Wine and Dine Festival pushed to old airport by Occupy Central. Chile pours a glass.
The four-day opening party for the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s annual culinary festival has been moved from the Central waterfront to an abandoned runway in Kai Tak, an old airport that ceased operations in 1998. The change was made earlier in October, when Occupy Central protesters had barricaded large parts of downtown.
From Oct. 30 to Nov 2, wine dealers, restaurants and hotels will be serving samples of top vintages and signature dishes on the site where planes once performed precarious landings amidst the skyscrapers of Kowloon Bay. A H.K.T.B. spokesperson said they would be arranging shuttle buses, free entry, plus live music and entertainment.
The larger month-long event – which has been redubbed the CCB (Asia) Wine & Dine Festival due to the China Construction Bank coming on as a new sponsor this year – will run until the end of November.
Restaurants and hotels across town will be offering free dishes, wines and corkage, while the World of Music and Food will take place at Stanley Plaza over four Sundays. [www.stanleyplaza.com] There will be classes at Spazzo, the Italian restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui; a private tour of the Crown Wine Cellars’ Private Members Club in Shouson Hill; a sunset cruise; and even a horse racing tour.
Two major wine experts will be making appearances at around the same time, although not officially as part of the festival. The American wine critic James Suckling will be present for the Great Wines of the World Conference, at the Four Seasons and the China Club on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. (www.jamessuckling.com) Debra Meiburg, a Hong Kong-based Master of Wine, will be hosting the Wine in China conference on Nov. 5. (www.debramasterofwine.com)
Industry types will be focusing on the Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s International Wine & Spirits Fair at the Convention Centre in Wanchai from Nov. 6-8.
The Fair was introduced in 2008, the same year that Hong Kong dropped its wine tax, leading to an immediate boom in sales, auctions and trade, particularly from buyers seeking to evade high taxes in mainland China. Last year, the Fair attracted about 1,000 exhibitors from 40 countries, and 10,000 visitors. This year, it is expanding with a new Whisky and Brandy Bar.
Both the larger festival and the industry fair are key promotional opportunities for foreign chambers of commerce, particularly those from nations which rely heavily on gourmet exports.
The Bordeaux City Council and Chamber of Commerce has been involved in the Wine & Dine Festival since its inception in 1999. This year, it will be working with 55 wine and five food companies.
“The wine market in Hong Kong is still one of the major export markets for Bordeaux wine,” Pierre Goguet, president of the Bordeaux Chamber, said by email from France. “Hong Kong remains an efficient gateway to the Asian market due to its history and the long business relationship between France and Hong Kong.”
The Chilean Trade Commission, also called ProChile, started their marketing campaign with a wine seminar, art viewing and cocktail reception earlier in October. About 20 dedicated oenophiles made it through the protests in Wanchai to attend, sitting at tables with dozens of glasses – each with about an inch of wine.
Overseeing the event was Chile’s new trade commissioner to Hong Kong, Cristián Prado Ahumada. He said they would be working with Hong Kong importers representing Chilean wines – together with representatives from Argentina – to organize a section called Latin Street at the Wine & Dine Festival in Kai Tak. “We’re so far away, it’s best that we put our strengths together with our neighbors,” he said. There will also be Chilean wineries showcased at the Wine & Spirits Fair.
“The markets in China and Hong Kong are totally different. Hong Kong is much more mature in terms of its culinary knowledge and wine culture,” said Prado Ahumada, a fluent Mandarin speaker and Peking University alumnus who moved here in June after six years in Beijing.
According to Prado Ahumada, Chilean wines were the fourth most popular in the world (after French, Italian and Spanish), but only the eighth most popular in Hong Kong, behind countries like Australia.
His goal was to emphasize the quality of Chilean wines, and not just to push sales by quantity. “We want to position Chilean wines as premium wines in the market,” he said, adding that the commission was contacting five-star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and private clubs. “We’re not trying to sell more wines in the 7-Eleven,” he joked.
For information on the Wine & Dine Festival, go to www.discoverhongkong.com/winedine. For information on the Wine & Dine Fair, go to www.hktdc.com.