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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Property arrow Property arrow Buying, storing and drinking wine
Buying, storing and drinking wine PDF Print E-mail

Wine has been with us for several thousand years - indeed the grapevine and its product, wine, are mentioned more than any other organic plant in the Old Testament - but in many cases it is still rarely fully understood.  While Noah is generally credited with establishing the first vineyard, after the Great Flood, now a host of countries around the world are producing some excellent wines, which simply makes it even harder to know what to choose.

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Robert Temple, wine director for Maxxium Hong Kong Limited, the wholesale fine wine and cognac division of Rémy Martin, has some interesting observations on both what to select and, perhaps just as important, how to store it.

"The major consideration for storing wine," says Mr Temple, "is the temperature.  If wine is stored in an environment above 32 degrees Celsius, it will die.  Ideally the storage should be below 20 degrees, and constant, so if your apartment does not have 24-hour air conditioning then invest in a wine storage unit, such as Vintec, or Eurocave.  These can store 40-180 bottles, depending on how much space you have available."

Jacques Mehault, business development director of Fine Vintage (Far East) Limited, and a Master Sommelier, is slightly more philosophical: "It is not in the Hong Kong culture to store wine due to lack of space, but any good wine cabinet will do," he says with a Gallic shrug.

Mr Temple mentions the advent of screw-top bottles, the Stelvin concept, notably on wines from Australia, New Zealand and some from California, which means there is no necessity to store wine on their sides.

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"The Stelvin aluminium closure is the future for most white wines and a great deal of red wines made to be consumed within a few years.  Aside from eliminating the problem of cork taint, there is absolutely no need to store lying down."

Wine should be kept at between 12 and 14 degrees centigrade, and away from direct sunlight, and, if with a cork, lying down, he adds.

Jacques Mehault adds an interesting perspective to the Stelvin concept: "Screw-tops were created to fight the so-called corky issues, but some now have a metallic taste.  However, some of the top guns in Bordeaux - Lynch, Mouton, Margaux and a number of others - are using Stelvin-concept caps for their whites."

With regard to California wines, a popular myth is that Napa Valley produces the bulk of US wine: of approximately 350 wineries in the area, it actually only accounts for four per cent of total U.S. production.

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Mr Temple has an interesting view on the time-honoured policy of ‘red with red meat and white with fish or poultry: "There are white wines you can serve with red meat and red wines you can serve with white meat," he explains.  "It is an issue of balance - lightly flavoured wines with lightly flavoured dishes, and vice versa.  Heavily tanic reds tend not to match well with delicate fish dishes.  Similarly, a light Sauvignon Blanc will not complement a peppered steak"

Mr Mehault puts it more simplistically: "The best match is the one you like."

For good every day drinking wine, Robert Temple recommends Chilean reds, which he says "offer great value", while he also likes U.S. wines.

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"My favourite red from Chile right now is Errazuriz  Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - wonderful fruit, plenty of body and surprisingly refined character.  The wines from Geyser Peak in the United States are very food-friendly and I drink those too."

And belying the myth that red wine should always be served at room temperature, Mr Temple says, "Red wine comes out of my wine fridge at 12 degrees, and after 15 to 20 minutes in a decanter it is 16-18 degrees, and this is the temperature at which I prefer to drink it.  Beaujolais wines can be served cooler."

(The author drinks Deakin Estate Shiraz straight from the fridge.)

Jacques Mehault believes chilling a red is permissible "if it is young and well made".

On white wines, Mr Temple says that with warmer weather now with us, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is unbeatable for refreshing, zesty, summer drinking.  Oyster Bay, he says, is also among the best he has tasted.  Last year's crop, 2005, is, he adds, another flawless vintage.

Vintage, of course, is often open to interpretation but in fact means the year in which the grapes were harvested, not the year in which the wine was bottled, which in some cases can be years later.  The terminology of wine is worth further investigation.

Variety refers to the specific kind of grapes from which the wine is made, although not all wines disclose varietal content, while ‘estate bottled' refers to wine grown and bottled in the winery's own vineyards.  In French this is labelled Mise en bouteille au Chateau, while in German it would be Gutsabfüllung.

Buying wine need not be a chore and most wine merchants offer case discounts, and a delivery service, so there is little point in buying less than a case unless there really is insufficient storage space.

"As with anything in Hong Kong, it pays to shop around," says Mr Temple.  "If you go directly to the importers you may get a better price, but you may not get a big range to choose from.

"It is possible to go straight to some wineries - to buy at the ‘cellar door' -but the time and trouble needed to import wines often outweighs any savings."

Jacques Mehault, predictably perhaps for a sommelier, says: "One bottle of good wine is always better than 36 bottles of poor wine."

The current duty on wine is 80 per cent, which says Mr Temple "is ridiculous".   Wine, he maintains, should be for everyone and the outrageous taxation limits quality wine consumption to only the highest income earners.

"The mainland China and Macau governments levy only a fraction of this amount and it is time for Hong Kong to reduce taxes in line with the region," he asserts.

The subject of investing in wine is inevitably a difficult one to tackle and one that Jacques Mehault dismisses as unrealistic: "I don't like the idea.  Would I be sufficiently wealthy to buy 36 bottles of Mouton 1945 - if there are any left - or would I rather share a decent bottle with friends?  At least we would be able to talk about it."

Robert Temple is slightly more bullish: "Like any investment, it takes some research to see what the opportunities are, and as always, there are risks.  It requires having cash tied up for a lengthy period of time, but if you are hoping to drink Latour, Laffite and other top Bordeaux at the best prices, then it is certainly worth considering."

There are a number of international companies offering wine as a secure investment but, as Robert Temple point out, it is a matter of whether you intend to consume the wine or just treat it as another part of your investment portfolio:  "The issue is availability and price versus the optimum time for drinking.  When a top Bordeaux, for example, is ready to drink, there may not be any left on the market to purchase.  Also, by the time a wine has matured the value might have increased substantially, so by buying early and storing until it is ready to drink, it can be very rewarding."

Jacques Mehault inevitably has a slightly different viewpoint: "As with human life, wine has its limits.  There are wines for every hour of the day, a bit like the lady you place in your life.  Simply put, there are right wines for the right people."

 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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