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Gambero Rosso’s tour of Asia has been an operatic crescendo worthy of Rossini. The first three stops, in Mumbai, Singapore and Seoul, as you’ve read in the last few days, were dedicated to the producers of the Top Italian Wines Road Show. Yesterday in Hong Kong, 700 people celebrated the producers who won Tre Bicchieri in the Vini d&

rsquo;Italia 2012 guide. On November 7th the volume will be officially presented in Shanghai, the final stop on our trip.

From 2pm until 8pm on November 2,2011, the public poured into the halls of the Island Shangri-la Hotel in the center of Hong Kong. The Consul General of Italy, Alessandra Schiavo, opened the event and extended a warm welcome to the producers and to the numerous representatives of the local press and wine sector. “First and foremost,” she stated, “Gambero Rosso has greatly contributed to enhancing the good reputation of Italian wines: by giving awards and publicity in their books to the best producers, and by organizing seminars aimed at promoting the culture and the knowledge of good food and good wine. I really consider Gambero Rosso a guardian as much as a guarantor of high quality standards in wine production in Italy.”

So for a few hours, importers, restaurateurs, traders and specialized journalists had the opportunity to taste over 250 labels of our best wines and to meet in person the participating producers. This was not, however, Gambero Rosso’s first trip to Hong Kong. Last year the presentation of the Tre Bicchieri attracted many professionals and enthusiasts to the Dynasty Club, building a base for yesterday’s success.

Hong Kong has become the key world site for premium wine auctions, according to data from the auction house of Acker, Merrall & Condit. In the last two years it has left London and then New York behind. A British protectorate until 1997, Hong Kong today, with its 7 million inhabitants, is a special administrative region within the People’s Republic of China, with its own constitution and ample economic autonomy. The city-state is the 11th economy in the world, an extraordinary and growing success, underpinned by efficient infrastructures and favorable fiscal regulations. Since 2008, for example, as in South Korea last year, the 40% tax on wine was totally eliminated. This led to a tripling of imports, making Hong Kong a key hub for China and nearby countries, where about 20% of the imports are directed.

With a stunning growth of 65% in the first months of 2011, so far this year Hong Kong is on the way to bettering the record of a billion dollars worth of wine imported. France has always dominated the market, with 495 million dollars or 58% of the total value of the wine imported. Italy’s share is growing rapidly and last year reached 19 million dollars, fifth in terms of volume and seventh in terms of value. Italy is surpassed not only by France, a producing country, but also by countries that are traditionally wine traders (of Italian wine also) such as Britain, Singapore, and Switzerland, which have long-standing commercial relationships that date back to Protectorate times.

Gambero Rosso’s return to Hong Kong was a much-anticipated event, as shown by the numerous interviews requested of the Gambero Rosso staff and the wine producers. Specialized and general publications were on the scene, such as  Cru, Wine Luxe, The Standard, South China Morning Post, and RTHK TV and radio, including a wild Phil Whelan who wanted to know everything – everything – about the making of Vini d’Italia 2012 during his program Morning Brew on the popular Radio 3 station.

The market on the Pearl River Delta is one to follow carefully. This economic area includes not only Hong Kong but also Macao and nine important cities in the Guandong region. It is the richest and most developed in China. The possibilities of growth for Italian wine and food culture are enormous – if one invests. Among Hong Kong’s skyscrapers there’s still room for Italian food and wine, alongside the high fashion boutiques that celebrate the most elegant made-in-Italy brands, names that have been here forever, and here register their most significant global sales.

Marco Sabellico
3 November 2011

 

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