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Q&A with Jorge Nuñes

With Grahams Port soon to launch its incredibly rare, limited edition 1882 tawny “Ne Oublie in Hong Kong, the drinks business spoke to Symington Family Estates Asia Pacific marketing manager Jorge Nuñes about the market for rare Port in the region.

Ne Oublie - Port at US$9,000 a pop
Ne Oublie 

How is the market for vintage Port in Hong Kong?
The market for Vintage Port in Hong Kong remains small when compared with the other two centres of fine wine in the world, London and New York, where it has a far greater representation, but signs are very positive that we will soon be seeing here a new generation of consumers getting into these wines. The wine knowledge grows at an amazing rate in this part of the world, and consumers are quickly widening their drinking options, either by looking for different and special wines, or by revisiting  the classics, a category where vintage Port is included.

If we add to this natural development of the market, a better distribution in the domestic market, the incredible value for money it represents – vintage Port remains one of the last fine wines that consumers can purchase without paying very high and often speculative prices – and the work that our company is doing either individually with activities in the market or through the now five years old Vintage Port Academy (an educational body that joins the Symington Family Estates with the Fladgate Partnership to raise awareness of vintage Port in Hong Kong and Greater China), the future seems bright for us.

Is there a demand for rare and collectable Ports? 
We are firm believers that great wines are highly demanded, whether they are from the Douro Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, or other great wine producing regions. Vintage Ports have always been the most highly sought after Ports because of their incredible value and ageing potential, and this is a category where our brands (Graham’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s and Warre’s) have always been very strong.

The recent launches of very old and rare barrel-aged wines (as opposed to the bottle-aged vintage Ports) such as this Graham’s Ne Oublie Very Old Tawny Port 1882, have allowed a different category to arise, of wines that are ready to be enjoyed and that display an immense complexity, richness and smoothness that the long barrel-ageing provides. What we are finding is that not only the fine wine enthusiasts are interested in this special release, but also the usual high-end spirits consumers that enjoy their Whiskey, Cognac or Armagnac!

How have other old releases been received?
This is the first time that Graham’s has launched such a very old Port, so we are still beginning to understand the impact of this sort of wines, but so far, we’ve had a fantastic reception to it. Before this, we had launched ourselves in the Single Harvest (single year, barrel-aged Port, ready to be enjoyed) business a few years ago with three barrels of 1961 being launched in a very special packaging, and are currently about to the start selling the sixth and last barrel of the 1969. Both releases have been very well received and this is definitely something we will continue to do.

How do they raise awareness of the Port category in a market that is still developing?
We all know that because of its geographical location and tax-free policy on wines, Hong Kong features probably the most eclectic variety of wines in Asia, perhaps just matched by Japan. Because of this, consumers are exposed to a lot of options and the “Port space” is reduced, but that also means that the opportunities are out there to explore.

Launches such as the Graham’s Ne Oublie 1882, allow the Port category to get attention from the media and the trade, while displaying the category at an extremely high-level of quality and rarity. Such attention from them was almost exclusively driven by the releases of new vintage Ports, happening three to four times per decade. We are hopeful that this “family jewel” will work downwards to the remaining range of Graham’s Ports and raise their visibility and awareness.

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