Company Update

Nowhere reinvents itself like Hong Kong’ says fine wine merchant | The Drinks Business

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We talk to Stuart Dale, chief wine officer at Crop & Vine, about the fluidity of the market and how Hong Kong has a history of “bouncing back” from challenging times.

Crop & Vine was founded in 2021 and now has locations in Hong Kong, the UK and France, boasting an extensive selection of top-end wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, the Rhône, and the US.

It also walked away with the trophy for ‘Best Newcomer’ at the recently held Drinks Business Asian Awards, during a ceremony at Vinexpo Asia in Singapore, as well as being commended as a runner up in the ‘Fine Wine Retailer of the Year’ category.

The judging panel applauded the fine wine and spirits retailer for its “seamless digital interactions with clients”, in particular its online portfolio tools which “allow clients to manage their wines across multiple merchants”, which together give the company “a distinct advantage” over the competition, said the judges.

Crop & Vine’s “exceptional customer service” was also attributed to its talented staff, proficient in Cantonese, Mandarin, English, French and Italian.

DBAsia chats to the company’s chief wine officer Stuart Dale on the win, and the current state of the fine wine market in Hong Kong.

How does it feel to have been awarded Best Newcomer? 

Great! The world is a tough place at the moment and it is such awesome news to have won these awards and real recognition as a new breed of wine merchant! We are a relatively young company, founded in 2021 in Hong Kong and the UK, with our France location having opened this year.

What kind of decisions drive your wine buying choices?

Market prices. We focus on well-priced products relative to the market; classic names as well as old and rare wines and spirits. It’s a very fluid market at the moment and things change fast so our model allows us to nimbly navigate the global market and offer the best buying opportunities out there.

How have you achieved the growth you’ve seen since the company was founded?

People first! I am delighted to say that we have some of the best people in the business – a close and experienced team who believe in each other and love what they do. Aside from our team, it’s the clients and suppliers who trust in us and the strength of our relationships, and of course the technology that allows us to make sense of the global wine market allows us to offer some of the leading cellar management tools out there.

Talk us through some of the challenges of staying afloat during Hong Kong’s numerous lockdowns?

As a business we work mainly remotely so the lockdowns weren’t a big deal from a day-to-day operational sense. That said, of course it was challenging with fewer people popping corks and entertaining. It will be a long road to get back to where we were as an industry but as history has shown, nowhere reinvents itself like Hong Kong and we are excited to see what the future holds.

Is now a time to be cautious, or to take risks in Hong Kong?

A good question and my view for drinks companies is don’t panic, stick to the plan, work harder and smarter with the team, clients and suppliers so when the situation turns you are well placed to grow.

Do you have any immediate plans to expand the business or reach a different customer demographic, for instance?

Simply put, we are looking to do more of the same. We will be focusing on the growth of the team, our clients, product access, technology and geographical coverage. We sell wines by both bottle and case, with expressions ranging from HKD 100 (£10) per bottle to the very top end of the fine wine and spirits market. The most expensive case we have sold this year was just shy of HKD2,000,000 (£200,000). Bordeaux and Burgundy are our leaders at the moment.