da Vinci’s seven most beautiful children
對一般消費者而言，這原來是很自然的事。可是我想不到的是，一位頗有名氣的 Master of Wine 竟然也用這個角度討論意大利酒。
我看過她在 South China Morning Post 發表的文章後，心裏很不舒服，于是有點激動的告訴 K 說﹕
I’m just wondering what an MW is really about: as an adjunct to the wine trade, or a force of vino enlightenment.
I have a struggle inside my head. With my limited experience in wine, I think a lot of Italian wine is the most natural, honest and for this reason the most beautiful wine in the world. The only exception is perhaps Burgundy, but the best Burgundy is only for the super rich, and therefore is not my concern.
I have this friend who is the owner of a wine retailer that I introduced to you some time ago, who once told me that from his years of selling wine in Hong Kong, most lovers of fine wine start with Bordeaux and end up with Burgundy. Between these two points, they may try a lot of different wines, from Italy, California, Australia or some other countries. He himself loves Barolo, and I know he appreciates Italian wine, but he is facing customers who are chasing after famous brands, and the most famous brands are French: Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Two weeks ago, there is this Korean lady who wrote an article in the leading newspaper in Hong Kong, in which she discusses how Italian wine is doing in the market. I am attaching a copy of her article for you. This woman is a Master of Wine (MW) who, as you may know, is like the most respected Philosopher in wine, although this is more a British institution. She is one of only two MWs in Hong Kong, and is very well respected in the market.
But I think she is talking rubbish! I was enjoying wine with another wine expert in Hong Kong, and I told my friend K that I don’t respect this MW at all. As a Philosopher, she should understand that the true quality of a bottle of wine is not a result of clear regulations like the French. Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent van Gogh created their greatest paintings according to what they think are the best representations of beauty, rather than a rule book called AOC or DOCG! Great Italian winemakers like Giacosa, Soldera and Cerbaiona are artists and not merchants! A great Master of Wine should teach wine lovers how to discover the beauty of any wine although they do not have a good set of regulations (like the Italians).
But this gives you a very accurate idea of the bias the market has for French wine. And the same thing is happening in China. I would say the bias is even more serious in China. Part of the reason Bordeaux prices are so crazy is that new drinkers in China believe like a religion that French wine is the best in the world!
My wine expert K has been in the business for about 15 years, and he now teaches wine courses at universities and at the same time runs his own company selling wine. But like almost all wine professionals, his training was mainly in French wine. I have been drinking with him many times since more than a year ago. Every time I shared with him great bottles of Italian wine, and he would tell me that the Italians really make some of the best wines in the world. I once asked him if he would be interested in becoming a specialist in selling Italian wine, and he told me that it is easy to import wine into Hong Kong, but who is to teach his customers? What he means is: if he himself knows so little about Italian wine, he would not be able to train up his sales team to sell Italian wine!
K also told me something that I heard from other people in the wine retail business as well. Since Hong Kong abolished wine import duties, it has become more difficult to make money because there are now a lot more competitors: everybody can bring in wine!
All I am trying to say is this: Italian wine has a huge potential because of their unique and excellent quality, but you have a great obstacle because nobody taught the Bordeaux and Burgundy lovers why Italian wines are good: both quality and price.
Another big factor to consider is: Hong Kong is a very expensive place to do business. Property prices are expensive, staff costs are high. The only advantages are: we have a simple tax system and a very low corporate tax rate (currently 16.5%), and we are close to China and other affluent Asian countries.
You would therefore have to be very cautious before you really set up a business in Hong Kong.
It is easy for me to say: C, come and do something for Italian wine! And it would be a lot more convenient for me to buy wine, I believe. But as a friend, I would really ask you to consider all the pros and cons before spending money.