I am just back from my first visit to Hong Kong with some very fond memories following a series of amazing events organised for me by Tom Sackville. The thing that struck me the most is that there is an absolute passion for wine on the island, and in particular a love for the great names of Burgundy. I was the lucky recipient of so much generosity from a wealth of wine lovers. In certain parts of the world, the term “I tasted ….” is used a little too frequently, and is upsetting, for wine is not about just tasting and ticking a box; it should be appreciated, drunk and enjoyed with good food and good company. This, from my brief visit, is most definitely the ethos of the true wine lovers in Hong Kong. There is also a wonderful understanding for ageing wine and drinking it with maturity. I had the chance to enjoy that increasing rarity: old white Burgundy, warts and all in certain cases. It was exciting to see consumers prepared to take the risk, and when it pays off the rewards can be sensational.
My highlights on the white front started with a pair from Domaine Leflaive, beginning with an absolutely pristinely delicious 2000 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. One instantly knew it was going to be a star just by looking at its colour: vibrantly shining lemon yellow, with a lime green hew. The wine was as vibrant in the palate as it was in colour. Initially the bright core of citrus fruit and mineral drive was quite un-Combettes like, but with time the bottle opened up and one saw the glorious honeyed, buttery richness that I so normally associate with this cru – one of Puligny’s more exuberant 1ers crus. From the same domaine came 2009 Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon; a little younger, but a beautiful example of the excellent 2009 vintage which is delicious now, although I suspect my host will be tempted to age it a while longer. And why not, as it certainly has plenty of legs left in it.
The Leflaive theme was continued with a 2001 Bâtard Montrachet Grand Cru from Domaine Pierre Morey, for Pierre was their winemaker between 1988 and 2008. The 2001 vintage was not the easiest for Chardonnay, but Pierre is renowned for making restrained wines, and he absolutely nailed the vintage, producing a beautifully textured wine, with hints of hazelnuts and brioche flavours, fully mature and most definitely drinking now! One year younger was the stunning 2002 Bâtard Montrachet Grand Cru from Louis Jadot; a more opulent, richer, creamier style highlighting the natural flamboyance of this sensational Grand Cru.
On the red wine front there were so many wines worth commenting on, but I must start by mentioning a flight of Grands Crus for my first lunch at the Hong Kong Club. Hubert Lignier’s Clos de la Roche was a beauty from the 2000 vintage. I have always had a soft spot for this vintage, a year often overlooked, but the finest wines have always been beautifully understated, whilst possessing an amazing balance of fruit and Pinot purity and this gorgeous wine has it all in spades. Not to be outdone was a truly brilliant Bonnes Mares from Domaine de Vogüé, a producer who can provoke a difference of opinion, but this deliciously velvety wine showed why 1999 is such a sought-after vintage. In the same dining room the following day our Grand Cru theme continued, with three 2001s from Domaine Ponsot which divided opinion. The surprise for many was the understated elegance and crisp purity of Laurent’s superb Chapelle Chambertin, offering a brilliant contrast to the more robust and powerful Griotte Chambertin, and it was a thrill to see his famed Clos de la Roche, showing a completeness of fruit and power, highlighting this great vineyard’s ability to age for the long term. Another surprise was Philippe Engel’s stunning 2003 Clos Vougeot; the hottest vintage on record and Philippe’s second last vintage before his untimely death. This wine highlights why he was considered amongst the Côte de Nuit’s elite in winemaking circles: the wine was rich, robust, gamey and quite simply utterly delicious.
My last word, though, has to go to the extraordinary generosity of my hostess at the Hong Kong Country Club. Not only was I treated to a gourmet extravaganza of Chinese food, but the flavours of the 1999 Vosne Romanée Cuvée Duvault-Blochet Domaine de la Romanée-Conti with which we enjoyed our meal with will stay with me for a very long time indeed. It fully justifies this extraordinary estate’s fine reputation and highlights why Pinot Noir and Asian food is such a great marriage.
I would like to thank all those who I met during my brief stay, for their incredible generosity in sharing such a wonderful range of delicious wines just showing how very special the world of wine is. Thank you.