Wineopolis: Coked up

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Chateau Petrus and cola never tasted so good together, writes Alasdair Nicol

Many facets of Chinese culture have long been misunderstood by the West. The latest trend we find difficult to comprehend is Mainland China’s tendency to mix red wine – be it first growth Bordeaux or local Chinese grape wine – with soft drinks such as coke and 7-up.

But are the Chinese wasting good wines by mixing it with carbonated drinks? History tells us no.

Mixing wine – be it red or white – is most definitely a European tradition. The spritzer, invented by the Germans and Austrians, is white wine with the addition of either soda or lemonade and was a fashionable ladies drink in the 1980s. The theory behind the spritzer is that it’s more thirst quenching than wine alone, easier to drink and, thus, can be consumed in larger amounts.

Sangria, a wine punch given to us by the Spanish and Portuguese, mixes white or red wine with orange juice, a spirit and, sometimes, 7-up. The addition of mixers to this drink offsets the sour astringency of cheap or tainted wine, making it friendlier to drink. Calimocho, invented in Spain in 1972, is a fifty-fifty mix of red wine and cola. This drink has been popularised in South Africa where it’s called Katemba, Belgium where it’s known as Sangriola and Croatia where is referred to as Bambus. So are Chinese drinkers just following in the footsteps of the West? Possibly not.

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape, dominant in China, makes a wine that is difficult to match with Chinese cuisine. However, with the addition of a soft drink the wine becomes sweeter and is able to pair the differing flavours better. Moreover, by adding a mixer Chinese wines become more reminiscent of the fruit wine traditionally drunk in China.

In sum, it is not Chinese culture to drink grape wine with food. Only recently – with the opening up of Mainland China – have these new grape wines become available to the public and, frankly, who cares how they drink it? In terms of the grape’s success, the fact that they do is more important. If you wish to mix your wine with coke or 7-up, go ahead. It’s already been done.

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