There’s a moment we all have when we first arrive in China. We’re sitting at a banquet table, filled with exotic new foods, when a man pours a strange clear drink into our cups. “What’s this?” we ask. He fumbles for the right word, then lands on a rough translation: “White wine.” Naively sipping back that first blast of Baijiu is almost a rite of passage that sends home an important message: nothing in China is quite the same as back home.
You might have found substitutes for other old comforts, but many cities in China don’t have much to replace wine, especially when there is a shortage of imported foods’ supermarkets. It’s easy enough to trade craft beers for Tsingtao, and, with enough commitment, you can trade Vodka for Baijiu – but no one has ever sipped on a sugary glass on Great Wall red wine and thought, “Y’know, it really is just as good as back home”.
Fortunately, Qingdao is a different kind of city. China’s German beer-town is also a perfect wine-growing region. Over the last few years, the city has been trying to capitalize on its wineries, and, today, you can find a real connoisseur experience in the city. So, without further ado, for people who love everything wine, take a look at all of our wine related suggestions; whether you want to visit a vineyard, learn more about wine, buy it, or just want to relax somewhere and drink it.
Photo: Uncalno Tekno
1) Wine Street
Located right next to the gardens of Zhongshan Park and Baihuayuan, Qingdao’s Wine Street is perfectly designed for a romantic’s perfect night. The small, two-block district is adorned with trellises covered in grape vines, and each building has an unmistakable touch of culture.
Most of the businesses here specialize in importing foreign wine. You’ll find a wide selection of high-end European brands here. There’s no shortage of selection, including a few stores that, respectively, exclusively sell French, Australian or Canadian Ice Wine.
This is also a great place to find restaurants that serve quality red and white wines. The street’s highlight for quality and atmosphere is undoubtedly Xinlong Hot Pot, which boasts a wide selection of well-decorated private rooms. Hot Pot and wine might be a strange combination for a Western palette, though, and so you may prefer Thousand Flavors across the street.
There is a selection of cheaper fare on Wine Street, but the cheap restaurants are just that – cheap. If you want wine and aren’t worried about atmosphere, just walk a block north of Wine Street, and you’ll find a number of cheap seafood places that sell all the fine wines at a much nicer price.
Qingdao Red Wine Street
Add: Yan'an Yilu, Shibei District, Qingdao
2) The Wine Museum
The Qingdao Wine Museum is built out of a huge underground bunker, located in the heart of Wine Street. The museum gives visitors a guided tour in either English or Chinese that covers winemaking and its history in China. It’s a strange museum that’s decorated like a fine establishment, but filled with tacky props, including wax figures of wine makers and a statue to the “god of wine”. It’s a bit kitschy, but there’s an undeniable fun vibe here.
The museum’s main attraction is a huge cellar filled with wines imported from all around the world. Visitors get to sample a wine selection of these wines, and are given a free glass to top it off. If you’re not done there, you can keep drinking at just 5 RMB a glass.
Qingdao Wine Museum
Add: 68 Yan'an Yilu, Shibei District, Qingdao
Tel: 0532 8272 7866
Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00
Price: 50 RMB
Qingdao’s best Italian restaurant is one of the best places for wine, too. Ristorante San Marco is genuine, Italian-owned business, whose vibrant chef Stefano is as much a part of the appeal as the food. The pasta and steaks here aren’t just top-notch for China – this is a restaurant that would stand out in Italy.
In addition to great food, Ristorante San Marco has a unique selection of wines, including Italian wines that can’t be found anywhere else in town. For a wine and dinner experience, this one can’t be topped. Get your wallet ready for this trip, though – those used to cheap Chinese prices might find another reminder of restaurants back home when they get the bill.
Ristorante San Marco
Add: Haiqing Hotel, Tower A, 2F, 11 Dongai Zhonglu, Shinan District, Qingdao
The Huangdao winery is a breathtaking visit worth taking even for those who don’t care for wine. The vineyard surrounds a small French villa, set up against the backdrop of Laoshan Mountain. Wandering through the vineyard is like wandering through an isolated European park, filled with marble statues and little ponds. It’s a sight that outdoes most the city’s best green spaces.
Visitors are given a first-hand chance to see how the wine is made. They get to view every step of the process, from picking the grapes to filling the casks. They’re also treated to free samples of the company’s wine. It’s the perfect place to relax and take a day slowly, especially in the best weather.
Add: 17-20F Yingdelong Plaza, 15 DongHai Xilu, Shinan District, Qingdao
Although Qingdao’s beach is perhaps most famous, there are a lot of other things to do in this city. This is a run through of some of Qingdao’s best attractions that don’t require you to get out onto the beach.
Restaurant Week is coming to Qingdao! From September 4-14, Qingdao’s finest restaurants will be opening their doors to the common folk and offering haute cuisine at affordable prices.
The Qingdao International Beer Festival 2014 is back August 9-24. The largest beer festival in Asia, the Qingdao International Beer Festival invites brewers from around the globe to celebrate in China’s brewing capital.
Qingdao International Car Show 2014 is coming to Qingdao May 15-20. The show, which is in its thirteenth year will be held in the Qingdao International Exhibition Center and will take up all seven indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces, covering a total area of 120,000 square meters.
Yay, another airport to provide free WIFI!! Well done Qingdao Liuting International Airport.
Ever-popular Croatian Pianist Maksim Mrvica returns to China for a concert at the Qingdao University Gymnasium on December 11.
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