Sunday, 29 May 2011

Wine and Art

Most wine tastings are held in hotels or restaurants so it was a welcome change when Summergate had its Life | Wine event in The Space, an art gallery in Hollywood Road, recently. The wines were arranged by country in three separate areas dotted with photographs and various displays. Guests could taste wine from one country then move on to others, or they could, like me, go back and forth tasting one variety first, then a second (I started with Sauvignon Blanc followed by Riesling and Chardonnay then the reds).

I was there for about two hours and, sadly, I didn’t see one person other than me looking at the art around them. I wonder if some of them even noticed the displays at all! Perhaps this was because it was a trade tasting. The event was to switch to a consumer tasting in the evening and I hope the art was more appreciated then. Personally, I think Hong Kong should have more of these ‘lifestyle’ tasting events. Hunter Valley has its wonderful Jazz in the Vines, so why can’t Hong Kong have a Jazz and Wine evening, or an Art and Wine Show?

I would love to see a Travel Photography and Wine Exhibition in the Hong Kong Arts Centre with each country's wine showcased along with photographs of that country. The pictures would speak for the wine, which is itself expressive of the culture of the country. Surely this would be one way to make the meaning of terroir more easily understood by consumers.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Portuguese white: a melting pot of Old and New Worlds

I miss Portuguese wine, especially the whites. That's what I drank most when I was working as assistant winemaker at Adega do Cantor in the Algarve . While Portuguese red wine is slowly being recognised internationally thanks to the popularity of Touriga Nacional and the marketing efforts of ViniPortugal, the white wine is still lagging behind. I have to admit that the quality of the whites was kind of hit and miss some 10 years ago, but the new generation of winemakers, adopting New World winemaking techniques such as temperature controlled fermentation and better cellar hygiene, are making some world class examples these days.

Part of the fun: operating the forklift

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Blind tasting game

Try this with your friends. Set a theme (eg. a specific grape from different countries) and each brings one bottle unknown to the others. Blind taste all the wine and establish the country, with reasons. The purpose is to prompt lots of serious thinking round the table. This is a good way for wine lovers to think about the difference of wines from different countries, and surprisingly, even amateurs could come up with some reasonings! This is definite a good exercise for those in the WSET courses!

I tired this recently (Cabernet Sauvignon from different countries) with a few friends and it was both entertaining and educational - because some forgot what wine they were supposed to bring. So we ended up having:
Australian Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon
South African Stellenbosch Shiraz (should be Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon)
Marks & Spencer South Africa Cabernet Sauvignon, HK$90. (should be xxx country Cabernet of about $200!). This was the wine that made the whole exercise fun (or put it upside down?)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Martinborough Pinot Noir: Hidden treasure

Martinborough is the smallest wine region in New Zealand. The area under vine is about 3% of New Zealand’s total but wine production is only 1%. Although the journey is only a one hour drive from Wellington, it is a winding road up the mountain and down into the valley, with numerous twists and turns. No wonder Martinborough is easily overlooked by wine lovers.

If you think New Zealand Pinot Noir is Central Otago, think again. Most vines in Martinborough are Pinot Noir, although the quantity is nowhere near Central Otago’s. It all started in the late 1970s when a few brave souls followed the advice of a soil scientist, converted farmland into vineyards, and proved that Martinborough is indeed ideal for viticulture. Today there are some 58 growers in Martinborough. Sizes range from the smallest with less than 2 ha under vines, to the biggest (still fairly small compared to Marlborough) with 85ha.
The Martinborough Terrace, where most vineyards are.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Riesling: The taste of slate

‘Riesling is the medium to express the soil and terroir’ said Reinhard Löwenstein, from the 13th generation of Weingut Heymann-Löwenstein in Mosel (to be exact, Terrassenmosel, Terrace Mosel), Germany, during last week's tasting of eight of his Rieslings. All eight were vinified in the same way but with grapes from a number of vineyards with differing soil and slate compositions. Riesling grown on blue slate has mineral, lemony notes while that grown on red slate has a more rounded mouthfeel. Riesling on darker stone, on the other hand, displays more yellow fruit aroma, mellower acidity and less minerality. I like his philosophy of comparing wine with music: mass market wine is like CD and great wine is opera. Music lovers listening to CD for a while may like to listen to opera, just as wine lovers might trade up and appreciate the quality of hand-crafted wine eventually. My favourites were the 2009 Stolzenberg Grosses Gewachs (Grand Cru) and 2009 Uhlen Grosses Gewachs Laubach.