It smells like the sea and the sun is hot. If you visit the DHL Global Forwarding Wine Hub in Hong Kong’s Kennedy Town, the tropical climate may overwhelm you. Right on the harbour is a rather unspectacular concrete building where cargo, mainly rice, is unloaded at the ramps on the ground floor. Take the freight lift up to the 13th floor and you find yourself in another world, where long rows of shelves house a total of 230,000 bottles of wine. And almost all of it is the premium variety. “In Hong Kong about 60 per cent of the total wine market is in the luxury segment,” says Edward Hui, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding for Hong Kong, Macau and South China. The most expensive bottle costs HK$1.6 million, or around €160,000. In Asia, the favourites are expensive Bordeaux wines from France. In second place are Italian wines.
Wine is not just a drink in China; it is also a status symbol.
Market with substantial growth potential
In order to store the wine properly, an environment was created that approximates a wine cellar. Thanks to modern air conditioning, the room temperature is maintained constantly at between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius and the humidity between 70 and 80 per cent. There is no direct sunlight and no heavy equipment to disturb the bottles.
In 2008, the Hong Kong government abolished its tax on wine and since then the former crown colony has developed into one of the most important wine business centres in the world. “The Asian markets offer enormous growth potential, and Hong Kong is the door to these markets,” says Mr Hui. DHL has seized the opportunity and, in the past few years, has become a specialist in importing and storing wine.
Employees receive special training
Approximately 180,000 bottles pass through the Wine Hub each year. In wine-producing countries overseas the valuable bottles are carefully packed for the journey by air or sea to Asia. The temperature and humidity have to be just right along the entire supply chain. “Our employees have been trained and handle these valuable bottles with the utmost care,” explains Kam Keung Lai, who is in charge of the wine warehouse. They print the labels for the bottles being exported to China – as required by customs – or prepare the wines for their big day at one of Hong Kong’s many auctions. The large auction houses there reported wine sales valued at over US$198 million in 2011 – a figure that puts Hong Kong ahead of New York and London, which were previously the major locations for wine auctions.
Wine shipments delivered at the perfect temperature
Yet wine merchants, restaurants and auction houses aren’t the only ones that rely on DHL’s services – an increasing number of private individuals do, too. Hardly anybody in Hong Kong has their own wine cellar. Instead, they pick up the telephone when they want to enjoy an excellent wine with their evening meal. The wine order is assembled, carefully packed and delivered to its destination at just the right time and at just the right temperature – a feat made possible thanks to a special foil that was designed for temperature-controlled deliveries. In the future, it could replace multiple manual temperature controls, and even reduce costs.