Having successfully built itself into a global center of the Hello Kitty trade, Hong Kong is setting its sights on a still greater conquest: the wine world. 

Dominated by the West for thousands of years, the wine industry is slowly ripening in Asia, with Hong Kong indisputably spearheading the movement. Long a hub of the international wine trade, the fragrant harbor now aims to be the hub, replacing Old World heavyweights London, Paris, and New York. Hong Kong buyers already purchase as much as a quarter of the wine sold at auction in the world, and the incentive to buy only got sweeter last year, when the government reduced all import duties on wine and beer to zero. Much of China still doesn't know what wine is, much less a fiesty petit syrah, but 2009 may be the Year of the Grape.

Actually, Hong Kong hopes to improve wine visibility across the country by declaring this year a Food and Wine Year and again hosting the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair. Meanwhile, the Moet et Chandon label has alighted on a genius promotional tactic in the region: having a name that sounds like "Mao Zedong" when transliterated into Chinese. Let me guess. Dry with a tough finish?