Chinese wine lovers are set to get more tasting notes with local references to taste and flavour when choosing Australian wines, due to new research.

The research identified 34 Chinese wine descriptors, the majority with Western equivalents (examples below), although some were hard to classify as either Chinese or Western descriptors (such as clove, star anise and mango), said researchers from the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, University of South Australia.

The research marked a scientific approach to culturally ‘translate’ Western wine flavour descriptors that Chinese wine drinkers may have never seen or tasted before, a problem faced by many Western producers trying to tap into this growing market.

‘We’ve been getting a very positive response at all levels of the supply chain,’ Dr Armando Maria Corsi, Senior Research Associate of the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, told DecanterChina.com. ‘Some producers have already been re-looking at their tasting notes and changed the way that they put their tasting notes together.’

Chinese wine lovers attending Wine Australia’s Chinese education programme or going for cellar door visits in Australia are expected to see a postcard-sized ‘Wine Flavour Card’ made, based on the research and due to be published soon, said Dr Corsi.

The project, which aimed to ‘scientifically’ define the Chinese equivalent of Western taste descriptors was initiated by Wine Australia and conducted by the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, University of South Australia.

Researchers initially conducted a focus group of 48 participants from Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu to discover how Chinese consumers described the taste elements of wines.

The second stage was to quantitatively define how professional Western tasters would describe ‘popular wines Australia exports to China’.

In the final phase of research, 263 Chinese wine consumers from Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu were divided into groups to conduct tastings. Each group were given a set of either Western or Chinese descriptors to choose from, which the researchers later established links in between, explained Dr Corsi.

‘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,’ concluded the research.

Australia has recently signed a Free Trade Agreement with China to enjoy immunity of import tariff on wine by 2019. It is currently China’s second biggest source of imported bottled wines, according to custom figures.

Examples from the flavour wheel

Red wine (Western term vs Chinese term)
Strawberry –
Yangmei
Blackberry jam – dried Chinese hawthorns
Strawberry jam – dried wolfberries
Cooked game – Chinese sausage

White wines
Lemon – kaffir lime
Pineapple – jackfruit
Passion fruit – guava
Citrus fruits – star fruits
Gooseberry – longan

* The research was conducted by

Dr. Armando Maria Corsi
Senior Research Associate – Senior Lecturer

Dr. Justin Cohen
Senior Research Associate

Prof. Larry Lockshin
Associate Director

Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, School of Marketing, University of South Australia

*For more details about the research click here.