Exclusive Interview – Paulo Pong – Managing Director – Altaya Group International Limited
Considered a key player not only in its home market of Hong Kong but across Asia Pacific, Altaya Wines was recognised as the “Best Wine Merchant of the Year Asia Pacific 2011” by the Wandering Palate. Group Managing Director Paulo Pong is renowned globally as an expert in wine trends and marketing. He is back this year at Vinexpo Hong Kong where we caught up with him and asked him “What’s new?”.
We have put a bit more focus on the B2C side. We have always been doing a lot of B2C, but these past two years, we worked on our website, we worked on our digital strategy. This is quite successful and we are doing more things online these days. Also, the more traditional B2C, which is our retail side, has also developed quite well. We are still with seven shops. We have changed some locations, but overall, I feel like we are attracting different customers, digitally and also through the traditional shop format. For the online business, we feel like we are attracting a lot of online experienced and knowledgeable customers who don’t really need to come and talk to people as they generally know exactly what they want. They trust us, they are referred by other fellow drinkers and they come to us and buy with a great deal of confidence.
VINEXPO IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR US TO MEET OUR CUSTOMERS, TO MEET OUR SUPPLIERS, AND IT’S A GOOD WAY TO NETWORK
The shops tend to attract some new clients, who may or may not be new to wine. But they feel more secure to see and visit the shop, see the bottles and talk to the shop manager. So, we are doing a lot of this online / offline thing that a lot of people are talking about. It’s quite rewarding, having both ends of the strategy helps grow the business.
As Australia is country of honour this year, with a lot of lesser known regions and suppliers making themselves known, is this affecting your purchasing decisions in any way?
I’ll put it in another context. I think what we have been focussing on all along are boutique wineries, and we have always promoted family estates and boutique wineries from around the world. That also applies to Australia. We work with a few estates in Barossa and Yarra, not forgetting Clare Valley. They all produce very high-quality wines, we have been promoting them for the past ten or twelve years and I believe they are gaining traction and gaining recognition, especially with the style of wine they make, because nowadays people are going away from the very rich and robust and muscular wines. What these guys are trying to do are the more elegant wines, and more refined wines with finesse. So, with Australia we have been promoting their wines for a very long time and we are seeing some results now.
What is your impression of Vinexpo this year?
The atmosphere is great. People have high expectations. We are in the middle of the Bordeaux en Primeur campaign, and I like the 2017 vintage a lot, which is still waiting for some of the Châteaux to come up with prices – sensible prices hopefully. But overall, I believe Vinexpo is extremely important for us to meet our customers, to meet our suppliers, and it’s a good way to network, because you really have a lot of people coming into Hong Kong this week. And Hong Kong being the wine hub of Asia, this event is extremely important to us.
How are tastes changing at the moment? Is there an evolution in demand in that respect?
Absolutely. I think people are moving towards the more elegant style of wine, with greater finesse. It may have to do with the experience, it may have to do with the weather. For example, this is the 12th day of record heat in Hong Kong. People are not chasing the blockbuster big wines, they are now drinking a lot of Champagne, more white wine, more rosé, and in terms of red varietals we see more Pinot Noir from all around the world.
Photo: Paulo Pong, Managing Director, Altaya Group International Limited
Altaya Wines has one of the most extensive rare and fine wine selections in the region, with over 6,000 references from the best vineyards across the globe. As an exclusive agent to over 90 internationally-acclaimed brands from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Rhone Valley, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Austria, Argentina, and the United States. In addition to the exclusive agency offerings, it also offers favourable pricing for En-Primeur.
Considered a key player not only in its home market of Hong Kong but also across Asia Pacific, Altaya Wines was recognized as the ‘Best Wine Merchant of the Year Asia Pacific 2011’ by the Wandering Palate.
Paulo Pong was nominated in Wine Intelligence’s 10 for 10 Business Awards in 2012 and has been selected as one of the world’s top 50 people on Decanter Power List in 2013.