Variety is the spice of life



Well , with all the focus on Bordeaux and the headlines that will be emanating from there this week , I thought it might surprise you that my mind has been elsewhere over recent weeks.  Now I love the wines of Bordeaux but I would always put Burgundy as my first love; however it is not these fragile and fragrant beauties that have been occupying my thoughts over recent weeks either.  Nope, it’s the grandeur and cerebral intensity of the king of Italian varietals, Nebbiolo, and the wines of Piedmont (above) that have caused me to gaze out of the office surveying Hong Kong harbour, reminiscing over the dramatic aromatics and power that these wines can offer.

Now I’ll go back to the start… when I first arrived in Honkers I was expecting to be drinking a fair bit of Bordeaux, with a smidgen of Burgundy on the side, as there is no doubt this is where the focus is in this part of world.  However, a few weeks in and there I am at dinner with a good friend in the trade here, and what is standing in front of me but a 2001 Barolo from a producer that I have never heard of that he has brought along.  I have to be honest, I was a little dismayed at first as I had fairly substantial prime cut of beef that was about to be served to me that was begging for…well… a bottle of Claret!

I did have an Italian fad five or so years ago when I was drinking nothing but the wines of Tuscany and Piedmont (whilst watching the Sopranos)… this fad culminated in a rather emotional hug with Angelo Gaja (in white chinos and snake-skin belt, left) at his winery in Barbaresco – something I am sure David Berry Green still remembers with a certain dismay. But I haven’t really drunk much in the way of Barolo, Brunello or Amarone for some time.

What I am coming to is that as the palate meanders new paths, and different styles and tastes, so you often forget about the paths once tasted – this is certainly the case with me!  The first few sniffs were a little muted but time in glass and aeration was the key to releasing the gorgeous and subtle intensity of the nose.  The classic bouquet of scorched earth, rose petal and tar were all there, with the palate pure and intense with rapier like acid balancing out the sweetness of tannins… ooh la la… I was in love with Barolo again!  It was actually reminiscent of a 2000 Burgundy, a vintage drinking beautifully in its youth and offering such lovely aromatics.  I’m not sure if it is built like a classic vintage but, by gee, it is charming now. To be honest, I am not sure if the wine actually complemented the slab of meat on my plate, I can’t even tell you if my steak was good either, I was too busy reminding myself what I have been missing for so long.

We all have our favourites but, for most wine lovers, our tastes and fads come and go and that is what is so blooming great about wine.  Trust me, in a few months I’ll be back on the Bordeaux bandwagon… or, who knows, back to enjoying the power of a Priorat or the freshness and zing of a Mosel Kabinett.  The lesson I have learnt is that it is good to retrace old steps from time to time and to shift gears – it makes wine so much more enjoyable.  I saw a great t-shirt whilst running on Bowen Road (one of the only flat runs in HK!) yesterday, that said “a rolling stone gathers no moss”, and I feel it sort of sums up what I mean in a lose way.  Keep trying different wines, experimenting with regions that you have never heard of, and retracing those old steps as the vintages and your palate develops.

The more you taste, the more you understand and appreciate wines that you may have not enjoyed before; wine is something you can never know to much about!  Variety gives you the energy, enthusiasm and passion to try more.  If you stick to the same old wines all the time perhaps you forget to appreciate what makes even these wines you drink so special, and you take them for granted and perhaps lose your passion for what’s in the bottle… and well… you stop rolling and gather that moss.

The only downside to this is that I have got a bit carried away trying a few older vintages and back filling my cellar with 2001, 2004 and 2005 Barolo and Barbaresco…and now I have no money for 2009 Bordeaux…not a happy chap!