That should make sure my email box is filled once again. My next missile is aimed directly at the small but persistent number of retailers and brokers who hail from the Bernie Madoff School of client relations. These scoundrels continue to quite irresponsibly and dishonestly advise clients that wine prices have not adjusted downwards during the current economic calamity. On the contrary, they insist that investment grade wine is basically the only asset class (apart from gold) that has not retreated to 2004 levels. They point to unchanged retail price-tags or tiny lots traded at auction to justify their arguments. Believe me, these are not indicative of the true market price or present values. If you try to liquidate your portfolio you will be horribly disappointed by the real prices available. If however you are a buyer, there are some real value propositions that are worth exploring. Whilst the bottom is probably not yet in place, I am seeing some excellent parcels of investment grade wine changing hands at what I would call fair prices, which is generally 30-50% down from the stupid levels of a year ago. Drop me an email if you need some advice. —Robert Rees
Beware the Bores
now what I really find annoying? Supercilious, pompous wine snobs. I bet you all know or have met one. You know the type, the guy who apparently doesn’t admit to drinking anything except Lafite ’82 and who chooses off a restaurant wine list based on only one criteria: price, but usually only if someone else is paying. I should be immune to these distasteful, banal bores by now but I am not. Why the angst? Well you may recall that in the last edition of this magazine we offered our readers a great deal on Gralyn Margaret River Cabernet. The reaction was outstanding and I hope you all enjoy the wine. It is superb. I have another stunner for you below. However, I got the inevitable, nauseatingly myopic emails from a few who expressed dismay that the offer was not for French wine. Give me a break! Let me set the record straight from the outset. I am a huge fan and avid imbiber of French wine, especially the best of Bordeaux. It remains the yardstick by which I measure all wine. I consume wine daily but simply cannot afford to drink the best of Bordeaux on a regular basis given the extraordinary price increases in them over the past five years or so. I am not Bill Gates nor do I work for AIG. I don’t actually know anyone, including all my Gallic friends, who consume top French wines on a regular basis, but I know too many people who bluster on as if that’s all they ever drink. Good luck to those who can and do. I would be delighted to meet and discuss your cellar needs over a bottle or three. If you don’t mind, I will bring a fine, spicy Rhone Syrah. For those who only drink French, wake up and smell the coffee! There are a number of sensational and relatively inexpensive wines from all over the world that absolutely demand the attention of wine lovers everywhere. You can keep your heads buried firmly in the sand and pretend they do not exist but it is not particularly big or clever.
HK GOLFER・APR/MAY 2009
Robert is founder of Wine Exchange Asia, a wine auction website serving customers in Singapore and Hong Kong.
SPECIAL READER OFFER For a very limited period we will be offering readers of this column Two Hands Deer in Headlights Shiraz 2002. It comes from the cellars of an enthusiastic collector and is a stunning wine. This is what Robert Parker, Jr. (a.k.a. The Maestro) had to say about it: “Eden Valley’s dense blue/purple-hued 2002 Shiraz Deer in Headlights is sensational. A spectacular nose of crème de cassis, blackberries, vanilla beans, and espresso is accompanied by a massive yet remarkably elegant shiraz with tremendous precision and oodles of fruit and glycerine. Stunningly proportioned, fresh, and lively for its size...”—95 points, RPJ, Wine Advocate 155, Oct 2004, drink 2004-2014. At one point this brooding beauty was trading above US$120 per bottle. We have 20 dozen at only US$70 per bottle including delivery. Minimum order is 12 bottles. To place an order, or if you have any other enquiries, please email Robert at email@example.com
A Delightful Discovery
hen I was asked to write about some of my favou r ite m a lt whiskies I began to consider which one should be given pride of place and very soon encountered the problem that all namers of favourites have; be it films, books, foods or women, there is rarely only one. A new approach was required and, given that this may be read by seasoned connoisseurs or earnest novices, I decided that a reflection on the development of my own whisky tastes and experiences would perhaps provoke nostalgia in the former group, point members of the latter in new directions and also assist my own reflections on personal favourites. T h e S c o t s l i ke a tipple and despite early experimentation with beer, white spirits and exotic cocktails we all have a visceral need to be whisky drinkers. However, like all selfevident truths, it’s never that straightforward. Whisky is an acquired taste and in the late 1970s there were many factors influencing a young man embarking on a life long journey of delightful discovery. I had listened to my father and I knew that Grouse was making serious inroads into Bells’ domination of the market and that the English were total philistines who liked something named after the tyrants who dominated the schools that we had recently left behind. To this day, I doubt whether I have ever sampled a Teachers as that condemnation, unjust as it was, has lingered in my consciousness for over three decades. Armed with my youthful knowledge I well remember my first purchase of a Grouse and lemonade. I’ll touch upon my long and continuing road to the discovery of the merits of a “wee drop of water” in a later review but I did start at a low point. However, from there I discovered the delights of the deluxe whiskies, dominated at the time by Johnny Walker. I am certain that many a WWW.HKGA.COM
wizened barman was mightily amused by my “Not too much lemonade now, I don’t want to ruin the flavour”. Thankfully this state of affairs did not last for too long as I heard of the mysteries of single malts and was assured that adulterating them with anything but the aforementioned “wee drop of water” was not acceptable. However, the malt whisky market of the seventies was much removed from that which we know now. There were any number of malts available but asking for a single malt in any but the smartest of lounge bars would result in the question “Glenfiddich or Glenmorangie?” as they dominated the market. Today both distilleries supply a wide variety of styles and ages of product but they retain their own underlying characteristics and these, particularly to a young man, were so different as to raise questions as to their common classification. Glenfiddich 12 year old was my first taste of a single malt whisky and it is as gentle an introduction to usquabae as a man could ever wish for. At this stage, I’d like to digress and mention a particularly personal opinion on enjoying fine whisky. I like to take mine with air. By that I mean that whisky should be served in small quantities in wide mouthed glasses that allow the taste and aroma to be savoured. Quite honestly—and this will delight those who comment on our national parsimony—I believe that the bottom of the glass should just be slightly more than “dirty” with the malt of my choice and never the real “half full” glass that one associates with a whisky drinker’s demeanour. I am not advocating any limit on the number of dirty glasses. Glenfiddich, I believe, is an ideal beginning for anyone new to the delights of single malts. If an encounter with some of Scotland’s more muscled malts can be akin to the pummelling of a Swedish massage, sampling this delightful spirit engenders all the quiet and comfort of a gentle temple rubbing received while relaxing on a favourite armchair and invites the drinker to light a cigar and contemplate life’s munificence. However, it would be doing Glenfiddich a huge injustice to label it solely as a beginner’s malt. It invites a lifelong association and indeed in fiction, it was the enduring favourite of Endeavour Morse, the Oxford-educated detective. Glenmorangie in Ross-shire distil perhaps the most instantly recognizable of single malts and it is definitely a whisky that is more likely to be found in the cabinet of a seasoned connoisseur, as its unique flavour is delightful in a much more forceful manner. It doesn’t as much launch a frontal assault as linger long after the palate has declared a premature victory. In today’s introduction, I do not have the space to do justice to these two giants of malt whisky but they shall be given the dedicated review that they deserve in a future edition. I hope that you will join me next time as we head west to Islay. —John Bruce HK GOLFER・APR/MAY 2009