Victory for Victoria Wines - 12/06/14
A few weeks ago I was pouring Alpha Zeta wines from the Veneto on behalf of my old boss David Gleave MW at the Victoria Wines Annual Grand Tasting. The tasting was an excellent one. Lots of inquisitive consumers looking for delicious wines, of which there was no shortage.
The tasting took place down at The Space in Sheung Wan, a gallery space which lends itself very well to wine tastings (Goedhuis hosted their tasting here last year) thanks to its white walls and kitchen area perfect for preparing the canapés needed to line the stomachs of eager wine drinkers.
Usually I attend tastings as a guest, and spend my time rushing frantically around trying to taste and write notes for as many wines as possible. It was therefore a nice change to be back behind the table once again, pouring the wines and explaining a bit about them to the thirsty masses.
The Alpha Zeta brand is the brainchild of David Gleave MW who heads up highly successful London-based importer Liberty Wines where I spent a number of very happy years before moving to HK. It's a range of seriously good value to quality ratio wines designed for everyday drinking. And trust me, this good quality for such fantastic value you won't find many other places here in HK or indeed elsewhere.
The range is labelled by varietal capital letter, super easy, stand out labelling - 'P' is for Pinot Grigio, their most popular wine, which is all ripe pear and red apple aromas with nice acidity, the perfect by the glass aperitif wine for drinking at the beach.
'S' Soave is another top choice. More on the fresh lemon flavour side with lovely refreshing acidity and a crisp finish. This was so popular with one guest he came back to me at least four times for more and later asked me on a date! A winning wine all round!
'C' Chardonnay is for those people who think they don't like Chardonnay. It's a simple, fresh, easy going Chardonnay with a bit more body and texture than the previous two whites and some nice white stone fruit character. Great for simple summer lunches.
The reds in the range are all Valpolicellas in one form or another. Starting with 'V' Valpolicella this is a fresh, fruity, easy going red, quite light in style with lots of fresh red cherry fruit and soft tannins. A good by the glass option.
'R' Ripasso Superiore has had a portion of dried grapes blended into a normal Valpolicella wine. This gives it more oomph, body, power and structure without being as big and bold as the next level up, the 'A' Amarone. It's a nice halfway option between the 'V' Valpollicella and the 'A' Amarone, perfect for BBQs and casual dinners, especially at its current website price of just HK$88 per bottle. This was the night's top choice on the red wine front.
The 'A' Amarone is probably the best value Amarone you can find. At just HK$250, this has everything you could want of a good value Amarone. Lovely dark cherry fruit with dried plum character and a distinctive chocolate, mocha note. Nice ripe tannins, good acidity, full body. Bold but not overpowering.
In between pouring the Alpha Zeta wines, I was also lucky enough to taste a number of other producers' wines. What strikes me most about the Victoria Wines list is its really excellent price to quality ratio, not something one sees too often in HK. The list is packed full of really lovely wines, but is particularly strong in Australia and New Zealand.
Years ago, when I first came back to London having been working on wineries in Mendoza and fallen in love with the wine industry, I happened to be asked whether I would help pour some wines at the New Zealand Annual Trade Tasting at Lords. I immediately said yes but had no idea whose wines I'd actually be helping with. The winery in question turned out to be Auntsfield and that was where I met Luc and Ben Cowley for the first time.
Nearly ten years later, sat in Souvla having dinner with the rest of the Victoria Wines' producers, I spied Ben across the table and made a direct beeline for him. Neither of us could quite believe how ten years had gone by and here we were now in HK more or less doing exactly the same thing! It's moments like these that remind me why I love the wine industry just as much as I do. The people you meet, the wines you drink, the mad times you share together. It's a life full of cool surprises and an endless amount of fun!
Ben took me through his wines the following day at the tasting. When I tasted the wines ten years ago, I remember realising I was tasting some of the best wines NZ has to offer. Tasting recently reaffirmed this. The wines are stunning. The Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013 exudes freshness, is aromatic with a slight herbaceousness, round on the palate, with plenty of passion fruit character. (17)
The 2011 Single Vineyard Chardonnay is tight and delicate. It doesn't go through malolactic fermentation so is purely driven by its freshness. Melon, peach, nectartine notes with plenty of steely minerality. New French oak is so subtle you notice it more in terms of the tannin than the oak flavours themselves. A really impressive, delicious wine. (18.5)
The 2011 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir is all bright red cherry and plum fruit with hints of herbal touches. Medium body and plenty of ripe fruit character on the palate. Very tasty. (17.5)
The next step up is the 2010 Road Ridge Pinot Noir. Incredibly scented with floral perfumes alongside elegant red fruit notes, strawberries and plums. The elegance of the nose sets you up for something you're not expecting on the palate as this is really an iron fist type scenario. Herbal and spice notes with full body, lovely fine tannins, evident minerality, a long long finish. A wonderful wine. (18.5)
Other producers I tasted and who are worth looking out for are Jamsheed from the Yarra Valley, a recent addition to the Victoria Wines' list. Pepe Le Pinot 2013 and Ma Petite Francine 2013 were my faves along with the Beechworth Syrah 2012.
William Downie produces undoubtedly some of the best Pinot Noir's coming out of Australia. His Gippsland 2013 won the day for me with it's lovely crisp bright red strawberry and plum fruit, so elegant and perfumed with lovely soft, supple tannins, medium body, a herbal touch and a supremely long length (18.5). His Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula are different styles but equally as good.
Langmeil for Barossa Shiraz and Grenache is a must taste. I'm not usually a massive fan of Barossa wines but these reds really blew me away. Very old vines make for an elegance I don't often associate with Barossa. Robert Parker and James Halliday are big fans!
Vina Bujanda produces some of the tastiest and best value Riojas I've had in a long time. Their Crianza 2010 and Reserva 2008 I think particularly good wines and at really stunning prices. The Crianza is a RP 90 pointer and well worth a buy at such a great price, just HK$113 a bottle.
I could go on but the list of good wines is really fairly endless! All the wines are available to buy on the Victoria Wines website so I'd urge you to have a look asap! http://www.victoriawines.com.hk/