An Englishman in Hong Kong


HK signsLeading up to the big move last Friday the one thing I promised myself was to immerse myself in the culture and experience what Hong Kong is all about! I’d been a few times before and friends and customers in the UK had given me graphic details of the crazy lifestyle that I was about to get myself into. Given my tendency to get myself into a pickle my mum was a little apprehensive (even though I managed to look after myself in Melbourne for three years!), and had packed me a medical bag larger than my main suitcase! Yep, there is now doubt that Hong Kong is a daunting place to the unsuspecting…fast paced and passionate… it gobbles you up, throws you around and then spits you out (a good thing!)

As I sat in Starbucks Coffee on Sunday morning, having eaten nothing but Western food for 24hrs, I wondered exactly what I had got myself into…. I was starting to get anxious… my nerves were jangling, my sanity teetering on the edge! Wondering why I had moved half way across the globe. Well I had no need to despair, my spirits were lifted that afternoon as my brand new colleague in Hong Kong, Mark Arrowsmith had invited me to a BBQ at his house.

Before I knew it I was off on the MTR railway into the New Territories to Tai Wai (next to Sha Tin, the famous race track …for those horse racing buffs!) That’s right, no swanky pad in mid-levels, Mark has been resident of Hong Kong since I was in nappies, and has had enough of the cosmopolitan life on the island. He prefers to relax in the country with is lovely wife Helen and far too intelligent daughter Keeler! I think I saw more of the real HK in that 45 min journey than I did in the previous two days! I cannot begin to tell you how great my afternoon was, relaxing with familiar faces on the balcony, in the stunning New Territory Countryside and asking more stupid questions about life in Hong Kong than you can shake a stick at, whilst all the time having a glass of UKC, to remind myself of what I am here to do! A key moment in my life that will not be forgotten, like trying your first First Growth or having your first Burgundy “moment”!

Ok, right you ask, what on earth has this got to do with wine? Well let us get back to my point onHK BBR truck immersing yourself in a culture and passion. You would have to have been locked in a cupboard for the last three years to not know that Asia (Hong Kong and Chinese residents in particular) is gaining a passion for fine wine and the First Growths of Bordeaux in particular.  There is hunger and thirst for knowledge about fine wine here and I feel it is merchants such as BB&R’s duty to help, educate and develop this interest. I don’t mean to sound patronising or get on a high horse. What I mean is, that at present wine lovers here (on the whole) tend to appreciate the top wines from Bordeaux much more than any others; well what about the subtle nuances of Burgundy or the brash flamboyance of 2007 Southern Rhônes, the ethereal beauty of Nebbiolo  in Piedmont? We are at the tip of the iceberg in Asia, the wine-loving culture is at its infant stage, with so much hunger and potential for consumers to develop the market and enjoy the wondrous variety there is in wine.

A healthy, interested wine market in Asia is good for every wine lover. Encouraging the consumer here to experiment and sample wines from all over the world is key to a healthy wine market. The top wines from Bordeaux are legendary, however we cannot continue to harvest non-stop from the same field! How can you appreciate the majestical structure of Latour if you cannot enjoy a bottle of Good Ordinary Claret or a top value Cab. from Stellenbosch?  As someone once said to me, I only appreciate my Ferrari at the weekend because I drive a Ford Mondeo during the week!

So as Mark and Helen advised me on Sunday… relax enjoy the ride and get taken in by this incredible city that is Hong Kong. I feel I will be saying the same our customers here. Trust us, experiment and come along for the ride. In the long run it makes you appreciate the Ferrari in the Eurocave and hey you might just find a few Ford Mondeos you like… and they are a lot cheaper!