In 2014 the most expensive wine lot ever has been auctioned in Hong Kong. 114 bottles of Burgundy were sold for HK$12 556 25 = US$1.6 million= R19.8 million! This relates to one of the bottles of Romanée-Conti being sold at R174 456, about R34 891.20 per glass if you can get over pouring this expensive liquid!
Although big money is still the name of the game, Hong Kong seems to be moving beyond the glamour of big names. According to The Drinks Business, the Bordeaux obsession is slowing down with wine drinkers being more adventurous and keen to experiment with lesser known varieties and regions – although it would still be preferably French.
The article quotes the thoughts of master sommeliers Yohann Jousselin of Petrus Restaurant in Hong Kong. He seems to be fulfilling a much needed educational role trying inventive ways to introduce guests to more than the normal First Growths. One clever idea was to create a Parker’s list, reassuring guests that the wines received exceptional ratings and would be a save option.
According to him, Macau and mainland China are far behind Hong Kong and perhaps under his guidance, HK can lead the way for the rest of China to be more experimental.
There are many challenges to dealing in the Far East and in my opinion the cultural differences can be quite overwhelming. Small things can challenge what we know as wine culture in the West. As Jousselin explains. How do you explain food and wine matches when in the local Cantonese cuisine typically many different dishes are served at the same time? And how do you guide the elite wine customers in restaurants if asking for the help of a sommelier is regarded as a weakness?
Suddenly the things that goes without saying in the West, becomes a challenge. Selling wine in China is about more than the style, quality, price and relationship with the buyer.
We have been working hard at crossing this cultural divide. Cellarmaster Eugene van Zyl presents educational wine talks and tastings in China, Chef Pieter de Jager has accompanied our marketing and wine-making teams to present food and wine matching evenings and we have even through our incentive programme hosted up to 700 Chinese representatives at once in the Cape Winelands, to introduce some of our wine culture.
Neither Hong Kong or Macau is really accessible to the average person but with VinExpo Asia Pacific held in HK, the Hong Kong Wine Academy offering wine education and the city’s aspirational quality, there might be a way to introduce the culture of wine to the East in a way that complements their culture and traditions rather than enforcing the Western way of doing things.