RICHARD PAINE first came to Hong Kong in 1968 as a trainee for a trading company and moved back and forth between here and Japan. He transferred to Hong Kong permanently in 1982 with Caldbecks, MacGregor and Co, which was the largest wine and spirits merchants in Asia. After working with the company for 16 years, he started Fine Vintage (Far East) Ltd, where he is managing director. 'My first taste of wine was probably my father's homemade wine,' he recalls. 'My father and grandfather were farmers, basically - a little bit more sophisticated than that - they managed rubber and tea plantations in Ceylon, which is now Sri Lanka. When my father retired, he went back to live in England, and he decided he wanted to grow his own tobacco and make his own wine. Grape wine is difficult to make and it's hard to grow grapes in the south of England, so he made wines from other fruits - apples, raspberries and rhubarb. He had a kit and bought a book on how to make wines at home. He'd ferment it and bottle it; it was a pretty crude product, but it was nice and alcoholic and went well with my mother's wholesome cooking. 'When I was 14 I went on a bicycle tour across France with some friends. We would enjoy the ploughman's lunch, which was French bread, pate and a glass of wine. It was so cheap compared to England. It wasn't legal - we were underage, but that didn't stop me.' Since then, Paine has expanded his knowledge and palate considerably. 'In stock [at Fine Vintage], I think we have bottles from every wine producing country in the world, except for China, Lebanon, Israel and Mexico. We have virtually everywhere else, even from Japan and Greece. 'After all these years, I still go back to French wines. I'm a great admirer of Californian wines, they can be absolutely outstanding. They make tremendous chardonnays using modern technology, but they're not quite the same as some of the wines handmade in France at tiny vineyards in Burgundy or at some of the great chateaux in Bordeaux.' Paine says he doesn't keep a personal wine collection because he can take from the warehouse whatever he needs for entertaining. 'I don't actually collect wine as a hobby because we have superb wines in stock and I don't see the point of doubling up. One of the good things about living in Hong Kong is the tax deductible expenses if you're entertaining suppliers or potential suppliers. I buy all the wines for the company, which is effectively collecting it.' From this stock, some of the best bottles belong to what Paine calls the 'director's bin'. 'The [concept of] the director's bin originated at Caldbecks. We used it for entertaining - we would requisition bottles for special occasions. It's basically reserve stock and it also extends to such delicacies as vintage port. I have eight bottles of Millennium port, which is 100 years old and until recently I had some very old vintage madeira, from 1863.'