During my last trip, I jotted down various observations and ramblings on the state of wine in Hong Kong as I observed it.

Prior to my trip, I did some research to learn a few of the basics about Chinese made wine, the wine industry and the wine environment/culture there.  Given the few articles I read, I had fairly high expectations about the Chinese wine I would try during my trip.

In particular, I found the following excerpt from a recent Decanter Magazine article interesting:

According to the Future of Wine report, drawn up by London-based wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR), China, which is already the world’s sixth largest producer, will lead the world by the year 2058.  The report, which predicts the state of world of wine in 50 years, also says China will ‘rival the best of Bordeaux’.   ‘I absolutely think China will be a fine wine player rivalling the best wines from France,’ said Jasper Morris MW. ‘It is entirely conceivable that, in such a vast country, there will be pockets of land with a terroir and micro-climate well suited to the production of top quality wines.’

My crystal ball is broken so I can’t predict what will happen 50 years from now in the global wine industry, but the study referenced above seems to be very optimistic.  Given the Chinese wines I tasted on my trip, I’ve concluded that the Chinese have a looooooooong way to go before they can even fathom rivaling the ‘best of Bordeaux.’  I’m not so sure they have the climate to produce great wine, especially as their environment suffers as a result of urban sprawl/industrial growth and the resulting pollution.

I defer to British wine critic, Jancis Robinson who noted in an article she posted to her site last May:

On my first forays in 2002 and 2003 I had been struck by the relatively low quality of Chinese wine, and by what an extraordinarily high proportion of it tasted like very, very thin, not quite clean, red bordeaux.

Which can perhaps be explained partially by grape growers there…

The great majority of China’s wine grapes are grown by farmers who have never tasted a drop of wine in their lives and are never likely to. Their chief concern is to deliver as large a crop to the wine producer as possible.

 A few of other random thoughts… 

  • Whether or not the Chinese ever produce notable wines is questionable, but one thing is for sure, the mainland Chinese and Hong Kong natives I met and talked to really like drinking wine and there is no doubt that given the enormity of the Chinese marketplace, they will become a huge force in the future of wine as consumption goes mainstream.
  • A question for the future…  some in the trade claim that over the last couple of decades, many wines have been crafted based on the tastes of (big, high alcohol, fruit bombs) some dude from Monkton, MD.  Will the Chinese palate have a similar impact on how wine is made in the next few decades?
  • French wine is viewed as a status symbol.  I watched a lady drop $38,000HK (~ $775US) on a bottle of Lafite at Watson’s Wine in the IFC. After she left, the store clerk told me the lady had no clue what she was buying but wanted a nice “Bordeaux for a dinner party with the neighbors.”  He told me that the lady didn’t even know what Bordeaux was.
  • The locals that I met and talked to favored Australian wines over all other wines.  In fact, California wines seemed to rank low on their likability scale. (which I can’t figure out)
  • Yellow Tail wine is everywhere!  The Yellow Tail brand knows no bounds.  I found Yellow Tail nearly everywhere I went, including 7-11 convenience stores, Mannings and a couple other markets.
  • There is an unlimited amount of opportunity in the Chinese marketplace for wine makers, consultants, sommeliers, wine writers and virtually anyone else associated with the wine industry!