Despite traditional views on matching food with wine based on body, acid and texture, in Chinese food, the concept, according to the owner of Shanghai's premier fine-dining company, is Ruby Red, "non-existent".
Even more confusing for pedantic food and wine makers, Simon Zhou, owner of Ruby Red, is convinced that most Chinese wine lovers do not care about mating while talking with a group of wine journalists at their showroom in Shanghai forward of this this week's ProWine.
He further expanded the subject, saying: "If food and wine match things, China would drink 80% white wine. People do not, maybe less than 5% of the consumed wine is white."
On the superior preference for red wine over white, he stated that this stemmed from the view that all wine is red, as in Chinese translation for wine when it was introduced on the market – 红酒 – denoted the color of a wine should be red.
"So if you drink a white wine, people do not understand it," he commented.
In addition, he said that with many of the world's most high-profile wines as red, the idea of Chinese drinkers that red wines were strengthened, suggested higher quality and value.
Generally, China's wine drink is an experience, he believes, meaning that people drink wine for status rather than enjoyment in themselves, stressing that people do not buy wine to get drunk or alcohol as he says. "If you want to be drunk, you would not choose wine … It's for status and sharing stories about visiting the vineyards or human stories about the winemakers," he said, claiming that a bottle of higher strength of Baijiu would be cheaper and more efficient if You drink for the sake of alcohol.
Although he can quickly explain that in different cities, the consumer base is drastically different. For example, in primary cities like Beijing and Shanghai, private consumers would represent about 50% of total sales, while in other cities public purchases still constitute the main driving force for wine consumption, followed by corporate customers and private customers.
The dealer works in four different cities in China, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Shenzhen. While the average per bottle price is RMB 380 in Shanghai, Beijing is ranked higher at RMB 450, Zhou revealed.
Since Ruby's launch in 2005, he assumed that the company's portfolio has gone through major reviews and redirects. A new Chinese, Zhou started selling only New Zealands wines, but it did not take him long to find out that in France French wines dominate, which caused him to drastically increase his French wine portfolio, which now accounts for 60% of its range. "Otherwise, I would be bankrupt now," he laughed wryly.
Burgundy's successes, which have seen the biggest growth of the company, also led Ruby Red's consumers to look for Pinot Noir in cooler climate regions in New World, he added.
In China, a medium-sized importer of about 70 wine importers with annual wine sales of more than 5 million dollars, Zhous extends the range from Biondi-Santi to Bass Philip, much of which he imports directly.
Online retailing has been widely discussed in China, but it only contributes to about 1% of Ruby Red's total sales, he added.