Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why Chateaus in the Land of the Great Wall

Two things about wineries in the Land of the Great Wall were a shocker.

The first is scale. While I've photographed wineries around the world, my backyard is Oregon, where many of the wineries are home-grown operations often in wooden barns. I was shocked about the enormity of the Chinese wineries I visited. They're supersized both in concept and scale. The photos show Chateau Junding near Penglai in Shandong Province. Besides the winery production building, Junding has a hotel component and housing for workers. In fact, there is a whole separate village and two off-site apartment towers just for the hords of vineyard workers.

But then everything in China is supersized. Instead of just builing one new 25-story apartment tower in Beijing, they build three or six look-alikes at the same time. A resident told me that during the week of Chinese New Year, 500,000 people used the public transport system. That's almost time and a half the total population of the United States. No wonder the wineries think big.

My second shock was actually a disconnect I'm trying to understand. Over and over I asked why the wineries emulate Europe in name and winery architecture? Chateau Junding, Chateau Bodega Langes, Chateau this and Chateau that.
And the architecture fits Europe. For example, the owner of Treaty Port is building a Scotish castle. A new Chateau near Beijing is like a European village. In my preconceived mind, China has history, culture and architecture going back thousands of years. Why not honor it in the winery? It's like they want to transpose a Western culture onto the Chinese landscape. For me, the feeling is like the Disney atmosphere in Napa Valley winery architecture. Why?

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