Hong Kong The World’s Leading Wine Auction Market
With many seasoned wine lovers and collectors in Hong Kong and mainland China turning their attention from Bordeaux to Burgundy, online wine merchants have moved to accommodate these shifting tastes, helping expose the region’s emerging wine buff to a wider range of labels. Hong Kong remains the world’s largest wine auction market, with Chinese new collectors buoying Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams and Acker Merrall & Condit’s auctions, and following Hong Kong’s removal of its former 40 percent import duty on wine in 2008, Hong Kong has become the undisputed wine-trading hub of Asia. But while bidders at Hong Kong auctions have, since 2009, often been fixated on Bordeaux (filling wine storage facilities like Crown Wine Cellars with wines from that region), Burgundy is the new darling of the city’s wine auction world. As Greg De’Eb of Crown recently told the Wall Street Journal, “I would say between 74% and 78% of what we have stored with us is from Bordeaux…This is followed by wines from Australia, Napa and, increasingly, Burgundy.”
Added De’Eb, “In Hong Kong at the moment Burgundy is hot.”
One company hoping to take advantage of the “heat” surrounding Burgundy in Hong Kong is new entrant Signature French Wines, an online French wine boutique and specialist. Recently, Signature French Wines held an event at Hong Kong’s Landmark Men, a section of the popular high-end Landmark Mall and home to a selection of international luxury brands. Despite the dozens of wine merchants already operating (or recently established) in Hong Kong, Landmark is looking to set itself apart by offering vintages only from a hand-picked roster of winemakers from the Domaine des Grands Vins de France. Currently, the company lists a selection of 15 reds, seven whites and one sparkling wine on its website, all of which are available for purchase by the case directly from the winemaker. At the Landmark event, guests were introduced to three of the wines stocked by Signature, presented in partnership with three different men’s boutiques.
As Vonita Samtani, an organizer of Signature’s event, told Jing Daily, holding wine tastings at three complimentary stores — Thomas Pink, Tassels and Gentleman’s Tonic — showed a kind of synergy between the brands. At each store, wines were chosen based on the way they complimented the products on the shelves; dress shirts (Thomas Pink), handmade footwear (Tassels) and grooming supplies (Gentleman’s Tonic).
Pairing their products with high-end Burgundy made sense for the retailers as well. As Sarah Chung, manager of Gentleman’s Tonic, put it, “We were looking to do something to promote the shops at the Landmark’s lower-level [men's section] for some time, and we all believed that Signature French Wine’s Customers were also our customers. We thought it would be a great alternative for the wine company to showcase their brands [rather than at] traditional venues like wine galleries.”
Wines offered at the event included a Burgundy Red, Chardonnay and Sparkling Rosé. One of the most memorable distinctions among all three wines was their smoothness and intense aromatic qualities. Each wine would pair well with a variety of dishes or stand on their own. Prices for the wines are competitive, and the retailer guarantees shipping within 24 hours of purchase, secure payment, and a generous return policy. Cases average HK$1,000 (US$129) per case for the “Discovery” (entry-level) collection, up to HK$11,580 (US$1,492) for a case of 2008 Bonnes Mares Grand Cru from the “Prestige” collection.
By linking itself with Landmark stores that have, themselves, positioned themselves as go-to spots for the discerning gentleman — and jumping into the growing e-commerce market rather than investing heavily in a brick-and-mortar effort — Signature French Wines is cleverly latching onto the emerging Burgundy boom, presenting its wines as attainable at several price-points while helping to guide those new to wine to the right case.
Reporting by Amadou Doumbia