FYI SOUTH Magazine, May 2004.


Savoring the sweet taste of Taiwan's wines and liqueurs

By Lishea Cheng Translated by John Johnson

     Thanks largely to the relaxation of the state-run Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corporation's grip on local liquor production, Central Taiwan has seen the recent establishment of several wineries and vineyards. Most of the spirits being produced are made from local fruit, and consumers are almost certain to find something that pleases their palates. Below is an introduction to some of the latest options.

     Taiping Winery (04-22705991) Taiping, Taichung County

This winery uses seasonal fruit to produce its own full-bodied liqueurs. The sweet litchi liqueur, named Guifeilianyi, or "Guifei Ripple," and the white, 48-proof litchi wine, both preserve original litchi flavors. There is also a nice longan fruit wine. For a milder, more traditional taste, try the "Cecong Jiu" made from Taiwanese onions or chives. Despite its strong aroma, it has a taste reminiscent of orange soda. Open since February 2004, the Taiping Winery also provides a do-it-yourself service for those who want to make their wine at home.

     Chateau ShuSheng (04-26833298) ShuSheng, Houli, Taichung County
Their "President Memorial Wine" uses local grapes, plus blueberries imported from New Zealand, producing a slightly acidic taste. ShuSheng Superior Wine has a full-bodied bouquet with a taste of chocolate and the sweetness of pine, which goes well with stronger-flavor dishes. The Golden Muscat White Wine is an elegant wine with a sweet-and-sour taste. The excellent and reasonably priced "Enjoy" is one of the more popular brands. For a something sweeter, try the ice wines with a sweet, fruity grape flavor.

     Che Cheng Chateau(049-2870399) Checheng, Nantou County

This winery uses a Japanese favorite--the Shuili plum--in the fermentation process to produce the 12-proof Tiedao Gongzhu, or "Railroad Princess" liquor, best served chilled. There is also the popular, 19-proof CheCheng Laozhanzhang, or "CheCheng Station Manager," using ripe plums as the main ingredient and is completed with crystal sugar and storage at low temperatures. The 29-proof Liechezhang, "The Engineer," is distilled three times, resulting in a clear plum liqueur fermented at low temperatures.

     Xinyi Plum Winery (049-2791949) Xinyi, Nantou County

Due to its location next to the New Central Cross Island Highway and its considerable size, this establishment is hard to miss. It produces six types of distinct spirits. One, the 2002 Kuangye, or "Wilderness" liqueur, is 40-proof and combines natural spring water from the foot of Yushan with specially selected plums for the fermentation process.

     Yiqing Ranch and Winery (049-2821900) Yiqing, Nantou County

This place allows visitors to make their own wine from green plums and Jufeng grapes and store it over a long period. Yuemei, or "Beauty of the Moon" liqueur, is 11-proof and requires two year's fermentation before being bottled and stored in a wine cellar. Huolie "Fire" plum liqueur, is 45-proof and stored for one year, then distilled at a high temperature.

     Puli Agriculture Village Chateau (049-2423828)Puli, Nantou County

Situated next to scenic Carp Pond, the Puli Village Chateau specializes in wine made from blossoming or flowering trees. Their first product was the 16-proof Zhenqing Meigui, "Roses of True Love." Sugar cane is used as the main ingredient and steeped in specially selected rose petals, while the low-temperature storage brings out a nicely-colored rose wine with a rose fragrance and pleasant taste. Other wines are planned.

     Dongshi Tangerine Grove Winery (04-25771028)Dongshi, Taichung County

This tall, two-story, circular building resembles an orange seed. Opened a few months ago, the winery uses fresh tangerines in the fermentation process. The 12-proof Juxiang Xianzi, "Fairies of Tangerine Village," is a delightful, refreshing drink. The Juxiang Ganquan, or "Juxiang Sweet Springs," has a slight bitter, acidic taste reminiscent of one's longing for home and suitable as an aperitif. The winery's interesting circular tower gives good views of the entire winemaking process.

     All of these wine and liqueur producers have a lot to offer and, if you visit them, you'll certainly be impressed by the unique experience of viewing the fermentation process. Whether this interests you or not, a visit to the vineyards offers an excellent opportunity to sample locally produced spirits. Enjoy!