#37 Lionel Le Gal – Insights on China’s wine industry, blind tastings & a golden tip for setting up shop
Senior wine consultant, Lionel Le Gal, was born in Paris and first arrived in Shanghai in 2001 as a student at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade, learning Chinese, trade, sales and marketing. Armed with this new knowledge, he quickly joined the French Wine Paradox team as a part-time wine promoter. Since then he has spent most of his career dealing with the On Trade wine business for key importers such as Torres China and ASC Fine Wines, working primarily in China and Vietnam. Most recently he teamed up with Italian sommelier Michele Muraro under a new venture called The Wine Guy. Lionel is married and has been in Shanghai for the last 7 years. Today Lionel is on a mission: to share some insights on the Chinese wine trade and also debunk some popular myths!
Be a real listener of yourself, and others.
How he got to China
“On a plane,” he jokes! More seriously, he started out as a student, a totally-unprepared-one at that! He purposely didn’t read any books on China because he wanted to form his own opinions of the place. Apparently they were positive considering his 7-year tenure and budding career!
His current project
Opened officially in September 2014, The Wine Guy’s business model targets the major segment of the wine industry from the wine producers, importers, and restaurants for B to B, to final consumers as B to C. In a nutshell, they help wineries to find importers, help importers to improve their turn over, create wine list and sourcing for wineries, organize private tasting at people’s home (FUN!) and do corporate wine purchases for companies.
Years ago with another entrepreneurial venture, Lionel made a common mistake: focusing too much on his business plan, creating his corporate image, name cards, logo and so on. He was retreating behind his computer instead of going out into the world to drum up some business.
Lessons learned along the way
- You must beat the streets for business, especially in a people-business like wine.
- When in need, find a safe place to retreat and refuel (Lionel is a yoga guy and that truly helps him unwind!)
- For those with a home office, get out and meet people for lunch to force human interaction.
- Find a partner with different and complementary skills.
- Don’t forget to laugh and have fun during the process.
- Protect your brand and register them in Chinese and English.
- HOT TIP: Look into buying a WFOE instead of going through the registration process yourself. Check its scope and do your due diligence of course but it may save you a great deal of time in the long run.
What has him super jazzed
His view of the ever changing Shanghai Tower skyscraper. They’re recently testing out the lighting and it’s making for quite the show!
- The bio of Richard Branson, Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way
- TED in general, but especially this piece by Eric Li
- The Sunscreen Speech remains a reference for Lionel; it pretty much says it all!
- Decanter China Newsletter
- Shanghai entrepreneur platform has quite some interesting speakers