Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ever hear of Rose Honey Wine?

My first encounter with Rose Honey was behind a church.

But no ordinary
church this. First, it's a Roman Catholic church in China, where Christians huddled in fear under Mao's Communists. It probably survived that period because it's in the very remote village of Cizhong on the steep banks of the Lancang (Lantsang, Lansang, Mekong) River, in Yunnan Province near the Tibetan border. (How remote is this place? Originally, I was told that I could not visit CiZhong because the road was under construction. It was, but I insisted. So we drove over gravel threads hacked out of rock slides 1000-2000 feet above the rushing muddy river below. If the driver would have sneezed and jerked the wheel, we would have ended floating down the river all the way to Vietnam.)

Anyway, the church was built by French missionaries at the end of 19th century, incinerated by irate Tibetans, then rebuilt around 1905. Being normal French, the missionaries planted grapes to make wine. So the vines still survive behind the church.

While locals make wine from this fruit, I've heard that Yunnan Red Wine Company makes a Rose Honey red wine.
I even read that Jancis Robinson’s 2008 appraisal of The Rose Honey: it's perhaps a little sweet to drink with food, but it’s a perfectly good entry-level wine.

(Above) Rose Honey grapes.(Above) These vines are descendents from the originals planted by the French missionaries in the late 1800s behind the now-historic CiZhong Roman Catholic church.
Below) Today the church is nearly surrounded by farmer-grown Cabernet Sauvignon vines, with all of the fruit destined for Shangrila Winery.

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