Probably many people know that the Chinese make wine nowadays, probably few people know where. I took a train in Beijing on a saturday morning and in a couple of hours I landed on Chang Li, a small city not far from Beidaihe, the seaside summer retreat for senior government officials, where apparently most of the destiny of the country is informally decided. The small city is part of the prefecture of Qinhuangdao, the most important coal shipping port of the country. But Chang Li is not famous for the sea, for politics or for coal, because it is actually called “the chinese Bordeaux”, with 80 % of the land covered by Cabernet Sauvignon.
The railway station plaza is a huge out of scale space with curious fake german (or french?) style buildings in red bricks all around, but too far in the morning haze to understand if they were real or just scenes for a movie. Then by car I get glimpses of another chinese generic city, before sliding across a landscape of factories, houses, greenhouses, farm and factories again, all mixed, all spread through the land. It takes a while before I start to see the vineyards, and I am already at the gate of the construction site of the winery: I look around and I smile thinking about the distance between this place and my Chianti, where Studio Archea built their famous Antinori winery.
The site is protected by mountains on two sides, the winery in the middle doesn't exist yet, a big wound in the valley, but the vineyards are already there, all around, some of them have been just planted. The site is empty and quiet while I walk towards “the gate” which is the only part already advanced in construction. A huge dome appears, later supposed to be covered by the landscape, but now still naked with its muscular structure emerging from the topography, like a dinosaur arching his back against the profile of the mountains. Under the dome a gigantic rough concrete cave defines a dark fluid space that progressively reveals itself between few conical pillars and huge arc-shaped openings framing the countryside scenery in different directions.
The sun beams enter the darkness from the skylights as light blades, filtered trough a waterfall of scaffoldings coming down from the roof. The same scaffoldings which define every edge or profile, just like construction lines in a preparatory drawing. The site is deserted, nobody around and the eco of my steps resounds under the dome. The discovery of the courtyards and the spaces around continues the game of light and shadows, playing with openings of unexpected shapes.
Outside, the nude concrete structure makes the brutal composition vibrate under the light, in contrast with the warm color of the soil, carved as it were brushed by a gigantic comb, waiting for more grapevines to be planted, waiting for the wine to bring glory to the chinese Bordeaux.