History of the Changyu Wine Industry
On January 1, 1892, Changyu Pioneer Wine Co, founded by Zhang Bishi, became China’s first winery. The company’s headquarters are located in Yantai in the Shandong province. According to many wine experts, Changyu is regarded as China’s counterpart to France’s world-famous Bordeaux winemaking region.
The company has developed more than 20,000 hectares of vineyards, covering one-quarter of grape-growing areas of China. It operates ten world-class chateaux across the world. Due to its high-quality wines, its products have become a familiar sight at state banquets, global summit meetings, and retail shelves globally.
How Changyu recorded its Massive Growth
According to Zhou, Changyu’s history dates back to the times in the 1890s, when Zhang Bishi established China’s first chateau in Yantai by introducing European winemaking technology and introducing more than 120 varieties of grapes.
On the mountains that sprawl over the city’s coastal sections and lie on a latitude comparable to Bordeaux and Italy’s Tuscany, an 80-hectare vineyard was initially established by Zhang. With ample rain, abundant sunshine, excellent soil conditions, and the correct humidity, it has long been recognized as China’s best region for growing premium grapes.
The company benefitted from several favorable policies from the state, as it was founded during the period of the Self-Strengthening Movement (1861-1895), when the Chinese acquired advanced military and industrial technologies from the West. During that period, Li Hongzhang—a renowned statesman of the late Qing Dynasty and a proponent of the movement—granted a license and three-year exemption from the duty to the new winemaking company.
Zhang used to hire a lot of skilled winemakers from countries with extensive winemaking experience, including Italy, Austria, and France, to ensure the quality of Changyu’s wine. Among them, Baron M. VonBabo was one of the first experts. He was a seasoned winemaker from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918) who assisted Changyu in developing 15 different types of exquisite wines. In Yantai, he was appointed as the Austro-Hungarian deputy consul, and the consulate was transferred into the company.
With time, Changyu’s wine gained popularity among international diplomats and business leaders. At the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California, Changyu wines won four gold medals and quality certificates in 1915. Consequently, it became a globally-recognized brand after being the first Chinese product to win an international exposition award.
In 2008, Changyu Jiebaina, which has produced wine for more than 70 years, was named one of the top 30 wine brands in the world at the Salon International de l’Alimentation (SIAL) in France. Since this international recognition, Changyu Jiebaina has been exported to 28 nations worldwide, including Germany, Italy, and France. It is now available in over 3,000 supermarkets, stores, five-star hotels across Europe, and even at German Lufthansa Airlines’ first-class cabins.
Changyu was the only Chinese wine to top Brand Finance’s list of the World’s Top 50 Brands for Spirits and Wine in 2011, which a major brand evaluation agency created. Similarly, the coastal city of Yantai is now the only Asian city to be designated as an “International Grape and Wine City” by the International Vine and Wine Office, thanks to Changyu (OIV).
How Changyu Wine went Global
Changyu wine’s aroma has enthralled Chinese and international wine connoisseurs. In 2004, Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric, referred to the wine as “Wonderful.” Likewise, the US investment guru Jim Rogers had a positive experience investing in Changyu, which he claims was one of his first large shareholdings. In 2010, UN Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang gathered Changyu wine on behalf of the UN, and it became the UN’s only collection of Chinese wine.