Blog: Behind the scenes at Jancis Robinson MW Wine Future tasting
Wine styles and varieties that "deserve more attention" were the focus of the 15 wines chosen by Jancis Robinson MW for her major tasting at Wine Future in Hong Kong.
Close to 1,000 delegates were given a personal journey through some of the world's least established wine growing countries, as well as some better known regions. The winemaking talents of Turkey, Brazil and China were all discussed as part of a tasting that had wines going back as far as 1990.
Kicking off the event was a Brazilian sparkling wine, a Geisse Brut 1988, which Robinson said was a classic example not only of the standard of wine being made in Brazil, but how a sparkling wine of this quality would be an ideal food pairing.
The Shaw and Smith Australian Chardonnay, M3 2010 from Adelaide Hills, was a reflection, she said, of how well Australia has developed as a Chardonnay producing country.
"The Australians are now making wines in a much more Burgundian way," she said. "These wines will age much longer than the old fashioned Chardonnays, and are made with much more finesse."
The 2010 Shaw and Smith Chardonnay was a perfect example, she said, of this more restrained style. "This wine has been to Weight Watchers, it's much more austere."
She said Chardonnay is now one of those grape varieties that carries its "imprint quite lightly" around the world and it has become increasingly difficult to be able to distinguish barrel fermented Chardonnay made in different countries.
A self-confessed Riesling fan, Robinson said one of the joys of the grape is that it makes a great low alcohol aperitif, and that nowhere in the world is making wines as delicate as those from the Mosel, like the one she chose for the tasting from Dr Loosen an Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2008.
"Riesling carries its geographical imprint so markedly, it's almost like a Pinot Noir," she said.
German Rieslings are still recovering from the 2010 harvest, which saw heavy rains and a lot of rot. "Another problem for German wines is that they haven't had a Robert Mondavi."
But Austria has its Grüner Vetliner and Robinson picked out a Jurtschitsch, Schenkenbichl Grüner Vetliner Reserve Erse Lage 2009 Kampal. She said some Austrian producers had in the past made what she described as oily Grüner Vetliners, but we are now seeing "the virtue of freshness and precision" in Austrian winemaking reflected in this wine.
Robinson saw it is a "lovely playful, dynamic wine" a wine that was a "bit flirtatious" and "not a quiet wine by any means". But it brought out the herby, floral notes that she loves in Grüner Vetliner.
Robinson said the wine world should also keep its eyes open for "amazing" red wines from Austria.
She singled out Felton Road in Central Otago, New Zealand as one of those wine producers that goes out of its way to taste as many wines it can from elsewhere in the world. She urged other producers to follow suit. "Tasting a lot of wine is a crucial element of a good winemaker," she claimed. "Curiousity is the one thing to keep you sharp and ahead of the pack.
Turkey is undergoing a renaissance in both wine making and wine drinking, and Robinson said she was "absolutely amazed" by the country's offering. "While a lot of the Turkish wines I've tasted were not well made, I think that wine making in Turkey is coming on in leaps and bounds. They are now so sophisticated, and they have got some great raw materials." With terroir by the sea and in the depths of Anatolya, Robinson said Turkey showed great potential. A Kavaklidere Prestige Okuzgozu 2008 from Elazig was a typical example of some of the great wines coming from the country, she said.
While the southern Rhone is hardly undiscovered wine territory, Robinson said that this was a "golden age" for Châteauneuf-du-Pape and picked out Tardieu Laurent, Cuvée Spéciale 2006 . "The very sunny climate, and the Grenache grape which dominates has a natural sweetness," she said.
Robinsion also picked out what she described as one of the "persistently highly regarded reds" of South Africa, Vergelegen 2000 from Stellenbosch made by the larger than life winemaker, Andre van Rensberg.
Moving to South America, Robinson selected a Catena Alta Malbec 2000 from the Catena Zapata stable. She cited Nicolas Catena as the "Robert Mondavi of Argentina" and that his almost intellectual scientific approach was a hallmark of his wines.
"All Catena wines are very well made, they have a slight French restraint about them, and are rarely over the top, sweet or too alcoholic."
She said Argentinian Malbecs have adapted so well to Argentina's sunshine and "brilliant light".
Moving over to Chile she chose a Almaviva 2005 in Puento Alto and talked about how far its indigenous Carmenère variety was now being picked up around the world, bringing its "green note elements" to some Bordeaux wine. As for the Almaviva she picked out the almost Californian sweetness there was in the wine.
She also highlighted the quality of white wines now coming out of Chile, particularly in the cool climate regions like Elqui.
She said the Antinori Tignanello 2001 from Tuscany was a classic example of a Super Tuscan wine. "This is Sangiovese at is most serious."
But she said as with all great Italian wines it makes you hungry just tasting it. "It's a mug's game tasting wine without food."
A big wine that would be better tamed with food was Robinson's pick from California, the Ridge Monte Bello 1995. A wine, she said, you would not want drink in a loud Manhattan bar, as it would be "annihilated" but a wine that will age for many years to come.
The tasting would not have been complete without a locally produced wine, and the Tasya's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 from Grace Vineyard in Shanxi, south west of Beijing, made it onto Robinson's 15. "The big problem for China is the quality of its fruit," said Robinson. "It comes from farmers who are more interested in quantity rather than quality, and don't understand wine making."
The Grace Vineyard wine shone through to Robinson for its aromatic notes and that although finished in French barrels it was not "marked by oak" or "too heavy".
As standards and controls improve China will become a key producer of quality wine.
Overall she hoped her line up of wines reflected the talents and professionalism to be found in wineries all over the world
"One of the aspects of the modern wine world is that winemaking is such a respected profession." In the past it was seen as "what peasant farmers did" but now winemaking was a respected profession in its own right.