The Italian Job | Rory Quirk of CruItaly’s wine strategy in China

By Jim Boyce

Three years ago, IT company Xiao Fu Ecommerce Group saw an opportunity to promote not only wines but also coffee, fashion, home furnishings and other products from Italy. The result was CruItaly, which handles brands such as Tasi, San Leonardo and Feudi Di San Gregorio via both physical and online shops.

As part of a Wine Business International story I wrote this year on niche importers and retailers in China, I interviewed Rory Quirk, the managing director of Xiao Fu and CruItaly. I’ve included the full interview below. To get details on all of the niche retailers covered, see the Wine Business International story at this link.

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How did CruItaly originate?

We started CruItaly almost three years ago as an Italian lifestyle platform to import wine, coffee and designer furniture and to partner with other players in the areas of gourmet and fashion products. We were already purchasing a lot of wine for corporate use, around rmb10 million per year, and importing directly allowed us to save a significant amount of money there, too.

How do you sell the wines?

Our main goal is to develop an online sales platform supported by our retail outlets. We have a mobile application, an e-an commerce store, a WeChat store, and soon will be opening a T-Mall flagship store. [Tmall is a business-to-consumer site while WeChat is China’s most popular social media app.] We also have an Italian Center in Beijing and others under construction in Shanghai [opened last Friday in the Hongqiao Xintiandi area], Guangzhou and Chongqing.

Who is the key target for online and shop sales?

The key clients for online sales are younger Chinese consumers interested in quality wines for a low price. That will also be the focus when our T-Mall store opens. We have a large portfolio of wines from south Italy, including Sicily and Puglia, that fit this price range. Our retail shops allow us to develop both new wine drinkers as well as private clients.

For private clients, personal service is more important considering they purchase higher-end wines, so having the shop is very helpful. We also host weekly events in an effort to develop new consumers into wine enthusiasts that are more likely to support our online business as it develops in the future.

So if a consumer enters our shop and enjoys the wine, they can add us on WeChat or download our mobile application to purchase more wines that we can deliver. It is a combination of good products and convenient service.

How are the wines chosen?

That’s an interesting story. When we were setting up CruItaly, my business partner, Luca Cavallari, first approached Tenuta San Leonardo owner Anselmo Gonzaga about joining our wine portfolio as the flagship winery brand. Not only did Anselmo agree to join us, but he also helped us develop the rest of our wine portfolio with high-quality boutique producers. Through his network we were able to partner with fantastic producers from each major wine producing region of Italy. So we have to thank him for our portfolio of high quality wines.

How important is it to link wines sales with Italian coffee, food and other products?

Very important. That is why if you visit you will see we have five category sections: design, wine, gourmet, travel and lifestyle. Our mission is to educate and inspire consumers about all aspects of the Italian lifestyle. We know if we promote wine on its own, it will be tough. This is our way of differentiating ourselves from the competitive market place.

Italy lags far behind France, with less than a fifth as much China market share, despite the widespread popularity of Italian food. How do you deal with this issue?

It is not just Italian food that is popular in China. Italian cars, fashion and design are also very successful here. It doesn’t make sense that Italian wine is not more popular. This is a major reason we decided to start CruItaly: we saw a large market opportunity to increase Italian wine sales in the Chinese market. Chinese consumers are ready to experience all of the different grape varieties of Italy.

As I mentioned before, we position ourselves as an Italian lifestyle platform. There is too much good wine being produced around the world right now to just sell wine products on their own. Our goal is to connect the wine with Italy’s beautiful lifestyle and to inspire more Chinese consumers to enjoy life in a different way.

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Guests at the Beijing Italian Center opening in May.

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