ASIAN WINE REVIEW 2018 LAUNCH, HONG KONG 10 March, 2018

 

Asia Wine Review 2018

 

I was in Hong Kong for the launch of the 2018 edition of Eddie McDougall's Asian Wine Review, the third edition of this powerful communication instrument for the Asian wine industry.  And prior to the launch, I presented a Master Class on Asian wine with Eddie.

 

Asia Wine Review

 

For this edition of AWR the judging Panels, one of which I chair, reviewed wines from wineries in 10 countries across Asia.  For this initiative, we use the broader geographic definition of Asia, extending west through 'The Stans' and all the way to Caucasia.

 

In the first two editions of Asian Wine Review the Winery of the Year was a member of the Asian Wine Producers Association - Chateau Mercian (Japan) in 2016 and Hatten Wines (Bali, Indonesia) in 2017. The Winery of the Year for the 2018 edition is also an AWPA member winery - Grover/Zampa (India). And what a performance: they won Best Rose with their Art Collection 2017 Rose, and Gold for their Soirée Brut Chenin Blanc 2015 and Vijay Armritaj Reserve Collection Red 2017, Silver for their 2017 Art Collection Sauvignon Blanc and Bronze for their La Reserve Blanc 2016 and Vijay Armritaj Reserve Collection 2016 White. 

 

Hatten won Gold for their Pino de Bali NV fortified dessert wine.  Chateau Mercian won Gold for their Kikyogahara Merlot 2013.  They also won seven Silver medals and two Bronze medals.  The Mercian wines were presented in a Master Class by Mr Katsuhisa Fujino the day before the Awards Dinner.

 

AWPA member wineries accounted for five of The Top 12 wines in the show.  Sapporo's Grand Polaire was also a standout, with two Koshus in the Top 12.  Also in the Top 12 were three wines from China - Best Sweet from Xingjiang Silk Road Manor Winery and Gold for Li's Vineyard Family Collection Cabernet Sauvignon and Its Shiraz.  Best Sparkling was from Georgia, Badagoni Brut 2015, and Best Red was Israel's Barkan Winery's Superieur Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.  They were all poured for participants at the dinner that followed the presentation of the Awards.

 

Asia Wine Review 2018

 

 

AWPA MEMBERS’ TOUR OF THAILAND, 16th – 19th January, 2018

 

 

One of the best opportunities for members of the Asian Wine Producers Association to meet and share their knowledge and experience has been the annual Members’ Tour.  Last year it was in India and, this year, it was Thailand.  I have been part of both, in my management role for the AWPA.

 

Each year the Thai Wine Association conducts an inspection of member wineries and vineyards and this year representatives of AWPA member wineries were invited to join the tour, as the annual Members’ Tour, in the 3rd week of January (16th – 19th).

It was a great success, opening up for the visitors the practicalities of grape growing and winemaking in Thailand and providing the opportunity for participants to see the results in the glass – and all were impressed. 

 

It took place, over 4 days, in the two major producing regions – Khao Yai and Pattaya.  The tour started in Khao Yai, about a two and a half hour drive from Bangkok and the base for four of the five members of the TWA.  GranMonte was the first winery visited, followed by J&J Vineyard, which is managed by GranMonte. Then we went to Village Farm’s Khao Kaew Vineyard and finished up at their Chateau des Brumes winery and resort.  The second day began at Moonlight Valley Vineyard in nearby Kabinburi before the long drive to Pattaya (180km) for the inspection of the Silverlake Vineyard and Winery. 

 

 

HONG KONG Wine & Spirits Fair, 9 – 11 November 2017

 

For the third year, we had the Asian Wine Producers Association booth at the Fair, this year with seven Member wineries showing their wines on the booth -  from India, Grover/Zampa, from Thailand, GranMonte and Silverlake, from Bali (Hatten) and from Japan, Chateau Mercian, Hokkaido Wines and Tsuno Wines.

 

The awards were also presented for the HK International Wine & Spirits Competition and Member wineries did exceptionally well.   GranMonte won three Trophies, Chateau Mercian won two Trophies and Hatten and Hokkaido Wines also each won a Trophy. 

 

 

SHANDONG, CHINA, November 2017

 

I always find my visits to Shandong interesting and informative – more so in recent years.

 

My very first trip was in the early 1980s when I visited Chateau Changyu, China’s first European-inspired winery, established in 1892 at Yantai and working with classic European grape varieties ever since then.  The first varieties introduced included Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Gernischt (now known to be almost the same in DNA terms as Carmenere), Syrah (but it subsequently disappeared) and  Riesling.  Other varieties have been introduced over subsequent decades and Changyu, China’s largest wine producer, now also has large areas of vineyards in other provinces in China – Hebei, Shanxi, Ningxia, Xingjiang and Liaoning.  It now says its total vineyard area is 22,722 hectares.  It also has operations outside China – in France, Spain, Chile and, since December, an 80% stake in Kilikanoon Winery in Australia’s Clare Valley. 

 

Chateau Changyu was my first call on this visit, arranged by my long-standing friend and great source of industry information, Jim Sun (founder of Wine China, the powerfully respected online information medium).  And I was travelling this time with my good friend, Richard Lu.  It is the fifth time I have visited Chateau Changyu and I’m always fascinated by the changes.  No doubt there will be many more in the years to come. I was also able to update on another one of the exciting established Shandong producers, Weilong (Grand Dragon).

 

Frankly, when you drive around this region it is hard to imagine it being a natural choice for viticulture and winemaking.  There are vast flat valleys, occasional peaks, but little protection from the severe coastal climate, on the North-west corner of the Shandong Peninsula adjoining the Bohai Gulf, which brings in the tail end of monsoons with intense rainfall and humidity during the growing season and an intense cold in the winter that requires vine covering.  But it has long been the wine industry headquarters in China and, despite the broadening national geographical perspective taken up by most of the big Shandong wineries, there has been quite stunning expansion of the industry in Shandong itself over the past 15 or so years. 

 

The new frontier is in the Penglai sub-region in the Yantai Local Government area.  And, on this visit, I was able to get a good update - driving around the sub-region extensively and having informative visits and tastings at three of the respected new ventures – Chateau Junding, Sheng Tang and Taila.

 

HONG KONG Wine & Dine Festival, 26 – 29 October 2017

 

If anyone needs any proof about the amazing wine phenomenon that is gaining further momentum each year in Hong Kong, they should visit the annual Wine & Dine Festival.  It is now in its 9th year and, this year, attracted 140,000 visitors to the 400+ booths out in the open around the Central Harbourfront Event Space, over four days: 300 of them were for wine, 100 were for food or spirits, representing 20 countries.

 

The burgeoning wine culture got a very substantial boost in 2008 when the import duties and taxes on wine were removed, to encourage wine producers to use Hong Kong as a wine hub for Asia.  Wine events are being strongly backed by government agencies (principally the Hong Kong Tourism Board in this case), but also are receiving very strong support from the corporate sector (including Cathay Pacific and the China Construction Bank).  An indication of the broad global wine sector commitment to the Hong Kong market is that the Riedel Glass company was there this year with a big ‘Tasting Theatre’ and very extensive tasting program -  on each of the four days. A newcomer was the Robert Parker Wine Advocate, with a very large pavillion offering a broad selection of premium wines for guided tasting. 

 

ASIAN WINE REVIEW 2018 – Judges Tasting, 27 October 2017

 

Eddie McDougall’s innovative project to raise the profile of Asian wines in domestic markets in Asia and internationally is entering its third year when the 2018 edition is released in early February.  It is now published in three languages – English, Chinese and Japanese – and is also available on the Flying Winemaker website: https://flyingwinemaker.com.hk/asian-wine-review/download/.

We did the judging this year in Hong Kong on 27 October and I was a Panel Chair again. 

 

There were 211 entries, from nine countries in Asia.   The highest number of entries were from China (56), Japan (56) and India (36).  The finalists were re-tasted for best/trophy and the winners per category were: Sparkling = 3, White = 6, Rosè = 2, Red = 7, Sweet = 3.

 

DAEJEON SOUTH KOREA - Asia Wine Trophy Competition, Asia Wine Buyers Conference and Daejeon Wine & Spirits Fair,  27 August – 3 September 2017

 

Asia Wine Trophy 2017

 

The Asia Wine Trophy Competition

 

This is the 5th year that the Asia Wine Trophy Competition has been held in Daejeon, South Korea.  And it was my third time chairing a panel of judges. 

 

It is, basically, a re-run of the Berlin wine trophy – assessing the entered wines for Asian palates.  There were 3,930 entries this year, the highest so far, from 13 countries.  They were assessed by 125 judges from 23 countries, most of them from Asia. 

 

The Competition is jointly managed by Deutsche Wein Marketing (DWM) and Daejeon International Marketing Enterprise (DIME), with the judging process being under the control of the Organisation International de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV) and the Union Internationale des Oenologues (UIOE).  It is the largest wine competition in Asia.

 

Asia Wine Buyers Conference

 

The Asia Wine Buyers Conference runs parallel with the judging and covers a broad range of industry subjects presented by industry experts from around the globe.

 

This year, I was invited to conduct a Master Class on “Asian Wine in a Global Context”.  It consisted of an overview of wine making evolution in Asia and the expanding market for wine in the region.  I demonstrated the broad range of grape varieties and wine styles from Asian wine producers with a selection of wines from AWPA Member wineries from India, Thailand, Japan and Korea presented for tasting.

 

The attendance was almost to the capacity of the conference room and the feedback from participants was very positive, with many questions and requests for additional information.

 

Daejeon Wine & Spirits Fair

 

This is one of the biggest wine trade fairs in Asia with participation, this year, by 137 exhibitors, from 16 countries.  There were more than 71,000 visitors to the fair this year.

 

We had a booth for AWPA member wineries, for the third consecutive year, with a rising number of visitors to the booth - 986 visitors over the two trade days. The wines we presented were from the following members – with each member providing three different wines to demonstrate the varietal and style diversity:

  • GranMonte (Thailand)
  • Silverlake (Thailand)
  • Village Farm (Thailand)
  • Chateau Mercian (Japan)
  • Grand Coteau (South Korea)
  • Grover/Zampa (India)

Asia Wine Trophy 2017Asia Wine Trophy 2017

 

 

 

JAPAN Wine Competition, Kofu, Yamanashi, 27-28 July 2017

 

 

The 2017 JWC was my 13th time to be judging in the 14 years this Competition has been running.

 

All entries are domestic wines – 726 this year, 32 more than 2016 - and I was, once again, very impressed with both the quality and the uniqueness of the wines submitted.  It is a very well organised and smoothly executed tasting event and the very professional approach leaves the judges totally free to concentrate on judging.

 

I was judging the Hybrid Red category again this year – 116 entries, 16 more than last year. I also judged the Blended Red category (12 entries) and Labrusca Red (9 entries).

 

I have been following the progress of Japanese wine since the early 1980s and have seen massive changes - both in the progressive advancement of quality and the evolution of unique local styles.  And, each year at the JWC, I am able to see more progress on each of these fronts that will earn both international respect and growing international sales for local wineries. 

 

The local vinifera grape, Koshu, is the stand-out, so far, but Muscat Bailey A (a locally developed hybrid of the vinifera variety Muscat Hamburg and a Labrusca hybrid, Bailey) is not far behind, and is gaining ground rapidly.  This year there were 62 entries where MBA was the sole variety, and 40 entries where MBA was the main variety in blends.  The wines are progressively becoming more impressive in terms of style statements – ranging from rosé, through to medium-weight Beaujolais-style and to full-bodied reds (either from old MBA vines or with darker varieties blended in).  The blending roles played by other local hybrids, especially Kai Noir and Black Queen, are very interesting and there are more blends emerging with the local wild mountain grape (Yamabudo) and Yamabudo hybrids.

 

I am always fascinated by the development of the Yamabudo category and, especially, to see the number of varieties in this category growing.  This year there were only three pure Yamabudo, but seven Yamasauvignon (and another three in blends), two Shokoshi (and one in a blend), and one Kita no Yume.  Other Yamabudo-based hybrids (in blends) were Hokujun, Yamasachi, Himalaya, Fuji no Yume and Furano No.2.

 

 

Chateau Mercian Winery 

 

 

A highlight for me each year is that, after the judging, I am invited to have a personal presentation and tasting of the Château Mercian wines. 

 

A main feature of the Mercian range is the Koshu line-up - the two wonderful Koshu Kiirokas (very fresh and natural versions with minimum chaptalization and no oak), the Cuvee Tanzawa, the Iwasaki, the Gris de Gris and the Barrel Fermentation.  All of the Château Mercian Koshu is grown in Yamanashi Prefecture. 

 

The other wines in the range from Yamanashi fruit include a sparkling Muscat Bailey A (Nihon no Awa Hosaka) as well as two full-bodied Muscat Bailey A reds.  And, in the top classic range, the Château Mercian Jyonohira red wine.

 

Nagano Prefecture is the other major producing region for Chateau Mercian and, from this region, there are several standouts.  One is the exceptional quality Chardonnay range - seven of them are from Nagano vineyards and there is also one from Fukushima Prefecture Niitsuru vineyard.   My long-time favourite is the Unwooded Hokushin Chardonnay.  To this has been added two outstanding wooded/sur lie Hokushin Chardonnays – the Rive Gauche and the Rive Droit, both very serious interpretations of the classic style. 

 

The other Nagano standout is the single vineyard wines from the relatively new Mariko vineyard.  There is an elegant Sauvignon Blanc, very much in the Bordeaux tradition, with very appealing minerality tones, rather than floral tones.  And a stunning Syrah with white pepper aromas which immediately bring the Rhone Valley’s St Joseph to mind.  There is also a Mariko Merlot as well as a very impressive blend of Merlot (42%), Cabernet Franc (40%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (18%), called OMNIS.

 

But, when it comes to Merlot, the classic of the Mercian Nagano range has always been the Kikyogahara Merlot, very much in the Bordeaux Right Bank tradition.  The 2015 (not yet released) impresses in this way, and will be even better with lots of bottle age.  By contrast, the Mariko wines are very approachable now.

 

We also tasted two wines from Akita Prefecture – a Riesling and a Kerner – and a method traditionale sparkling wine, blending Fukushima and Nagano Chardonnay (52%) with  Yamanashi Koshu (48%).

 

 

Marufuji Rubaiyat Winery

 

 

One of the very first wineries I ever visited in Japan was the Marufuji Rubaiyat winery in Yamanashi.  I’ve visited several times since then, and have frequently tasted the wines elsewhere.  So it was a wonderful way to wind up my visit to Yamanashi this time with a couple of hours at Marufuji Rubaiyat in the company of my long-standing friend, Omura-san (on the left in the photo), the current generation family member who has been running this historical winery (originating in 1890) for the past couple of decades.

 

I was very impressed by the 2015 Koshu Sur Lie - and was most appreciative of Omura-san for also opening the 2004 to show how it ages.  On the 2015 I actually detected some aromas of kiwi fruit and the palate is very clean and fresh with great length and palate expression.  The 2004 was slightly oxidised and showing its age, but impressive nevertheless.  The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc was also a standout for me, with really appealing mineral aromas and crisp and fresh flavours. 

 

All of the red wines were wonderful.  I was particularly impressed by the MBA - such a rich and complex aroma and flavour structure for this gentle variety.  It is one of the very best wines of this variety that I have tasted.  And the Domaine Rubaiyat is a great combination of varieties to present a surprisingly rich and long palate complexity - which I am sure will benefit from 10 years of bottle age. I felt the same way about the Merlot Prestige - a gentle early palate impression, then a very firm and clean finish with lots of expression. 

 

The Manriki Rouge is another great mix of varieties -  with Tannat (this winery is one of only two in Japan working with Tannat) adding a lot to the palate structure that is difficult to get with Merlot alone.  We didn’t taste the Petit Verdot at the winery, but I was tasting it at the JWC and I am always amazed at how well this winery handles this "little green" grape for a rich and elegant palate outcome.

 

 

Hokkaido Wine Academy Conference, 8 June 2017

 

 

I was in Sapporo to deliver the keynote address to the Academy’s Conference, providing an overview and update of the wine sector in Asia and putting Japan (the region’s second largest producing nation), and specifically Hokkaido, in context.

 

This visit provided me with the opportunity to update on the really outstanding progress of the industry in this rather unlikely environment – with extreme cold climate, along the lines of Western China.  My previous visit had been in 2013.

 

In 2000, there were just eight wineries in Hokkaido – now there are 33.  The largest producer in Hokkaido, Hokkaido Wine, is now the largest wine producer in Japan.  In contrast to the rest of Japan, it has very large scale viticulture – owning and operating about 150 ha as well as drawing on about 40 contract grape growers.  A large scale vineyard on the main island, Honshu, is about 10 ha.

 

There has been tremendous progress beyond the original operations essentially based on Labrusca and indigenous (Yamabudo) varieties and hybrids.  Now, in addition to widespread plantings of Kerner, Pinot Blanc, Muller Thurgau, Bacchus, Gewürztraminer, Zweilgeltrebe, Lemberger and Seibel, there has been great progress recently with exotic varieties like Regent (Muller Thurgau x Sylvaner x Chambourcin) and Rondo (Saperavi x St Laurent), now producing very attractive wines.

 

 

 

Asian Wine in Hong Kong, 18-19 April 2017

 

I was in Hong Kong in April for the launch of Eddie McDougal’s 2017 edition of Asian Wine Review, the annual publication that is rapidly building power as an active instrument to raise the profile of Asian wines – building awareness and confidence among consumers within the region and attracting global attention.  I was again participating in the judging, last November.

 

It was also for the launch of the Asian Wine Festival, which Eddie intends will be an annual event.  There were over 60 Asian wineries participating, from countries including Japan, China, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Myanmar. I was managing the Asian Wine Producers Association Booth presenting for tasting each of the wines that had been entered by AWPA members in the Asian Wine Review judging process (see report below).  There were over 300 attendees at the Festival - from the wine sector and the media, as well as consumers.

 

The 2nd edition of Asian Wine Review (2017) saw entries almost trebling, to total 299 wines, from over 100 Asian wineries.  Published in three languages – English, Chinese and Japanese – it covers 215 pages.  There were 30,000 copies produced in hard copy and there is unlimited access to on-line copies free of cost.  In addition to featuring awarded wines, the book contains a section about Asian viticulture, including a presentation on Japan’s unique grape varieties, which I wrote for this edition.

 

This professional exposure of winemakers in Asia has increased dramatically the number of Asian wine brands being listed in importer’s and wholesaler’s portfolios, which in turn has inspired the procurement for the on and off trade sectors.

 

More on the Asian Wine Festival can be found here by clicking this link

 

More on the Asian Wine Review intiative can be found here by clicking this link

 

 

Asian Wine Review 2017 Launch

 

 

The inaugural edition of this very important publication, presenting a full and formal evaluation of a broad range of Asian wines to inform local and international buyers, was released in 2016.  It was the initiative of a very open minded and adventurous Hong Kong-based winemaker and wine communicator, Eddie McDougall, with inputs from other wine industry personalities – including myself.

 

In November 2016, Eddie gathered together an impressive panel of wine experts to judge a vastly expanded range of entries (over 200 wines, from nine countries) to present in the 2017 edition – which has just been launched early this month.

 

I was honoured to be asked by Eddie to chair a judging panel.  I was also very pleased to be able to contribute to the glossary of Asian grape varieties included in this edition and a separate chapter on the unique grape varieties of Japan that are emerging as a new style frontier.

 

You can download a digital copy of AWR 2017 here:

 

https://online.flippingbook.com/view/881939/

 

You can see the promotional launch video here:

 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRI8ls2TaPw

 

 

Asian Wine Producers Association tour of Indian wineries, 23-26 January 2017

 

 

We launched AWPA in 2014 and we are progressively adding new members, expanding the country coverage and increasing the number of events aimed at expanding the dialogue between member wineries and building international recognition and respect for the achievements of the wine industry in Asia.  After several years working with some respected leaders in the industry in Asia to establish the Association, my ongoing role is as a Member of the Executive Committee and as its (honorary) Manager, responsible for day to day activities.

 

The objective of the tour was to provide an opportunity for members to spend some time together and to inspect first-hand the vineyards and wineries of the AWPA’s three Indian members – Grover/Zampa Vineyards, Sula Wines and York Winery.  For this purpose we were also joined by the founder of the Wine Explorers concept (http://www.wine-explorers.net/), Jean-Baptiste Ancelot, so that he could see first-hand some of the exciting developments in India, before progressing on to Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam (for his reports, see: https://www.facebook.com/WineExplorers)

 

The tour started in Nashik, about a four hour drive (if you are lucky) from Mumbai (Maharashtra State) and the home to by far the largest part of the Indian wine industry.  It was the sixth visit for me, over a period of 20 years.  And it is amazing to see both the huge growth in scale of the vineyards and wineries and the massive advances in wine quality over this period - as well as the impressive sophistication in the cellar door experience that is now being offered to visitors.  This is certainly the case with the three member wineries and we were able to see and test this fist hand on the tour.  There are over 70 wineries in Maharashtra State now - mostly around Nashik, but also around Pune.

 

The second stage of the tour was in and around the vineyards and wineries of Grover/Zampa, about two hours from Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka State.  Grover was one of the pioneer Indian wineries and the very first in Karnataka State, established in the late 1980s.  There are now 17 winemaking operations, but Grover is by far the largest in the State, and the second largest in India overall.

 

We tasted over 100 wines – right across the spectrum of varieties, style and price points.  The major varieties are still Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, for the whites, and Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. But there is a great deal of experimentation.   Chardonnay and Malbec have been tried extensively, but haven’t impressed.  However, Tempranillo and Viognier, for example, have been doing particularly well and are becoming major varieties in both regions.  Grover is now planting Gamay and Muscat à Petits Grains, confident of them performing well in the Bangalore region.  Sula has had Zinfandel since the outset and, more recently, has experimented with Riesling and Pinot Noir in higher altitude locations, with good results.  They now have 18 varieties planted.

 

 

New Zealand (South Island): 2-7 January 2017

 

In the first week of January 2017 I spent a week in the South Island to update on recent developments, reconnect with some key people in the industry there and to refresh my palate with contemporary style developments in the Waipara and Central Otago regions.

 

I began the program in the Waipara Valley, just North of Christchurch.  And the highlight was, as expected, the regional pioneer, Pegasus Bay winery, established and still operated by the Donaldson family.  They have outstanding Pinot Noir but are also producing outstanding red wines with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  And they are doing great things with Riesling, Gerwertztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc (with Semillon).

  

The other standout winery in the region is Greystone, now also incorporating neighbouring vineyard and winery, Muddy Water.  The whole operation is very nature-driven and Muddy Water is certified organic.  All the Greystone reds are Pinot Noir but Muddy Water also surprises with a light and elegant Pinotage and a Syrah.  I was quite stunned by the Greystone Sauvignon Blanc, by its outstanding quality and a style totally contrasting to the benchmark Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough and other northern regions.  Part of the standout characteristics would have come from the barrel fermentation with wild yeast, and partial malolactic fermentation, but there are also distinct terroir characteristics imparting a distinct minerality in contrast to the floral style of northern region Sauvignon Blancs. 

 

Then I drove south towards Queenstown - one of the best drives you could imagine.  And one place along the way that is a ‘must’ to see is Chard Farm winery and cellar door, near Gibbston, about 20 minutes north of Queenstown.  You can’t help being stunned by the vineyards on precipitous hillsides across the Kawarau River from the Gibbston Highway and the drive across the River and along the waterway to see them up close is a great experience – and the wines are good too.  Another call well worth making in this location is Gibbston Valley winery and restaurant - very good Pinot Noir, and a standout Pinot Gris.

 

On this visit I particularly wanted to include some of the wineries whose wines have been standing out in Winestate reviews, particularly those less well known in Australia and other export markets.

 

Among the better known wineries I called on were Mt Difficulty, Felton Road and Akarua.  As expected, the wines were excellent, and their reputations are well deserved.  Others I called on were Aurum, Misha’s Vineyard, Domain Road and Bannock Brae.

 

Pinot is the core of their portfolios and identity, as it is for the region overall, but there are interesting new directions as well - mostly with white wines.   Riesling is the main focus, along with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  And I found a few surprises – a Gruner Vetliner at Bannock Brae and a Gewertzraminer at Misha’s.  Another new direction that was good to see was an obvious re-focus on Pinot Noir for Rosé.

 

One thing that really did standout to me during all the tastings was what I saw as a surprising reliance on residual sugar – surprising because of slow ripening and low Brix and also surprising because of the level of residual sugar, as high as 9 gpl in wines not specifically declared as sweet; in sweet wines as high as 30 gpl and dessert wines as high as 95gpl.  I would and dessert wines as high as 60 guess that this is consumer driven – but in many cases it seems to be an overreaction to the high natural acidity levels.

 

Among the wines that particularly stood out for me were the following:

 

SAUVIGNON BLANC

Mt Difficulty 2015 Bannockburn: powerful varietal statement at the minerality end of the spectrum

 

Domain Road 2014: almost leathery on the nose (25% oakfermentation), with crisp minerality on the palate, lots of flavour expression, a very different style interpretation

 

PINOT NOIR

Bannock Brae 2014 Barrel Selection: Excellent cherry fruit aromas, palate complexity, layers of expression, great length

 

Felton Road 2015 Bannockburn: Classic, elegant, seamless, with a big regional statement

 

Mt Difficulty 2014 Bannockburn: dark berry fruit aromas an palate length, very dry

 

Akarua 2014 Bannockburn: Earthy, spicy, well balanced, good length

 

Gibbston Valley 2015: Complex fruit and herb aromas, firm structure and good varietal expression

 

Aurum 2015 Organic: Raspberry jam on toast!  Great expression of fruit and terroir

 

Domain Road 2012: very interesting version, lots of forest floor aromas, powerful pallet expression, with layers and length, one to age

 

OTHER VARIETIES

Aurum 2014 Pinot Gris: Very fruit driven, grey smoke aroma, but no oak, 7gpl, but not a problem

 

Aurum 2014 Organic Pinot Gris Rosé: powerful fruit expression, got better over three days in the open bottle

 

Domain Road 2014 Water Race Riesling: very citrusy, tinge of kero, crisp finish, even with 5gpl

 

Bannock Brae 2015 Chardonnay: 10% new oak giving pleasant vanilla tinge over very rich white peach fruit, great expression

 

Pegasus Bay 2013 Merlot Cabernet (Sauvignon and Franc): from small yields of carefully ripened fruit with a distinct Bordeaux expression, very subtle and very elegant

 

Pegasus Bay 2014 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon:  Bordeaux again, very much so, made with natural fermentation and indigenous yeast, giving a unique style expression

 

Greystone 2015 Sauvignon Blanc: all barrel ferment, wild yeast, partial malo – very different, very elegant and minerality rather that floral

 

Muddy Water Pinotage: a real surprise to find this, showing restrained cool climate characteristics, rather than the full bodied South African versions, very attractive experiment.

 

 

Hong Kong Wine & Spirits Fair, November 2016

 

Hong Kong Wine and Spirits FairHong Kong Wine and Spirits Fair

 

This year was the third formal presence for the Asian Wine Producers Association at the Hong Kong Wine & Spirits Fair.  In addition to the general promotion of the AWPA and its activities on behalf of members, seven of our member wineries were showing their wines at the booth.  These were Chateau Mercian (Japan), GranMonte, and Silverlake (Thailand), Grover/Zampa and York (India) and Hatten and Sabbabay (Bali).  There was a constant stream of visitors to the booth, including many big names in the broader global wine community anxious to know more about the industry in Asia and its achievements. 

 

 

Asian Wine Review Booklet 2017

 

 

Eddie McDougall's inaugural edition of Asian Wine Review in 2016 (www.asianwinereview.com) has proven a very effective tool for the wine industry in Asia to become better understood in the marketplace, both within Asian markets and internationally.  This has built on the work Eddie did in his outstanding TV series on wine in Asia.

 

In Hong Kong on 9 November 2017 I judged with the team that Eddie brought together to review wines for the 2017 edition of Asian Wine Review.  Underlining the success of the inaugural edition 350 wines were submitted by 120 Asian wineries for assessment for the 2017 edition.  It was a great line-up, with many entries matching the highest world class standards and a many setting new standards for quality styles from varieties that are made from either local vine species or long-ago introduced European or North American varieties. 

 

The 2017 edition will be released in March and it will appear in three languages  English, Chinese and Japanese.  Great work, Eddie!

 

 

Judging at Asia Wine Trophy Competition - October, 2016

 

The 4th Asia Wine Trophy Competition was held at Daejeon, South Korea, from 24 to 27 October.  I judged last year, and was judging again this year. 

 

The Competition is held to coincide with two other high profile Asian wine events also being held in Daejeon:

  • The International Wine & Spirits Fair (28 to 30 October), at which I was representing the Asia Wine Producers Association, and
  • The Asia Wine Buyers Conference (26 to 30 October).

These events are managed by Deutsche Wein-Marketing (GmbH), which conducts the world's biggest wine competition each year, in Berlin.  The Daejeon program is now the sister-event of the Berlin competition. Both events are officially supported by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and the Union Internationale des Oenologues (UIOE).

 

In the Asian Wine Trophy competition there were 3,869 entries, from 30 countries. The judging was carried out by a total of 130 judges, from 23 countries, working on 20 panels.  Over half of the judges were drawn from eight countries in Asia, mostly from Korea.

 

Daejeon Fair

 

Grand Tasting for Wine Australia - Seoul and Tokyo, September, 2016

 

I will be presenting the Grand Tasting in both cities for Wine Australia – in Seoul on 6 September and Tokyo on 8 September.  We have decided to do something different – presenting and demonstrating a theme that most people in the northern hemisphere are surprised by: “Australia – A Continent of Shiraz”.  

 

Australia is the only country that is also a Continent – actually bigger than Western Europe.  So you could expect, with all the geographic and climate diversity, a range of distinctive styles with a single variety planted all the way across the continent.  So I am presenting nine wines for tasting, with three themes:

 

  1. We are not the “New World” when it comes to wine – we are the “Old World”.  To show this I will be presenting an 1847     vines Shiraz from Schild Estate in the Barossa Valley, an 1860s vines Shiraz from Tahbilk in Victoria, and a Shiraz from  Tyrrells in the Hunter Valley including grapes from vines planted in 1867.

         2. A Continental style spectrum – demonstrating the difference with Shiraz wines from New England and Orange

             (northern and central NSW), Heathcote (Victoria) and Great Southern (Western Australia).

 

         3. The world is impressed with the potential of this variety in Australia – showing wines from M. Chapoutier (Pyrenees,   

             Victoria) and Kendall Jackson (McLaren Vale, South Australia).

 

It pleasantly surprised the tasters, with lots of questions being asked.  It also got surprisingly extensive and detailed media coverage in both countries.

 

 

Japan Wine Competition - July, 2016

 

Japan Wine Competition

 

I was very pleased to be judging again at the JWC, at which I have been privileged to have been a judge for every year, except one, since the very first event in 2003.

 

For me it is a great opportunity to update on what is happening in the wine industry in Japan.  The fact is that what is happening in Japan is quite different to the traditional wine producing countries, a big range of climate and soil factors from the very cold far North to the semi-tropical far South.  Naturally, this produces wines that are different to the conventional Western styles, and this difference is taken to another level altogether with the unique varieties that have been developed in Japan and are now more widely used in viticulture and wine production.

 

I was really pleased to be judging the hybrid category and blends again.  It is a real adventure for me. 

 

My Impression of the Submitted Wines, by Category

 

A: Hybrid and Other Red

 

I have been watching this category develop for over 20 years now, and judging this category at the JWC has provided me with the opportunity to understand it much more comprehensively.

 

There has been great progress in style development over this time, especially with Muscat Bailey A, now the most widely planted hybrid, with the potential, I believe, to do for Japanese red wine what Koshu has done with white wine.  There is a very diverse style profile ? from very lightly coloured and light body rose styles, some slightly sweet, all the way through to very deep coloured, very dry, extractive wines with extensive oak fermentation and maturation. 

 

Black Queen and Kai Noir are very interesting blending options, particularly with Muscat Bailey A, giving more depth and expression to the palate.  And I was very pleased to see a lot more entries this year of Yamabudo (wild mountain grape) hybrids, as stand-alone varieties and in blends.  Almost 20 entries had some yamabudo component. Yama Sauvignon (a cross with Cabernet Sauvignon) I find a very exciting variety giving a unique character to Japanese wines that will eventually attract international attention. 

 

B: Blended Red Wines

 

I was interested to note this year the positive impact of classic varieties - especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot - in blended red wines, both in this category and in the Hybrid and Other Red category.  Cabernet gives a really good structural boost to the lighter-style Muscat Bailey A, providing a firmer palate finish, particularly.  The Merlot gives a softer and more gentle fruit characteristic in some of the blends, especially with varieties like Kai Noir and Black Queen that can be a bit severe as single variety wines

 

C: Labrusca Red Wines

 

I was particularly impressed with the Campbell Early entries this year.  It is a variety that I think makes very good lighter-style wines with a very appealing aroma that consumers really enjoy.   It was the only labrusca variety that made it through from the primary evaluation round to the final assessment in this category.  It is good to see the number of entries of this variety growing and the standard improving also - though I personally think drier versions of Campbell Early are more attractive than semi-sweet.

 

D: Extremely Sweet Wines

 

Frankly, I think that there is an over-reliance on added sugar this category - not just this year, but each year that I have judged this category.  Where the added sugar is excessive, the only fruit impression is on the aroma.  Then it disappoints when the fruit flavour is eliminated on the palate by the rich syrup characteristic that comes from excessive added sugar.   The Kerner entries had good aromas but that did not follow through to the palate.  The one entry that really appealed to my palate was a Steuben, which finally was marked up to gold in the final round.   In this category you expect to find wines that have intensely concentrated fruit characteristics, either from botrytis or from grapes semi-dried on the vines.  This was not the case with these entries, though the Steuben did have some vine-dried fruit characteristics. 

 

 

UPDATING ON CHILE, January, 2016

 

On my very first visit to Chile, in 1981, I was taken to a couple of vineyards and had some tastings.  I confess I was not impressed with what was then on offer to the locals but I could see that if new world technical advances were bought to this country it had the potential to make an impression on the wine world, given the positive climatic and soil environment for viticulture.  And, wow, didnt that happen quickly!

 

I made three discoveries on that first visit.  One was a variety called Pais, widely grown because of the high yields the vines produced and thus the main resource for the very ordinary, very low priced wines that were then the staple.  Another was a variety that was regarded as, perhaps, some clone of Merlot and subsequently became known as Carmenere.  And the third was a white grape variety called Sauvignon Gris.  There were tiny plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but these three varieties were the base resource of the industry at that time.

 

Well, Carmenere is now the signature variety for Chile and is very popular at home and abroad.  Pais is still grown, in fact is Chille's second most planted varierty, but ends up predominantly as a blending factor for low-priced commercial red wines.  It is still very difficult to find as a stand-alone varietal in wine shops and is even rarer in restaurants.  But, at the stunning Barrica 94 wine bar and restaurant in the trendy Bellavista suburb, I was shown an outstanding example of Pais by the head wine man, Alberto Bitran.  It was Gonzales Bastine Pais en Tinja, from Maule region.  It was really appealing in a gentle Beaujolais-style.  This is one variety to look out for in the future and it could emerge sooner than most expect.  Leading producer, Concha y Toro, has establisheda US$5 million reseach Centre in the Maule Valley, which opened last year and, of the 54 research projects underway, a major focus has been on the Pais variety (known as Mission, in California and Criolla, in Agentina).

 

I was able to find more of the Sauvignon Gris.  It is certainly different to Sauvignon Blanc - with a broader spectrum of aroma run flavours, a richer texture and more length on the palate.  The one that stood out for me of the several tasted on the visit was a Casa Silva, from Vineyards as old as 1912 at its Angostura Estate in Colchagua.  It's a Special Release, not part of the regular range.

 

And Barrica 94 www.barrica94.cl is definitely the place to go if you want to get a good practical overview of what is going on with wine in Chile now.  It has a massive wine list, right across the spectrum, and also has about 36 wines (changed often) that can be bought either by the glass or as a substantial tasting shot.  The best thing about this is that it can be done in flights of four wines.

 

 

BRAZIL: A New Frontier, December, 2015 - January, 2016

 

Brazil, despite a surging domestic wine sector, remains very much a secret in the international wine community.  Visiting again in December 2015 - January 2016, my seventh visit to Brazil since my first visit in 1982, I had the opportunity to update and was delighted by what I found.

 

Believe it or not, the industry body, Wines of Brazil, reckons there are as many as 1,100 wineries, most of them traditional grape growers with small plantings and small production for local consumption.  But, since the industry began to emerge in modern format from the 1990s, there are now about 150 wineries producing fine wines for national or international markets.  Brazil is now the fifth largest wine producer in the Southern Hemisphere, with as much as 10,000 ha of vitis vinifera vines.

 

For those already in the know, there are fundamentally two wine regions in Brazil working with contemporary styles, at both extremes of this vast nation.  The biggest, by a long way, is Serra Gaucha, in the South East of this vast nation, to which Wines of Brazil attributes nearly 85% of national wine production.  It is not far north of Uruguay.  The other one is in the tropical North East

(9* latitude, 1,000 km from the Equator), at Vale de Sao Francisco, in the State of Bahia.

 

The first phase of the contemporary movement started when some of the premium French Champagne producers set up local operations, attracted by the obvious market for celebration drinks: partying is a major part of Brazil's culture.  Progressively, since then, local producers focused on still table wines have gained momentum and are now tapping away at the corners of global markets, though the principal focus has been the rapidly rising domestic consumption (and ability to pay for quality) since the turn of the century.

 

Inevitably the first step was with the classic French varieties, and principally red varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, essentially.  Standards have progressively risen with these varieties and innovative grape growers and winemakers have set out in other directions - with some very interesting results.

 

One of the first new frontiers was picking up on Uruguay's success with the Tannat variety and Agentina's success with Malbec.  On this trip I was able to sample a fair cross section of both and they are certainly delivering, in a new world way.  More surprising, however, is the emergence of Pinot Noir.  On this visit I was able to taste the offering of four local wineries.  They were pleasant wines, certainly, but may not be picked as Pinot Noir by the Pinotfiles who see Burgundy as the benchmark.

 

An even more surprising find was a wine made from the rare Marselan variety (which is a very recent crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache).  I have only ever seen it before in China, where it is emerging as a good resource for local wine styles.

 

 

Asia Wine Producers Association in Daejeon, South Korea, 3-6 September, 2015

 

After 30 years closely following the progress of the wine industry in Asia I am delighted to be able to be working with leaders in the industry in the region to get their story out to the global audience. 

 

Our first public appearance was at the Hong Kong Wine & Spirits Fair in 2014.  The international Wine & Spirits Fair in Daejeon was our second appearance at a major regional wine event. 

 

A selection of wines from five of the AWPA Foundation Member wineries were presented at the Association's booth at the Daejeon, over four days.  We had over 600 visitors to the AWPA booth across the four days of the Fair.

 

There were thee things that I think, alone, justified the AWPA presence.  One was the consistent enquiry by Koreans tasting the wines about where they could get them in Korea - then disappointment when they were told that they are not yet available in the market.  Some importers were hearing this and it led to serious enquiries about supply lines.  Some people even asked if they could contact th wineries to get bottles sent to them directly, given they couldn't buy them locally.

 

The second theme was the number of international winemakers and exhibitors who kept coming to the stand to taste the wines and noting that they were directed there by other winemakers or buyers who had visited the stand and were both surprised to discover that there was such a thing as Asian wine and then elevated surprise when they could see what high-quality is being achieved.

 

The third was the nunber of representatives from universities and educational institutions visting the booth, both Asian and international, becoming impressed and asking if AWPA could work with them to present this exciting new wine frontier to their students.

 

The next AWPA apperance will be at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Dair in November, 2015.

 

 

 

Asia Wine Trophy Compeition, Daejeon, South Korea 29 August - 1 September, 2015

 

This year I was invited to participate as a jusge in what is being billed as the largest wine competition in Asia's, The Asia Wine Trophy.  It is managed by Deutsche Wein-Marketing (GmbH), which conducts the Berlin Wine Trophy competition each year, and Daejeon International MarketingEnterprise (DIME).  The Daejeon program is the sister-event of the Berlin competition, basically a re-run with an Asian theme.  Both events are officially supported by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and the Union Internationale des Oenologues (UIOE).

 

This year there were 3,920 entries, from 29 countries.  The judging was carried out by a total of 117 judges, from 20 countries.  Over half of the judges were drawn from eight countries in Asia, mostly from Korea.  It was a pleasure to be part of this extraordinarily well run competition.  I was appointed President of one panel and we reviewed some wonderful wines, with great diversity.

 

The particularly strong showing of Chinese entries will help to boost the reputation of wines produced in Asia generally.  The Chinese tally included one Grand Gold medal and 21 Gold medals.

 

 

 

 

Japan Wine Competition 23-24 July, 2015

 

One of the highlights of each year for me is judging at the Japan Wine Competition (all domestically produced wines).  This was the 13th time the competition has been held and my 11th year as a judge.  The total number of entries this year was 752 wines, from 99 domestic wineries.

 

Most of the entries are made from classic vitis vinifera varieties but, for me, the particularly interesting part is to monitor the style evolutions in Japan's own unique varieties.  The dominant one is the signature white wine varietal, Koshu.  But there has been the outstanding progress with other unique varieties that are setting new standards.  This year I was, again, judging the hybrid varieties: there were 159 entries in this category.

 

Muscat Bailey A is the dominant hybrid in the category.  It is a cross between Muscat Hamburg and Bailey (vitis labrusca), was bred in Japan over 100 years ago but is only recently emerging as a style leader, with the potential to become Japan's signature red wine.  Initially it was appearing mostly as a sweet or semisweet rose but I first saw its potential as an impressive dry red when I tasted the wine from what is believed to the oldest (80 years old) planting of the varierty in Japan (and, therefore, the world): it was at Takeda Vineyard in Yamagata Prefecture.  It had great depth, layers of aroma and flavour and a very firm structure.  We are seeing many more serious style interpretations now but, most commonly, mid-strength food friendly wines in the Beaujolais mode - made with carbonic maceration.  This year was its highest medal count so far - with two gold and 11 silver.

 

I've been keeping a list of the grape varieties that I have discovered in commerically available Japanese wines - both during my judging marathon and from regular visits to local wineries.  My list totals 44 different varieties and 25 of them are hybrids.  Some are very obscure, still, but some are emerging as contemporary candidates to attract global attention.  Among the local hybrids I find most interesting, either as sole varietals or as belnds include:

 

* Reds: Black Queen, Kai Noir, Bailey Alicante

* Whites: Shinano Riesling and Riesling Forte

* Rose: Campbell Early

* Indigenous: Yamabudo, Shokoshi, Himalaya, Kiyomi, Yamasauvignon

 

 

China, May 2015

 

I was in Shanghai in late May to deliver my annual lectures for the World Wine and Spirits MBA.  It was initially the concept of the Bordeaux Management Academy (BME), and launched 15 years ago.  In 2012 BEM and the Marseille Business Management School joined forces to deliver this degree and, since 2013, it has been jointly delivered under the KEDGE Business School banner, in partnership with the University of South Australia, Sonoma State University, Hong Kong Space University, and Wine Intelligence (London).

 

The candidates are senior practitioners from a very wide spectrum of the industry globally.  This year, there where students from 10 countries.  The course is taught entirely in English.  For more information see:  www.kedgebs.com/fr 

 

My role each year is to cover the wine and spirits market in Asia.  The session begins with a regional overview of where wine is positioned in the alcohol sector in Asia and is then followed by a detailed analysis of the market for wine in each country.  There is then a detailed presentation on domestic wine production in Asia overall, then by country.  It wraps up with an overview of the market for spirits in Asia (accounting for almost 60% of global consumption) and the specific domestically produced spirits which dominate the market segment in the region.

 

 

Wine in Thailand - January 2015

 

I will be in Thailand this week for a first hand inspection of local vineyards and wineries with the Thai Wine Association, in the major region, Khao Yai, and in Pattaya.  This is part of the regular process of audits undertaken by the TWA to ensure that member wineries are fully in accord with the Association's charter.  This was a breakthrough for Asia, and has been in operation for more than a decade now.  Thailand was the first country to implement official criteria for anything labelled as Wine of Thailand.  The outstanding thing about this initiative is that the TWA conducts regular audits to ensure compliance: in other Asian countries or regions that have subsequently introduced similar appellation systems compliance is not a strictly regulated.

 

 

Asian Wine Producers Association - November 2014

 

The 6-8 November 2014 saw the historical launch of the AWPA at Asia's main wine event, the HK Wine & Spirits Fair.  This followed two years of preparatory work, in which I have been actively involved, by industry leaders in the region.

 

AWPAdec14.jpg - large

 

 

The AWPA's booth at the fair presented to the international wine community for the first time a cross selection of quality wines from six of the Region's leading wine producers, from four Asian wine producing countries. The wines were also presented to invited guests at a reception on 7 November.

 

The participating wineries are the Foundation Members of the AWPA: GranMonte and Siam Winery (Thailand), Sula and Grover/Zampa (India), Hatten (Bali) and Mercian (Japan).   

 

Media release on the event November 2014 here and follow up December 2014 here

 

More information is available on the Association?s website: www.asianwinesassociation.com

 

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China Update - April 2014

 

Australian wine writer Denis Gastin visited Jiaodong wine regions 

China Wine Online 

Author: Li Lingfeng and Li Rong

 

Famous Australian wine writer Denis Gastin recently came to Yantai and studyed the local wine industry Winechina.com arranged his visits.

 

As an Australian wine writer,Denis is always focusing onAsiamarket.He works as editorial consultant for many wine magazines in different countries.

 

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visit Penglai wineries

 

In 1995 Denis was invited by Jancis Robinson, to contribute to her mega-project: The Oxford Companion to Wine. He has contributed the Asia content. Besides,he was invited to be wine judge in some important wine competitions,like Asia wine competition inYangling,China,Japanwine competition,Korean wine challenge,etc.

 

On June 15th, Denis visited Yantai Yilong Wine Packaging Co., Ltd, a wholly foreign-owned enterprise established inChina by Colombin & Figlio S.p.a. and Yantai Weilong winery.On 16th, Denis accompanied by Jim Sun, visited some wineries in Penglai,including COFCO GreatWall Wine (Yantai) Co,Chateau State Guest,and Chateau Junding.

 

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Chinese fine wines tasting in Best Wine Cellar

 

Jim Sun also arranged Chinese fine wines tasting in Yantai Best Wine Cellar.Denis was surprised with some fine wines quality.There are more world-calss wines in China now.During the talking,he also showed great interest in PUCUI-China Fine Wine Alliance.He thought it's a good way to promotion china fine wine brands.

 

During wine tasting,Denis was greatly impressed by Best wine cellar's food.He tried to find the best pairings.After dinner, Jim Sun gave Denis a bottle of Glen Fengxiang Organic wild grape wine and Silver Heights 2010 as gift.

 

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Part of wine samples

 

Through this trip,Denis not only knew better about Yantai wine industry also reached cooperative consensus with Jim Sun to promote China fine wines in overseas market. His next stop is Seoul,he will attend the yearly Korean wine challenge as judge.

 

Chinese fine wines list for Denis Gastin:
1 Shangri-La A2 Chardonnay Dry White Wine 2011 (Yunnan)
2 Skyline Chardonnay Dry White Wine (Xinjiang )
3 Xixiaking Italian Riesling Dry White Wine (Ningxia)
4 Kunjue Merlot Rose Wine (Shacheng)
5 Glen Fengxiang Organic Red Wine (Ji Lin)
6 Hansen Cabernet Gernischt 2008(Inner Mongolia)
7 Silver Highs Summit 2010(Ningxia)
8 Shengou Jiuzhaihong Merlot Dry Red Wine (Sichuan)
9 Hansen Meslli Red Wine (Inner Mongolia)
10 Zixuan Liquor(Gansu)

 

Original text in Chinese:

(Source: china wine online)

 

 

Wine in India January 2014

 

As I have been reporting in various journals wine is becoming an increasingly fashionable alternative drink - at least in the more outward looking locations in India.  Being in Mumbai and Udaipurfor two weeks over Christmas and New Year presented me a good opportunity to update.

 

In Mumbai, around the corner from the majestic Taj Hotel and the landmark Gateway toIndia at Colaba, is a restaurant called The Table (www.thetable.in).  It opened two years, serving very creative local interpretations of many international dishes, as well as local specialties - served in both Tapas-style and main course offerings.

 

Its broad offering of local and international wines is one of the best I have seen in India.  For example, it's by the glass line-up alone includes six sparkling wines, nine white wines, three rosé wines and 10 red wines. Its bottle list is even more extensive.  Beginning with Champagne and Prosecco, there is a broad cross-section of European wines - from France, Italy and Spain - and representative wines from each of the major new world producing regions - USA, Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand.  The Indian wines come from the industry leader, Sula Wines, as well as Turning Point and the impressive new Italian-inspired entrant to the local wine scene, Fratelli (its Sangiovese is fresh, lively and appealing and sealed with a screwcap).

 

The staff are very attentive and friendly, the ambiance is very fashionable, but also informal and relaxing.  The soothing background music of 1960s jazz and blues adds another pleasing dimension.  And the food is wonderful:.  My favourite dishes are the bone-less chicken wings, the zucchini, spaghetti, and the Kohlrabi Risotto. 

 

A completely different experience was in the Restaurant at Hotel Amet Haveli in Udaipur, Rajasthan.  Sitting on the leafy terrace looking out over Lake Pichola towards the grand palaces of this former capital we enjoyed traditional Indian dishes with a good line up of local and imported wines again, the Fratelli Sangiovese was the standout.

 

Winestate Magazine Cover March/April 2014 here

Winestate Magazine Article March/April 2014 here

 

 

Sommeliers in Seoul October 2012

 

In the early hours (1:30 AM !) of Saturday 13 October a group of Korea's leading sommeliers gathered at the outstanding Vin 114 wine bar and restaurant in Seoul ?s ultra-cool Gangnam district to taste a line up of Australian wines alongside a couple of French benchmarks.

 

It was the idea of Wine Australia's Tokyo-based Hiro Tejima and it topped off a hectic week he and I had in Japan presenting Australian wine workshops for regional branches of the Japan Sommeliers Association.

 

Australia has made a big impression in the global markets in the entry-point and mid-price point categories but its capacity to impress at higher price points and beyond is less well appreciated.  The point of this exercise was to show first-hand the "quality bonus" that drinkers can get with Australian wine at any price point, more so as the price pushes upwards. 

 

There were two categories: Chardonnay and Shiraz.  In the Chardonnay category the highest scored wine in the blind tasting was the Margaret River 2006 Kevin John, from Cullens, clearly outscoring the Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Clavoillon? 2005 (at twice the price).  In theShiraz category the E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d'Ampuis 2007 scored slightly above the Australian entries (at about half the price of the French counterpart).  The evening wound up with a tasting of what is now Australia's most expensive wine: the Parawa Estate Ingalalla Grand Reserve - a creative blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, just 2400 bottles produced from vines in South Australia'sFleurieuPeninsula.

 

 

Santa Rosa October 2012

 

It was another very interesting visit to Santa Rosa' always something new to discover, with Mack and Joan Schwing showing the way.

 

On the wine front, the stand-out was the Family Wineries Co-Op Cellar Door at Healdsburg, which provides six local family wineries with a very creative interface with visiting wine lovers and local wine lovers.  It is the brainchild of film maker Barry Colliers and, along with the wines of the other five participating families, shows Barry's wonderful Zinfandels from his Collier Falls Vineyards.

 

Also sharing The Timber Crest Farms site are four fully operating wineries - Amphora, Kokomo, Papapietro Perry and Peterson.  If visiting you must try to get Fred Peterson to take you through his outstanding 'zero manipulation' ("high touch, low tech") wines - Zinfandel, of course, but also now offering small lots of Sangiovese, Carignan, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah.

 

The food highlight of the visit was the opportunity to dine at Zuzu Restaurant and Farm and enjoy local ingredients craftfully presented by Iron Chef Finalist, Duskie Estes and her husband, John Stewart.

 

Shone Farm, the operational centre of the farming, food and wine department of Santa Rosa Junior College, was another eye-opener.  It now has its own winery, as well as almost 70 acres of vineyard on the 365 acre property.  Mack is the Chair of Foundation that runs Shone Farm.

 

Korean Wine Challenge June 2012

 

The market for wine in South Korea is back on its growth path that was temporarily reversed in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis.  Imports were up by 17% by volume and 6% in value in 2011 and the market has strengthened further in 2012. 

 

I have had the honour to judge at the premier wine event in Korea, the Korean Wine Challenge, every year since it began, in 2005.  At the 8th KWC,  held in June, there were 596 entries, from 14 countries. Chile, which commands almost a quarter of imports in both value and volume terms, had 235 entries (40% of total), underling the strategic value of the Korean market for Chilean producers and the positive acceptance of Chilean wines among Korean consumers. 

 

Australiahad the second highest number of entries (71) - followed byItaly(67) and France (46),- but a stellar performance byEdenValleywinery, Gatt Wines, sawAustraliadominate the medal tally.  Australian entries won 11 of the 36 Gold Medals, and eight of them were won by Gatt Wines.  Australiawon all five Gold Medals awarded toShirazentries, four of them won by Gatt. Chileranked 2nd, overall, with seven Gold, followed byFrancewith four, andItalyandUSAtied with three each.

 

You can learn more about this event and see the complete list of awards on its website:  (http://www.koreawinechallenge.com/eng/about.html).

 

 

At Work in China March 2012

 

For a number of years I have been doing staff and distributor training sessions for one of China's largest distributors, Tohzen Trading, based in Shanghai.  I was at it again in March (See Here)  The objective, as usual, was to put Australia andNew Zealand into the global wine context and to present a range of wines that demonstrate what these countries can represent in a global context.  Once again the responses were encouragingly positive - with lots of comments about the strong fruit characteristics, without the loss of elegance and expression.

 

HONG KONG - EMERGING AS ASIA'S WINE HUB November 2009

 
The first week in November was a big week inHong Kong.  A cluster of high-profile events was pulled together under the patronage of the official Hong Kong Trade Development Council to put substance to Hong Kong's claims to be the emerging 'wine hub' ofAsia.
 
The removal of import duties and the profound simplification of import procedures in 2008 was the first step.  The commitment by the organisers of the International Wine & Spirits Competition to hold an IWSC annually inHong Kong was another big step, matched by the commitment of the HK TDC to reschedule the International Wine & Spirits Trade Fair to coincide with the IWSC in the first week in November.  Around these two events a cluster of 50 special wine-related activities were carried out over the week -- including a Wine Industry Conference andAsia's Top Sommelier Summit.  The trade fair attracted a remarkable 540 exhibitors, from 34 countries - and 25,000 visitors, half of them trade operatives.  On the final count there were 1332 entries for the IWSC - with 32 trophies being awarded for best wine categories and best wine and food matches, and 37 Gold medals, 152 Silver medals and 449 Bronze medals..
 
I was in attendance to lend a hand on the Wine Australia Booth, specifically with theNew South Wales exhibitors.  As part of this I conducted a master class with NSW wines.  At another event I presented an eclectic selection of 18 NSW wines at an exotic Asian food and wine matching challenge - at Bo Innovation Restaurant, with Sydney's Chef of the Year, Sean Connolly, and Hong Kong's 'Dragon Chef', Alvin Leung (see photo).
 
I was also pitching in with the organisers of the IWSC to ensure that there was an appropriate Asian wine focus -- with seasoned Asian palates carrying out the judging and competitive participation byAsia's own wineries - who mustered a total of 68 entries.  I also presented a seminar on The Latest Developments in the Wine in China, Japan, Thailand and India.
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Hong Kong Seminar 2009
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Bo Innovation Event Hong Kong 2009

 

BACK IN SONOMA VALLEY (USA) OCTOBER, 2009
 
I will be spending the last few days of September, 2009 with Mack and Joan Schwing in Santa Rosa (Sonoma Valley).  My last visit was in August, 2003 when Mack and I met up to finalise the 'Landscape Chapter' which kicked off the 1st Edition of the wine business textbook, Wine: A Global Business. 
 
Time passes, and the 2nd Edition of this very popular text has just been released:
 
It is also now appearing in languages other than English: a Japanese language version is in progress, as I discovered when I was in Yamanashi at the end of July, 2009 to judge at the Japan Wine Competition.  I learned this from my good friend, Professor Yokotsuka, of Yamanashi University, who is Chairman of the JWC: He is working on the translation. 
 
Last time I was in Santa Rosa with the Schwings, Mack assembled a group of leading wine personalities and we tasted a very impressive line-up of Californian Petite Sirah, against which we pitted its Australian cousin, Durif (from Rutherglen, Victoria).
This time we will be putting straight Shiraz against Californian Syrah - and will report on that when I am back at home base.