Monday, March 28, 2016

Wine and Cheese Night with the Master

Recently I was lucky to score a seat at a wine tasting session featuring Jancis Robinson. Well it's purely coincidental - I don't usually read the email newsletter of this local wine retailer who hosted the event but somehow I saw their promotional leaflet in my inbox, then have my fingers fast enough to register online immediately before it's sold out.

Even for me not being a big wine person, Jancis Robinson need no introduction. A renowned wine critic/reviewer, bestselling book author, newspaper columnist, TV presenter and a master of wine, Ms Robinson also regularly publishes wine ratings which were considered one of the most authoritative in the industry.

The tasting session was held inside the function room at Four Seasons in one weekday evening in early March as she's touring around the region, partly to promote her latest book, the new edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine, published late last year.

Though the event was described as a "Masterclass", this is more like a cozy meet-and-greet opportunity than being a serious lecture with difficult words and professional talk to digest, with 30 or so people gathered to try out some wines and hear her talk. All together we had a flight of 9 different wines with different varietals and from different regions. Jancis was friendly, straight-forward, giving us the background and her insight about each of the wines she introduced to us, her general thoughts on the industry trend or wine pairing advice, and for the rest of the time, just like a casual chat about her love of wines, a passion that everyone in the room could surely share and relate.

I only scribbled some brief tasting notes and here they are. First six were white then the last 3 were reds.

1. Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru NV – Grower’s Champagne with relatively low dosage. Light amber color, very dry. Floral on the nose, slightly yeasty, with ripe lemon and pear on the palate. Powerful and full-bodied.

2. 2014 Casa Marin Cipreses Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc – Wine from San Antonio Valley in Chile. Light amber color, dry. Distinct vegetal/herbaceous nose – asparagus and bell peppers are what came to mind. Very green on the palate with some citrus. Medium bodied and rounded.

3. 2012 Keller Westhofener Kirchspiel Riesling Grosses Gewachs – Off-dry. Ripe on the nose with some floral and orange zest, palate was fruity but not sweet. She rated this an 18 so I assume she likes it.

4. 2014 Les Vins de Vienne Saint-Peray Blanc “Les Bialeres” – Small production at this obscure appellation in the Northern Rhone. 80% Marsanne plus 20% Roussanne. White flower aroma, honey and marzipan on the palate with slight mineral. Good long finish. My favorite white of the evening.

5. 2011 Bindi Composition Chardonnay – Amber color, dry. Mineral with Light Smoky taste at first, followed by some acidity and zest. Full-bodied and complex. Long finish.

6. 2014 Bodegas Jorge Ordonez Botani – 100% Muscat of Alexandria. Floral, honeysuckle nose, which suggests a sweeter tone than what’s on the palate (surprisingly dry on the palate). Quite pleasant but I am not fond of its aftertaste with a hint of bitterness.

7. 2012 Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir – Wine from Sonoma Coast. Light ruby color, a candy-like nose, vegetal on the palate with some tannins. Typical of a cool weather pinot, but to me, not enough grip.

8. 2011 Comm. G. B.  Burlotto Barolo – Wine from the village of Verduno further north in the traditional Barolo region (almost close to Bra). Interesting nose – like a forest on a bright day. Deep earthy with licorice. Very tannic. Good potential I reckon but definitely need more time. Nonetheless I thought that’s the best of the three red wines we tasted.

9. 2012 Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz – Dry and deep ruby color. Very balanced. Chalky nose, with some red fruit character on the palate and woody at the back. Not tannic at all.

After spending a couple hours enjoying a fine flight of wine, I did what I thought was the most natural thing to do, that is to go a few levels up to the Caprice Bar to meet some friends for cheese and snacks. I felt a bit incomplete after drinking wines without some food to match, and apparently I wasn't the only one who thought that way - soon after I arrived, Jancis Robinson just walked in and sat at the table next to us.

And what planned to be an impromptu quick drink became a simple, casual but satisfying meal with charcuterie platters, game terrine served in a jar, and of course, the wonderful cheeses from my favorite collection in town laying on our table in the elegant but comfortable lounge. Simply put, it was another beautiful evening surrounded by beautiful food and wines that I was always thankful for.

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When? March 3 2016
Where? Caprice Bar, Level 6, Four Seasons Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central

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