Evolution of the wine market

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Tersina Shieh   January 2016
Evolution of the wine market

Lots of things happened in 2015. The crackdown in China, the drop of Mainland Chinese tourists visiting Hong Kong and the ever-increasing rent in the city all contributed to the downturn of wine market. Importers, retailers and F&B outlets alike complained about the sluggish sales. 

Tough it might be, I do believe the market is going, albeit slowly, the right direction towards a healthier and more sustainable one. There are more curious young consumers who are not looking for brands but wine that they enjoy, However, somehow the industry largely ignore them. A few months ago, I hosted a tasting for a selected group of U Magazine readers at Marks & Spencer’s cafe matching M&S award-winning wine with the café’s signature dishes. Instead of one wine with one dish, I had two contrasting wines with one dish: Fish and Chips with a Friuli Sauvignon Blanc and a Cariñena Grand Reserva, Chicken Tikka Masala with an Australian Chardonnay and a Marlborough Pinot Noir, and Melt in the middle Chocolate Pudding (believe me, that was heavy) with a Ruby Port and a Rosé Champagne. Not at all surprised, the preference of each food/wine pairing was pretty much evenly split, demonstrating once again that wine and food pairing is indeed subjective. The nice thing about this tasting was that none of the guests felt intimidated and were happy to share their opinions. The evening was fun, engaging and all about sharing. The key to expand the wine market, it seems, is how to communicate with these consumers. I don’t think conventional wine tasting events or formal wine education courses are the right way to hook consumers to wine. We need to provide a fun, sociable and non-intimidating environment, speaking to them at their comfort level of knowledge. 

I started writing for OpenRice 品酒有問 in 2015. Some might dismiss it because the majority of readers are likely to be wine amateurs. However, this is exactly the group of consumers that we need to engage and encourage to enjoy wine in social settings. This year, I will also be contributing to Foodie, a community of food aficionados, under the column Wine 101. Foodie’s members, like OpenRice readers, may not be wine connoisseurs but they certainly know how to enjoy life and share with friends. Wine naturally should be part of their lifestyle. We always see the same faces at wine events and I hope OpenRice and Foodie will open the world of wine to a wider audience. 

My goal this year is to persuade a Chinese casual dining chain, be it a fast food chain or Cha chaan teng (Chinese cafés, 茶餐廳), to serve wine with their set dinners in order to make wine more accessible to average consumer. So far I have been knocking at closed doors but I hope my persistence will prevail. If you have any leads and are willing to share, please let me know

Happenings in 2016
Wines of South Africa

April: Discover South African WineOrganised by Wines of South Africa (WOSA), this is a a month-long, market-wide campaign to promote South African wine. We welcome F&B outlets and retailers to participate. Last year, over 50 outlets took part. You can find out more about the 2015 campaign here. Please contact me if you want to be part of the it. 

SAVE THE DATE: 11th April (Monday). The highlight of Discover South African Wine campaign is the Festival at Hotel ICON. There will be wine, food, games, education corners, prize draw and more. Tickets available soon.  Wine lovers, please leave your details with us to receive the latest updates.

July: WOSA Sommelier CupA once-every-three-year competition open to all sommeliers in the world. The Asia round will start off with an online examination. Students with top scores will be invited to the second round of blind tasting and role play. Two finalists will represent Asia to compete for the champion in Cape Town in end of September. In 2013, the finalists from Asia were Jordi Chan (Hong Kong) and Christian Zhang (Shanghai). Please register your intention to participate here.

October: South Africa Braai month. Let’s celebrate South Africa Heritage Day with a South African style barbecue. Watch this space for more information in due course. 

Follow WOSA Hong Kong on Facebook

Wines of Germany

June: Riesling Weeks. This year is the fourth running of Riesling Weeks. The kick-off trade/consumer tasting with the German Wine Queen will be held on 30th May (Monday) at Hotel ICON, which will be followed by a month-long promotion at various restaurants, retailers and wine clubs. Please leave your details to receive the latest updates.

Riesling Weeks is initiated by Wines of Germany to showcase the quality and versatility of German wine to consumers. Every year we saw more F&B outlets and retailers joining the campaign. There is also a Best Campaign Award where the best performing outlets will have a chance to win a Sommelier trip to Germany, amongst other prizes. Past winners included Watson’s Wine Cellar, KO Dining and Cuisine Cuisine ifc. Interested parties who would like to participate can contact me now.

Like previous years, Riesling Weeks will be supported by consumer games with fabulous prizes, including an Aristo watch from Schmidt Marketing and a Vintec wine fridge from Shun Hing

Follow Riesling Weeks Hong Kong on Facebook

The Vintage Port Academy

March, October: ‘The Essential Knowledge of Port’ workshops. Held for the seventh year, the VPA workshops have been well received by the F&B trade. The Hong Kong workshop last year was over-subscribed by 30%! This year, The Vintage Port Academy (VPA) will continue with four workshops in Hong Kong and different China cities. The workshops are primarily open to F&B personnels and retailers. Please reserve your seat here.

  • Beijing and Shanghai workshops: 8th, 9th March

  • Guangzhou and Hong Kong workshops: November

March: Vintage Port Decanting Competition Shanghai. The Decanting competition had been held in Macau and Hong Kong and this year is Shanghai’s turn, and will be held on 9th March after the VPA workshop. It is open to hotel and restaurant teams. Please contact me if you want to take part.

November: VPA Port trade tasting. This annual port tasting

with different theme each year, has evolved into a networking event among VPA alumnus, F&B trade and port lovers. Please email me if you would like to attend.

Follow Vintage Port Academy on Facebook

Wine Music Jam
One way to promote wine culture, and hence consumption, is to integrate wine into lifestyle. Music is certainly part of lifestyle and jamming brings the added spirit of engagement, sharing and fun. After toying the idea for a couple of years, Wine Music Jam finally became a reality in 2015 with encouraging turnout and positive feedback. 

It is an affordable and interactive wine tasting and music jamming event where consumers can enjoy and appreciate both wine and music. Amateur bands and musicians may sign up to perform, while wine importers can present and sell their wines. I would like to continue with Wine Music Jam this year and am looking for suitable venue and music partners. Please contact me if you know of anyone who might be interested.

Follow Wine Music Jam on Facebook for latest updates.
Off harvest
Before diving into the action, I’ll first head off to Sevenhill Cellars in Clare Valley for a short but rewarding harvest in February. Probably you won’t be able to taste the wine I’ll help making in near future but you can purchase Sevenhill’s wine at Free Duty. Will be back in March!

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