For a wine fair in only its third year, the recently-concluded Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair (4th – 6th November) was very well organised: nearly 700 exhibitors from 30 countries and regions, about 14,000 trade visitors (up 19% from 2009), with some 1,300 wines entered for the Cathay Pacific HKIW&S Competition reports Sommelier India correspondent, Alok Chandra.
Hong Kong has been the world’s fastest-growing wine market since it removed all duties and taxes on wines – imposts were slashed from 80% in 2006 to 40% in 2007 to nil in 2008. Predictably, prices fell and sales soared: wine imports into Hong Kong from January to September 2010 were HK$ 4.67 billion (about Rs. 2,800 crore) – 72% higher than in the same period in 2009, which itself witnessed an 80% growth over 2008. In contrast, wine imports into India during the same period in 2010 were probably not more than Rs.100 crore.
Interestingly, Hong Kong has overtaken London to become the second-largest wine auction market in the world, just behind New York, and is the most important market for auctioneer Sotheby’s worldwide – witness the three bottles of Château Lafite 1869 that were snapped up for US$ 230,000 each (that’s over Rs 1 crore per bottle!) at their last HK auction on October 29 by an anonymous Chinese buyer.
The Fair itself was organised at the glittering Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, completed in 1997 on an artificial island on Victoria Harbour (Wanchai), with a total exhibition space of 83,000 sqm and function space of some 92,000 sqm. At the fair most exhibits (99%) were wines, with major participation by producers from Australia, Spain, Portugal and Italy, as well as many importers and traders based in Hong Kong. The Indian pavilion (sponsored by the Indian Grape Processing Board) was a modest affair with only five participants: Sula, Indage, Vintage, Kinvah, and Bio Wines.
Results of the Cathay Pacific Wine & Spirits Competition were announced at a gala sit-down dinner at the Convention Centre on November 4, with Australian and new Zealand wines bagging most of the top prizes. The only Indian wine to receive a medal was Ritu Sauvignon Blanc, the export label from USL’s Four Seasons Vineyards.
Hong Kong itself is a stunning example of great urban planning and execution. Since I was last there (1994) they have put up a world-class international airport on Lantau island, extended the MTR system from 25 to 210 km of rail, and built a seamlessly integrated system of skywalks connecting most major buildings on Hong Kong Island with passenger transit facilities. The Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Hong Kong is run largely in an autonomous manner (from Mainland China), and the system works!
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (www.hktdc.com), which organised visits by wine writers from all over the world, is doing a terrific job. Established in 1966, this statutory body now has 40 offices worldwide (including Mumbai), and is the international marketing arm for Hong Kong-based traders, manufacturers and service providers.
Participants from India