Memories of cheque-book waving Chinese mobbing Berry Bros & Rudd’s Hong Kong office have long faded, but Simon Staples, the firm’s sales director for Asia, says it isn’t all doom and gloom.
Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir from Central Otago was BBR Asia’s best-selling wine by volume in August
How’s life in China?
I came here two years ago and was seduced by the fact it’s such an amazing market. But it’s so important to stress getting wine into China and selling it is almost impossible legally and professionally. Someone in Beijing is not going to pay the fee-laden tax price you should charge on fine wine in China. It’s completely against their mentality. So people come to Hong Kong or Europe [to buy] because it’s cheaper. Only in Shanghai is there any sort of market whatsoever.
Is there still faith in en primeur?
To be honest the 2010 killed it in Hong Kong. Even with two great vintages back to back, the market couldn’t stand a high price vintage. In 2009 60% of our en primeur we sold was in Hong Kong. In 2010 it was 10% and this year it’s woeful – I think about 1%.
Any positive signs?
I’ve been promising green shoots for 18 months, and every month I’m surprised it hasn’t happened. But actually prices have been rising. We had £400,000 of First Growth sales last week – that’s the first time in months we’ve sold anything like that amount.
And beyond top-end Bordeaux?
In China there’s definite interest beyond the First Growths. Off the top of my head we’re 56% down on Bordeaux and 10% on Burgundy. But we’re 35% and 50% up on Italian and Spanish. I think it’s not so much the value there. It’s just people want to experiment with new things
What about the crackdown on luxury goods?
Well, in terms of gift-giving it’s not that high volume at all, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who was actually at one of these banquets.
Berry Bros. & Rudd (Asia) August sales (up to 21.08.14)
Most expensive wines
1 case x 3 Pétrus Magnums 1961, 64, 67 – £37,800 IB OWC
1 case x 12 Pétrus 1970 – £33,000
1 case x 12 Le Pin 1989 – £20,500
Most expensive lines
3 cases x 12 DRC Assortments 2011 – £20,850 per case
20 cases 2000 Latour – £7,400
18 cases 2000 Cheval Blanc – £5,450
Best selling wines
Surveyor Thomson, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
Ch. Villa Bel-Air, Graves (Rouge)
Thienot Brut Champagne