One of this city's hottest businesses these days is located inside the cool, climate
-controlled confines of a former World War II military bunker on the south side of Hong Kong island.
There, in a 6,000-square-foot space that offers some of the best cellaring conditions in Hong Kong, Gregory De'Eb shelters expensive
wines from the semitropical climate
for a rapidly expanding clientele of oenophiles from Hong Kong, mainland
China and elsewhere
in Asia. At around 27,000 cases, his storage
facilities are filled to capacity.
'The past four months have been bigger than we ever expected,' says Mr. De'Eb, a former South African diplomat.
Surging demand for quality wine from China's newly rich, combined with the recent elimination
of all wine duties in this bastion of free trade, is transforming Hong Kong into a global hub for wine trading and distribution.
Wine imports to Hong Kong jumped more than 34% to 32.5 million liters in the year ended March 31. Wine sellers and collector
s say that inflow is coming from several sources -- longtime Asian collector
s who are moving their wines closer to home, wine sellers who have recently set up shop in the city and buyers who are simply takingadvantage
of the no-tax policy
to ship a broader array of wines home from overseas.
Sales at Hong Kong wine auction
s have reached US$47.2 million so far this year, a 75% increase from all of 2008, according to government data. Sotheby's, which held an US$8 million wine auction
here in October, says the city has now surpassed London and New York as its most important market, owing to the city's potential
for further growth.
Overall, London remains a larger market than Hong Kong in terms of dollar sales, says Nick Pegna, a Hong Kong-based managing director
for the British wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd. But some sales counted in London are actually
for clients in Hong Kong, he says. Hong Kong now accounts for nearly 35% of Berry Bros. sales versus about 25% two years ago, he says.
英国葡萄酒经销商Berry Bros. & Rudd驻香港董事总经理佩尼亚(Nick Pegna)说，总体而言，以美元销售额计算，伦敦的市场规模仍高于香港。但他说，算在伦敦头上的一些销售额实际上来自香港的客户。他说，香港目前占Berry Bros.销售额的近35%，两年前这个比例约为25%。
Driving Hong Kong wine sales is a law enacted early last year wiping out a 40% tax on wine imports, after a reduction
from an 80% duty a year earlier. Mainland China, by contrast
, levies a 48% tax on wine imports, and all other Asian countries impose
duties of some kind.
While the biggest impact
of the no-tax policy
has been on the fine-wine market, in dollar terms, Hong Kong consumers at the low end of the market are also discovering they have greater access
. In supermarkets, for instance
, wine consumers are seeing
'a larger selection
at much better prices than two years ago,' says Jeannie Cho Lee, a collector
and wine writer.
虽然以美元计算，无税政策影响最大的是精品葡萄酒市场，但低端市场的香港消费者也发现他们有更多的机会。收藏家、葡萄酒作家李志延(Jeannie Cho Lee)说，比如在超市，葡萄酒消费者发现同两年前相比，他们的选择更多了，价格也更有吸引力了。
Mainland Chinese buyers are takingadvantage
of Hong Kong's tax policy
. On a visit to France, Beijing-based lawyer
Jingzhou Tao shipped a couple of cases of Bordeaux to a friend in Hong Kong. Mr. Tao says that on regular visits to the city-state, he carries a couple of bottles home with him over the border.
For wine veterans, the exorbitant prices fetched at some recent auction
s show that mainland
buyers are still beginners in understanding the wine market. 'Sometimes they pay a higher price than what you see at local wine stores,' says George Tong, a 46-year-old collector
from Hong Kong, especially for what he calls 'show-off' wines.
The king of show-off wines in China is Chateau Lafite Rothschild, and the 1982 vintage -- which typically sells for about US$5,000 in Hong Kong -- is considered the one to go for when sealing a deal with business associates or government officials, says Mr. Tong.
George Tong说，中国的炫富葡萄酒之王是拉菲庄园(Chateau Lafite Rothschild)，而其中的1982年产葡萄酒（在香港的售价通常约合5,000美元）更被视为与商业伙伴或政府官员达成交易时的选择之一。
In a sign of its cachet, thieves
stole 228 bottles of 1982 Lafite valued at US$877,000 in November, Hong Kong police said. The bottles were being stored in a warehouse
in an area of the territory that abuts mainland
China. Investigators say they are asking customs officials to look out for smugglers trying
to carry the booty across the border.
s here, one drawback
is the dearth
space. Mr. De'Eb says that plans are under way for a larger space for wine storage
at the former bunker, where a hodgepodge of Hong Kong Chinese, British, Indian and Canadian soldiers surrendered the island to the Japanese in 1941. In September, his company, Crown Wine Cellars, finished construction
of a new wine storagewarehouse
. It is the first phase of a facility
near the mainland
border that eventually
will be able to hold 300,000 cases.
对于香港的收藏家来说，一个不足之处是缺乏贮藏空间。迪耶伯说，正计划在这个以前的防空洞中建设更大的葡萄酒贮藏空间。1941年，由香港的中国、英国、印度和加拿大士兵组成的杂牌军在这里向日本人投降。今年9月，他的公司皇冠酒窖(Crown Wine Cellars)完成了一个新的葡萄酒贮藏仓库的建设。这是一个地处与内地交界地区的仓库的第一期工程，最终这个仓库将能容纳30万箱葡萄酒。