Suzhou may be known for its canals and gardens, but there are other things that make the city unique. The food there is typically sweet, and for the red pepper munchers of Sichuan or Hunan, that’s just a non starter. That is also a frequent complaint about the cuisine found in Changzhou and Wuxi as well. Also, the city has had a long history of producing alcoholic beverages.
Osmanthus wine would be one of those signature drinks. This flower comes with a naturally sweet flavor that lends itself to baking and being included tea blends. As floral wine, Suzhouqiao is perhaps one of the biggest brands. I don’t know if its a regional thing, but it’s one of the most easily found in Changzhou — where I live. I recently tried to versions of this.
Here we have Suzhouqiao’s 桂花酿 guihuaniang and 桂花酒金桂 guihuajiu jingui. Both bottles retailed at around 38 RMB. Both are also 6% ABV. That’s weak as wine goes, and is closer to actual beer potency. So, how are these?
You can see a slight difference in color between the two. The glass contains wine from the white labeled bottle. The flavor is light, crisp, refreshing, and sweet. I drank that bottle after it chilled in my fridge. The wine from bottle with the colorful label was a little thicker and heavier in taste, but not by much. Also, this one doesn’t show up as much in supermarkets. I ran into it in only one store. Both take soda well and morph into pretty good spritzers. When it comes to food, I was told that this pairs very well with hairy crabs — another Suzhou delicacy. If I had to complain about something, it would be the narrow bottles. You are likely only going to get two glasses out of one of them. All in all, both versions are quite pleasant drinking experiences. Although, I’ll give a nod to the regular guihuaniang as the better of the two, but that edge is slight.