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Australia’s wine exports to China
Over the last decade there's been a marketing battle in progress to persuade us tea-revering Chinese that we should adopt new drinking habits, like coffee and wine.
Foreign wines started the market campaign in 1999, when several French vineyards held wine tastings in big Chinese cities, such as
By playing on the luxury cachet of champagne, their historic association with fine wine production and the romanticism of Paris, French wine marketers conquered most celebratory dinner tables and established a strong notion in many Chinese minds - that French wines are the best. Now, French wines top the list of imported wines in
As for newly arrived Australian wine exporters, there are some additional complicating factors, according to Richard Owen, Asia Pacific Export Manager of Casella Wines. Casella, known for its Yellowtail brand, is one of the biggest winemakers in
“Chinese market is a difficult one to deal with. To be frank Chinese consumers has very limited knowledge about wines. And, there are so many alternatives to wine. You can drink teas, Chinese rice wine, spirit, and even whiskey, such as Johnny Walker or just beer. Chinese people take the face issue seriously, if they don’t know much about wine, why should they lose face to choose a wrong one,” Mr Owen said.
“There are 1.3 billion Chinese. How can you educate 1.3 billion people and change their drinking culture? It is a mission impossible,” Mr. Owen said.
As a newly converted wine lover and a Chinese, I experienced such difficulty rooted in culture – first and foremost were the names. It is very much like dating. How can you start a relationship with a girl without even knowing her name? Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah or
Since French wines have some advantages in the competition, from this perspective Australian wines are not only fighting to establish their quality but also their identity in the Chinese market. To acculturate middle class Chinese to wine drinking may, in my opinion, make the cake of Chinese wine market bigger, and in return
Go straight to enjoy it, is the strategy taken by Casella Wines in the Chinese market, according to Mr. Owen. The
“To my point of view, Chinese people can enjoy wine in the ways they’d like to. If they like to drink it with some sugar, or mix with sprit or Coca Cola, just go ahead, as long as they drink wines,” Mr. Owen said.
In order to win the hearts of Chinese, Australian wines need to find a Chinese ally. Chinese food, though not made to match Western alcohol, might be a perfect partner. I noticed that in the Chinese media there are already some restaurants and food critics starting to work as matchmakers for wines and Chinese dishes. I think the successful marriage of Australian wine and Chinese food will definitely open Chinese wallets to wine-makers.
Australians might also get some ideas from Starbucks’ coffee marketing. In 1999, when Starbucks started with its first outlet in
Perhaps Mr. Owen was too conservative and less confidant about