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Hong Kong: mixed interest in Bordeaux 2006

Hong Kong merchants are reporting mixed interest in the 2006 Bordeaux en primeur campaign.

For one merchant, Asia-based clients eager to secure future allocations appear unconcerned with price, while others report little interest for any but seasoned en primeur buyers.

‘It’s a very hot market,’ Nick Pegna, managing director of Berry Bros in Hong Kong said. ‘I have 3,500-4,000 buyers – not only in Hong Kong, but in Thailand and Malaysia – who are extremely interested.

‘Many of them are first-time buyers with no experience buying first growths and want to get on the ladder for the likes of Mouton, Haut Brion and Margaux.’

He added, ‘This is absolutely not about local buyers ignoring the commentary from the US and UK and absorbing overpriced stock.’

Other merchants haven’t seen as much interest from new buyers.

‘It is really restricted to regular en primeur buyers this year,’ said Jo Purcell, managing director of Farr Vintners in Asia. ‘The new buyers who flocked to the market last year for investment are not buying 2006.’

Purcell notes that such speculators, having pumped the market with ‘more money than there is wine’, are largely responsible for the increase in prices for the top vintages from top chateaux over the last 18 months.

Vincent Yip, general manager of Topsy Trading – which has been buying en primeur since 1994 – said the local market was too insignificant to affect prices.

‘It is interesting to see people blame the Chinese market for pushing Bordeaux prices up,’ he said. ‘I don’t believe the actual figure of premium wine imported or consumed in China is that important.

‘We believe the prices are being pushed up by investors and speculators from all over the world…and we worry about this behaviour. It makes the Bordeaux market too risky and complicated.’

Noting that the growing criticism has been more about the system itself than the quality of this year’s vintage, Pegna cautioned that eager, less price-sensitive buyers could not sustain the market forever.

‘Fair value is not discussed a lot here, but as knowledge levels increase, these buyers will turn their backs and there may not always be new ones to take their place,’ he said.

Written by Maggie Rosen in Hong Kong

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