DAY 1 - THE ONE AND ONLY DAY...
For the first day of the 2014 Hong Kong Wine & Spirits Fair I had a dismally short window of time to visit - only an hour between 3-4pm. I basically sprinted through the two halls of the fair trying to identify some wines which looked promising, or to check up the latest vintages of some of my favourite producers. I know this sounds impossibly snobbish, but it always stuns me how many terrible wines get shipped around the world. It seemed like every other booth was hawking off another of the same tired old labels of Bordeaux, or Barolo, or Rioja. And honestly there are always so many wine producers and importers at these events that it's imperitive to either do your research ahead of time, or be ruthless with what you taste or not.
I basically dragged my friend Anastasia (who works for an importer in the Maldives) along with her friend Neringa, and we flew around the hall. I was looking for some bright new wines from Australia - specifically from the Yarra Valley - and here are some of our thoughts:
Mayer - Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2013
I actually have a few bottles of this winery's higher end bottlings at home. Mayer is a German guy making wines in Australia, and he works in a restrained, rustic manner. The wine wasn't bad today - a bit young - and had some promising bright fruit with notes of underbrush and forest. It's vinified with stems, which unfortunately really shows through; was quite tannic and green. The Mayer wines that I tried at home were very similar...a bit over-hyped perhaps (it has rave reviews from the Aussie wine press), green, and rough around the edges.
Mac Forbes - Coldstream Pinot Noir 2012 & Pinot Noir 2013
Mac Forbes is a producer that I've been wanting to try for a long time. I heard great things about this winery from some trusted palates on the internet and am happy to have tried them. So... how do I feel about this relatively new Yarra project? Not bad! Coldstream 2012 had more weight and body - still full of the bright, juicy young Pinot fruit that shown through on all these Yarra wines. It was a bit hot and alcoholic on the finish, and still very evidently young. Perhaps will be best in two years. The basic Pinot Noir 2013 was actually more balanced we felt. Nice, cool climate Pinot with freshness and good acidity.
Jamsheed - Yarra Valley 'Seville' Syrah 2012
Anastasia quite rightly pointed out that this was rather uncharacteristic for a Syrah, although I think with all the experimenting that is going on in the Yarra, there is no such thing as "textbook Yarra Syrah" yet. This was light and fragrant with a lovely red fruit character, reminding me of Eben Sadie's work with Carignan in Swartland, but with a green pepper trait seemingly stolen right from Chinon. In fact it may as well have been Cabernet Franc, as Anastasia remarked. Young, as expected, and impressive for its ambition, although at around $400HKD+ I find it rather over-priced.
These were the highlights of our short trip down to the Australia section, and then I frantically ran around to try a few more wines. Next up was one of my favourite Priorat wineries.
Terroir Al Limit - Dits Del Terra 2010
Still hasn't evolved much since I tried the exact same wine two years ago in Priorat. It's still tight and closed, just hinting at its potential beauty. This is a new breed of Carignan, or Cariñena they call it in Catalan. Very well structured, pure red cherries, plums, and violets. When will this ever be ready!?
Terroir Al Limit - Arbossar 2004
Ah maybe this is the answer. A nice old bottle of L'Arbossar from the same winery, before Eben Sadie stepped in to bring more elegance to these wines. This is Grenache with more muscle, a significantly less unique profile. But it was ready to drink! Dried violets, powerful dark red berries...silky tannins. But overall? Am I being too picky in saying I wasn't that impressed? I really appreciate the improvements in the new vintages of this winery, but perhaps they really do need 10 years to get ready.
Finally, I had to go. But with my last 10 minutes I made a new discovery in the VinItaly section...
Tenuta Biodinamica Mara - Maramia 2012
I'm an absolute sucker for any wine with a wax top. I love the idea of a winemaker or his assistants boiling a small batch of wax, and slowly dipping each precious bottle into the pot... And I disgress! But this was a wonderful discovery that hints at an upcoming Cork Culture offer, no? 100% biodynamic from young vines in Romagna, Demeter-certified and chemical free for thirty years. It's made of 100% Sangiovese and is simply a delicious, very drinkable brilliant expression of this grape. I loved how pure the Sangiovese-y sweet, cranberry character was, and thought it was a lovely example of how tender biodynamic vineyard practices and off-hand winemaking make a difference in the final product. The winemaker is also the vineyard manager, and his attention to detail is reflected from the cool label to the excellent work in the glass. Expect more from this winery!