Sanjiang Chongyang Rice Wine

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Sanjiang Chongyang Rice Wine


Sanjiang Chongyang rice wine is named for the Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County (in Guangxi, southern China) and the Chongyang festival. The Kam (or Dong) people who inhabit the Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County grow many varieties of glutinous rice (known as Kam rice) in the centuries-old rice-fish-duck system: The ducks and fish that live in the rice paddies enrich the agro-ecosystem and manage pests, such that no fertilizers or pesticides need to be added. All of the work in the paddy fields, from sowing to harvesting, is done by hand.

The Chongyang festival, which honors elders, takes place on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, and coincides with the rice harvest. If the harvest yields more rice than the community will need for food, the excess is turned into wine, which becomes a celebration of the season’s bounty. It is said that the very best rice wine is made on the day of the Chongyang festival, from fragrant varieties of Kam rice.

To make the wine, hulled rice is steamed in mountain spring water, mixed with a traditional fermentation starter based on medicinal herbs, and sealed in ceramic containers where fermentation occurs. After a year, the wine that has accumulated in the containers is ready to drink. Sometimes the containers are buried (often in the family courtyard) for long-term storage, as keeping them in the ground, where the temperature is cool and stable, helps improve the wine. The wine is yellow, with a sweet, mellow taste. The aging process, the traditional fermentation starter, and the local rice and water all contribute to its distinctive flavor.

The history of Sanjiang Chongyang rice wine goes back at least a thousand years. In recent times, the custom of offering it to guests has become common. The Kam consume it during holidays and on important occasions, with the wish that life be as sweet as the wine. The wine is traditionally paired with local dishes like glutinous rice and fish, or rice wrapped in mustard leaves. Eggs are cooked directly in the wine.

Sanjiang Chongyang rice wine is in danger of disappearing for various reasons: glutinous Kam rice yields are comparatively low, the production process is complex and time consuming, and the recipe for the traditional fermentation starter is not being passed down. Unless young people express an interest in learning the specialized knowledge associated with artisanal food production and with the rice-fish-duck system, both the wine and the local rice varieties will be lost.

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Production area:Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County

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Distilled and fermented beverages

Nominated by:Anfu Qin