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The World's Worst Wine

It goes without saying that I never review wines I haven't tasted. I'm making an exception now for Tiger Bone Wine, Chinese rice wine fermented in the skeletons of wild tigers that have been killed and traded illegally.

Tyger, Tyger burning bright,

In the forests of the night…'

Not any more they’re not, thanks to this revolting concoction that passes itself off as wine.

On the nose is a stench of the charnel house accompanied by head-numbing notes of death and decay. This is not one for laying down and keeping, this is one for stopping right here in its blood-soaked tracks. The label ought to give it away: a skull and crossbones would do the job. The vintage? Out of date. The market? Beneath contempt. But I’d rather not think at all about this muck. I’d rather – much, much rather – think of the ‘Tyger’ and wonder, with that great visionary William Blake:

'When the stars threw down their spears

And water’d heaven with their tears:

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?'

Above: The Tyger" by William Blake (1757–1827), 1794


A century ago there were more than 100,000 wild tigers in the world. Now there are only 3,200 across 13 countries. Tiger Bone Wine has been a key factor in the declining population. This traditional Chinese drink is believed to have all sorts of medical properties and curative powers, but there is no medical or scientific proof for any of it. Captive-bred tigers are also used, but wild tigers are believed to produce a 'purer' and therefore more effective product. The older and 'purer' the wine the more valued and expensive it is. You can read more about the manufacture of Tiger Bone Wine in China and the illegal poaching and trade in wild tigers in this EIA report and at

Tyger poem


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