Sunday, September 9, 2012

Opening Ceremony of the Ningxia China Wine Festival – Dancing Girls, Conference and Violin Concert

August 30, 2012 - The next morning, after a quick breakfast at the hotel buffet, we took a bus to the opening ceremony of the 1st Helanshan Mountains' East Piedmont Wine Festival. Again our delegation of around eight people was treated like VIPs. We descended from the van to walk on a red carpet and have a flower pinned to our clothes. Multiple photographs snapped many pictures of us as we continued to walk on the red carpet into the large convention center where two lines of more than 100 young women dressed in purple and pink sparkling dresses with grapes sew on stood on each side of the path to greet us. Later they did a “grape” dance to welcome everyone.

The convention center was filled with over a thousand people and we were escorted to the front table where again we found name tents indicating where we should sit. The governor and his officials sat at the head table in the middle, and we sat just to the left of them. Television cameras rolled and more than thirty photographers swarmed us to take pictures. Celebration music played and the grape girls danced. It was an amazing scene – like something out of a movie.

Then welcome speeches were made, a beautiful video of the Ningxia wine region was shown, and a sand painter performed a wonderful demonstration of scenes of Ningxia and the vineyards, which was broadcast on the large screen. I was transfixed watching him swirl the sand with his hands to create so many moving images. The ceremony, which was only about 45 minutes in length, ended with a swirl of dancing girls in yellow chiffon and a beautiful Chinese woman dressed in a floor-length red dress who sang a Chinese ballet.

The Wine Exhibition Center

Afterwards we all walked through the exhibition center where all of the local wineries had large booths offering tastes of their wine. Wine suppliers also had booths and we were able to see barrels, pumps, yeast, additives, labels, capsules, and other types of equipment to produce wine.

The downside was that it was very hot in the exhibition center and my high heels were killing me. I wanted to find a place to sit down and relax, but I was continually assaulted by people wanting to take their picture with me. Finally, Peter, an American lecturer who lives in Beijing, rescued me and asked people to leave me alone. He then explained that it was my blond hair that was attracting all of the attention. Eventually I was able to find a cool place to relax and then was able to enjoy the rest of my time at the exhibition. Though it was too hot to taste red wine, I did try a Chinese sparkling called Sunshine Valley that was enjoyable. It was a blanc de blanc, and though simple, it was quite refreshing.

Lunch and Conference Presentations

Later we had a very fancy lunch in a private room at the hotel. Once again there were multiple courses – around ten – and the food was very good. The highlight was a fresh fish without bones (quite unusual in China) which was light, flakey, and buttery. Afterwards I took a 30-minute power nap and then it was time to head to the conference center for our presentations.

There appeared to be about 300 people at the conference. Simultaneous translation was provided, so we were able to listen to the Chinese speakers. I was most fascinated by a viticulture scientist who said he believed they were close to finding a way to mechanize the burying of the vines in winter. If China finds a way to do this, it will allows them to reduce vineyards costs even more.

Another fascinating statistic was provided by Frederico from the OIV. He said that vineyards in China have increased 87% since 2000. This explains why they are currently sixth in the world in wine production and fifth in consumption. My presentation on global best practices in wine tourism seemed to be well accepted. At the conclusion of each of our presentations, we were asked to meet with local media for TV and magazine interviews.

Beautiful Violin Concert Featuring the Famous Lu Siqing

August 30, 2012 - Due to our very large lunch, dinner was a quick affair at the hotel buffet. Then we were whisked away to the Yinchuan concert hall to be given excellent orchestra seats to watch the very famous Chinese violin player, Lu Siqing. He only played for about 45 minutes, but his music was exquisite. The twenty minutes was classical European music, but the second half was Chinese, including the beloved Chinese ballet of the “Butterfly Lovers.”

A girl sitting next to me told me the story about two star-crossed lovers who killed themselves over a misunderstanding (very similar to Romeo and Juliet), but became butterflies and continued to love one another in that new form. Very romantic and beautiful music. It reminded me of butterflies.

When Lu Siqing finished the concert, he received three standing ovations and therefore performed 3 more songs. When the van finally arrived back at the hotel, I had no trouble falling asleep that night.

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