Historic ingenuity in Asian wine storage


1 March 2017 As part of our Throwback Thursday series we are republishing this, written in 2003 by Hong Kong resident Debra Meiburg, who was then billed as 'a Purple Pager' (she became an MW in 2008). She was clearly excited at the prospect of HK having a fine-wine storage facility at last, and we were spurred on to republish it by the news from the owner of Crown Wine Cellars, who contributed to HK celebrates 10 duty-free years published on Tuesday, that there are now no fewer than 44 registered wine storage facilities there. We have accordingly been updating the HK section in our free guide to Where to store

25 April 2003 Wine storage is a challenge in Asia, but as you know there are many fine-wine collectors/sharers here. Most keep their wines in London or New York cellars. However, in a first for Hong Kong, a friend is converting eight military bunkers into bonded public wine storage facilities. The ordnance bunkers were built into our lush mountainsides in the 1930s by the British. The walls are 1.3 metres thick and relatively secure, being originally designed to house explosives more in the order of mortar shells than champagne. Facilities will include a wine education and entertainment venue. The opening date is [was] 1 May 2003 [in fact it did not open for business until 2004].

The owner tells me that Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang had independently come up with the idea to use our historic bunkers and tunnels some time ago. Hong Kong leadership does enjoy good wine, but can't seem to resist the tax base [!]. So, other friends store their wine in Macau to avoid Hong Kong duty. One group of friends sought facilities with stable air control, good security and, being savvy Hong Kong business people, financial viability. So, they simply rented a retail space – at the Mandarin Hotel. They sold a bottle now and then and had relatively secure storage. Apparently a commuting network (their Hong Kong employee base, I presume) carried one or two bottles into Hong Kong (allowable) as needed.

Most of us have converted our 'maid's quarters' (more of a closet, really) to wine cellars. Priorities! Ours for example, holds about 120 cases on racks. One Taipan friend told me that his maid's quarters-cum-cellar doubles as storage room for his wife's cosmetics, some of which he assures me are worth more than the wines. He highly recommended the cosmetics (La Mer?) to keep one young-looking. When I mentioned that my husband would not be happy that he shared such expensive information, he replied, 'Oh, he'll thank me. It is much cheaper than keeping a concubine.'  [Is one allowed to publish such an outrageous claim without comment in 2018?! JR]