson:
I suggest Germany, Canada and England. We’ve slightly rewritten every section of the book to reflect climate change. Wine is going to suffer immensely if there is a water shortage. Every region in Europe depends on proper irrigation.


Wine in China

CNNGo: There has been speculation that when China complies with the recent WTO rulings on wine, reductions in wine tax will make wine even more popular. Is China is going to become the world's biggest market for wine one day?

Jancis Robinson:
For those of us in Europe, China looks like the future and the promised land. If imported wines get much cheaper, that will certainly be a good thing. More people will have a chance to taste well-made wines. Even so, it would help enormously if the quality of local wines were better, if [these wines] weren't only designed for people who hadn’t tasted wine before.

CNNGo: Are there any decent local wines in China?

Jancis Robinson:
I’d recommend Grace Vineyard.

CNNGo: Chinese food is eaten family-style, with dishes to share. Can one wine suit such a variety of food?

Jancis Robinson:
You discover quickly that with Chinese food, the wine you choose will only go well with a quarter of the dishes on table, and you modify your behavior accordingly. I alternate wine with water. I enjoy the wine with dishes that it does go with and water with the others. People worry about not getting a perfect match, but it’s virtually impossible for all dishes in a Chinese family-style meal to match the wine.

World Atlas of WineCNNGo: What are the challenges for wine drinking in China?

Jancis Robinson:
My perception is that for most people in Shanghai, wine is unknown, completely misunderstood and something people feel like they ought to taste because it’s fashionable.

I've heard that some people with a lot of money here buy very expensive French wine, but don’t really like the taste, so they pour something like Coca Cola or Sprite into it. That's not how the wine was meant to be enjoyed.

Buying cheap? Buy red

CNNGo: Some poor French musicians once told us that cheap red wine is always better than cheap white wine. Is this a good rule of thumb?

Jancis Robinson:
White wine is more transparent. In red wine, there is more substance tannin as well, so the faults are going to be less evident. But if there are faults in white wine, it will be obvious from the first sip.
Jancis Robinson was in Shanghai on February 27 for an ASC wine dinner at the Pudong Shangri-La.
Joanne Yao is a writer and editor based in Shanghai.
Read more about Joanne Yao
CNN Partner Hotels