Survey opens the door to China for winemakers

A new survey has revealed what Chinese drinkers like about Australian red wine, giving Australia’s wine sector key information to target the emerging superpower’s growing market.

In June this year, the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) carried out the survey in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou on behalf of the Australian wine sector.

The AWRI, established in 1955, aims to advance the competitive edge of the Australian grape and wine sector through the delivery of world class research, development, extension and service activities.

The results reveal detailed data on the taste preferences of Chinese wine consumers for the first time.

“The results are highly valuable in giving the Australian wine sector a guide to what types of red wines the growing Chinese market prefers,” said AWRI managing director, Professor Sakkie Pretorius.

“Previously, there was only a very sketchy idea about consumers’ taste preferences, purchase behaviour and attitudes to wine in China. The study will allow producers to reduce their risk when they enter the Chinese market by releasing the right wines and tailoring their marketing approach,” Professor Pretorius explained.

The survey was a feat of logistics and coordination. Over 300 bottles of red wine were flown into China just before the Olympics and 310 regular red wine consumers were recruited across the three cities.

Each consumer tasted 14 wines in a blind test, comparing Australian and international red wines. The results reveal that most of the Australian wines were very well liked, while Chinese wine was least liked. A market-leading French wine was also not well liked.

To obtain a sensory profile of each wine, and provide further information to winemakers, an expert sensory panel also evaluated the wines.

The results reveal that Chinese consumers preferred fruity, berry, and vanilla flavoured Australian wines with a touch of sweetness.

“Valuable information was also discovered about the different groups of Chinese wine consummers, as not all Chinese consumers like the same wines.

Three different groups with the same taste preferences were found. One group, around half the total, liked lighter wines, while a third of the consumers liked wines with some sweetness and didn’t like wines that were sour or drying in taste.

The last group, around 20% of the taste-testers, preferred more strongly flavoured, richer wines. They are more likely to be newer wine consumers.

Compared with results from other AWRI taste tests involving Australian consumers, the survey shows that China’s wine market requires a different strategy.

An example can be found in the fact that AWRI surveys have revealed that 40% of Australians prefer strongly flavoured, richer wines and 40% prefer lighter, fruity wines. The rest prefer Cabernet Sauvignon wines with some greener flavour characters.

— Dr Leigh Francis is the research manager of sensory research at AWRI.

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