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Supermarket Wines

Since the abolition of import duty for wine back in 2008, there has been a proliferation of quality and quantity of wine products available in the Hong Kong retail market. As with most things in Hong Kong, this sector is dominated by a duopoly that has a stranglehold on retail locations and shelving spaces. However, given that the import duty of wine was reduced from 80% to 40% and ultimately to 0%, you would think that the retailers would pass on (at least some of!) this great benefit to the consumer, right? After a careful review of their modus operandi, we are not so sure:-

Bulk Sales

If one bottle goes for $149, how could you get away with selling three for $199? They try to rope you in buying in bulk by offering nonsensical discounts which quite frankly is a bit insulting to the average consumer. What if you don’t like what you bought before you even had a chance to taste it? Tough!



There is a myriad of wines from all the major wine exporting countries, with some well known producers. However, if you make a cursory search about a lot of these labels, they tend to be either from the lowest quality range from the winemaker or they don’t seem to exist elsewhere. This is not unusual in that the winemakers are amenable to create a new set of labels for bulk exports to overseas supermarkets to creating some ‘distance’ from their better quality wines. Thanks for your dregs mate!


When you wander towards the wine section, the bottles are always standing upright (lack of cork contact!), exposed to the very bright lighting and warmed after they switch off the expensive air conditioning when they close shop. All these are relevant factors that all contribute to the deterioration of the wine. For a more in depth look at this subject, have a look at the following from the Australian Wine Research Institute:-

To sum up, the supermarkets’ selling tactic seems to be the bulk selling of below average quality wines that have not been well maintained. However, given their overwhelmingly dominant position in the marketplace, the supermarket wine scene will remain prevalent for years to come. In fact, from our years of observation, the wines being stacked on their shelves seem to be growing all the time!

It is the Vigilantes’ belief that there is plenty of room for independent retailers to offer better value and service to consumers who are increasingly better informed and are looking to explore different wine varieties. We invite you to look up these retailers besides us and see that there is plenty to offer rather than sticking to the same old products from the same old people. Where’s the Value in that?