By Jim Boyce | Shanghai-based distributor American Wine Merchants (AMW) has announced it is cooperating with several U.S. wine promotion groups to open a Tmall store in mid-March. From an AMW press release (my highlights):
In cooperation with the California Wine Institute, the Washington Wine Board, the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, and the Oregon Wine Commission, which are all supported by the United States Foreign Agricultural Service and its regional Agricultural Trade Office in mainland China, the American Wine Merchants (AWM) is pleased to announce the launch of their flagship USA Wine Store on Alibaba’s Tmall.
“Our aim is to create U.S. wine awareness through education, marketing and promotion,” stated AWM manager Alex Chen in the press release. “Tmall already boosts 500 million-plus registered users in China and with the right marketing and promotional activities we believe we can reach each and every one…”
I contacted Chen, founder of importer and distributor Alexander Wines, earlier today and he said the timing is right for the store given a maturing wine market and exponential growth of online sales.
While wine has typically been used as a lubricant at business gatherings, and often consumed bottoms up (ganbei) style, Chen says a growing number of people are drinking it purely for enjoyment.
“Consumers are starting to know what they like and understand what they are buying,” he says. “The market is maturing, especially in first-tier, second-tier and third-tier cities. We can help develop a national market for U.S. wines rather than just regional pockets such as in Beijing and Shanghai.”
Chen also distinguishes between consumers seeking value for money rather than simply cheap wine, and says the AWM store is in contrast to online retailers he sees as “price slashers, the yesmywines, the 1919s of the world, that focus on buy three, get one free.”
While California is often seen as synonymous with U.S. wine in China, the AWM store will include products from other states.
“I think there is a lot we can offer in terms of Washington, Oregon, New York—even Texas is producing fantastic wines,” he said.
I’ll provide an update once the store is online. Also see this recent post on the upcoming master class tour in China by the California Wine Institute.