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The Drinks Business Asian Awards 2018: the winners

Here we present all the winners in the second-edition of the drinks business Asian Awards, which recognised the leading companies and personalities that have shaped and changed Asia’s drinks industry in 2018.

Hosted by the drinks business editor-in-chief Patrick Schmitt MW on 9 November during the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair, the awards ceremony feted the recipients of 11 awards across categories that included marketing, branding and leadership from key drinks trade members throughout Asia Pacific.

This year, close to 100 guests attended the Awards at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel to toast all winners and network with key decision-makers in the wine and spirits industry here in Asia.

Prominent companies including Australian wine giant Treasury Wine Estates, drinks company Pernod Ricard, Greater China’s leading wine merchants such as Kerry Wines (Shanghai) and COFCO Wine & Wine were among some of the top winners at the awards ceremony. Key figures in China including the country’s first Chinese Master Sommelier Lu Yang and Judy Chan, the chairwoman of China’s Grace Vineyard, were among the personality awards winners.

Judged by a panel of experts in the wine trade, storage service, finance and eduction sectors over a period of two days, the awards this year reflected the 10-year evolution of Asian’s wine trade after Hong Kong’s removal of wine tax in 2008, epitomised by Ginsberg+Chan – as will be seen.

From left to right: Representative from COFCO Wine & Wine; Chris Thompson of Elite Wines Vietnam; Eddie McDougall of The Flying Winemaker; Trent Heung, Terry Wong, Many Chan and Ken Man from Ginsberg & Chan; Linden Wilkie of The Fine Wine Experience; Tommy Tse of Treasury Wine Estates, Andrew Walsh of Treasury Wine Estates, Yuki Lo from Kerry Wines HK, Jean Marc Dizerens of Shangri-la Hotels, and Kaiko Cheng of Cru World Wine

The awards recipients also proved how dedicated companies that are invested in the longterm vision continue to thrive, with new players such as Vietnam’s Elite Wines injecting new life into the market with smart social media campaigns to grow Vietnam’s emerging wine scene.

Last but not least, we would like to thank our sponsors for our awards including the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong, Italy’s leading Prosecco producer, Andreola, for the refreshing bubbles, and top glassware producer, Riedel, for providing all the award trophies.

Scroll through the pages to read the stories for each winner, and judges’ reasonings on why they stood out from the pack. 


Greg De’eb, Company Principal of Crown Wine Cellars, the largest fine wine storage facility in Hong Kong

Roland Muksch, Senior Private Banker, Chairman of the Hong Kong Wine Society and Deputy Consul General of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne Greater China

Jude Mullins, International Development Director at WSET

Tersina Shieh, Independent Wine Judge and Wine Marketing Expert

Natalie Wang, Managing Editor of the drinks business Hong Kong

Daniel Boland, Commercial Director of the drinks business Hong Kong

Sophie Raichura, Sales Manager of the drinks business Hong Kong

Award presenters: 

Greg De’eb, Company Principal of Crown Wine Cellars

James Suckling, world-renowned American wine critic

Henry Ho, President of the Hong Kong Wine Chamber of Commerce

Ian Harris, CEO of WSET

Thomas Julien, China representative of Bordeaux Wine Council

Sarah Heller MW, winner of last year’s Young Achiever of the Year Award

Natalie Wang, Managing Editor of the drinks business Hong Kong

Best Drinks Event

Runner-up: Pernod Ricard – Perrier-Jouët ‘Art of the Wild’ pop-up 

Frantz Hotton, Managing Director of Pernod Ricard Hong Kong and Macau

Following the success of Perrier-Jouët – Garden of Wonder pop-up last year, the Champagne house this year introduced ‘Perrier Jouet – Art of the Wild’ – through a three-week-long pop-up activation during Hong Kong Art Week at the city’s prime luxury shopping spot, Pacific Place.

Featuring a colourful and whimsical pop-up store, decorated with the Champagne house’s signature flora and fauna motifs, the launch campaign successfully incorporated different elements of art such as personalisation of Perrier-Jouët’s Grand Brut bottles, Luftwerk’s ‘Becoming’ installation and DIY floral painting, to reinforce the Champagne house’s brand association with art. By employing key opinion leaders and working with targeted media outlets, the event attracted more than 7,000 visitors, an 80% increase over last year’s pop-up event. The judges praised the campaign for its 360 degree PR efforts and sustained campaign drive from pre-launch preparation to post-launch branding efforts.

Winner: The Fine Wine Experience – Bourghound Symposium 2018 

Linden Wilkie, Founder of The Fine Wine Experience

For the fourth year running, the Bourghound Symposium by The Fine Wine Experience managed to put on a much grander and larger event not only on its home turf, Hong Kong, but in Shanghai for the first time as well. Having spent over a year preparing for this year’s symposium and sourcing wines, the Bourghound Symposium 2018 delivered nine events over a period of seven days in two cities, comprising masterclasses and dinners in an effort to deepen people’s understanding of Burgundy wines.

Featuring a stellar guest lineup of Christophe Perrot-Minot and his wife from Domaine Perrot-Minot, Prune and Antoine Amiot Servelle from Domaine Amiot Servelle and renowned Burgundy wine critic Allen Meadow, known as ‘Burghound’, and his wife Erica, the symposium was lauded by the judges for its smooth overall execution, depth of wine knowledge on Burgundy and the wide-reaching impact of the series of events among Asia’s sophisticated wine lovers.

Over four years, the Bourgound Symposium has grown to be Asia’s flagship Burgundy-focused fine wine event, affirming the quality, breadth and depth of the fine wine market in Hong Kong and now Shanghai.

At the inaugural Shanghai event, a total of 175 guests attended the symposium. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, 355 people attended the symposium including two masterclasses, one on Gevrey-Chambertin and another on Domaine Amiot Servelle’s Chambolle-Musigny premiers crus. Additionally, the judges applauded its continuous support for charitable causes. This year’s Paulée-style dinner in Hong Kong raised HK$1.4 million, for the New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, 40% more in proceeds than last year.

Best Social Media Campaign 

Winner: Elite Wines Vietnam 

Chris Thompson of Elite Wines Vietnam

This year’s Best Social Media Campaign winner proves how smart social media placement and activation can not only raise brand awareness but generate profitable sales revenues even in an emerging market like Vietnam.

The judges were impressed by Elite Wines’ thorough and focused market research on Vietnam’s social media landscape, and how it utilised social media to its own benefit. Having identified Facebook as Vietnam’s preferred outlet early on, the company rolled out multi-dimentional promotional campaigns on the platform in the first half of 2018.

Through active postings on personal pages rather than branded public pages, the company was able to build a more personal follower base. On top of social media activations, it worked with key opinion leaders, multi-media platforms using videos and photographs to reinforce and sustain brand messages. Having attracted close to 180,000 video views and 52,300 likes on Facebook through active campaigns, the wine importer managed to turn DBR Lafite’s Los Vascos into Vietnam’s No. 1 ranked premium Chilean wine brand and DBR Lafite as the No. 1 ranked premium French wine brand in Vietnam. The judges are certain to look for greater things from Elite Wines.

Best Launch:

Winner: Treasury Wine Estates for Grand Esprit 

Tommy Tse of Treasury Wine Estates

Setting out to demystify French wines for consumers, especially the growing number of younger wine consumers, Australian wine giant Treasury Wine Estates introduced a new French wine collection called ‘Maison de Grand Esprit’ to a market focused on Greater China region in the fall of 2017.

Unlike traditional French houses where the focus is on a single sub-region, the Maison de Grand Esprit is designed to showcase France’s top regions including Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône and Provence under one brand name.

With a strategy to bring simplicity to the French wine category, the wine range is contemporary in style with a signature teal and blue-green colour for product packaging – specially designed to stand out in crowded shelf space.

The judges praised TWE’s strong PR planning and execution, advertising, consumer research, contemporary packaging, as well as immediate success of store listings. Within months of launch, the new French collection generated a total of 70 million media impressions, and the brand is now present in more than 1,000 sales networks across Greater China.

Best On-trade Supplier of the Year

Winner: Kerry Wines (Shanghai) Co. Ltd. 

Kerry Wines (Shanghai) won On-Trade Supplier of the Year award

In Greater China region’s much contested on-trade, excelling in on-trade supply requires companies to deliver quality service, a diverse product range in terms of price points and regions, supporting marketing and promotional materials as well as corresponding wine education for staff and the wine service team.

This year, the judges believed that Kerry Wines (Shanghai) emerged as the clear winner of this category. Carrying wines from 11 countries, with more than 50 exclusive brands in mainland China, the company caters to hotels, restaurants and bars with a varied range of different price points, from top first growth châteaux to rare Burgundies to more approachable brands from Treasury Wine Estates and Mouton Cadet.

An approved WSET course provider, Kerry Wines China also offers sommelier trainings for its on-trade partners. The company supplies to leading hotels including Shangri-la Hotels, Park Hyatt Beijing, Riz-Carlton Pudong, Shanghai and also sponsored with major events such as Michelin Guangzhou, Futian Shangri-la charity events and luxury fashion brand Dan’s launch in Shanghai.

Best Online Retailer of the Year 

Winner: Cru World Wine 

Kaiko Cheng, Sales Manager at Cru World Wine

For the Online Retailer of the Year award, Cru World Wine emerged as the winner, impressing the judges with its product range, site design, online selling techniques and customer base. Operating in the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore, Cru World Wine now offers over 7,000 products on Hong Kong and Singapore’s website. This year, it also introduced two new warehouses in Asia, increased the range of available range of fine wines online, and launched a digital fine wine investment research product in addition.

The new warehouses in Hong Kong and Singapore allowed the company to upgrade its storage facilities and allow for more Asian delivery destinations. In order to further its lead in online retail, the company launched its first mobile app, which is believed to be a dramatic improvement for its digital and e-commerce front. It features daily wine offers, live chat with wine advisors, and product portfolio management.

In the past 12 months, the company acquired more than 1,500 new customers, and its peer to peer trading platform has £16.5 million worth of wines. Going forward, the company is planning to open an office in Bordeaux to serve more Asian wine buyers.

Fine Wine Retailer of the Year

Special commendation: Cru World Wine 

This is a category that has attracted top contenders across Greater China region, and to recognise excellence in this category, the judges decided to give out a special commendation award to Cru World Wine for their continuous effort to refine and expand its fine wine offerings particularly online. Its wine offerings almost doubled from last year’s 4,000 to 7,000 this year. Its fine wine investment research product is expected to further help aid wine lovers and collectors to build their cellar.

Winner: Ginsberg + Chan 

Ken Man, Trent Heung, Mandy Chan and Terry Wong of Ginsberg + Chan

The winner this year went to Ginsberg + Chan, a boutique fine wine merchant founded by Jason Ginsberg and Mandy Chan shortly after Hong Kong’s wine tax removal in 2008. Capitalising on Hong Kong’s newly unleashed thirst for fine wines after the milestone event, within 10 years the company has grown to become a profitable business with approximately 40,000 bottles in its inventory. Our judges believed the rise of Ginsberg + Chan perfectly epitomises Hong Kong’s evolution as a fine wine capital in Asia.

Set up with a clear goal to serve Asian wine buyers with responsibly sourced wines and transparent pricing, the merchant also boasts unparalleled customer service, with an in-house rule that promises to answer client requests within 20 minutes during office hours. Having its wine stocks physically stored in Hong Kong also increased wine delivery response and product availability.

With all major wine regions covered in its wine list, it carries around 20,000 bottles of older vintages for discerning collectors and connoisseurs. Although old fashioned in the sense that it cultivates personal relations with clients, the company is also finely attuned to the latest technologies. The team is supported by a cloud-based inventory system that is plugged in and synchronised with its e-commerce store and accounting system. Each bottle sold online through the merchant is also itemised with bottle images.

In addition, the judges further praised the merchant’s commitment to provenance by sending three members of its team to study wine authentication courses with anti wine fraud expert Maureen Downey.

Drinks Company of the Year 

Winner: Treasury Wine Estates 

Andrew Walsh of Treasury Wine Estates

Treasury Wine Estates, proved once again why it has become one of the leading wine companies in the world, with enviable success in overseas markets particularly in Asia. The judges praised the company for its robust sales growth, product development, vast market penetration, continuous efforts to build and protect its brands, as well as corporate responsibility, especially its efforts to encourage women’s roles in the work space through a ‘She Leads’ initiative.

With a professionally-run staff-development programme, fully integrated distribution network that combines wholesale, retail, e-commerce, on-premise and travel retail sectors, and a newly inaugurated warehouse facility in Shanghai, the judges agreed that Treasury Wine Estates stood head and shoulders above its challengers. The success of the company in its most profitable market, mainland China, is thus much envied but hardly replicated.

In July this year, the company further pushed the boundary by reinforcing its flagship brand Penfolds’ multi-region winemaking philosophy –  announcing its plans to release California wines, a Champagne in the coming months. For the first time, in a nod to its mass of Chinese followers, it debuted a fortified Shiraz finished with the addition of baijiu. Boasting a portfolio that includes Australia’s iconic Penfolds brand to Napa’s Beringer and newly launched French collection, Maison de Grand Esprit, TWE again expanded its range by signing an exclusive distribution agreement with Baron Philippe de Brothschild’s Mouton Cadet earlier this year.

In the fiscal year 2018, the company reported EBITS growth of 17%, with Asia as key engine, registering 37.5% EBITS growth.

Best Retail 

Winner: COFCO Wine & Wine 

American wine critic James Suckling presenting Best Retail award to COFCO Wine & Wine

The winner of this year’s Best Retail award is in a league of its own in Greater China, with a total of about 500 retail stores scattered from first tier cities in Shanghai and Beijing to remote outpost of Tibet, and its solidified position as China’s No. 1 wine importer by volume, only four years after its inception in 2014. The wine and spirits importing arm of China’s biggest foodstuff company COFCO, COFCO Wine & Wine today has grown to be a powerful force to be reckoned with.

In the past year, it further expanded its offerings by adding baijiu, sake and other spirits to its portfolio. It also impressed the judges with its commitment to selling fine wines with guaranteed provenance, while spearheading China’s anti-counterfeit wine league known as the ‘Alliance of Fine Wine Traders’ to build an authentic and fair fine wine market. The company also collaborates with major e-commerce companies such as Tmall and to drive online wine sales. Its commitment to online retail, and staff education using WSET also won over all the judges. 

Young Achiever of the Year 

Winner: Eddie McDougall, The Flying Winemaker 

Eddie McDougal receiving Young Achiever of the Year award from last year’s winner Sarah Heller MW

This year’s recipient of Young Achiever of the Year Award has been in the Hong Kong’s wine scene for more than a decade but managed to significantly expand his business in the past 12 months.

From championing Australian wines and rosé to locally produced wines in Asia, McDougall is now celebrating 10 years of his eponymous Eddie McDougall Wines since its launch in 2008. The wine collection has secured distribution in China, Hong Kong and Macau, Singapore and Taiwan, as it grows to encompass wider ranges under ‘Umami’, ‘Urban Project’ and ‘King Valley’. This year, his career witnessed another milestone when he purchased New Zealand’s Gladstone Vineyard, with the goal to make “world-class, New World Pinot Noir”. The judges believe with his uplifting energy, solid background in winemaking, a wealth of experiences in wine judging, production and marketing, we will no doubt see more exciting projects from our Young Achiever of the Year.

Woman of the Year  

Winner: Judy Chan, President of Grace Vineyard in China 

Born in Hong Kong, Judy Chan left a career with Goldman Sachs to take over Shanxi-based Grace Vineyard from her father in 2002 at the tender age of 24. Since then she has turned Grace Vineyard into both a globally recognised brand and a flagship for Chinese fine wine.

Not only has she improved the quality of her wines, but she has built a successful and viable business model for a boutique family winery in China. Producing wines from  flagship red blend ‘Deep Blue’ to top wine ‘Chairman’s Reserve’ and most recently a range of sparkling wines, the winery’s wines are seen on the wine lists of major restaurants and hotels across the country, and are exported abroad. This year, she opened another chapter for her company by publicly listing it on Hong Kong Stock Exchange to achieve greater transparency and corporate governance.

Without any doubt, the judges believe Judy Chan is a role model for female entrepreneurs in China’s fast growing wine industry and beyond. Her achievement is not only confined to lifting the reputation of Chinese wine, but also proving to the outside world what’s possible and the promises that it holds.

A recipient of the drinks business Asian Wine Personality of the Year award in 2012, Chan has proven once again why she’s the most worthy recipient of our Woman of the Year award.

Man of the Year 

Winner: Lu Yang MS 

With stronger than ever submissions in this much-coveted award category, this year’s award goes to Lu Yang who has not only broken ground for young and aspiring sommeliers in China but has shown it can be done with grace and humility.

In August last year, Lu became the first Chinese to achieve the title of Master Sommelier, joining a group that numbers less than 250 people worldwide.

He’s also charged with overseeing the wine programmes and sommelier team at Shangri-la Hotels and Resorts, following a three-year stint at Peninsula Shanghai’s hotel sommelier, making him the first Chinese citizen to hold such a senior position in the hospitality industry.

Champions of many sommelier competitions, he’s also an avid wine educator. Having founded his own wine school, Grapea Institute, he’s determined to nurture more motivated wine lovers across China.

A WSET diploma holder, he was one of the nominees for WSET’s Outstanding Alumni Award. Graduating with a viticulture and winemaking degree at Niagara College in 2007, Lu went on to become the first Master of Wine Candidate from mainland China in 2012 after winning the Madame Bollinger scholarship.

A lover of Chinese classical music Gu Qin (pronounced Koo Ching) and a fan of heavy metal music in much younger days, it’s safe to say that wine sets the tone of his professional career now.

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