Sichuan establishes Baijiu College to foster wine-making talent for local industry
Foreign journalists visit Baijiu College in Yibin to cover their stories. Photo: thepaper.cn
 
In this class, students are allowed to drink alcohol. They would occasionally raise their wine glasses for a sip; by their side, there are a couple of cardboard boxes all laden with baijiu, China’s best-selling spirit. Such ‘unscrupulous’ classes are common in Baijiu College in Yibin, southeast China’s Sichuan province, the birthplace of Wuliangye, literally meaning Five Grains Liquid.

The newly established college put into use this August is co-sponsored by the Sichuan Science and Engineering University, municipal government and the Wuliangye Group based locally, reported thepaper.cn, a Chinese news portal. “In Yibing, baijiu is a pillar industry. It just chimes in easily with the local educational resources with the college,” said Luo Huibo, the principal of the college.

The Baijiu College is not the only higher education institution in China specially majoring in baijiu-related studies. Chinese baijiu is a category of at least a dozen Chinese liquors made from grain. In Renhuai, southwest China’s Guizhou province, there is Maotai College, while in central China’s Henan, local governments are known to be pushing for the establishment of local baijiu colleges to give a boost to the Yu wine, a kind of dry white alcohol similar to the better-known Maotai and Wuliangye.

Zhang Youde, principal of the social administration school of the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told thepaper.cn, “Cooperation projects like Baijiu College had sent a message that the government would encourage industrial businesses to work with higher educational institutions.”  
 
   Students in the class are learning wine-tasting, while taking notes of lecturer’s instructions. Photo: thepaper.cn
 
The Chengdu Commercial Daily, a local media, previously videotaped a typical baijiu class in Yibin, in which students could casually sit or stand with a wine glass in hand for sipping every now and then. There are also some tailor-made vessels for drinking baijiu on top of desks.

Zeng Xiangyu (alias), a student with the college, told thepaper.cn they’re tasting instead of drinking alcohol in class. “In order to not affect our sensitivity to taste and smell, we’re required to eat only bland food. Boys can not smoke and girls are not allowed to wear makeup.”

Zeng, majoring in brewing science and engineering, explained they would rinse mouth with clear water after each tasting. “We’re taught to observe, smell and taste the wines to experience their unique styles and grade their quality. The college would not demand students to have drinking capacity for liquor.”

A graduate student surnamed Liu has learned brewing engineering for seven years. She felt determined to further study the culture of Chinese wine. “I was once engaged in a new wine’s R&D project. From primary ideas to the final product, it’s like looking at your own baby grow up,” she said. Liu hopes to help spread China’s baijiu culture, make it more popular.

According to a teacher, the Yixing Baijiu College required all lecturers to have a corporate background and acquire certain credentials and qualifications in the baijiu industry.

More sustainable development of China’s baijiu industry requires more talents. The Sichuan Science and Engineering University is one of the universities in China that has launched baijiu-related majors. Luo Huibo told thepaper.cn talents in the sector could not catch up with the demand now. “The booming industry demands more talents, especially high-caliber ones, with university’s degree or beyond.

It’s previously reported that when the new college was put into use in August, the nearly 20,000 students in related majors from the Sichuan Science and Engineering University would be transferred to the Baijiu College in Yibin. “Besides core subjects like eco-engineering wine making, there are also majors like economic management, computer and law in a bid to meet industrial needs of intelligent production, management and intellectual property protection,” Luo Huibo said.

The local Wuliangye Group is closely involved in the cooperation to build the new college which is officially named as the Eco-engineering & Wuliangye Baijiu College. Thepaper.cn reported that Zhao Dong, the deputy chief engineer of Wuliangye Group, promised this March to donate a scientific research fund of 10 million yuan annually to the new college.  

 


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