Red wine and Coke — notes from China and Spain

Jim Boyce, a Canadian residing in Beijing and the author of the Grape Wall of China blog, tweeted this the other day:

exhausted after 3 bottles of Lafite but that’s a typical Beijing night (note: 7-UP > Sprite as a mixer) #ihaveagreatwalltosellyou

Given that Chinese drinkers are reputed for mixing soda with even expensive wines, I asked him if he was bring serious. He replied:

I’ve been in Beijing 6 years, had lots of wine, never seen anyone mix it w Sprite/Coke. But journos love wine/sprite as a lead…

If you’ve been in China recently, what’s your experience in witnessing the first growth with Coke phenomenon? Is this an overblown story that needs to be put to bed?

Incidentally, it’s not Lafite, but my youngest brother wrote me that when he was in Spain earlier this year, he saw some of them there young folks mixing Rioja and Coke, a concoction known as a Calimocho (aka kalimotxo).

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26 Responses to “Red wine and Coke — notes from China and Spain”

  1. Never seen fine wine mixed with soda. But, the usual practice is to down it in one go. Ch’ng Poh Tiong has an interesting take on it in December issue of Decanter. He says Chinese drinkers have stopped adding Coke to red wine, but the English still put milk and sugar into their tea…

  2. A young fruity Rioja with “Casera” (7Up/Sprite) is a regular during the summer known as tinto de verano, summer red. Mix it with fruits and you’ve got a regular sangria, mix it with something stronger (brandy, cointreau…) and you’ve got a sangria for americans. Mixing it with a Coke is the next level for young people, bubbles plus sugar plus a young fruity rioja.

    Talking about wine with coke, how do you think the first italian new yorkers got to drink those almost impossible red italian wines in the beggining of the 1900s? You can find the reference in Mark Pendergrast’s book: For God, Country and Coca Cola. In 1904 the italians discovered that by mixing Coca Cola with their chianti they could drink the whole night, they would get drunk later and they would keep awake longer…

  3. By the way, it always has to be young wine, barrels and coke don’t get along well

  4. I had a red wine/coke mixed drink in Haro a few months ago, where I was informed it was called a Rioja Libre (but your name is correct outside of Rioja). It was terrible, although I attribute most of that to the low-end wine that was used. Saw people ordering it all over the place, though – Bilbao, San Sebastian, Madrid.

  5. I witnessed red wine and coke being ordered and consumed this past March during a wine-focused tour of Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. And at one of Mendoza’s best restaurants–Francis Mallman’s 1884. It definitely shocked us!

  6. Calimocho was a staple for the students in Salamanca when I was there in the early 2000’s. I have to admit that I drank it all the way across Spain, including the Pais Vasco, Galicia, Barca, Madrid, and as far south as Granada. I think that it is a fantastic beverage for a certain setting, and actually hosted several Calimocho parties at Bishop’s University upon my return. Pretty brutal hangover if I remember correctly. Poor man’s Sangria is an apt description. All that said, I hate to think that good wines would ever be used… Even in China.

  7. I have seen people order 50-50 wine and cola at casino poker tables in Vegas. I’ve tried it and it definitely makes the awful plonk they serve free in casinos more palatable. (Or conversely, it makes the cola more palatable 😉

  8. I have no experience in what the Chinese do with their wine however, I can attest to Germany. After living there for four years I have had many nights drinking Wine and Coke mixed, what they call “Schopen Cola”. Forgive my spelling if this is incorrect however, it is a slang term in German. The best wines to mix with Coke in my opinion are wines with a high tannin profile. These tend to be more expensive wines, although I do not like mixing a nice wine with coke, when you get the craving sometimes you just need to. I have mixed a 30 dollar bottle of wine into coke but I don’t think I would go much farther than that.

  9. Oh, yes and the hangovers are brutal.

  10. Red wine mixed with Coke is popular in Chile as well. They call it “jote”.

  11. In Argentina, more especifically in Córdoba, people mix white wine with sprite or 7UP, it´s called “Champagne Cordobés” (Champagne from Córdoba). I remember doing this quite often, not with a superior wine, but with middle to low.
    Also in Argentina is very common, or used to be, that when kids are not old enough to drink 17 or 18, but still want to try wine, you mix red wine with soda water. My mom always drinks wine with soda water because she gets tipsy really fast.

  12. I discovered the Kalimotxo about two years ago and love it. I tend to use box wine when mixing it though…

  13. But, the usual practice is to down it in one go.

  14. I live in a smaller city in China…when you order a bottle of wine here (only terrible Chinese wine available) it usually comes to the table with a can of Sprite, and a pitcher of ice if you’re lucky.
    As I mentioned, there isn’t really any good wine available around here. I’ve seen people mix Chinese wine with sprite in Shanghai and Beijing, but I’ve never seen this done with foreign wine.
    Any foreign wine is considered a luxury item…I saw a bottle of Liebfraumilch for sale last week in Xian for around 150RMB (about $20 USD) So I’d say it’s probably very unlikely that people are mixing anything good with soda these days.

  15. I have heard this is an italian tradition as well. I have tried it and the coke with red wine does not taste that bad. However, I still prefer my wine on its own.

  16. Hey there! This is a great read! I have never mixed wine with anything – I had no idea anything should/could be mixed (with the exception of Sangria) with wine. I’ve noticed you haven’t written anything about icewine. I recently tried it out and fell in love with it! So much so, that I even wrote a blog on it

    What do you feel about ice wine? Would you pass it up as another dessert wine?

  17. Interesting topic.

    Though I’ve never been to China, I have a couple of Chinese friends who do mix red wine and coke. And sometimes red wine and sprite. They say it’s an acquired taste.

  18. yes, I have seen many , especially older generation, Greeks and Italians mix sprite with table wine. and many of my southern European friends grew up having wine/sprite mix as their first sanctioned taste of wine at the table

  19. It’s true Italians do love to mix wine with 7up, but from where I was sitting, the reasoning is because most of the wine older generations of Italians would drink was homemade. and homemade wine was almost always very strong and not very good, so if you wanted to drink your wine and not waste it (we don’t like to waste very much) adding a little 7up to soften it was a god send. And yes its also true that this was the gateway for us to get into the wine tradition. I rememeber sipping on wine and 7up when I was a young boy and my grandfather pouring in a few extra drops when no one was looking to enhance my experience. Great times!

  20. I grew up in Africa and used to spend time n Mocambique. Cheap red wine was commonly mixed with coke, probably for two reasons. The wine was pretty average and the climate was hot so not well suited to red wine. The coke was chilled and the result, called “katemba” was really quite refreshing after a long day in the hot sun.

  21. This was and still is utter nonsense. Like Jim I have never ever seen any signs of mixing of soft drinks with quality wine. However back in the 90’s the primary market for wine, believe it or night, was young office workers who were celebrating abirthday or other communal event. They liked to add ice and lemonade to cheap wines like Dynasty and Great Wall to create that auspicious red colour and to make wine palatable.

  22. I haven’t been to China but you can find this cola and wine mix in south western Germany. There this drink exists here since about two decades and its called “korea”.

  23. […] though: 1) such mixology can make some of the crappier vino more palatable and 2) such a combo is imbibed about the world. If you haven’t tried it, and would like to, Flamme in Sanlitun Village, has a superb deal on […]

  24. […] though: 1) such mixology can make some of the crappier vino more palatable and 2) such a combo is imbibed about the world. If you haven’t tried it, and would like to, Flamme in Sanlitun Village, has a superb deal on […]

  25. I’ve been drinking red wine & coke my entire life.The cheaper red wine mix with cola in my opinion is much nicer than an expensive wine.In my country – Swaziland in Africa we call it a Katemba which is famous right thruogh southern africa , Mozambique , Angola & even the northern regions.We are very fortunate to have award winning wines from South Africa aswell as many other international wines and therefore our pallates are quite well tuned to what is good or bad wine , but certainly every household holds THE KATEMBA very dear to their hearts.It’s the kind of drink that brings people of all walks of life togeather in an amazingly happy way.Viva la vida , Viva la Katemba!!!!

  26. Red wine was mixed with coke far before China started to drink imported wines…
    As said above, it is famous in Spain as Kalimoxo and South America.
    I also heard stories or retail builders mixing red wine in their 1 liter Coke bottles so they could keep on drinking during work.
    As for the drink, the cheapest red makes the best Kalimoxo. In a longdrink glass of 3dl, fill with icecubes, pour one third of red wine and the rest with Coke. To be drunk outside when it’s really hot.
    And sorry for Jim Boyce but I leave in Beijing since 2007 and drink Kalimoxo here 😉


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