探秘白酒中心 / Journey to the Center of Baijiu

探秘白酒中心

我在中国住了快40年,甚至在香港还不是特别行政区以前就住在那里。这么多年我对白酒的感情可谓是又爱又恨,而且总是在爱它的第二天早晨才想起来恨。

 上高中时,我还是那种不会喝酒的孩子。好吧,我是有点死读书,但我也爱运动,而且还是校报的体育编辑。我的高中生活过得挺愉快,社交活动丰富,也没觉得因为不会喝酒错过了什么重要机会。

我记得第一次碰酒是在少年时参加一个家庭圣诞晚宴,有人给了我一杯“7加7”鸡尾酒,就是七喜加波本酒。我喝了几小口,但没有爱上它,而且那时我连啤酒的味道都不喜欢。

20多岁时,我到了香港,开始学会喝酒,但酒量不大。不久,我发现了青岛啤酒,真是个好东西。1974年到香港之前,我对白酒的了解还仅停留在1973年毛泽东和尼克松的宴会。跟当时很多外国人一样,我以为白酒就是茅台的同义词。没想到啊……

刚到香港那年我对喝白酒没有任何印象,但忘不了第一次在朋友婚礼上喝到了白兰地干邑。那晚的白兰地是用平常喝牛奶、橙汁、白水的大杯子上的,那是我第一次喝白兰地,感觉就是“天哪”!

我开始接触白酒是自1975年从罗湖边境进入内地旅行后。1975年到1976年,外国人和内地人之间很少甚至几乎没有小范围的社交活动或宴会,但1976年打倒“四人帮”以后,情况开始有了变化。

当年布置餐台,标准的做法是为每位客人摆上三只酒杯:小玻璃杯喝白酒,稍大的玻璃杯喝国产红酒(极甜),相当于牛奶杯大小的杯子用来喝国产啤酒。酒杯在午宴和晚宴开席前就已斟满,席间只要双方举杯祝酒,随即就会被反复地、不间断地、坚持不懈地被续满。

中外宴会上祝酒最常用的当然是白酒。一方面是因为那时的白酒价格还没有飙升(白酒涨价当然要怪尼克松访华,就像中国其他很多事都要怪讨厌的外国人一样)。

另一方面是因为,当年的政治气氛十分紧张,中外之间人们的对话非常尴尬,赴宴的人都想来片止疼药。人们思忖着:“既然说什么严肃的事都不保险,还是喝点白酒胡喷一顿为妙。”

主人会在宴会开始时敬酒,多是普通的祝福,比如“祝你身体健康”或是经典的“为两国人民的友谊和合作干杯!”紧接着,来宾方的最高领导会回敬以示感谢,随后主人方又有其他人敬酒,来宾再回敬,推杯换盏,整个过程就像是打乒乓。

而且就象在乒乓球台上一样,根本没时间也没打算在饭桌上展开深入的对话。

那时候,中国人和外国人都怕说错话,出于政治原因,双方一下子从禁止对话到允许对话,但可对话的范围还不甚明了、随时有可能调整,人们都摸不清什么该说什么不该说。

但喝白酒能缓解状况,甚至可以用作挡箭牌。比如某人说错了话,可以很方便地归罪于白酒,而不是这个人的思维、政治立场或人际交往能力出现了问题。

在改革开放初期,摆三只杯子似乎是照搬北京的模式。无论去哪儿,都是午餐和晚餐的标准摆台。

幸好中国人还没学会美国人开早餐会那一套,否则后果不堪设想。生产率和肝脏健康都要受影响,可能还会让改革开放拖延十年以上。

随着时间的推移,各地形成了不同的风格。我们这些在中国走南闯北的外国人也开始了解和认识到,喝白酒不是走过场,而是充满激情的地方风俗:比如东北、西南,别忘了还有山东。

我知道其他地方也有很多人喜欢白酒,但这三个地方和我的亲身经历最有共鸣,更别提那些醉酒的回忆了。

在6月6日至8日举办的2013年财富全球论坛期间,我有幸作为一个特别小组成员参观了有600年历史的水井坊博物馆。(经认证)水井坊的酿酒历史可以追溯到六个世纪前。

这次参观非常有趣,不仅因为亲眼看到古法蒸馏仍在使用,还因为博物馆浓墨重彩地展现了白酒对成都历史发展所作的贡献。

Journey to the Center of Baijiu

In the nearly 40 years I’ve lived in China, including the Hong Kong S.A.R. before it became an S.A.R., I’ve had something of a love-hate relationship with baijiu. The hate part usually came the morning after the love part.

I was one of those kids in high school who was not part of the alcohol drinking crowd. OK, I was more of a studious type, although I played sports and was sports editor of the high school paper. I had a great time, good social life, and did not feel like I missed out on anything important due to not being a part of the drinkers circle.

I recall my first taste of booze was as a teenager at a family Christmas season dinner when I was offered a “7 and 7”, a cocktail which was a mix of 7-up and bourbon. I drank a few sips, but I did not become an instant convert. I didn’t even like the taste of beer in those days

By the time I arrived in Hong Kong, then in my early 20s, I had acquired the ability to drink alcohol, although I was not a big drinker. Soon after, I discovered Qingdao beer, which is an excellent beer. Until arriving in Hong Kong in 1974, I’d only heard of baijiu in connection with the Mao-Nixon banquet in 1973. Like most foreigners at the time, I imagined that baijiu and Maotai were synonomous. Little did we realize…

I don’t recall ever drinking baijiu in my first year in Hong Kong. I do recall my first exposure to cognac, at a friend’s wedding. The cognac that evening was served in the type of tall glasses from which we’d normally drink milk, orange juice, or water. My first exposure to cognac. Ouch.

Exposure to baijiu began after I started travelling beyond the Lohu border crossing into the Chinese mainland, in 1975. In 1975-1976, there were few if any small group social contacts or dinners among foreigners and mainlanders, but this began to change after the downfall of the Gang of Four in the fall of 1976.

In the table setting protocol of the era, there were precisely three glasses at each and every person’s place setting: one small glass for bajiu, one slightly larger glass for domestic Chinese red wine (very very sweet), and a milk-sized glass for Chinese beer. All were filled at the outset of the lunch or dinner banquet, and repeatedly, incessantly, relentlessly, refilled during the meal, after the mutual toasts, etc.

The most frequent choice of liquids for toasting at Sino-foreign banquets was, of course, the baijiu. On the one hand this was before baijiu became astronomically expensive (often blamed on the Nixon visit, like so many other problems in China which are blamed on us pesky foreigners).

On the other, the politics of the day were so strained as to make conversations between Chinese and foreigners very awkward, so everyone around the table was in the mood for a pain-killer. People were thinking: “Ah-ha! It’s not really safe to discuss anything serious, so let’s drink baijiu and just babble instead!”

The host would start the meal with a toast, often a generic “To your health!”, or the always popular “To the long-term friendship and cooperation of our people!” Then the guest party’s senior person would reciprocate with a toast to thank the host, followed by someone else on the host’s side toasting to something else, and then another guest toasting back. The whole ritual was like playing liquid ping-pong.

And just as in a table tennis match, there was neither the time nor the inclination for much in-depth conversation around the table.

In those days, both Chinese and foreigners were wary of saying the wrong thing, partly because we’d moved very quickly from an era in which no conversation was permitted, for political reasons, into one in which conversation was OK, but only within certain ill-defined and rapidly changing boundaries.

Enter the baijiu, which took the edge off and was, in an odd sense, a useful navigational tool. If so-and-so said something wrong, it could conveniently be blamed on the baijiu, rather than deficiencies in his thought processes, politics, or people skills.

In those early days of opening and reform, the three-glass place setting seemed to be straight from central casting in Beijing. No matter where you went, that was the table setting, at lunch or dinner.

Fortunately, Chinese had not yet adopted the American habit of holding breakfast meetings, or the results would have been catastrophic. Productivity and liver health would have suffered big setbacks, possibly delaying the Open Door era by a decade or more.

Over time, local variations became established. Those of us foreigners who travelled widely in China came to know and recognize those regions of the country where drinking baijiu was more than a perfunctory gesture, but rather a local custom embraced with passion: places in Northeast China, Southwest China, and let’s not forget Shandong Province.

I know other regions harbor many big fans of baijiu, but these are the three places which have the most resonance based on my experience. Not to mention the most recollections of hangovers.

I had the special opportunity during the June 6-8, 2013 Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu, to join a special small group tour of the 600-year old Shui Jing Fang Museum, which has a continuous (and certified) history of producing baijiu for more than six centuries.

It was an extremely interesting tour, partly because we were able to see the traditional distilling techniques still at work, but also because the museum itself sheds so much light on the role of baijiu in the context of Chengdu’s historical development.

按古法蒸馏白酒 

冷却、加入酒曲

未装瓶前存放在坛子中的白酒

 更让我兴奋的是,水井坊的执行董事——出人意料地居然是位美国人——还为我们讲述了极富新意的品牌和定位策略,对一家有数百年历史的老字号来说,这真令人惊讶。

水井坊的产品展厅汇集了旗下的各类产品,都是白酒,但品牌不同——高端产品还有由设计师设计、经手工制作的酒瓶。有些还是面向收藏市场推出的限量版。

早年那种每顿午餐、晚餐都摆3只酒杯的摆台标准和不断敬酒的习俗早已过时,但白酒是中国文化重要的组成部分,并且历史悠久。

如果你接到参观成都市中心水井坊博物馆的邀请,我强烈建议你去看看。

Also fascinating for me was to listen to the Managing Director of Shuijingfang, who to my surprise happens to be a fellow American, talk about their branding and positioning strategy, which is very innovative. That came as a surprise, especially for a centuries-old product.

Their product display room features a range of different products within the family, all bajiu, but differentiated by brand name and — for the higher end products — exquisitely designed and hand-finished bottles. Some are limited editions aimed at the collector’s market.

The era of the perfunctory 3-glass table settings and constant toasting at every lunch and dinner meeting is long gone, but baijiu remains an important part of Chinese culture, and one with a long and interesting history.

If you ever get an invitation to visit the Shuijingfang Museum in downtown Chengdu, I highly recommend you accept.


阅读数 27,792 / 27,792 views



发表评论

电子邮件地址不会被公开。 必填项已用*标注

:wink: :-| :-x :twisted: :) 8-O :( :roll: :-P :oops: :-o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :-D :evil: :cry: 8) :arrow: :-? :?: :!: