Fenzhou was a prefecture corresponding to the modern city of Fenyang in Shanxi province, northern China. Fenzhou millet wine is golden in color and has an alcohol content of 10-13% by volume. It is very fragrant, and its sweetness is balanced by a hint of astringency. Thanks to the presence of medicinal herbs, this wine has several important properties: It invigorates the body, improves mood, relaxes the muscles, and facilitates blood flow.
Producing this wine requires an intimate knowledge of traditional techniques and ingredients. The millet (Panicum miliaceum) comes from a local variety, and the fermentation starter (qu) is based on peas and barley. The best time to make the wine is from October to May. Between June and September, the weather is too hot for a stable fermentation. The production process involves washing and steaming the hulled millet after it has been left to soak. Once the steamed millet has been worked in a vat with special wooden tools, the resulting mass is set on a work surface and kneaded. After the qu and medicinal herbs have been mixed in, the mass is returned to the vat, covered, and allowed to ferment for about 30 days. The liquid that is obtained is filtered before bottling.
In the past, Fenzhou millet wine was drunk during court and religious ceremonies. In the Ming dynasty, wealthy families made the wine before festivities, for their own consumption and to offer to their guests. The traditional recipe that is used today was developed over 140 years ago by Xue Rulan. His son added the blend of medicinal herbs, developed by the doctor and calligrapher Fu Shan, giving rise to “Fu Shan longevity millet wine.” The Xue family’s success as winemakers reached its peak in the 1940s. In the 1970s Xue Rulan’s grandson, Xue Hongjun, handed the family recipe down to Xue Junsheng, who still makes Fenzhou millet wine according to the traditional recipe. The city of Fenyang recognizes this product as part of its cultural heritage.