Food & Drink Magazine

Bottoms Up!

By Patinoz

It’s all bad news in China where the country’s national spirit has had a bit of a jolt. I’m talking here about their famous fiery liquor, Maotai, which has undergone a 20 percent price hike thanks to tight supply and rising raw material costs.

Maotai is made in a city of the same name in a remote part of Guizhou province in the southwest. Its core ingredients are mountain water and sorghum. The sorghum is fermented and distilled at the Kweichow Moutai Company Limited. Stepping up production won’t help as the liquor needs a year to ferment and four more to age.

A bottle of Maotai – or Moutai  (the town’s pre-revolutionary name -  now exceeds 1000 yuan since the price went up on January 1. That’s about $AUD151 Many people nationwide have blamed the growing number of official banquets for the increase, as the liquor is most often enjoyed at official dinners.

maotai

I first encountered Maotai at banquets at the Chinese Embassy in Wellington during the 80s. These were splendid affairs where the food was a real eye-opener for those of us whose only prior exposure to Chinese food was cabbage and chicken skin or batter dipped nuggets of pork doused in a fairly violent pinky-red sweet and sour syrup that were staples at Chinese takeaway outlets.

Our hosts were genial and these gatherings were always very cordial. Along the way the Maotai bottles would be produced and the liquor poured into glasses a little larger than sherry glasses. The protocol was to raise your glass, say “bottoms up” and down the lot.

The first taste is something of a surprise. Maotai has been eloquently described as rubbing alcohol, diesel fuel, lighter fluid, rocket fuel, stinky tofu, vodka mixed with soy sauce.

I reckon it has Vegemite undertones. What comes through clearly is the alcohol, which I believe tops out at round 53 per cent. If that first taste doesn’t make you an enemy for life, Maotai kind of grows on you. I used to do the “Oh, silly me” woman thing and sip on it rather than gulp it down in one giant swig, but I acquired a taste for it and wasn’t at all unhappy when we were given a bottle of it one Christmas. An interesting addition to the après dinner liqueur offerings.

A Maotai or two loosened tongue and made for some intriguing exchanges with younger embassy staff – often young married men whose wives and children were still in China. I asked them how many glasses of Maotai they could drink. They were coy about actual numbers but it was apparently quite a few. And I remember them saying they didn’t get a hangover. Must be a genetic thing.

Sometimes it seemed like they’d been storing up questions to ask local Kiwis over dinner. At the time New Zealand’s Prime Minister was the inimitable David Lange. He had a very colourful turns of phrase and analogies that must have got severely lost in translation when transmitted back to China. One night, almost conspiratorially, one of the young men asked us: “Please, can you explain, what is ‘tooth fairy’?” clearly prompted by a reference in a recent Lange speech.

They had a great laugh when the mystery was unravelled.

The inventive  embassy kitchen staff came up with another use for Maotai – in a Sino-Kiwi dessert. They took a champagne coupe and in it upended an individual tub of commercially made strawberry ice cream. When it arrived at the table we were invited to tip a glass of the liquor over the top. Quite an interesting combination. Not one I ever tried at home, however…

Maybe I should have kept our bottle of Maotai. because vintage Maotai has also been in the news. Xinhua reports that 110 bottles of bonded Maotai, sold for a total of 5.22 million yuan ($AUD788,397 at a liquor auction held in Shanghai at the end of last month. That’s an average of more than $AUD7100.

Vintage Maotai

Vintage Maotai at the Shanghai auction

The auctioned items were mostly brewed in the 1970s and 1980s and have been collected by individuals. The costliest item at the auction was a bottle of Five Star Maotai, bottled in 1955, that was listed for 1.26 million yuan ($AUD191,034). However, the price was set too high to attract any bidders, an auction representative said.

Maotai has been considered the country’s top brand and a symbol of status for decades and bonded Maotai is regarded by the country’s booming middle class as the next hot auction items after antiques and art pieces.

Of course, in the face of rising prices an equally hot item is counterfeit Maotai/Moutai and counterfeiters are savouring a surge in business.

Despite a national campaign against fake Moutai, the authorities seem to be losing the battle against counterfeiters, who have perfected the look and taste of the real thing, the New York Times reports. “All across town, stores sell Moutai’s distinctive white bottle, and chemical vendors shamelessly hawk additives that can turn run-of-the-mill homemade spirits into liquid gold.”


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Australopithecus Sediba: Early Human Or Ancient Ape?

    Australopithecus sediba is a South African member of the human family that lived about 1.9 million years ago. And that's about all we can say for sure about... Read more

    The 25 May 2017 by   Reprieve
    BIOLOGY, SCIENCE
  • What to Do About a Lack of Energy on Low Carb?

    What About Lack Energy Carb?

    Is a low-carb diet appropriate for someone who has had gastric-bypass surgery? Can you lose weight on low carb while taking insulin? And what to do about a... Read more

    The 25 May 2017 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • Comic Performer-turned-painter The Iceman Suddenly Outsells Van Gogh.

    Comic Performer-turned-painter Iceman Suddenly Outsells Gogh.

    The Artist formerly known as The Iceman: a brush with fameI have blogged before about the comic performance artist legend that is The Iceman. Read more

    The 25 May 2017 by   Thejohnfleming
    CULTURE, ENTERTAINMENT
  • My Ramadan Baby

    Ramadan Baby

    I remember the day like it was yesterday. The Islamabad sun, hot and bright, burned down on my mom and I as we walked to the hospital with my first-born -... Read more

    The 25 May 2017 by   Marilyngardner5
    RELIGION, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Stories from the Stacks Vol. 2: “Unidentified”

    Stories from Stacks Vol. “Unidentified”

    Contributed by Stacy Young, University of Akron student/CCHP Student Assistant.CCHP: What led you to us?SY: I previously attended the Museums and Archives... Read more

    The 25 May 2017 by   Chp
    HEALTH, HISTORY, PSYCHOLOGY
  • Spectre – Bond’s Navy Suit

    Spectre Bond’s Navy Suit

    Daniel Craig as James Bond in Spectre (2015).VitalsDaniel Craig as James Bond, British government agentMorocco, November 2015Film: Spectre Release Date:... Read more

    The 25 May 2017 by   Nguzan
    ENTERTAINMENT, TV & VIDEO
  • Should You #Golf With Better Players?

    Should #Golf With Better Players?

    Do you immediately feel anxious when approached by a single golfer or couple who wants to join you for the round? Chances are, you may have been with your... Read more

    The 25 May 2017 by   Golfforbeginners
    GOLF, SPORTS

Magazines