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Interview with Milan Wine鈥檚 Dean Smith




Currently Milan Wine’s Deputy General Manager, Dean Smith learned much, if not everything, about wine coming from a family that grew grapes and produced wine in New Zealand. His zeal in educating consumers about wine and importing wide selection of wines to China are patent. With a post-graduate degree in Viticulture and Enology (the sciences of grape cultivation and wine production), Mr. Smith heads Milan Wine’s wine tasters of a diverse range of imported wines. Here, Mr. Smith talks to Tianjin Plus to share his opinions on wine in Tianjin.


First, tell us about Milan Wines and its shops in Tianjin.


Tianjin is the home city for Milan Wines so it’s a city which is important to us strategically. It’s a city that we’ve invested and will continue to invest in, in terms of opening shops which we own and operate. We’ve currently got 12 retail shops in Tianjin and there will be another one opening just before Christmas.


Milan Wines is really about providing the consumers with a broad range of wines. I think a lot of wine shops in China suffer from importing some wine but they don’t really offer much with a wide selection, so we’ve got around 400 different products, all of which are imported directly, and a range of prices so someone who goes into our shop can find what they’re looking for. So, without a doubt, I think we offer the best selection of wines in Tianjin.


What are your observations on China’s wine industry?


To put it bluntly, the industry in China is a mess. There are a lot of bad things happening and there are some good things happening as well. I think it’s a really confusing place for consumers to find wine and buy one because there are some good wines but often you have to pay ridiculous amount of money for a bottle. For us, what we’re doing is creating more clarity for the consumer, being able to be more realistic in terms of the margin that we charge and in turn offering our customers an environment where they could come and pick up a bottle of wine and feel that they have paid what the wine is worth, not over and above.


What’s your job’s greatest challenge?


Understanding the Chinese consumer is probably the largest challenge of my job, since a lot of conventional decisions which need to be altered to fit the market are extremely important.


What tips can you give to someone new to wine?

I guess the best way for someone who’s new to wine is to taste as much wine as the budget will allow him to. The best way to make your budget go farther is to talk to us, because we are going to be regularly holding events where you can taste wine, which at the moment we run events which will cost you nothing. In the future we’ll make a very small, nominal cost where you can come to one venue and maybe taste 30-40 different kinds of wines in one setting and make up your own mind about what you like because the more you learn about wine, the more you realize that everyone’s different. So my advice would be to try wine, think about what you’re tasting and don’t be influenced by what other people are saying. Also, taste it, have fun with it and don’t take it too seriouslym because as soon as you make it too serious it isn’t any fun!


Lastly, what’s your impression of Tianjin?


I have to agree with what a lot of people say that Tianjin is more of like a big town than a large city and that’s mostly because of the people. It’s more modern than I thought it would be and you can find anything that you want, it has challenges but it has far more good things than bad things.

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