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Posted: Tuesday, June 09 2009. 16:55

Hong Kong Makes First Wine

Hong Kong may not produce grapes, but a new winery hopes to make wine from imported frozen grapes in the hope of getting a share of the growing market in Asia with its domestic label.

The frozen grapes are thawed, fermented, aged and blended by the owners,  the 8th Estate Winery, in a high-rise warehouse, which has just released its first batch of reds, whites and ice wines (in most of the wine making world, it would be illegal to refer to these wines as 'ice' wine).

"There is an initial novelty value, a little bit of a shock seeing a bottle which says 'Product of Hong Kong' because there has never been a wine bottle that has said that before," says winery director Ms. Lysanne Tusar to Reuter.

"We always label where our grapes came from and we are quite proud to say where the varieties are sourced," she added.

The winery's whites range from Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay. The reds include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. She said all their grapes for 2007 came from Washington State in the United States while the 2008 vintage was from Italy.

The winery produced 100,000 bottles, of which 60,000 have been sold while the rest are being aged.

The wines are being distributed to local restaurants and hotels only, understandably exploiting the ‘Made in Hong Kong’ novelty factor. The winery also gets by without using any sulfates or preservatives, giving the wine a distinctive flavor, according to the winery.

Wine consumption in China and many Asian countries is growing fast, driven by the growing ranks of affluent, young and often westernized professionals. The winery says it has tweaked its wines in order to match the Chinese palate and complement the Chinese cuisine.

Last year, Hong Kong scrapped taxes on wines with a view to position itself as the Asian wine hub. Wine imports have since grown 83 percent on a yearly basis to $387 million. It has also signed wine pacts with countries including Spain and Hungary.

"It was obvious that Hong Kong was positioning itself to be a global leader in the wine market," she said.

With the import duties now being waived, it may not be easy for such wineries to compete with the foreign wines on an economic basis. But there is always the first step for any future big achievements. There can always be a niche market for the diehard patriots-producers and consumers alike. And there may be a place for people in the wine space, who have passion to produce wine. There is also a saying in the US: to become a millionaire in the wine business, it is best to start off as a billionaire. One hopes the company is not owned by a billionaire.

       

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