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Full Circle

Day 54: Qingdao

Qingdao, China 
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Bathroom at the Welcome Guest House. Were revolutions planned here?
Michael Palin - Full CircleThe Chinese Chardonnay made such an impression last night that we are to make a trip to the Hua Dung vineyard from which it comes. This involves an hour's journey into the limestone foothills of the Laoshan mountains, to the slopes around a long, low white building, more convent than chateau, where Michael Parry, an Englishman based in Hong Kong, first began wine making in 1985. Production has increased by an average of thirty per cent every year since then and, though Parry himself went bust and died at the age of forty-three, the Hiram Walker company took it over as part of a joint venture with the Chinese and this year it will produce 440,000 gallons. Wu Lizhu, the present wine maker, is thirty-one, short, amiable and intelligent. His two biggest competitors for the growing Chinese wine-drinking market are Dynasty white and Great Wall red, but he feels he is in a different league. In a quick tasting he drew my attention to the peachy flavour in the Chardonnay and the hint of pineapple in the delicate straw-coloured Riesling. Our attempts to recreate this elegant tasting for the camera, on the lawn below the vinery, are sabotaged by the sudden appearance of a gale force wind that blows the glasses off the table and into the flower-beds.

At the end of the afternoon we climb up to Parry's grave on the hillside. Below us smoke rises from brick kilns and children's kites strain in the gusty wind. There are some, like the present manager of the vineyard, who regard Parry as a saint, and others who see him as an ambitious opportunist who conned a million out of an insurance company; but the distant line of men with hoes and axes levelling more terraces for more vines shows how, in the new China, ambitious opportunism can reap healthy rewards.
Qingdao, China 
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After lunch at the Hua Dung vineyard.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 54
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Qingdao
  • Book page no: 81

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