Wine Appreciation in Guilin China

The southern Chinese city of Guilin is in a predominantly rural area and may seem an unlikely place to be talking about wine appreciation, but a recent holiday there showed how wine is becoming an important product in China.

Firstly though, a bit about Guilin.

The place is famous for its amazing landscapes which have been painted and photographed for centuries. This terrain is also popular with rock climbers who come from all over the world to be challenged by the towering limestone peaks.

Guilin rural China

About 30 km from Guilin is the amazing Yuzi Paradise sculpture park, where astonishing sculptures of all sizes are scattered around spacious well kept gardens. The sculpture park has progressively evolved into a resort complex of the highest standard, and is now managed by Club Med.

Within the Club Med complex is a wine appreciation school where guests are introduced to all facets of wine – history, types of grapes, wine styles, wine regions and more. And of course there is plenty of wine tasting!

On the day I attended a wine class, I was the only Westerner and apart from the instructor, the only attendee with any real knowledge of wine. The other twenty or so participants were Chinese eager to learn more about wine. It was a fun session.

On another day, I travelled from the resort back to the city of Guilin for a wander around the streets. Guilin is a bustling metropolis of about one million people, with plenty to see and experience.

At one stage I wandered into some back streets and saw this amazing shop:

wine shop guilin

Unfortunately it was closed for lunch and I was unable to get back, but peering through the window confirmed a wine shop. And right next door to a tailor!

In time I expect this humble little store will move and upgrade to a main road location, but this (together with the enthusiastic wine tasters at Club Med Guilin) show once more how popular wine is becoming in China.

How to Drink Wine and Stay in Shape

drink wine and stay in shape


The very first piece of good advice when it comes to drinking wine and staying in shape is NOT to drink beer!

The same applies to those mixed drinks made with spirits and sugary extras, like cola.

The simple reason is that any alcoholic drink will contain a high level of calories with not much nutritional value.

The situation is exacerbated with beer (which is generally high in carbohydrates) and other drinks with high levels of sugar.

For example, a classic margarita cocktail could have up to 600 calories for a serving whereas an entire bottle of dry wine could contain about the same calorie count. Note also that the margarita may contain as much as 100 grams (over 3 ounces) of sugar.

To put the calorie count in perspective, alcohol has around 7 calories per gram compared to around 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates, and a whopping 9 calories per gram for fats.

So how is it possible to drink wine, with obvious calories, and stay in shape?

The answer is to include wine as part of a sensible eating and exercise plan. This really is not hard to do.

(If you already do this and are still struggling to look the way you want, you might like to have a look at this video which certainly helped me get in shape.)

There is also the added benefit of some of the bonus ingredients in wine such as antioxidants. Both red and white wines have antioxidants and research has shown red wine as being good for your heart and your weight too.

The elements of a sensible balanced diet are well known – fresh vegetables, skinless chicken, grass fed steak and oily fish (like salmon). If your main meal comprises these elements, and you take a 30 minute brisk walk every day, then you can certainly enjoy one or two glasses of wine with your meal (every day!) and easily stay in shape.

After all, what we are trying to achieve in our life regime is to be healthy and enjoy it. The simple logic involves maintaining a level of calorie intake which does not exceed calorie burn-off, over an extended time period of course.

Staying in shape with wine can be aided further by avoiding late night snacks and regular indulgence in junk food. But then who would ever want to spoil a glass of quality wine by having it accompany a greasy pizza or burger?

If you feel you are doing everything right but just cannot get rid those flabby bits, have a look at this interesting approach to staying in shape – it may be the answer!

Hunting the Semillon Wine in the Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley is not Australia’s best known wine growing region – that honor arguably rests with the historic Barossa Valley, or perhaps the iconic Margaret River region in the West, or maybe the renowned cooler areas of Tasmania.

That being so, the Hunter Valley has a lot going for it, including being less than a two drive north of Sydney and close to the trendy port city of Newcastle.

There are over 130 wineries and grape producers in the Hunter Valley, as well as boutique breweries and distilleries, all manner of restaurants and cafes, cheese and chocolate makers, and other attractions that make it a “must visit” destination for all lovers of food and beverages.

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine edited by Jancis Robinson

But when it comes to wine, I can do more than quote Jancis Robinson.

Ms Robinson is one of the best known authorities in the wine world, holder of the rare and prestigious Master of Wine qualification and editor of the most comprehensive wine book, The Oxford Companion to Wine.

It was Jancis Robinson who said:

“Hunter Semillon is Australia’s great gift to the wine world…”

Now, Semillon is the not the best known white grape variety on the planet, but it probably should be. The reason for this is that it ages superbly for up to twenty years.

The Hunter Valley wine makers pioneered the development of Semillon in Australia in the early 19th century, and it is fermented without oak.

It can be drunk when young and exhibits a fresh lemony style. As it ages, the magic happens and it develops a complexity with nut and honey undertones.

Semillon can also be made into dessert wines as the grapes have relatively thin skins enabling introduction of the botrytis fungus, the “noble rot” which makes for the most amazing sticky sweet wines.

A bottle aged Hunter Valley Semillon is a true delight, and one which is unique to this region. Whilst Australian wine parlance does not generally refer to “terroir”, in this case it is really the local conditions which play a major role in the uniqueness of this wine.

brokenwood hunter valley semillonOf the many producers in the Hunter Valley, perhaps the two with the most experience (and success) in the production of Semillon are Brokenwood Wines and Rothbury Estate.

Aged Semillion remains a well kept secret, and perhaps is an acquired taste to some degree, but the result is that older vintages can be very reasonably priced.

The challenge is to find them of course, and as the Hunter Valley produces only about 2% of Australia’s wine, this can be a daunting task at times but well worth the effort.

Whilst this article has focused on Semillon, the Hunter Valley produces other exceptional wines, including Chardonnay, Verdelho and Shiraz styles.

Start planning your trip to the Hunter Valley now and if you cannot get there just yet, get some delicious Hunter Valley Semillon.