Wine opinion: ten questions for the year ahead

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 11:01am

As we put bubbly in the ice bucket and stock up our party poppers, we're wondering what the noisemakers will be next year.

Will 2013 be the year of the boot? We've seen so much enthusiasm for Barolo, in particular, it's hard to imagine that Italy won't put its best foot forward next year.

Will Asian wine change minds or just turn heads? With China planting more vines in ever more promising sites, it's starting to bear fruit (Li Demei's cabernet sauvignon blend outshone Bordeaux in this year's Decanter World Wine Awards). The world is curious: The Wine Advocate said it would be reviewing Asian wines and is moving to Singapore.

Will our horizons be broadened? With wines from England, Georgia, Turkey, Hungary and Brazil emerging, the adventurous Hong Kong wine lover is finally getting on board with exotic tipples.

Might we see a flash of white lightning? White wine saw some encouraging restaurant sales in Hong Kong this year. Our colleagues in hospitality tell us that collectors who BYOB La Tache and the like will often order a token white from the restaurant list instead of paying corkage, which skews the figures. That said, 2012 has been a genuine coup for riesling, with events such as the Summer of Riesling and Riesling Week by the Miramar group enjoying great success.

Have we raised the bar? Having spent the latter half of 2012 developing a wine sales curriculum for more than 7,000 global sales staff, we're curious to see how the investment pays off. We know this much: with the array of outlets popping up across the Asia-Pacific, nobody can afford to have sales staff who don't know their eiswein from their elbow.

Will auctions take a knock? Unfortunately, the global auction industry's efforts to prove the provenance of bottles have done little to reassure bidders, and fakes drag on the market. After the Kurniawan scandal, buyers view Asian collections with a wary eye. Luckily, Asian collectors are drinking their collections again as Bordeaux prices have softened. (Who was willing to pull the cork in 2011 when it was a HK$25,000 proposition?)

Will tightened belts clash with tightened supply? Mother Nature has had little sympathy for our thinning wallets this year. She gave us a scanty 2012 harvest, forcing prices up. This may be the first time in years that many collectors make a dent in their collections.

Who's getting all the Lafite in 2013? With the wine buying freeze brought about by the Standing Committee reshuffle now at an end, hunting season is back on: plum contracts are there for the taking by anyone willing to pony up enough. And if we've misjudged? If the new leaders are truly as pro-middle class as claimed, the next five years will continue to see the great middle class spending engine buoying up the wine world. All eyes remain riveted on the Middle Kingdom.

Will Bordeaux become a Chinese colony? Though the purchase of Burgundy's Chateau de Gevrey has probably caused the most Gallic indignation, Bordeaux remains the playground of choice for well-heeled Chinese investors, with more than 37 chateaux in Chinese hands and another dozen rumoured to be handing over the keys shortly.

Can't we all just get along? As the Hong Kong wine market matures our 300-plus importers will feel the pinch. But we're overdue for a pruning: the fittest businesses will band together, consolidate, and come back fighting in 2013.


Debra Meiburg is a Master of Wine