Some (fairly) recent stories about the China wine scene…
As noted, gambling den Macau has followed the lead of Hong Kong, which eliminated its wine tax earlier this year. As Jeannie Cho Lee puts it in this article in Wine Spectator, “the question most asked was, Why did it take so long?” (Perhaps the legislators were on a roll at the blackjack table?)
Cho Lee provides a sobering view of what the move means for Macau, pointing out that the enclave has less than a tenth of the population of Hong Kong. An excerpt from the article:
“I do not believe the elimination of duty will have a great impact for the trade or for consumers living in Macau,” said Alan Ho, executive director of Florinda Hotels, which owns numerous Macau hotels including Hotel Lisboa, home to Robuchon a Galera, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner, and Hotel Grand Lisboa, which houses Best of Award of Excellence winner Don Alfonso 1890. “It is more of a defensive move to keep prices in line with Hong Kong. But Hong Kong has a head start and better trade infrastructure.”
Joseph Chaney tackles this topic in an analysis piece for Reuters that makes me wonder: Before becoming the next Chile, wouldn’t China first have to crack down on domestic companies that bottle bulk wine from the South American nation and pass it off as their own?
I would love to know the source of this statement: “Further out, there are fears that foreign wines could eventually beat Chinese vintners on their home turf as tastes expand among a burgeoning middle class.” Fears by whom? It seems to me that not only is the pie growing, but that local wineries are looking to grab a slice of the share held by their foreign counterparts (more on this soon).
A September 19-20 Hart Davis Hart auction raised more than USD11 million and one of the bidders was Wu Jianxin, who, writes Bloomberg’s Elin McCoy, “flew in from Beijing, [and] battled against another Asian buyer for the first case of 1982 Lafite, taking it for $54,970 ($4,580 a bottle), a world record, beating case lots of auction darling 1982 Chateau Petrus.”
McCoy quotes Michael Davis, vice chairman of the auction house, as saying, “There have been a lot of surprises in my 25-year career as a wine auctioneer, but I never thought that I would see a case of 1982 Lafite-Rothschild hammer above case lots of 1982 Pétrus in the same auction.”
She also notes that, “50 percent of the Lafite in this sale by value went to an unidentified absentee Asian bidder with paddle number 881.”