Dan's Blog


Friday, November 10, 2017

A slight variation on Jules Verne’s classic novel, which I thought was appropriate seeing as how I am currently in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair (HKIWSF). A thriving, ubber cosmopolitan meeting of wine souls from around the world – well the eastern half of it at least.

This is the third year that I have come to this amazing wine fair on behalf of Winestate Magazine to report on the event.  In that time I have come across and tried wines from all around the world.

Here are a just few examples of the interesting wines that I have tasted, from non-traditional wine growing countries – starting with EUROPE:

BULGARIA:  Chateau Asena Thracian Valley 2012 Mavrud – which has masses of Resveratrol. The wine was very smooth and tasty on the palate with considerable fine grain tannins on the finish. A good food wine.

CROATIA: Vina Erdut Graševina 2014 Vrhunsko Vino – a delicious wine made from what most of Europe calls Welschriesling, who’s proper name is Graševina and is not a misnomer for Riesling.

TURKEY: Adnan Kutman Kalecik Karasi 2013 – was a very elegant, lighter to medium bodied red that was delicious and reminiscent of a Pinot Noir.

KAZAKHSTAN: Arba Organic Winery 2013 Saperavi and Cabernet Franc – were both excellent wines.

GEORGIA: Tbilvino Reserve Saperavi – was a very classy, elegant wine, which is available in Australia through 

From the AMERICAS, the standout wines were from:

MEXICO: L.A. Cetto Zinfandel, Petit Syrah (Durif) and Nebbioloare both delicious, world-class wines.

Finally we travel to the “new frontier” of wine – ASIA, where more and more countries are now producing wine:

JAPAN: Chateau Mercian 2015 Koshu a crisp, vivacious, native Japanese white variety that makes very appealing seafood/entrée friendly wine.

CHINA: Helan Mountain (Pernod Ricard)make a range of quite sophisticated mainstream varietal wines.

INDIA: Grover Zampa York Sparkling Cuvée Brut – a “methode traditional” sparkling wine (made from Chenin Blanc), very refined, delicious and classy, having spent 18 months on lees and with 50% having undergone malolactic fermentation.

THAILAND: GranMonte 2014 Durif – Yes, Durif grown in Thailand!  An excellent medium-bodied wine which was oozing Durif varietal flavour (similar in style to the De Bortoli Deen Vat 1 Durif) – eminently drinkable.

INDONESIA:  The awesome gold medal and trophy wining wine is the Hatten “Pino de Bali” fortified. Made in the “Pinot des Charentes” style, from both white and rosé grapes, this wine is fortified with brandy and matured for five years in a solera system before bottling. Bloody Brilliant! (And made by Aussie winemaker, James Kalleske.)

This little snapshot shows that it is easy to taste at least 80 wines from around the world at the HKIWSF without even visiting the stands of the “traditional” wine producing countries. I will do a wrap-up of this year’s HKIWSF soon when I am back from this fabulous event. In the meantime, all I can say is that it won’t be long before the only place on the planet where they don’t grow wine will be within the Arctic Circle.

So do not discount wines just because they come from countries that we don’t traditionally associate with winemaking. Please judge for yourself by trying them. Sure, you will get the occasional “dud” but you will also experience some really interesting wines that will broaden your vinous horizons.

Keep on enjoying interesting, quality wines from whatever variety they are made from, and wherever in the world they come from. Cheers!


This week the star is the St Hugo 2013 Barossa Valley “The Last Letter” Cabernet Sauvignon.

I first came across St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon when I joined Orlando wines in the late 1980s in Sydney. On the Friday of my first week, we were all poured a glass of the 1984 (I think!) to celebrate the fact that the company had just been bought by Pernod Ricard. The wine was amazing! it rivalled the Lindeman’s St George’s Cabernet (a mega star at the time).

Since then I have enjoyed a raft of fabulous St Hugo’s and still have a bottle or two of the 1986, 1988 and 1990 vintages (significant years in my life) tucked away in the cellar. Other than the occasional cork tainted bottle this wine has never disappointed me, and often enthralled me with how well it keeps and what greatness it can achieve.

Today, the St Hugo brand has its own winery in the Barossa and produces quite an array of quality up-market wines, mainly from the Barossa. It is named “The last letter” in honour of the visionary, Hugo Gramp, and his last letter to his son – wine industry giant, Colin Gramp, who revolutionised white wine making in Australia, in 1953.

The St Hugo 2013 Barossa Valley “The Last Letter” Cabernet Sauvignon is truly worthy of this honour. It has masses of deep, dark, brooding colour. Aromas of red and black berries, sweet spices and a hint of vanillin oak. On the palate, it has masses of concentrated, complex, layered flavours with gentle, elegant tannins and a drying, lingering finish. This wine is superb now but will be DIVINE in a few years’ time!!