The Chinese Lexicon Project – a two year long research initiative by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia funded by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA) – has revealed what terms Chinese consumers use when describing a wine and what Asian fruit and vegetable flavours are equivalent to the Western ones used to describe wine.
The project, led by Dr Armando Corsi, Dr Justin Cohen and Prof Larry Lockshin, involved more than 250 Chinese wine consumers from Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
The participants described the taste of a selection of Australian white, red, sparkling and dessert wines.
Participants selected a series of generic wine descriptors as well as choosing from a list of specific fruit and vegetable flavours. These flavours were either Western fruit and vegetables or proposed Chinese equivalents.
The research found that generic wine descriptors, such as “mellow”, “lingering” or “fruity” were three times more likely to be used than specific wine descriptors by Chinese wine consumers.
Dr Corsi says that wine has been predominantly described in China using Western terminology but such descriptors lack meaning if the consumer has little or no experience of tasting that particular fruit, vegetable or spice.
“Describing a wine as tasting of blueberry is hard to understand if you have never seen or tasted a blueberry,” Dr Corsi says.
“What this research has provided is evidence of what specific Chinese fruit and vegetable flavours are equivalent to the Western descriptors currently used on wines in China.
“We can now say that the equivalent to blackberry preserve is dried Chinese hawthorns.”
The project also investigated the likeability, willingness to pay and perceived price points of different wine styles.
The research showed that what is perceived to be more expensive is not necessarily what is liked the most.
“There is also the potential for similar research to be undertaken in other countries to determine what cultural descriptors they would use to describe the taste of different wines.”