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

Exclusive – Hit Chinese reality show music director: My life as a wine enthusiast

By Maxime Lu / 陆江

(Published on DecanterChina.COM,  Chinese version of Decanter.)

The mega hit reality TV show ‘I am a Singer 我是歌手’ needs little introduction to the Chinese audience. Ever since its first season in 2013 one of the top producers in Greater China, Kubert Leung, has been the music director for this highly popular show.The musician, who came from Hong Kong, is known to the Chinese audience as a talented, gentle and elegant producer in the world of music (as well as for being a low-key workaholic who never leaves his studio). Few, however, would have imagined that the musician is also a serious wine enthusiast in his personal life.This month Decanter speaks exclusively to the award-winning music producer. Read all about Kubert Leung’s life as a wine lover.


Image credit Kubert Leung

Q: How did you fall in love with wine? Which are your favourite wine regions at the moment?

Kubert Leung: When I was studying in New York many years ago, there was a big wine shop near my house. I would go there to buy some wines. These were my first experience with wines, mainly produced in the US, though I wasn’t really drawn to wine just yet.Fortunately, I had a Chinese friend whose uncle worked for a high-end local restaurant. From time to time he would bring unfinished wines from the diners, and I would get to try them whenever I visited their house. ‘What good wines do you have this time?’ was always my first line at the door. These wines gave me access to many of the most famous and interesting wine regions and producers outside the US.When I went back to Hong Kong in 1997, I grew a habit of drinking whiskeys, as they were easier to store, and I could take my time to finish them. At that time, we didn’t have many wines to choose from, until Hong Kong abolished its tariffs on wine.From five years ago, I started to visit Mainland China frequently and now I’m based in Beijing. Here I met a group of enthusiasts who share my passion for wine, and my interest in wine grew stronger.What I drink the most at the moment are wines from Burgundy and Italy. I’m fascinated by the finesse and elegance of Burgundy, as well as the versatile characters of Italian wines.


Image credit Kubert Leung


Q: Who is in your ‘wine circle’? Tell us a little bit about your wine gatherings in Beijing.

Kubert Leung: My wine friends come from various professions; some are from the music and movie industries, or in finance and media, while others are wine merchants and wine critics. It’s a fun gang of interesting personalities, though we are from very different backgrounds.Our ‘headquarters’ is always Beijing. We try to meet once or twice a month, even when we’re busy with our day jobs. We would pick a theme every time, and each would bring a bottle to share and talk about with others.We even spend festivals and celebrations together—the year before last a few of us met up for Valentine’s day. I brought a bottle of Clos de Vougeot Grand Crus, while my friends brought wines including limited edition Champagne and icewine from Canada. We had lots of fun (though not romantically) by sharing good food, wines and interesting topics.


Q: As an artist who loves wine a lot, how would you balance work and drinking?

Kubert Leung: I would drink a little bit to get into a more creative state. But drinking for fun is a different matter, and I’d rather keep them separate—honestly, drinking too much will bring nothing but a negative influence to work.We would only drink abundantly to celebrate after the end of a show. My team came from around the world, and the Australians and Canadians would bring wines from their home countries to share with everyone. When I travel to Changsha for a show I would bring my own wine or sometimes, whiskey.



Image credit Kubert Leung

Q: Has your love in wine brought any changes to your life?

Kubert Leung: I have learnt to enjoy life more and discover the small and beautiful things in life—this is an attitude associated with the wine culture.I also try to visit more wine-producing regions when I travel. A while ago I was invited to Sweden as a commentator for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. I decided to drive all the way to Rome and Florence and visited a few wineries.On my way I was the most impressed by an almost mythical Vin Santo from a famous winery in Tuscany. The wine was so rich and sweet; I heard that it was matured for 10 years, during which 2/3 of the wine was lost—imagine how precious and delicious it was. They (the winery) would use the fat brandy glasses to swirl the wines around, releasing the luscious aromas of the wine. That was a very interesting experience.I also loved visiting the ancient castles of these wineries—you would hardly meet any tourists there. These old chateaux at nights are so mysterious and somewhat spooky—maybe I’ve watched too many horror movies.


Q: For leisure, which wine region would you visit next?

Kubert Leung: I would love to visit Burgundy, a region I have admired for so long. I am in fact looking up information about chateaux visits in Burgundy right now.I would go to the regions where my favourite wines were produced, to feel the local culture and environment for myself. The experience of visiting chateaux and communicating with winemakers always fascinates me. But I would prefer a spontaneous holiday— I’d choose not to plan every detail before I set off for a trip.


Q: In the Chinese music circle, what beverages are trending right now?

Kubert Leung: When I first came to work in the Mainland, Chinese Baijiu and expensive top cru classes from France, such as Lafite and Petrus, were the most popular.Whiskeys were the next to become popular, especially single malt whiskies. These can be very characterful and they satisfy different preferences, but they’re increasingly expensive nowadays—especially those Japanese whiskeys, which are the most fashionable right now.Although in the music circle people mainly drink whiskeys at the moment, there are a few wine lovers as well. Like me, they found their favourites when exploring wines from various regions and styles — eventually falling in love with wine.


Q: Finally, what is your wine dream?

Kubert Leung: My dream is to try more good wines, and visit as many wine regions around the world as possible with my fellow wine enthusiasts.


Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦


Maxime Lu / 陆江

-The founder and Chief wine editor of WineOnline.CN since 2005
-The founder and Chief wine educator of  WineSchool.CN since 2006
-The founder and main contributor for WineBlogChina.COM since 2011
-Wine Judge for international wine competitions: Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2015(Hongkong) , Wines of Portugal Challenge 2014(Lisbon) , Radici del Sud 2013 ( Puglia ) ,and some domestic wine competitions.
-A contributor for Decanter China(Chinese version of,Prowine China(Prowein branch) and for main stream media on fashion, finance , food and wine.
-The consultant of  Wine Collection.
-The consultant of wine companies.

Decanter Asia Wine Awards judge: Jiang Lu (Maxime LU) – Decanter亚洲葡萄酒大赛评委: 陆江

Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) judge: Jiang Lu (Maxime Lu)

Decanter亚洲葡萄酒大赛评委: 陆江


Jiang Lu, founder and chief wine advisor of based in Beijing, is a judge in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA).

DAWA judge: Jiang Lu

DAWA judge: Jiang Lu (Maxime)

Jiang Lu (Maxime Lu) is the founder and chief wine editor of and has been running a wine club based in Beijing since 2005.  He is also the founder and chief wine educator of since 2006, and the founder and core contributor for since 2011. Jiang Lu is a columnist for ProWine China nad 1756Chile in China.

A member of several blind tasting panels for publications including RVF China, Food & Wine (China), Wine in China, and a regular wine judge for international and domestic wine competitions, Jiang also acts as a consultant for various companies.

Jiang has been visiting the wine regions of USA, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Portugal for over 15 years.

Jiang Lu has been a Decanter Asia Wine Awards judge since 2015.




雅拉谷Yarra Valley – 国王谷King Valley – Rutherglen

图文:陆江(Maxime LU)

  5月27日疯狂的一天开始了,一早走访雅拉谷名庄De Bortoli(国内Torres代理),虽然在国内以甜酒著称,其实其它作品里也不乏佳品,尤其我个人喜欢这家酒庄在Heathcote产区的PHI GSM, 酒体和骨架有上佳的集成度和平衡。





这次行程安排相当紧,结果当天就上演了【奔跑吧,兄弟】-澳洲版的戏码,我和众多媒体兄弟姐妹们,上午参观完两家后,又去黑皮诺和夏多内不错的Innocent bystander(酿酒师在西澳牛庄Leeuwin工作过几年)参观品鉴。同时在这家酒庄的餐厅买了极简午餐:两个法棍三明治,我们就在车上啃着练牙的三明治,狂奔3个多小时前往墨尔本东北方向的最意大利的子产区King valley。雅拉谷的秋日街景只能在路口等车时,偷闲欣赏,电线杆子上依稀能看出雅拉谷激情的一面……


到达意大利血统的Pizzini酒庄,已是下午5点,我居然吃到了上好的应季柿子,也算是紧迫行程中的一丝慰藉。我被安排去做了我人生中的第一个苹果排,似乎还挺成功,苹果派装盘有点像烤乳猪块,于是居然还和大厨探讨了烤乳猪的技巧。说实话,这次行程的内容安排得不错,就是时间安排太过紧凑,可惜了这些好内容。烤完苹果派后,快速品完8款酒,还没来得及给酒瓶拍照,就被要求紧急行军半小时到Milawa的Linden Warrah酒店入住。


继续【奔跑吧,兄弟】晚间版,还有几家酒庄等待我们品鉴交流。离得近,我们从酒店步行去了品鉴地布朗兄弟(Brown Brother)酒庄,现场有三家酒庄:刚才的Pizzini酒庄,布朗兄弟酒庄(国内ASC代理,国内市场比较熟悉的品牌)和1999年种下澳洲第一株Prosecco的Dalz Otto,和酒庄代表们品鉴交流。现场还介绍了产区的相关知识,作为最意大利的维州产区,King Valley无论葡萄品种还是酒种都深受意大利影响。晚宴吃撑,估计是味如嚼蜡的午餐带来的食欲反弹。




从King Valley到Rutherglen大约需要1个多小时,Rutherglen是我喜欢的维州子产区,其实……因为加强酒是我个人的偏好。

上午Stanton & killeen wines有着八十年代和九十年代种植的来自于葡萄牙的葡萄藤,加强酒比较出彩。第二家是名厂Campbells,【学习帖:下面第二张图是标准的solera系统】,除加强酒实力强劲外,其实酒庄的白品种如雷司令和Roussanne,红品种如西拉、Durif(小西拉)等非加强酒也都有出挑的产品。


  Stanton & killeen wines



  中午在Pfeiffer酒庄,这家的雪莉style的酒,雷司令,Muscat加强酒等实力都不错。酒庄还拥有一片水域和桥梁,不少大黑牛,超赞度假地 。午餐吃了小袋鼠肉(如图),只是冷餐让我和数位小伙伴误会,没吃多少,在回墨尔本的3个多小时中饥肠辘辘,幸亏小黑带了能量棒。【冷餐……不要误会成头盘……后面没有主菜!!!】


最后一家Rutherglen的酒庄All Saints,历史悠久,还有当年酒庄建设时中国劳工的宿舍遗迹。我们走访时酒庄正好是最美季,让我费了不少相机存储空间。可以列入来澳洲自驾行的访问点。品鉴酒庄的酒,加强酒实力不弱,非加强的酒中西拉表现突出,白的Marsanne表现也不错。


我们的维州葡萄酒产区之行终于收官,晚上回到墨尔本,在Queen Victoria Market有维州政府安排的告别聚会,有音乐,有冷餐,还有来自不同地方的人们。我提早和几个小伙伴撤退了,逛逛超市,在墨尔本的大街溜达,再搭了段免费的市区内的珰珰车。美丽的夜景,老火车站,雅拉河,维州州立美术馆,再见了墨尔本。





陆江(Maxime LU)

– 国际国内葡萄酒大赛专家评委,独立酒评人,美食美酒旅游类撰稿人,葡萄酒行业咨询顾问,资深葡萄酒和烈酒收藏顾问,万欧兰葡萄酒教育首席讲师


王智慧(Serien WANG)

– 资深葡萄酒编辑、撰稿人和专业译者,《葡萄酒在线-WINEONLINE.CN》葡萄酒专题总监,万欧兰葡萄酒教育葡萄酒讲师