Monday, August 7, 2017

Riesling Tasting

There's this subtle sense of seriousness in the air when I walked into the private room right behind Whisk at The Mira hotel in TST. The long table inside the room was filled with (literally) hundreds of glasses, each well labelled and filled with a dozen of different wines, and people were already swirling, sipping, spitting, tilting their heads in deep thoughts, rigorously making tasting notes on the paper in front of them, ranking each of the bottle.

My evening of "Alsace vs Austria vs Germany Rieslings" began with the blind tasting of a wide selection of Rieslings from different regions and in different vintages with this group of serious wine lovers. I found my seat at the end of the long table and began to do the same (or at least pretend to) as everyone else was doing. I can't really say I was too fond of sitting through a formal tasting trying to grasp all the details about each wine, compare with each other and wonder if I got them "right" (is that peach or apricot? or nectarine? is that the smell of petroleum? or is it wrong if I got the taste of mushroom or saltiness on the palate?) but then I certainly didn't mind sipping through such a beautiful line-up of wines from the regions that I am not too familiar with.

List of wines were given beforehand but they were served in random order. We were also asked to rank each of the wines we have tasted. Overall, my favorite was the Austrian F.X. Pichler Riesling of 1998 vintage, which also happened to be the people's choice of the evening. It was well-balanced, rounded with some apricot and a creamy note, and certainly came to age beautifully. On the other end of the spectrum I was a bit turned off by the huge minerality from the 2007 Trimbach “Cuvee Frederic Emile” Riesling, tipping it off balanced. (that despite the high critics' scores of the bottle) Overall it turned out I have one other Austrian wine in Top 3 choices, and 2 of the Alsace wines were last on my list – both were surprises to me as well.

The oldest bottle of the flight was a 1959 Riesling Spatlese from Rheingau. Most of us (me included) thought it was the one with the deepest, orange color, but turned out it's not - that led to a round of surprise "aaah's" when the bottles' true identities were revealed. Instead it's the one in deep amber color, with a perfume nose, off-dry and a hint of cinnamon. I thought the wine aged beautifully (It was my second best wine on the list but one with rather split verdicts from our tasting group)

We then moved downstairs for dinner at Cuisine Cuisine, the Chinese restaurant at the hotel where more wines and food were waiting for us. I always think Rieslings work best with Chinese dishes and Chef Edwin Tang at the restaurant created the menu specifically to go with the wines served tonight. We started with thick slices of char siu basted with a heavy honey glaze with a good, slightly burnt bark. That was to pair with a young Austrian Riesling poured from magnum bottles. That was followed by a soup with braised tofu, crab meat and peach gum. First time I came across peach gum, a clear jelly-like ingredient obtained from trees. It didn’t contribute to the taste but added some textures to the soup (reminded me of bird’s nest) The soup was very decent with a clean and delicate taste.

The stewed tofu sheets with mushrooms in abalone gravy was my favorite dish of the evening. The layers of tofu sheets with soft texture, took up much of the flavor from the rich gravy from slow stew of abalones. Then on top was a thick piece of shiitake mushrooms with a similar texture and equally tasty. It was a simple dish that did well, and paired nicely with a mature Riesling from Pfalz, Germany.

Well, it's not all Rieslings that we drank this evening. For our main course of diced wagyu beef tenderloin, it's served with a beautiful Rhone Valley red (Crozes-Hermitage 1996 from Paul Jaboulet Aine) Beef was tender and tasty, and the wine was well-opened with ripe fruits and a hint of salted plum, and certainly went well with the rich red meat and the strong flavor of the dish.

Not sure about the wine pairing for the dessert - with the vintage Port and the bowl of sweet almond cream, but individually they were lovely. That wrapped up a great evening filled with wines and food. Yeah, can’t really walk the straight line as I walked down to the street afterwards, but that’s a good way to spend a random weeknight with - fun and you also learned something from it.

When? July 20 2017
Where? Cuisine Cuisine, The Mira Hong Kong, 118 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui
Menu Highlights? Stewed tofu sheets with mushrooms in abalone jus

2006 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Herrenweg De Turckheim Riesling
2007 F.E Trimbach Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile
2006 F.E Trimbach Riesling Clos Sainte Hune
2005 Kitterle Schlumberger/Elsass Riesling

1990 Dr. Burklin Wolf, Riesling, Trocken, Auslese Pflaz
1959 Weinguter Geheimrat J. Wegeler Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Spatlese, Rheingau
2007 Joh Jos Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
1988 Bert Simon Weingut Herrenberg, Serriger Herrenberg, Riesling Spatlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer

2010 Rudi Pichler, Riesling Smaragd Achleithen
1998 F.X. Pichler Riesling Smaragd Kellerberg
2005 Bründlmayer, Riesling Zöb.Heiligenstein Lyra DAC Reserve
2004 Prager Riesling Smaragd Wachstum Bodenstein

At the dinner: 
2013 Weingut Birgit Eichinger Heiligenstein Riesling Reserve Erste OTW Lage, Kamptal 
2002 Dr. Burklin Wolf Riesling, Gaisbohl, GC
2002 Dr. Burklin-Wolf G.C. Forster Jesuitengarten Trocken Riesling, Pfalz
1996 Paul Jaboulet Aine Domaine De Thalabert Crozes Hermitage
1983 Warre's Vintage Port


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