What We’ve Been Drinking Recently

17/6/2017

A solid line up with friends…

2006 Dom Perignon: fresh and just getting going, this will develop brilliantly

2014 Roaring Meg Pinot Gris: spicy and rich, good body, great with food

1977 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino: still in great shape for a 40-year-old!

2008 Dry River Pinot Noir: last bottle but still 5-10 years left in. Concentrated and warm

2008 Chateau Haut-Bailly: Merlot added a lovely depth to the Cabernet. So drinkable

2013 Cloudburst Malbec: Rustic and clean, a great expression of this rarely-used grape

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16/6/2017

NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve

One of our favourite “house” Champagnes, cracked open on a Friday night at home. Showed really well in Zalto white wine glasses (not sure we can go back to flutes now…), with fresh cool apple and a super-soft oaky mousse. So refreshing and light, it always nicest when drunk at fridge temperature

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8/6/2017

2010 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino

Jugged for an hour beforehand in a cool decanter at TRB in Beijing, this was a cracker of a Brunello from an excellent vintage. Even though it was their “standard” wine, it was full of flavour and complexity: red cherries and sweet spice kicked things off on nose and palate, before a beautiful floral angle bought delicacy to proceedings. Powerful and rich, yet light on its feet, this has absolutely years left in it. A real winner

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27/5/2017

2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

First bottle since my 40th, we never get bored of this stuff. Fresh and rustic at the same time; it’s never particularly complex, but perfectly soft fruit and tannins make this such a satisfying wine…and certainly one that doesn’t taste like it is 16 years old! Great in the new Zaltos. The only problem is that there’s only one bottle left of the current batch

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22/5/2017

2006 Clos Rougeard Saumur Champigny / 1981 Chateau Pontet-Canet

After the Cloudburst tasting, a couple of surprise bottles at On Dining courtesy of Jay Ginsberg. The Clos Rougeard, from France’s Loire Valley, was a first for me: 100% Cabernet Franc. Also used in blends in Bordeaux, lovely rustic, dusty red fruit on a super-dry palate meant for a seriously nice glass. Excellent. The 81 Pontet-Canet was fun to open (and the second bottle of vintage P-C in the space of two weeks!) but alas there wasn’t a huge amount there. Seemingly metallic, it definitely still had fruit but the dull acidity and short and sharp finish meant this wasn’t the best…

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22/5/2017

A brilliant line-up of French classics, taking on the young pretender, Cloudburst, from Margaret River…full write-up here.

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13/5/2017

2007 Nicolas Potel Latricieres-Chambertin Grand Cru

An impromptu glass of mature red Burgundy is always welcome, but unfortunately this one was a little underwhelming. It definitely needed decanting first, although using the large Riedels helped. Savoury and rustic red fruit led the way on the nose, but there was little in the way of complexity. Fine acidity on the palate but a relatively short finish left me thinking this could (and should) have been so much better. Proof that paying up for fine red Burgundy remains a minefield

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12/5/2017

Time for another Old Empire Long Lunch. In its fourth instalment, this one was held at the perfectly-pitched Hong Kong Club in Central. This was some line-up of wines…

NV Bollinger Special Cuvée: a light, appley refresher got us kicked off in the ground floor Club Bar. NV Bolly always puts on a good show, notable for its nicely integrated and subtle vanilla creaminess

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1995 Krug: dialling things up as we got the food underway, this was a joy to drink with our Foie Gras starter. Krug always carries a thought-provoking complexity, and this was no exception: a deep and intense amber/gold colour, it first attacked the senses with rich caramel and brioche, but started to unfold with a fungal forest-floor dampness. Just as you thought it’d be heavy going, the wine (which had lost a significant amount of its bubbles) delighted with a light, citrus thread. Acidity good, and complimented the food, notably those little orangey kumquats, so well. Fantastic package

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2010 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault Les Charmes: holy smokes, this was seriously good Meursault. The minerality good white Burgundy shows is always a pleasure, but this one had something different about: still flinty, it had almost a sweet stoniness to it. Hadn’t experienced it before but it was sensational. On the palate it was all fresh lemon meringue and bracing acidity, going brilliantly with our crab cakes with their bed of pickled turnips and Indian spice influence. An even better food/wine match than the above

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1997 Château Latour: the quality kept on coming with this 20-year-old First Growth Bordeaux. As elegant as the leather goods Latour’s parent company Artemis produces, this was class personified. The trademark Pauillac graphite, cedar and bell pepper were all there with its wonderful red fruit profile, but the most striking thing about this glass was the impeccable balance it carried. A rich but delicate mouthful accompanied wonderfully-soft tannins to go alongside its pitch-perfect acid-alcohol axis. 1997 may not have been a “banner” year like 2000, but who cares when the wine is this good. Sensational

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2000 Château Pavie: what a cracker to finish up with, and a great contrast to the Latour. A brute of a wine, still so young, even with 2 hours in a jug before our first sip. Heady and rich on nose and palate, this was all coffee, sweet spice, liquorice and dark cherries. Almost decadent — something Merlot-dominated wines often deliver — it was a perfect match for our beef tenderloins. Tannins were surprisingly mellow, with a dark fruit finish that went on and on. Come back in a decade and this baby will so much better

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2005 Château Rieussec: we finish with pure nectar. I’ve always loved Rieussec, and 2005 was a tremendous vintage. Still unfolding, this was pure sugary marmalade, but not cloyingly so. Acidity absolutely on the money, and beautiful with our chocolate mousse desserts. This will evolve into a delicious, top-notch “sticky”. A lovely way to complete a terrific meal with great friends

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9/5/2017

3 fantastic wines at Winebeast Bistro in Wanchai…

Laurent Perrier Le Grand Siècle: this was much richer and full-bodied than I had remembered in the past. A blend of multiple vintages, this definitely needs time to mellow out; apple strudel and rich butteriness dominated the nose and on the palate it was a full-on oaky Chardonnay experience. Once paired with some fantastic steak tartare, it brilliantly elevated the wine

2011 Joseph Drouhin Clos de Mouche: in many ways similar to the L-P above, kicking things off with an oaky/marshmallowy double punch. More nuanced though to taste though; a citrus seam added lightness, on top of white floral notes. Again great with food like the smoked octopus

1975 Chateau Pontet-Canet: what a treat. Cristina the somm took a good 10 minutes to surgically remove the cork, then it went straight into the glass. Immediately starting to change, it began with a salty, oyster-like note, before moving onto savoury beefiness and finally stewed red fruit. Once settled down though it was in good form; structurally on the money with acidity, alcohol and tannin all still in fine fettle, although fruit (brambly raspberries and plum) started to fade after a while. Really satisfying to try and old bottle like this though, and drunk with some terrific veal fillets

7/5/2017

2014 Chateau D’Esclans Rock Angel Rosé

Hong Kong mums have been going ga-ga for Chateau D’Esclans other rosé, Whispering Angel, for years now, so what’s their supposedly premium wine like? Well, it’s not much different really. An attractive shimmering rose-gold colour, it’s definitely had time in oak given its soft vanilla and toasty nose, but like most other rosés it falls into the trap of suffering from a lack of real authority on the palate, as well as having that bitterness to the finish. Found ourselves really searching for that strawberries-and-cream taste. Although a nice and pleasant Sunday-evening quaffer, at twice the price of the Miraval equivalent (just under HK$200/bottle), this was a bit of a let-down

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5/4/2017

G+C Wine Wednesdays: Leflaive Tasting

Unfortunately a somewhat average showing of whites from the great producer, Anne-Claude Leflaive, of Burgundy…

Les Folatieres
  • 2013: mineral, clean, lot of citrus, slightly floral, light on its feet
  • 2012: very different prospect, deeper, secondary flavours coming through. Oak, fudge and an interesting metallic character
Les Pucelles
  • 2013: not particularly expressive, acidity quite low, flabby, citrus, fruit forward
  • 1999: deeper and richer, fried bacon, not bad, hard to place any flintiness (opened another bottle earlier – dull/flat)
Chevalier-Montrachet
  • 2013: beautiful nuttiness and mineral seam running through but still fresh, citrus, strange mac ’n’ cheese character!
  • 2008: rich and fudge, needs a lot of time, still forming, interesting and concentrated, relatively short finish

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31/3/2017

An incredible evening with friends celebrating my 40th Birthday…and Meg’s health.

We kicked things off with a young but fantastic 2009 Louis Roederer Cristal (hedonistic and vibrant), before letting people graze their way through a 2013 Churton “Best End” Sauvignon Blanc (still our favourite Kiwi SB, with brilliant spoon-fruitiness and mineral richness) and some 2009 Te Mata Elston Chardonnay for the whites (an interesting one, losing some of its depth). For the reds, we chose from a brilliant 2006 Dry River Pinot Noir (still so concentrated with great fruit), the ever-youthful 2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 (a perfect match for the aged Rubia Gallega beef) and a magnum of 2001 Chateau Montrose (the crowd favourite; I barely got a single glass!). To round things off, we had a still-vibrant 1977 Dow’s Vintage Port. A great line-up with great company.

A break of 3-months while I settled in to my new job, Meg got through her tough time, and we drunk a lot less wine!

26/12/2016

2016 Witches Falls ‘Saignée’

One of a few different wines had on Boxing Day, but worth a mention as this was the rosé from the same producer as below….but unfortunately nowhere near as good. A curious mix of Syrah, Black Muscat and Sangiovese, at first it offered very little on the nose, before unleashing a real funkiness. Once that had gone, very ripe strawberries and honey ran through nose and palate. It was all out of balance though, with its acidity — the thing you really need in a chilled, Summer quaffer — especially flabby and unsatisfying.

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25/12/2016

Christmas Day and what’s this? Two wines from tropical Queensland…

2016 Witches Falls Chardonnay

Picked up during a tasting on Mount Tamborine, but grown 3 hours inland in Queensland’s ‘Granite Belt’. This is a moisture-laden environment, so getting an expression of fruit from water-saturated grapes is a challenge…but they’ve managed to pull it out the bag. Drunk in the year of its harvest, a fine mineral thread running through this Chardonnay, with its brief tenure in oak adding a gentle complexity, it had good acidity and a reasonably weighty body. Oaky citrus finish. James Halliday gives this winery 5 stars in his 2017 Wine Companion.

2015 Witches Falls Pinot Noir

Like its white stable mate above, this did not disappoint. Fair play to the producer for attempting to grow thinned-skinned Pinot in Queensland! An early drinker, this was a really good, well balanced red: red cherries, a touch of aniseed and violets and like the Chardy, subtle wood. Suspect this won’t last long due to a lack of concentration, but it was pitch-perfect for Christmas Day in the sunshine. This is definitely a (local) winery to keep an eye on.

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24/12/2016

Christmas down under so time to get the vino going…

NV M.Pierre Blanc de Blancs

Fizz o’clock. This was light and fruity, almost Prosecco-like in style; definitely done with the tank method, as opposed to going through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Apple and citrus without any real complexity, it was a nice little sundowner by the pool, a bargain at only 20 Aussie.

2015 M.Pierre ‘Le Chat Noir’ Pinot Noir

From the same producer as above, this was a really good fruit-forward, early-drinking Pinot. Lower alcohol meant it wasn’t overly jammy, instead it was a great little glass of straightforward, spicy red fruit to make a perfect accompaniment to our Christmas Eve ham, egg and chips.

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11/12/2016

1989 Château Palmer

Following those brilliant bottles 3 days earlier, we wheel out our favourite Bordeaux estate from that great year 1989, for an (early) Christmas dinner at home in Stanley. Needed decanting for 2 hours before properly hitting its stride (very reductive straight out of the bottle), this was beautiful, elegant Claret at its best: still displaying excellent concentration of fruit and alcohol, soft tannins and brambly pluminess led a soft and comforting palate. The higher dose of Merlot (compared to other Left Bank estates) really allows this wine to stand out. If we needed a reason to continue to invest in wine – of all types – and drink when at its peak, this brilliant bottle was it.

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8/12/2016

Time for another Old Empire Long Lunch, this time at Blue · Butcher & Meat Specialist on Hollywood Road. Probably our best line-up yet; after the customary bottle of fizz we split the vinous intake into 3 flights…

Champagne: 2006 Pol Roger (rich and yeasty, stewed apple, with a complexity that easily stands up to more illustrious rivals)

Whites: 2011 Billaud-Simon Chablis Vaudesir Grand Cru (still austere and steely – very enjoyable), 2014 Kistler Chardonnay (big-bodied and buttery, perfect with the the scallop ceviche) and 2010 Louis Jadot Les Demoiselles Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru (so concentrated, evolved brilliantly in the glass, gentle mineral but candied/tropical stone fruit dominated. Long finish)

Reds #1: 2005 Louis Jadot Latricieres-Chambertin Grand Cru (proper Pinot, led with sweet red fruit but still with an age to go. Black tea/smoky finish), 2010 Chateau Lynch-Bages (beautifully balanced, with trademark blackcurrant young Claret character) and 1989 Chateau Lynch-Bages (great comparison from another great vintage, wonderfully elegant and stylish, still with 10-20 years on the clock)

Reds #2: 1983 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (very similar to the ’89 Lynch-Bages but a lovely graphite and herbal, cigar-like bitterness), 1983 Chateau Leoville-Poyferre (more floral perfume and less fruity substance than the Pichon; terrific finesse) and 1989 Dominus Estate (big and bold, a lot of black fruit and grainy tannins still – such a good match with our steak)

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4/12/2016

2010 Churton ‘The Abyss’ Pinot Noir

Loving aged Kiwi Pinot at the moment. At nearly 7 years old, this effort from Churton wasn’t as good as the recently-tasted 2008 Dry River, but still had great form. Spicy and rich with terrifically fresh fruit, this wine is in its evolving stage with really pleasant meaty savouriness starting to come through. A perfect accompaniment to Meg’s tea-smoked salmon.

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3/12/2016

2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

We’d had a bottle of this at dinner with friends a week ago; so good, and had tried the 2005 at a tasting earlier in the day, we wanted to crack another one open to go with our Saturday night Beef & Liberty burgers. Just love the way this wine is so damn approachable in terms of youthful red fruit and zippy acidity, but has all the aged character and complexity you’d expect from a good, mature wine. And at only 400 bucks a bottle, what a bargain.

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30/11/2016

Dinner with Ann Colgin, Joe Wender and Paul Roberts of Colgin Winery in Napa Valley:

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26/11/2016

An awesome Saturday night line-up with friends:

The 2005 Chevalier-Montrachet had very little in the way of expression on the nose, but the palate had plenty of gas in the tank – rich and rounded with that lovely Puligny mineral seam running through it. Star of the night was the ’98 La Mission Haut-Brion, elegant and concentrated. The Maiden – a Napa Cab – spent 7 hours in a decanter but was still a beast, and the 2001 La Rioja Alta GR 904 was beautifully balanced with rustic red fruit and savoury character. And what a treat to finish…a 1995 Royal Tokaji Azsu Essencia.

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24/11/2016

Thanksgiving…so time for a rich, full-bodied and buttery Californian Chardonnay to go with the Turkey:

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23/11/2016

G+C #winewednesdays: Meursault Villages. Report here

22/11/2016

Château Latour Masterclass (below): report here

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17/11/2016

A handful of excellent bottles with dinner at friends…

2009 Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs: English fizz is back! This was a lovely wine, balanced and refreshing, full of body, with bags of apple and toast character. It would be a very good taster to spot this in amongst a flight of Champagnes.

2014 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay: for a supposedly “basic” wine (there are 3 more at higher price points), this could stand up against high-quality white Cote d’Or. Everything so in place, that beautiful flinty nose first grabbed you, before setting into rich lemon peel, vanilla and shades of peach to taste. Such a good wine.

2009 Chateau du Tertre: hadn’t had this Margaux offering before. From a stellar year, it did not disappoint; trademark Left Bank graphite, cedar and blackcurrant attacked the nose first up. So much concentration on the palate, its still a baby. Lovely.

2006 JC Conde Ribero del Duero “Neo”: solid Tempranillo from Spain; in many ways structurally very similar to the Tertre. Well-made Spanish red seems to have an amazing youthful quality for an extended period – the plummy, blackberry taste of this wine, so pleasant, could have convinced you it was only a couple of years old.

2008 Dry River Pinot Noir: finally, with only 2 bottles left, this wine is starting to hit its stride. This was a brilliant bottle; with power reminiscent of the recently-tasted 2013 Ata Rangi Pinot, it was brooding, and you could tell the fruit was still very vibrant and those aged savoury notes were being held delightfully in check. Easily got a decade+ left. The label even made it into our host’s tasting book!

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15/11/2016

Three good value, everyday reds at Le Quinze Vins on Gage Street:

2013 Domaine Chevillon Bourgogne: clean Pinot nose, excellent medium body with stacks of ripe cherry and sweet spice. Light and enjoyable.

2014 Chatagnier Saint-Joseph: white pepperiness dominated the nose, and while still there on the palate, lovely dark fruit (especially plum) made for a nice finish.

2004 La Badiane Terres Noires: 100% Mourvedre from sunny Provence. Very rustic and savoury given age; on the edge of its drinking window but solid nonethless.

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12/11/2016

2014 The Yard Cabernet Sauvignon

From the stable of famous Margaret River winemaker Larry Cherubino (if you haven’t heard of him, seek his wines out), this entry-level Cab was being drunk too early, but hey, it was worth it. The nose was stark: if you imagine smelling a bunch of fully-ripe blackcurrants and blueberries then you’ve got the nose on this wine. Rich and rounded on the palate, this seriously fruit-forward wine needs at 3 years to mellow out. Very enjoyable but too young.

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9/11/2016

G+C #winewednesdays: Vosne-Romanée Aux Malconsorts 1er Cru. Report here

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6/11/2016

Matter of Taste event: how to speed-date at a wine tasting! Report here

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2/11/2016

2014 Laurent Roumier Chambolle-Musigny (Burgundy, France)

Loved this fresh and vibrant red from Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. Given the amount of Kiwi Pinot we drink, trying it from the grape’s original home showed (a) the importance of geography in wine, and (b) how far the rest of the world still has to go to match Burgundian complexity. Full of cherry/red fruit and vanilla pod, where this Chambolle went the extra mile was in the terrific sulphurous mineral thread running through it, as well as delightfully subtle herbal cues such as sage. The palate’s great balance and long finish confirmed its quality. An excellent wine at Le Quinze Vins on Gage Street

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1/11/2016

2014 The Yard Sauvignon Blanc (Margaret River, Australia)

A good example of a winemaker that, in the absence of natural grape character, adds too much oak and ends up making a very generic wine. Sauvignon Blanc is so popular nowadays because of its cool-climate aromatics, so I’m guessing this offering from Western Australia struggled to display the usual herbaceousness; as such it got drowned in wood for too long. All we could taste was citrus, toast and vanilla – where was the varietal signs of grass, green pepper and gooseberries? In complete contrast to Churton’s “Best End” SB, which has properly intergrated oak as part of a bigger flavour picture, this was a real let-down

22/10/2016

NV Ruinart Brut (Champagne, France)

World Champagne Day so time to open some French fizz, Ruinart’s entry-level bubbles. Full of stewed apple and sultanas on nose and palate, pear also coming through, all with a slight sweetness – definitely different to the bone-dry, high-acid style of a Veuve or a Moët. Toasty/mealy finish. Enjoyable, and went well with papadums and pakoras at the start of a curry night with friends!

21/10/2016

2014 Jamsheed Harem Pepé Le Pinot (Victoria, Australia)

This time the Typhoon was a Category 8, so we opted for Aussie Pinot to go with our home-made Cottage Pie, below. Poured at wine fridge temperature (14deg), this was fresh, fruity and beautifully balanced. Uncomplicated but really pleasant, in addition to simple red fruit, it had an interesting herbal, aniseed-like dimension. Similar in body to decent Beaujolais, this was a good little wine to distract us from Haima‘s antics outside

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18/10/2016

2014 GD Vajra Dolcetto d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy)

In the middle of a Category 3 Typhoon-Monsoon combo, red wine is the shout. It’s still 27 degrees outside though, so time for this medium-bodied job from northern Italy: probably best described as Syrah-lite, peppered cherries, violets and a savoury meatiness was all there…followed up by a balanced, dry palate of soft fruit and high acid. At only 12.5%abv and HK$88/bottle from Victoria Wines, the less-illustrious relation of Nebbiolo and Barbera from Piedmont was bang on the money

15/10/2016

2015 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand)

On wine lists from Auckland to Anchorage, New Zealand’s flag-waver on the international stage still has what it takes. It may be being eclipsed by more complex, more refined Sauvignons nowadays (see my Churton notes further down this page), but the 30th vintage of this wine is fresh, acidic and really citrusy. Everything in place without being spectacular, finding it at only HK$160 at My Wine Man suddenly makes this a solid, everyday option, versus the over-priced silliness of 5 years ago

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24/9/2016

For our tenth wedding anniversary, celebrated at The Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

2006 Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Brut Rosé (Champagne, France)

The last bottle of the case, so marking a decade of marriage was the perfect time to open. A deep coppery-pink colour, this was lovely mature but still fruity Champers. Vanilla and toast danced with candied raspberries, all in nice balance. Not a huge amount of complexity there, but a great bottle as we watched the sun set over Victoria Harbour (below)

2010 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay (Martinborough, NZ)

This Martinborough stalwart is going brilliantly; still young, it hasn’t shown any signs of dropping off. Rich and flinty to taste, this 6-year-old Chardy was fruit-filled and citrusy, but now with a lovely maturity that went really well with our oysters and starters at “The Grill” at the Mandarin

2006 Mascarello Barolo Monprivato (Barolo, Italy)

Almost reminiscent of a Tawny Port in appearance, coffee-brown mingled with clear ruby red. 2006 was a knock-out year from central and northern Italy, and this Barolo was something else on nose and palate: so young still, this was a model of powerful, slow-burning Nebbiolo. Decanted for 4 hours prior to first glass. Rustic plum and dried strawberries ran the show, but this was seriously rich and concentrated, almost reluctant to show its full hand. Wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t peak for another 10-15 years. With a long and brooding finish, this was classy stuff but needs bags of time

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17/9/2016

2015 Marco Porello Arneis Camestri (Piedmont, Italy)

In a region more well known for its reds, this interesting white grape called Arneis makes for a solid alternative to those northern Italy staples Pinot Grigio and Soave. A really attractive yellowy-gold colour, its nose had all the usual citrus cues, but this also came with herbal notes, fennel, dried/candied mango as well as a touch of vanilla from the oak. On the palate, very straightforward and refreshing with zinging acidity on top of a touch of bitterness. Food friendly; not bad at all

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11/9/2016

2010 Losada (Bierzo, Spain)

A grape variety not often drunk: Mencia. From just across Portugal’s north-east border, this hot-climate Syrah-like varietal certainly packed a punch. Drunk over two days. Inky and dark in sight, just like Port. Still big on the second night, the glass was full of plummy, black fruit with a touch of leather. First impression though – pure dry-aged beef! Used to getting savoury, farmyard/meaty character in certain reds, but never experienced it so marked like this. High tannins and alcohol, nicely in balance, this wine cried out for a cow-related dish to round it all out…

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10/9/2016

2011 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir (Martinborough, NZ)

Gave this one a 90 minute run in the jug before first sip; even then it was still reasonably closed, with only yeasty mealiness and sweet spice coming through on the nose. After a couple of glasses and a good hour+ later, it finally started to shows its quality: tight, fruity and concentrated, this wine probably has a least 5-7 more years left. Terrific mouthfeel with supple but rich tannins, cherry, smokiness and black tea all rolled around in a pleasant finish. This is top-drawer Kiwi Pinot

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9/9/2016

2012 Prinz von Hessen Steckenpferd Riesling (Rheingau, Germany)

Riesling always does a nice job as a Friday evening aperitif. At 10% abv and in an off-dry style, this threw out trademark cool-climate mineral character: petrol, flint and rubber, on top of fresh limey citrus. Not particularly complex, but pleasant on nose and palate nonetheless. Acidity a little dull. As the bottle went it developed an unusual farmyard note, reminding me of my childhood in Devon, England – almost the smell of a slurry pit!

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3/9/2016

2009 Chapel Down Three Graces (Kent, England)

Picking up the English fizz theme from earlier in the Summer, cracking this one open on a warm Hong Kong evening was fun; reasonably layered and interesting, it didn’t quite deliver the rich, dry experience of a vintage Champagne, but was good nonetheless, especially at a warmer temperature in the glass (my guess: the Chardonnay in the blend didn’t reach full ripeness, so the initial barrel ferment wasn’t quite up to scratch). A touch floral on the nose, with stewed apple leading. Decent enough, toasty finish

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1/9/2016

2014 Mt Difficulty “Roaring Meg” Pinot Gris (Central Otago, New Zealand)

15 years to the day since meeting my wife Meghan…so this Central Otago wine seemed appropriate. We love Pinot Gris; rich and spicy on the palate, its extra zip of acidity and fuller body (than say a Sauvignon Blanc) is a real treat, especially with Asian food. Pungent on the nose and lovely on the finish – featuring apricots, white flowers and honey – this one was a cracking little wine

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26/8/2016

2011 Ata Rangi Célèbre (Martinborough, New Zealand)

We hadn’t had this wine in years; I knew it was a blend but took a stab at the contents before looking it up. Merlot and Syrah seemed to be battling it out, with Cabernet in the background. Lovely nose of plummy dark fruit, green peppercorns and dried herbs. Blackcurrant (from the Cab) only minimal. On the palate, a weighty body, reasonably layered, with that Syrah pepperiness and coarser tannin starting to punch through, but the Merlot seems like its behind the wheel due to its soft fruit and kinship with the oak. So it proved: 63% Merlot, 27% Syrah and 10% Cabernet. Never a chore drinking wine from Ata Rangi

2013 Schiopetto Pinot Grigio (Collio, Italy)

Jees, this is isn’t like your run-of-the-mill fresh ‘n’ fruity PG you find in every boozer in the UK. Golden in colour and rich on the nose, this has clearly had some serious time in oak (at a guess, a year); not overpowering fortunately. Upon first impression, this was really good, although started lose its appeal once its bitter, iron-like finish (weird, I thought of the aftertaste you get from Guinness!) lingered a little too long. That said, a really nice toasty flavour mingled with a strong lemon thread, with good acidity, so it still provided that freshness everyone knows and loves from this grape

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24/8/2016

2015 Miraval Rosé (Provence, France)

Meg’s the rosé drinker in our house, but seeing as salmon steaks are for dinner and it is a balmy evening over Stanley Bay (below), this Provençal offering – from the estate of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, apparently – seemed a solid mid-week choice. With an understated nose but of decent weight and acidity to taste, this was refreshing and pleasant with a hint of fennel and fresh strawberries there. A slightly off-putting bitterness arrived on the finish, although not enough to take the shine away from this straightforward, Summer quaffer

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21/8/2016

2010 Domaine Francois Cotat, Les Culs de Beaujeu (Sancerre, France)

Drunk alongside our favourite Churton ‘Best End’ Sauvignon, this pure-bred Loire Valley offering – now on our 5th bottle since buying – is developing seriously well. Golden in colour and rich on the palate, with a terrific weighty body, it seemed a lot more powerful since we last had it. Fresh citrus still there, but mineral oakiness came with a curious, subtle marmalade character. Unexpected but really enjoyable

2011 Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir (Central Otago, New Zealand)

A cracking example of Pinot from New Zealand’s sunny South Island, with a bit of bottle age on it. One thing stuck in the memory: violets. From nose to front palate to finish, this soft and exotic floral note carried itself alongside sweet cherry and lovely oak, with bang-on acidity. Just hitting its stride

20/8/2016

2010 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico Riserva ‘Berardo’ (Tuscany, Italy)

Like the Renieri Brunello di Montalcino tried a couple of weeks back, this was too young to fully enjoy; very powerful though, and packed with dark fruit and sweet spice from the oak, structurally strong but not the best choice for a 30-degree Hong Kong evening

12/8/2016

2012 Clos du Val Carneros Pinot Noir (California, USA)

Heading Stateside, this 4yo Pinot was savoury, sweet and fruity. Still powerful on nose and palate suggesting continued ageing potential, this wine started with delicate parma violet and candied cherry notes, then followed with a (restrained) meaty character. Some very subtle sweet spice in there too. Lovely soft tannin and measured acidity – with a rounded red fruit and toffee finish – made for a really pleasant Friday night glass of vino. Good stuff

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6/8/2016

An evening of food and wine at home with friends:

NV Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Grand Cuvee

Beautiful, elegant nose – nothing in excess or hedonistic like a DP or Cristal – and equally as attractive on the palate. Soft brioche mixed with gentle citrus with a rich (but not overly so) mouthfeel. Excellent wine, matched with Mimolette, 3yo Comte and pork saucisson

2014 Cloudburst Chardonnay

When I first tasted this wine at Will Berliner’s vineyard in March 2016, I thought it was the best of the triumvirate of vintages. This tasting didn’t change that opinion; everything so well balanced and in place. Drunk with Meg’s tea-smoked salmon

2010 Renieri Brunello di Montalcino

James Suckling gave this bottle 100 points so we were keen to try the first bottle; jugged for 3.5 hours beforehand, it was still very closed so a bit of infanticide committed here. Seriously powerful; all about the dark fruit and big body

2006 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino

Another 100-pointer and a good insight to the development of the above. Much more expressive and really, really enjoyable. Leathery and savoury with a touch of mineral, it threw a ton of plum, blackberry and bramble broodiness, being delivered by a 14.5% abv haymaker – this will go on and on

2005 Chateau Rieussec

One of our favourite Sauternes estates, this was pure marmalade and rich tropical fruit. Lovely coppery colour, not cloying or overly unctous. Cracking match for our lemon tart to finish the evening

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21/7/2016

In collaboration with Altaya Wines, here are the notes from an evening with Churton winemaker Sam Weaver

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20/7/2016

For my latest tasting for G+C, we run through 7 wines from Chassagne-Montrachet:

  • 2013 Frederic Cossard Abbaye de Morgeot 1er Cru
  • 2013 Buisson Charles La Romanee 1er Cru
  • 2012 Dugat Py Morgeot 1er Cru
  • 2011 Michel Niellon Les Chaumees Clos de la Truffiere 1er Cru
  • 2009 Lucien Le Moine Ruchottes 1er Cru
  • 2005 Pierre Yves Colin Morey Champs Gain 1er Cru
  • 2005 Ramonet Les Morgeot 1er Cru

Full write up can be found here on The 23rd Parallel.

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6/7/2016

For the next installment for G+C, here are the tasting notes on a bunch of Supertuscans

16/6/2016

2015 L’Ormarine Duc de Morny Picpoul de Pinet

I like this aromatic little grape. Often used to blend in floral notes with heavyweights like Chardonnay, on its own, when young like this, performs really well. Pleasant and appealing with plenty of citrus and white flowers, it was a perfect accompaniment to our Vietnamese dinner at Pho Cafe in St. Paul’s in London. Loved the fresh and bracing acidity to go with the lemongrass and chilli in the food. One of those go-to wines to have around the house.

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3-10/6/2016

A week in English wine. A must-read here!

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1/6/2016

My first tasting working with Ginsberg+Chan: Maison Leroy

  • 2014 Bourgogne Blanc
  • 2010 Bourgogne Blanc
  • 1990 Mersault Les Charmes 1er Cru
  • 2003 Bourgogne Rouge
  • 2009 Santenay
  • 2006 Morey St. Denis Aux Cheseaux 1er Cru
  • 1982 Aloxe Corton
  • 1985 Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru

Full report – my first as a G+C guest blogger – is right here

28/5/2016

A couple of interesting bottles at Wine Beast Bistro in Wanchai…

  • 2009 Ruinart Millesime (Champagne)
  • 2012 Eric Morgat “Fides” (Loire Valley; Chenin Blanc grape)

27/5/2016

Old Empire Long Lunch II, 208 restaurant, Sheung Wan. Full write-up on a brilliant lunch here. Line-up as follows…

  • 1996 Dom Perignon
  • 2012 Domaine Roulot Mersault
  • 2011 Cloudburst Chardonnay
  • 2008 Gaja Gaia & Rey Chardonnay
  • 2012 Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche
  • 2011 Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1982 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 1989 Chateau Leoville-Las Case (magnum)

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25/5/2016

Vega Sicilia dinner, Lung King Heen restaurant, Four Seasons

  • 2002 Salon “S” Blanc de Blancs
  • 2005 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet
  • 2011 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5º
  • 2004 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5º
  • 2000 Chateau Haut-Brion
  • 2003 Vega Sicilia “Unico”
  • 1996 Vega Sicilia “Unico”
  • 2000 Chateau Cheval Blanc
  • 1968 Vega Sicilia “Unico”

For the full report on this remarkable dinner, click here

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21/5/2016

2009 JJ Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett (Mosel, Germany)

An awesome Riesling at The Ocean restaurant in Repulse Bay. Beautiful balance and quite the nose: a bunch of mineral notes like wet stones, flint and freshly-rolled tarmac, but then subtle aromatic stuff like honeysuckle and lovely citrus and pear. A touch of residual sweetness on the palate but bracing acidity kept things fresh as a daisy. The restaurant was at the wrong price point, but this wine was spot on

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20/5/2016

Cloudburst tasting, Ginsberg+Chan, Hong Kong

  • 2012 and 2013 Chardonnay
  • 2012 and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

14/5/2016

Two excellent wines over dinner at home – both with a good bit of bottle age – acting as a nice retrospective of our recent holiday to Margaret River…

2009 Voyager Chardonnay

Still pale…a lime-yellow colour with only a touch of gold. Very delicate nose, almost understated; soft smoky oak and marshmallow. Stylistically seems different to other MR Chardy. On the palate, you wouldn’t think this was a 7yo wine: extremely fresh with a strong citrus and high acid thread. The rich vanilla comes after, but not over-the-top. With a 5-7 second finish (always the measure of good vino), it is quality stuff

2010 Deep Woods Cabernet-Merlot

Gifted from Julian Langworthy after my visit. Concentrated and powerful, we’ve probably drunk this too young but what the heck, it’s really good. A nose of pure cassis and stewed plum and blackberry, with star anise thrown in, it gets followed up by a tight palate of mocha and dark fruit. This wine should chill out and unwind beautifully over the next 5-10 years. Drunk with Israeli receipe meatballs

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13/5/2016

2014 Lucien Albrecht Riesling (Mosel, Germany)

Clean and very fresh with high acidity, this Friday night after-work effort was pleasant but very neutral – apart from a large amount of citrus,  there wasn’t much of that distinctive Riesling petrol or minerality. Served its purpose though!

7/5/2016

Keeping it old school…some cracking Saturday night wines with friends. All superb, the La Mission and Mascarello Barolo were stand-outs. The latter, pale and rustic looking, was so powerful despite its medium body. Beautiful wine. Hadn’t had a red Chassagne in years!

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30/4/2016

2010 Natale Verga Barolo (Piedmont, Italy)

A good exercise in decanting. Straight out the bottle this Barolo was completely closed: no fruit, no oak, the only thing I could detect was a slightly odd platsicky smell. After 2 hours in a jug it was savoury and rustic fruit, mostly red, its tannins nicely blended in. A reddy/brown, almost caramel colour. Ultimately satisfying, but took a lot of work to get there

28/4/2016

2001 Morey-Blanc Mersault (Burgundy, France)

Kicked things off at the excellent Serge et le Phoque restaurant in Wanchai. Had with oysters and the most tender octopus I’ve ever eaten. This generic Mersault was strong: still fresh and vibrant, it certainly didn’t smell or taste like it was 15 years old. Brooding soft smoke mingled with remarkably fresh fruit (sun-dried) and soft citrus. Seriously weighty on the palate, mouthfilling and rich. Really good wine

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2009 Alain Voge Cornas “Les Chailles” (Northern Rhone, France)

We really don’t drink enough Syrah. I’m not sure why. Well-made wine from the Rhone Valley is always good, not to mention excellent value for money. Young Cornas can sometimes be completely unapproachable with its abrasive ashy nose and bitter fruit, but this wine shows with time, it can get seriously good. Lovely integrated nose of smoke and pepperiness with plum, brambles and blackberry and sweet spice, then a terrific taste of fresh dark fruit and chocolatey vanilla. Drunk with the lamb and morels at “Serge” – a terrific combo

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18/4/2016

2011 Rippon “Mature Vine” Pinot Noir (Central Otago, New Zealand)

Concentrated stuff from the most picturesque vineyard in the world (don’t believe me? click here). Lovely dark cherry and sweet spice nose, for a 5-year-old wine it still seemed young, with a really weighty body and long finish of dark fruit. Had almost a medicinal / herbal (made me think of roasted fennel) character to it. Drunk with an old mucker at Barbecoa in London, in the Spring sunshine by St. Paul’s Cathedral

2013 Castello di Cigognola Barbera Bianca (Lombardy, Italy)

Interesting aperitif to the red above. Chardonnay-like in that citrus and vanilla from the oak were behind the wheel, but had a funky tropical angle to it – pineapple and a bit of mango – unusual in itself as you’d normally get that in wines from sunnier climes (Lombardy is in the north of Italy, near Milan). An interesting one

15/4/2016

2012 Vigneti Massa Colli Tortonesi Timarasso ‘Derthona’ (Piedmont, Italy)

First time trying this white grape from north-western Italy. Fairly neutral but perfectly pleasant; an interesting candied note from the oak, with plenty of citrus against a medium body. Not bad

14/4/2016

2013 Penfold’s Bin 23 Pinot Noir (Adelaide Hills, Australia)

Our lucky number 23 appears as an everyday Pinot quaffer from the famous Aussie house. Pleasant and nicely balanced, it showed some varietal character of dark cherry and savoury notes, but it was all about the decent fruitiness and soft tannin. Gave it some fridge time to help the enjoyment

10/4/2016

A good line-up for a Sunday afternoon at home with friends…

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9/4/2016

2013 Borgo Del Tiglio Chardonnay (Collio, Italy)

The start of our Italian mixed pack from Vino Veritas. From northern Italy, this Chardonnay was really interesting, developing with each glass. A deep yellow colour already. At first the rich toffeed oak and vanilla was prominent, but then herbal, mushroomy, forest-floor dampness cues took over. Kind of reminded us of the ’10 Cotat Sancerre tried last November. Nice and weighty with a longish finish

6/4/2016

2012 Belondrade Y Lurton Verdejo (Rueda, Spain)

Something different at Cafe Gray. Verdejo is a lovely alternative to Chardonnay, taking oak well and thriving in Spain’s hot climate. Golden yellow in colour, it was all about the rich oak and tropical fruit cues: mango, pineapple with a bit of golden kiwi fruit. Not much citrus. Acidity needed to be a little higher to keep the weight in check, but overall a nice bottle

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24/3/2016

NV Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial

Pleasant on the nose – toasty and soft red fruit, some creaminess – but slightly lacking body. Nice aperitif, certainly refreshing, as we were waiting to fly down to sunny Western Australia for Easter

22/3/2016

NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve

The first of the night at Winebeast Le Bistro, and my first vinous foray since the little runaround in Seoul. Billecart is one of our favourite producers of fizz; the balance of this Champagne is always spot on. Uplifting and light, but still has enough weight to offer an excellent flavour profile: green apples and citrus, with soft autolytic cues of biscuity and buttery french pastry. Not at all heavy, it had a lovely fruit-led finish

2013 Domaine Tessier Mersault 1er Cru Les Charmes Dessus (Cote de Beaune, Burgundy)

You can see the Les Charmes Dessus vineyard as you drive between the villages of Puligny-Montrachet and Mersault on Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. The offering from Domaine Tessier, a small producer starting to make a name for itself, is very nicely done: golden-yellow in colour and really concentrated, it sits half-way between that rich/deep Puligny profile and an austere, mineral Chablis. The result was excellent, and this is a wine that will last

2005 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Pauillac, Bordeaux)

Never a chore drinking good quality Claret. The table throw out plenty of ideas as this thing drifted out of our glasses and into our noses: bramble, blackberries, blackcurrant on the fruit side, but it was the leather, cedar and graphite (“a kid’s pencil case”) that was most fun. Clean and linear on the palate, it was a perfect foil for the lamb shoulders and beef being eaten

2008 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux (Vaqueyras, Southern Rhone)

From the heat of the Southern Rhone, this wine (a blend of 75% Grenache, 25% Syrah) was a bit of a brute. Farmyard notes and almost meaty, there was some red fruit there from the Grenache, but the savouriness took over. The Syrah added quality and depth, but it was deep, tannic and full-bodied. Shame we didn’t have any cheese to go with it

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20/2/2016

Drinks for the grown-ups after Saffy’s 7th birthday party at home…as well as our last wine for a month. Boo!

2013 BBR Chablis: pleasant but slightly austere nose of citrus and green apple. Really nice on the palate though; refreshing acidity and a nice flinty finish – perfect as an aperitif

2013 Domaine Morey Puligny-Montrachet: much richer and fuller in body than the above, that classic Puligny smoky/buttery note, along with stone fruit. Enjoyable

2010 Churton “The Abyss” Pinot Noir: garnet tinge, savoury and mature now. Performed better straight out the bottle, versus Christmas where we had decanted for 3 hours. Lots going on out the glass – stewed fruit, sweet spice, leather and slightly floral – then nice balance on the palate. Lovely savoury/red fruit finish. Tastes like it has 3-5 years left in it

2013 Chard Farm “Mata-Au” Pinot Noir: interesting nose of lavender and violet, along with dried strawberries. Oak very subtle. Beautiful medium-body, very elegant and clean. Perhaps more of an early-drinker due to already-integrated tannins. Long red fruit finish

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17/2/2016

2012 Vavasour Aware Valley Pinot Noir (Marlborough, NZ)

Taken with dinner on flight CX542 from HK to Tokyo. Now with 4 years of bottle age, some of that pleasant savoury Pinot character had started to come through, but this was still a fruit-forward wine: black cherry, plum and ripe strawberry. On the palate, alcohol was a touch warming but didn’t detract from a nice sweet spice hit of cinnamon and star anise. Good, enjoyable wine at 35,000 feet

16/2/2016

2013 Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay (Auckland, NZ)

High-quality Chardonnay from just north of Auckland. Smoky and flinty, slightly austere with less obvious oak- or malolactic-led notes, it was a weighty effort with bracing acidity and lovely citrus. Drinking well young, this one – like the Ata Rangi and Craggy Range below – will age beautifully

11/2/2016

The Wine Stash / 23rd Parallel tasting – for full story, go here

  • 2014 Rose
  • 2013 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2010 White Blend
  • 2009 White Blend
  • 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Red Blend
  • Wine Stash Mystery Blend
  • 2013 Reserve Red Blend
  • 2012 “Summer” Red Blend
  • 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon in Magnum format

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9/2/2016

2003 Château Léoville-Las Cases (St Julien, Bordeaux)

2003 was Europe’s long hot Summer. This Second Growth claret was, having been opened for a good hour at the HKC, offering little in the way of fruit; it did however have plenty of graphite, leather and soily rockiness. Medium-bodied and very dry on the palate, dark cherry and plum came through on a reasonable finish. Definitely closed, it tasted like this wine needs another decade or so to fully form

2014 Craggy Range “Gimblett Gravels” Chardonnay (Hawke’s Bay, NZ)

The fruit comes from and gets vinified in the east of New Zealand’s North Island. A trademark young Kiwi chardy: on the nose, citrus and ripe apple, a touch of peach, with candy floss and a rich buttery/yeasty note. Mouthfilling with high acidity, this has been built to last and will be probably very similar in profile to the Ata Rangi, tasted last week, in a few years

2013 Churton “Best End” Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, NZ)

Back to this one after a few months since the last bottle. Fully expressive then (scroll down to 19/11/2015), it has slightly closed itself up but still has that lovely tropical fruit nose: passion fruit and feijoa take over from that green pepper and gooseberry. Still mineral with good acidity and a long finish. Time to leave this one for a few years (not guaranteeing anything) to see how it develops…

6/2/2016

2012 Berry Bros & Rudd Extra Ordinary Claret

In Graves, south of the town of Bordeaux, Chateau Villa Bel-Air produce this blend for BBR, comprising 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. Much more about it than the wine below: despite the Merlot dominance, the Cab Sav’s trademark blackcurrant leaf note jumps out of the glass, then sweet plum. Pleasant. Dry and medium bodied (fine seeing as we weren’t eating anything with it), it had a slight piney/herbal taste to go with its black fruit. Good wine

5/2/2016

Berry Bros & Rudd Pomerol

This generic, early-drinking drinking vin rouge comes from 2012 fruit courtesy of Chateau Feytit-Clinet on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. Medium-bodied with simple black fruit and soft tannins, it was a nice Friday night opener to go with Meg’s toad-in-the-hole. Nothing fancy but a really approachable, nice bottle to keep in stock

4/2/2016

2010 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay (Martinborough, NZ)

Built with bags of class, this easily stands against (and probably outperforms) most Premier Cru Puligny-Montrachets. Yellow-gold in colour, six years in it was a pleasure to drink: layered and rounded, a rich nose of mineral flintiness, stone fruit and soft butter jumped out the glass. A touch of citrus there too. Integrated and balanced on the palate, its acidity was spot on, delivering a long finish of peach, toffee apple and those lovely mineral cues. An excellent wine and best of all, it has years left in it

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2014 Esk Valley Gimblett Gravels Merlot / Cab Sauv / Malbec (Hawke’s Bay, NZ)

Took a glass to go with our mains at Flint restaurant, after the Ata Rangi above. Heady and spicy, a wine of this “size” (14% alcohol) definitely needs more time. The heavy bouquet and mouthful of dark fruit – plum, blackberry especially – and sweet spice from the oak was out of whack with the tannin (fairly astringent) and acidity. Structural elements all there though, so just needs to chill out in the bottle for a few more years before we come back and say hello again

30/1/2016

2009 Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy)

A pleasant way to get back onto the horse called wine. 100% Sangiovese; rustic and dusty fruit, mostly dried cherry and strawberry first up, then a dry, medium-bodied and fruit-forward palate. Oak fully integrated. Pretty straightforward, and strangely reminiscent of Old World Pinot. In fairness, we could have been drinking anything, such was our disposition to have a glass! Went great with our B&L burgers (below)

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31/12/2015

2006 Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Reserve Rosé (Champagne, France)

Following on from Pol’s 2000 SWC at our recent long lunch, we liberated this one from the bottom of the wine fridge for NYE. Drinking beautifully, it had a coppery-red appearance and a nose of strawberries-and-cream and oaty biscuit. Still going strong on the palate; rich and layered, it was a great accompaniment to our pre-dinner nibbles spread. Only one bottle left now

25/12/2015 – Christmas Day wines

2005 Berry Bros & Rudd UKC, Mailly, Grand Cru (Champagne, France)

To accompany our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, this pale gold wine was a mature mix of toasty vanilla, mineral and forest-floor dampness out of the glass. 12% alcohol, it had a pleasant delicate, mealy, baked apple taste

2009 Camille Giroud, Puligny-Montrachet, 1er Cru Champ Gain (Burgundy, France)

Crab and avocado toasts, along with fresh prawns, got our main meal in motion, so we kept it traditional with a Puligny. A shimmering golden colour, it had a beautiful nose firstly of citrus and melon, then a smoky/mineral note of soily sulphur, finishing with mealy honey. To taste, lemon surprisingly dominated, then rich vanilla – lovely clean acidity and long finish. Classic in every sense

2010 Churton Pinot Noir “The Abyss” (Marlborough, NZ)

Decanted for 3 hours before the main course Turkey splurge. A dusty cherry-red colour, we liked the dried strawberry and sweet spice (esp. nutmeg) nose, followed up with a typical red fruit Pinot palate. Unusually, noticed some eucalyptus in there. Seems so young; medium-bodied with some depth of flavour without being overly complex, it was a solid partner to the heavy meal

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2010 De Bortoli Noble One (NSW & Victoria, Australia)

The traditional Kiwi pavlova is a Christmas institution in our household, one which we’ll always pair with a “sticky”. This Aussie offering, traditionally very strong, was okay but not particularly strong: an attractive deep copper colour, its very pronounced nose of Seville orange marmalade and cinnamon promised good things on the palate, but unfortunately was let down by an over-cloying mouthfeel, dull acidity and a general lack of balance

24/12/2015

NV Moet Nectar Imperial (Champagne, France)

Our Christmas Eve fizz at home in Stanley. Last tried during a holiday to Champagne in 2004, this off-dry version of Moet’s ubiquitous NV bubbles is almost Prosecco-like: apple and pear on the nose, then a super-soft mousse delivering a sweet and fruity mouthful, with decent weight behind it. Great as an aperitif

23/12/2015

2013 Bastianich Vespa Bianco (Fruili-Venezia, Italy)

A unique blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Picolit, from the northern Italy region of Colli Orientali del Friuli. Layered, the nose is led with citrus and floral notes (the Picolit is used for local dessert wine, and intensely aromatic), with subsequent toffee and vanilla from the Chardy’s oak. Good body but still delicate – a really interesting wine. Enjoyed over lunch at Lupa

2007 Siro Pacinto Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy)

Always a pleasure to drink, the wine with Italy’s longest minimum ageing requirement (5 years) was medium-bodied, smooth and integrated. Poised but not over-bearing, it was herbaceous wild red fruit and soft oak that jumped out the glass, followed by a lovely taste of red cherry, raspberries and a touch of mineral

2005 Boroli Barolo (Piedmont, Italy)

In keeping with its trademark Nebbiolo appearance, a somewhat pale garnet in colour. Brambly black fruit owns the nose, along with a flowery hay-like note. Tannins, soft and smooth, highly enjoyable now, delivering a medium-bodied spicy and black fruit finish. Yum

18/12/2015

Old Empire Long Lunch, Wooloomooloo Prime, Causeway Bay

  • 2000 Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill Champagne
  • 2013 Greywacke Pinot Gris
  • 2010 Domaine J-M Boillot Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
  • 2008 Dry River Pinot Noir
  • 2000 Domaine Leroy Pommard “Les Vignots”
  • 2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva
  • 2000 Chateau Haut-Bailly
  • 2007 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance

For story and full tasting notes, go here.

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17/12/2015

2012 Berry Bros Extra Ordinary Claret (Bordeaux, France)

A friend once described their favourite tipple as a “TV wine”: this one falls straight into that category. Easy-drinking, medium-bodied Bordeaux (Ch. Villa Bel-Air in Graves) that is well-rounded, fruity and smooth, it goes unnoticed as you sup…only until you realise how pleasant, not to mention affordable (HK$150/bottle), it is

12/12/2015

NV Ruinart Blanc de Blancs (Champagne, France)

Straight from the Champagne cart at the start of our adventure at the Mandarin G+B, along with the four wines below. Vivacious mousse (a new bottle) firstly provided refreshing green fruit, but then the 100% Chardonnay kicked in with its rich body to go alongside the toasty oak. Perfect with the oysters and those crazy amuse bouches

2009 Domaine Villaine, Bouzeron, Cote Chalonnaise (Burgundy, France)

Always hard to pick out a good value, honest-but-decent white from wine lists that are (a) this marked up, and (b) as tome-like. This aged Chardy from a lesser-known part of Burgundy was fairly neutral in character, although once it had spent some time in the glass, its gentle oak, citrus and apple cues improved

1996 Chateau Pichon-Longueville au Baron, Pauillac (Bordeaux, France)

Took the pain on the HK$500/bottle corkage and bought this one ourselves. It was worth it though: that classic Claret nose but also had a notable note of violets to go with the blackcurrant, plum and leather. Got better as we went through the bottle, and a perfect foil for our incredible lamb and beef main courses, still with sufficient acidity to dilute the richness of the red meat

2004 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines (Sauternes, Bordeaux) and 2006 Diznoko Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos (Hungary)

Two beautifully made dessert wines, but in two very different styles. The Tokaji had the trademark botrytis marmalade note, while the Doisy was noticeably spicy courtesy of the semillon. Although both very sweet, their acidity balanced everything out, not to mention went brilliantly with the cheesecake and bread and butter pud

11/12/2015

2011 Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard, Chassage-Montrachet, 1er Cru Morgeot (Burgundy, France)

Buttery, smoky and flinty, they know how to produce proper Chardonnay on Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. Full-bodied, rich and refreshing, it went really well with oysters on the terrace at ON Dining (along with the three below). Not overly complex, but a perfectly balanced Chassagne

1985 Chateau Leoville-Barton (St Julien, Bordeaux)

Wow. A stunning wine. Ruby-red, showing hardly any tawny colour in spite of being a 30-year-old. A hugely layered nose, firstly graphite and leather, before moving on to herbaceous blackcurrant and red fruit. Incredibly clean on the palate, with elegant weight to compliment the beautiful (almost hedonistic) fruit, soft tannin and subtle oak…all with a finish that went on and on

1983 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California)

Founded in 1882, this winery shocked the world by winning the white wine category in the famous “Judgement of Paris” competition in the 70s. This wine, a vintage Cab Sav, seemed past its peak but was really interesting nonetheless: the nose bounced around between liquorice, a farmyard character, as well as a smokey bacon note. To taste, it had lost almost all its fruit, but its acid, tannin and alcohol were all still balanced against those savoury cues

1988 Chateau Musar (Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)

Another quirky and intriguing wine, this time from the Middle East. I have tried plenty of their much younger vintages, and it was always a brute of a wine, definitely needing time, but this one was unfortunately faulty. Murky in appearance, to smell it had an off-note of rubber and plastic, and showed no fruit on the palate. A shame

10/12/2015

When friends leave…full tasting notes here

  • 2008 Dry River Pinot Noir
  • 1997 Chateau Montrose
  • 2009 Te Mata Coleraine

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09/12/2015

2010 Ornellaia “Edizione Speciali 1985-2010” (Bolgheri, Italy)

Drank this Super Tuscan, in double magnum format, after the three wines below at a holiday dinner at G7 on Glenealy Street. A pleasure; the Cabernet Sauvignon (56% of the blend) provided lovely black fruit and herbaceousness on the nose, while the Merlot (27%) delivered a rich red fruit and velvety-soft tannin palate. A perfect foil for the venison

2013 Wildekrans Barrel Select Chenin Blanc (Walker Bay, SA)

Worth the awards the bottle was plastered with. South Africa’s most-planted grape was made in serious style here: very aromatic, with stone and tropical fruit (esp. mango) jumping out of the glass. Had real weight on the body via the oak, offering mouth-filling and pronounced fruit, as well as sweet vanilla. Really good stuff

2011 Sciala Vermentino di Gallura (Sardinia, Italy)

The Vermentino berry is mostly planted in southern Italy. A touch Viognier-like, it showed some spiciness in addition to fresh citrus, although to taste it did seem somewhat closed. A solid accompaniment to our antipasti starter though

NV Bollinger Special Cuvee (Champagne, France)

This fizz is always a crowd favourite. Light with delicate bubbles, refreshing but with sufficient weight, was mostly toast and biscuit on the nose, with green apple and citrus on the palate

07/12/2015

Berry Bros & Rudd Christmas tasting (those marked * were favourites)

  • 2005 Champagne Thienot Cuvee Stanislas Blanc de Blancs
  • 2005 Pouilly-Fume Silex, Didier Dagueneau
  • 2005 Barolo, La Serra, Giovanni Rosso
  • 2005 Vina Ardanza, Reserva, La Rioja Alta, Rioja*
  • 2005 Castillo Ygay, Gran Reserva Especial, Marques de Murrieta
  • 2005 Artadi, Pagos Viejos, Rioja
  • 2000 Ch. Potensac, Medoc
  • 2000 Ch. Giscours, Margaux
  • 2000 Ch. Gruaud Larose, St. Julien
  • 2000 Ch. d’Armailhac, Pauillac*
  • 1996 Ch. Sociando-Mallet, Haut Medoc

05/12/2015

2013 Giribaldi Gavi di Gavi (Piedmont, Italy)

A white wine made from the Cortese grape in Barolo’s backyard. Refreshing and uplifting, the citrus was there but we both noticed a nutty hard cheese note to it, as well apricots and walnuts. Really interesting. HK$40/glass at Oolaa Petite’s (Star St) happy hour

03/12/2015

2014 Josmeyer “Le Kottabe” Riesling (Alsace, France)

Nice glass on the terrace at ON Dining; made in the bone-dry style, to smell and taste it was earthy flintiness that took the lead. Citrus (esp. grapefruit) there but no green fruit – didn’t matter as refreshing, clean and unfussy

2012 Villa Ponciago Fleurie la Reserve (Beaujolais, France)

Fleurie is made from 100% Gamay, a relative of Pinot Noir, and is perfect if you fancy red in the warm climate of HK. This one’s had some oak, so those sweet spice cues come through (nutmeg and cinnamon), but it’s the pleasant, uncomplicated red fruit like strawberries and raspberries that make this wine. Medium bodied, it didn’t need food

27/11/2015

2014 Badet-Clement Chardonnay (Pays d’Oc, France)

Full-bodied Chardy from the sunny south of France. Citrus and a touch of herbal on the nose, followed up by a confident buttery and rich palate. Went well with crab salad then sea bass at Ivy restaurant in ifc mall

25/11/2015

2014 Hewitson “Gun Metal” Riesling (Eden Valley, Australia)

Slightly deeper lemon-green colour than you often get with young Riesling. In keeping with its name, that trademark steely mineral note jumps out the glass first, followed by strong lemony citrus. Decent weight on the palate and a very refreshing finish. Good aperitif

2011 Phillip Kuhn “Tradition” Pinot Noir (Pfalz, Germany)

After our experience with Martina Hunn at the HKIWSF, I went for this one from Café Gray’s by-the-glass list. Not as good as her Spatburgunder though unfortunately; nice spicy red fruit on the nose but the mouthfeel was a little too jammy, and the alcohol overbearing

21/11/2015

2008 Kurni Rosso (Marche, Italy)

100% Montepulciano and very unique. Deep purple in colour with a heady nose of plum and nutmeg. At 15% abv it was seriously punchy – the wine’s pronounced dessert wine-like body with rich red fruit and extremely soft tannins was a treat. Really enjoyed trying this, and a big wine in every sense

19/11/2015

2013 Churton “Best End” Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, NZ)

A Kiwi SB that gets the oak treatment, designed for longer living. Still that trademark herbaceous grassy, green pepper character on the nose, but in addition to subtle vanilla, it had a lovely seam of flinty minerality running through it, and a long finish of pure passion fruit. Shades of top quality Sancerre here – and will definitely improve – really classy stuff

18/11/2015

1996 Chateau Montrose (St Estephe, Bordeaux)

A treat at the Hong Kong Club. Nose somewhat closed and reluctant, fruit not immediately noticeable – mostly graphite and leather. Lovely balance on the palate, and that fruit made an appearance in the form of mild blackcurrant and plum. A touch of sweet spice on the finish, 5-10 seconds in length

15/11/2015

2014 Dr. L Riesling (Mosel, Germany)

Like an old friend. We started drinking this wine in London 10+ years ago. 8.5% abv. Made in an off-dry style, it is pale lemon-green with a pronounced nose of petrol and green fruit. On the palate, with its high acid, it was just like biting into a fresh Granny Smith…

2010 Domaine Francois Cotat, Les Culs de Beaujeu, Sancerre (Loire)

This one’s been developing nicely since we opened the first bottle a few years ago. Golden appearance, citrus on the nose but that old oak nicely integrated now. Got that marked French soil-led funkiness to it. Reasonable weight on the body now but acidity still refreshing – great match for the goat’s cheese we drank it with

2012 Giovanni Rosso Langhe Nebbiolo (Piedmont, Italy)

Outside the shackles of Barolo, this early-drinking style of Piedmont’s famous black grape is more like a New World Pinot: red fruit-led, very soft (almost unrecognisable) tannins and with a hint of sweet spice from what little oak this wine did get. An excellent medium-bodied Summer red, providing a nice partner to some good ol’ Parma ham