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Classification of Grain-based Huangjiu and Choujiu

Classification of Grain-based Huangjiu and Choujiu

There is a formal classification for all Chinese liquors, and various kinds of alcohols fall into the following categories: dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and extra-sweet. Visitors can choose one type of liquor according to individual tastes.



Dry (Gan, 乾, 干): with sugar content no greater than 1%. This type of yellow wine has the lowest fermentation temperature. An example of this kind is Yuanhongjiu (元红酒, literally "Champion's Red Wine"), a specialty of Shaoxing, so-named because traditionally the wine jars are painted red.

Semi-dry (Ban Gan, 半乾, 半干): with sugar content between 1% and 3%. This type of huangjiu can be stored for a long period of time and encompasses most of the varieties of huangjiu that are exported from China. An example of this variety is Jiafanjiu (加饭酒, literally "Added Rice Wine"), a variation on the Yuanhongjiu that involves adding more rice in fermentation. The jiafanjiu is traditionally used for ceremonies, such as child birth, engagement, and funerals.

Semi-sweet (Ban Tian, 半甜): with sugar content between 3% and 10%. The longer the semi-sweet huangjiu is stored, the darker its color becomes. This variety of huangjiu cannot be stored for long periods of time. An example of this kind is Shanniangjiu (善酿酒, literally "Best Made Wine"), a specialty of Shaoxing which partly uses vintage Yuanhongjiu instead of water.

Sweet (Tian, 甜): with sugar content between 10% and 20%. An example of this variety is Feng Gang Jiu (封缸酒, literally "Conceal Earth Jar Wine"). In comparison to previous types of huangjiu, sweet huangjiu can be manufactured all year round when using traditional production methods.

Extra-sweet (Nong Tian, 浓甜): with sugar content equal or greater than 20%. An example of this variety is Xiang Xue Jiu (香雪酒, literally "Fragrant Snow Wine").

Xiang Xue Jiu


Small starter (小麴, 小曲; pinyin: xiǎo qū): Wines inoculated using rice cultured with Rhizopus, yeast, and other microorganisms. The mixture generates less heat, so they are mostly used in the tropical South of China.

Large starter (酒麴, 酒曲; pinyin: jiǔ qū): Wines inoculated using rice cultured with Aspergillus oryzae and yeast. Almost all popular alcoholic drinks in China belong to this type.

Red starter (紅麴, 红曲; pinyin: hóng qū): Wines that are flavoured and coloured with Monascus purpureus or other red rice molds of the Monascus genus.

Production methods

Hot rice (燙飯; pinyin: tàng fàn): The steamed rice used to make the wine is cooled in the open air until it is still relatively warm before processing.

Cool rice (凉飯; pinyin: liáng fàn): The steamed rice used to make the wine is quenched with cold water before further processing. The unfiltered mash for this wine is sometimes eaten as a dessert or used as an inoculant for other Chinese wines.

Feeding rice (加飯 or 餵飯; pinyin: jiā fàn or wèi fàn): Steamed rice is continuously fed into a fermenting mixture (up to three times), which produces a sweeter wine.

Fortified: Distilled Chinese wines are added to the fermenting mash, which increases the concentration of alcohol in the mash and halts the fermentation process. This leaves a significant quantity of unfermented sugars, thus producing an especially sweet tasting wine.

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