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Fine Wine and Fine Dining – what’s the story in Hong Kong?

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CANTONESE FOOD WITH BIG BORDEAUX

It is more than obvious that to expand markets and develop interest, wine producers from all one the world need to get their wines around local food. Matching food and wine is an interesting process. It can take the form of broad brush strokes or, as at this lunch in Hong Kong during VINEXPO 2012, be transformed into an exacting science.

Bruno Prats at Large

The Path of Creativity

How does it feel to have been, for 30 years, the owner of a Bordeaux property with the prestige of Cos d’Estournel, the top property of St-Estephe, and a classified Second Growth, but no longer? Bruno Prats is sanguine. It was simply the fact that his brothers wanted to sell – and his is certainly not the first Bordeaux family to have sold up in such circumstances. The sale was finalised in 1998, but Prats stays close to the property because it is managed (extremely well) by his son, Jean-Guillaume. Prats set off to explore the world. “In Bordeaux, there is no creativity, you have to follow the path of history,” Prats says. He decided to take the path of creativity, and not only outside Bordeaux but outside of France, too. Beyond France, there was the opportunity to be the best – and that is exactly what he has been achieving. He is behind Vina Aquitania in Chile, with partners including Paul Pontallier (Chateaux Margaux); Chryseia in Portugal (with the Symington family); Anwilka Vineyard in South Africa (with Hubert de Bouard de Laforest, owner of Angelus) and, most recently, Alfynal in Spain, which is 90 per cent owned by him. The Chilean Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are distinctly Burgundian; but his South African labels, of which Anwilka is the premium wine, are quite New World in style because of warmer weather conditions. Anwilka (Robert Parker pronounced it the best wine he had ever tasted from South Africa) is a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, and is a big and powerful wine. “But it still has balance and elegance… we are aiming for the finesse that we like in Bordeaux,” says Prats. “We do want each wine to reflect its birthplace – but we cannot make wines we don’t like!”

Alfynal Iberica Bruno Prats 2009

Area: Alicante DO, Spain

Grape: 100% Monastrell (Mourvedre)

Colour/style: Dry red. 14.5%

Available at: ASC

Tel: 2872 2968

Price: MOP400

Prats was attracted to this region because of the predominantly old vines, and this wine is made with grapes from vines between 35 – 70 years old. They are not owned by him, by Prats works very closely with the growers to help optimize quality. This is a huge, intense wine, which should probably be laid down for a few years and most certainly needs decanting if you do want to try it now. Yet it is still fresh rather than heavy, with an extraordinary herbal nose with fruit and floral tinges, and a marvelous structure and finishes very elegantly.

Vina Aquitania SOLdeSOL Chardonnay 2008

Area: Malleco, Chile

Grape: 100% Chardonnay

Colour/style: Dry white. 14%

Available at: ASC

Tel: 2872 2968

Price: MOP321

Malleco is south even of Bio-Bio, and is sufficiently cool that there’s a risk of frost, it can rain at harvest-time, and yields are low – so it is only for boutique and premium wines. Prats was the first to plant here. This wine is in a style which would please those who prefer to drink white Burgundy than Chardonnay from, say, Chile! It is a remarkable minerality about it, and only partial malolactic means there’s a crisp acidity which rises above a richness reminiscent of Chassagne-Montrachet. The texture is gorgeous, and there’s merely a hint of (French) oak at the finish.

This piece first appeared in Macau Daily Times, April 2012

MOVIA

THE MOON THE MOON, MOVIA

Ales Kristancic of Movia has huge hands, farmer’s hands. He dresses hugely stylishly, in gorgeous fabrics and designer belts, and is a former professional ballroom dancer.  With his shaven head and intense gaze, he has the presence of a brooding actor, and is surely one of the most singular personalities in the wine world. His wines are similarly singular: a challenge to taste because they tend to be so outside the Imageboundaries of what we normally experience. His vineyards are worked according to biodynamic principles, but he takes the practices in a personalized direction, too. “First understand what the wind, and the birds, are telling you,” he says. “Understand what nature can offer you.” How many wine estates could most people name in Slovenia? If they could name one, it would  have to be Movia. As it happens, half of the estate’s vineyards are in Italy (in the region of Friuli), but the winery is in Slovenia (in the region of Brda) so Ales names that country on the labels. It might not apparently do much for marketing (he finds himself in the “Eastern European” category in wine competitions while to be “Italian” would surely bring more glory), but  Ales would not change the country of origin of his labels because of the extraordinary family legacy of Movia. It was purchased eight generations ago in 1820, and the country has passed through many hands since then, and the passion of his grandfather and his father, Mirko, continue to inspire him. As a young man he loftily worked at Petrus and Domaine de Romanee Conti, but still cites his father as his greatest influence.  There’s a range of Bordeaux-influenced red wines in his portfolio, but some of his most personalized wines are white – a Pinot Grigio of extraordinary richness, and the two unique wines profiled here.

 

Movia Puro 2003

Area: Brda, Slovenia

Grape: Pinot noir

Colour/style: Sparkling,12/5%

Available at: Pacific Wine Mart, Rua de Madrid No 31, Wan Yu Villas, R/C (D), Macau

Tel: 2875 0622

 

Price: MOP350

This visionary wine is bottled undisgorged, which means there is a plug of yeast in the neck of the bottle which must be removed before it can be served. This involves opening the bottle upside down, in cold water, which pushes the yeast plug out but keeps the wine in. This is achieved with an implement designed by Ales called a “purista.” As important to this unique product is the fact that the bubbles – the finest bead, fast and furious – are created in a second fermentation not through the traditional addition of yeast with sugar, but of pure grape juice. 

 

Movia Lunar 2007

Area: Brda, Slovenia

Grape: Ribolla

Colour/style: Dry white, 13%

Available at: Pacific Wine Mart, Rua de Madrid No 31, Wan Yu Villas, R/C (D), Macau

Tel: 2875 0622

Price: MOP360

It is impossible to describe a wine like this in the “normal” way. There’s a range of citrusy aromas and flavours, and the wine is incredibly pure, but what’s more compelling is the non-interventionist way in which it is made, all according to the stages of the moon.  Ales created custom-made barriques in order to replicate the natural process. These barrels make it possible to leave the wine to ferment, age, and stabilize completely on its own without even pressing the grapes. Only the free-flowing wine from the unpressed grapes is bottled (without filtration) and allowed to refine for three years before release.

 

This piece first appeared in Macau Daily Times, December 2011

TOKAJI

Hungarian LegendsImage

There was an era when the sweet wines of Hungary were the most prestigious, and most expensive, wines in the world. How fashions changed. And how the wines of Tokaj changed – in a downward direction – under Communism. But the early 90s saw a flurry of foreign investment – cult Spanish estate Vega Sicilia and French insurance giant AXA among them – and the decline of a state monopoly in favour of independent estates like The Royal Tokaji Company, behind which is Hugh Johnson. There are now about 100 producers, and less than 20 quality producers says Meszaros Laszlo, general manager of Disnoko, a 100 hectare estate owned by AXA (which also owns Château Suduiraut in Sauternes). He proffers a little jar of what look like raisins and are in fact the “aszu” – the shrivelled berries with which Tokaji is made. They smell like Chinese dried figs and, when tasted, are extremely concentrated and extremely dry. There’s no hint of any juice to press. So these berries, which are picked one by one, are macerated in a previously made wine (wine made from berries which are left over, in other words, insufficiently shriveled). This maceration – on skins, obviously – gives the wines an extraordinary quality reminiscent of red wine and all the complexity (and polyphenols) that suggests. Wine is classified according to levels of sugar comcentration, from 3 up to 6 puttonyos, with 6 being the highest. But the very top of the tree is reserved for the Eszenzia, an extraordinary wine with 600g of sugar per litre, and just 1.5% alcohol. It is an elixir in Hungary, even garnering a mention in the National Anthem. It is so dense, of stewed prunes and black tea, that one teaspoon is almost enough. It costs MOP3,880 per 500ml bottle – and that one bottle requires 100kg of fruit for its production.

 

Disznoko Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2001

Area: Tokaj, Hungary

Grape: Blend of Furmint, Harslevelu and Zeta

Colour/style: Sweet white. 12%

Available at: Watson’s Wine, 26 Rua de Sao Paulo

Price: MOP320

The year 2001 was atypical in that it has the most botrysized character among recent vintages – showing here with orange zest and dried apricot aromas. But still it comes across as more savoury than sweet, complex and intensely herbal, and not at all viscous in texture. Laszlo says that 5 puttonyos is the ultimate Tokaji because of its perfect balance – one litre of wine for one kilo of the dried grapes. This results is about 140g of sugar per litre, and 10g of acid. Wines with a level of 5 puttonyos are made every years, and with 6 in about half of vintages. WS91

 

Disznoko Toakaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos “Kapi” 2005

Area: Tokay, Hungary

Grape: 100% Furmint

Colour/style: Sweet white. 12%

Available at: Watson’s Wine, 26 Rua de Sao Paulo

Price: MOP795

Talk about smelling a wine and knowing immediately that it is of Grand Cru status. There’s such  complexity and finesse that one almost forgets it is a sweet wine. The texture is fine, the finish is dry, and there’s a sensation of being on the cusp of bitter and sweet, like a bitter almond. Kapi –  a single vineyard site – is only made in the very best years, and only with Furmint, the most noble of the grapes. 10 hectares of the vineyards, on the upper part of the slope, were apportioned for this wine.  “This is what we are looking for,” concludes Laszlo.  WS95

 

This piece first appeared in Macau Daily Times, March 2012

PO POEIRA

FROM THE DUST…

When Jorge Moreira, Portuguese Winemaker of the Year in 2010, purchased his own quinta and began to produce Poeira (“Dust”), it emerged as one of the most pure and elegant of the Douro reds – though even he would admit that he has a little more competition now. He is also putting out a “second” label, Po de Poeira, of which there is also a white. “The possibility of producing high quality white and red grapes on the same quinta demonstrates once again the Douro’s enormous diversity,” says Jorge, “and how this diversity can be found even on small properties”. The “white project” began when the soil was being prepared for planting, and Jorge came across a hectare of land that had a completely different character from the rest of the quinta – the soil was deeper, less stony, more fertile, and with greater availability of water. This parcel is located in a more sheltered area, with fewer hours of sunshine exposure, and although, as Jorge points out, it is “A” terroir (that is, regarded as having first-rate potential for producing grapes for port), he saw a first-rate potential for producing quality white grapes, and for making a white with both depth and freshness. The Po red is produced on the same slopes (northerly aspect, protected from the heat of the afternoon sun) as Poeira itself, and has much in common with it. But, because it is partly produced from younger vines, it does not have the same density and is lighter and softer, so “easier” drinking.  Jorge’s vision is always to make wine with a personality, and which reflects the vine and terroir, thus he tries to avoid too much winemaker intervention, rather allowing a wine to actually express its origin – and not (only) his (considerable) winemaking skills.

 

Po de Poeira Tinto 2009

Area: Douro, Portugal

Grape: 50% field blend, 30% Touriga Nacional, 15% Tinta Franca, 5% Sousao

Colour/style: Dry red. 14%

Available at: Palatium Fine Wine

Tel: 8294 6775

Price: MOP170

“Field blend” is a quite unique concept and indicates that the vineyard is well established. The older vineyards in the Douro, planted for port production, do not comprise of one particular grape variety but many, and produce what is known as a Field Blend. The nose here is very deep, fruity but with earth and mineral notes. It is a thoroughly delicious wine with bright, juicy blackberry flavours which arrest the palate, and a gorgeous satin-smooth texture. It is clean, classy and elegant and very focused, with subtle tannins and balanced acidity to keep it fresh. It needs to be served a little cool.

 

Po de Poeira Branco 2010

Area: Douro, Portugal

Grape: 80% Alvarinho, 20% Gouveio

Colour/style: Dry white. 13.5%

Available at: Palatium Fine Wine

Tel: 8294 6775

Price: MOP170

Unusually for a white wine, this one really takes its time to open up – and for this tasting was actually brighter and more defined after being in the fridge overnight. It is an unusual blend, and interesting to see Alvarinho in the Douro (its unusual home is Vinho Verde). There’s a lot happening on the nose – floral, mineral, peach and honey – and a suggestion of the richness which is to come with the wine. Oaking gives the wine a rich yellow colour and also softens and integrates the acidity, while lovely Mandarin orange flavours predominate.

 

This piece first appeared in Macau Daily Times. March 2012

RIEDEL TASTING

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