James Suckling’s Great Wines of Italy Event

Attended the Great Wines of Italy event last week here in Hong Kong at the Shangri-La Hotel.  There were almost 100 wineries from Italy in attendance and many wine fans and those from the industry.  As much as I would have liked to try all the wines there, I was able to taste only so many in the two hours.  Having decided to proceed alphabetically these were some of the wines that I tasted at the event:

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My personal favorite was the Amarone which had a very distinctive sweet but not too sweet taste of raisins.  I can imagine it going well with all kinds of western and asian cuisines.  From the looks of it I think the event will help to boost the visibility of Italian wine in the long term which has always been under represented in the Hong Kong and China markets.  I’ve personally gained a new appreciation for Italian wines and certainly have added a lot more interesting places to visit in Italy now.

 

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Whisky in Okinawa

Part of our summer vacation this year was spent in Okinawa, Japan.  For those who haven’t been, Okinawa is like a cross between Hawaii and Japan albeit with a stronger Hawaii feel.  The people there are super nice and laid back and the service at hotels and restaurants is very good.  We stayed at Ritz Carleton Hotel which was very modern and had full amenities (including golf course) but does not have its own beach.

The Ritz Carleton has an awesome bar with a wide selection of whisky and  40-50 years old vintages which are kept in separate glass cases.  The first Whisky I had was the Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 21 Year Old.  As you can see I had it chill with a ball of ice which is the way I prefer  Japanese whisky.

Second up was the Valentino Zagatti’s Linkwood Distillery Aged 16 Years.  This one I had neat so that I could get a better sense of the mouth feel.  The Linkwood is velvety and oily coating your tongue in some nice spicy flavours.  The sherry notes were a little strong and over powering for my liking but definitely worth a try at least once.

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Impressions of Hong Kong Wine and Spirits Fair

There was a general consensus amongst the exhibitors that the traffic this year was less than in the years before.  However, this gave us a good opportunity to understand more in depth about the individual wineries and their products.

The highlights from the show were as follows (not in any order of importance):

  • Adega de Favaios – Having managed to try all the other port wines at the fair, Favaios are definitely one of the best.  Very easy to drink and full bodied with strong nose and great color.  I can easily have it through out a meal or to be savoured during some good after dinner conversation.  Thanks to Hugo and Manuela for their hospitality!
  • Qunita Vale D’Aldeia – Was able to get to know more about Portugese wine from Luis and Rui.  Their series of red wines were absolutely amazing coming from this relatively new winery comprised of originally 55 separate vineyards.  Located on a large hill gives the wine different grape characteristics from slight variations in altitude.  Will definitely visit this picturesque winery when I am in Portugal.
  • Doolhof Wine Estate – Their “Legend of the Labyrinth” was absolutely stunning especially the “Dark Lady” which had very strong chocolate / cocoa and spicy herb notes.  One of the best Pinotages I tasted at the fair and there were a lot of good ones at the South Africa pavilion.

Will definitely be back again next year and looking forward to keeping in touch with all our new friends in the meantime.

P.S. Found some really awesome olive oil as well:

 

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Augustiner-Bräu

Over the summer holiday I had the good fortune to visit Munich for the first time.  What a wonderful and friendly city it is!  The highlight of the trip were of course the beer gardens and Augustiner in particular.  According to the locals Augustiner is their favorite brew and by the looks of it I would say so as well.

My wife and I had a delicious pigs’ knuckle lunch in the beer garden and enjoyed a glass or two of their awesome beer.  (Will dedicate a separate post to my tasting notes.)  As you can see the beer garden was packed full of people.  The other astounding thing was the size of the pretzels!  Eat your heart out Hermes Handbag!

 

My case of Augustiner Beers should be arriving sometime tomorrow <BIG GRIN>.  Cheers!

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Caol Ila 1996 Distiller’s Edition @ 001

Met up with a good friend for drinks the other night at 001 in Central Hong Kong.  It’s an amazing speak-easy tucked away in the middle of a wet market.  The entrance is unmarked with the exception of a brass door bell.  The place is known for its cocktails and grill cheeses but we were there for the single malts.

As usual we started out with the less pricey whiskys and at HKD 140 a dram the Caol Ila 1996 DE piqued my interest.  The other two flights were the Balvenie Portwood 21 and the Lagavulin 1994 Distiller’s Edition.  Both of them were pricier but the Caol Ila was the best.  Maybe it was the mood we were in that night but the Caol Ila was more well balanced than the others.  It also opened up more nicely with a drop of water or two.  In comparison the Lagavulin had too much kick and the Balvenie was too smooth.  The Caol Ila was very distinguished and easy to drink with a character of its own.

 

 

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The “iLounge” Journey Part 2 – Edradour

The first building you encounter at the Edradour Distillery is the Welcome Center and Gift Shop. The large wood panelled hall neatly displays their multi-colored whisky along it’s three sides. After a brief wait we were ushered into a smaller building by the tour guide. Here we watched a video about the distillery and had our first taste of their whisky. One of the visitors was quite adamant that water should not be added to good whisky – to each his own I suppose.

Once the intro video was complete we were brought around to the rest of the buildings that housed the various functions of a working distillery. Even though this was my first distillery visit and not having any other experiences to compare with, the Edradour Distillery had a distinct artisanal feel about it. Clearly their product was not being mass produced here at all! Having said that, the shop manager later informed me that the first container of product was already on it’s way destined for the China market. Talk about a drop in the ocean.

The tour ended at the gift shop where we were allowed to browse their whiskies to our heart’s content. I picked up a whisky finished in Chateauneuf Du Pape Cask aged 13 years for my wife whose favorite color is pink – honest to God. Despite the fact that it had started to rain, I decided to walk back down the hill towards the town as I had noticed a foot path along the adjacent fields on my way to the distillery. The rain started coming down hard half way and I found myself in more terroir then I had bargained for. But the simple natural beauty of everything around me made it all worthwhile.

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The “iLounge” Journey

This series is about how I combined my passion for technology with my new found passion for whisky. The culmination of which is a mobile app called iLounge. A little more than a year ago, I travelled to Scotland to learn more about whisky. The selection of single malts in Hong Kong is quite limited and variety can only be found in higher end F&B establishments. It was a mind opening trip not only in terms of the exposure to the myriad of single malt expressions but also seeing first hand the care and pride that goes into creating a good dram.

World’s largest whisky collection at the Scotch Whisky Experience

My trip began in Edinburgh at the Scotch Whisky Experience. It’s a good place to start as it gives n00bs like myself a general introduction to how whisky is made. The experience entails a mechanized ride that takes you through the various stages of whisky production. You also get to see the world’s largest collection of whisky bottles. And of course the all important whisky tasting where you learn about the whisky producing regions and their taste characteristics. After the experience you can stop by their store and buy a bottle or two.

Edinburgh Castle – talk about taking the high ground!

After the overview from the SWE I was ready the next day for my first distillery tour. Time was a limiting factor so I wasn’t able to go too far up north. So I finally settled on visiting the very picturesque Edradour Distillery in Pitlochry. The distillery is a 1-2 hours train ride from central Edinburgh and short cab ride from Pitlochry Station to the distillery doors. The moment I laid eyes on Edradour’s quaint white washed buildings surrounded by picturesque countryside I knew I had picked the right one. Stay tuned for more in the next post about the Edradour Distillery.

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