Understanding Chinese sensory preferences for varied wine styles and the language used to describe them

Abstract

This projects aims to understand both the Chinese consumer use of language to describe wines, grape varieties and flavours, and to measure the preferences existing Chinese wine drinkers have for the above. This is the first study to scientifically validate the lexical equivalence of Chinese and Western taste descriptors. It also refutes many commonly accepted notions regarding the breadth of the Chinese lexicon. This study validates the research protocol making it possible for further research to be conducted on other Australian wine styles and in other emerging wine markets that possess different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Summary

The main results of this project can be summarised as follows:

  1. This is the first study to scientifically validate the lexical equivalence of Chinese and Western taste descriptors, by testing some equivalences proposed by industry.
  2. Generic descriptors are used more often than specific descriptors. The most commonly selected generic descriptors are smooth (平滑), fruity (果香), sweet (甜), mellow (醇), and lengthy aftertaste (回味).
  3. The most prevalent specific descriptors perceived in a wine are related to commonly eaten fruits in China. The various vegetables, meats and spices descriptors proposed by wine experts are not yet utilised by Chinese wine drinkers.
  4. When using specific Chinese descriptors, the most prevalent terms are:
    1. citrus fruits such as pomelo and lime for white and sparkling wines
    2. red fruits such as yangmei and dried Chinese hawthorns for red wines
    3. jackfruit and longan for dessert wines.
  5. The majority of the hypothesised equivalences for specific Chinese and Western descriptors are confirmed across all wine styles:
    1. 8 out of 14 specific descriptors for the red wines & the South Australia tawny (nv)
    2. 11 out of 20 specific descriptors for the white wines, the sparkling wines and the 2012 King Valley Moscato
  6. There is scant evidence that using Chinese or Western descriptors will impact likeability, willingness to buy or perceived price point, because Chinese wine drinkers tend to favour certain lexical terms. It is advised that a case-by-case decision be made on how to orient an Australian wine.
  7. The wines that Chinese consumers like and are willing to buy are different from those they perceive as more expensive.
  8. This study validates the research protocol making it possible for further research to be conducted on other Australian wine styles and in other emerging wine markets that possess different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

This study was generously supported by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority. The research was executed by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science with contracted support from the Australian Wine Research Institute and Wine Intelligence. A slide deck presentation of this report is available here.