An interview with Chinese wine consultant Terry Xu

Wine news

Thu 14 Nov 2019

IWSC wine consultant Terry Xu is a wine and cognac expert and senior wine business consultant with 12 years of experience in the wine industry. Based in China, he promotes wine sales with the aim of ensuring that every Chinese family has a bottle of wine on the table.

What are the major trends in the Chinese market at the moment? What are the most exciting developments?

Natural wine is becoming very popular. All kinds of tastings are being held, bars and restaurants selling natural wine are opening up, and importers who focus on that style are increasing, so the love for natural wine is probably the major trend. 

In terms of countries, Australia has surpassed France to become the top wine supplier in mainland China. Penfolds is the driving force, but other big and small wineries are also performing well. 

Chinese boutique wineries are also attracting customers’ attention, with good quality, localised marketing and sales strategies.

What’s the spirits scene like – is it all about baijiu? What other spirits are coming up?

Spirits are more accepted than wine in the Chinese market. Baijiu sales keep increasing, and whisky – especially single malt whisky – is a big trend in tier 1 and tier 2 cities [the Chinese city tier system is a hierarchical classification of cities in China]. Whisky tasting events have no empty seats, and whisky bars are popping up as fast as bamboo shoots after rain... 

In addition, some high-end bars in tier 1 cities have started serving gin by celebrating gin week or offering a gin-themed drinks list.

What’s the last wine you bought and loved?

Legacy Peak Kalavinka 2014 from the Helan Moutain region in Ningxia Province, China.

Strong tannins, powerful structure, and a complicated and layered flavour. Very impressive – no wonder some media called it China's Latour.

Do you remember your first bottle of wine – if so, what was it?

I don't quite recall my first bottle of wine, but my first baijiu experience is still fresh in my mind. It was a Wuliangye baijiu, and my nose bled right after. A cup of Baijiu is like a cup of fire.

If you had to limit your drinking to one region, which would you choose?

I would choose Burgundy for sure – but on second thought, Burgundy lacking rosé and sweet wine would make me go with Bordeaux instead. I can have every kind of wine I need.

What is the best wine book you’ve read in the last year?

Wine Science: The Application of Science in Winemaking by Jamie Goode, which I read while preparing for my MW exam. This book is so well-written that it doesn’t feel dull or dry with all the technical information – it's more like a vineyard travel book.

Who do you most admire in the wine world?

I used to work on a documentary dedicated to Robert Mondavi, so I read a lot about him. His generosity, determination and dedication inspired me to devote myself to Chinese wine.

What advice would you give to producers who are trying to get noticed in China? 

Apart from making good wine and getting endorsement from an international authority like the IWSC, producers should spend some time getting to know the Chinese market, especially Chinese customers who are curious and eager to learn. 

Based on that, they should establish a relationship with a trustworthy and suitable partner to explore this promising mass market together. Patience and courage are essential – do one thing at a time, and do it right. Start with a single product or an area, and expand step by step.