After a busy finale to 2014 with an inhumane number of tastings, lunches, dinners and travel, I’d pretty much bored my colleagues into submission with grand plans of a self-imposed detox in January. Adamant not a single drop of wine would pass my lips until the six nations kicks off – those plans were scuppered before I’d even sat down to my Christmas Turkey. An invite to a dinner I couldn’t refuse on Jan 2nd set the tone and the bar (no pun intended) for the new year.
Whilst lost bets were paid out, the sheer variety of wines imbibed I hope will be an auspicious sign of things to come this year in the wine market. The last two or three years have been hugely challenging to vignerons, merchants, distributors etc but I can’t think of a more exciting time for the wine scene in Hong Kong during the past six or seven years, as consumers gain in both confidence and curiosity.
A few highlights from the dinner table:
2013 JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese (Magnum)
Is there a cooler looking bottle than a magnum of Riesling? Granted it is probably the single most annoying bottle to store in a wine fridge but the noblest of noble varieties takes on an added confidence and swagger when left to develop in a bigger bottle. Brimming with honeyed stone fruits and a powerful core of minerality this is a sensational showing in a sensational tasting of Prum.
1998 Voerzio Barolo La Serra
If I had the means to buy a vineyard and build a winery then Roberto and Davide Voerzio would be the guys I’d want making the wines. My second encounter with the ’98 La Serra in as many months and again it’s the WOTN. Rich, tarry but boasting an ethereal-like sense of harmony (don’t worry, I’m cringing too at that statement too) – this is benchmark Barolo. Traditionalist or New School? Frankly who cares when the wine is this good.
2004 Leflaive Bougogne Blanc (Magnum)
Yes you heard me, Bourgogne Blanc. The merits of provenance and bottle format on full display. Beautiful, toasty aromas, rich and creamy on the palate but laden with still fresh and vibrant acidity. The elegance and length belie the humble status of the fruit. Superb.
A wine of enormous reputation, it’s always a challenge to approach these matters unbiased. Blind you would you take this for Left Bank Bordeaux from a ripe vintage. Perhaps this is a marker for how some of the ‘09s will taste in 20 years? Thick and unctuous on the palate, this is the perfect mouth-coating partner to my Spanish beef. It does not lack for elegance and charm however. Well worth every one of its 99 Parker points. Barn-storming stuff.
1994 Marcassin ‘Gauer Vineyard’ Upper Barn
An outrageously good Cali Chardonnay, courtesy of a ‘Growing Boy.’ Proof that these wines can age magnificently. Whilst the precision and focus that is here at age 20 is almost Burgundian, the uber ripe, uber rich fruit gives it a very definite sense of place. If you don’t like these kind of wines then this is not for you. Good, cos it leaves more for me.
2002 Rayas CNDP
Given the quality (or lack of) of the 2002 vintage in the Southern Rhone, a year that saw many vineyards submerged under water, this is a wine that has no right to be any good. But, Rayas isn’t just any wine. Whether its owing to terroir or witchcraft, there is something special going on in the vines and cellars at Chateau Rayas. An intoxicating, Dujac-esque nose of strawberries and sweet summer fruits. This dances on the palate and is so moreish one is tempted to “do a runner” with the bottle.