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HK’s fine wine forecast for 2017

As this year draws to a close, dbHK quizzed Paulo Pong of Altaya Wines and Chadwick Delaney of Justerini & Brooks about highlights of 2016 and their predictions for fine wine trends in 2017.

Throughout 2016 there was a general feeling of unease among Hong Kong’s wine trade regarding decreasing sales and declining fine wine consumption, amid Hong Kong’s slowing economy and retail slump but it’s just made consumers savvier about what they spend their money on. Hong Kong’s continuing insistence on top-level Burgundy and Bordeaux has also not caused quite the catastrophe that perhaps people had feared.

Burgundy continues to sell highly with Paulo Pong, founder of Altaya Wines noting that the likes of Domain Dujac, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Musigny “will always do well” but that it’s the emergence of less famous domaines that has been very noticeable.

“More and more Burgundy is now available than ever before in Hong Kong, which makes it easier for consumers to pick out alternatives,” he said. “People are actively seeking out Saint Aubin, Saint-Romain and village level wines from Côte de Nuits and Nuits-Saint-Georges. The 2010s and 2011s are ready to drink now and are a great buy.”

“2014 white Burgundy is also becoming increasingly sought after. It’s a great vintage and I think the trend will just continue for a long time.”

Justerini & Brooks’ managing director Chadwick Delaney agreed, adding that Burgundy’s top domaines – Justerini & Brooks’ area of focus – are particularly “fashionable” and also noted the “continuing resurgence” of aged Bordeaux, following the repricing in recent years.

Pong highlighted that the level pricing of 10 to 15 year old Bordeaux has made them extremely attractive to consumers with bottles ranging in price from HK$400-HK$1,000 becoming one of the fastest selling categories.

“People in Hong Kong are still drinking well,” he said. “They’re just not going the extra mile like they used to and are ‘trading down’. Whether it’s for a corporate do or a private dinner, people are watching their money which makes the mid-range Bordeaux really appealing – we just can’t get enough of it in to meet demand.”

Regarding next year’s en primeur, the issue is – as ever – pricing, even with a promise of a quality vintage. “I will be travelling to Bordeaux in a month and my understanding at this early stage is that the quality is high,” said Delaney.

“But if the Bordelais get the pricing right, they will be able to use it to further establish the reemergence of Bordeaux among collectors.”

“Bordeaux has really suffered over the last five years,” added Pong. “The 2013 vintage wasn’t exactly exciting, 2012 wasn’t excellent, the price was too high and just wrong for 2011 and 2010 was excellent – but again, commanding a really high price.”

“The 2015 campaign was decent but our customers are getting a bit fed up now. We’ve seen 15 campaigns and since the price increase from 2009 to 2011 people in Hong Kong are still cagey. Some of the Bordelais don’t stick to market prices and consequently, this segment for us has accounted for much less than it did. The 2016 campaign does look interesting, but we’ll have to see.”

Elsewhere, Pong and Delaney both noted growing interest in fine Italian wine and Napa ‘icons’; a trend which looks set to continue well into 2017.

“Wines from Italy will continue to be quite vibrant, particularly Super Tuscans,” said Delaney. “Interestingly, we have also begun to notice an interest in the icon wines from California which is not something that we had seen before in this market.”

“2013 Napa is known for being a great vintage,” said Pong. “But I love the 2012, it’s softer and more expressive. Next year also marks the release of 2011 Brunello di Montalcino which will be as exciting as ever.”

So it seems despite a certain feeling of malaise in Hong Kong over the last 12 months, Delaney and Pong remain upbeat for the arrival of 2017.

“Last year our Hong Kong sales team sales exceeded any sales team within the business,” said Delaney. “As we celebrated our 40th anniversary last month at The Peninsula Hotel, our Hong Kong business has gone from strength to strength.”

“Hong Kong really is a mature market now and people are wanting the best wines from the best areas and are broadening their tastes,” said Pong. “It’s so diverse.”

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