Winemaking, a passion for actress and movie director Zhao Wei
Since her first visit to France ten years ago, Zhao Wei's curiosity and interest in wine have never stopped growing.
Since her first visit to France ten years ago, Zhao Wei's curiosity and interest in wine have never stopped growing, and the world of wine has become a real passion for the Chinese actress and director. Now the owner of three vineyards in Bordeaux, including Château Monlot in the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru appellation, Zhao Wei is also the head of the Bordeaux-based Cellar Privilege.
You are a winegrower in Saint-Emilion, do you see any similarities between the way of making Pu'Er teas and Saint-Emilion - Pomerol - Fronsac wines?
In fact, teas and wines are of the same nature. Each has its own specific characteristics, distinct from each other, just like people. So to that question, I can only answer with general ideas. First of all, during the harvest, the same harvesting methods are used for the Sun-dried Maocha (a kind of Pu'Er), and for the vines: manual harvesting or machine picking, but their harvest seasons are not the same. There is also a similar process in the blending (in Chinese: 揉捻, róu niǎn) of the tea leaves and the destemming of the vines. In the making of tea, what is important is the blending phase, it is necessary to make the loose tea leaves curl up so that the tea tannins oxidize with an oxidizing agent. In the same way, the process of destemming vines also aims to obtain an aroma and the complete diffusion of the tannins contained therein. Finally, it is necessary to control the temperature during the preparation, which is as important for tea as for wine, and this especially for the Pu'Er during its mixing, while making some adjustments taking into account the fluctuations in temperature, humidity, etc
Are the Pu'Er teas and the Saint-Emilion - Pomerol - Fronsac wines symbols of Chinese and French cultures?
Absolutely. When we talk about culture, it is first of all about its history and its influence on the life of the people. The Chinese Pu'Er teas, like the French wines, have a very long millenary history. These two drinks have been deeply integrated into the daily life of people for thousands of years and have more or less influenced their lifestyles. And for their part, the people themselves have also developed, improved and exported their influence to the rest of the world, throughout their history.
Pu'Er's teas and wines are no longer merely a consumer product, they have truly changed men’s lifestyles and have been the bearers of important cultural meanings and different ways of living. They have become one of the strongest symbols of Chinese and French cultures. Isn’t it a magnificent scene to see side by side the great Chinese tea masters and famous French sommeliers presenting Pu'Er teas and wines at the same time? What a pleasure to be able to experience and appreciate the great divergences and convergences of these two cultures!
Is the pleasure of enjoying a Pu'Er tea and a Saint-Emilion - Pomerol - Fronsac wine comparable to you?
To taste a Pu'Er tea or a wine, I think that you must first capture it through the heart, that is to say taste with a sense of humility and respect, in order to receive these gifts given by nature, and to discover the chemical action brought about by time. And there, there really is an identical pleasure.
And let me add, what is the enjoyable for a tea or a wine, is that we can imagine the landscape and assimilate the customs of its terroirs, even if we never set foot on this very distant land, even if the history of this tea or this wine is a story told from generation to generation. That's why I fell in love with Château Monlot, because of its wine quality, of course, but above all the charm and respect inspired by the rich history of this exceptional wine.
What do you think of the project of exhibition of the Saint-Emilion - Pomerol - Fronsac wines, which will open its doors on December 9 in Pu'Er?
It is more than a simple exhibition, because the Pu'Er teas and the Saint-Emilion-Pomerol-Fronsac wines represent Eastern and Western cultures and stories, all very rich and important. Obviously, there are many differences between the East and the West in terms of culture, lifestyle and customs, etc., but we can still adopt an attitude that allows us to appreciate and respect cultures different from ours, through these two kinds of beverages that bear different cultures. This exhibition will surely be a good opportunity to help the consumers of our two countries discover and know our respective cultures and histories. And that's exactly what an old Chinese proverb says: meet friends through wine (or tea), 以酒 (茶) 会友 in Chinese.
What advice would you give the French who would like to learn about Pu'Er teas and the Chinese who would like to discover the Saint-Emilion - Pomerol - Fronsac wines?
Advice to the French people who would like to learn about the Pu'Er teas:
In fact, Westerners prefer teas that are well flavored, for example, with fruity or floral flavors. But, like the Chinese characters, the authentic and original flavor of a tea should be implicit and discreet. I would therefore propose to the French friends a way of enjoying tea. Follow, as for wine, a coherent procedure, i.e. observe first, then feel and then taste carefully. And then there is a question of dietary habits, as Western friends risk not getting used to drinking hot water. So, it is better to drink a cup of tea in three sips, during a tea tasting of Pu'er. The 品 (taste, appreciate) is a very interesting Chinese character, because it is composed of 3 口 (mouth), which means, in French, 3 sips, to taste something well. The first sip is to appreciate the strong fragrance of the tea just after its infusion at high temperature, while the second sip is rather to appreciate, whenever you like, the flavor, and then one can still taste the last sip later, even if the tea becomes cold, to grasp its flavor and perfume that still lasts. At the end of this tasting, one can even feel the fragrance that remains at the bottom of the cup, after the tasting. A remark: for the good tasting of a very old tea, it is important to rinse the tea before its infusion, in order to be able to awaken it, just like a well-aged wine requires an awakening before the tasting.
Advice to the Chinese people who would like to discover the Saint-Emilion-Pomerol-Fronsac wines:
It is sometimes, is interesting, by comparison, to appreciate wine as a work of art. There is no need to find a universal answer; because the taste and preference of each and every one of us are often dependent on our experience in life. It is therefore advisable to be able to identify the right bottle that is in conformity with one’s personality. France has a world-wide reputation for its viti-viniculture whose spirit expresses itself through its exceptional terroirs. This is also what I would like to emphasize in the development of the "Château Monlot" brand, whose products come from different terroirs. Each bottle identified "Monlot" must possess the unique charm of its terroir. You can always discover this distinguished charm during a tasting, even if you have never visited this region. This will allow you, moreover, to identify the bottle adapted to your personality. You will then better understand what wine is.
When you think about the Saint-Emilion - Pomerol - Fronsac wines and the Pu'Er teas, what are the images that come to your mind?
Whenever I think about Pu'Er's teas, the image of a wonderful land of Xishuangbanna in the Yunnan Province comes to me right away. China is the country of origin of tea, and the Xishuangbanna the native land of the Pu'Er teas, which has very old millennium tea. I always have a humble and respectful feeling in front of these sacred tea plants, where I can talk to my past and present compatriots. Each time, when I think of wines, I imagine at once that I am at the Château Monlot, at dawn, very fresh air and dew on the vines leaves, like at sunset in the evening, when the horizon turns red. During the harvest season, all the grape harvesters go through the fields, large yellow baskets on their backs. And a glass of Monlot, drunk with love ...