Interview of Simon Tam, Christie’s China Head of Wine, by Zhenji

March 7, 2013

Next China Connect seminar will welcome Simon Tam , Head of Wine for China at Christie’s, a character devoted to Luxury Goods, Wines, Art…

We offer you a preview of the coming discussion :

1. People living in the North of China don’t like Cognac, but they do in the South of China. Is it possible to establish an equivalent “simplistic typology” for Wine? Can you please provide some details?

We can’t make generalizing conclusions about regional differences because every individual wine buyer has his/her own tastes and opinions, and rightly so. There is one thing that most Chinese wine collectors share in common, though, and that is their keen focus on the quality of wine. Therefore Christie’s Wine department is dedicated in sourcing and providing top-notch wines for our Chinese buyers.


2. How do you establish contacts with HNWI in the “Lower Tiers”?

For Christie’s Wine, there is no “higher” or “lower” tiers of clients or consignors—we value all of them and make the best effort to provide them with top-quality service and wines.

As for establishing contacts, we are constantly creating opportunities to make new connections via our auctions, private sales, events and educational programs. And an array of our recent online initiatives has made it more effective for us to reach out to an even larger and more diverse group of wine lovers and collectors.

3. How do you compete with Chinese Auction Houses like China Guardian?

History proves that the market grows faster and larger when there are more players involved. So we welcome competition in the industry, and believe it is a positive development for the wine and auction market, as it brings more wine collectors and buyers into the arena.

In Asia, the wine auction market has evolved to become more sophisticated and selective as buyers become increasingly experienced and knowledgeable. Like collectors from other regions throughout Asia, Chinese collectors tend to respond to wines of rarity, appropriate pricing and provenance, and pass over bottles of lesser quality. So it’s not hard to imagine that they are particularly interested in seeking “best of the best” wines. This phenomenon can be attributed to a steady rise in global awareness and interest in wine and connoisseurship.

Therefore, it is more important than ever for Christie’s Wine department to remain committed to China’s exciting wine market, dedicating ourselves to sourcing top quality wines, pricing them accurately, presenting them to the right audience, in the right place and at the right time. At Christie’s Wine, we offer a wide and diverse range of wines from all over the globe to cater to varying tastes of the collectors.

Meanwhile, Christie’s development strategy for the China market touches on all areas, with the goal of making Chinese collectors feel comfortable dealing with Christie’s—not only in Hong Kong or in the Wine department but throughout the rest of our salerooms and categories. To facilitate the needs of Chinese collectors, we localize content such as online catalogues and video clips, provide Chinese-speaking staff in international salesrooms, and have Chinese-speaking auctioneers at our Hong Kong auctions. In addition, we are also establishing more off-season sales, tours, exhibitions and other events year-round, as well as additional opportunities for private sales.

4. What kind of online/offline marketing strategy does Christie’s develop to create awareness?

In summer 2012, Christie’s launched its inaugural calendar of Online-Only wine sales to great fanfare, welcoming in new clients from 29 different countries around the world. Two more successful Online-Only sales followed, including a sale of rare wines and large formats direct from the cellar of legendary Chicago restaurant Charlie Trotter’s. These Online-Only sales have increased the global profile of Christie’s Wine department by facilitating the participation of a larger, more international audience. Meanwhile, to facilitate the China market, in 2012, starting from some major sales, our Christie’s Live interface, such as the data label for bidding, will be presented in Chinese.

Thanks to these online strategies, last year, our websites welcomed an 11% visitor increase compared to 2011, while 27% of all bidders participated via the internet. In the meantime, Christie’s Live saw a 4% increase in registrations compared to the previous year. Looking forward, the upcoming Henry Tang Collection sale in March marks the first time that the Prooftag Bubble Seal™ technology is used at an auction. It will be an effective way for collectors to trace and verify the authenticity of each bottle sold through this auction via the internet.

On the other hand, as the leader in the art community, Christie’s is committed to supporting and promoting art, especially through our educational programs. Christie’s Education, which was freshly introduced to China last year, provides various courses on art and wine appreciating and collecting. And its new wine course will start at the end of April in London.


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