At a time when China is expected to become the second largest wine market after the United States by 2021, the capital of the Middle Kingdom is planning to educate residents and tourists in the culture of winemaking. A vast museum, which will be located in the heart of a village entirely dedicated to all things oenological, is due to open next year.
Clustered buildings, cubist lines, structures in stone … the iconic medieval village of Saint-Emilion, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, has provided the main source of inspiration for the future “Universal Wine Museum” in Beijing. Devised by the French foundation, which participated in the launch of the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux, France, the project aims to become the main center in China and Asia for all things relating to wine. At only 40 kilometers from the Forbidden City, an 18,000-square-meter site has been reserved for the future pedagogical resource, which will offer a comprehensive introduction to oenology and wine culture.
Drawing extensively on the architecture of Saint-Emilion, the new complex, which will be set in a sea of vines, will feature a tower and a cloister. Visitors to the future tourist attraction will be invited on a tour covering 6,700 sq m that will elucidate all the aspects of winemaking, as well as the long history of a drink that is for many western civilizations a key aspect of the art of living.
Like the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux, the new facility will offer multi-sensory exhibits to educate visitors on all aspects of wine tasting, including the balance of acidity and sweetness and the expression of tannins. It will also be home to a school, where students can embark on courses to develop their understanding of how to pair and serve wine, a cellar and a gourmet restaurant.
“The concept of the museum is the same as the Cité du Vin, but its DNA has taken a different form,” points out Philippe Massol, the managing director of Fondation de la culture et des civilisations du vin. “The tour will follow an established route, because many Chinese visitors will benefit from a more guided approach, as opposed to the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux, where visitors come and go as they please.” Another important difference will be the absence of interactive pedagogical installations. “Chinese tourists favor more concrete exhibits,” explains Massol.
The Beijing “Universal Wine Museum” aims to welcome half a million visitors in its first year. Building work is set to begin next April. It will be the first step in a plan that has been developed over the last two years, points out the museum’s president and founder, Weinxing Tang, at a presentation of the project.
Future tourist destination
The museum will be just one destination in a wine village extending over eight square kilometers, where travelers will have the opportunity to spend several days exploring the world of Bacchus. There are plans for a luxury hotel to be built at the foot of Mount Wulan, while more budget-conscious visitors can opt for a second, more affordable establishment.
Visiting families can reserve weekend cottages at the village’s educational farm and riding stables. Last but not least, there will be a mall with stores and restaurants, which will once again be inspired by French urban architecture.
Although China is more traditionally oriented towards beer and strong liquor lke maotai, wine is increasingly popular in the Middle Kingdom. According to the 2018 Vinexpo study, the Chinese market accounts for 1.46 billion liters of wine per year, which makes it the world’s fifth largest. It is also worth noting that the current level of consumption is expected to rise by 18.5% by 2021, just in time for the opening of Beijing’s new “Universal Museum of Wine.”