Hong Kong authorities have opened their first International Wine Fair, amid high hopes for the territory's future as a wine trading hub for growing Asian markets.

Around 240 exhibitors from around 25 countries opened their stalls at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center this morning (14 August).

Local authorities have set up the three-day fair as a challenge to existing shows in the region, notably Vinexpo Asia Pacific, and in recognition of Asia's market potential for wine.

"Today marks an important milestone for our wine industry," said Carrie Lam, acting financial secretary for the International Wine Fair organiser, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

"The global demand for wine is shifting from traditional wine consumption markets like Europe and the US to Asia. The value of wine imported into Asia (excluding Japan) is expected to reach up to US$1.5bn by 2017," Lam said at the opening ceremony today.

Hong Kong authorities believe they are best-positioned to act as a business gateway to China, Asia's biggest wine importer.  

Hong Kong abolished wine duty earlier this year, and Lam said the Government was working on "a number of other measures". These include a clampdown on counterfeits, more training programmes for sommeliers and identifying possible wine-related "heritage sites".

She claimed the territory was also set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with France regarding wine trading, tourism and education.