China could become the world's largest producer of wine in 50 years time, experts predict. Shanghai-based photographer Ryan Pyle visited a vineyard in Shanxi province offering a glimpse into this fast developing industry. (Words and pictures by Ryan Pyle.)
The Chinese can drink with the best of them - something Western beer producers have known for decades. But apart from local rice wines and beer, a taste for fine wine is building slowly, and both customers and investors are answering the call.
While much of the wine growing is run by the government, there has been scope for investment. The landscape is littered with privately-owned wineries. Among the leaders are Hong Kong-based Grace Vineyards, who run a handful of vineyards in China.
The government's goal in setting up this type of foreign investment in the region was the full involvement of the local community. The vineyard employs farmers from nearby villages and towns to maintain the vines and to harvest and sort the grapes.
Wine growth in China is developing at a remarkable pace: the country is already the world's fourth-largest producer. Although Chinese wine has a low profile outside Asia, many are watching to see if this industry becomes a global player.
Experts predict that China could become the next Chile within a decade - a destination for affordable and quality wine production.
In Shanghai there is a real focus on consumption and education. This is where foreign brands dominate, as schools and importers set up shop in an effort to educate the upper reaches of society on wines of the world.
As wages rise and more Chinese look to acquire the trappings of a more luxurious lifestyle, they will consume finer wines, many of which could be home grown in the future.
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