Friday, 20 June 2008

Is it Black Current or Plum?

Public Lecture; Is it Black Current or Plum?
19th June 2008

This talk was a free public lecture put on as part of a monthly series by the Hong Kong Anthropological Society's. It was held at the Hong Kong Museum of History and conducted by Lydia Siu Kit Wah; a post-graduate anthropology student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Siu approached wine from a purely anthropological perspective and focused on the unique cultural elements of wine consumption here in Hong Kong. Her talk was subtitled 'Understanding the meaning of taste in wine' and many of her observations were on the cultural elements that effect how we taste, specifically wine. One Hong Kong example is that locals often find it difficult to associate with traditional wine descriptions as flavours like cedar, cigar and eucalyptus are not widely understood here. She also outlined the strong cultural associations made between wine drinking and wealth, Western culture and sophistication and stressed that Hong Kong drinkers are often more concerned with the image of wine than the wine itself. Another interesting element of her talk was Hong Kong wine consumption from a historical perspective and effects of developments like the introduction of air-conditioning, the reduction of the wine tax and the role of education. Siu also offered an explanation of something that's been bothering me for a while; why Hong Kong drinkers prefer red wines to white despite the fact that white wine is often better suited to local cuisine. Her simple theory is that red is seen as lucky and white, the colour of death, is unlucky.

There was a casual dinner afterwards and the whole event was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The Anthropological Society was full of friendly and enthusiastic people who made strangers like myself extremely welcome. Siu spoke well and offered many insightful ideas. It was fascinating to hear the thoughts a local resident who deliberately developed a passion for wine in the name of research. If I was going to fault Siu's presentation I'd have to say I found the distinction she made between official "wine tasting" groups and the general public a little contrived, and one that perhaps, unhealthily, encourages false elitism. Still an entertaining and insightful evening and all thanks must go to Lydia Siu for her fantastic efforts.
Visit the Hong Kong Anthropological Society's website.

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