Chinese Baijiu, as a cultural treasure of Chinese gastronomy, carries a rich history and profound cultural significance. This ancient alcoholic beverage, with its unique brewing techniques and distinctive flavor profile, captivates drinkers from around the world.
Origin and History
The history of Chinese Baijiu dates back over 3,000 years. Ancient Chinese people began brewing a substantial amount of Huangjiu, which is renowned as one of the world’s three ancient alcoholic beverages, alongside beer and wine. Originating in China, Huangjiu remains exclusively consumed within the country. It is a fermented wine with a yellow hue and lower alcohol content, offering a milder taste compared to distilled spirits.
The brewing techniques of Chinese Baijiu are exceptionally unique and have been passed down through generations. It begins with high-quality grains such as sorghum, rice, and wheat. Through multiple processes including steaming, saccharification, fermentation, and distillation, the final liquor is obtained. The fermentation process is particularly crucial, as special fermentation agents are added to impart unique flavors and aromas. Finally, after extended aging and maturation, the liquor becomes even more mellow and its taste more complex.
In the Southern Song Dynasty, there was distilled liquor, which was called shaojiu (烧酒） in ancient times. It is a clear, colorless liquid and known as the world’s six major distilled spirits with brandy, whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum.
Baijiu, an essential beverage, is commonly served at Chinese weddings, funerals, and holiday gatherings. It is traditionally enjoyed alongside various dishes, including meat dishes and even salads. Snacks like deep-fried peanuts and dried beans are also popular accompaniments. To enhance the experience, Baijiu can be poured into a porcelain or metal jug, heated in hot water, and then savored. This method, passed down from ancient times, provides a warming sensation, particularly during the winter season.
We can’t leave the literati to talk about China’s wine culture. The literati endowed the deeper connotation of liquor. Tang Dynasty poetry is the pinnacle of Chinese cultural poetry. The wine gave birth to poet’s poetry, like the famous poets’ Li Bai, Du Fu, and Su Shi, all of them, making a lot of famous works after drinking. But at that time they all drank yellow wine.
When it comes to wine culture, it is also necessary to say drinking game. Yaling（literal drinking game) of the drinking game is a test of people’s intelligence, knowledge, literary cultivation, and resilience. Without poetry and dexterity, one person makes a show of himself. Cultural content such as history, poetry and lyrics, songs and lyrics, and allusions are included in the drinking game. In the interlacing, not only enjoy the mellowness of the wine(baijiu) but also enjoy the fragrance of culture. One of the four famous masterpieces, the Dream of Red Chamber, the sixty-third chapter of the Qunfang’s dinner party, presents the scene of the drinking game.
Chinese liquor has developed into a modern one, distinguished by flavor types. They are the sauce, the strong flavor, and the light flavor. Although the scent type mainly comes from distiller yeast(jiu qu), the quality of the wine is also closely related to the regional environment and climate, so the Chinese Maotai can’t be copied from other places.
Strong flavor liquor is represented by the brand Luzhou Laojiao(泸州老窖）, Wuliangye（五粮液).
The sauce flavor is represented by Maotai （茅台）and Langjiu（郎酒).
The light flavor is represented by Alcoholism(汾酒） and Erguotou（二锅头).
Chinese Baijiu, as a millennium-old traditional beverage, carries a rich history and cultural significance. Its unique brewing techniques and distinctive flavor make it an integral part of Chinese gastronomy. Whether in family gatherings or formal occasions, Chinese Baijiu enriches people’s lives with its unique rituals and cultural significance.