The spirit of China BaiJiu
Baijiu is at the very core of the most noble and ancient Chinese craftsmanship. Produced by fermenting and distilling sorghum – a grain widely grown across China – the spirit has been made using age-old rituals for over two thousand years. The preferred drink of both Emperors and the people, it is an essential tipple at any party and a gift encapsulating the most noble intentions. It epitomises quintessential Chinese expertise and community spirit.
Appearance: A remarkably brilliant hue and beautiful legs reveal fat, silky and elegant texture.
Nose: On first pour: Powerful notes of freshly milled grain and jasmine; 2nd nose: Astonishing accents of green olives, fresh mustard and warm rice; 3rd nose: Black pepper and pink peppercorn become clearer without obscuring the initial tones. Rare balance of subtlety with rich aromas communicating with one another.
Palate: Structure: smooth, fat and well crafted.
Aromas: A very harmonious, soft aromatic spectrum exuding notes of rice pudding, black pepper, pink peppercorn and “pot pourri”.
Balance: Very silky on the palate with precise aromatic quality.
After-taste: Focused, precise and consistent. Aromas unfurl and complement one another subtly.
Taste persistency: Remarkable length on the palate. This is one of NUWA’s most surprising qualities: its persistent freshness and aromatic harmony.
Visuels à insérer : la plante de sorgho, des photos du processus d’élaboration
The fiery Chinese grain liquor called baijiu has been distilled and quaffed in the homeland pretty much the same way for a millennium
Varieties of baijiu, are made from sorghum, rice, wheat or corn, and can contain as much as 53 percent alcohol by volume.
There are three main categories of baijiu, grouped by aroma:
1. “Strong flavour Baijiu”, embracing the Luzhou Lao Jiao and Wu Liang Ye styles produced in the centre of China,
2. “Mild Flavour Baijiu”, known as Fen Jiu, produced in the North Eastern part of the country. NUWA, produced by Red Star using the Erguotou process meaning removal of the heads and tails during distillation, comes under this category.
3. Lastly, the “Sauce-aromas” or Jian flavour Baijius, produced in Southern China, better known as the Maotai style, which boasts an appellation.
Preparation of ingredients:
Sorghum is typically the main ingredient in baijiu although other cereals and plants can be used such as wheat, glutinous rice, peas etc.
The ingredients are soaked in water. Sometimes they are steamed, sometimes they are mashed.
Preparation of the “qu”:
The “Qu” (pronounced “choo”) is a very distinctive Chinese invention. It is a mixture of mashed grains, sometimes containing Chinese medicinal herbs, mixed with water. The paste is moulded into bricks or balls which are then stored in warm rooms for a month. During the process, the “Qu” are contaminated by yeast, fungi and bacteria occurring in the atmosphere. The “Qu” acts an inoculation medium for the grain to ferment.
But why do this? Because it is essential for the saccharification and fermentation process.
The harvested grain contains little sugar. However it does contain starch and long chains of simple sugars which have to be saccharified (cut) to release fermentable sugars, the only components which yeast can turn into alcohol during fermentation.
In our distilleries and breweries, saccharification is the result of the malting process (germination) of the grain during which enzymes are produced and/or released to cut the chains of starch.
In the baijiu production process, saccharification occurs by adding powdered “qu” and water to the ingredients. The fungi and bacteria will release the sugar. There is no germination or malting process.
The saccharification and fermentation process are merged.
During fermentation, the released sugars are transformed into alcohol by the yeast occurring in the powdered “qu”.
The way in which this fermentation process is accomplished is really what separates one baijiu from another.
The damp grain preparations can be saccharified/fermented in large subterranean mud or stone pits, others in ceramic jars or pottery, that may (NUWA is) or may not be buried underground. Sometimes fermentation is done in several stages, with some fresh grain and powdered “ being added each time. Ultimately, you end up with a mash or pureed alcoholic grains.
Distillation is carried out in traditional Chinese stills. As it uses a solid alcoholic substance rather than a liquid one, steam has to be passed through the alcoholic mash to vaporise and draw out the alcohol. The alcohol exits the still at 70°.
But for most baijius, the story doesn’t end here. Many producers then mix the distillate with the spent grain and fresh ingredients to restart the fermentation and distillation process. This can be repeated several times.
Most producers then store their baijiu in large earthenware urns in an underground cellar or dark room for at least a year or two, sometimes longer. The flavour matures and balances.
Product name: Red Star Er Guo Tou
Net content: 500 ml
Alc: 42% vol.
Ingredients: water, sorghum, barley, peas
Origin: Beijing, China
Profile: Velvety, mouth-caressing and highly scented palate.
In 1680, an extremely prosperous period allowed business to expand and the three Yuan Sheng Hao brothers invented the ‘Erguotou’ distillation technique, which means that the head and tail are removed, thus producing a distillate with lighter aromas.
In 1949, the 12 distilleries in Beijing were subsumed into a state monopoly and Red Star became its brand name.
In 1965, other distilleries emerged in Beijing and Red Star’s Erguotou process was refined. Red Star became the main ‘Erguotou’ distillery and a famous brand product included in China’s list of well-known trademarks, recognized as one of the ‘Top ten most influential brands of the national liquor industry’. The annual production capacity of Red Star is over 100,000 tons.