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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

WINE is a sensitive product

“WINE is a sensitive product,” continued John. “there are virtually no preservatives. Therefore, it is an unstable product that can be easily influenced by light, humidity and the like.” Therefore, to ship it is a risk and to serve it is a bigger one. Still, there are ways to help it along. John advises that when serving, bear in mind a couple of things:

    The drier the white wine, the cooler it has to be when chilling. A temperature of five to six degrees celsius is appropriate. For the less drier ones, nine to 10 degrees Celsius is fine.
    Red wines should be chilled at around 17 to 18 degrees Celsius and served around that temperature. You should not over chill the reds, it will only bring out the bitterness and the negative flavours of the wine.

WINE is my preferred drink. Red wine, that is, because there is so much complexities to their personality that could be called up to match my mood at the particular moment. Besides, there is a certain amount of pleasure in going through a well thought out list of wine in a restaurant, don't you think?

Like everything else to do with wine, there is also a science to drawing up a good wine list for your own collection. Or a restaurant. For instance, at the decade-old Shook! Restaurant at the Feast Village of Starhill Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. Its assistant director of operations and also the wine sommelier John Yap said: “A strong and powerful label is needed to anchor the wine list.” hence the restaurant's wine list proudly carries the Chateau Mouton Rothschild label.

“Then comes the classics, like the old world wines,” he continued. “only after you have assembled the classics, you put together the more established new world ones which are from outside of Europe. After which, you go in-depth and pick a few outstanding ones from, let's say, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone Valley and Alsace.”

It all makes sense. After all, the French do define the wines. Yes, even until today, whether we care to admit it or not. “The Australians try to assimilate how the French do it, be it in labelling their wines or in terroir.”

However, it is not the same. Even in their areas which best match the weather of Bordeaux, cannot achieve 100 per cent similar flavours in the grapes. This is probably because, according to John, “The French believe if you irrigate your vines, they will have shorter roots. In Australia, they irrigate. Thus, in France, they leave it all up to nature and their vines grow roots of six metres to nine metres which dig deep into the soil for nutrients.” therefore, resonating the land's deeper terroir of minerals.

That is why, new world wines are more fruity, easier to drink but with less complexities. Quite the opposite of the old world wines which combines flavours of complex age old minerals as the forefront flavour and oak and berries as their undertones. Is it any wonder as to why new world wines are doing so well here? Not to mention the difference in cost, either.

For instance, each vintage of an old world wine such as the French ones, tells the story of the year's climate. It is never the same. Being at the mercy of Mother Nature brings along suspense, unpredictability and history. This to John, is the whole point of experiencing an old world vintage. “Think about it, is year in, year out, brings the same flavours in every vintage, how boring it would be!”

Most wine sommeliers here are self taught and driven by passion. John is no different. Wine, as you know, is not part of our culture until recently and our palates are not fine tuned to the delicate explosions of terroir-influenced wine flavours. Yet, today, there is a huge appreciation for it and all due to awareness. Or an awakening, call it what you will!

For example, recently, I had bought an affordable bottle of Barolo. A wine cultivated from the Nebbiolo grape variety grown in the Barola area of northwestern italy. Barolo, known for its complex, full bodied and unusual orange tint, holds a lot of interest for me. Alas, the bottle I got was a little disappointing. When asked, john's reply was, “Barolos are usually above RM300 per bottle. Due to an on-going fight between the traditional and the modern wine makers, there are more 'affordable' Barolos in the market. These are the ones aged in new oak barrels, then moved to stainless steel vets. The traditionalists will only age in 1.5 year-old-oak barrels which are used only three or four ageing sessions before they are discarded. The old oak barrels are more expensive, you see.” I should have known and now I do!

According to John, Malaysians are drinking light, zesty white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and the more fruity driven red wines. “Therefore, new world wines are popular.”

To appreciate wine, John advises us to understand the science of it. “Also, the way you are brought up determines your taste buds. If you are used to heavy, spicy food, you might prefer the robust sines. If you are used to delicate Cantonese food, there is a big chance you might prefer white wines.” Generally, his rule to good wine is, “it should give you a very pleasant sensation. Gentle, flavoursome. At times, there is an instant liking and as you sip, the wine should taste better and better due to oxidation.” Basically, listen to your palate.

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