Rachel Wang is a Professional Advisor to the Chinese office of the German Wine Institute and contributor to WINE magazine on consumer trends in China.
She is WSET qualified, she is a Senior teacher at Grapea, Training Director and Italian tutor of Onav in China, Guest Wine tutor at the UUNZ Institute of Business.
Can you share with us how you got interested with wine in the first place?
My story goes back to 2006, under the influence of my best friend, my interest in wines then grew as time went on. One year later, I made the decision to study wines oversea. My wine journey began from New Zealand in 2008.
Do you have a perception that Chinese consumer interest in Italian wines is growing? What changed in the last 10 years?
Actually they don’t know much about Italian wines, it’s too difficult to remember the wine’s name in the first place; secondly, normal Chinese consumers don’t like wines with high acidity. Probably some course( such as WSET) and wine books like <The world Atlas of Wines> contributed to influence the Chinese public, a little part of them ( that tend to be wine lover) so now they know Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, Prosecco…, however, Italian wines are still in the mist in the majority of Chinese minds.
Many Italian producers are discouraged about going online, there is a common belief that only very cheap wines or super popular brand can actually sell online. On the other hand, e-commerce is growing exponentially. What is your position about selling wines online?
Very positive . Especially after COVID-19, the online sales are rocketing. For example, Gaja, Zyme, Bibbiano, Il Poggione… … so many famous names are shown online, the turn-over is very good as well. Some professional online-selling platform are doing quite well, such as Vinehoo. The First Cellar, WINEApp, etc.
How important is the brand awareness if you decide to sell wine online in China? And what are in your opinion the best ways to achieve it (ie. Influencer, social media, events, wine fair)?
Promotion, promotion, and promotion again, including wine training, social media, media exposure, online media live stream, etc. Let people, specially professions talk about them. Only when brands make noise, consumers get interested and will know them steps by steps.
We hear a lot about KOL in China, who are apparently capable to sell thousands of bottles of wine in a very short time. Is that true? Do you think influences can actually make the difference in selling Italian wines in China? Is it better to work with big influencers or with smaller (but more specific) one?
KOLs in China are capable to sell thousands of bottles of wines in a very short time. Yes and no. Why I said that? Probably they can sell huge amount of wine in a short time, but it it works when the retail price is pretty low, sometimes lower than 60 RMB.
On the other hand, KOLs are opinion leaders, they can influence their followers, and when they talk about some product, their followers probably rise interests to purchase, or get to know the brands. Yes, KOL can support the wine sales, but they actually make the difference only after a long-term brand exposure. (it probably needs years, 2-3 years at least). We don’t have many big influencers in wine industry in China. If wineries have enough budget, they can invest into celebrities of course.
Can you tell us the greatest selling point and the worst mistake that Italian wineries make when they perform in the Chinese market?
The big selling points are the culture, the food, and traveling.
As weakness, I think Italian producers focus too much on technical wine knowledge to the public.
Do you actually buy wine online? Can you tell us 3 good platforms where to sell wine (except for Tmall and Jd.com)
Yes, four times per month. Vinehoo, the first Cellar, WINEapp
Do you think education is the most effective way to promote Italian Wine in China? Apparently remembering Italian names is quite challenging. In your opinion how important is for the consumers to remember all the Italian Denominations and wine regions?
Yes, we love to study and get certificates. It’s impossible to remember all Denominations and wine regions. Probably it’s easier to remember Italian culture, food and then wines. Don’t focus on the details, big brand names are easier to remember for consumers. Remembering Italian Denominations and wine regions names should only be for professions.
What are in your opinion the social media where a winery must have an official account? (list at least 2 social media)
WeChat official account first, and Weibo.
If you could give an Italian producer 3 suggestions to improve its performance in the Chinese market what would it be?
- Listen to your importer or your partner to understand the Chinese culture. Don’t be arrogant.
- Don’t say always that your wine can pair Chinese food well. In fact, the same food in different Chinese regions, has different taste, probably one is sweeter, one is spicier…Travel and taste, then say your opinion.
- Learn chinese.