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




图文:陆江(Maxime LU)










入住阿德莱德市中心的希尔顿酒店,旁边有我很喜欢的南半球最大的农贸市场之一的中央市场Central Market,可惜已经打烊,第二天又是周日休市,“完美”错过。不过建议来阿德莱德的爱吃喝的朋友,最好能抽时间逛逛,上次我收获不少。酒店边上还有唐人街,众多中餐馆子,满眼看去感觉比三里屯华人还多。





马上开始要走访酒庄,首先简单普及一下:南澳是澳大利亚最重要的葡萄酒产区,整体基本属于凉爽至温暖的地中海型气候,适合出产高质量的葡萄,另外由于受海洋气候、海拔、以及劳富提山脉(Mount Lofty)等地物地貌因素影响,造就了南澳各子产区的复杂不同的风土条件,也造就了当地葡萄酒的风格多样性。这次我们会走访部分子产区:库纳瓦拉(Coonawarra),克莱尔谷(Clare Valley),巴洛萨谷Barossa Valley,伊顿谷(Eden Valley),阿德莱德山区(Adelaide hills)和麦克拉伦谷(McLaren Vale)。














晚宴除了Penfolds的人员外,还有当地酒类协会、酒类相关领域的学者和南澳推介机构的职员,我用不那么流畅的英语,回答了不少关于中国葡萄酒市场的问题。席间还第一次试到Penfolds旗下用相对冷门的Tempranilo品种酿的Cellar Reserve Tempranilo 2014干红:黑色水果,香料,很厚实有力的单宁,饱满,余味长。微醺散席。























第二家也是当地标杆酒庄之一的Wynns酒庄,进中国市场比较早。 当地在Wynns酒庄安排了餐酒搭配的家常午餐,有Coonawarra的数家酒庄的酒,其中有在国内见过的Hollick等。说老实话,我还挺喜欢这样的家常简餐,适口,又能感受本地居民的日常吃食。



文字未完待续: 南澳葡萄酒之旅(中)- 克莱尔谷(Clare Valley)、巴洛萨谷Barossa Valley和伊顿谷(Eden Valley)



文:陆江(Maxime LU)|葡萄酒在线


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1979年西班牙著名酿酒师米盖尔 桃乐丝(Miguel Torres)抵达智利并开始在谷里高山谷酿造葡萄酒。随着他的到来,智利葡萄酒行业开启了新篇章,这经常被认为是现代葡萄酒工业的起始。他首次引进先进的不锈钢温控发酵罐,法国橡木桶,以及一些品种的克隆,推动了智利葡萄酒的种植酿造技术的革命性发展。

随后20世纪80年代以来,新的优秀葡萄酒区逐渐被开发,产区遍及全国:卡萨布兰卡山谷(Casablanca Valley) ,里马利山谷(Limari ),比奥比奥山谷(Bio Bio Valley),玛野高山谷(Malleco Valley),艾尔奇山谷(Elqui Valley),圣安东尼奥山谷(San Antonio Valley)等等。

纵观这几十年的产区开拓和技术发展,智利虽然已发展出不少有独特风土的葡萄酒产区,北至阿塔卡玛区的科皮亚坡山谷(COPIAPO VALLEY)和胡阿斯克山谷(HUASCO VALLEY),南至卡乌丹山谷(CAUTIN VALLEY)和奥索勒诺山谷(OSORNO VALLEY),但其实还有很大的潜力可挖掘。智利葡萄酒产业的未来发展空间巨大。现阶段智利葡萄酒产业几乎70%的产量是用来出口,所以是典型的出口为主的行业,葡萄酒是除了铜,海鲜,新鲜水果外的智利重要出口产品,是智利政府和商业资本重视的行业。






当然还有一个重要因素,就是和智利葡萄酒推广机构和酒商们的努力密不可分。尤其是智利葡萄酒协会(Wines of Chile)在2012年开始进入中国大陆开展葡萄酒推广活动是起了非常重要的作用。另外一部分智利葡萄酒企业和中国进口商也进行不少推广活动,当然一些活动还得到了官方的ProChile的支持。


图四可以看出智利葡萄酒的进口均价很低,当然有廉价散装酒拉低的效应,但是智利出口到中国大陆的瓶装葡萄酒也是价格偏低,从而导致消费者对智利酒的形象定位在高性价比的、风格单一的低端廉价酒上。为此,智利葡萄酒协会还推进了一系列智利精品葡萄酒主题的品鉴会,大师班,酒展、产区参观学习等。让具有影响力的专业人士、媒体和消费者中的意见领袖体验到智利精品葡萄酒的实力和多样性。另外还会积极参加本区内具有影响力的专业酒展,如Prowine China,2016年智利葡萄酒协会将会继续组团参展,由于推广效果好,展团面积比去年增加50%。




1. 将会开设智利葡萄酒学院,推出面向消费者和专业人士的课程,通过课程还可以将智利的葡萄酒产品直接展示给消费者和专业人士。

2. 会在2017年初,推出“Love Wine, Love Chile”的专题推广活动,主要针对社交媒体和电商领域。

3. 2017年度智利葡萄酒路演活动,将鼓励智利酒厂参加面向亚洲和其他地区的巡回展示。

4. “Billionaires to Chile”:邀请奢侈品邻域和亿万富翁中的极具影响力的贵宾去智利走访,感受智利葡萄酒。

5. 推动酿酒师交换项目,让智利酿酒师到中国酿酒,同时让中国酿酒师到智利去酿酒,从而达成文化交流,也让智利有机会参与到中国葡萄酒文化培养和行业成长中。


Australian Wines and the Chinese Market


Text & Photo by Maxime LU

The decade-long negotiations between China and Australia over the free trade agreement finally concluded in triumphant success on 17 June, 2015. The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) was signed in Canberra, Australia by government representatives of the two countries. Later, schedules of tariff reduction commitments for a range of products, including wine in the next five years were released. Under the ChAFTA, the tariff on Australian wine imports will reduce from a base rate of 14% to 11.2% in year one, 8.4% in year two, 5.6% in year three, and 2.8% in year four. The final abolishment of the tariff is expected to come in 2019. Australia has been under tremendous economic pressure in recent years. Its high welfare payments, among other causes, have resulted in heavy fiscal deficit. Meanwhile, Australia is experiencing price drops of its major exports such as iron ore. In light of the situation, the Australian government has been working on promising products in other areas, with wine being one of the key growth points for the Australian economy.



The Australian wine industry dates back to 1788. Since then, the country has grown to be a leading producer in the New World of Wine with comprehensive competitiveness. I have visited major wine regions such as the Western Australia, Southern Australia and Victoria. Though my trips haven’t yet covered New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia’s unique viticulture advantages have already left a deep impression on me. The great diversity and outstanding quality guarantee of Australian wines are a combined result of its geographic location (standalone continent), strict environmental protection measures, the concept of sustainability, its complex terroir, openness of the industry, professional talent training organizations (represented by the University of Adelaide) and its R&D centers for wine technologies. Australia offers a wide range of great wine options for daily or individualized consumption. In the international wine market, the Australian wine has become widely recognized.
Australia is the world’s fifth largest wine exporter. According to the latest statistics released by Wine Australia, in the 12 months to 30 June, 2015, the value of Australian wine exports rose 5 per cent to A$1.89 billion, and its volume rose 4 per cent to 720 million liters. This is the first time the value of wine exports has increased on a financial year basis since 2006/07. The export volume is also the highest since 2010/11. Australia’s top five export countries take up 72% of the total wine export value, namely the U.S. (down 7.9 per cent to A$415 million), the UK (down 1.5 per cent to A$369 million), Mainland China (up 32.1 per cent to A$280 million), Canada (down 0.7 per cent to A$182 million) and Hong Kong (up 28.4 per cent to A$112 million). The Chinese market has experienced the strongest growth. Australia’s middle range and premium wines (above A$7.50/liter) are doing quite well in China, the number one destination for Australian wine exports. During the same period, Australian wine has remained as the second top seller in China’s import wine market with sales of US$356 million (increase of 59%), which is 1.44 times higher than that of Chile in the third place.
Statistics reveal that Australia cannot afford to ignore the potentials and importance of the Chinese market. To better understand how Australian wine exports are developing in China, we shall take a look at the Figure “Bottled exports to China by price points”, which shows volume developments of bottled exports at two different price points.
In 2005/06, China’s tariffs on imported wine have been substantially reduced. Meanwhile, increasingly active international communications and the rising national income have contributed to a growing demand for imported wines, as more and more Chinese people took a liking to wine drinking on various occasions. In the period from 2005/6 to 2008/9, Australia wine exports to China have steadied its volume at a stable growth rate. However, the total annual volume remained insignificant due to insufficient marketing efforts.
The global financial crisis in 2008/09 has dragged the Australian dollar to Chinese Yuan Renminbi exchange rate down to a low point. Australian wines thus have become quite cost efficient. At the same time, China has entered a boom of growth in the wine market. The government’s 4-trillion infrastructure investment (to counteract the effects of financial crisis) has led to excess of liquidity, which not only vitalized China’s wine market, but also increased the volume of low-end Australian wine imports by China. However, these factors didn’t benefit the middle range and premium Australian wines, as Bordeaux wine was an absolute market dominator in the segment.
The Australian dollar exchange rate rebounded in 2010/2011. Wine dealers were struggling with excessive stock as a result of rushing into the market in the previous period. The market demand for low-end Australian wines slowed down. The Chinese government has adopted tightened economic policies, resulting in a declining premium wine market led by Bordeaux wines.
Starting in 2010/2011, the Australian government started to target more resources to the Chinese wine market. Wine Australia has clearly reinforced its promotional efforts on bringing Australian wines to China. A series of effective promotional measures were introduced, such as inviting Chinese wine specialists, media and kol (key opinion leaders) to Australian wine regions, and implementing A+ Australian Wine School programs in China. Australian wine’s image of quality and diversity started to take root in the Chinese market. The market responded by a remarkable increase of sales for A$5/liter (export price) Australian wines.
In the second half of 2012 to 2013, the Chinese government launched an anti-corruption campaign to curb the “three public expenses” (expenses on vehicles, receptions and overseas trips). These activities sent a great blow to the Chinese wine market that relied heavily on public expenses and institutional consumption. Above A$5/liter Australian wines were also affected by the campaign, whereas low-end segment wines were not. By then, the Chinese wine market began transferring its focus to the segment of individual consumption.
In light of the latest market development, Wine Australia has mobilized relevant industry players to launch a series of marketing activities. For example, grape harvest tours to Australia were organized. Australia actively participated in the leading ProWine China and many other influential wine trade fairs on the Chinese mainland. Other marketing activities include wine tasting roadshows in various key Chinese cities, the Wine Australia Annual Awards Ceremony recognizing outstanding promoters of the Australian wine as well as events for premium retail channels. Wine Australia is dedicated to promoting the quality and diversity of Australian wine. The organization regularly carries out A+ Australian Wine School programs for wine enthusiasts and consumers. It also organizes master classes and new media promotional activities.
It’s safe to say that Australia undoubtedly promoted itself in China with the most active, effective, innovative and influential efforts from 2010/11 to 2014/15. Therefore, Australian wine exports to China were able to quickly overcome the market downturn in the last fiscal year and remained in the second position after France with its outstanding 59% sales increase.
Instead of practicing the existing approaches, Australia continued down the path of innovative marketing activities. Wine Australia is organizing a creative yet low-cost event called Thirsty Thursday Blind Tasting competition in various cities, showcasing the diversity and quality of Australian wine to industry specialists and kol.
The Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA) came into being on 1 July, 2014 following the merger of Wine Australia Corporation and the Grape and Wine Research Development Corporation. The merger consolidates industry resources and structure so as to more efficiently and cost-effectively utilize funds from vineyards and wine growers for R&D, market development and wine promotion.
Besides Wine Australia, the industry also initiates other marketing events. The State Government of Victoria invited a large number of Chinese wine importers and media to the local sub-regions. The Margaret River wine region to the south of Western Australia organized wine with cuisine events in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Chengdu. In the meantime, Australian vineyards actively participate in marketing events of wine importers. Nearly half of the participants at wine tasting events or dinners that I attended in Beijing were Australian vineyards.
The latest activities of the Australian wine industry in China are also noteworthy. The Australian Retail leader Woolworths Liquor Group (WLG) has announced that it has acquired China-based wine and drinks distributor Summergate as part of its China strategy. TWE has also started to shift from relying on importers to building up its own direct distribution channels.
It can be expected that, in the near future, more Australian wine brands will appear in the Chinese market, together with larger presence of Australian investments and talents.
– LU Jiang, WineOnline.CN –