Chinese Bank Loans to Wine Investors Say ‘Drink Now, Pay Later’

At the 4th Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Fair, a smiling Wing Lung Bank employee hands me a colorful flyer about its new “Wine Financing Service.”

Can’t afford a case of investment-grade Bordeaux? This Hong Kong-based bank will lend you as much as HK$5 million ($641,840) to buy, as long you select from its list of 50 top names. The response, says assistant general manager William Tang, has been overwhelming.

Investing in wine is a big topic at this year’s fair, Asia’s largest, held earlier this month at the city’s Convention and Exhibition Centre. The bank’s booth is one of three dozen in a new “Wine Investment Zone.”

Many affluent Chinese, worried about rising inflation, a roller-coaster stock market, and restrictions on real- estate investment, are looking to alternative assets. Wine, a status symbol for new millionaires, is a hot choice.