Food & Drinks

Hong Kong wine lovers get U-turn on festival’s plastic cup policy

The initial ban on glasses outdoors at the Central Harbourfront event has been sparked by safety worries

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 6:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 9:06pm

Hong Kong’s wine lovers will be able to sup from glassware after all when they head to the annual wine show this week, despite fears that anyone drinking outside would have to use a plastic cup.

The last minute U-turn could mean up to 80,000 fewer plastic cups get thrown away during the ninth Wine and Dine Festival than had been estimated.

The switch will not only cut down on plastic waste, but will also be toasted by local connoisseurs, who had complained of the effect that plastic cups have on fine wines.

Originally, wine glasses were only to be used indoors at the festival, with plastic cups outdoors.

But two days before the four-day event kicks off at Central Harbourfront, Mason Hung Chung-hing, a general manager at the Hong Kong Tourism Board, which organises the festival, said the outdoor glass ban had been lifted, after discussions with police.

“We were told if measures could be taken to minimise risk, such as crowd flow, managing public order and improving lighting at the venue, then using glasses should not be a problem,” he said on Tuesday.

As a result, only 20,000 to 25,000 plastic cups are expected to be used, down from the original estimate of 100,000.

Hung said the board would keep the extra plastic cups already ordered for use at future events, and that used cups disposed of at the festival would be collected and sent to a recycling plant.

Apart from fears plastic cups might taint the true taste of the wine, their shape also ruins the drinking experience, according to an industry expert.

The wine master, who asked not to be named, said the first step of enjoying a good glass is through smell, a process called “nosing”.

“The plastic cup distributed at the venue doesn’t have a large opening at the top, so there is no way to smell the aroma at all,” the expert said.

“The plastic cup is at most a container; any good wine consumed with it will go to waste.”

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The tourist board said it would step up security measures at the event, including boosting the number of patrols by stewards, to minimise the risk of glass-related accidents.

“In the past we have around 15 [stewards] each year, but this year there will be around 100, who will work in teams to patrol different sections to ensure order,” Hung added.

He said he was confident that participants would behave, as no one had been asked to leave the festival over the past eight years.

If the event gets overcrowded, staff will encourage fairgoers at the ticket office to come back later to avoid long queues, but there will be no attendance limit.

“In extreme cases, we will issue announcements through the media to ask the public not to come,” Hung said.

Featuring about 400 booths and wines from 21 countries and regions, the event is expected to draw

more than 140,000 participants, a similar attendance figure to last year.