Wine column for week of August 26

A meal with friends offered a chance to sample wines off the radar of my personal preferences. The venue was the superb new location of Chom Chom Vietnamese restaurant. Chom Chom has just re-opened in larger premises after owner and chef Peter Franklin received such excellent reviews that his original site in Hong Kong’s Central district became too small to cope with the flood of diners.
Do the wines that people bring to dinner reflect their personality? The first wine we drank was a 2011 Flaxbourne sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. PH, a Singaporean banker based in Hong Kong, loves this wine.
Regular readers will know that sauvignon blanc is not my favourite grape variety. If picked too early it can taste too sharp and smell like a room where a cat has been trapped for a day without a litter tray.
But this wine, available globally from the British supermarket chain Marks & Spencer, is a delight. It offers aromas of ripe pineapple and figs, followed by a mineral streak in the mouth that combined wonderfully with the acid zing and fruit sweetness that wove itself around that minerality.
Marlborough sauvignon blanc has become synonymous with New Zealand wine, and has tended to overshadow some of the other grape varieties this country produces. Think pinot noir from Marlborough, which Dr John Forrest of Forrest Wines believes would receive more global recognition if sauvignon blanc was not so popular.
This white is a gem, and afterwards I discovered it has received several major awards, including a silver medal from Decanter and recognition at the International Wine Challenge.
Winemaker Tamra Washington is one of a new breed of Kiwis who made wine in a range of countries before returning home to develop a new style of sauvignon. The fruit aromas embraced our table as soon as the screwcap snapped open. I had earlier pulled the cork on a Portuguese alvarinho, almost salivating in anticipation, but that wine had cork taint and went down the sink. On these occasions I tip my hat to the inventors of the Stelvin screwcap. The romance of the sound of a popping cork may have gone, but so too has the danger of disappointment from a corked wine.
This sauvignon blanc sang in the glass, the fruit flavours working superbly with the masses of zesty lime notes. It pairs well with shellfish or crab, especially seafood with a bit of chilli.
A writer friend, Gerrie Lim, nonchalantly placed a 2011 Gaba do Xil red on the table. This wine is made by Telmo Rodríguez in Spain. The parallels with Tamra Washington in New Zealand are strong. Like Washington, Rodríguez is considered one of the emerging stars of his generation. He has focused on making wine in his own country instead of the more fashionable role of “flying winemaker”. Think of him more as a “driving” winemaker because he has made wine in Rioja and Ribera del Duero as well as his native Galicia.
The wine is from the Valdeorras zone on the easternmost fringes of of Galicia, and is 100 per cent mencia.
Mencia is a red grape variety native to northwest Spain. It is most commonly grown in the province of Leon, but also flourishes in Valdeorras. It was once believed to be a clone of cabernet franc but DNA tests showed it to be a unique species, identical to jaen in neighbouring Portugal.
Mencia has thick-skinned grapes that can be a little too tannic. This wine was gentle yet opulent and smelled of cherries and vanilla with a touch of spice. The tannins are light and impart a lace-like structure.
The label is based on the iconic bridges found within the Santa Cruz region of Valdeorras. In 2009 Rodríguez said he was convinced that over time this mencia would become one of the most original red wines of northern Spain.
One should dine more often with friends whose tastes differ from one’s own, because these events will bring surprises and delight.
Words: 666

Categories: Not home, wine

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