I’m happy to announce that the California drought is officially over. At least that’s how it appeared to me in February when I spent five days in Napa and Sonoma in the most torrential storms they’ve had in about five years. The rain just didn’t stop.
Mayacamas & Favia Wines with Andy Erickson
Deep Down Under with Taras Ochota
Finding your way around the Basket Ranges is no easy feat. GPS is dodgy and signage limited at best. Our instructions from Taras over email detailing how to arrive at Ochota Barrels summed it up pretty well: “First proper driveway on right. Merchants might not have a street sign. Some fuckwit put it in the creek (insert of a big smiley face emoji)”.
Deep Down Under with Gary Mills
Pretty much the sole reason I managed to visit so many amazing producers this latest trip to Australia was down to Gary Mills. I’d corned him at Restaurant and Bar Show in Hong Kong earlier this year and asked his advice. “Sure no worries I’ll hook you up”, he said, “who do you want to see?” I had no idea really. But luckily Gary did, and proceeded to put me in touch with some of no doubt the most exciting winemakers in Australia today. More on these to follow...(see Deep Down Under with Timo Mayer).
Deep Down Under with Timo Mayer
“Ready to taste some stalky shit?” Timo Mayer yelled out as we arrived at Gembrook Hill, blurry eyed, for our 8.30am visit. An impromptu meeting that we’d planned spur of the moment the night before. It had seemed like a good idea at the time.
Bottle Shock making waves…. – 10/11/16
Monday afternoon I was lucky enough to go along to the first portfolio tasting of new Hong Kong importer Bottle Shock. Not an easy time to establish a brand new wine company in Hong Kong (as if there weren’t enough already!), however, Bottle Shock seems to be coming at things with a very different approach.
South Africa Part III - Swartland
Leaving Stellenbosch we started to wind our way through the beautiful landscape of the Cape winelands towards the Swartland, the region of the trip I was most excited to visit. Over the past six or so years the Swartland, thanks to a small group of quality minded, marketing savvy producers, has put itself on the global wine industry’s map. No small feat for a region which up until a few years ago was known predominantly as a bulk wine region supplying fruit to the local co-ops. Out of the four wineries which made up The Swartland Revolution I had got in touch with three and managed to make appointments with two.
South Africa - Part II - Stellenbosh & Elgin
After a great stay in Hermanus with Peter-Allan Finlayson of Crystallum we headed off to Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.
South Africa - Part I - Constantia, Overberg, Hemel-en-Arde
If you have never been to South Africa, I have one word for you: GO! The sooner the better. Once you do, you will realize how many incredible things this country has to offer, things I’m now kicking myself I didn’t discover ten years ago. I could wax lyrical for days about the food, the wine, the beaches, the mountains, the sunsets, the people, the penguins! But already at risk of too much material, I’ve decided to stick to what I know best and give you a brief run down of some of the wineries we visited and why I think they are making some of the most exciting wines South Africa currently has to offer.
Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Masterclass - 25/02/16
“We are always looking for the perfect balance between structure, elegance and freshness,” says Michel Fauconnet. I am lucky enough to be sitting next to the man who has masterfully blended Laurent-Perrier Champagnes for over 40 years and we are tasting through a series of 4 recently disgorged Grand Siècle in magnum, ranging from wines not yet released through to those no longer available. The idea is to see how the wines are evolving. A serious treat!
An Interview with Grace Vineyard's Judy Chan - 14/12/2015
I first met Judy Chan, President of China’s Grace Vineyard, last month at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair. She was giving her invaluable insight at a conference chaired by Debra Meiburg MW on the China market and it struck me that much of what she was talking about was invaluable fodder for my Master of Wine studies.
Campania’s White Gems - 12/12/14
“For one “as” you can drink wine
For two you can drink the best
For four you can drink Falernian”
Make mine a Falernian then! Written on a bar wall in the ruins of ancient Pompeii following the explosion of Vesuvius, this pretty much sums up the Petrus of the Roman era. For four “as”, the Roman form of currency at the time, one could drink it, and be happy in the knowledge it was even better than the best!
A small love affair with Carignan…(11/12/14)
Having fallen in love with Pedro Parra’s Clos des Fous Tocao 2012* a couple of months ago (a blend of very old vine Malbec and Carignan from Bio Bio in the far south of Chile, described by Eric Asimov to be “the best Chilean wine I have tasted so far”, I found myself falling for another Carignan last weekend, this time from France’s Valle de Paradis IGP, an area in the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees.
Italy 2014 The Grand Tour with Berry Bros & Rudd – 24/11/14
Pinot Wars: Giant Steps vs Rippon @ The Flying Winemaker – 21/11/14
Penfolds New Vintage Release Tasting & Winemaker Dinner – 20/11/14
I’ve always shied away from Penfolds. Big, fruity, high alcohol wines with not much in the way of complexity...or so I thought. A big brand whose wines I was probably put off due to Uni days swilling the absolute rubbish of other big brands from Australia and California. It’s easy to get put off and in a world with such amazing choice it’s even easier not to go back. So that’s how I’ve felt about Penfolds for a number of years and I’ve never really revisited to give it another chance. I never really felt the urge. Until last week that is…
Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri – 05/11/14
There were hundreds of delicious wines on show at this year’s Tre Bicchieri tasting in HK. I wish I’d had the time to taste them all! A good selection I did manage to taste, however, my top picks of which are all below.
Kerry Wines Portfolio Tasting – 21/10/14
My lasting impression from this tasting is the incredibly careful selection of wines the buying team at Kerry Wines has made. The vast majority of the wines I tasted (which was nowhere near everything that was on offer) were not only of very good quality, but seemed to express very clearly the origin from which they had come, and this, to my mind, is exactly what wine should be about. This is what makes it so exciting and so unique.
Wellspring Wines 5th Annual Wine Tasting – 19/10/14
I always enjoy Wellspring Wines’ tastings. They have such a good selection of very carefully hand picked small producers whose wines tend to be really quite delicious. This was certainly the case last Monday when I attended their 5th Annual Wine Tasting. Roddy Ropner heads up the HK operation and was joined by Burgundy expert Amanda Skinner from Wellspring’s partner company in the UK, Private Cellar, recently voted runner-up best wine merchant in Jancis Robinson’s Independent Wine Merchants writing competition.
The Fine Wine Lectures – Barolo Masterclass – 17/10/14
The latest installment of The Fine Wine Lectures featured a horizontal tasting of 5 Barolo from the 2006 vintage, and the 1997 Sori Ginestra from Conterno Fantino. It proved to be a stellar line up with wines selected to demonstrate the differences between the various top crus of Barolo, as well as different winemaking styles.
Berry Bros. & Rudd Portfolio Tasting Hong Kong - 25/09/14
This was a tasting I really enjoyed. Not to say I don’t usually enjoy tastings (I’d be in the wrong job if I didn’t!) but sometimes some are just better than others. Not only was this one full of interesting and high quality wines to taste, it was also organised in such a way that I could get round the room in the two hours I had, without having to barge my way through hundreds of people to get access to the wines. Something of a near miracle at HK tastings these days!
Casa Ferreirinha - Douro's Dona - 17/07/14
As one of the Douro's greatest and most historical names, a tasting of Casa Ferreirinha was one I leapt at when Eddie McDougall, aka The Flying Winemaker, kindly invited me a few days ago. Most well known for their iconic Barca Velha, a wine which is so in demand it pretty much sells out before it comes on the market, Casa Ferreirinha, is certainly the Douro winery with the most historical clout, and one of the most dynamic.
Israel Wine Tour - 10/07/14
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Israel for the first time. My boyfriend and I plus a number of our friends were invited to the wedding of some good friends of ours in Tel Aviv so naturally we decided to add a few days either side and turn this into a proper holiday.
As luck would have it, one of the groom's friends, Alon Yitzhaki, is the man behind Israel Wine Tour, a seriously superior organisation arranging wine tours to some of Israel's most boutique and quality wineries. Naturally when I discovered this I got straight in touch with Alon to see whether he might be able to arrange a tour for a small group of us on the first day of our trip.
Victory for Victoria Wines - 12/06/14
Gramona...Cava Like No Other - 10/06/14
I seem to be spending quite a bit of time tasting at Berry Brothers & Rudd these days but the truth is they really do deal with some truly excellent and unique wines which I would highly recommend looking out for.
My latest tasting, in fact Masterclass, which took place on Friday evening, was that of Gramona, arguably the finest producer of Cava. Now I understand that Cava is probably not a wine which most people associate with quality. Up until Friday I myself had only tasted a handful of Cavas which I've thought really delicious, all of which I tasted when I was working for Miguel Torres out in Penedes and happened to attend CavaTast, Cava's official weekend festival, which takes place each October in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, the home of Cava.
Eben Sadie Calls for Freshness & Acidity - 21/05/14
"I miss my dog" Eben Sadie tells me, "I can’t wait to be back home". And no wonder. The photos flicking up on the screen of Eben’s Swartland vineyards in South Africa, some of which date back to 1887, are stunning to say the least.
I find myself chatting to Eben at a tasting hosted by Berry Brothers & Rudd at their offices in HK, the final event of a 3-week round the world travel extravaganza which Eben is now looking forward to seeing the back of. “I won’t be back in Hong Kong for 5 years,” he says. I hope he’s joking but have a feeling he might be serious.
Tasting Extravaganza @ L'Atelier Joel Robuchon - 24/04/14
To mark our 1 year anniversary this weekend, my wonderful boyfriend decided to surprise me by treating me (and more importantly himself!) to dinner at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Not one to do things by halves he opted for the full blown 10-course tasting menu, something I have to say I’d usually avoid as generally there are one or two courses, if not more, which simply aren’t to my tastes (an excessive use of fois gras, for instance, being one).
Legras & Haas Champagne Lunch @ China Tang - 24/04/14
"I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate…And I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself" Napoleon Bonaparte claimed. No wonder he was such an imp ressive leader! If I could afford to drink Champagne every day, I definitely would. I’m certainly working on it!
Yesterday was a great push in the right direction to this life long ambition when Prowine and Jérôme Legras, the youngest of 3 sons running Legras & Haas Champagne, hosted an 8-course Champagne lunch at China Tang to which I was very happily invited.
The Fine Wine Lectures - Brunello di Montalcino - 23/04/14
A stellar line up for last night’s Brunello di Montalcino Masterclass courtesy of The Fine Wine Lectures. Some of the finest wines from the region without a shadow of a doubt. Wonderful reception from the class on the quality of the wines which is what these classes are really all about. Top wines from top vintages, with as many older wines as we can find to clearly demonstrate the wines’ development through time. The Stella di Campalto 2007 and Poggio di Sotto 2004 won the day with half the class voting for each one. A horizontal tasting of top Brunello wines from one single outstanding vintage is what we’ll be hoping to feature next. Watch this space….
Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf du Pape - 18/04/14
I haven't done a tasting of Chateauneuf du Pape wines for a while so tasting the Chauteau Mont-Redon wines last night at Cellarmaster Wines was a real treat.
The wines were all showing well but I was particularly taken by the Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2011, the Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2012 which is a great example of what Cotes du Rhone can do at its best, and of course the piece de resistance of the evening the Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2000 poured from Magnums.
Wellspring Wines - A Quality Selection - 16/04/14
Tasting last Thursday afternoon through a lovely selection of wines picked out by founder of Wellspring Wines Roddy Ropner, I was reminded how pleasant it is to go to small, informal tastings in Hong Kong. Usually one is fighting one’s way through hoards of people in an attempt to get a taste of the wines one wants to try, endlessly searching for non-existent spittoons and finding absolutely no information available on the wines in question.
Pudao Wines New Online Shop Launches in HK - 07/04/14
Good online retailers are hard to come by in HK which is why the new opening of Pudao Wines is really quite exciting. Launched last week, the website is clear, concise and easy to navigate with a great selection of wines to choose from at very competitive prices.
Tasting a selection of around x30 wines at last week’s launch event at The Glasshouse at IFC, the following are my top selection and can all be purchased through the website with immediate effect. Get buying!
Livon Dinner @ Domani - 20/03/14
I had never tasted Livon wines until last night and I’m really very glad that now I can say I have. An invitation to Domani is one I rarely turn down as guaranteed great food, great wines, and great service are all part of the package and last night was no exception.
Livon makes wines in Friuli, Tuscany and Umbria but last night we were focused on just their very top Grand Cru wines which they make in Collio, Friuli. A vertical tasting of 5 vintages, spanning over ten years, of their top white wine Braide Alte was a great sight to see in a market mainly dominated by vertical tastings of red wines. White wines often pair better with food, especially seafood, so many more interesting food pairings can be had as a result. Top white wines can also stand up to some meat dishes as these wines did last night when served with veal.
Terroir Al Limit - Priorat - 18/03/14
I love Priorat wines. Always have, always will. I’m a huge fan of minerality, of being able to taste that distinctive something which transports you to the very place the wine was made, so for me Priorat, with its clear-cut graphite Llicorella touches, is always a tasty drop. On this occasion, it went to new levels.
Winemaker and owner of Terroir Al Limit Dominik Huber is a dreamer. After a trip to Tuscany where he became overwhelmed by the pure and simple quality of the food and wine in the local Trattorias, he dreamt about living a life revolving around Mediterranean food and flavours.
Jancis Robinson MW Dinner @ Aberdeen Marina Club - 06/03/14
This week in HK is a bonkers one for wine critics. The Big 3 are all in town - Robinson, Parker and Spurrier - so competition for wine dinners is rife. Last night I attended the WSET Diploma student tutored tasting and dinner event hosted by Jancis Robinson MW which took place at The Aberdeen Marina Club.
To tie in nicely with the launch of the 7th edition of The World Atlas of Wine, Jancis had selected a tasting line up of wines from regions which were all, with one exception, newly mapped regions in her book. With so much variety now in the world of wine she emphasised the need to always pick a theme when hosting wine events. As China now features several new regions, I guess it seemed apt to bring some of these wines into the evening’s limelight.
Amorosso Goes Greek - 28/01/14
It's not often that one gets a chance to taste an all Greek line up. Happily yesterday was one of those brilliant Mondays when tasting grape varieties I've never even heard of, let alone tasted before, was the order of the afternoon. It's a tough life!
Au Bon Climat - a stellar vintage for Jim Clarendon - 13/01/14
I first met winemaker Jim Clendenen and discovered Au Bon Climat wines a few years ago in London at a Decanter Fine Wine Encounter where he was, almost literally, on fire! Pouring his wines with frenetic energy, his long blond curly locks swooshing around frantically as he chatted to the tens of people all gasping to get a taste of his wines. Giving individual attention to each and every guest (most probably remembering all their names as well!), I realised that one of Jim's key strengths is that he's an incredibly charismatic people person. So when I got the kind invite from Berry Bros & Rudd last week to pop by their HK office for a tasting of the 2010 vintage with the man himself, I could hardly refuse.
Marchesi di Gresy Dinner - 15/12/13
One of the most renowned estates in Barbaresco, a Marchesi di Grésy dinner is always going to be a treat. Organised by HK importer Wellspring Wines and hosted by winemaker Jeff Chilcott, this was certainly one of my highlight events last week. The wines were showing really well so I'd urge you to hunt them down while you can and while stocks last!
Horrocks on High - 08/10/13
As if one supreme Aussie female winemaker hadn’t been enough in a 24 hour period (I’d had the pleasure of dining with Vanya Cullen the night before - see post below), fate would have it that I secured a double whammy of vinous excellence when Stephanie Toole happened to wander into The Flying Winemaker where I was having a long overdue catch up with owner and winemaker himself, Eddie McDougall.
Cullen Captivates China Club - 07/10/13
Dinner with Vanya Cullen is always a delight. Not only does she make some of the purest, most unique wines coming out of Australia’s Margaret River, she also exudes a sense of dedication and passion to what she does and how she does it, which is second to none. Despite being regarded as one of the finest female winemakers in the world, Vanya is neither loud, nor flashy, in fact quite the opposite of both. Softly spoken and down to earth in the most literal sense (she manages her vineyards by Biodynamic means only), she can capture the full attention of a room just by drawing breath.
Why Waggle? - 16/09/13
Waggle dance is a term used in beekeeping and ethology for a particular figure-eight dance of the honey bee. By performing this dance, successful foragers can share, with other members of the colony, information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, to water sources, or to new housing locations.