Helping cement that title of wine hub, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, (HKTDC) established the International Wine and Spirits Fair in 2008. From small beginnings has emerged a fair, which proudly promotes itself as the biggest of its kind in Asia. With more than 930 exhibitors from 37 countries taking part this year, they are not exaggerating.
Given this is only the fourth such Wine Fair, the year on year growth has been phenomenal. There were 37% more producers strutting their stuff this year when compared with last and the event in 2011 was four times larger than the inaugural one in 2008.
Among the 37 countries present were first timers Georgia, Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and Sweden.
Thankfully New Zealand had a presence this year. Last year we were conspicuous by our absence, with just one New Zealand winery represented on the New Zealand stand. (That is not to say other wineries weren't present, as many were involved on distributor stands.)
Admittedly it is a huge expense for wineries to take part in such a show, so far away from home. Monty James from New Zealand Winegrowers said it costs thousands of dollars when you factor in travel, accommodation and transporting wine.
"But as some of the wineries have said – we have to be here. If we want to gain wine distribution and want to have contact with the trade, we have to be here. It is tough, you have to prioritise your market and then decide what the best activity in the market is. This is a strong trade show and in terms of getting in front of F & B (food and beverage) trade it is very strong."
That feeling was reciprocated by a number of the wineries taking part. Daniel Jackson from Redoubt Hill in Nelson said they were looking for a distributor and the fair offered the opportunity to talk to people from Hong Kong who had experience.
"We have had quite a bit of interest, in fact there has been a hell of a lot of interest in the whole New Zealand stand. Asia is critical to New Zealand and this is the biggest show in Asia, so it makes sense to be here."
Christine Kernohan from Gladstone Vineyard was at the Fair last year, with her distributor. This year she chose to be part of the New Zealand stand.
"I think if you are looking at generating new business, it is far better being on the New Zealand stand. People tend to choose to come to you because of where you are from. And generally they have had a reasonably good level of knowledge. We have had a lot of people from Mainland China visiting – so that has to be good."
Dave Kenny From Wairau River, (the only NZ winery on the stand last year) said they had seen a change in the quality of people coming through the Fair this year.
"There is a definite change this year, a higher level of education about wine I would say. People are specifically looking for New Zealand wine and we have had specific enquiries for Sauvignon Blanc."
But all the winery representatives spoken to were disappointed to note that the New Zealand stand was one of very few that had no Government backing. All the big countries, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Australia as well as many of the smaller players had financial support from their government or the EU in European cases. Between now and next year's event, hopefully the government will realise the importance of the Hong Kong International Wine Fair, and support the efforts currently being undertaken by individuals to promote one of New Zealand's most promising industries.
Tessa attended the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair courtesy of HKTDC and Cathay Pacific ■