By Wang Wen (China Daily)

Many office workers in the capital choose to take a wine-tasting course out of interest as well as for social benefit. Photos by Yan Xiaoqing / China Daily


Beijingers are paying good money to learn about the world of grapes, Wang Wen discovers.

Chen Rui badly wanted to impress his friends at social gatherings by talking knowledgably about wine, so earlier this month he enrolled in a nine-hour wine-tasting course. “If I can talk about wine when we are having a drink, my friends will think I have good taste,? said the 30-year-old, who works for a consulting company in Beijing.


Many office workers in the city are taking wine-tasting courses for the same reasons as Chen: they want to appear more sociable by enjoying a glass of wine.

“Wine is a better choice for socializing. Not everyone likes golf or horse riding, but most people can drink some wine,” said Lu Jiang, chief wine advisor for Wine Online Culture, a company that conducts wine-tasting courses and promotes wine culture in Beijing.

Wine is international and the whole world has similar standards, so people from different regions can easily exchange their views about wine while they socialize, he said.

Chen Rui said after the course he now knows the main categories of wine and can tell which wines come from which areas.

“The knowledge allows me to talk with other people at dinner,” he said. “I can even tell them that champagne from France made in 1998 is better than that made in 2000.”

An Qi, a 25-year-old woman, who tried wine for the first time six years ago when she was studying in Britain, also enjoys a better social life thanks to her knowledge of wine.

“It is easy to start a conversation when I know more about the wine we are drinking ,” she said.

An, who attended Lu’s class last March, said she works with some overseas business partners and wine is always a part of their dinners.

“Our conversations at the table always involve wine,” An said.

If she did not know about wine, she would be embarrassed and the atmosphere at the table would be awkward, An said. As well, she would not be able to order a bottle of special wine for important guests, or choose a suitable wine as a gift for someone, such as ice wine, which is sweet, for her female friends.

An also joined the Wine Online Club, which has more than 1,000 members, all from Lu’s classes. The members get together to taste and discuss wine several times a month.

“The club is a way of delivering deeper knowledge of wine to the members. They can continue to learn after the classes have finished,” Lu Jiang said.

Every month, Lu, who is also an international wine educator accredited by L’Ecole du Vin, teaches classes lasting two, four or nine hours. They cost a minimum of 350 yuan a person.

Lu said that because students want more and deeper wine knowledge, the nine-hour classes have become more popular recently, despite the fee of more than 700 yuan for each class. More kinds of wines can be introduced in the nine-hour classes, he said.

In these classes, Lu teaches the history of wine and introduces its five main categories. Trainees can taste four kinds of wine and, as part of the appreciation class, can discuss their responses to the varieties.

After some years of encouragement, wine has found its way onto Chinese tables.

For some years, wine industry insiders have been doing appreciation courses and often receiving certificates from international organizations. These qualifications boost their careers.

Recently, more amateurs, including managers and owners of enterprises, have been enrolling in courses.
Statistics from? one of the biggest wine education organizations, show that 40 percent of their trainees are amateurs.

Lu said that amateurs take his courses for a range of reasons.

Health is the first consideration of older people, according to Lu.

Zhang Feng, a senior manager of an enterprise in Beijing, who is in his 50s, said that two years ago a doctor told him he was at risk of developing high cholesterol and suggested he drink a little wine every day. Zhang soon bought his first bottle of wine.

“I don’t know whether it is because of the wine, but I didn’t develop high cholesterol, ” Zhang said.

For whatever reason they start to drink wine, people are becoming interested in it and eventually they discover the glamour of wine, Lu said.

The figures show that Chinese people are drinking more wine.

The latest figures show that the volume of wine consumed in China doubled from 2005 to 2009.