Welcome to Hong Kong! With 60.91 million liters of wine imported in 2017 valued at 1.53 billion USD, Hong Kong is a wine market that has become unavoidable. It is also one of the coolest places to live in, and I must admit, one of my favorite destinations. At the end of 2018, Hong Kong celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Wine & Dine Festival. We took the opportunity to go there to give you an update of the situation, by interviewing six of the top local wine experts.
An overview with Debra Meiburg (Master of Wine and consultant), James Suckling (wine critic), Sarah Heller (Master of Wine and consultant), Yohann Jousselin (Master Sommelier and Regional Director of the Shangri-La group), Eddie McDougall (aka The Flying Winemaker) and Thomas Jullien (CIVB coordinator for Hong Kong and China).
DEBRA MEIBURG MW : Hong Kong is such a vibrant and exciting place to live in. It’s one of the only places in the world where you can hike in the morning, go to a fish market and a Gucci opening that evening with Lafite.
SARAH HELLER MW: It is one of the easiest places in the world to start a business. And you just see so many people from all over the world coming here and having the opportunity to start new businesses, bringing their vibrancy from all these different cultures.
EDDIE MCDOUGALL: Hong Kong very quickly became a global platform for wine in 2008, when they abolished the tax. It helped the economy in a very difficult time. A lot of other countries were going into financial crises, but HK had this magic trick that it pulled out and stimulated the economy overnight with the wine industry.
Now it is more about understanding what quality is. People are becoming more sophisticated as well as more wealthy so they can make better choices.
JAMES SUCKLING: This makes it the most open and dynamic wine center in the world, with wines from everywhere and relatively low prices compared to other Asian markets.
DEBRA MEIBURG MW: In 2008, when the HK Government removed wine duty, they thought to position HK as the fine wine hub of Asia. And in fact that has been achieved. But we are not only the fine wine hub; I would say we are THE wine hub.
YOHANN JOUSSELIN MS: Hong Kong is a market that goes at 300km/h! What excites me the most in Hong Kong is the diversity of products that we see on the market. I had sommeliers who worked for me for six months in Hong Kong and who told me that they have tasted more fine wines here than during their ten-year experience in Europe.
It's something you can’t see anywhere else in the world.
THOMAS JULLIEN: What’s really striking about the way the wine market in HK is evolving is the thirst for knowledge from the people. Education here is a big topic. Most of the people you meet take wine classes. You meet people here who know a lot. This is not a place where we produce wine. This is just a place where we import wine. The level of knowledge considering this is amazing.
And also because of this, because this is not the place where you are going to focus only on one origin, you will have wine origins from all over the world and people very openminded to taste them.
SARAH HELLER MW: We are getting into trends like natural wines, amber wines, these sort of things. I really do think it’s somewhere where there is a great opportunity for any new wine to try and make new roads. We didn’t really have a lot of wine bars and certainly not very exciting ones in 2008.
And increasingly we have more and more natural wine bars, as well as all those inventive models, for making wine accessible to a broader range of people.
JAMES SUCKLING: The biggest evolution in the HK wine industry is the ever-increasing selection of wines from around the world and the wine consumers openness to try them.
Until five or six years ago it was only about Bordeaux but now consumers and the trade are open to buying and drinking just about anything.
DEBRA MEIBURG MW: The Wine & Dine Festival has been a really important opportunity for Hong Kong to showcase its commitment to wine. But more importantly to reach a consumer base for wine, in an atmosphere that makes wine tasting fun, exciting. An adventure that also includes cuisine.
YOHANN JOUSSELIN MS: It’s a fantastic opportunity to try wines, to meet a lot of distributors, to meet new people, to be confronted with a lot of wines that you’ve not been able to taste before.
SARAH HELLER MW: The increasing diversity of the booths, including Croatia, Russia and other exotic countries getting involved, just shows how Hong Kong’s people are becoming more open minded to a range of origins.
I hope that these testimonials will make you want to visit Hong Kong. On our side, we enjoyed the Wine & Dine Festival, with its 306 stands representing 33 countries: there was plenty to do! And to seduce you even more, here are some of our new favorite addresses.
WHERE TO DRINK A GOOD GLASS OF WINE?
James Suckling Wine Bar, on Staunton Street (Central): a new address where you can enjoy a selection of James Suckling’s favorite wines.
La Cabane à Vin, on Hollywood Road (Central): a lovely wine bar specializing in natural, organic and biodynamic wines, where Cristobal Huneeus and his team are waiting for you for a nice moment of sharing.
WHERE TO EAT?
John Anthony, on Sunning Road (Causeway Bay): reinvented Asian cuisine, featuring Cantonese dishes such as char-grilled meats and dim sum, mixed with influences from Sichuan, Hunan and Shandong.
Loaf On, on Sai Kung island: the only seafood Michelin star restaurant (1*) from the island.
WHERE TO SLEEP?
Mojo Nomad Central: a newly opened cozy boutique-hotel on Queen's Road Central (Sheung Wan).
Thank you to Deibra Meiburg MW, James Suckling, Sarah Heller MW, Yohann Jousselin MS, Eddie McDougall and Thomas Jullien for their time. Thank you to MCA Communication and to the Hong Kong Tourism Office for their valuable help in organizing this trip. Thank you to Cathay Pacific for the business class flights. Finally, thank you to Ms. Vanessa So and Mr. Cameron Tong for their availability during our stay. All practical information for your stay are on the Hong Kong Tourism Office website.