Drinks at home have always been the best way to catch up with friends. With bar closures and dining options limited, why not bring the wine tasting home? Crisp rose and cool fuller body whites are the way to go when staring down some charcuterie with friends, so what are the three things to get right for that relaxed wine-hang? Easy - wine glasses, the wine and some great music.
So, where to start?
1) Treat yo’ self to some awesome glassware (‘Stemware’ if you want to get real fancy)
Why do we care about wine glasses? Without getting too scientific, or pretentious, think of a glass as the loudspeaker for your wine - it’s there to amplify all the best features of the drink. Take the Aussie designed Plumm 1 universal glass (HK$495 for a pack). A universal glass doesn’t have as large an aroma collector like a white wine glass, or an oversized bowl for red wine aeration - it is a compromise, which when you are short of space in a Hong Kong apartment is more important than 20 different glass sizes for wines “just in case”. A thin rim for sipping with ease, thin crystal stem, and pouring enough wine to allow a good swirl without spilling all over the house poodle is the way to go when it comes to glassware. Pour, inspect, swirl, sniff, think, taste, enjoy! It’s not all that hard, just don’t use a coffee mug.
2) Go unique. Set your own pairings.
Everyone has a different opinion on what to order when it comes to wine. A wine you have tried before and know is a great place to start - crisp sauvignon blancs, shiraz with a steak, everyone has a style or a pairing that’s a ‘go-to’. But we like using home drinks to try new wines, especially against varied finger food where you can see what goes and what doesn’t. Plus - trying a new variety is such a great talking point with friends, a rabbit hole for you to go down googling tasting notes, or just something to mix it up if you’re tired of the usual suspects.
3) Music + Wine. It is science.
A great glass of wine needs the right music. The Hong Kong construction site sounds don’t quite cut it - and equally so turning it up to 11 and drowning it all out with trance won’t do. It’s called sensory masking - if the tunes are too loud your other senses get drowned out. Also, some studies have shown the sense of smell is the quickest to tire. This means all those aromatics and flavours will be lost! So crank up the beach vibes, acoustic sessions, or something to let your mind wander, the wines open up and the good times roll.
Now, choosing your wines.
Little Rara Rosè and Bondar Rosè
Rosè is more than a colour for winemakers - it’s a passion, an unending quest for balance between crisp acidity and fruit forward ripe grapes. In a way almost all wines are blends in one way or another, and rosé is no different. Two wines to try are the Little Rara (HK$190) and the Bondar Rose (HK$160). These are made in two different styles - Little Rara uses free run Shiraz (which means the grape is not overworked to get flavor but the colour is rich and pure) co-fermented Sauvignon blanc (a white grape, but giving roundness and acid to the shiraz). Bondar has Grenache with cinsault through a more Provence style from the South of France - a lighter rose, still dry but with a more fruit forward approach. Put them up against each other (don’t worry, they are screw caps do you can easily reseal) and see what’s your style, and does your preference change after a few glasses?
Both bottles have fresh strawberries, with Little Rara having some white peach from the riper sauvignon blanc, and the Bondar holding a gentle rose water. Sunset drinks, finger food, chicken skewers and hummus - sip away and pick away.
Onto the Aussie whites! As winemakers in Australia travel the world in the ‘off-season’ after their own harvest, new grapes varieties and know-how in producing great wines come back to the land down under. If you’re getting two whites to go with your great rosés, here are my picks!
All Saints Marsanne (HK$180)
Marsanne is a Rhône valley variety that shows rich fruit and aromatics in its own refreshing style. Acid is low, body is high, fruit is powerful. Some people even call it a ‘chubby’ wine, which in short means it will be rather mouth-filling compared with higher acid, lighter whites. Traditionally used for blending in France with Syrah, and its ‘sister’ grape Roussanne, as a single varietal goes with fish and Asian spices - but be warned the higher alcohol can make fresh chilis really pack a punch! This wine can age a little - hazelnuts appear where the citrus once was, but I don’t like seeing all that fresh fruit disappear for my afternoon drinks, so drink now! Try and see if you can taste that white peach from the Little Rara rosé in this white, but riper, with some apricot as well. The minerality makes it very food friendly - definitely some nice complexity.
Bondar Chardonnay (HK$220)
Chardonnay got overhauled in Australia after years of being known for high alcohol oak bombs putting a lot of people off the grape for life (ABC - Anything But Chardonnay). Today bespoke wine producers have risen to the chardonnay challenge as the plantings from the 80’s reach maturity and offer more concentrated fruit. A better understanding of the grape, an ear to the ground for what people want, this blank canvas grape speaks now more about the vineyard than the winemaking thumbprint (this grape is actually quite non-aromatic, and therein lies the challenge for the winemaker). Bondar has a soft butter note, fuller body than a steely Chablis (also a chardonnay, but cooler climate and less ripe), with flavours of rockmelon and peach. All on a leash with 25% new oak, aged on lees (expired yeast) for a few months for roundness, and partial malolactic fermentation leaves competing acids for complexity. If it were from Burgundy, it would be closer to a Pouilly Fuisse in style, a sign of Aussie winemakers bringing ideas and skills back from the old world, with a cool Aussie twist (and a great beach-vibe label!).
So now we have a gameplan for an afternoon at-home wine tasting - glassware with a purpose, four different wines and a soundtrack to boot.