The Myth of the “Chinese Taste Preference:” What Actually Makes a Wine Popular in the Chinese Market

I’m often asked what type of wine best matches the taste preferences of the Chinese. Over the years, I’ve tried quite a few wines, and I’ve also participated in a number of red wine judging events and blind tastings.

At these events, sponsors will typically invite a large crowd of experts and wine tasters to try dozens or even hundreds of different varieties of wine over the course of a half-day or a day, and give their honest appraisals. They then arrange the wines into a list, which is ordered based on the results of the appraisals, with points awarded within categories such as color, aroma, body, aftertaste, unique characteristics, vintage, and more. So, can this kind of point-based evaluation really lead us to discover the most suitable wines for the Chinese pallet? And should the wine at the bottom of the list be considered bad?

Actually, whether or not a particular bottle of wine tastes good depends entirely on the individual drinker. With strict modern requirements surrounding the art of winemaking, the quality of every bottle of wine can be more or less guaranteed (with the exception of cheap counterfeits). When evaluating a wine, there should be no need for a distinction between “good” and “bad”, but rather a distinction of whether or not a particular wine meets the personal preferences of the individual. Whichever wine tastes the best to you, is the best wine for you.

What types of wine are commonly considered to match with the “Chinese taste?”

In order to penetrate the Chinese market, many wineries produce large amounts of sweeter, fruity wines, with relatively full bodies and low levels of acidity and tannins. These highly drinkable wines, sold in China with the intention of catering to Chinese taste preferences, have flooded the market in recent years.

Today, Chinese people have a wider range of opinions when evaluating wines than ever before.

Based on this, it may sound easy to find a wine that will match the taste preferences of the Chinese market, but it turns out to be a significantly more difficult problem. Today, Chinese people have a wider range of opinions when evaluating wines than ever before. Experts will almost always favor a wine with a complex flavor profile, however, normal consumers are more concerned with the wine’s “drinkability.”

The lifestyles, backgrounds, and health conditions of each wine consumer vary greatly, as do their sensitivities to the smells, tastes, and textures of different wines. The perception of the color or aroma of a wine and even the acidity, bitterness or sweetness of the wine’s aftertaste will all vary greatly from individual to individual. 

In the end, each wine drinker has its own unique set of taste preferences, and with a population of over 1.4 billion, it is extremely difficult to determine any unifying criteria that will describe the tastes of every Chinese person. Despite this, there are a few wine producers who still go to great lengths for business advantage in the Chinese market, and continue branding their wines as “for Chinese tastes.”

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