I received an e-mail today from Acker Merrall & Condit, the New York-based wine merchant and auctioneer, and it reported that its second wine auction in Hong Kong totaled about about $4.8 million. Over 1,100 lots of wines were sold at this past weekend’s sale in Hong Kong, including 2,000 bottles of Bordeaux, 3,000 bottles of Burgundy and 1,200 bottles of the world’s finest Champagne. A Hong Kong wine collector paid slightly more than $68,000 for six bottles of 1985 Henri Jayer Richebourg, the legendary Burgundy.
I have to think that the fine wine capital is now the Far East trade center. I remember about 15 years ago when I wrote that New York could be the new fine wine center after London wine auction houses opened sales there. But it now is moving again, from the Big Apple to the Pearl of the Orient.
You don’t believe me? I hear that many wine collectors—particularly those in the United States—now insist that their wines be sold in Hong Kong. They know that the Chinese, both mainland and Hong Kong, will pay premiums for their wines, sometimes two or three times more than what bidders would pay in New York or London. Some wine auction houses openly say that they would be in the red if it weren’t for their sales in Hong Kong. Most top fine wine brokers in the world now have offices there.
If you combine this with the abolishment of taxes on wine imported into Hong Kong and Macau, you have a rich and vibrant market for the best wines in the world. Moreover, many of the wine auction bidders, according to my sources on the islands, see the events as a way to show their financial prowess still in a global recession. "They like to show that they can pay top dollar for certain wines and then serve them to people," said one Hong Kong wine collector, who will remain nameless.
People can make jokes about the Hong Kong and the Chinese who drink Lafite with Pepsi on the rocks, but it just isn’t like that. I have been going there regularly for years and some of the greatest tastings in my life have happened there. Moreover, I can’t think of a higher concentration of ultrahigh-end collectors who are better educated on the best wines of the world. Of course, there are silly people who pay stupid prices for trophy wines there, not to mention fakes. And there are even more who don’t treat or drink the great wines of the world properly. But Hong Kong is certainly a fine wine market to reckon with.