Wednesday, June 08, 2016

MENU goes East - Vinexpo Hong Kong, The formal tastings and seminars we attended

One of the main reasons for going to a show like VinExpo is to taste different wines, wines we cannot often taste in South Africa. So we attend as many tastings as we can squeeze into the short period, between press conferences and visiting stands
This Masterclass of Saint Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac wines was run by the Union des Syndicats de Saint-Émilion - Pomerol - Fronsac. There was a charge for the seminars but Media could attend without paying
Setting up the room
This tasting was presented by Jean-François Quenin, Président du Conseil des Vins de Saint-Émilion 
The wines we tasted. They were all of the 2012 vintage and some are still very young. We particularly liked and scored highly, the Château Trianon Saint Emilion Grand Cru - an intense food wine Lynne’s description says "a wine which coats the mouth in smooth fruit and custard". The Château de Pressac Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé is a wine to last with intense fruit and vanilla wood, soft sweet and spicy notes, hiding a bit but will show soon. The Château Plince Pomerol and the St George Saint Emilion Château Calon also impressed
The wine servers were very good
We then did something very interesting. A Tea tasting of the very special Puer tea. It has its own appellation controlée!
The presenter taught us all a lot about the tea , the red high in acidity soil, how it is grown and how it should be served. We tasted raw Puer tea, fresh and refreshing with notes of tangerine and bitter gourd and cooked artichoke. This tea can age for 50 years and will keep changing.
There were several people on the dais making pots of tea for us to taste. We also tasted the cooked 3 year old (from Mount Kun Mai) Puer tea which is artificially fermented for 60 days, which has no astringency. Its blended, dark orange and grassy on the nose and palate with no bitterness. Very refreshing, they said this is the tea for connoisseurs and is a highly regulated luxury. The only Puer served in restaurants as it is consistent
Then to the very informative China market Conference. Don St Pierre Jr , chief executive and co-owner of Vinfolio, the Californian fine wine trader and cellaring business (Former co-founder and owner of ASC fine wines Hong Kong), was the convenor.  From left to right are Frantz Hotton – Managing Director of Pernod Ricard HK/Macao; Judy Chan, co-owner of Grace Vineyard a family-owned vineyard in China ; Robert Foye – Managing Director of TWE (Treasury Wine Estates); Chris Tung – Chief Marketing Officer of Alibaba Group. Bruno Baudry – Chief Executive Officer of ASC Fine Wines Xavier Pignel-Dupont – Greater China – Asia Pacific Director of Castel Frères SAS was also on the stage but out of sight. All the others are represented by Alibaba, but not Castel Frères SAS.
What emerged from the conference was how little the Chinese market knows about wine. Lynne asked the obvious questions: What were they all doing to educate the market? It seems they are increasing their marketing. But we think someone does need to start providing good wine education and that will give that person or company the edge in selling wine in China and the East.. Sponsors needed for WSET?

The next tasting was organised by Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve
The wines we tasted. To be honest, we did not find any gems among them
The tasting was well attended 
and led by Thierry Desseauve, assisted by sommelier Jean-Marc Nolant

Then to a fascinating tasting: Decanter's Discovering wine regions in China with Professor Li Demei
It is a vast country with many different temperature zones...
... wine comes from many. They have the largest vineyards in the world, 90% are eating grapes, 10% wine. The wines do not easily compete because of climate
Interesting statistics on wine prices. China drinks all the wine it produces and has to import lots more. A lesson for our wine marketers is the prices charged by Australian producers, who are selling into the premium category
And then a tasting of some Chinese wines. To be frank, they were not great. It is a young emerging wine industry (for wines that emulate those made in the rest of the world). They need lots of practice, direction and guidance. They cannot follow European wine growing laws and practices as they are two difficult we were told. Our highest score was 15 for the first, a Chardonnay from Tiansai, Skyline of Gobi, Xinjiang 2013 - over wooded but with delicate limes, lemons and loquats, sweet fruit with nice smoke on the end, quite elegant; and the last wine. Kanaan Winery Pretty Pony from Ningxia 2013, a 90% Cabernet, 10% Merlot blend with good cassis and curry leaves on the nose, cassis fruit long flavours with liquorice wood and soft grippy tannins on the palate. But many were bitter, tannic and over wooded.
Then we separated to take part in two different tastings

John to this one
With these wines
The Bettane + Desseauve tastings had tables arranged round the periphery of the room, making pouring easy and giving everyone an unobstructed view while, of course keeping the attendance right for a two bottle tasting.
2009 was a great vintage in France, as it was in South Africa. 
Michel Bettane, whom we last saw when he judged at this year's Old Mutual Trophy, led the tasting.
A good start to the tasting was the Louis Roederer Brut Premier 2009. It was bready with apple pie flavour, quite delicious but let down by a very quiet mousse. We found this in all the Champagnes we tasted at the show and suspect that the glasses were not being properly rinsed
The Alsace Riesling from Léon Beyer was disappointing with terpenes masking any other flavours. Michel Bettane said the quality compared to South African and Australian Rieslings. John scored it 15. The reds were all good and scored in the region of 17 but the standout wine was the Château Coutet Sauternes which was rich and full with honey, light granadilla with lovely fat texture and a long mineral honey finish. It scored 18

Lynne was intrigued to learn of the Feminalise tasting and registered. Only women tasted and each woman had different wines to taste from her companions. She tasted 14 wines blind, using a completely unfamiliar description and scoring system. 
She still cannot understand why only women are approached. Are we excluded from other tastings? Is it to promote women in the industry? Are they trying to prove we have better palates? They gather statistics, how are they used. See their web site here. www.feminalise.com  
It was a very good experience and the wines were very varied in quality . All were French. She tasted 4 Champagnes, scores: two 12's (!) and two 15's. An Entre deux Mers 17; Three Bordeaux blancs 17;15;17. A really awful, possibly faulty Graves 12; A Cote de Blaye 14; a Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye, superb at 18; an excellent Lussac St Emilion 18; and her favourite wine of VinExpo a St Emilion Grand Cru, which she later discovered was the Clos des Prince scored 19. An ordinaire Pacherenc de Vic Bilh 13; and an absolutely dead Coteaux D'Ancenis Malvoisie lamentable scored only 10. Notes say pale, no character, no body, no wine, surely faulty.
Stéphanie Brisson of Feminalise. She is at the Hospice de Beaune

Another tasting, this time of New Wave Champagnes. It was very well attended by the Chinese; they are showing lots of interest in Champagne
This is the inside of the interesting tasting glass, made in Thailand by Lucaris, which was used for all the formal tastings at VinExpo. The inside of the glass has this raised swirl pattern, presumably to assist in enhancing the flavour and aroma of the wine
Jean-Claude Fourmon, President of Joseph Perrier in Châlons-en-Champagne spoke about the philosophy of his family owned firm
Six to taste at a time. There were 9 in the flight.. What is the new wave about? We could not detect any difference in movement or style. We like Philipponnat's Clos de Goisses, a great expression of Pinot Noir to go with food and especially red meat, the Mailly Grand Cru Blanc de noir was Tart Tatin in a glass and would match so well with that and other desserts. And the Amour de Deutz Millesime 2006 was still lively and perfumed, it has granny smith apples and lean limes, chalky, fresh and long
Thierry Desseauve talking about the Taittinger Comtes 2006
The Champagnes we tasted. Many were aged
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© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2016
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