The history of Fangxian rice wine began in 827 B.C. during the Zhou dynasty. Back then, rice wine was produced in the imperial cellars and was used as a gift for the generals in charge of guarding China’s borders.
Its fame flourished a while later, in the Tang dynasty (684 B.C.), when the emperor moved the 720 slaves responsible for the production of rice wine to Fangxian. From that moment on, this liquor started spreading among the locals.
Its fermentation requires the best quality ingredients.
The quality of the yeast (koji) is very important, which is made from non-husked rice flour and herbaceous plants, belonging to the Polygonaceae family. The herbs are mixed and ground then blended with the yeast, which creates a dough like substance. Afterward, this dough is used to form small spheres (about 10 g each) which are then rolled in dehydrated yeast. Finally, they are laid out onto a special red grass called cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica) and carefully covered with straw. After 24 hours they’re put into baskets and left in a cool and dry place for a week, shaking them from time to time so they don’t stick.
The fermentation of wine starts in September when glutinous rice (a local strain with a 50-year local history) is soaked for 30-60 minutes. Next, the rice is drained, dried and steamed on a very thick mesh.
It is left to dry until it reaches 5-10°, then the yeast is added (one part of yeast for 1.8 kg of rice). It is necessary to stir the mixture evenly and add water until it reaches the edge of the container, the container has a capacity of around 15 kg.
The temperature is then brought to 25°C and kept steady by sealing the container with a bed sheet or cover. 24-30 hours later, the wine is ready. Fermentation can be continued for 50-70 more days in porcelain vases sealed with cloth and string, so that air cannot enter the container.
Fangxian rice wine is golden yellow and has a sweet taste. It is consumed during every season and on every celebration, not only for its unique taste and aroma but also for its invigorating qualities.
Nowadays, Fangxian traditional rice wine is still produced in Sancha village. The current annual production consists of roughly 600 kg, but it is slowly decreasing due to the numerous industrial imitations on the market, which led to consumer skepticism and left small producers lacking confidence. Those who are still holding on to the tradition are trying to get new consumers to try this product, as well as devoting themselves to passing this ancient tradition on to the new generations.