PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 May, 2004, 12:00am

Belgian winemaker, grape farmer, negociant and favourite of wine guru Robert Parker, Jean-Marie Guffens has a well-earned reputation for outstanding wines and outspoken views. On his way back from Japan to his home in Burgundy recently, he stopped in Hong Kong for a day to conduct a tasting of his Verget and Chateau des Tourettes wines.

What was your first experience of wine? 'We had two wines in Belgium. One was a Luxembourg sparkling wine called Marie Louise and the other was Rose d'Anjou. That meant I didn't drink any wine until I was 18. I hated it.'

What was the first good wine you drank? 'A Tavel [rose] or something like that when I travelled to France at 18 or 19. Then I started to taste everything I could and read everything about wine. I think the first great wine I ever tasted was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.'

What wines other than your own do you like to drink? 'Champagne and sauternes. Those are the wines I think I buy the most. Billecart-Salmon is my house champagne. I prefer white wines to red, and I prefer to make white wine.'

What about cheap wines? 'My own. They don't cost me so much. Otherwise mostly Bordeaux wines. I don't like pinot noir too much. I drink Cotes du Rhone and Bordeaux.'

Do you have a favourite Hong Kong restaurant? 'I come here and they take me to places, but I don't remember too well. I don't have the culture of the place. Last time I ate in Petrus [at the Island Shangri-la]. I hate international food.

I hate this overdone French-Asian mixture to please everybody, which pleases nobody.'

Do you have a favourite restaurant in France? 'Yes, but you will never know it. I don't want other people to find out. I don't go to [Michelin] three-star restaurants any more. They're annoying, they're expensive and people go there to show themselves.'

Which wines do you think match Asian food well? 'Noodles, fish and everything go very well with white wine, but frankly I don't understand why the Chinese drink so much red. I don't see the point. I'm a white-wine maker. I prefer to make chardonnay because it's the grape that gets the best from the soil. I don't want to make viognier or gewurztraminer because those grapes are so aromatic the soil doesn't appear - and I can't find the soil in cabernet sauvignon so much.'

Do you have a favourite combination of food with chardonnay? 'That would be mussel soup with saffron - that's wonderful with chardonnay - and also cheese, because of the malolactic fermentation. It goes well with the lactic acid. What I hate is the typical combination of burgundy and oysters.'

What's the best wine you've ever tasted? 'It's not the wine; it's the people I have it with. I've drunk a lot of good wines but not always with the right people.'

And the worst? 'The the over-priced pinot noirs of Burgundy. For me 90 per cent of them are overpriced and horrible. After that you have the over-priced Bordeaux, the over-priced Australians and the over-priced Californians.'

What's the best aspect of your job?

'The harvest - making wine.'

And the worst? 'Talking with journalists.'


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