Eastern Mysticism

Steve McConnell - Vin-X blogVin-X dispels a couple of myths about the Chinese wine consumer

Chinese red wine consumption blogYesterday afternoon it was revealed that China has now become the biggest market for red wine in the world, with 1.8 billion bottles sold in 2013. This is of course fantastic news, and is evidence that many of the predictions about the future of wine consumption in China are now coming true. Going forward, China promises to grow even further, and is not only buying up more and more European wine, but also investing heavily in its own vineyards and production methods. Chinese wine consumers are no longer naive about either the drink or the industry, and it may well be that the country begins to rival other major wine producers in the coming years.

Why is it, then, that the western wine industry continues to propagate ridiculous stereotypes and myths about the average Chinese wine drinker? According to the article, one industry spokesperson was heard to remark: “The success of red wine in China is largely down to the symbolism of its colour. Red is a very positive colour in Chinese culture, and is synonymous with wealth, power and luck… also, red is the colour of China.”

Surely this cannot explain the explosive growth of the wine industry in this new market? 1.8 billion bottles of wine were sold in China last year. That’s enough for every single person in the country, plus another 500 million. Do wine industry professionals honestly believe that such staggering amounts of wine are being sold because of the wine’s colour? One is almost led to believe that the Chinese are some sort of group of mystics, obsessed with the symbolism of colours and numbers, ready to splurge million and millions of pounds simply because a bottle of wine has an ‘8’ on the label. Is this really how we see the Chinese, in this day and age?

Chinese wine consumers are growing more sophisticated and discerning by the day, and will not be swayed by colours and numbers. Wine is popular in China for the same reason that it is popular here: it is tasty, pleasurable to drink with others, diverse, interesting to learn about, and has an air of refinement and sophistication. Yes, numbers, colours and many other things have implications and significance in Chinese culture, but this is not the driver for such record demand. As the Chinese wine consumer becomes more cognisant and picky, western producers must ensure that they have real cultural understanding, not just sensationalised interpretations of the differences that exist between eastern and western cultures.