Jeannie Cho Lee is “very optimistic about the growth of Spanish wines in Hong Kong and China.”

Jeannie Cho Lee’s Top Spanish Wines

Published at 03-Feb-2014

First came a renewed interest in Spanish cuisine via the work of Ferran Adrià and El Bulli. Now Spanish wine has opened up a second front in the battle to win fans in the vital Chinese market, with some success.

Figures show that 2013 was a benchmark year for Spanish producers in China. Not only did they surpass Italy and Chile to become the third-biggest wine supplier to the People’s Republic; they also successfully expanded their distribution network and their marketing message to key Chinese cities.

Wine circles here are abuzz about the diversity and quality of Spanish wines. Their good value, combined with the move away from Bordeaux, means that consumers are finally listening – and, most importantly, buying. In November 2013, Spain was the featured country at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair, which further enhanced its reputation.

On the gastronomic front, 2013 saw the opening of numerous tapas bars and trendy Spanish restaurants in Hong Kong, all with a strong Spanish wine list. Catalunya opened in April 2013, serving contemporary Spanish dishes made by chefs trained at El Bulli. Two other prominent Spanish restaurants had opened to rave reviews opened just five months before: 22 Ships and Sal Curioso. In Shanghai, a two-week “Spanish Restaurant Week” included 11 different eateries.

I am very optimistic about the growth of Spanish wines in Hong Kong and China. First, the on-trade market is positive, with both wine enthusiasts and foodies embracing what Spain has to offer. Their interest is not only in traditional Spanish cuisine such as tapas and paella, it is also with innovative El Bulli-inspired modern Spanish cooking. There is now a better appreciation and understanding of Spanish food and, along with it, Spanish wine. The proliferation of tapas bars in Hong Kong and Shanghai means that wines by the glass provide an introduction to the country’s diverse offerings.

Despite having the largest area of land under vine, Spanish wine producers made a late start in Asia. They had to play catch-up in most Asian markets, as they had fallen way behind France and, until recently, Italy. But the activities of a number of Spanish wine associations is providing a boost. These groups ensured that consumers and trade representatives alike get the chance to taste and learn about Spanish wines.
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Jeannie Cho Lee is the first Asian Master of Wine (MW) and an award-winning author, wine critic, judge and educator.
Jeannie’s pioneering book, Asian Palate, explores Asian food and wine pairings in ten Asian culinary capitals.