Oct 18, 2012|
Hong Kong and its love affair with wine is a well-documented phenomenon. Just as infamous is the celebrated reduction in tax—and oenophiles’ disappointment as wine prices fail to follow the downward trend.
We have all heard the familiar explanations: high overheads; extortionate Hong Kong rents; the expense of importing high-quality wines in low volumes and small production numbers of the very best wines. Even so, when we take that bottle off the shelf of that exclusive wine shop, we all have this inkling that we just might have been overcharged.
But is there an alternative? Well, not everyone agrees that good wine should cost an arm and a leg. We have discovered that there is a quiet revolution of wine retailers and suppliers in Hong Kong who want to share their love of wine with everyone—not just the wealthy few. Catering to the average consumer, these vintners still concentrate on the quality of the wines while eschewing the unobtainable price tag.
Restaurants the world over are generally known for their notorious pricing of wines, but there are a few in Hong Kong that are bucking the trend by taking a smaller cut to please the masses.
Pizza Express is very proud of the fact they don’t mark up the prices in their restaurants. Instead of the usual three- to five-fold price hike that other restaurants practice, Pizza Express adds a flat $150 per bottle to the actual retail cost of the wine. Interestingly, this ends up meaning that the more pricy wines are actually better value for money. Almost all of the wines in the list are under $500 a bottle and are available by the glass, carafe or bottle. A few of the Pizza Express restaurants have an enomatic wine-dispensing machine where wines can be bought in tasting and half glass portions as well.
Various branches throughout the city, including Shop G517, G/F, Ko On Mansion, 9 Tai Yue Avenue, Tai Koo, 3150-8800, www.pizzaexpress.com.hk.
Presenting a wine “atlas” that covers over 750 labels, fine dine The Principal offers wines not only from the usual suspects of France, Italy and the New World but also those from less mainstream producers such as Croatia, Georgia, Moldova, China and many others. All of these wines are hand-picked by the Principal’s wine director, Kavita Faiella. This truly international mix of wine producers does mean that there are many affordable, under-$500 wines on the list—although of course there will also be wines that command the very top prices, too.
9 Star St., Wan Chai, 2563-3444, www.theprincipal.com.hk.
The Salted Pig
With the ethos of approachable, value-for-money, home-style food, The Salted Pig extends this philosophy to the wines they serve. Unconventionally, their wine list is on a blackboard in their dining room that advertises the reds and whites at the same price—in carafes of 150ml at $58, 300ml at $108 or 500ml at $158. The Salted Pig simplifies wine-drinking with unbranded selections of pinot noir, merlot, malbec, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling and pinot grigio—patrons merely choose the varietal they like, and the restaurant takes care of the rest.
2/F, L Place, 139 Queen’s Rd. Central, 2870-2323.
It’s tricky to navigate the myriad distributors and retailers offering all types of tipple under the sun, but here’s a good starting point of shops and online delivery services that aren’t just out to make a quick buck.
Frustrated by the over-inflated prices of wines in Hong Kong, the founders of Winerack set out to sell good-quality wines at cheaper prices over the internet. Sourcing the wines directly from vineyards and concentrating on good product selection, Winerack offers bottles from all over the world that are mostly under the $100 mark. Think it’s too good to be true? Check out the website for the latest top picks and see for yourself.
Adelaide Cellar Door
This purveyor aims to beat market prices of fine and everyday wines alike, offering reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines from Australia, France, Italy and elsewhere. You can get a solid bottle of south Australian Tall Trees sauvignon blanc for as low as $70, and a whole bunch of other wines at just over the $100 mark.
Bordeaux etc., and Champagne etc.
The “etc” wine shops are a collection of retail outlets that focus exclusively on top wine-making regions in France. The two shops, Champagne etc. and Bordeaux etc., are staffed by qualified experts of different wine regions and stock an extensive range of the eponymous Bordeaux and champagnes. On their website, there is a special “Below $500” section for budget-conscious consumers—although rarer and pricier vintages are also available.
Champagne Etc., G/F, 19 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, 2568-2009. Bordeaux etc., Shop G01, G/F, Leighton Centre, 77 Leighton Rd., Causeway Bay, 2567-2009, www.etcwineshops.com.
Stay away from the tourist traps and stick to these failsafe venues for an affordable glass.
California Vintage is a chain of wine bars that bring Californian wine to the Hong Kong market. With 90 wines on the wine list, 86 of which are exclusive to California Vintage, there is no shortage of choice here. Fifty percent of their wines are available at under $100 a glass—you can buy to taste, by the half-glass, full glass or the bottle. California Vintage has recently extended their brand at a new outlet in Wan Chai.
77 Wyndham St., Central, 2525-9808, www.cvwinebar.com.
The Flying Winemaker
The Flying Winemaker, owned by wine buff and vintner Eddie McDougall, is a two-story store, with the ground floor dedicated to selling a wide variety of wines from both the New World and the old. Set on discovering new and different wines, McDougall emphasizes quality above all. The wine list includes 12 top picks for the month and every bottle is under $500.
G/F-U/F, 31 Wyndham St., Central, 2522-2187, www.eddiemcdougall.com.
Portrait Winery is a winery and distillery that’s based in our very own city. With vineyard partners from around the world, the wines are hand-crafted to produce a portfolio of grand cru-style wines. Glasses of ice wines, reds and whites start from around $50, but owner Steve is a gregarious man who’ll share bottle after bottle on the house if you catch him on a good night. The quirky and beautifully decorated wine labels also shouldn’t be missed.
31 Staunton St., Central, 2526-8858.
Facebook "Label Us Confused" Game:
1. $230, The Flying Winemaker
2. $165, garagewine.hk
3. $765, CitySuper
4. $430, The Flying Winemaker
5. $390, Classified
6. $99, ParknShop