A report on the recent sales trip to Hong Kong & China by Andy & Olly
With the focus that is placed on the Chinese wine market it is always interesting to get out and meet sommeliers, retailers, consumers and wine sales people in Hong Kong and China. The hype is always a little above the reality, but these are still very important markets and ones that Misha’s Vineyard has been investing in.
Olly Master (our winemaker) and I started in Hong Kong with visits to current and prospective customers at some of the most amazing hotels and restaurants including The Upper House and The Park Lane Hotel. Hong Kong was one of Misha’s Vineyard’s first four markets and we have started to develop some great history with both our wine distributor – Jebsen Fine Wines – and many of their customers. Monday night, after an overnight flight from Auckland, we did our first wine dinner with the enthusiastic and vocal members of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club. Organisers from the clubs wine committee wanted to have us share the stories of our Chinese connection with the members, as well as some detailed information on the wines. Perfect for myself to be the story-teller and Olly the more serious wine guy! We had a great evening – lots of questions and plenty of laughter and chatter. The evening finished with a quick quiz on Central Otago wines – with the winners taking home a bottle of our fab Pinot Noir.
After visiting customers on Tuesday we returned to the two Michelin Star Cantonese restaurant, Ming Court at The Langham Hotel in Mong Kok. Misha and I had hosted a wine dinner at Ming Court two years ago and were amazed by the food and service – this dinner was no exception. The dinner guests were customer of Rare & Fine Wines – one of our long term retailers in Hong Kong whose stores boast some of the finest wines of the world, and whose customers are some of Hong Kong’s most discerning wine collectors. The menu was again truly amazing, with dishes matched to our wines by sommelier Vincent Yuen and the chefs in this icon restaurant of Asia. The guests had a great night – with lots of toasts and “cheers” as the evening progressed.
Wednesday was training day for the Jebsen sales team – a refresher on Misha’s Vineyard for many of the team and an introduction for some new sales reps who have joined recently. We also had the opportunity to have dinner with well-known wine writer and educator Mabel Lai, with her husband Hood and principal lecturer Karl who with Mabel run the Hong Kong Wine Academy. Mabel is studying for her Master of Wine which offer the opportunity for Hood, Karl and Olly to challenge her with some blind tastings of wines bought along. She certainly impressed with her well trained palate picking up most of the wine styles and characters!
Hong Kong is a vibrant and dynamic city and we love the enthusiasm we see at every event we participate in!
On to Beijing and Olly’s first visit to China. With our hotel being right next to The Forbidden City and a short walk to Tiananmen Square Olly had the chance to explore a little in the evenings and also try some local delicacies
Our visit to Beijing was quite brief – but with training of the Jebsen team in the Friday morning and an afternoon trade masterclass held at the China World Hotel we had the opportunity to meet quite a few sommeliers and all of the Jebsen Beijing team. A lot of the talk was of how clean the air was that week – unusual for Beijing but because the government was holding a major “congress” of all senior Communist Party leaders, the surrounding factories had been closed as they did for the Olympics to reduce the smog for a short period.
Next city was Shanghai – one of my favourite cities in the world (pollution aside). Since going there first more than 25 years ago it has changed drastically from drab grey two story concrete and brick houses and narrow street markets to a mass of skyscrapers, designer shops, massive shopping malls and great hotels. We had a weekend to explore and shop before starting work with customer lunches, trade meetings and staff training on Monday & Tuesday. Part of the schedule included a masterclass on “Central Otago – Pinot Noir and more” for the TasteSpirit wine school founded by Young Shi (who visited us in NZ) and Siwei Zhu. The class was packed, and included one of our former vineyard workers who had returned to China to continue wine studies! Olly provided the technical and informative part of the class – with wines to show why Central Otago has such an amazing reputation not just for Pinot Noir – but also cool climate aromatic wines. My role was some light entertainment in-between with our Chinese gold mining stories, and the connection of Misha’s opera background to the wine names. They even played opera excerpts – selected by Misha – to match the wines. Olly and many of the class were convinced the music made the wines taste different!
The last event in Shanghai was an open trade tasting at the beautiful Langham Hotel where they have our wines listed and served by-the-glass. We had a number of sommeliers and wine retailers come through to taste the wines and chat to Olly and myself. The impressive images of Misha’s Vineyard had been set onto art boards by our brand manager at Jebsen China – Amanda – and had a real impact at the venue.
Final stop was in Guangzhou, a city of over 20 million people where I have not been for over 10 years. While our wines are with Jebsen Fine Wines in Guangzhou we had not made it there on previous visits to do training or visit any customers. It was a short visit but well worthwhile with our morning staff training and lunch at The Westin Hotel – overlooking the central park and some of the redeveloped areas of Guangzhou.
While everything about this trip flowed easily we know how much work goes into making these visits a success. A huge thanks to the Jebsen teams in both Hong Kong and China – we look forward to coming back again soon.