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james suckling uncorked

Tuscany in Hong Kong


Posted: Dec 19, 2006 10:17pm ET


I have a couple of thoughts after a lunch and dinner last night. Modern wines are exciting, and Italy is making great wines. I guess I am stating the obvious to many, and I write about this all the time in articles and columns. But it was exciting yesterday drinking a number of great young Italian wines. The experience can be just as fulfilling as drinking legendary bottles from yesteryear—maybe more real in a lot of ways.

Yesterday, I went to lunch with Alex Wong, a 29-year-old who, with his father, has perhaps the greatest collection of Pétrus in the world, not to mention the best cigar collection. We had lunch at his local restaurant with some wine merchant friends. Alex is open to just about anything from vineyards around the world as long as it is the highest quality, from a juicy Chinon to Brunello to California Cabernet Sauvignon, and, yes, he has trophy wines as well from all the great châteaus.

We tried five wines blind at lunch in between mouthfuls of dim sum. The first two were rare-ish: 1966 Leroy Corton (92 points, non-blind) and a Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1967 (91). Both were medium-bodied, with soft, silky tannins and a light, plummy cedar and berry aftertaste. The Hermitage was also meaty and spicy. It was a lovely mature example of this rare Syrah.

Then he served two wines together. They were dark and much younger. They were pure Merlots, as I guessed. What would Alex serve? NO. This is too generous. These Merlots are superb, I thought to myself. They must be Pétrus and Le Pin. WRONG.

I was sort of embarrassed when I found out that they were two Tuscan Merlots from 2004: Petrolo Galatrona and Tua Rita Redigaffi. What a wiseguy! I never thought I would be drinking those in Hong Kong. And they work well with Chinese food. Anyway, I preferred the Galatrona to the Redigaffi yesterday. It was more open and showed all the wild raspberry, vanilla and mineral character of a top vintage of Le Pin. I gave it 97 points and Redigaffi 96.

The next wine was a Syrah called Esse from the 2001 vintage, made near Pisa! Alex really has a sense of humor. This is a wine from consulting enologist Luca D’Attoma, and he made it only one year. Afterward, he got in a fight with his brother-in-law—long story. Anyway, it was superb as always, with lots of berry, spice, vanilla and subtle black pepper character. 96 points.

Despite missing the wines blind, I went away thinking how wonderful those young Tuscan wines showed. And I also thought that great wine doesn’t have to cost thousands, even in Hong Kong—something Alex Wong and friends also obviously know.

My Vino Today

1928 Beychevelle: I had this beautiful bottle last night for dinner with a good friend, hotel developer Tang Boon Seng. He brought the bottle from his cellar and it was in perfect condition, original cork and all and originally from the cellars of Paris wine merchant Nicolas. It went great with the fusion Japanese food at the restaurant San San Trois. The wine had an amazing dark color ruby. It showed wonderful aromas of currant, dried flowers and mint. It was full-bodied, with silky, firm tannins and a long, fruity, minty aftertaste. We decanted it just before drinking and it developed in the glass but then about 30 minutes later it started to lose its fruit. A beautiful antique wine. 95 points in this non-blind tasting. (I had the 1929 a few days before and it showed a little riper fruit and sweetness.)
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  December 20, 2006 12:32am ET
I've never tried pure Merlot from Italy. You seem enraptured by the 2004 Galatrona. How about the similar scoring (but presently better priced) 2003?
James Suckling
 —  December 20, 2006 4:12am ET
Go for it! I think it is a little tougher than the 2004 but it is equally fantastic quality.
Guus Hateboer
Netherlands —  December 20, 2006 4:31am ET
James, and further to Troy's question, how long should I wait with opening the Galatrona's from 2003? And how long may they actually last?
Edoardo Fioravanti
Florence\ Italy —  December 20, 2006 7:26am ET
Come grande estimatore di vini toscani, mi fa molto piacere leggere di Galatrona e Tua Rita a Honk Kong, dall'altra parte del mondo! :)Effettivamente molte aziende sono riuscite a portare i propri vini a livelli qualitativi di grande prestigio, vincendo forse la battaglia di chi continua a dire che la Toscana dovrebbe essere solo sangiovese, e che tutti i vini di taglio bordolese sono uguali!Credo che ci sia ancora un potenziale di sviluppo per la viti-vinologia in Toscana ed in Italia con pochi paragoni nel mondo...saluti!
Stephen Towler
Dubai —  December 21, 2006 5:34am ET
Sounds like you're enjoying Asia James, how about popping in to Dubai on the way home?Steve Towler, Head Sommelier, One&Only Royal Mirage (ex Caudalie)
James Suckling
 —  December 21, 2006 6:09am ET
Steve. Where have you been? Good to hear from you. May be next Spring....send me an e-mail.
Paul Wright
December 21, 2006 10:18am ET
Fontiano and Masseto are two other great Tuscany Merlots unless I'm mistaken. The Fontiano is available in our local deli at a great price for HK, alas I can't get the Masseto. Would be interested to know if the two merlots mentioned are available in HK James!
Paul Root
Sonoma County —  December 21, 2006 1:20pm ET
Jim- I just read your article "A Taste of Deception"...as I read through the thing I kept thinking that the information sounded familiar, it was then that I checked the original printing date. I guess you'd say that aside from the appreciation/inflation issue, most of the article remains current...I would however, request that you take the time to research the same subject and report circa 2007...I think you'll be both amazed and frightened at what you discover...even in our little nook of the wine business (family retail/Healdsburg for 30 years) we see this problem cropping up more frequently than one would think. Phoney Rolex's and Louis Vitton I understand, but fraudulant Seiko and Jordan? what's this world coming to? -Paul Root
Paul Wright
December 21, 2006 7:38pm ET
The Fontiano is of course from Lazio, not Tuscany but still worth a try. My mind is still not made up on it though.
James Suckling
 —  December 22, 2006 2:20am ET
Paul. I think you mean Montiano, which I like a lot but it's not in the same league as Masseto, Redigaffi and Galatrona. And yes you can get them in HK.
Edoardo Fioravanti
Florence\ Italy —  January 7, 2007 12:06am ET
Hello,so I tried this Merlot called Daino Bianco, della Fattoria la Castellina..I think it's a great wine, but it's really hard to find...Defenetly a great price\quality wine..James, did you ever have it?Edoardo.

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