The Life of Wine

 |  September 28, 2010

I had the pleasure of sharing a glass of wine or two with about thirty wine imbibers at the beautiful Ratchamankha Hotel last month. The wine dinner hosted by Citylife featured a series of Italian wines by ItalAsia matched with an ‘Oriental Fusion’ menu. Roving around the 40 foot table and speaking to many of the attendees, two things became glaringly obvious to me.

Firstly, contrary to the myth that European wines are no match for Asian food, you can drink Italian wine with Asian food. Ok, so in the past this may have been true. Traditional ‘old world’ tightly structured European reds with high tannin levels are best suited to the foods of their respective regions of origin. I have witnessed restaurant patrons drink full bodied, tannic, savoury and highly complex reds with dishes laced with coriander, chilli, ginger and soy. To each his own and call me a wine snob, but I did wish a large wheel of Parmigiano Regiano, had dropped out of the sky at the time.

Providing the Asian food flavours are subtle and the wines are made in a less traditional, more ‘new world’ style or from slightly warmer climates offering more generous primary fruit flavours are a great match. Two stand out wines on the night were the Duca Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio, Sicily (see September Life of Wine column) and the Antinori Chianti Superiore Tuscany.

Pinot Grigio is such a perfect white wine for Asian food. It can handle the subtleties, can match the headiness of flavours and has enough acidity to clean the palate for the next onslaught. The Antinori Chianti was a real surprise. Sangiovese, the principal grape variety behind Chianti (Tuscany, Italy) takes on many guises depending on where it is grown and how it is made. From savoury dry non-descript red wine to deep, rich, brooding ‘Super Tuscans’, Sangiovese is truly versatile. This little baby had just enough primary fruit backed by lovely chewy tannins and was just perfect with the duck.

The second point of discussion was cellaring potential of wines. What styles of wines are solely drink now options and which wines will age well? What are the correct wines to put down for a few years to capitalise on their growth and development?

There is no defining consensus on the subject of cellaring – there are too many variables at play to establish what you will enjoy three, five and ten years from now. The wine itself is one obvious variable. Some change in the bottle remarkably over time while others creep along over a few years showing subtle changes. The other variable is you. Yep, you taste more, drink more, becoming more experienced and you discover new flavours over time. The sweet, flabby white of the past decade is just a palate memory and the dry, crisp, lively fruity white takes centre stage now. The classy, savoury medium bodied red has relegated the over-oaked, one dimensional fruit bomb red you used to drink. Keep an open mind and be prepared to experiment with different styles. A good retailer will be able to expand on your favourites by guiding you towards several similar styles and varieties.

• Here are some tips to help you start a wine cellar and how to correctly store your babies:

• Seek professional advice and be prepared to experiment;

• Buy wine in different price points from different regions;

• Buy enough of one wine to enjoy over 10 years – I recommend minimum 12 bottles of your favourites;

• Keep a list of the wines – brand names, regions and vintage (year of harvest) are all critical;

• Store in a cool place where there are no great fluctuations in temperature, no vibrations from motors and no light;

• Lay the wine down if under cork. The cork must be kept moist and not dry out;

• Big, complex red wines under screw cap should be laid down to allow a crust to develop on the side of the bottle;

Be prepared to top up your collection every 3 – 6 months. This ensures continuity of aged wine supply.

Best buys for October – Asian compatible reds

Antinori Chianti Superiore, Tuscany Italy. Silky mulberry, blackberry fruit with lovely chewy tannins. Impeccably balanced. 550 baht. ItalAsia 193/1 Chang Klan Road.

Primo Estate Il Briccone Shiraz/ Sangiovese, McLaren Vale Australia. A smart blend of juicy shiraz with savoury sangiovese. Medium-full bodied with lashings of smooth ripe fruit tapered by savoury tannins. Bring on the duck! 590 baht. Wine Gallery 133 Rattanakosin Road.

Grimaldi Dolcetto D’Alba 2005, Piedmont Italy. Soft, delicate and savoury with beautiful sweet perfumed berry fruit. Drinking really well now. 790 baht. Wine Gallery 133 Rattanakosin Road.

Note: All prices are correct at the time of publication. Citylife is not responsible for any price variations set by wine industry promotional activity.

November issue – Retail feature, what’s in a wine. Best buys – Wines for cellaring.