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China Social Club Ventures into Natural Wine with ‘Wine Lips’

Nov 14, 2018 | 10:04 Wed
Five Questions: Because "interviews" just sounds so staid and formal! This is where we talk to interesting people about interesting things. "Five" is more of a guideline than an actual rule.
Matthew Hildebrandt (DJ Frau) and Phillip James (DJ PCJ) have been playing music and throwing parties in the indie club scene for the past five years. Together they make up China Social Club, a music promotion house and agency passionate about exposing up-and-coming Chinese artists. Now, in addition to regular gigs and running the NTS Radio Shanghai studio, the Australian pair are putting on parties for the wine curious as Wine Lips. Ahead of their next Wine Lips event at Beverly this Thursday night (November 15), we sat down with Matt and Phil to talk about their new project.


SmSh: So what’s the motivation behind Wine Lips?

Matt: With Wine Lips we work partially as an importer, but our main work is representing Aussie wineries in China and throwing parties, intimate tastings and events. Our goal is to lose the pretentiousness and dogma attached to wine. It should be fun and drinkable, it doesn’t have to be a big hearty red, it can be funky and interesting.

Phil: That’s what we want to do with Wine Lips, give people a chance to try natural wine. Right now in Shanghai, there are only a handful of bars where you can go to buy natural wine and it's slightly more expensive because it’s low-yield.


SmSh: Wait—isn’t all wine natural?

Phil: Far from it. Natural wine came from the Georgian wine making process thousands of years back. What it involves is using organic grapes and processing the wine without adding anything to it, so it naturally ferments. Basically, you’re not adding yeast to kick-start fermentation and as the process goes on you’re also not adding any preservatives like sulfur, acid or flavoring. Lastly you’re not taking anything out of the wine with processes like filtration which sometimes involves 1,000 eggs or centrifuges. A lot of wine is made in a lab—natural wine takes all of that out of the equation.


SmSh: When did you decide it was your mission to liven up the wine scene in Shanghai?

Phil: My first natural wine was in a nightclub in Sydney in 2008. It was an orange wine – a white wine made like a red wine – and it sucked me into the concept. Natural wine is sort of what craft beer is to the beer industry, slowly disrupting the conventional wine industry.

Matt: You try it and you’ll be hooked. We want to have more people trying it and drinking it, so more people will import it. We have our parties and in the future we’re working towards a natural wine festival and will be opening a specialty natural wine online shop soon. It’ll be the one-stop shop for natural wine in China.


SmSh: Does BottlesXO know about this?

Phil: I’m sure they do and I’d actually like them to stock some natural wine. From a business perspective most wine distributors need wine in large quantities. Higher volumes keep the prices affordable. Whereas right now with natural wine, you have to contact the producer and they’ll be like: “You can have five cartons of wine this year, next year you may be be able to order more.” It’s very low quantity. But the more people are selling, the better. For the parties, we actually go to all the distributors who sell natural wine to get them together in one place.


SmSh:: How regular are events? What can people expect at the Wine Lips party at Beverly tomorrow?

Matt: At the moment our parties are quite intimate with up to 100 guests and a youthful and fun aesthetic. It’s a simple concept really: have some great wine, turn the music up and be yourself. If you want to learn about the wine, someone will be there to talk about it, but if you just want a casual glass of wine with some friends, you can do that too. We will have smaller events and larger public events every one to two months. Best bet is to follow WineLipsChina for all info.


Tomorrow night starting at 7.30pm at Beverly, Wine Lips will host the un/official wine expo afterparty. Details here.


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