Wine (Chinese: 葡萄酒 pútáojiǔ lit. "grape alcohol") has a long history in China. Although long overshadowed by huangjiu (sometimes translated as "yellow wine") and the much stronger distilled spirit baijiu, wine consumption has grown dramatically since the economic reforms of the 1980s. China is now numbered among the top ten global markets for wine. Ties with French producers are especially strong, and Ningxia wines have received international recognition.
In 1995, a joint Sino-USA archaeology team including archaeologists from the Archeology Research Institute of Shandong University and American archaeologists under the leadership of Professor Fang Hui investigated the two archaeological sites 20 km to the northeast of Rizhao, and discovered the remnants of a variety of alcoholic beverages including grape wine, rice wine, mead, and several mixed beverages of these wines. Out of more than two hundred ceramic pots discovered at the sites, seven were specifically used for grape wine. Remnants of grape seeds were also discovered. If grape wine consumption was once present in Bronze Age China, however, it was replaced by consumption of a range of alcoholic beverages made from sorghum, millet, rice, and fruits such as lychee or Asian plum. In the 130s and 120s BC, a Chinese imperial envoy of the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) named Zhang Qian opened diplomatic relations with several Central Asian kingdoms, some of which produced grape wine. By the end of the second century BC, Han envoys had brought grape seeds from the wine-loving kingdom of Dayuan (Ferghana in modern Uzbekistan) back to China and had them planted on imperial lands near the capital Chang'an (near modern-day Xi'an in Shaanxi province). The Shennong Bencao Jing, a work on materia medica compiled in the late Han, states that grapes could be used to produce wine. In the Three Kingdoms era (220–280 AD), Wei emperor Cao Pi noted that grape wine "is sweeter than the wine made [from cereals] using ferments and sprouted grain. One recovers from it more easily when one has taken too much. Grapes continued to be grown in the following centuries, notably in the northwestern region of Gansu, but were not used to produce wine on a large scale. Wine thus remained an exotic product known by few people.
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