The Tax Free Guide to Red Wine …..
The range and quality of red wines that are available in big international airports today is vastly superior to what was on offer a couple of decades ago.Larger airport shops will invariably stock something to catch the eye of the red wine lover whether it be a good quality bottle of the local tipple to remind them of happy holiday nights out, or a Premier Cru Grand Vin from Bordeaux costing hundreds of pounds.Why have airport retailers woken up to the commercial possibilities presented by red wine? Two reasons, really. Firstly, airports are making more of an attempt to stamp their local identity onto their commercial offer. What better way to impart a sense of place by filling up duty-free shelves with local red wines?
Secondly, airport shop owners all over the world are tailoring their selections to the tastes of high-spending Asian travellers, who are flying around the world in higher numbers each year. To nationalities such as the Chinese buying fine French red wines from the top Châteaux is a sign you have made it big. It is also an investment vehicle just as likely to deliver a healthy return as any stock or share.
In fact, Chinese buyers now dominate fine wine auctions in cities such as Hong Kong, London and New York. The vast majority of wines being haggled over are of course red in colour. White wines still don’t get much of a look in. Chinese companies are even buying up vineyards in Bordeaux and other great wine-producing regions around the world to control things higher up the supply chain.
All this has been good news for airport retailers. Wealthy Chinese travellers regularly walk in to their shops and buy thousands of pounds of fine French red wine. These shops now tend to have Chinese-speaking service assistants in-store, and pricing information and tasting notes in Chinese, to make the buying experience for this group of cash-rich customers as hassle free as possible.
Paris Charles de Gaulle airport’s excellent Pure & Rare shops are a case in point, stocking some very rare vintage Premier Cru wines and a very well informed team of shop staff. And if it is the likes of Lafite Rothschild you are intent on quaffing with your steak tonight, Brussels airport’s Epicure outlet in Pier A also gets a big thumbs up. (The shop also stocks some great single malt whiskies, Champagne and cigars in case you are interested.)
Heathrow has been back in the fine wine business since 2010 with its Wine Collection Rare & Vintage shops, which travellers will find in Terminals 5 and 3. Although not particularly large, these two shop-in-shops sell a great range of red wines, around 60% of them French and obviously geared to the Asian market.Prices are not as stratospheric as at Paris CDG and travellers shouldn’t feel afraid to quiz the excellent staff about red wines from other famous European regions such as Rioja and Barolo, which are priced in the £20-100 price bracket. The Wine Collection shops make a point of selling some quirky wines from small family-owned companies, which are well worth discovering.Where all three of the shops mentioned above fall down from a consumer’s perspective is in not having a website up and running to show travellers what they have in stock before they get to the airport. Asia’s largest travel-retailer DFS, whose fine wine shops at Singapore Changi airport are regularly praised for their selection, falls foul in the same way. In this day and age, an online presence for any retailer is mandatory in our book.
Dubai airport’s fine wine retailer Le Clos gets it right in this regard. The company’s well designed website (www.leclosnet.com) gives the low down on all the wines it stocks, including not only pricing details, but handy tasting notes, and even brief bios of the shop’s multi-lingual team of customer advisors. Importantly, the site allows travellers the chance to order online, and pick up their purchase on their return to Dubai without ever having to visit their store in Terminal 3.
Hong Kong airport’s liquor retailer Sky Connection also gets high marks for its consumer website, www.freeduty.com.hk. All the great claret producing appellations of Bordeaux such as Pauillac, Saint Julien, Saint Émilion and Pomerol are here along with a sprinkling of New World wines. The retailer has a popular wine club for Hong Kong residents, and locals can order their wines and get them delivered to anywhere on the island.
Of course, not every has or wants to spend hundreds of pounds on a bottle of wine. Some holidaymakers just want to buy a reasonably priced bottle of local wine at the airport to remind them of their stay. Any list of airport retailers in wine-producing countries that excel at showcasing their national wines has to include SYD Tax & Duty Free at Sydney airport (http://www.syddutyfree.com/category/wine-and-champagne/red-wine) somewhere near the top.
The company operating the SYD Tax & Duty Free chain have been upping the quality of the Aussie red wines they stock at the airport in recent years. Look out for the excellent Penfolds Bin range, for instance, along with around 100 other fine wines that can’t be found elsewhere in Australia.If Aussie reds became famous on the back of the blackberry-coloured, sweet, but also peppery shiraz grape varietal, Argentina’s signature red grape has to be malbec, which tends to produce another full-bodied, sun-drenched style of wine, but with high levels of tannin.We are happy to report that Buenos Aires Ezeiza airport has a wide selection of native malbec wines at good prices. Highly priced vineyards making excellent malbec wines to look out for include Mendel, Clos de la Siete, Trapiche and Fin del Mondo. Visit the retailer’s website at http://www.freeshop.com.ar/ES/default.aspx to take a look at their full wine selection.
As you can see from our brief world tour, airports stores really aren’t such a bad place to pick up a decent bottle of red wine these days. One last piece of advice, however: don’t be tempted to buy one of the big international brands in airport shops. You know what we mean: the likes of Jacob’s Creek, E&J Gallo, Blossom Hill and Campo Viejo, wines you see everywhere. Airport retailers are unlikely to be able to compete with the big supermarkets on the prices of these wines, and you will lose the opportunity to pick up a far superior wine at a much better price.
Spend a little bit more than you would normally; take the advice of shop staff and sample any wines on offer in-store.
Above all, go for a red wine you won’t find easily at home. Happy hunting!
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