Wine column for week of May 13

The Hong Kong international wine challenge held in May in conjunction with HOFEX, Asia’s leading hospitality tradeshow, revealed a handful of innovative wines.

Tradeshows can sometimes be stuffy, with lots of sales people in dark suits and ties. Winemaker Chris Archer created a fun atmosphere to launch Joiy, a sparkling riesling, at a stand where staff wore Hawaiian style shirts and necklaces of flowers.

Archer, based in Wellington, the New Zealand capital, wanted to make the point that wine was meant to be fun. It works. Joiy will soon be New Zealand’s biggest selling riesling.

It is a delight to drink, especially with a slice of lemon. It has delicate honey and floral notes with a citrus zing, and only 9.5 per cent alcohol, making it ideal for social events. It would be excellent with fatty Asian food in summer, the acidity cutting through the oil.

Archer said wine was meant to be joyous and easily approachable. “I wanted a wine that was unpretentious and at the same time distinctive.”

The wine is sold in packs of four bottles each of 250ml, with eye-catching packaging that suggests a sense of fun. Archer has created a range of cocktails that work well with the riesling. The wine won a silver medal at the wine awards but should have been named champion wine for the level of innovation. More details can be found at http://thecrushhk.com/.

Another new idea that impressed was a range of premium beers made using wine techniques, also from New Zealand.

Winemaker Josh Scott, who has already made a name for himself with award winning Scott Wines, decided to make beer using the attention to detail related to wine. His Moa Breakfast beer, for example, is fermented with cherries as well as hops, and has a champagne-style bottle and closure. It is delicious.

The beer is named after the moa, an extinct flightless bird that apparently was about the size of a horse. Archeologists working near the brewery in Marlborough, famous as a sauvignon blanc region, discovered moa bones. A cheeky advertising campaign later proclaimed: “Finally, something drinkable from Marlborough.”

The beers are finished using wine-making techniques such as barrel ageing and bottle fermentation. These bottles are hand-turned the same way as in Champagne.

“We could go out tomorrow and buy the same machines that other breweries use instead of people,” Scott said. “But instead we brew beer the way it used to be made 100 years ago.” More details can be found at http://www.moabeer.com/.

Moa exports to the US, Canada and a range of Asian countries, including China.

The wine that won the prize for best sweet beverage at the show happens to be the second oldest wine in the world still in production. Lambouri Winery in Cyprus makes the Commandaria Legacy from indigenous mavro and xinisteri grapes.

The name comes from the estate of the Knights Templar in Cyprus known as the Gran Commanderie, which later became known as Commandaria.

The oldest wine, incidentally, comes from the same vineyard — Ya’in Kafrisin, which translates as “wine of Cyprus”.

The techniques used to make the Commandaria later gave us the method known as passito, where grapes are dried on straw beds in the sun before the juice is extracted. This concentrates flavours.

This wine matures for nine years in large oak barrels. Because of that process it offers intense aromas of toffee, dried figs and fruitcake. Think of it as pedro ximenez (PX) but with soft tannin and acidity, instead of the overwhelming sweetness of PX.

The English king Richard I, known as the Lionheart, drank Commandaria at his wedding in Cyprus in May 1191 and proclaimed it “the wine of kings and the king of wines”.

Legend suggests that the grapes used to make Commandaria were taken to Portugal and eventually became the source for port. But that is another story and needs to be verified.

After the Knights Templar exported the wine from Cyprus to Europe’s royal courts it became famous around the world. But it is little known in Asia, and deserves a wider audience. It would be perfect with strong cheeses, but is delightful by itself. The bottle is cleverly designed so that it sits at an oblique angle. Another delightful innovation. You can see a photo here.

Find a link to the story published 13 May 2013 here. And 16 May 2013 here.

Words: 693

Categories: Not home, wine

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