Syrah Masters – Asia 2020

Our final Masters of the month saw dbAsia examine a range of Syrah (or Shiraz) from around the world, and it showed that Australia continues to be a reliable source for this powerhouse variety.

The big winner was Australian Vintage, which bagged two Masters for its McGuigan Personal Reserve Oldman Shiraz 2019 and BVWC Farms Shiraz 2018. These two impressed the panel. Anty Fung thought the former “exudes a great typicity in an elegant style, accompanied with spiced red fruit notes and refined tannins.

The acidity at the finish further elevates the wine.” Meanwhile, Marjolaine Roblette Geres reckoned that the latter expression “showed a much more masculine profile, with depth, good length and long ageing potential”.

Tempus Two Uno Series, another stellar winery from the same company, was awarded a Gold. Coming with a price tag above HK$800, the Shiraz nonetheless expressed a typical New World style, redolent of red and black cherries but with great balance and elaborate style. De Bortoli, another Australian producer, shone in the under-HK$100 category.

Its Woodfired Shiraz proved surprisingly excellent value. Fung said: “The wine is really well knitted together, refined and complex. The winery has done a good job for this quality at such a price point.”

Going beyond Australia, the blind-tasting competition also saw some strong performers from other continents. Alpha Estate from Greece received a Silver for its S.M.X.. Comprising 60% Syrah, 20% Merlot and 20% indigenous variety Xinomavro, the blend displayed a mesmerising fresh and powerful aroma packed with cherries and spices, as Geres noted. Chilean Syrah also showed its quality in the competition.

Taking home two Silvers, Viña Casas del Bosque’s Syrah Gran Reserva and Casas del Bosque Casa Viva Gran Reserva Syrah were also the favourites of the panel. Fung liked the former for its juicy layers of blackcurrant, liqueur de cassis and blue fruit, and its well-balanced structure; while Geres, meanwhile, praised the latter highly, saying that it was a “perfect wine”, as she found its smooth and dynamic texture appealing, especially as a good food wine.

After the blind tasting was brought to an end and the labels were revealed, the judges were astonished by the overall quality of the entries, especially the fact that all of them were made in New World regions, or emerging countries such as Greece.

The Judges: Left to right – Jessica Ochoco, senior sales executive at Altaya Wines, Alice Liang, managing editor of the drinks business Asia, Florian Beaubouchez, sales director at Ponti Wine Cellars, Romain Loriot, founder and managing director at ThinkWine

Pinot Noir Masters – Asia 2020

Pinot Noir is now an established favourite in the Hong Kong market. The light-bodied and bright acidity of the variety has successfully won the attention of drinkers living in the sub-tropical climates of Asia.

In the 2020 Pinot Noir Masters – Asia competition, the judges were in search of the exceptional bottles that would appeal to the market’s preference. In Hong Kong, the prestigious region of Burgundy, as it is elsewhere, is the most highly regarded expression of this grape.

However, in the competition, the panel reviewed an array of wines from New World regions, and were surprised by the quality they found. Of all of the expressions on offer, New Zealand’s Marisco Vineyards, based in Marlborough, attracted immense attention from the judges. The King’s Wrath Pinot Noir 2019 reigned supreme, and won the only Master medal of the competition.

Florian Beaubouchez, sales masters round-up director at Ponti Wine Cellars, said: “The balance is great, and the fresh floral nose is simply mesmerising. The wine has the potential to progress, and I’m looking forward to it [when it matures]. With this price (between HK$200 and HK$300), it totally deserves the accolade.” Marisco Vineyards Craft Series The Journey Pinot Noir was also highly praised by the panel.

Both the 2015 and 2016 vintage were recognised with a Gold. Jessica Ochoco, senior sales executive at Altaya Wines, reckoned the former “has a silky-smooth texture with animalistic characters”, while the latter “shows good acidity and drinkability, which accounts for its ability to pair with food. The wine can even go with charred dishes and braised meat.” The company’s range of lower-priced products, The Ned Pinot Noir and Leefield Station Pinot Noir, also proved their quality by winning Silvers.

Hailing from Martinborough, Luna Estate was another strong performer. The 2018 vintages of Luna Blue Rock Pinot Noir and Luna Estate Pinot Noir received a Gold and Silver medal respectively. Falling in the HK$300-HK$400 price bracket, Luna Blue Rock Pinot Noir demonstrated “an elegant balance of fruit and oak”, said Romain Loriot, founder and managing director at ThinkWine.

It was not only New Zealand’s red Pinots that were having a moment, the country also produced an impressive Pinot Noir rosé too. Gold winner Wild Grace Pinot Noir Rosé 2019 stood out for its well-integrated profile with attractive fruitiness.

Loriot said: “Unlike the Provence style, this rosé has good acidity, plus a hint of alluring sweetness at the finish.” Moving towards Australia, Jaraman Pinot Noir 2018 was worthy of a Gold recognition. “It is a typical Pinot Noir with nice lightness and balance.

It also has this menthol flavour and stalky mineral finish that makes the wine intriguing,” said Ochoco. Nepenthe Pinnacle Good Doctor Pinot Noir 2017, another Gold awardee, won because of its “complex and rich layers of spicy flavours, such as cinnamon and nutmeg”, as Beaubouchez pointed out.

Returning to Europe, Franz Haas’s Alto Adige DOC Pinot Nero Schweizer 2017 received attention from the panel. Beaubouchez liked it because it was “a fun Pinot that emits tertiary aroma such as dry herbs, mushroom and meatiness”. Costing less than HK$200, it represents great value for money.

The Judges: Left to right – Jessica Ochoco, senior sales executive at Altaya Wines, Alice Liang, managing editor of the drinks business Asia, Florian Beaubouchez, sales director at Ponti Wine Cellars, Romain Loriot, founder and managing director at ThinkWine

The Rosé Masters 2020 – Asia

The Judges: Alice Liang, managing editor of the drinks business Asia
Anty Fung, wine specialist and manager at Hip Cellar
Juwan Kim, head sommelier at La Petite Maison
Marjolaine Roblette Geres, independent wine educator and consultant

Rosé, in all its versatility, is now one of the word’s most popular wine styles, captivating drinkers with its alluring hues and easy-to-drink, fuss-free profile. In our 2020 Rosé Masters competition, the judges blind-tasted a panel of rosés from around the world.

Consumers often focus on rosé coming from Provence, and think of Champagne producers making white wines, overloooking that Champagne is responsible for some of the most expensive rosé in the world. Best in show with a Master medal was Comte Audoin de Dampierre Brut Rosé, from a small family domaine that uses fruit from premier cru vineyards. As can only be the case in Champagne, this wine is dominated by Chardonnay (85%), rather than by Pinot Noir (15%).

Marjolaine Roblette Geres, independent wine educator and consultant, said: “The wine is well integrated and quite complex. It exudes attractive brioche and red-fruit characters, and on the palate it has a refined and long minerality, with lively fine
bubbles.”

Seasoned Rosé Champagne maker Lanson took home a Silver with its Rosé Label Brut Champagne. Anty Fung, wine specialist and manager at Hip Cellar, said of it: “Vibrant and forward, the Champagne has a crisper acidity and chalky mineral mouthfeel.”

Another intriguing entry was the Black Creek Pink Moscato from Australian winery De Bortoli. “Floral and balanced, it is an enjoyable party wine that gives good value for money,” thought the judges. Priced under the HK$100 category, the wine was awarded a Silver.

GOOD STRUCTURE

As the only Gold winner under HK$150, the McGuigan Cellar Select Rosé was considered a knockout. Juwan Kim, head sommelier at Hong Kong’s La Petite Maison, was in awe of its “good acidity and structure, with a hint of saltines in it”. He thought the wine had great potential in food pairing.

Coming from Greece, a region not well known for rosé despite its wonderful beaches, was Alpha Estate’s Rosé Single Vineyard Hedgehog. Made with 100%-Xinomavro, this proved to be another star performer in the competition.

Kim said: “The nose is filled with lovely herbal and lavender notes. The intensity is medium, and I like the clean and lingering finish.” Carrying a price tag of less than HK$200, the wine offered great value.

Being France’s heartland of rosé wine, Provence held its own with two fantastic entries from Minuty. Geres liked the Gold awardee Rosé et Or for its “delicate structure with layers of aroma, round and textured”. The Prestige Rosé, as Fung described it, was a “mouth-watering rosé leaning more on white-fruit characters”.

In general, the panel noticed how many of the rosé producers had launched lifestyle campaigns to promote their wines. Rosé has become a go-to staple for junk boat parties and gatherings during summer. On the other hand, there are also increasingly premium producers, such as Domaines Ott and Chateau d’Esclans, in the market to attract fine wine lovers.

The Chardonnay Masters – Asia 2020

The Chardonnay Masters – Asia 2020, which took place at Mr Wolf restaurant in Hong Kong’s Central district, saw a panel of five expert judges blind-taste more than 30 Chardonnays. The results showed that the wines on offer were diverse with attractive qualities.

One of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world, Chardonnay is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Versatile in style, the wine can pair well with an array of cuisines.

“Generally, it is smooth and gentle, with an aromatic profile that varies according to the region and climate where it is grown. In terms of the use of oak, over oaked Chardonnay is no longer the mainstream; instead, winemakers are using it in moderation to give their wines a buttery mouthfeel and toasty vanilla aromas,” said Zachary Yu, sommelier and director of SommTech.

The competition celebrated Wakefield Taylors One Giant Leap Chardonnay 2018, whih achieved the top accolade of a Master medal in the competiion. Judged in the Oaked Under HK$100 category, the wine offered exceptional value for its price point.

“The expression is very fresh with a bouquet of beautiful floral and citrus notes; the profile is very well balanced, especially the oak. With this price tag, the wine is a great surprise,” said Tersina Shieh, an experienced wine judge and marketer.

The overall 2018 vintage in South Australia’s Clare Valley was warm and dry. The weather was relatively calm and winemakers were spared from major heatwaves, resulting in the highly aromatic wines with very pure and distinct characteristics.

Two of the estate’s other Chardonnays, namely Wakefield Taylors Jaraman Chardonnay 2018 and Wakefield Taylors St Andrews Chardonnay 2018, were also recognised with Silver medals in the competition.

Margaret River estate Vasse Felix is another Australian winery the judges raved about in the competition, as it scooped two Gold medals. In the Oaked HK$151-200 category, Vasse Felix ‘Filius’ Chardonnay 2018 caught the panel’s attention due to its “elegant, juicy, generous, lingering and highly drinkable” profile, according to Yu.

Meanwhile, moving up to the price bracket between HK$301-500, Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2018 was another high performer. Anty Fung, a wine specialist and manager of Hip Cellar, said, “the wine shows great finesse. It has good tension, mineral structure and a long finish.”

The competition also proved that Sauvignon Blanc powerhouse, Marlborough in New Zealand, boasts equally outstanding Chardonnay production. Marisco Vineyards Craft Series ‘The Pioneer’ Chardonnay 2016 picked up a Gold medal in the Oaked HK$201-300 flight.

Shieh found it to be “a pleasant wine with a nice blend of fruit and oak flavours and good acidity”. Hailing from the same region, Leefield Station Chardonnay 2018 took home a Silver medal for achieving “a good balance of oak, fruit and creaminess”, according to Yu.

Again from the same price range, another highlight of the competition was a Gold medal winning Bourgogne Blanc by Francois Labet, one of the region’s pioneers of organic viticulture. The panel was impressed by the performance of Francois Labet Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay 2018.

Eva Ma, senior marketing executive of EMW Fine Wines, said, “The nose is so complex, which unveils hints of chestnuts and smokiness. On palate, it exudes a sweet flavour with much freshness.”

Greek wine is on the rise around the world and the country never ceases to surprise drinkers with its continually improving quality. Bearing a price tag between HK$100-150, Alpha Estate Ecosystem Chardonnay Tramonto 2018 impressed our judges.

“I am captivated by the palate, which offers notes of Meyer lemon, orange peel and yuzu. It’s a very perfumed Chardonnay with impressive palate weight and a refreshing finish. It’s an excellent wine that offers great value,” said one of our judges.

The panel also enjoyed some exciting discoveries from regions that aren’t well-known for Chardonnay, such as Barkan Vineyards Classic Chardonnay 2019 from Israel, which offered pretty lemon and white flower aromatics.

Another appealing expression was Emiliana Gamma Reserva Chardonnay 2019 from Chile, liked by Shieh for its intense acidity and juciness; and Cavit Maso Torsella Chardonnay Trentino Superiore DOC 2019 from Trentino in Italy, which hooked Ma with its perfumed nose and balanced structure. The comeption highlighted that there are great value Chardonnays being made around the world to suit all palates.

Unoaked

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under $100HKD
Barkan Vineyards Classic Chardonnay Judean Hills Israel 2019 Bronze
Viñedos Emiliana S.A. O Reserva Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Viñedos Emiliana S.A. Gamma Reserva Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Silver

Oaked

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under $100HKD
Marisco Vineyards Ltd The Ned Chardonnay, 10.99 – Marlborough, New Zealand Marlborough New Zealand 2018 Bronze
Marisco Vineyards Ltd Leefield Station Chardonnay Marlborough New Zealand 2018 Silver
Wakefield / Taylors Taylors One Giant leap Chardonnay Clare Valley Australia 2018 Master
$100-$150HKD
Alpha Estate Ecosystem Chardonnay Tramonto Florina Greece 2018 Gold
Cavit s.c. Maso Torsella Chardonnay Trentino Superiore Doc Trentino Italy 2017 Silver
Australian Vintage McGuigan Cellar Select Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Bronze
Wakefield / Taylors Taylor Made Chardonnay French Oak Clare Valley Australia 2018 Bronze
Wakefield / Taylors Taylors Wakefield Jaraman Chardonnay Clare Valley Australia 2018 Silver
$151-$200HKD
Australian Vintage McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Silver
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Pinnacle Ithaca Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Bronze
Treasury Wine Estate Penfolds Bin311 Chardonnay Tumbarumba Australia 2017 Silver
Vasse Felix Vasse Felix ‘Filius’ Chardonnay Margaret River Australia 2018 Gold
Vasse Felix Vasse Felix Estate Chardonnay Margaret River Australia 2018 Bronze
Wakefield / Taylors Taylors Wakefield St Andrews Chardonnay Clare Valley Australia 2018 Silver
$201-$300HKD
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Pewter Chardonnay Hunter Valley Australia 2018 Bronze
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Pewter Chardonnay Hunter Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Australian Vintage McGuigan Personal Reserve HR Chardonnay Trentino Italy 2018 Bronze
Francois Labet Francois Labet Bourgogne Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne France 2018 Gold
Marisco Vineyards Ltd Marisco Vineyards Craft Series ‘The Pioneer’ Chardonnay, Marlborough New Zealand 2016 Gold
$301-$500HKD
Vasse Felix Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay Margaret River Australia 2018 Gold
Vina Concha y Toroa Concha y Toro Amelia Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Logo