So this is just your typical wine chateaux, built upon sprawling acres of maturing grape vines… in China?!
That’s right—this chateau was actually built within the last few years outside the northeastern city of Tianjin, not in the Loire Valley or Bordeaux region of France. In tangent with my SYE, I am going to focus my case study on the consumption of grape wine in China as a cultural practice. My guiding question is, Why is there a resurgence of grape wine consumption in China? I make the ‘grape’ distinction here because China and other Asian countries have long traditions of rice alcohols and spirits. While those are not quite on the decline, the rise of the grape wine market has interesting cultural, economic, and political implications.
We can see wine has been cultivated in China for thousands of years from the writings of poet-scholars of ancient dynasties. It is only recently within the last three decades that the modern wine market has recaptured consumer interest, more than likely coinciding with the economic reforms of 1979. China now claims the 5th largest market in the world, with a consumption of 1.6 billion bottles in 2012.
I think this case study will be studied upon a foundation of Appadurai—the flows and scapes of our globally connected world—because China’s market is causing an indubitable impact on others. Wine consumption can be linked to the ruling, bourgeois class of China (in this case, the old elites of Chinese Communist Party), so my theoretical tension lies in whether drinking wine is better theorized with Gramsci’s hegemony, or Althusser’s interpellation? What role does Barthes have in the mythology of consumption?