Jebsen's fine wine department is turning 20. Twenty years, as Jebsen Group's director of fine wine, Gavin Jones (below) points out, is not a long time when you consider that some of the most illustrious family-run wine estates date back 700 years. But for the Hong Kong wine scene, two decades has been a long, and significant, period. 'We did about 500,000 cases [from 1991], more white than red, and mainly for the expat market,' says Jones. 'How times have changed.' Those changes have been both in the market and among consumers. Hong Kong has changed, with the abolition of wine duties in 2008 and its emergence as the most important wine auction market in the world. Consumer behaviour has simultaneously evolved. German whites were still popular 20 years ago, as well as French whites, and the red wine trend was just beginning. While the portfolio has always been strong with New World wines, France has clawed its way back to 50 per cent of the market. Jones notes that 60 per cent of wine is now purchased for drinking at home. This, he says, is the mark of a maturing market. Retail accounts for 17 per cent of the Hong Kong wine market and Jebsen is a significant supplier to retail outlets. Jebsen was an early player in the Hong Kong market in the days when Remy Martin, Fine Vintage and Seagrams were the only companies of any size, and has benefited from its solid image at a time when wine companies proliferate (and evaporate). In the early days it represented just a few brands - Bollinger, Penfolds and Frescobaldi are three which have been in the portfolio since the beginning - but now represents more than 80, and recent additions include Leon Beyer, Mischa's Vineyard, the excellent ros?wines of Ch?eau d'Esclan (Jebsen has been taking the lead in the ros?market), and several Bernard Magrez brands from Bordeaux. Jebsen also owns two vineyards: Sacred Hill in New Zealand, and Twinwoods Estate in Australia's Margaret River region. It entered the China market 10 years ago and now distributes wine in more than 80 mainland cities. But in Hong Kong, where business has increased five-fold in the past decade, sustaining its position as the leading wine distributor is a key goal. There is no precise data available, but Jones believes they are the largest. He suggests that 20 per cent of the market is in the hands of 20 wine distributors, and that Jebsen holds about 25 per cent of that. The 'buzz' may be all around Grand Cru, and Jebsen is indeed involved with the en primeur market, but Jones says that mid-priced 'branded premium' wines remain the bread and butter of the business. And what are the challenges for the future here? 'There are now a reported 3,500 companies involved in the wine industry in Hong Kong, many importing and selling wines. In a market the size of three million cases, this makes for an over-crowded environment,' Jones says. Jebsen is taking a party-sized booth at this year's Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair, twice the size of the space it occupied last year. Complete with a horseshoe-shaped bar, this provides ample space for tastings with winemakers and owners from more than 20 wineries on the Jebsen portfolio - to which all fair participants are invited. Spirit brands including Grey Goose vodka and Dewar's whisky will also feature.