Wrap-up: The Hilton Food & Wine Experience

Rather than write a lengthy report about Saturday’s Food & Wine Experience at The Hilton, I thought it would be more fun to interview myself. Here we go:

Was that you on The Hilton’s marble steps standing in front of a broken bottle of wine?
It was. As I left, the paper bag provided by the organizers came unglued and a nearly full bottle of Heartland Dolcetto Lagrein fell out. The bottle exploded on the steps and attracted gawkers from far and wide. Fortunately, a half bottle of Heartland Shiraz stayed in the bag.

You mean you could buy wine there?
No. If you stay until the end of such events, sometimes the distributors give away opened bottles because they don’t want to waste them.

Why did you end up with Heartland?
I spent the last half hour at the Palette tables. I like Australian wines and Palette owner John Gai has an excellent portfolio. Palette’s Stefan Fleischer, as he did at this event two years ago, guided me through some lovely wines, particulary the Shiraz and Viognier.

What else did you like?
I liked the media session with wine writer Jeremy Oliver, supported by the Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation and ASC Fine Wines – I’ll write a separate post about it. He encouraged us to cover the top of our glasses with our palms and shake them – this gives wine a few hours’ worth of aeration. Make sure you have tissues handy if you try this at home.

Best of all was meeting winemakers, winery owners, distributors, writers and, especially, consumers. I met many people that I previously knew only by email, including Jennifer Zhang and Jessie Xiao at Summergate and Xavier Tondusson at Bacchus. Good to match faces with email addresses!

By the way, if logistically possible, I think the Champagne distributors should be in Zeta bar next year. It’s a perfect fit. I would also have the event run later into the afternoon.

Any disappointments?
I would love to see more countries better represented. As usual, pickings were meager from China (only Grace Vineyard), Austria, Portugal, Canada and some other nations. Having said that, we get more choice every year in Beijing, so overall I was happy with the selection.

However, I was disappointed at the light turnout Saturday. The event offered hundreds of wines and a buffet for 230 kuai – what more could you ask for? Compare this to Torres’ Taste of the Nations event last weekend: it offered far fewer wines but attracted a lot of attendees, even though it was only marginally cheaper.

Spreading the Food & Wine Experience over two days – the trade show was on Friday – might help explain the attendance. Some trade people could not attend Friday and gave tickets to friends or customers who might otherwise have come on Saturday. Next year, the hotel might also want to pair its traditional magazine ads with more marketing via e-mail and word-of-mouth, which is the key way many people get information about events.

I talked to four distributors about attendance and all of them were unhappy, especially as they had to pay for table space and provide staff, wine and literature for the event. On the other hand, 18 distributors participated and most didn’t seem to do much to promote this event, at least if my inbox is any indication.

Which distributors attended?
Eight companies had the vast majority of the 182 wine tables: ASC (27), Aussino, Jointek and Summergate (25 each), Jebsen (24), and H&L, Palette and Torres (12 each). Other distributors were: DT Asia (6), Metro (4), Bacchus and Pernod Ricard (2 each) and Ao Hua, Beijing GLP, East Meets West, Longfellows, Moet Hennessey Diageo and TBC - The Beverage Company (1 each). Montrose was notably absent. The other 12 tables featured food, glassware, wine accessories, magazines, and bottled water.

This breakdown suggests the Hilton might want to drop the “food” from “food & wine” in the event title.

So, was it worth it?
Definitely. As mentioned, hundreds of wines were available for tasting. A Shiraz lover could compare and contrast what each distributor offers - dozens of wines in total. If you like French wines, you could have tasted to your heart’s content. For ten years, this has been one of the wine events of the year for consumers in Beijing. You just need to ensure you have a sturdy bag if you stay until the end.

Note: Get my free e-newsletter about nightlife and wine in Beijing by sending an email to beijingboyce@yahoo.com with “sign me up” in the subject line.

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3 Comments

  1. @ lili,

    Yes, it is a great event for trade and for consumers. Unfortunately, I have a lot of trouble spitting out my wine, especially with so many good ones, so I have no hope of getting through even a tenth of what is on offer!

    Cheers, Boyce

  2. i had been to the hilton hotel. i believe that i get more experice about wine . also i think wine will become part of chinese life soon.

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