Wine opinion: top vineyards in town to tempt our palates and empty our pockets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 9:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 4:25pm

As wines from some producing countries are released onto the market, this time of year finds Hong Kong full of winemakers and their representatives eager to press the flesh and drum up business.

Domaine Clarence Dillon, the owner of Bordeaux's Chateau Haut-Brion, allows the estate's almost 400 years of history to speak for itself. Despite being possibly the world's first and oldest brand, the chateau is not shy of innovation.

It was the first in Bordeaux to introduce fermentation in steel vats and more recently optical sorting - the best grapes are selected by an electronic device that assesses their symmetry.

Yet the chateau does have a history. Until recently it was thought the first recorded mention of its wines was a 1663 reference in Samuel Pepys' diaries, but an even earlier reference has been found. The cellar books of Britain's King Charles II show him buying the wine at 21 shillings a bottle in 1660.

In the unlikely event that you have some 17th century documents lying around the house, the chateau is offering prizes to a value of €37,500 (HK$402,000) to anyone who can find an earlier written reference. The prizes include wine not only from Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion but also Chateau Quintus 2011, the domaine's new third label.

The competition runs until September 10, with any winner to be announced in October.

Meanwhile, the world seems to have noticed that Hong Kong's high-end wine drinkers are now switching their attention to Burgundy and are pitching the appropriate wares at us.

Jim Clendenen, who bears a startling resemblance to Zonker from the Doonesbury cartoon strip, had a typical 1960s San Francisco upbringing. He started his wine company in the early 1980s with US$50,000, using a Volkswagen Beetle to make his first deliveries.

He now makes a series of highly regarded chardonnays and pinot noirs with an obvious Burgundian influence in their minerality.

The Au Bon Climat vineyard is in Santa Barbara, which is relatively cool, allowing grapes to ripen with moderate alcohol and high acidity.

Far Niente, owners also of the Nickel & Nickel and Enroute labels, were here to promote their chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon from a range of years stretching from 1999 to 2012.

The Far Niente winery was rescued from 60 years of abandonment in 1979, when enthusiastic amateur Gil Nickel bought it and spent three years restoring it.

Pinot fans will like the Enroute Les Pommiers pinot noir from the Russian River Valley, while cabernet sauvignon fans will want to try the Far Niente Cave Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa Valley, California 2006.