Monday 29 December 2014

Annual portfolio tastings

The last quarter of the year is always busy on the Hong Kong wine scene. In addition to the mega events like Wine & Dine and the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair, both in November, there are James Suckling’s Great Wines of the World and Great Wines of Italy, Wine HK and more. For a fee, wine lovers can taste hundreds of wines, among them many award-winners, some available in Hong Kong, some not, and some poured by the winemakers or owners themselves.

But amid all these high profile events it's easy to lose sight of local importers’ annual portfolio tastings. In October and November alone there were at least six such tastings: Wellspring, Kerry Wines, Armit Wines, Northeast, Altaya and BB&R's Italian portfolio. Usually the afternoon session is reserved for the media and trade while the evening is open to the public. And yes, for a small fee, wine lovers can taste a wide range of wines, some award-winning and some poured by the winemakers or owners themselves, and all the wines tasted are available, or soon to be available, in Hong Kong.

Mega wine events and high profile wine tastings are fun to go to, but portfolio tastings are often more practical for regular drinkers as they let you identify the strengths of each importer and the wines they carry, so you know where to get what wines for which occasion. And don’t think that most importers carry pretty much the same things; you’ll be surprised by the diversity of some and the specialities of others. Plus of course there are both big and boutique importers who stock very different styles and ranges. Some portfolio tastings also have winery representatives present who are happy to answer any questions related to their wines. Even when there are no wineries representatives, the whole team of importer staff is always on hand to assist. Because portfolio tastings are comparatively less crowded, you will also get more attention from the people behind the counter, a plus if you have a lot of questions.

Actually, not all annual portfolio tastings happen in Q4. There are some in other months, such as VinoVeritas in March, Continental Wines in May and Wine High Club in August. I’m sure there are a lot more that I haven’t mentioned here but keep an eye on the Wine Times HK Event page, or various Facebook pages: Hong Kong Wine Lovers, Hong Kong Wine & Food and HK Wine Fans. Of course the most direct way is to get onto the mailing lists of importers.

Happy New Year and Happy tasting!

Here are my impressions of the various annual portfolio tastings I have attended this year (Apologies if I missed anyone out):

  • Altaya: Probably the biggest such event with some 70 wineries present. Heavily French biased but not short of famous names. Consumers were queuing outside one hour before it started!
  • Armit Wines: A decent collection skewed towards the Old World. There were both big and small names and some from off the beaten track too. 
  • BB&R Italian wine tasting: If you are a fan of small Italian wine producers, you'll love this. All wines were carefully selected by David Berry Green, BBR's Italian wine buyer.  
  • Kerry Wines: Another big event featuring about 50 wineries mostly from the Old World (France, Italy and Spain). 
  • Northeast: The most lively and cosy event with wines mainly from the New World and a range of craft beer and cider. 
  • Red Mill: Mainly Lebanese wine, shown alongside Northeast’s. If you want something different, this is it. Definitely worth trying.
  • VinoVeritas: Italian wine specialist. This tasting was memorable because it was held at Colour Living, a lifestyle store featuring stylish kitchen and bathroom furnishings. 
  • Wellspring: A French dominated portfolio, but don’t be put off as its Bordeaux and Burgundy ranges are really good value. Look our for their Italian and German producers.
  • Wine High Club: A fine wine merchant with a focus on France. Their sparklings and champagnes are definitely worth a try.  

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