May 27, 2010

Back to Back (EVOLUTION 4.5)

And back on schedule. Well... sort of.

Having just caught up on the EVOLUTION WHITE program, I made haste to insure I didn't fall similarly behind on the reds and opened another bottle of the 2001 Confuron-Cotetidot Vosne-Romanée.

This wine just keeps getting better and better.

All of a sudden, I'm looking forward to continuing this experiment. The second bottle in the series felt like the wine was on a downhill slope. But maybe that bottle was off? You'd never know from the current bottle that there was every any doubt about the pure beauty of the fruit.

For those of you just tuning in, we began a long duration experiment at the Lab more than two years ago. Our objective: To watch a wine evolve at regular intervals over a 6 year span. One bottle every six months until we've finished the case. We're up to bottle #4 on the reds (you can revisit the reports for 3, 2, and 1 here, here and here.).

The cherry fruit leapt from the bottle. Bright, fresh fruit was apparent on the nose as soon as I pulled the cork, with aromas of earth, stems and spice swirling underneath. The tannins are still a little sharp, but the wine has gained heft and density. The fleshy (by contrast to prior bottles) fruit was immediately approachable, even if the wine did continue to improve with air.

I will definitely not be late on the next one.

May 25, 2010

What's the word...?

Pseudo-science dominates the discourse at the Lab. We're proud of the experimental work we do. And every so often scientific observation leads to... what's that word that journalists use when one guy gets the story before the other?

Oh, yeah, a BIG SCOOP.

The Lab scooped Decanter Magazine!

This is the headline from the "Latest News" section of the Decanter website: Bordeaux Fever Hits Hong Kong (May 25, 2010).

Tell us something we don't know.

(Onya Shane!)

May 24, 2010

Knee Jerk

Okay, okay, I haven't really been in Hong Kong long enough to make general pronouncements, but I've noticed something. It's something similar to everything you hear about the Chinese and wine. It's something obvious.

So maybe I'm just joining the chorus, saying nothing original.

It would hardly be the first time that's happened.

But as far as I can tell, in Hong Kong, "fine wine" means Bordeaux. And that may be understating the fact. It may be closer to true to say that just "wine" means Bordeaux. The grocery store shelves are full of it. I've seen huge Bordeaux displays at department stores. And the wine shops sell little else (unless they specialize in something besides Bordeaux, but even the Italian wine shop I visited had a Bordeaux section).

As far as I can tell it's pretty much all anybody drinks, except for some industrial, grand marque Champagne. I was at dinner last night, a very cool dive bar meets Thai restaurant, right on the beach at Deep Water Bay. A big group at another table had brought their own wines. Do I really need to tell you what it was?

As it happens, I don't drink much Bordeaux. The best examples are prohibitively expensive. There's not many natural producers in the region. There's no overlooked areas of great terroir. It's just not my thing.

So I'm screwed, right?

Not so fast.

At my local grocery store, alongside the overflowing rows of low to really low-tier Bordeaux (pictured above) and right next to the Veuve Clicquot (what else would Bordeaux lovers reach for when a festive mood strikes?), I found 3 bottles of Fleury's Brut Rose. A 100% Pinot Noir, rosé de saignée, made by Champagne's first (maybe) converts to biodynamics.

Best part? It's on sale for the Hong Kong dollar equivalent of forty bucks. Apparently, biodynamic, grower Champagne isn't a big seller with the local crowd.

Like shooting fish in a barrel of Bordeaux. N'est-ce

May 19, 2010

The Starstreet Winewalk

I have quite a bit of house-keeping to attend to. I need to write up the Lab's farewell to Los Angeles "It's All About the Dirt" dinner. I need to tell you about the bounty from the Lab's Yard Sale. There's even an installment of our historical drinking series, What Would Czar Nicholas Drink?, to draft.

But before I get to any of that, a report from the other side.

Almost as soon as I arrived in Hong Kong, Li Ping arranged for tickets to the sold out Winewalk on Starstreet. Sponsored by the magazine Time Out, the event was a benefit for the Hong Kong Women's Foundation and featured a number of restaurants and wine shops in the Starstreet Precinct of Wan Chai.

It was a great way to become quickly acquainted with a quirky, near-downtown (what HKers call Central) neighborhood. A host of participating restaurants opened their doors to serve appetizers and, unfortunately, mostly forgettable table wines.

There's no point in
reviewing the specifics, is there? (but do let me know if you need Starstreet restaurant reviews.)

The one thing I found most interesting is that I didn't recognize a single wine. The closest thing to something even vaguely familiar was a white I've never seen in the US from gigantico Spanish producer, Torres (perhaps best known for their red wine that comes with a little plastic bull attached to the neck). The Vina Esmerelda was a not unpleasant, overtly perfumed mix of Catalonian Moscatel and Gewürtztraminer. I slugged it down like an old friend.

Given global distribution realities, it's not entirely surprising to encounter a different set of brands in Asia. But even at a wine shop that specialized in Margaret River Wines -- a region I know well; I spent my honeymoon there -- I didn't recognize a single producer on the shelves.

Too soon to tell if this is a trend or a Starstreet anomaly.

For what it's worth, the wine of the event for me was a fancy/artisanal Southern Rhone poured at the roofbar of the fancy/not at all artisanal French bistro, Le Cepage. The 2008 Les Sorcieres from Clos des Fees, a moderniste blend of Grenache (corr.), Carignan and Syrah. Fruit-forward, and perhaps slightly over-oaked, the wine was a velvety blend of red fruits and sandalwood. Another example of the emergence of Roussillon as an appellation to watch for.

May 17, 2010

Moving is a Bitch and some EVOLUTION 4.0

Packing up the Lab was a painful and distracting exercise. And I've clearly fallen behind in my reporting. But I have now landed safely on far eastern shores and hope to catch up while I wait for the Lab's cellars to arrive on their proverbial slow boat.

Amongst other experimental documentation oversights of the past weeks, I have a report from tasting bottle # 4 of our long duration experiment, EVOLUTION/category: white.

(see prior posts here: 1.0, 2.0 & 3.0)

Just to remind you, we're drinking a case of white wine, a bottle at 6 month intervals until we've finished the case. More specifically, we're drinking the much-hyped Pyramid Valley Winery's Lebecca Vineyard Riesling, 2006.

I'll admit that beyond the obvious experimental value, I've just plain enjoyed drinking this wine. What bottle #4 seems to demonstrate is... consistency. The wine doesn't seem to have travelled far from bottle #3. With these last two bottles, the terpenes seem to have faded (wonder if that fancy goût petrol will come back?), giving way to a complex and dense spectrum of citrus smells -- peel, pitch, oil and juice. The palate is nearly identical. Glycerin, lime, nectarine, tangerine, limestone, sea-spray. If anything the wine seems to be finding a greater harmony, wherein the whole seem greater than its parts.

Can't wait for #5.