The history of Chinese grape wine has been dated back more than 4,600 years. In 1995 a joint archeology team investigated two ancient sites 20km’s to the northeast of Rizhao, and discovered the remains of a variety of alcoholic beverages including grape wine, rice wine, mead, and several mixed beverages. Out of more than two hundred ceramic pots discovered, seven were specifically used for grape wine, with the remains of grape seeds found.
China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region has an ancient history of viticulture going back to around the 400 BC, when Greek settlers brought the vine and more advanced techniques. The area around Turfan was, and still is, particularly noted for its production of grape wines, as mentioned in the personal notes of Marco Polo, who wrote about 'Carachoco' - (the name he used for Turfan) produced fine grape wines.
Grape wine consumption was however replaced by a range of alcoholic beverages made from sorghum, millet, rice, and fruits such as lychee or Asian plum. It was not until the 'Han Dynasty' (206 BC - 220 AD) that the Chinese became reacquainted with the consumption of grape wines, and not until the 'Tang Dynasty' (618 AD - 907 AD) that consumption of wine became more common.
In 1980, at the beginning of Chinese economic reform, Rémy Martin ventured into China to set up the first joint-venture wine enterprise in Tianjin Province. However, most of its products were exported in the first two decades due to the low income of the local population, and it was not until after the year 2000 that the Chinese people had sufficient disposable income to support the domestic wine market. Other companies, including China Great Wall Wine Co., Suntime and Changyu, have also risen in prominence, and in 2005, 90% of grape wine produced was consumed locally - and approximately 80% of all wine consumed in 2010 was red wine.
Prominent wine-producing regions include Beijing, Yantai, Zhangjiakou in Hebei, Yibin in Sichuan, Tonghua in Jilin, Taiyuan in Shanxi, and Ningxia. The largest producing region is Yantai-Penglai; with over 140 wineries, it produces 40% of China's wine. China (including Hong Kong) is among the top ten global markets for wine consumption. Over the next few decades, the country’s standing as a wine consumer is expected to rise. The Ningxia province has also been in the limelight for its high quality wines, after a red wine won the Decanter Trophy in May 2011.
Both red and white wines are commonly served chilled, poured into ordinary wine glasses in tiny amounts, or a very small glass called baijiu. When served at a restaurant table with more than two people, similar to the style of drinking baijiu, it is typically consumed during a group toast, and often with the entire glass being finished at once - but customs are changing fast.