The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Hong Kong Gets a Kick from Champagne

Posted on | July 14, 2011 | Written by Crystal Edgar | 2 Comments

 “Champagne is only from Champagne” was chanted before each course during last week’s Grower Champagne dinner at Lagham Place’s Michelin two-star Cantonese restaurant, Ming Court. This event was put on by the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, one of the growing wine organizations in Hong Kong. Given the rate of growth in the Asian wine market, it is exciting to see smaller “boutique” producers now being pushed into the limelight – one example being the Grower Champagne movement. (Yesterday, the New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov wrote an excellent article and a blog post about the movement in Aube; read them for more background information.)

Grower Champagne, also known as “farmer fiz,” can be identified by the letters R.M on the back label (R.M = Récoltant-Manipulant) noting that these farmers grow and produce Champagne from grapes grown only on their own estate. Many of the most famed Champagne houses (Moët, Mumm, and Bollinger to name but a few) purchase the majority of their grapes from farmers throughout the region and do not express a specific sense of place within Champagne. Although the bubbly wines are what make these farmers famous, it is the still wines that I find to be the most intriguing and mysterious. These bottles can be rather difficult to find, so when you do stumble across a good bottle, you can bet your sweet bippy that it will be a special experience.

For me, the highlights of the evening were the 1996 Andre Beaufort Ambonnay Grand Cru and the 2008 Egly Ouriet Ambonnay Rouge “Cuvée des Grands Cotes” (yes, they do make red wine in Champagne). As expected, the 1996 Beaufort was marvelous, but it was the young red Grand Cru that especially sparked my interest. Located in the small village of Ambonnay, Francis Egly owns approximately a mere 8 hectares of vineyards, the majority of which are in Ambonnay.  All of the vineyards are classified as Grand Cru and have the reputation for producing some of the best Pinot Noir based Champagnes, and in this case incredible stand-alone Pinot!  Most of the vines average between 30-50 years of age, which gives the wines gorgeous concentration and depth. Tasted blind, this Champagne had a nose that would have taken me to Grand Cru Burgundy; aromas of wild strawberry, sweet smoke, black cherry and earth rose from the glass, teasing my senses. Without getting too mushy, I will just tell you that it was a beautiful wine that came close to out-shining fellow Champagne superstars.

The menu was creatively paired showcasing traditional Cantonese preparations and a handful of exotic ingredients. Chilled abalone and sea blubber (otherwise known as jellyfish) were paired with Chartogne Taillet’s Blanc de Noirs, deep fried prawn coated with salted egg yolk with Ulysse Collin Extra Brut NV (a Jacques Selosse disciple), roasted goose webs Chiu–Chow style with the 2008 Egly Ouriet Ambonnay Rouge and finally “shark’s fin crystal extravagance” with the 1996 Andre Beaufort Ambonnay for dessert. I cannot properly describe this dessert, so I will let the picture speak for itself.

Hong Kong is full of constant surprises that make eating and drinking in this city always thrilling. It is inspiring how the community in Hong Kong embraces the celebration of wine and food no matter the form or flavor. It is an exciting time to be a part of the wine movement in Hong Kong, and I look forward to seeing further progression and expansion in the wine market. Grower Champagne wines have only recently made their entrance in Hong Kong and I am excited to see that will be next.


2 Responses to “Hong Kong Gets a Kick from Champagne”

  1. Jerry Culver
    July 17th, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

    I have a bottle of Fattoria Querciabella, Chianti Classico, Denominzaione D’Origine Controllata, 1981 Riserva. It came in a wooden box. Could someone tell me something about this bottle of wine? Value, where it came from. Would it still be good? The cork and seal is still in order. Any info would be helpfu.
    Jerry Culver

  2. Francesco
    July 19th, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

    Hi Jerry! Beautiful bottle you got there. Querciabella is one of finest estates in Tuscany and before they specialized in Super Tuscans like the Camartina which debuted in 1981, Chianti Classico was their main focus. This is a pretty old bottle and I would recommend drinking this asap. I would value it at a little less than $100.

    Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Let me know how it is!

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