I’ve just returned from two weeks teaching and tasting in Hong Kong. It’s always a pleasure, such an exciting place to visit. This year what struck me was how French Hong Kong has become. It could be because I spent my time talking about Bordeaux but hearing French being spoken in the street seems to be more commonplace.
According to a recent blog post on the WSJ Hong Kong might be heading that way.
Up to 20,000 French citizens currently live in Hong Kong, a 5% growth rate over the past five years; this is the strongest growth rate among any expatriate population, according to the Hong Kong government. What’s the attraction? Well, the ease of setting up and doing business for a start.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of them seem to working in the wine and food sector, with many opening French restaurants. Yes, the big names are here and this month’s announcement of new Michelin stars for the city included a few French names including Serge et le Phoque, who received their first Michelin star
Other favourites are Upper Modern Bistro managed by Jeremy Evrard and Cocotte in NoHo central, owned and run by Brice Moldovan. Joël Robuchon is in town with his stars but also cafés and patisseries. French baking seems to be in vogue with the successful French baker, Kaiser, the place to go for your morning croissants and baguettes. Kaiser opened his first shop in Dec 2012 and now has 4 throughout the city. Agnes B has branched out from couture opening a series of cafes with one in Gough street including a beautiful flower shop, just across the road from the Caudalie shop and spa. Food and wine is a national sport in Hong Kong and France with its gastronomic image is surfing the wave as are Bordeaux wines.
If you needed confirmation about the Hong Kong passion for food and wine, you need look no further than the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival; one of my reasons for visiting. This was the 7th annual edition and Bordeaux has been the leading partner from the start, exporting the ‘Bordeaux Fête le Vin concept as they have done in Quebec.
Almost 150 000 people visited, of whom 2700 came by the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux stand to participate in one of our classes. But Bordeaux wine education in Hong Kong is not limited to one weekend. The Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux currently has 14 accredited Wine educators in Hong Kong alone and 5 accredited schools. In 2014 they taught over 4500 people between them.
And the future looks bright; there was a party atmosphere at the festival with young people very much the target audience. They are interested in wine, consuming but also understanding. This was confirmed when teaching a series of Bordeaux, Médoc and Graves Master classes at the IVE Hotel school I was impressed with the quality and enthusiasm of students.
The International Culinary Institue at Pok Fu Lam showed the skills of the future generation with a food and wine matching dinner designed specifically to showcase a range of Sweet Wines of Bordeaux.
Hong-Kong remains an important market for Bordeaux wines, it is the 7th largest market volume wise but the 2nd in value (after China and on a par with the UK) with over 11 million bottles shipped there for a value of 214 million euros last year. Even enthusiastic French expats can’t be responsible for all that consumption!