Fine Wine and Caviar—Made in China?

January 1, 2015 7:33 AM

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ON A RARE CLEAR DAY, Grace Vineyard, 310 miles southwest of Beijing, might be mistaken for a winery in Tuscany. The balcony of the Italianate mansion overlooks lush rows of grapevines stretching to the horizon, where low mountains hover in the haze. Picnic tables sit scattered in a garden beneath slender trees that rustle in the dry wind. But take a stroll outside the winery gates, and you instantly step into the heart of provincial China. The unpaved lanes lead to farming villages whose crumbling facades are daubed with old Communist Party slogans and hung with tattered red flags. The motorbikes rattling past are beaten-up relics from Mao’s day; the grape pickers moving through the fields wear traditional broad peasant hats. Beyond them sit the half-forgotten byways of Shanxi province, a region renowned in the Imperial era as a center of trade and banking but more notorious in recent decades for its polluted cities devoted to the coal industry. Only a short drive away lie remnants of China’s ancient glory, such as the enormous Chang Family Manor, once the luxurious abode of tea merchants, its interior lined with exquisitely carved wood.

Grace Vineyard is focused more on China’s future. In the elegant dining room adorned with contemporary artwork, a small army of servers glides around me. While the kitchen prepares a banquet of delectable Shanxi treats, including scissor-cut noodles, sautéed river fish and fried bing pastries, a fas...

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