5 secrets to sell wine in China

Nov 30, 2021

Selling wine in China can be a challenge but also an opportunity for Italian producers, especially in light of the radical changes that the import-export sector is facing in this post-pandemic phase. To be successful in such a heterogeneous country, it is necessary to know its culture in-depth and this is exactly what we talked about with JC Viens during the 2021 edition of the wine2wine Business Forum.

In this article, we will resume the 5 secrets of Chinese culture to know if you want to successfully sell Italian wine in China.

Aspects of Chinese culture to consider when selling wine in China

One of the central factors of interest for the export of wine in China is probably the growth and evolution that the country has been facing in the last decades. In fact, most Chinese institutions and sectors are facing a rapid transformation which, combined with the complexity of Chinese culture, makes it difficult to fully understand the rules of the market.

A method that Italian producers often have, in the attempt to land the Chinese market, is to approach it as one would do for more mature and familiar markets, for example the American one. What JC Viens has instead made clear is the need to understand Chinese culture and adapt the sales strategy to its peculiarities. Let’s start discovering this culture with five fundamental elements, closely linked to each other.

The weiwen key

Weiwen is a complex concept that relates to the history of China and its social stability policy. To maintain self-sufficiency, fundamental in Chinese politics, the government tends to limit imports, making it more difficult for international producers to break through the market. Having recognized the importance of weiwen, Italian producers have no choice but to seek more sophisticated sales approaches, aimed not only at their own earnings but rather at creating a bond that can benefit both parties (producer and importer), increasing social stability.

The ganbei culture

Ganbei is a term that indicates the toast, in China it is almost an invitation to drink from a cup in one breath, literally it means “dry the glass”. It’s a real culture of collective celebration, linked to customs that are different from the Western ones of wine tasting and consumption. To sell in China, production and brands must be brought closer to this culture, forgetting the common use of wine that we know in Italy and presenting it rather as a prestigious product ideal for toasting on important occasions, selling the lifestyle of wine.

Guanxi and xinyong central role

Guanxi and xinyong are two key concepts in Chinese culture. The first term identifies the network, the relationships in the private and professional sphere, at the base of which there must be xinyong, trust. Creating a network in China is a delicate process based on establishing trust, that often takes place in the reciprocal exchange of favors and gifts. Italian wine can play an important role in these social dynamics because, as a luxury product, it’s the perfect gift to establish and maintain trust and interest. If the importer sees the Italian product as a tool capable of consolidating the relationship of trust with their customers, it will be easier to win them over and both parties will benefit from it.

Never underestimate mianzi

Mianzi means status, it’s the public image that an individual has built within society. Status is very important in relationships, especially professional ones: it helps to create a name that can be trusted. To sell wine in China, you need to create a good reputation and have a certain status. A prestigious wine will be able to show the importance of the brand, but also the importance of the person you’re inviting into your network, improving their reputation. Donating a prestigious wine becomes a sign of great consideration and trust in the other, triggering that mutual obligation that is the basis of guanxi.


In conclusion, we can say that to be successful Italian wine must have a pragmatic use, it must be a tool to build relationships of trust, xinyong precisely. To do this, one must sell his most prestigious wines, take care of the reputation of the brand (mianzi) and respect the ganbei culture. Deepening all these aspects and knowing the sector is as fundamental as it is complex.

Do you want to find out more about Chinese wine culture and learn fundamental concepts on import-export? You can do this by accessing the On Demand content of the wine2wine Business Forum! Access the sessions from the site and discover the secrets of the main global markets.