Wine Workshop II: Shop ’til you pop

I attended seven lectures and tasted fourteen local wines on August 9, the second day of the International Workshop on the Wine Market in China, held in Beijing. I’ll post notes all week.

Getting wine to China is one thing, getting consumers to pull the cork on a purchase is quite another. Huiqin Ma, associate professor at China Agricultural University and the workshop organizer, reported on a wine survey done with Ying Yu of 230 consumers in Beijing supermarkets. The sample group included 110 men and 120 women, most of whom fell predominantly between the ages of 18 and 40 (~94%) and had an income of less than 5,000 RMB (USD700) per month (~90%).

Ma discussed purchasing blocks, influences on wine buyers, and so on. My shorthand is, er, short on practice, so here are just a few of her points:

  • The biggest influencers on consumers are, in order of importance, the brand name (“it’s like an index for selection,” says Ma), origin of the wine (“that means the country [not region] of origin”, she says), whether they’d previously tasted the wine, and recommendations.
  • Least influential were whether it paired with food, an attractive label, and alcohol content below 13 percent.
  • When Chinese students taking a wine course at the university were surveyed, food pairing and the information on the bottle’s back label rose in terms of influence, suggesting the impact of wine education.
  • About 85 percent of consumers sometimes or always read the back label. The information they want, in order of importance, is a description of the aroma and taste, food pairing advice, an introduction to the winemaking process, and background /history on the wine or producer.
  • In terms of medals listed on labels, 25 percent of consumers do not trust them on Chinese bottles as compared to 5 percent on international ones, while 25 percent do trust them on Chinese bottles as compared to 42 percent on international (about 50 percent said they don’t know).

Ma’s key findings include:

  • Supermarkets are the top wine venue, scoring high on price and convenience
  • Wine shops lag behind, though they score high on service and diversity of choice
  • The Internet scores lowest except on price, where it ranks behind supermarkets and ahead of wine shops

She also said Chinese prefer Chinese wine, mainly due to availability, and have a good impression of French wine, which is positioned well in terms of business dinners and leads in terms of gift-giving. Australian wine, especially Shiraz, also places well due to marketing and word of mouth. Countries such as Chile, Argentina and South Africa have lower profiles and their wines are not normally purchased as gifts.

There’s a lot more to be said on the Chinese wine consumer, of course, and I’m hoping to sit down with Ma for an in-depth interview in the near future.

Tomorrow: Wine Workshop III: Taste, with Chinese characteristics


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