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Yasuhisa HIROSE started the first Enoteca shop in Hiroo, Tokyo, in 1989. Today, including Hong Kong, the publicly listed company owns 37 shops and outlets.

"When you get into a wine shop it is important you experience a special feeling. As creating the right touch is important, I prefer to own the shops and not franchise."

Story And Photos By Ch'ng Poh Tiong

With outlets from Sapporo in the north to Fukuoka in the south, Enoteca, Japan's best-known chain of wine shops, has its home base of 130 million population covered. And if there is still any lingering doubt as to their reach, internet orders are delivered within the next 24-hour working day (www.enoteca.co.jp/en).

Yet, in spite of its influence in Japan, Enoteca has had to look to outside the country to create and drive growth.

"Japan is a more mature market where a lot of wines have already been introduced here. In 2009, with the recession, the number of bottles we sold actually increased by 20%. But, value also went down by 20%.

"Hong Kong, on the other hand, is doing very well. There are a lot of people visiting from China. They love the First Growths such as Lafite and Latour. They like top brands," Yasuhisa HIROSE, founder of Enoteca, informed.

This interview took place in Enoteca's main shop in Hiroo (5-14-15-B1F Minami Azabu, Minato-ku Tokyo). This was the spot where it all began as a modest wine shop back in 1989. Since then, of course, the premises have expanded considerably. Indeed, below the shop is the Enoteca office, teeming with a young, dynamic staff.

The day I visited on 8 January 2010, just as impressive was a little corner in the office where about a dozen wines had been opened which the staff could taste at their leisure and make notes (presumably, a training or tasting session had taken place earlier). Wine, after all, is all about learning, and communicating that learning to the client.

Apart from owning wine shops and operating outlets in departmental stores, Enoteca is also a wine distributor in Japan. Whether this other branch of their business module will be carried into Hong Kong, only time will tell. (In Japan, Enoteca is also the exclusive licensee of Les Caves Taillevent wine shops, operated with  Restaurant Taillevent of Paris).

"In Hong Kong, the value of bottles is very high. But the customer is not so much familiar with "daily" wines. We like to introduce wines for daily drinking to the Hong Kong customers."

Hirose also points out that, unlike Japan, champagne is not very popular in Hong Kong. In Japan, in the economic downturn, champagne has however taken a hit.

"Champagne is dramatically down in Japan and customers have been turning instead to cava, Prosecco, Franciacorta and California sparkling wine."

Enoteca opened its first wine shop in Central, Hong Kong, on 7 November 2008. Since then, they have expanded into Kowloon with another two shops. The company also has a Singapore office and are planning a shop there too. Meanwhile, Enoteca "studying China" where, Hirose believes, the mainland, like Hong Kong, will also one day abolish the tax on wine.

All Enoteca shops and outlets are 100% owned by the company which went public in Japan in 2005.  Including Hong Kong, there are now 37 shops and outlets. No franchising is involved.

"A wine shop is also like a shopping place. When you get into the shop it is important that you experience a special feeling. Atmosphere is the key. Because creating the right touch is important, I prefer to own the shops and not franchise. Philosophy is very important."


Shop 218, The Galleria
9 Queen's Road
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 25 26 20 08
(The Galleria is connected with Landmark and Prince's Building)

Shop 20, Level LG1, Festival Walk,
80 Tat Chee Avenue
Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong<
Tel: (852) 22 65 81 15

Shop LG02, iSQUARE,
63 Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 25 77 08 89

For complete list of Enoteca shops and Les Caves Taillevent in Japan, click http://company.enoteca.co.jp/english/shopinfo/index.html.

All Rights Reserved · The Wine Review · 2013