Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Sat Apr 1 15:19:12 UTC 2000

I've been adding Sprite or 7-up to both red and white wine for years, to
make summer coolers that can be tolerated throughout a long lazy afternoon.
 A lot cheaper than those sweetened commercial wine coolers.  Haven't tried
adding Coke though.

At 10:19 PM 3/31/00 -0500, Grant Barrett wrote:
>Donald M. Lance <LanceDM at> wrote:
>>When I was in Spain recently, several guys poured Coca Cola (maybe 1
coke: 2 wine)
>>their glasses of red wine.  Not bad.  Much tamer than a boilermaker.  I
>think to
>>ask if they had a name for it.
>There was a story in the Times recently that mentioned the Chinese mixing
>wines that way.  I'm including the whole article rather than an excerpt
and a link
>because the article is now only available through fee-based services. It's
a great read.
>March 13, 2000
>HEADLINE: Aggressive Little Wines? China's Acquiring a Taste
>Yao Yun pulls the cork on a bottle of red wine in a fashionable restaurant
here and
>does something that might horrify a Frenchman: he pours himself half a
glass and tops
>it up with Sprite.
>"Wine tastes too bitter, but the more we drink mixed wine, the more we
like it,"
>says the young graphic designer, pouring a second glass for his friend.
>Red wine is a la mode in China's increasingly prosperous cities these days,
>particularly at wedding banquets and karaoke bars. It has replaced the
Cognac that people
>here downed by the tumblerful a few years ago.
>But thanks to lax regulation and unscrupulous vintners, much of the wine
in China is
>of poor quality. Many people mix white wine with Coca-Cola or red wine
with Sprite
>to make the wine more palatable.
>Though Mr. Yao's bottle of wine carries a local label, it might contain
cheap table
>wine from Spain that has sat for months in a giant plastic shipping bag.
Or it might
>not hold what people in the West would consider wine at all: there is no
law that red
>wine be made from grapes, though there is a "recommended standard" that
grapes be
>used for at least half the content.
>Bottlers are supposed to list the ingredients on the label, but there is
>plenty left unsaid. Some wine is made from cheap apple-juice concentrate,
with grain
>alcohol and color added, viticulturists say. Some is just colored sugar
water, with
>flavoring and alcohol but no fruit juice at all. Counterfeiting is rife,
with only a
>printing press needed to turn cooking wine into claret.
>That disturbs Western merchants who had hoped to cultivate a billion
>after Beijing began promoting fruit-based alcoholic beverages as an
alternative to
>traditional 160-proof Chinese spirits a few years ago. Chinese liquor is
made from grain
>the government would rather people eat than imbibe.
>Helped by reports of the health benefits of moderate wine consumption, the
>government's nudge started a stampede for red wine. The Chinese do not
ascribe any special
>aphrodisiac qualities to wine, as they do to some hard liquor, but as in
the West, wine
>has a romantic aura. The sudden demand quickly sucked dry China's small
>mostly vestiges of Western wineries from pre-Communist days. Wine
factories even used
>up Chinese grape varieties like Cow's Nipple or Dragon's Eye, which are
considered too
>sweet for dry Western wines.
>To slake the sudden thirst, Chinese bottlers started importing cheap
European wine,
>shipped in 22,000-liter bags that each fill a 20-foot steel freight
>Fernando Rovira was in charge of international sales at the Bodegas Felix
Solis winery in
>Spain at the time. The dapper Spaniard says his fax machine began whirring
with order
>after order from China in 1996. "People wanted four, five containers in
the first
>order, no sample required," he says now from his mostly empty warehouse
just west of
>The world's wine business quickly fell under the spell of the potentially
vast China
>market. Winemakers from Australia to Peru came to scout for customers. Mr.
>moved to Shanghai, established a bottling plant and began pumping wine
from truck to
>tank as if it were home-heating oil.
>Soon, even China's best-known local labels were wrapped around bottles of
>Western table wine, though they continued to claim that they were made in
China. "China
>doesn't have enough grape fields to meet the market demand, so it's hard
to believe
>that any of the big companies aren't importing from other countries," said
>Jiajian, an official at the Alcohol Monopoly Agency in Shanghai.
>The number of Chinese winemakers grew from a few dozen to more than 300,
>such wines as Grand Dragon and Tonghua, whose label carries the ambiguous
>phrase, "save and preserve five years in oak wood bucket."
>But the dipsomania ran out of control: though wine consumption nearly
tripled from
>1996 to 1997, imports grew sixfold. China was soon swimming in surplus wine.
>Twenty-year old French wines appeared on supermarket shelves at $3 or $4 a
bottle, cheaper
>than even local wines. Some were fake but some were genuine, smuggled in
and later
>dumped by cash-starved importers.
>China tried stemming the flow, first by enforcing oft-underpaid duties
that more
>than double the cost of imported wine, then by banning French wine imports
>detecting traces of cow's blood in a few bottles. (Blood is sometimes used
to clarify wine,
>but the practice is outdated and limited to a few small regions of Europe.)
>Nonetheless, the Chinese press was soon warning consumers that they could
catch mad
>cow disease by drinking French wine. China lifted the ban after just two
weeks last
>year, but the damage was done. "A lot of people are afraid to drink any
imported wine,
>especially French wine," says Sun Cheng, manager of the Golden Gate, a
>lighted Shanghai restaurant that only serves Chinese wines -- including
one listed on the
>menu as French Champagne Wine, though it comes from northern China.
>With the customs service cracking down and the market saturated, importers
>abandoning shipments at the docks. Wine executives estimate that as much
as 10,000
>metric tons -- the equivalent of about 13 million bottles -- was abandoned
last year. A
>lot of it is still sitting in government warehouses.
>"They've imported so much wine that if they stopped today, there's enough
in the
>warehouses to last three or four years," said Mr. Rovira, whose profit
margins and
>market have withered because of competition from cheap wine.
>If no one claims the wine after three months, customs agents are free to
sell it --
>which they do, at happy-hour prices. By that time, the wine has been in
>shipping bags for at least four months, including time on the water. A lot
of the wine on
>the market today sat in shipping bags through the sweltering heat of summer.
>That does not matter to most Chinese, who drink wine as they do
traditional Chinese
>spirits, in a ritualized swallow meant more for show than for sensation.
In the
>second- floor ballroom of the New Asia Thomson Hotel in Shanghai recently,
tables of
>flushed young women and crew-cut young men gulped goblets of Imperial
Court wine --
>produced by a grapefruit farm -- to a chorus of "gan-bei," a
toast-cum-challenge that
>literally means "dry cup."
>But it does concern those people trying to educate China's palate. Sam
>an executive at the Montrose Food and Wine Company, an American-owned
importer and
>distributor of fine wines in China, recalls that he was awakened one night
by a
>bartender at a karaoke club in Beijing who wanted a case of Chateau
Lafite-Rothschild at
>roughly $170 a bottle wholesale for the cheapest vintage, one of
Montrose's most
>expensive wines.
>Mr. Featherston delivered the wine personally by taxi and was invited to
spend the
>rest of the night with a party of toughs and a dozen hired women, who
swilled the wine
>mixed with Sprite and watermelon slices.
>"People say, "it's just like drinking the local stuff, so why spend so
much money,"
>Mr. Featherston said, referring to such ill-fated fine wines. But when
they drink the
>local stuff on its own, he adds, their eyes water and their throats burn
and they
>decide they do not like wine.
>Montrose is nurturing a growing band of oenophiles with its 60,000-bottle
cellar --
>actually a Mao-era bomb shelter in Beijing. The company holds frequent
wine tastings
>and caters to a few connoisseurs. A director of the state arms trading
company buys
>$100 bottles of Sauternes by the case, Mr. Featherston says.
>But most of the wine is consumed in places like Shanghai's Famous Grouse
>club, where black-clad young women carry $10 bottles of El Guardamonte
from Spain
>through the bright yellow halls to dark private rooms. Such nightclubs
across Asia were
>once the main drain for much of the world's brandy and plenty of whiskey.
"No one wants
>to drink Cognac anymore; most of our customers want red wine now," said
the club's
>general manager, Huang Jianmei.
>The real losers are people trying to produce quality wines in China. In
the 1980's,
>Group Pernod Ricard of France began coaxing villages near China's Great
Wall to
>switch from sweet Chinese grape varieties to chardonnay and cabernet
sauvignon, which the
>company could use to make quality wines. They taught farmers to bury the
>European plants in the sandy soil during the frigid northern Chinese
winters and to dig
>them out in spring.
>The company now makes about a million bottles a year under the Dragon Seal
>using strict European standards -- even aging the wine in oak casks
imported from
>France. But the market is increasingly difficult. "The price is always
decreasing," says
>its winemaker, Gerome Sabate.
>Mr. Rovira of Felix Solis has decided to approach the market another way:
he is
>selling jugs of sangria.

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