Tracking Shifting Mind Sets in China

Tmall helps in match-making with the right wines for different local regions

Lei Zhao is General Manager for the Chinese retail giant Tmall Food. We asked him what the most important trends are in wine sales in his territory.

Let’s start by saying that French wines still occupy the biggest share of imported bottled wines in China. Also, China is the fourth biggest destination for French wines and spirits exports by value, and figures provided by Chinese customs suggest that China’s wine imports continue to grow in both volume and value during the first three months of 2016. China is a country enchanted by wine: a growing share of the population, including younger generations, are refining their taste for wine and becoming more sophisticated when they choose what to drink. It’s also a mind set shift, as consumers understand that wine is great to pair with food.

Like French people, Chinese consumers choose their wine by brand, region, vintage, grape variety and flavour. Therefore, it’s important for manufacturers to be aware that people from different regions have different tastes. For example, consumers from certain parts of China, such as the southern Jiangsu Province, tend to appreciate fruitier wine because their cuisine is founded on sweeter flavours.

Ultimately, we still observe the dominance of red wine – which is the colour traditionally associated with good luck and happiness in Chinese culture.

This year’s partner country is Spain. What are your thoughts on Spanish wines, and what other regions are you finding the most interesting?

Spain is among the top wine producing countries exporting its wine to China. Over the past few years, regions like Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero have become more and more popular among wine lovers. However, France remains the most important wine country in the world and the most famous in China.

Apart from France, Italy, Australia and the United States are also our important partners. These countries have already their own country wine federation flagship stores on Tmall. com, our B2C platform. Latin American wine-producing countries are also quite famous, such as Argentina a country which Jack Ma (Alibaba’s founder) recently visited.

What are secrets for getting the best out of a busy show like Vinexpo?

We think we can offer French wineries and businesses our unique point of view and unrivalled knowledge of the Chinese market. Thanks to the insights we can provide, we are able to guide French brands in their internationalization journey, helping them to unlock their potential and grow their presence and export to China.

Photo: Lei Zhao, General Manager, Tmall Food