Park Lane Hotel, 6th September 2008
As an Australian I'm not blindly bullied into adoring the wines of France with the puppy dog love that's so common in Asia. I tend to see Bordeaux as an overrated, overinflated minefield of pain, the Rhone as rich and flavoursome and the Languedoc as being full of great value surprises. But for me the two most fascinating regions in France would have to be Burgundy and the cool northern vineyards of Alsace. Organised by Sopexa and the French Tourism Association the Alsace Wines Festival was held at the Park Lane Hotel in Causeway Bay. The event offered Hong Kong wine suppliers and distributors a chance to feed their wine to the public in the hope of promoting France and more specifically the wines of the Alsace region.
The opportunity to taste and compare so many wines was a great way to get to grips with this interesting region. There were too many stalls to go through all the suppliers individually, so I thought I'd just list a few of my favourite wines amongst the many I tried on the day.
• Pierre Sparr Reserve Gewurztraminer 2006 - A fresh, stylish wine that is all about sherbet and tropical fruits. Tastes just like good Gewurztraminer should.
• Leo Beyer 'Comtes d'Eguisheim' Gewurztraminer 2000 - A good producer who hides great wines under very funky old school labels. A good wine, with a surprising freshness and a seductive nose. How perfectly matched are Alsace wines for Cantonese food?
• Leo Beyer 'les Ecaillers' Riesling 2001 - My favourite Riesling of the day. A magnificently complex and delicious wine that's remarkably fresh.
• Gustave Lorentz Reserve Riesling 2006 - Amazing length. Held in perfect place with beautiful acidity. Cutting precision and class.
• Domaine Joseph Cattin Cremant D'Alsace NV - A surprisingly good sparkling wine. Plenty of green apple and nut flavours remind me of uncooked apple crumble. Fresh and fun.
• Paul Zinck 'Eichberg' Gewurztraminer 2003 - A mammoth nose; big citrus flavours and powerful intensity. Not for the faint hearted.
• Josmeyer Pinot Blanc 'Mise du Printemps' 2007 - I'm not the hugest fan of Pinot Blanc, but this was the best example I tried on day. Plenty of stone fruit, flowers and talc made for a delicate, yet delicious drop.
• Josemyer Riesling 'Le Dragon' 2003 - These guys don't seem to produce a bad wine. This has plenty of citrus intensity, but is beautifully balanced. An excellent wine that has a certain bold freshness in the mouth.
• Josemyer Pinot Gris 'Le Fromenteau' 2006 - Complex and interesting. Apart from the expected green apples this also has a lovely nuttiness to it. The nose surprised me with an obvious whiff of truffles.
• Josemyer Pinot Noir 'Herenweg' 2005 - Alsace Pinot; a lovely surprise. A fascinating wine with plenty of spice and cherries. This has surprisingly good tannins and structure, but is it worth the $298 asking price?
• Gustave Lorentz 'Vedages Rardives' Gewurztraminer 2003 - My favourite wine of the day. A late harvest package that is just absolutely gorgeous in its length and complexity. Well worth seeking out. The Alsace Wines Festival was an awesome opportunity to see what the region could do. There was certainly a range of styles on offer from lush, intense wines to more cutting, minerally ones. Riesling and Gewurztraminer, and to a lesser extend Pinot Gris were of course the stars of the show, but there were also a couple of surprises. I was impressed by Josemyer's delicious Pinot Noir and by several of the crisp, zingy sparkling offerings. The fact my favourite wine of the day was a sweet, late harvest desert wine perhaps best shows the surprising versatility of the region. Alsace also seemed to offer excellent value; many of the wines were under $100 and getting such quality at such a low price shows how undervalued these wines are. All this wine fair has done is make me an even bigger fan of Alsace.