Dr Joseph Needham, a renowned British expert on the history of Chinese science, once published an article arguing that it was the Chinese who first invented brandy in the world.
Li Shizhen, the great pharmacologist of the Ming Dynasty, wrote in his “Compendium of Materia Medica” that there are two types of wine, namely wine made from grapes and grape shochu. The so-called grape shochu is the earliest brandy. The Compendium of Materia Medica also writes that grape roast wine is made by fermenting grapes, steaming them in a retort and carrying their dew in a vessel. This method began in Gaochang and spread to the Central Plains after the Tang Dynasty broke Gaochang. Gaochang is now Tulufan, indicating that China was using grapes to ferment and distill brandy more than 1,000 years ago, during the Tang Dynasty.
The Chinese have been using retorts to distil liquor and grapes for more than 1,000 years.
Western scientists agree that China was the first country in the world to invent distillers and distilled spirits. This distillation technique was later introduced to the West via the Silk Road. In the 17th century, the French improved on the old distillation technique by making the distillation kettle, or Charentaise-style pot still, which became the special equipment for distilling brandy today. The French then accidentally discovered the miraculous effects of oak barrel storage, completing the process of making brandy and producing the first brandy of perfect quality and worldwide renown.