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HK wine market ‘now driven by consumers’

Hong Kong’s wine lovers are buying bottles to drink now rather than viewing wine as an investment, a fine wine merchant has reported.

“Consumers are still into the big brands,” said Linden Wilkie of the Fine Wine Experience. “But they are after good aged wine to consume immediately, rather than saving it with a view to selling further down the line.”

Faced with mounting Burgundy prices, and failing to see a return on investment in Bordeaux, wine lovers in Hong Kong are no longer “stockpiling” wine by buying cases they had no intention of ever drinking. “It makes the market healthier, I think. Because wine really should be for drinking and it brings substance to the market which becomes less about monetary transactions and more about consumers just enjoying wine for its own sake.”

“Yes, the fine wine market is a bit flat but now it’s now driven by consumption with definitive end consumers. Before the mid 2000s it was hard to define who was actually drinking what, with China’s excessive gifting culture and collectors holding on to cases they would know would rapidly appreciate in value.”

A more pragmatic issue in Hong Kong is the subject of space and the climate that bathes the region in near-permanent humidity.

“It’s just not practical to store wine here. There’s hardly any space, the rental prices are crazy because of this lack of space and also because of the technology involved. You need a temperature controlled, secure storage unit and unless you’ve got a vast collection, for the average wine drinker it’s just not worth it.”

The age-old subject of saving face and winning approval for Chinese consumers is still very much a part of Hong Kong’s wine drinking culture, however, which continues to limit what people are looking for, said Wilkie.

“You can have a really interesting wine by a relatively unknown winemaker that’s making waves in Europe but that it of minimal interest to the average fine wine drinker here.” Rather than in Europe where wine is one component of a gathering of friends with good food in a good restaurant, in Hong Kong wine remains the main focus.

“You’ll have a group of drinkers who will all bring a very good bottle of aged Bordeaux or aged Burgundy and they’ll drink it with Chinese food – abalone, steamed garoupa – food they have been eating for years so that takes a back seat and wine is centre stage which cements their position among their peers and colleagues.”

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