When people think of China, their minds often fill with images of historic monuments and unique cultural traditions that have become such an intrinsic part of the country’s image around the world. The Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, kung fu...these are but a small part of a vast country that would take a lifetime to fully explore.
My brother and I have seen much of what China has to offer. We’ve walked the Great Wall, eaten Chongqing hot pot, and studied at several Chinese universities, but just when we thought we were starting to understand what this immense country was all about, we arrived in the coastal city of Yantai, East China’s Shandong province.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have been to Shandong before. My brother and I lived in Jinan for almost a year, traveled to the coastal paradise of Qingdao, and climbed the enigmatic Mount Tai. But none of this was enough to prepare us for the stunning beauty that was Yantai.
After arriving at Yantai Penglai International Airport, we immediately set off for our hotel, which would take us through miles and miles of stunning greenery dotted with quaint little red-roofed buildings, which almost made us feel as if we were touring the Italian countryside. But if this wasn’t enough to sell us on the city (which it was), then the hotel we were staying at surely would be. It was a grand structure with a luxurious interior that some might say gives the Hilton a run for its money. But the most spectacular thing about the hotel was its location, right next to a vast expanse of blue nothingness. Yes, I’m referring to the ocean. Like Qingdao, Yantai is a coastal paradise, but while Qingdao can be considered China’s city of beer, Yantai is home to something even more alluring - wine.
Now wine is certainly not something that comes to mind with China, so you can imagine our complete and utter surprise at hearing that Yantai was home to one of the world’s leading wine brands and many of the leading domestic brands, including Changyu and Great Wall. In fact, Yantai produces as much as 40 percent of the wine in China. A number like that is no joke.
Indeed, this trip was all about wine. China Daily and the city of Yantai had invited a group of expats to attend the 12th International Wine Expo, and my brother and I were lucky enough to be along for the ride. At the expo, we tried all the wine we could get our hands on: Wine from France, Spain, Hungary, and, most importantly, Yantai. We were not disappointed.
Over the next two days, we, along with an eclectic group of foreigners hailing from such diverse countries as Ethiopia, Pakistan, the UK, Italy, Georgia, Peru, and the US, toured the city’s many wine-related sites. We visited the Heishangmei Raspberry Wine Chateau, where we partook in evening revelries that included eating, singing, dancing, and plenty of wine drinking.
We visited the Changyu Wine Culture Museum, where we learned about the history of China’s wine industry and found ourselves face to face with giant, 100-plus-year-old oak barrels capable of producing 20,000 bottles of wine.
Arguably the most memorable place we visited on our once-in-a-lifetime tour of Yantai was the Chateau Changyu-Castel, where Changyu’s wine-making magic really happens. This unforgettable locale consists of 135 hectares of stunning vineyards, with a charming European-style castle situated amid the seemingly endless greenery.
However, no less impressive was Changyu’s nearby wine production center, a remarkably massive structure cleverly designed to look like a bunch of enormous barrels of wine. But luckily, we didn’t find ourselves drowning in a sea of wine upon entering them. Rather, we were treated to a fascinating tour of the facilities and bared witness to all the advanced technology required to produce wine on the scale that Changyu does.
So ultimately, was the trip worth it? You betcha. After all, who could pass up the opportunity to visit such a remarkable seaside city like Yantai and try out some of the best wine in all of China? If you’re ever in the area, or you’d love some nice wine, or if you simply feel like exploring a beautiful city, give Yantai a try. I doubt you will regret it.
About the authors: Matt and Jeff Stevens are twin brothers from the US who have spent three years living in China. They enjoy exploring the country and studying Chinese.