As part of the government’s concerted effort to become Asia’s wine hub, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council hosted the 2nd annual International Wine and Spirits Fair on November 3-5. Over 500 exhibitors – double the number from last year – from 34 countries and wine regions participated, each hoping to capture a part of the promising Asia market. All of Asia’s leading importers were present in full force with France, by far the leading importer by value to both Hong Kong and Mainland, acting as ‘parnter country’ and the second most important importer Australia, bringing the largest contingent of 61 producers. New Zealand, one of the smallest regions represented, showed the largest increase in number of participants at the Fair with 36.
Italy brought the Vinitaly tour here for the first time. Italian wine imports for the first nine months of 2009 in Hong Kong grew 22% for reds, 8% for whites and over 70% for sparkling wines, virtually all Prosecco according to Romano Baruzzi, the local Italian Trade Commissioner.
According to Philip Shull, Director of the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office in Hong Kong, U.S. imports skyrocketed 185% for the first nine months of 2009 to $29MM vs. $11MM for the comparable period in ’08 and $5.5MM in ’07. Other important players represented at the Fair included the Spain with 32 wineries and Portugal with 25 wineries.
As part of the unified efforts of the government and the industry to play a leading role in the global wine market, the Fair introduced the inaugural Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition, spearheaded by Dr. Tony Jordan, Debra Meiburg, MW and Simon Tam. The theme for the competition which also included ‘most appealing wine label’ and ‘best food and wine matching’ contests, was appropriately named “Asia’s Choice, Asia’s Voice”. With over 1,300 international wines represented, it represents Asia’s largest wine competition. The all-Asian judging team was made up of leading food and wine professionals from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Macau and India.
The three days were filled with fascinating seminars, master wine tasting classes and events that were uniquely Asian and I am already planning to return next year.