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China’s drinking habits no longer about ‘ganbei’

China’s attitude to alcohol and food pairing is changing, with consumers increasingly spending more time over meals and less time downing their drinks, according to Katnook Estate’s senior winemaker.

Gan-bei! Or maybe not anymore?
Ganbei! Or maybe not anymore?

Speaking to ABC News, Coonawarra winemaker Wayne Stehbens discussed the initial challenges he faced 15 years ago in encouraging the Chinese to enjoy wine with food.

“Their idea of eating food was more a function of their life, rather than a social occasion,” he said. “It was eaten very quickly with hardly any time to enjoy a bottle of wine.”

Referring to China’s drinking custom “ganbei”, which loosely translates as “dry your cup”, Stehbens said: “At various times during the meal, and quite regularly, somebody would stand up and raise a toast or a cheer and you would be expected to drink your glass in its entirety. Now it’s quite acceptable to have a mouthful, whereas once upon a time that was seen as disrespectful.”

Stehbens also commented on the influence that younger people educated abroad have on changing the way China views food and alcohol pairing.

“They’ve already had an exposure to Western wine drinking,” he said. “Their wine and food culture is much closer to ours than their parents, so there’s potential there to expand that culture.”

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