Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Hong Kong – Wine Country?

Hong Kong has no vineyards – well, not ones in the sense that we would know them – but it is rapidly becoming wine country. It's the place where East meets West as far as wine goes. Two years ago Hong Kong scrapped its duties on wine and opened its gates as the wine hub to Asia, in particular to the giant consumer China.

Hong Kong does not produce wine due to its high humidity in the summer which makes it very difficult to avoid the grapes getting rotten. The principal rots are a downy mildew and also botrytis (which makes the great Bordeaux sweet wine, Sauternes). However in Hong Kong's climate the end result can be very mouldy grapes. Strawberries, which are not known as a Hong Kong crop, also have the same problem.

However Sun Hung Kai Properties has created a luxury residential development in Yuen Long, a far flung corner of the New Territories, called The Vineyard. It consists of 160 houses and a 100,000-square-foot vineyard . . . which the developer calls a "little Bordeaux in Hong Kong."
Crops of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes will be grown and each of the development's five streets are named for a famous French château: Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton and Pétrus. Wine can be made from the grapes and residents can store their wines, at a charge, in the development's own cellar or they can install private cellars in their villas. The development's clubhouse will host occasional wine tastings, wine-themed meals and talks from wine experts, and residents will get special offers on hard-to-find vintages. The Vineyard's spa offers both red wine and grape seed treatments and the company sent 20 people from the management company that is running the property to Bordeaux to learn about wines, wine growing and wine storage, as well as French hospitality and etiquette . . . a 5 million dollar trip.

Another venture in Hong Kong claims to be Hong Kong's first winery – the 8th Estate Winery is unconventional in that since there is no space for vineyards in this city of 7 million, the winery buys its grapes once a year from another country. Grapes are imported from around the world and flash frozen. The trick is to freeze the grapes soon after they're picked from the vines. That means finding a flash-freezing facility within a half-day's drive from the selected vineyards. The winery is located on the third floor of an industrial building in southern Hong Kong island. You wouldn't guess that off the crowded streets of one of the world's most densely populated cities is a dark room of 340 oak wine barrels.

Lysanne Tusar established the 8th Estate Winery and chose Hong Kong because it is an isolated community as far as production goes. There is no wine production anywhere close by (the closest beings in northern China). The 2007 vintage was made with grapes from Washington State in the U.S. The 2008 vintage was from the Piedmont and Tuscany regions of Italy. The boutique winery is a small operation with a staff of four and produces about 100,000 bottles every year.


Pam said...

Interesting and who would've thought of that part of the world when thinking about wine! That is one cool looking bottle of wine!

Sue said...

Thanks Pam - I agree it looks great doesn't it?