Guru Robert Parker comes to Asia, wine's new frontier

SINGAPORE Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:43am EDT

Wine critic Robert Parker holds a bottle of wine during an interview at a hotel in Tokyo May 19, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Wine critic Robert Parker holds a bottle of wine during an interview at a hotel in Tokyo May 19, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Influential wine critic Robert Parker will make a rare appearance in Asia next month at a top-class wine appreciation event aimed at tapping one of the most potentially lucrative markets for winemakers.

The maiden, three-day "Ultimate Parker in Asia" event, which opens on May 1, is hosted by Singapore and London-based wine brokers and stockists Hermitage and will feature more than 250 vintages from 92 Old and New World wineries, including Dom Perignon, Chateau Angelus, Chateau Lascombes and Penfolds.

Several master winemakers will be hosting appreciation classes. Parker, whose 100-point scale wine rating system has created thousands of fans, as well as enemies, will preside over a charity gala dinner featuring a selection of his top rated vintages, with dishes to complement them.

"Asia is the new market for wine. It's the only market that is growing and has potential. Everybody's talking about Asia," Hermitage founder Arnaud Compas told Reuters.

"Many people in Asia want to access the global lifestyle that comes with wine. After all, when you buy a vintage, you're buying a slice of civilization, of culture."

Many Asian economies have emerged lightly from the global financial crisis that ravaged European countries and the United States, with China leading the charge in this part of the world, and arguably becoming the region's most attractive market.

Affluent Singapore, home to the world's highest density of millionaires, has also got what it takes, as does Hong Kong, seen as Asia's wine hub after abolishing wine duties last year, along with Shanghai, as the gateway to China.

Over the past decade, the role of wine -- an essentially Western drink -- has become more prominent in Asia due to rising incomes and the growing influence of Western lifestyles, with retailers placing China as the world's fifth biggest wine market.

Soo Hoo Khoon Peng, director of Hermitage, said China's growth meant more people wanted to spend on luxury lifestyle products, but needed the expertise of critics such as Parker and the experience of wine tasting events, to develop their palates.

"Wine is part of a lifestyle change," he said. "Right now, there is a lot of newly rich in Asia and China, but as the market becomes more sophisticated, it won't be label chasing any more."

Hermitage estimates about 80 percent of top-end fine wines are bought as an investment in Asia, but expect that figure to drop as consumers enjoy savoring wine as much as hoarding it.

But for those wine speculators, Parker remains their best bet, Compas said.

"Parker is god when it comes to wine, nobody in any business is as influential as he is," he added. "He has vision, the ability to anticipate how a wine will develop, and he has always been spot on, which sets the benchmark for prices. Because of that, Robert Parker has created fortunes."

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

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