With Chinese New Year comes the biggest annual movement of population on the planet, being the most important time in Asia for family gatherings. It is the time for big dinner parties, where it is more and more common to open some wine. Yet amongst conversations about stock markets, you will seldom hear any comments about the wine. Partly because of cultural traditions and differences, partly because people have less interest, and partly because somebody from Asia may have a hard time relating to these wine descriptions based on western civilisation background. All the most famous wine critics are occidental, describing western wines in a western way.
For somebody who grew up here it is difficult to build up a memory, that is to remember a wine or comment on it, if we base those descriptions only on western references.
The olfactive sense has a very strong connection to emotions, and this helps to support learning and memory. For example I grew up with a blackcurrant tree in the garden and blackberries all around – very common aromas in some red wines – so this is a smell I can relate to immediately, but they are almost non-existent in Asia.
Like many things in life, there is not only one truth about wine description. And there is no need to be a wine expert to identify different aromas and flavours that are simply part of our memory. The important thing is to pay more attention when eating a fruit, drinking tea, smelling different types of woods or flowers, and being able to clearly isolate all of these scents and essences. By creating your own “database” you then can assess a wine quality more efficiently and it will also be easier to remember.
Here I chose two French wines from Alsace (the most Germanic region in France) that would be appropriate to serve over Chinese New Year. Alsace primarily produces white wines, but due to its terroir more powerful ones than its Teuton neighbour.
Alsatian wines, as Asian cuisine, are delicate and powerful, making them one of the best pairings.
Both wines come from the Trimbach winery. One of the biggest in Alsace, yet family owned and making some of the most prestigious wines of the region.
This time I did the tasting notes of both wines with western and then Asian references.
Wines available at www.asc-wines.com.
Made from 100% Riesling old vines, this wine shows a pale gold colour, with aromas of white flower, crushed rocks, developing to citrusy and pine nuts. Medium body, bone dry, very refreshing with notes of lime skin, white peach, long finish on chalk with a point of saltiness. A wine with great potential, good to drink now or to keep.
Nose of kaffir lime, ginger and jasmine tea leaves. Very fresh palate with dragon fruit, saturn peach, pomelo, calcite and crushed shells.
Perfect with sushi, yum cha, steamed fish with ginger, or seafood fondue for just a few examples.
Bright gold colour, made only of Gewurztraminer grape, this is a very aromatic wine. Being a late harvest the wine is slightly sweet. Rich nose of lemon, lychee, honey and white roses. Full-bodied wine, yet fresh and easy drinking with apricot, pear and white pepper, developing to quince and exotic fruits. Long finish on stone fruits and yellow flower.
Aromas of mangosteen, kaffir lime, jackfruit and chrysanthemum tea. Off-dry with flavours of Asian pear, star fruit and Sichuan pepper, opening to guava, dried chrysanthemum and mango.
This fresh acidity with a bit of sweetness make it great to drink by itself, or will pair very well with spicy food: Kung Lao chicken, ShuiZhu, Ma Po tofu, Dan Dan noddles, Thai beef and mango salad, hotpot, and many others.
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
David Rouault is a professional classical musician, part-time wine consultant and full-time wine lover, holding WSET Level 3,
Certified Specialist of Wine and Introductory Sommelier diplomas. www.dionysos.com.mo