Walking through the urban and rural areas of Penglai, a port city in Yantai, East China's Shandong province, giant billboards for wine can be seen everywhere.
Standardized wine grape production bases covering a total area of 8,000 mu (533.4 hectares) are scattered over a land area of more than 1,000 square kilometers.
About 56 wine producers such as COFCO Great Wall are stationed in the city, which is home to more than 30 boutique chateaus including Chateau Lafite Penglai and Chateau Junding.
If you drive along the Yantai-Penglai sightseeing avenue, you can see countless grape vines on both sides. The coastal grape sightseeing belt stretches 18.2 kilometers from east to west and 6 kilometers from north to south.
In 2000, the Penglai municipal government implemented the "Penglai Grape Industry Development Plan", thus the sightseeing belt was officially born.
The plan made a detailed outline of the development direction of wine enterprises in Penglai.
Subsequently, another 300 million yuan ($43.2 million) was invested to introduce varieties and improve the production conditions of wine bases.
Meanwhile, the Penglai Grape and Wine Bureau was established to attract targeted investment in the industry.
Hou Yuguang, deputy general manager of COFCO Great Wall Wine (Yantai) Co, has witnessed the growth of the sightseeing belt over the past 18 years.
"At the beginning, when our factory was built, although Penglai had the geographical advantage of 'one of the world's seven major grape coasts', the wine industry developed somewhat slowly. There were only two wineries in the city, with an annual output of only 4,000 to 5,000 tons, and most of them produced low-end and original sweet wine," Hou recalled.
The establishment of COFCO Great Wall's wine plant is a milestone in the development of the city's wine industry, which provides a driving force for the development of the entire industry.
In 2007, Chateau Junding opened and unveiled a new era in the development of chateaus in the region.
"At the time, such a kind of chateau which integrates wine making, tourism, leisure, investment and business not only became representative of Penglai's high-end wineries, but also it opened a new era of high-end wines in China and innovated a development model and business model for wine enterprises," said Jiang Fuming, director of the Penglai Grape and Wine Bureau.
Chateau Junding has a lake setting. It has rich tourism resources such as the Phoenix Lake, forest, a wetland park, racecourse and fruit garden.
Here, visitors can experience the main process of wine making, brew their own wines and make their own personalized wine labels.
The wine industry has completely changed the face of previously poverty-stricken villages which had a per capita income of less than 600 yuan to become more prosperous.
The 45-year-old "Grape King" Zhang Fangwei who works at the grape base of COFCO Great Wall in Dayuan village has 20 years of experience in grape planting. Recalling the 1990s, he says the lessons learnt from that time are still unforgettable.
"At that time, grape planting increased in its intensity and the planting area reached 30,000 mu. Due to the mistakes made by leading enterprises, a large number of grapes could not be sold. The grapes sold for only one or two cents per kilogram," Zhang said.
"Now it is different. We feel relieved to have a big company like COFCO to organize the base. We can not only collect rents, but also contract a piece of land for a management fee. More importantly, the technology and related expenses of the base are provided by the company, which makes things much easier," he added.
The changes in Keliuer village support his words. Chateau Junding in the village has implemented a new development model of "enterprise + base + farmers", turning the land into the first workshop for brewing wine.
Farmers can not only get the rent of the land, but also become undocumented workers, which has greatly increased their income.
The move has completely changed the poverty of the village. Low adobe houses turned into new buildings, and muddy mountain roads were replaced by flat concrete roads.
Nowadays, after 12 years of growth, Chateau Junding has become a model of research and development of seedlings, grape growing, wine production and sales, grape estate tourism and wine culture promotion.
Increasing farmers' income is only a microcosm of Penglai's "wine+" strategy. In order to avoid the shortcomings of "single industrial format", Penglai has promoted the integration of wine industry and the primary, secondary and tertiary industries.
It has done a sterling job in the development of "wine + tourism", "wine + sports", "wine + culture" and "wine + exhibition", and has made great efforts to improve the innovation and vitality of the wine industry.
At present, the city has more than ten grape and wine tourist attractions which receive more than 2 million visitors annually. Chateau Junding is a national 4A-level scenic spot. Chateau Guobin and Taisheng Town are national 3A-level tourist attractions.
Activities such as grape harvesting festivals and wine culture exhibitions have become a new growth point of the city's tourism industry.
Penglai is also actively promoting itself on the world stage. With "coastal wine" as its brand, Penglai is integrating the resources of the production area, and showcasing the image of Penglai as a high quality wine center to the international market as part of attempts to make Penglai wines go global.
Last year, the comprehensive revenue of the grape and wine industry in Penglai reached 3.2 billion yuan, forming a modern wine industrial cluster with many interconnected companies and institutions involved in the industry.
Chateau Junding in Penglai, a port city in Yantai, East China's Shandong province. [Photo/dzwww.com]
Chateaux in Penglai, Shandong province, boast grape plantations, winemaking, wine stores, guest rooms and sightseeing options. [Photo provided to China Daily]