…The biggest collector in Asia is probably Hong Kong’s financial secretary, Henry Tang. His personal cellar is reputed to stand at around 12,000 blue chip cases, which he keeps in Hong Kong, the UK and the US. The wine and cigar merchant Thomas Bohrer once described Tang as being “in a category all by himself. He doesn’t have to visit chateaux or go to wine merchants. They come to him.”
Tang may be able to have merchants come to him personally, but the top French houses are making more visits to Asia in general. In a fascinating story in the Financial Times “How to Spend It” magazine (love that name), John Stimpfig reveals these factoids about the Asian market for wine:
* Asia’s wine consumption is expected to grow at twice the world average for the next two years with sales rising to $5 billion. China alone is expected to rise to $1.76 billion.
* French wines have a 40 percent market share. (Funny, I would have thought that it would be more, but then again, the Chinese have been getting a lot of wine from Australia)
* Exclusive wine clubs are all the rage in Hong Kong and Singapore. Ditto for wine dinners, wine schools, and wine magazines.
* There’s a new wine museum outside Beijing.
* Japan has 200 wineries and several thousand accredited sommeliers.
* South Korea has increased wine consumption 150 percent over the past five years.
* The 96-page wine list at Robuchon a Galera at the Lisboa Hotel & Casino in Macau has verticals of top names such as Latour, Yquem and “more ’61 Palmer than possibly anywhere else in the world.” (Indeed, representatives from Palmer went to the Hotel for a recorking of the 1961 wines on the premises.)
But why are so many Asian wine drinkers/collectors driven to the top wines? Serena Sutcliffe offers two explanations. The first is that “they tend to stick to brands they can pronounce.” Um, OK. So all the first growths of Bordeaux are easier to pronounce than the unclassed chateaus?
“The second is to do with the time-honored custom of ‘face.’ This means that if they serve anything other than one of the world’s greatest bottles, their guest will not be honored and might be offended.”
Wow, “face” sounds like a concept that all luxury goods producers might want to try to implement on a broader scale!
Check it out: