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30/01/2014

A Far Cry From Student Living

by Oliver Boom (BI HK)

Krug and Haut Brion in Hong KongHaving arrived in Hong Kong as part of a 3 month internship at BI HK the first thing that whacks you straight out of the transit is the intensity of the place. It is a bustling city with tons of vitality and a commotion that saturates you. At the centre of all the hubbub is the BI office; the expression ‘in the thick of it’ has never been so appropriate.

The first couple of weeks were a cuisine crash course from beautiful culinary oddities like okonomayaki and sea urchin sushi to feel good dishes like tonkotsu and hot pot. When I was offered the chance to go to lunch at the Grand Hyatt ‘One Harbour Road’ Cantonese restaurant with the head honcho of BI HK Doug Rumsam, Keith Ho (another charming colleague) and one special, long term BI client - popular wine collector and general lover of life - I thought it would be impolite to say “no”.

I was forewarned that whatever we would be drinking (which was to be a surprise brought by our client) would be quite special; however, having sat down for a Thursday lunch I wasn’t quite expecting to have a bucket-list wine ticked off.  I didn’t realize I had hit the jackpot until I was introduced to a brace of 89s: Krug Collection and Haut Brion! The timing here was extraordinary, considering that Doug had told me just prior to lunch that Haut Brion 1989 is perhaps his favourite wine of all time.

So onto the wines:

Krug Collection 1989
The first glass is pure poise; slightly conservative, but very classy nonetheless. It delivers floral notes in swathes (lilies in particular), with helpings of apricots and peaches as well. There is a consistent undercurrent of minerality and very fine effervescence. The acidity keeps it a formal “summer 3 piece suit” style champagne, and we decide to give it some time in the glass to let its hair down. Coming back to it around dessert, it is a completely different creature: it has transformed to a luscious, molten mistress. The nose is pure toffee and pears and on the palate this continues with caramel, dried apple, toasted brioche, sweet espresso crema and honeyed whisky notes flowing through. A rich, viscous champagne, and an absolute treat! 

Haut Brion 1989
A beautiful figgy coloured liquid and a nose that holds the same ineffable power - showing the true soul of the wine - as a great burgundy. This wine is like a finely engineered old sportscar: it has effortless but complete structure and is just dead cool. There are strong black country fruits of blackcurrants, blackberries with a touch of blueberries all bound together by equal measures of smoke, oak and Asian spices and a splash of redcurrants. It has a ripe, sumptuous feel to it with the length of a country mile and a smooth, silky texture. Plenty of sweetness with a velvety surface completes this undoubted classic.

At the same time as students are protesting in Cambridge over the University’s £3million wine bill last year I did feel a little guilty about this decadence... but only a little. An awesome combo set alongside probably some of the best dim sum I’ve had so far. Team HK are worried that I will think all client lunches are like this; needless to say it was pretty jammy luck - three weeks in and the bar has been set pretty high! Thank you so much to our Hong Kong friend for making it an unforgettable lunch. 

[Read more on Oli's adventures around the world with his blogs from the Burgundy Vendange: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 ]