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Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival returns in full form after years by Wynna Wong26/10/2023  

Performers at the opening of the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival on the Central harbourfront. Photo: Dickson Lee

The Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival was back in full swing for the first time since the city dropped pandemic restrictions, as tens of thousands of tourists and locals flocked to the Central harbourfront on Thursday.

The festival runs until Sunday and features about 300 stalls offering food and drink, showcasing dishes from 17 countries and regions, as well as fine wines from Italy, France, mainland China and more than 30 other places.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po kicked off the event, telling the crowd: “Not only is Hong Kong back in business, we are back in the business of pleasure […] Obviously we have a lot of catching up to do.”

Tourism chief Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, finance minister Paul Chan, Bordeaux Wine Council president Allen Sichel and Tourism Board chairman Yiu-ka Pang attend the festival. Photo: Dickson Lee

The full-scale, in-person format of the annual event was paused for four years because of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and the 2019 anti-government protests, forcing organisers to hold stripped-back versions instead.

The festival this year is being held during the government’s “Night Vibes Hong Kong” campaign to boost spending after dark, with the event finishing at 11pm on two of its four evenings.

Among the wines being displayed were ones from the Ningxia region of mainland China and which is trying to market itself as the country’s answer to the French Bordeaux region for grape growing.

Christelle Chene, international affairs director at the Xige Guanlan Group, said: “To make great wine, you need to have great terroir.”

“The Ningxia highland mountain wine region is in the northwest part of China, near the Gobi Desert, high altitude […] a lot of sunshine, very dry climate, so no pests, no disease, so very good, healthy grapes with a lot of warmth and a lot of sunshine,” she said.

Christelle Chene, international affairs director at the Xige Guanlan Group, says the wines of the Ningxia highland mountains have distinct Eastern notes. Photo: Dickson Lee

Chene highlighted the Cabernet Gernischt red wine grape in particular, a Chinese variety which she described as having a “unique Chinese medicinal herbs aromas, so kind of an Eastern flavour that you can’t find anywhere around the world.”

Apart from food and drinks, some international vendors were also showcasing their wares. They included Dalibor Borjanin, chief executive officer and founder of Airtender, a device that can aerate wines or cocktails.

When asked why he chose Hong Kong as a place to market the product, he brought up the city’s culinary scene and its receptiveness to new concepts.

“We have been to places like New York, London and San Francisco. Like Hong Kong, these are all places where things are happening,” he said. “This is not meant to replace anything, but simply add to the toolbox of a modern bartender.”

Members of the public began pouring in after doors officially opened at 7.30pm, among them Jiani Bai from Guangxi and who was visiting with friends.

Mostly in their thirties, they said read about the festival on Xiaohongshu, a popular Chinese social media platform.

Offerings from the Tapas Box at the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival. Photo: Dickson Lee

“The atmosphere is great, and the view of the harbour is really nice,” she said. “It’s a good special activity for a group of us to do together.”

Jackey Chan Yuk-tat, 29, a personal trainer, came to the festival after advertisements for it.

“The atmosphere is better than I had expected,” he said “I didn’t think there would be so much choices, and the venue would be so big.”

Regular workshops and activities are also planned for a “Tasting Theatre”, including coffee and wine sampling and biscuit decorating classes, with a stage also set up for musical performances throughout the night.

The event will open from 7.30pm to 11pm on Thursday, 12pm to 4pm and 5.30pm to 11pm on Friday and Saturday, and 12pm to 8.30pm on Sunday.

General admission tickets range in price between HK$20 and HK$40 (US$2.5 and US$5) depending on the day and time. Tasting passes are also on offer for either HK$200 or HK$400.