Brussels, 29 September 2023
The region of Renhuai, in the province of Guizhou, China, has been selected to host the 26th Spirits Selection, one of the most stringent spirits competitions in the world. It is due to take place on September 2024.
In 2021, the Renhuai region was awarded the title of ‘leading producer region for sauce aroma baijiu’, also known as ‘Maotai flavour baijiu’. Artefacts dating back over 3,000 years provide evidence of the presence of the liquor’s forerunner under the Shang and Zhou dynasties.
Baijiu, the spirits category replete with superlatives
It is difficult to talk about Chinese baijiu without using superlatives. It is the largest spirits category in the world, with 2016 production totalling approximately 13.6 billion litres – a figure whose magnitude is hard to grasp.
Baijiu is made from grain that is fermented and distilled in a solid or semi-solid state using cultures of micro-organisms which develop naturally in a medium rich in sugars and proteins known as ‘qu’ (pronounced ‘chew’). It is a very unique Chinese invention. All baijius are matured in amphorae and blended to obtain balance and complexity. Irrespective of its age, baijiu is therefore always a white spirit.
The Chinese government recognises twelve types of baijiu. The ‘sauce aroma’ style is one of the most popular with Chinese consumers.
The Renhuai region boasts its own geographical indication
The production area for Maotai flavour liquors in Renhuai is located in a naturally blessed part of the valley hewn out by the river Chishui. It boasts a damp subtropical climate conducive to the development of the microbial flora that produces the very unique Maotai aromas. This therefore makes it an authentic terroir-driven spirit. The production process involves several different stages from producing the ‘qu’, the various ‘cooking’ processes and repeated fermentation and distillation phases to maturing and blending the distillates. This ancient production process is listed as national intangible cultural heritage.
The present-day Renhuai region is home to over 1,000 baijiu producers. Household names such as Kweichow Moutai, Guizhou Guotai and Diaoyutai Group spearhead the industry and provide the incentive for other producers to aim for excellence. For 7 years in a row, Kweichow Moutai ranked in pole position among the world’s largest spirits brands with a market value in excess of 100 billion dollars. Over the past few years, Renhuai has invested both manpower and money in ensuring the sustainability of the category. It has defined boundaries and introduced protection for the production area of sauce aroma baijiu, implemented quality standards and certification and management processes, and developed scientific and technological research activities.
“Prior to the pandemic, we had already planned to return to the province of Guizhou”, comments Baudouin Havaux, chairman of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. “Baijiu has always played a very prominent role in Spirits Selection. The competition is recognised for its professionalism in China and is the first international competition to receive as many baijiu entries”.
“The Renhuai region boasts a long-standing history and culture of producing Maotai flavour baijiu”, states Li Ying, vice-secretary of the Renhuai Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China and mayor of the Renhuai Municipal People’s Government. “It boasts unique production technologies, outstanding resources, an industrial centre and prominent baijiu companies and brands. The region also has its own geographical indication. I invite you to come and visit us in Renhuai to see, smell, taste and feel all the magic of Maotai flavour baijiu”.