Hong Kong’s Fine Wine Moment

Between VineExpo and three high-profile auctions, Hong Kong is the world's fine-wine capital this week
May 25, 2010

VinExpo, the global wine fair, is in full swing this week in Hong Kong, the pearl of the Orient. And I think it is going to be a pivotal moment for HK, China and the rest of the region. I wish that I were there.

All I have heard for the past year is how the Far East via Hong Kong and, in particular, China, is gobbling up all the great wines of the world. Or let's say it's buying the blue-chip, trophy wines from France and a little bit of the New World that many in Europe and the United States have forsaken due to price fatigue. Not many can afford these mega-expensive bottles.

Moreover, I hear that China and the rest of the Far East are really gearing up for buying big time in the Bordeaux futures market, considering the excellent quality of the 2009 vintage for the upper echelon of the region.

But seeing is believing. And the next couple of days will be telltale.

Just look at the fact that three mega-wine auctions are being held over the next few days that may generate tens of millions of dollars. The Acker-Merrall two-day sale that begins at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon New York time is mind-blowing. I can't believe the selection of wines on offer for what the auction house has coined "The Imperial Cellar."

Over 19,000 bottles in total are being offered. The estimated revenue from the sales is more than $16 million. There are more than 450 bottles of pre-1961 Bordeaux, and 181 are from the legendary 1961 vintage. Almost 400 bottles are from the great 1982 vintage and more than 3,000 from vintage 2000.

Bidders in Hong Kong obviously like their Bordeaux, but great Burgundy is equally represented. According to an e-mail from Acker-Merrall president John Kapon, the list of Burgs include: "1947 Vogüé, 1971 La Tâche, 1978 Romanée-Conti, 1978 Dujac Clos de la Roche, 1989 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne, 1996 Leroy everything, and more great Jayer than I can possibly list here, none greater then the 1978 Jayer Richebourg. I could go on, but I think you understand my point."

I think we do get the idea. Combine this with auctions from Spectrum and Christie's this week and all the business being done at VinExpo, I have to wonder how it is all going to go? Is the Far East market really so bullish for superfine wines that it can absorb all this wine? I remember about five years ago that about 400 wine merchants existed in HK; now there are supposedly 4,000.

Anyway, interesting times for the Far East. Regardless, Hong Kong is the fine-wine capital of the world for the moment.

Collecting Auctions

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