New York-based merchant and auctioneer Zachys has launched an online retail business in Hong Kong, as an entrée to mainland China's fine wine buyers.
Zachys has held auctions in Hong Kong for several years but will now also offer its 2500-strong wine list through its new and local, bilingual website zachysasia.com.
While fulfilment initially will be in Hong Kong only, Zachys Asia managing director David Wainwright told decanter.com he is in talks with potential shippers.
‘Most of our mainland clients want to park some cash outside China,’ he said.
‘Some have even set up accounts in the UK, France and Switzerland so they can buy wine and have an asset abroad that is supposedly going up in value.’
Hong Kong is already well-served by local and international merchants, though few have storefronts due to high rents.
‘There are no barriers to entry here, so anyone can import and trade wine, even from a spare bedroom,’ said Christian Pillsbury, founder and director of Applied Wine Services, which develops and manages wine programmes for restaurants.
‘There is a tremendous amount of aggression and creative destruction. Companies that dominated the market five years ago are now gutted shells.’
That said, Pillsbury noted the market is still growing, with customers in Hong Kong demonstrating an unparalleled eagerness to learn about – and buy – wine.
Wainwright said Zachys Asia will focus on quality, provenance, fair prices and customer service.
Greg De’Eb, general manager of Crown Wine Cellars, a private members club and storage facility in Hong Kong, said most mainland buyers are experienced internet bargain-hunters.
‘Essentially buyers will simply select the cheapest five-10 offers, ask for condition reports and photos and proceed to purchase,’ said De’eb.
‘Our own members’ list is linked to Wine-Searcher and we are contacted almost daily by smaller operations asking for this information on behalf of mainland buyers.’
Written by Maggie Rosen