Vinexpo Asia recently concluded, it ran from the 25th of May to the 27th of May. Held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Wan Chai, the city with the highest per capita wine consumption in Asia – 3.5 liters of wine per person per year according to the International Wine and Spirits Report (IWSR), saw over 800 exhibitors from 32 countries and close to 9,500 wine professionals exchange notes over seminars and tastings. Rahoul Singh who was on location in Hong Kong at Vinexpo for Sommelier India WINE magazine reports.
With the IWSR predicting that for the next three years 50 percent of the worlds wine consumption will be divided between the U.S. and China it was of little surprise to observe the fervent activity at the Convention centre – scores of French wine producers including the “First Growths” were present, as were over sixty German wineries, showcasing some excellent Reislings.
Robert Beynat, the CEO of of VIEXPO Overseas, remarked, that, “Asia is the last emerging market in the world, but what makes it so special is the phenomenal pace of growth in wine consumption that we have seen here. No other market has seen such an increase in such a short period of time.” While the Asian market includes mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, the Philipines, Thailand and Singapore and consumes 6.6 percent of the world’s wine, the bulk of consumption is divided between Hong Kong and China.
Beynat added that trade and political institutions in the region recognized the importance of the wine market and by, “quite spectacularly banning import duty on wine and by setting up bilateral trading agreements with wine producing nations,” demonstrated their commitment to this sector.
Berry Brothers and Rudd, Britains oldest wine merchants in their 2008, “The Future of Wine Report” takes a bullish view on wines being produced in China. While the modern wine industry is only 30 years old, it is the sixth largest producer of grape table wines. Furthermore, Jasper Morris, master of wine and Burgundy expert, feels that, “it is entirely conceivable that in such a vast country there will be pockets of land and micro climates well suited to the production of good quality wine.”
With such heightened interest in both the consumption and production of wine in China, and the Chinese interest in French wines it was only expected to see a strong French presence.
Sopexa Hong Kong, helped organize over 152 French exhibitors representing eleven wine growing regions along with demonstrations, tastings and quizzes. While Bordeaux wines have long been a favourite amongst the Chinese, their most important challenge at the moment is to demonstrate that they are good wines at any price and can produce a wine for any occasion.
Thomas Jullien, Asia’s representative at the Bordeaux Wine Council when questioned about the perception of French wine and specifically Bordeaux, as representing a region which is stuck in its past, took great pains to state that, “this is absolutely not the case. There are breakthroughs in technology, marketing and wine label design. There is a lot of life and creativity emerging from Bordeaux.”
Michel Rolland the high flying wine maker and consultant to wineries around the world, including Grover Vineyards in India was also present at the Expo where he conducted a vertical tasting of six wines vintages from his own Pomerol vineyard, Chateau le Bon Pasteur.
A major attraction of Vinexpo was its expanding and encompassing program of tutored tastings, seminars and master classes. The wine tastings covered covered Bordeaux and Burgundy Grand Crus, German and Alsace Pinot Noirs and Reislings, as well as wines from Argentina and Spain. As a visitor to the Expo, for a fee of HK$ 1000, you could even a acquire a certification by attending three “master classes”.
Jeannie Cho Lee who (along with Debra Meiburg from Hong Kong and Lisa Perrotti-Brown from Singapore) passed her Master of Wine exam in 2008, launched her website AsianPalate.com at the Expo, and conducted an hour long master class session on “Matching Asian Flavours with Wine” where we explored how wine could alter one’s appreciation for classic Asian flavours and, conversely, how common Asian ingredients affected the flavours of wine.
As a forum for exchanging ideas, exploring opportunities, tasting as well as acquainting oneself with emerging wine markets and meeting veterans of the trade, the Expo had something for everyone from the wine novice to the veteran.