Drinking Wine in Hong Kong

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We spent a weekend eating and drinking in Hong Kong en route home.  There were some hits and misses.

20141108_183942For example, Mario Batali has an outpost here.  We tried both the Bastianich Chardonnay blend and Merlot blend.  Both were palatable but totally forgettable, as if they had purposely blended to appeal to the widest possible group.  We had a number of biodynamic wines including a Corsican red called Pero Longo Equilibre which was served at around 15 degrees C; it was unusual and captivating in that way (which is trending) towards small farms, local vintners, unusual blends.  We drank that and a few other great glasses at chef David Lai’s new restaurant Neighbourhood, where the chef (trained under Alain Ducasse) spins a simple, honest, French inspired menu with a carefully selected short list of appropriate wines.

 

Of particular note is the encyclopedic offerings at a great tapas place in Sheung Wan called 121BC; they have a slew of hard to find Italian wines, by the glass and bottle.  It’s hip and on the young side with a pretty decent menu, loud and trendy, but even oldsters like me will take a soft spot to the combo of earnest food and decent plonk.  Here are a couple of super interesting by the glass offerings.

 

bianco seccoGabrio Bini Zibibbo.  Bianco Secco.  Wow.  This is wild.  And wonderful.  And weird.  On the nose, you might think it’s a Sauternes, a rich sweet wine, peach and peach fuzz, apricot, sweet nectar.  Then on the tongue it’s sharp and dry and luscious but nothing like the nose.  The sommelier said it was a white that drinks like a red.  Maybe.  I think it’s a white that drinks on its own merit, a white that drinks almost like a liquor, like a fermented grape that transcends varietals.  What an astonishing accomplishment, so weirdly unique that I couldn’t help but sip it slower, each time, each slosh in the glass.  A totally unprecedented and astonishing white.  It was so out of the ordinary, so unexpected, it almost left me speechless.  I succumbed, however, to write this paragraph!

 

domminikoBonaccorse Etna Rosso Domminikio 2009.  A superb Sicilian red.  Loved it.  Loved the fruit, the hay, the leather, the harsh notes tempered by the soft fruit.  There was something so distinct and individualistic in this red, so against the grain of what Robert Parker has dictated as good red, that made my hair stand on end. It was rustic and earthy and god forbid all reds tasted like this but thank god some do.

 

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We found Cape Mentelle readily available in Hong Kong.  Even ridiculously over-priced at duty free on departure, a full $20 CDN more than what we paid in town.  Why, oh why, did BC Liquor stop carrying CM—but keep on with Cloudy Bay?  So many mysteries.  If you’ve never enjoyed the lovely wines of CM, which I’ve often referred to as the poor step sister of Leeuwin Estates, you should check them out.  Approachable, not over the top expensive, agreeable.  I tend to prefer their whites but HK had several reds on offer and we drank a 2011 Shiraz which was forward and fruity, round, deep, and luscious, but not tannic, chalky or headstrong.  I could think of a few worse ways to drop $25.
Cathay Pacific (in business class) is currently serving a gorgeous Burgundy, a Pierre Andre 2011 Saint Veran.  My recommendation is forgo the Champagne, Henriot, which just can’t hold up at 38,000 feet.  (Alternatively, if you’re in CP’s first class, it’s Krug all the way.)  The PA St. Veran has just enough Chardonnay body to really complement airline cuisine (pun intended) without any cloying oak-y aftertaste.  Crisp and clean with nuances of buttercup and blossoms.

 

Start to finish the selection on offer was decent to very good, the prices so-so to good, and the sincerity amongst restaurateurs to offer interesting bottles a charm.  Wine shops on the other hand were more focused on status and branding and a bit of a turn off.  For eating out though, a food and wine destination to add to your bucket list.  (And make sure to ask whether BYOB is permitted–many places have modest corkage fees.)

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