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Jim Boyce
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Trade secret: Don’t blame consumers for low white wine sales in China

The next Wine Business International magazine will include an article I wrote about white wine in China. The main message: the ratio of red wine to white wine sold in this country — typically cited as four-to-one or higher — does not match consumer tastes.

The article looks at examples of consumers giving higher scores to white wines than red wines, at how taste increasingly influences wine purchases, and at over-simplified market views, like the idea red wine is more popular because red is associated with luck while white is associated with death, an odd stance if you consider the top alcohol in the country–baijiu–translates to “white spirit“.

Among the most intriguing interviewees is Helene Ponty, who moved to China in 2012 to import and sell wines made by her family in Bordeaux. Ponty discusses the stark contrast in responses to her white wines by consumers and distributors (highlights are mine):

"If I do an event for consumers, they usually love the white wine, particularly women. I feel like many women are intimidated by red wine or afraid they will get drunk if they have red wine, but they feel better about white wine. They also appreciate the taste more. For our wine in particular, they like the freshness and the slight sweet note. They find the whites less overwhelming and less strong than the reds."

"However, if we do an event for distributors, the attitude is very different. They will say they don’t need white wine, or that their customers don’t drink white wine."

"So it led me to think that the problem lies with the distributors, who have an ingrained mindset that people do not want white wine. I think part of the problem is that distributors do not understand white wine as well as they do red wine, because they do not have experience with it. They do not feel comfortable recommending it, so they keep that attitude that consumers do not buy white wine, they keep the attitude that they do not want to supply white wine."

Distributors who don’t sell white wine because they don’t understand it: talk about a trade secret! After those general remarks, Ponty gives a specific example — from a wine dinner in Changsha — of peer pressure in the trade working against white wine:

"…at the beginning of the dinner, when not everyone had arrived, I had one attendee, a man, come to me and ask me about our white wine. He wanted to know how white wine was made, how it was different from red wine, how to drink it. We tasted my white wine together and he enjoyed it very much."

"Later on during the dinner, I started by serving the white wine. One man stood up and said he would not have white wine as it was a drink for women. And he would not drink a woman’s drink! Of course all of the men at the table had to show how manly they were and all refused to drink the white wine, even though they said nothing when we started pouring in the first place."

Ponty’s conclusion?

"In general, I think there are a lot of misconceptions and lack of education about white wine. Most of the education you see in China is about red. So people do not know white wine and think of it as a girly drink, a light drink, not as legitimate as red wine."

This is significant given how well whites wines do in taste tests. That’s not to say that under perfect conditions white wine would be as popular or more popular than red wine, which still has far greater status and perceived health benefits.

But it is to say that a default focus on red wine--whether it means distributors who refuse to stock white wine, vineyards that are are primarily planted with red grape varieties, or trade people who only understand and push red wine--does skew the numbers.

How much? Get the full story in the next Wine Business International! You can also find lots more info at my blog Grape Wall of China.

http://www.grapewallofchina.com/2015/04/06/trade-secret-dont-blame-consumers-for-low-white-wine-sales-in-china/
The next issue of Wine Business International will include an article I wrote about white wine in China. The main message: the ratio of red wine to white wine sold in this country — typically cited as four-to-one or higher — does not match consumer tastes. The article looks at examples where ...
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I recently interviewed a pair of fascinating Americans involved in the baijiu scene.

Jim Rice, who has lived in China ~30 years, worked for Kimberly-Clark, Danone and Tyson, and who is now head of Sichuan Swellfun, which owns the baijiu brand Shuijingfang, in which Diageo has the key share.

Rice told me how he's positioning the brand in China given the current austerity program and also what it will take to break through overseas. See here:

http://www.worldbaijiuday.com/2015/03/23/interview-jim-rice-on-taking-shuijingfang-upmarket-in-china-localizing-baijiu-abroad/

Matt Trusch, who spent the greater part of 15 years living in China and working in banking, real estate and gems, before heading back to the U.S. in 2007 and creating baijiu brand ByeJoe.

He told me about the four 'p's -- proof, pungency, packaging and price -- he considered before launching his brand. He also discussed how he rolled out the product in the U.S. and how he imports base baiiju from the China to the U.S. and refines it there due to consumers having food safety concerns.

See part 1 of the interview here:

http://www.worldbaijiuday.com/2015/03/18/interview-matt-trusch-of-byejoe-on-the-four-ps-of-a-chinese-spirit-brand-in-the-u-s-market/

And part 2 here:

http://www.worldbaijiuday.com/2015/03/25/interview-matt-trusch-on-joining-the-un-bar-millennials-and-food-safety/

Cheers, Boyce
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Jim Boyce

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Grace Vineyard is the Yao Ming of China Wine. Plus, my "5A formula" for picking the top local bottles. Stories from last week's e-newsletter here: http://goo.gl/DQU7a6.

If you'd like to receive future issues -- and, let's be honest, who doesn't enjoy a nice fancy wine newsletter - send me your email address. I tend to publish the newsletter once per month unless I get really busy, really lazy or really hungover from too many Grand Cru -- or is it Great Wall? -- tastings.

Cheers, Boyce
Why Grace Vineyard is the Yao Ming of China's wine scene, plus the 5A formula, five pressing issues for Penfolds, Helene Ponty on selling in Beijing & more. Please pass GWoC Talk to others who might like it. Grape Wall of China. "When Yao Ming became the top NBA draft pick in 2002, ...
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Sonoma County makes some of the world's best wines but -- unlike its neighbor Napa --- has only recently started focusing on China. Sonoma County Vintners came through Beijing last week and held the group's first tasting in this country before heading to Shanghai, Guangzhou and now Hong Kong. Some superb Chardonnays in the sit-down tasting, headed by  Debra Meiburg, with translated from Dorian Tang. More details at the link...
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Jim Boyce

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New BB Newsletter covering Project Maovember, Beijing's first charity cornhole tournament and the new Home Plate Bar-B-Q, plus Pizza Plus, The Rug, Daze, Heaven Bar and more. If you want to get newsletters to your inbox, send me your email address or join the subscription list via the blog. Cheers, Boyce.
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Deep-fried baijiu. I asked Beijing chef / catering guy Dustin Merrett if it would work and, based on his initial tests, the answers is a resounding yes, with "sauce aroma" baijiu working best thus far... 

http://www.worldbaijiuday.com/2015/03/27/food-deep-fried-baijiu-with-dustin-merrett/
China wine club guy Mike Signorelli sent me this article (check this one, too) on deep-fried tequila and it seemed like the perfect thing to try with baijiu. So I talked to Beijing chef / catering ...
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That's just wrong!
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I launched a project called World Baijiu Day almost a week ago. Bars in New York, Los Angeles and Beijing are joining this event and I will post updates as venues in other cities climb on board.

The basic idea: baijiu is the world's most popular spirit, but is produced and consumed almost entirely in China. It is also widely reviled, in large part because many come to know it from forced drinking sessions with low-quality spirits. (I equate it to friends during my university days who had a bad tequila experience and cannot tolerate the smell of this spirit any more and thus have tried nothing beyond Jose Cuervo.)

World Baijiu Day is aimed at those beyond China who are aficionados or curious about baijiu. There will be a strong focus on cocktails made with baijiu and on comparing and contrasting different styles of this spirit in order to see how distinct they are. I'm also filling out our web site -- worldbaijiuday.com -- with info on where to buy baijiu outside of China, a list of online and print resources, an FAQ page, and interviews with consumers, reviewers and distributors.

Oh, the date is Saturday, August 8. I've already had a dozen people tell me it should be on August 9, given the date in Chinese -- ba jiu -- sounds a lot like baijiu, but I'm not sure how well this would go over on a Sunday!

In any case, if you think this project is a good idea, much appreciated if you spread the word. The site is worldbaijiuday.com and I'll also update at www.facebook.com/worldbaijiuday and twitter.com/worldbaijiuday.

Cheers, Boyce
Celebrating the Planet's Most Popular Spirit
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Happy Canada Day! Here's a collage of last Saturday's party at 4corners Beijing, complete with poutine, Nanaimo bars, Caesars, Moosehead and lots more, including about six hours of Canuck tunes.
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thank God you missed the Poutine!!!!! Instant heart attach.
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VinExpo starts today in Hong Kong. If you're interested in the China scene, here are five events you might want to catch.
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depends on what you mean cheaper. unrder rmb50, it's tough, with the better one most likely having at least some bulk spanish / chilean wine in the bottle. if you are willing to pay a bit more, i think the great river hill 'chateau nine peaks' entry-level cab sauv and the chateau hansen entry-level cabernet gernischt are quite good. cheers, jim 
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Want China wine news?

I started a free e-newsletter over the Chinese New Year holidays. (I needed a break from guzzling dumplings and wine.)

The newsletter covers local and imported wines, consumer events, talks with industry leaders, winery visits, market stats, and more, with summaries from my Grape Wall of China blog.

It is called GWoC Talk (Grape Wall of China Talk) and I aim (hope!) to send it out every two to four weeks.

No worries, I don't plan to add everyone in my database to the mailing list. It will be opt in: you can get it by contacting me directly or signing up beneath the top banner at the Grape Wall of China blog. See link below for a sample newsletter -- it needs some fine-tuning but that's nothing a few nights and a few bottles of decent wine can't help with.

(Note: Click the image at the link to make it bigger.)
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Talk about bad timing, the Ningxia region in China saw its fortunes rise this year and then got hit with a poor harvest. The question is how will it respond to this situation...

http://www.grapewallofchina.com/2012/12/06/disease-and-indecision-in-ningxia-poor-grape-harvest-tests-wine-industry/
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Drinking, eating, working in Beijing. Also run nonprofit nightlife blog beijingboyce.com (whiskey, beer, cocktails, and more) and wine blog grapewallofchina.com.
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For six-plus years, writing about the beer, whiskey, cocktail and bar scene in Beijing and wine scene in China. I have two nonprofit blogs:
I have also written on these topics for both local and overseas publications.

I'm on Facebook here, Twitter here and Weibo here. My email address is beijingboyce@yahoo.com.
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