Mexican wave of tequila and wine heads for Hong Kong and China
Millions of litres of tequila and wine are heading for Hong Kong and mainland China, with the number of exhibitors from Mexico doubling at this year's fair for all things alcoholic.
As the annual wine and spirits fair in Wan Chai wrapped up yesterday, 13 producers of Mexican tequila and wine were busy selling their wares to buyers and the public.
Last year there were only six Mexican exhibitors.
Carlos Hernandez Ramos, who has his own company, La Cofradia, said: "It's a new beginning for tequila with the opening of the Chinese market."
Previously, producers of 100 per cent blue agave tequila could not export to mainland China because of restrictions on methanol content per litre in alcohol.
But in June, after President Xi Jinping visited Mexico City, the ban was lifted.
In September, the first shipment of blue agave tequila, thought to be the purest and best spirit, arrived in Shanghai.
Mexico, which produces about 160 brands of tequila, hopes to export 10 million litres of the liquor to mainland China in the next five years.
Hernandez, like the other tequila producers, is hoping palates in Hong Kong and on the mainland will warm to the Latin American spirit, switching to margaritas instead of mao-tai.
Part of that push is to redefine the drink's current image as a cheap tipple that gets downed with a lick of salt and burst of lemon to one that is sipped and savoured like whisky or vodka.
"You don't drink tequila in one go, you kiss it," Hernandez said, giving a demonstration.
Each brand typically offers three types of tequila: blanco, or white, as it is clear and unaged; reposado (aged in oak barrels for up to a year); and anejo (aged for up to three years).
"Tequila is a lifestyle - it's the essence of Mexico and that's what we want to bring to China," said Marc Rodriguez, distributor of Alacran tequila.
"The Chinese palate can take hard liquor with high percentages so mainland buyers are curious about tequila and they are curious about Mexico."