Wine auctions have really taken off for Hong Kong and Chinese wine buyers, with investors snapping up anything sold at auction, the rarer the better.
So says ASC Watson’s brand manager Francesca Martin. She points out that Burgundies are the hot ticket and certainly on trend as they are always pretty rare and the top ones very rare indeed. They have recently been selling at all the auction houses like mad, she observes. This was borne out by failed chief executive candidate and wine collector Henry Tang’s recent sale of part of his extensive collection of Burgundies and the high prices achieved at the recent elBulli Cellar auctions in Hong Kong and New York. The days when they were only interested in Bordeaux are well and truly over.
The other top wines selling well are Italian “Super Tuscans” such as Ornellaia, it seems. Recently, a big auction in London raised £240,000 (HK$2.8 million). It marked the first of their 25th anniversary celebrations, which will be celebrated here next month in Hong Kong with dinners at trendy Italian restaurants L’Altro and Otto E Mezzo and another event at Grissini in Grand Hyatt. Read more about the auction here.
Martin reports keen local interest in Spanish wines, such as the renowned Vega Sicilia.
“A recent Sotheby’s auction went wild for the large format bottles, a trend we’re seeing across the board here in Hong Kong and there is much excitement about the new vintage release, which took place last month when Pablo Alvarez, owner of the estate, was in town,” she says. A consumer dinner the Mandarin Oriental's Pierre restaurant sold out in just a few of hours.
Larger-than-life chef and top restauranteur Harlan Goldstein, who runs Gold and the Strip House, both under the “by Harlan Goldstein” brand echoes this. For the top end of his super-wealthy customer base the hot ticket is a bottle of HK$45,000 Californian Screaming Eagle – and they often get drunk in multiples. But setting his mega rich money-no-object diners, he notes an upswing in popularity for Spanish and Italian wines. He also sees an improvement in the sophistication of local taste and a willingness to experiment and branch out to try wine from new countries and new varietals.
It’s no longer all about French wine. Forget Screaming Eagle for a moment, how much would the average diner spend for dinner at his restaurants? About HK$800 per bottle for a very reasonable Italian or Spanish wine, he says.