Food and wine pairing in China: Technicalities ruin the fun

By  Maxime LU/ 陆江
7 February 2018

(Published on Decanter China, the Chinese version of Decanter)

Food and wine pairing ‘helps but won’t drastically boost wine sales’ in China, despite the enormous number of wine and dine events being held in the country, said Chinese trade professionals

Distributors: Pairings don’t boost sales

There is no clear sign that the widespread media coverage and many events on food and wine pairing in China have directly helped wine sales, according to several importers and distributors.

‘Most of our customers drink wine for business occasions,’ said Christian Zhang, chief sommelier of Noah’s Yacht Club in Shanghai. ‘They still only have very basic knowledge about wine and pairing. The concept of wine pairing helps, but won’t make a huge difference in sales.’

At retail stores, ‘we are rarely asked about food pairing options by our customers,’ said YANG Zuyan, fine wine and projects manager of Pudao Wines.

‘To properly pair food with wine, you need a certain level of wine knowledge. While media and trade professionals are interested in the concept, their buying power is limited. Real consumers, however, don’t have [the] knowledge to be influenced by the concept,’ said Yang.

‘To make a sale, it’s key for us to demonstrate scenarios in which consumers can picture themselves drinking wine,’ said WANG Xiaoshan, Market Director of Joyvio, a wine importer owned by Legend Holdings, which also owns Lenovo.

‘If we start lecturing them on what wine they should choose if they’re going to eat a certain dish, things get too complicated and they won’t remember anyway,’ Wang said.

‘[Food and wine pairing] is additional information for consumers, and may help them to picture themselves enjoying the wine with food, but that’s about it,’ said Ma Tao, general manager of B2B wine distributer

‘For the general public, fine wine and dining is still considered as something enjoyed only by the white-collar elites, despite the heavy media coverage on the subject. In most cases, people still drink wines for quaffing and “Ganbei (bottoms up)” in China.’

Meanwhile, the concept of food and wine pairing as a branding and communication tool is considered important by producers and regional bodies, which stress that localised and less ‘textbook’ pairings tend to work better in China.

Producers: Non-textbook communication is the key

‘We wouldn’t rely on food and wine pairing events to push sales,’ said WU Xiaoxia, head of marketing in Changyu, the biggest wine producing company in China.

‘Culturally speaking, the majority of Chinese consumers care more about who they drink with and what the occasion is, so they pay less attention to what they drink. Plus, they usually have a variety of dishes laid out on the table at once, so the textbook course-based rules of Western wine pairing won’t work here,’ Wu said.

‘The key is to focus the pairing around Chinese food,’ said CHEN Lizhong, owner of Xinjiang-based boutique winery Tiansai.

‘We used the concept of Chinese food and wine pairing to promote our rosé, dry white and an easy-drinking red wine range, and we saw some growth in sales.’

The experimental and ‘fun’ elements of pairing are ideal to ‘bring Chinese consumers closer to wine’, especially during wine-themed dinners featuring local dishes, said YIN Kai, president of Castel China.

Food and wine pairing is an ‘important method’ for promoting Australian wines in China, agreed Willa Yang, Wine Australia’s head of market for China.

However, instead of teaching consumers about pairing roles, the regional body focuses more on helping Chinese consumers to ‘form the habit’ of having wines with food, Yang added.

‘Technicalities would ruin the fun and enjoyment of wine drinking,’ said Judy Chan, owner of Grace Vineyard.

‘However, when you start to recognise the basic principles of food and wine pairing, you will be better informed when choosing a bottle to buy, and naturally find more enjoyment in the pairing experiments.’

Food and wine: The ideal occasions

High-end restaurants that serve Western or Japanese food, as well as the more ‘westernised’ modern Chinese food restaurants, tend to naturally fit the concept or food and wine pairing, said professionals.

Fine wine and dining experiences are still important for promoting premium wines, said Ma Tao of

‘”Wine by the glass” and special pairing menus are welcomed by our customers,’ said Christian Zhang of Noah’s Yacht Club. ‘Wine region-themed promotions, such as ‘Rioja and restaurant week’, also help us to sell,’ he added.

Major events hosted in hotels, such as weddings, are also opportunities to promote wine via food pairings, said Wang Xiaoshan of Joyvio.

‘The guests tend to pay more attention to the choice of wine and food for the occasion, because they demonstrate the taste of the host.’


(Editing by Chris Mercer)

Translated by Sylvia Wu

采访Terre Nere庄主Marco de Grazia

自从2013年去意大利南部,集中试过一批西西里岛埃特纳(Etna)火山产区的酒,我从那时候对这个活火山产区开始感兴趣。后来在海外酒商、酒屋或是国际拍卖场上遇到高水准的埃特纳(Etna)产区的酒,我都会尽量搜来品鉴。其中Terre Nere酒庄(Tenuta delle Terre Nere)是我在埃特纳(Etna)产区最喜欢的酒庄之一。

2018年1月Terre Nere酒庄的中国大陆合作伙伴桃乐丝中国(Torres China)邀请了庄主Marco de Grazia 来华访问,我有幸给庄主做了场采访。




Marco de Grazia(下面简称Marco)  :我喜欢葡萄酒。50年前我还是个孩子,生活在意大利文化名城佛罗伦萨,这个城市也被葡萄园所包围,谁家里有一片葡萄园或者农场,或者在郊区买片地种葡萄都是很平常的事。我一个好朋友家里有一片葡萄园,我经常过去玩。而随着时间的推移,我对葡萄酒的热情越来越浓厚。我很幸运,时常会有朋友拿着珍稀的酒款和老年份与我们一起分享。主要还是因为在那个时候,每个人都喝的起酒。那时装瓶销售的生产商不多,而瓶装葡萄酒价格定的很便宜,甚至像Sassicaia(西施佳雅)第一个年份在酒类专卖店只卖,相当于今天的1.5欧。我的意思,即使你没那么富有,也能享受得起很多酒。1977年我搬到了Chianti的中心位置,没事就去酒庄里逛逛喝喝聊聊。


Marco:后来去巴黎上学,在那里还认识了Steven Spurrier,学业结束后,我前往加州的伯克利大学求学,依旧是比较文学专业。在那里我又结识了许多好酒之人,其中一位是一名酒商,对意大利葡萄酒很感兴趣,建议我返回意大利做酒商,于是我成了他意大利葡萄酒的供货商,就这样正式走进了葡萄酒行业。2001年我买下了埃特纳Etna火山上的葡萄园,并于2002年开始耕种。

陆江:您刚才提到在巴黎学习期间还认识了Steven Spurrier,那时他应该还是酒商吧?







关于埃特纳(Etna)产区和Nerello Mascalese葡萄品种



陆江:2013年在意大利南部做评委时,西西里产区专家Bill Nesto MW和我说,埃特纳的Nerello Mascalese兼备了黑皮诺和Nebbiolo的特点,会是未来之星

Marco:我必须强调一下,不是Nerello Mascalese了不起,而是我们埃特纳(Etna)产区的Nerello Mascalese了不起。别的产区也有试着种植,表现十分庸碌。埃特纳火山区是个非常不同寻常的地方。这些酒,包括白葡萄酒,喝起来并不像南部意大利气候下产出的葡萄酒。如果你喝到我们的桃红,那也是我们的骄傲,我认为它的品质足可以跻身全球前十。有一次晚宴上,我们拿出自己的桃红,大家都很喜欢,餐厅经理喝到后甚至直接就下了订单。




Marco:我们在海拔1000米以上的Etna斜坡上也有葡萄园的,Guardiola。但是根据经验,海拔到这个高度时,气温太低,葡萄不能达到充分的成熟,做不出精品酒,能做出一些易饮的餐酒,顺便解决一下当地贫困居民的就业问题。十年之中大概只有三年能得到让人满意的成熟度,其他年份则都不太稳定。现在有许多生产商,有影响力的大公司盯上了这里,以低价买下了Etna山坡上特别高的位置。因为这些区域已经不在Etna DOC范围之内了,所以他们施加影响力,想把自己所拥有的区域被圈进去DOC里去,然而这是不可能发生的,不然就不会有Chianti和 Chianti Classico的分别了。


Marco:过去Etna的酒没什么知道,只有当地人喝,也喝不了多少。我来这个地方的时候,这里只有四个世代以酿酒为生的生产商。很少瓶装酒,成桶卖,外面的人也没怎么听说过。之后有一批酿酒师注意到了这里,试着在这里做一些高品质的葡萄酒,但是市场反馈并不好。但无论如何,我来到这里,迅速的爱上这个地方,并建立了自己的酒庄。一半美国人一半托斯卡纳人的Andrea Franchetti,还有打破常规的有趣的Frank Cornelissen,我们三个基本是同时来到了这个地方,都是在Etna的北部,各自选择了自己的方式,诠释Etna的风土,努力让Etna为意大利,为整个世界所知。


Marco:算是吧。不同的地方是,我更传统一些,因为只有我的酒是Etna火山区DOC的。他们不做Etna DOC,至于酒标上被标IGT还是什么他们也不介意。Andrea Franchetti率先开辟了单一园这个概念,现在很多人模仿他了,不过他至今仍然以非Etna主流的葡萄品种为主,不做DOC。至于Frank Cornelissen,在我这次出差之前,午餐时他跟我提到,2016年将是他第一个开始做Etna DOC的年份。所以,如我所说,我们选择了不同的道路和方式,但都同样努力做到各自的极致。







陆江:一点你们的Prephylloxera 2008品鉴时给了我一个惊喜2008年份是什么样的年份?

Marco:2008年份很特别,不是我们的常见风格。 2007年,我们在Santo Spirito买下了一片4.5公顷的葡萄园,这片葡萄园的植株稀稀落落,总共加起来的产量不过相当于一般葡萄园0.5公顷的出产。次年,也就是2008年,我们遭遇了一场非常严重的,我将永远不会忘记的雹灾。那一年收成惨淡,14ha 的Calderara园仅做出了4000瓶酒——大约是我们平时一公顷的产量。但是Santo Spirito却有如神助,得到了不错收成,所以2008年是唯一一年Prephylloxera这款酒没有使用Calderara的葡萄,而是用了Santo Spirito的。而且08年之后我们对Santo Spirito园进行了重新管理和栽培。所以08年份是绝版的之作。