By Jim Boyce
U.S.-based publisher Wine Enthusiast and China-based online retailer YesMyWine recently agreed to team up on a digital magazine and a wine accessories website (for more details, see here). I asked Wine Enthusiast Chairman Adam Strum five questions about this deal and about his take on the China wine scene. Here they are (my highlights):
Boyce: China has seen phenomenal growth in wine consumption for years. Why enter the market now as opposed to a few years ago or a few years from now?
Strum: We actually wish we had entered sooner but there is no better time than now.
Boyce: What was the crucial factor for partnering with YesMyWine as opposed to one of the other online wine retailers in China?
Strum: YesMyWine has the largest database of wine consumers in China. With this consumer database, and our own Chinese wine trade database built from hotel, restaurant and retail wine buyer lists, the Wine Enthusiast Chinese-language edition will reach the most important wine decision makers in the whole of greater China and Hong Kong. These wine industry innovators will influence wine purchasing decisions now and in the future.
Boyce: Phase one of the partnership with YesMyWine is a digital magazine while phase two is a wine accessories site. What is the timing of these two phases?
Strum: We are introducing our first Wine Enthusiast Chinese-language magazine to YesMyWine’s VIP customers with our May issue. The cover story is Yao Ming’s new Napa winery and our tasting panel will be rating and reviewing his wines blind in our offices this month with a flight of other comparable Napa wines. The timing for the launch of the wine accessories portion of the business will be determined shortly thereafter.
Boyce: When it comes to Chinese-language editions, we have long had Food & Wine here, recently saw Revue du Vin start up, and hear a great deal of buzz that Decanter will enter the market. What differentiates Wine Enthusiast from these publications?
Strum: Wine Enthusiast’s unique proposition is to bring approachable, user-friendly editorial from an authoritative wine perspective. We don’t want to make unwarranted assumptions about what our reader may or may not know about wine.
Another aspect of distinction is our tasting panel which rates and reviews wines on the famous 100 point scale. With offices in Rome, Bordeaux, New York, California, Seattle and Santiago, our panel tastes and evaluates more than 20,000 wines per year.
We intend to provide the new Chinese wine consumer with purchasing direction not previously available to them on a grand scale. We will also be tasting wines from China starting this month in our New York offices. Eventually we hope to reach more than five million wine consumers and key wine trade in China.
Boyce: You spoke at Wine Future Hong Kong last November. What were the three most important ideas you took away from that conference?
Strum: We felt that no one was truly addressing the general public of Chinese and Hong Kong wine consumers or providing them with basic knowledge about, or how to purchase, wine. While Wine Future was informative I believe it principally dealt with a high-end niche wine consumer which is very limited. Wine Enthusiast’s Chinese-language edition intends to address a wider, general audience of new wine thirsty buyers which will help expand wine consumption overall in Greater China.
(Note: I have written one article for Wine Enthusiast magazine.)