Hong Kong: Le French May – a Celebration of Food, Wine, and Culture

Food and Beverage

I spent nearly two hours Monday 11 March 2013 getting from my home in Hong Kong’s Northern New Territories to the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong in Wanchai (and the same to get back home again) to learn two things: wine consumption in Hong Kong has doubled in the five years since the import duties on wines and spirits were scrapped, and the import of wine from France into Hong Kong has quadrupled – assuming I heard correctly. I arrived late, and it was standing room only.

Great fares to Europe and beyond.

OMG! Has it really been five years since the duties were scrapped? A quick on line check to verify my facts has confirmed that – YES! – it really HAS been five years! How time flies!

The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department dropped duties on all alcoholic beverages on 26 February 2008.

I clearly remember that trip to the supermarket a couple of days later to purchase wine and discovering – much to my satisfaction – that the prices had, in fact, gone down, although not as much as I had been hoping for.

Better Late Than Never!

I had a deadline to meet, so I missed the wine seminar before the press conference, but I did NOT miss the wine tastings AFTER the press conference, and there were some VERY good wines.

If truth be told, for the amount of time and money I spent getting to and from the press conference, I could have simply purchased a bottle of wine in one of the many wine shops that have sprung up in my neck of the woods over the last couple of years and drunk it at home. But that wouldn’t have been half as much fun.

And I wouldn’t have had anything to write about …

Pairing Wine and Food

It’s so much more interesting chatting with the vintners, discussing possible food and wine pairings, tasting their wines, running into old friends, making new friends – and sampling all of those incredibly yummy edibles that purveyors of gourmet foodstuffs are hoping to peddle to some of the most exclusive eateries in town.

Did I have any favourites? You bet I did!

I’ve often wondered what kind of wine to match with the heavily spiced foods of South Asia or China’s Sichuan Province, and I think I’ve found the answer: Côté Fizz Rouge or Rosé de Guinguette, which are imported into Hong Kong by BurgundyList.

Don’t Match Force with Force!

Many people opt for full bodied Burgundys and Bordeaux, wanting to match force with force, but I think that this is a mistake.

Rather than trying to compete with the food’s incredible richness and heat, I think you should try to balance it with something light, fizzy, and sweet – such as the two wines recommended by Glenn Dunster of BurgundyList.

“A few of us paired Côté Fizz with an Indian meal, and it worked really well,” Glenn says.

“Red sweet or semi-sweet sparkling wines are often cited by wine and food writers as a good foil for spicy dishes – the keys being the sweetness, the lower alcohol content, and their refreshing nature as they are typically served chilled.

Côté Fizz has all of these characteristics – and more.

“They are also made from the Gamay grape, which is naturally low in tannin, with tannins being a factor you really don’t want with spicy foods,” Glenn says.

Would You Believe Rosé?

I have sometimes heard wine experts suggest pairing spicy foods with rosés because of their sweetness and lower alcohol content, and Glenn seemed to agree with this school of thought.

“The Rosé de Guinguette has the palate cleansing freshness and a deft touch of sweetness, and sparkling demi-sec rosés do get a vote from wine writers for pairing with Sichuanese foods,” Glenn says.

“That wine has a bit more acidity, though, which won’t work well with everything Sichuanese.”

Everyone Say ‘Cheese’!

Cottage Vineyards International Limited was serving some very yummy whites and reds.

Of vines that are 70 to 85 years old, Collovray & Terrier Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes 2011 is brilliant pale yellow in colour. The nose expresses a mineral complexity, elegant, with a lot of beautiful white and yellow fruit with aromas of honeysuckle flowers.

With a pleasant fruity aroma reminiscent of great cherries, the Domaine Davanture Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise Rouge 2007 is a medium bodied wine that has a beautiful dense garnet colour. It is a pleasant, fruity wine, with plenty of cherries in both nose and palate.

Fico International Limited had both wines and cheese on offer.

I really enjoyed the Antonin Guyon Pernand Vergelesses Premier Cru sous Fretille 2009, a white wine with a brilliant robe, flowery aromas, and a very nice nose of hazelnuts.

The Antonin Guyon Savigny Les Beaune 2009, with a very nice purple robe with a nose of small red fruits, also went down well.

But what impressed me most was that creamy – and somewhat dry – goat’s cheese, Charolais Affine, that Fico was serving! Richly nuanced, it quite literally melted in my mouth!!!

Meats and Mist

Oliver Pacific Fine Food & Wine had some mouth watering meats on offer, and I could NOT get enough of the Terrine De Campagne Bressane.

I went back for seconds, thirds, and fourths … And then I started recommending it to others – so that I could have fifths, sixths, and sevenths.

But the afternoon’s biggest surprise came as everyone was getting ready to leave.

Chteau Burgundy Ltd. had already served the last of its wine, but I DID manage to sample their yummy cakes, which were laden with spice, and the Cognac mister, which you can use to add a hint of Cognac to desserts and other dishes.

I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before some enterprising bartender started selling cognac by the whiff.

We’re only half way into March, and Le French May seems already to have begun!