Sales surge a good excuse for a drink and a toast

Updated: 2016-01-02 08:19

By Liu Zhihua(China Daily)

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Simon Su, a wine expert and owner of Dierberg Estate Vineyard, a wine distributor in Shanghai, says the downside of the government's anti-corruption campaign continues to affect wine imports, to the detriment of winemakers and sellers, but in the long term the campaign will end up being of net benefit to them and consumers, he says.

Su represents three wine brands from a high-end American winery, Star Lane, and in 2012 and before, group-buying from State-owned companies was an important contributor to sales, he says, but now that they have gone, sales rely mainly on individuals, high-end restaurants and private companies.

Taste, quality and price

One way in which things have changed for the better for the wine industry is that consumers in first-tier cities have become more rational, and attach more importance to taste, quality and price, rather than slavishly looking for wines from well-known producing areas, he says.

"Drinking wine shouldn't be about vanity, but should be about personal enjoyment of the product itself," Su says, adding that wine education, which is fast growing in the country, has contributed to bring maturity to customers.

A spinoff of that is that as consumers become more rational, concept marketing and hype cannot be relied on to stoke consumer interest and make quick money, he says. Instead, winemakers and dealers have to transform their business model and focus on good management to promote good wines, which makes the industry healthier.

Wine prices are becoming more transparent, Su says, thanks to Internet apps, and tools that help people compare prices.

Fan Tinglue, a wine expert and educator, says promotions of luxury wines and spirits have been on the wane in the past few years, and alcohols aimed at the lower end of the market have got more attention.

Winemakers now pay more attention to tastings and to demonstrating product quality rather than simply appealing to vanity, he says, adding that many Chinese drinkers used to be preoccupied with vintage and price, wanting to flaunt their wealth.

Product endorsement by celebrities and the exposure through entertainment to alcohol and the lifestyles that go with it have also helped sales and to build a consumer base, particularly among the young, he says.

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