Waking the Sleeping Grape was screened in Shanghai (pic: handout)

Waking the Sleeping Grape was screened in Shanghai (pic: handout)

A provocative documentary on China’s winemaking ambition was officially premiered in Shanghai to a room full of enthusiasts, educators, winemakers and professionals who waited with bated breath to find the answer to the question posed by the doducmentary: Is China the next wine superpower?

Titled Waking the Sleeping Grape, the film directed by veteran filmmaker and longtime Shanghai resident Sebastian Basco attempts to give context and explain China’s very own grape dream.

Given China’s sheer size and thrist for wine, producers all over the world are in a no-holds-barred competition for Chinese palates, as multinationals pour money into China’s lucrative wine country.

The assumption goes, as Carlo D’Andrea, VP of EU Chamber of Commerce in China, ascertains in the film: “If all the Chinese citizens will drink just one glass of wine in their life, this will change drastically the wine production in the world. This is to make you understand how important this market is.”

What they did not expect to happen so soon as the film proposes was Chinese entrepreneurs managing to build their own wineries capable of producing world-class wines, and Chinese consumers increasingly choosing “Made in China” over “Made in Bordeaux”.

By combining candid and personal face-to-face interviews with some of the world’s leading personalities and authorities in wine, and a fly on the wall approach inside the day to day lives of Chinese winemakers, Waking the Sleeping Grape takes a true outsider’s view from the inside of China.

From the bloody origins of Yunnan’s vineyards born from the massacre of Christian missionaries in 1905, to arguably the world’s most technologically advanced winery in the Ningxia desert, the film tells captivating stories that are as diverse as they are fascinating.

Speaking at the Shanghai premier, the filmmaker admitted that one of the motives for making the film was to dispel misconceptions on Chinese wine.

“I have been living in China for about eight years now, and since I moved here, I have traveled back to Europe and the United States quite frequently. I cannot count the number of occasions where I was surprised at the depth of misunderstanding around the world that still exists about China and Chinese people,” says the filmmaker.

“It has become a mission for me to try and start telling stories that might help dispel some of these misconceptions. To show there are many more similarities between us than differences. Waking the Sleeping Grape represents my first major effort to achieve this, with many more such films planned for the future.”

Intended for international audience, the film interviewed a myriad of experts, winemakers and leading personalities even inclduing NBA star and famous Chinese film director Xu Zheng. But when it comes to Basco, after interviewing over 100 people, visiting several dozens of Chinese wineries and months in production, he has little doubt China is on fast-track to become a wine superpower.

“The West has a long history of underestimating China’s capacity for achievement in various industries. One need look no further than China’s current leading position in the global EV market,” says the film director.

“Although the Chinese wine industry is still growing, the scale and speed of its improvement is extraordinary. I have no doubt whatsoever that in the very near future Chinese wines will be synonymous with the finest wines produced worldwide by both old and new world producers. So yes, I absolutely believe we are witnessing the dawn of the next wine superpower.”

You can watch the trailer here.

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