September 28, 2010

Standing Corrected

Okay, when I wrote yesterday that "None had a cork," what I meant to say...

I don't actually know what I meant to say. As usual, I wasn't paying very close attention. At the Lab, "not paying close attention" is often a euphemism for "drunk." And what I missed was a fairly obvious "cork" in the bottle of the Ocean Eight Chardonnay on my desk. But it's actually not really a cork, in the traditional sense of the term. It's a polymer-mash of neutered and neutralized cork bits and urethane manufactured and marketed by DIAM. A "French company" that makes "cork".

As a side note, anyone who has ever worked in France knows exactly why I put "French company" in quotes.

So it's not really cork, and if you believe Diam's marketing materials, then the Section Eight Chardonnay still holds true within my category of Aussie Chardonnays that are sensational and not sealed with corks (no quotes).

And as long as I'm improving on yesterday's post, let me add this note on tasting notes.

Champagne-ologist extraordinaire, Peter Liem, has recently penned a piece for the World of Fine Wine's new blog. His point, if I may be crassly reductionist, is a paraphrase of what William Hurt's character in the Big Chill says about a late night TV classic: "Sometimes you just have to let art... flow... over you."

As another side note, the proliferation of wine blogs is truly astonishing. I'm thinking that perhaps it's time the Lab finally got one...

Liem's point is a concise and learned expression of a thought I've been kicking around since this post. And I guess it boils down to this for me: I really only want to drink wines that cannot be reduced to their constituent parts. I want to drink great wines (and no, dear Chinese readers, that does not mean expensive ones). And I want to let them... flow... over me.

Like Mike Aylward's Section Eight Verve Chardonnay which has such great cut and precision. And beguiling aromatics. It's like --

Sshhh. Just drink it.

September 27, 2010

Down Under on the Other Side of the World

Little did I know that when I began my first "dig for China" as a small child on a sandy, California beach, that I would make it here, almost 40 years later.

Cute, huh?

But I hate that sort of sentimental crap. For much the same reason, I hate corks. Nostalgia for corks is like all other forms of nostalgia... borderline proto-facism. Think I'm wrong? Read Mussolini's early writings (with Gentile). But you don't have to be Antonio Gramsci or suffer through a Tea Party rally to understand that warm feelings for idealized history are the first step on a road to labor camps.

I don't want to get into the cork debate. Because there is no debate. The baseline science is there. This is like global warming. You either get it. Or you're wrong.

But I will posit my disdain for cork as a reason why I've had so many astonishingly good Australian Chardonnays since I arrived in Hong Kong. Australia has all but given up on corks and so I'm favorably disposed towards the wines when I see them here.

Of course, it might also have something to do with the multi-million dollar marketing campaign the Australian wine industry has recently launched in China.

Anyway, here's a short list of great Aussie Chardonnays I've had recently in Hong Kong:

Leeuwin, Art Series, Margaret River, 2006
Yabby Lakes, Mornington Peninsula, 2007
Mas Serrat, Yarra Valley, 2006
Ocean Eight, Verve, Mornington Peninsula, 2008
Punch, Lance's Vineyard, Yarra Valley, 2008

Two of these, the Mas Serrat and the Yabby Lakes, were made by the same guy, and made quite elegantly. The Leeuwin was so good I was convinced it was Burgundy (thanks Roger; both times). I'd actually been avoiding these wines for the past few years, thinking they were too expensive. The 2006 (and 2007) are well worth the money. I can't say enough about the whole range from Ocean Eight; but it's the Pinot that's the killer. And the Punch Chardonnay is consistently unique and site-specific. It's a vineyard I'm sure I will recognize on sight.

You would be doing your cellar a favor to buy any of the five.

None had a cork (well... correction forthcoming...).

September 16, 2010

A Little Help with Tasting

Sorry for the long delay between reports. I'm adjusting to the local culture, and nobody really does jack in Hong Kong during the summer. In fact, most of the expat crowd bails the island. But Fall is here. I know this, not because the temperature has changed. It hasn't. It's still basically a rice cooker beyond the air-conditioned confines of the Lab. But I know the season has turned because there's a line at my favorite coffee shop in the morning and all the tables are filled with women who don't play tennis but wear diamond tennis bracelets anyway.

Another aspects of Hong Kong culture I've been adjusting to is the abundance of skilled domestic labor from the Philippines. The market is heavily regulated by the regional authorities. But if you can maneuver through the forms and bureaucracy, you can get what' s known in the local parlance as a "helper."

I decided to get two.

Because I think the helper is a fantastic concept. Now that my responsibilities are reduced at home, I have a lot more time to drink. The Philippines should probably be making a better effort to export this thing globally.

At the Lab, we've been cataloguing and organizing the wines shipped to our new Guangzhou cellars. We've run a few tests on overseas shipping as well which we'll report on soon. But I grabbed an orphan bottle and brought it home last night, to see whether we can further reduce labor costs at the Lab.

I'm growing weary of writing tasting notes. So I poured a glass of a recent vintage Burgundy from bio-dynamic stalwart Hubert Lamy for one of the helpers and asked her what she thinks.

"This is very good, sir," was her reply.

I think she had it about right.