Let Them Drink Shiraz

This month’s Food and Wine has a fascinating fly-on-the-wall story about a Shanghai dinner party, called “The Toast of China,” that makes a couple of pungent points about wine, wealth, and Westernization.

Olivia Wu, who writes about food for the San Francisco Chronicle, gives Food & Wine readers a detailed account of an upscale gathering in the Jin Jiang Hotel’s 1930s Art Deco Grosvenor House, spooning out such descriptive nuggets as the vintage 1960s tumblers at each place setting and a recipe for tea-scented pumpkin soup. Throughout the piece, Wu reflects on the increasing popularity of wine (fine and otherwise) in China, weaving in details that create a picture of opulence and sophistication that wouldn’t be out of place in Manhattan or Rome.

But the elephant in the room strolls briefly into view during the piece’s “China Wine Index” sidebar.

Price of a bottle of Jacob’s Creek Shiraz in a restaurant in China: $30

Price of a bottle of Jacob’s Creek Shiraz in a restaurant in the U.S.: $30

Typical weekly wage for a schoolteacher in China: $30


It’s a sassy little detail that’s all the more glaring for its fleeting appearance in the middle of a sidebar; Wu (or her editor) has meticulously avoided bothering readers with even a sidelong glance at the sometimes grim context surrounding the gathering hosted by “pixie-haired fashion designer Han Feng.”