As the world we live in continues to shrink due to the mounting effects of globalization, the international wine industry is being remolded almost daily. The global appeal of wine has transcended across cultures, and as a result, wine is being produced more widely then ever before all over the world. This is leading to the development of many non-traditional growing regions and transforming those who have had little exposure to wine into devotees.
The Bund on a beautiful day in Shanghai
As an Asiaphile who has lived and worked in the wine industry throughout Asia, spending time working at the Sula Vineyards in India as well as studying in Shanghai, China. I found myself constantly looking at my own “wine culture” in contrast to the emerging ones of these expanding markets. Both the obvious and subtle differences of these new cultures have culminated into some of my fondest memories from living abroad.
In China, I was working for a wine importer in Shanghai. What first struck me about the Chinese was that one doesn’t really start to drink until you are significantly older. It is a rite of passage into adulthood that is taken seriously. The next is a sociological phenomenon taking place in China called the “Culture of Consumption”. This simply means that people spend money ostentatiously.
If one orders an expensive bottle of wine in China at a restaurant, the wine will be presented with sparklers and fanfare.
One of the most fascinating differences between American and Chinese wine connoisseurs was how much importance some of the Chinese put on the color of red wine. I remember leading my first wine tasting for my co-workers; they must have looked at the color of the wine alone for 15 minutes. At one point, they poured their wine on paper napkins and waited for it to dry to observe the color of dry wine. However, it is important to remember that the Chinese had almost zero exposure to the Western world until the 1970’s, and it was not until the early 1990’s that wine was marginally available in China.
These cultural differences make traveling and exploring other cultures so gratifying.
About Drew Damskey
I was born and raised in the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma County. My grandfather was a Napa Valley grape grower, and my father is an international consulting winemaker. I have worked in the wine industry in France, California, China and most recently, India. I am currently working towards an Executive MBA in wine business from Sonoma State University.