Thursday, November 1, 2012

Almaviva Wines Technical Tasting Class & Pairing Chinese Food @ 中國會 China Club - (Hong Kong)

  Almaviva wines are hitting the global wine scene with such a big splash and mysterious allure lately,  as it is a Chilean Winery from Maipo Valley from a partnering venture between the Titans,  wine makers Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Chile’s own Concha Y Toro.   Two Wine giants each with their own expertise and are steeped in history, carrying individual knowledge about the trade, and with substantial wine making techniques know-hows and thorough understanding of the terroir’s background.   An analogy is like carmaker Honda having a JV agreement with Thailand -  Japan has the expertise,  but Thailand has the land resources,  cheaper labour and tax-free agreements with exporting countries.   Except in this particular instance,  the relationship was a lot closer.   Both sides knew wines back to front dating back decades or more..   You could see so much potential hidden in such a partnership. 


Session Started with a Technical Tasting Master Class -
Presented by Almaviva’s Commercial Director Mr. Juan Carlos Pagola.
This was done without any food at first,  so it doesn’t temper with our lunch palates. 

Held at China Club 中國會 -
It’s a Members Only club here and I have written reviews here before too!   It has some relationship with the Michelin 1* Island Tang restaurant,  also the apparel shop Shanghai Tang amongst the other newly opened restaurants.   They have a very strict attire code here and is quite Chinese-Shanghainese in design space,  although serving mostly Cantonese food with a Western idealised accent than Island Tang.   I must admit I was being deliberately naughty today out of boredom -  the so-called World’s No.1 Restaurant Noma in Denmark which I just happened to visit recently,  so-called  No.2 El Celler de Can Roca before,  The Fat Duck by Heston Blumenthal and many other Michelin starred restaurants nowadays particularly some 1-3 Starred Spanish restaurants have absolutely no dress codes actually nowadays.   I was kind of trying to say hey,  the world has moved on ever so slightly…   But here at China Club,  I had to be interrogated for about 15 minutes at the door and having been jeered at by the receptionist and maid in white uniform.  They really need to read The Petit Prince.   I certainly hope they can distinguish between white Sports shoes and real White Leather next time around as I deliberately wore these to test them out.  I thought it was cool to wear white as the new black!

Almaviva Verticals  -  1998,  2001,  2008,  2010 and a 2009 off-screen
This Chilean Winery is still relatively new established
,  the Vinification is undergoing fine-tuning over different vintages in order to understand the terroir’s potential.  This might involve unforeseeable annual climate changes and differential ramping rates,  effects from the El Ninos,  playing with different grapes blending which is slightly Bordeaux clarets referenced,  different Oak barrels to be used, etc.  I am sure I missed a few things too.   With so many variables that can finally affect the outcome it will take them some experimentations and blind guesses to be extrapolated from past experiences.  I heard wines need many years to develop and to show it’s final potential,  spanning over decades of aging -  and there were definitely variations between various vintages and as exhibited in the glasses over time.   Many vintages tasted quite diversely different not just from difference of age and differences in production method,  grape blending and natural phenomenon effects,  they also developed differently over time within just the glass today,  it was definitely confusing.  If I studied probability algorithm enough during high school, I wish I knew about the multiplying rule and would have won my Lottery with my right combination of 6 numbers this week and can retire to buy some nice Burgs!    This was very eye-opening,  the latter 2008 and 2009 vintages showcased a lot of transitional progress resulting from undergoing finer retuning,  with better balance and potential.   The 2010 surprisingly side-stepped with a quite new world and much more violet fruity and new oak presence which I thought was going slightly backwards unless it was climate related to come to this direction.   On the other hand older aged wines especially the 1998 was subtly elegant.  The 2001 had the most distinct minty-herbaceous nose but one of the favourites on the day.  The 2009 vintage was similar to the 1998 with elegance,  elegant,  but carrying more White Peppery note and chosen by renowned Food Critic Walter Kei to pair with most dishes today.   Most wines had 1 hour decanting prior.   I am not a qualified Wine Writer,   it was mostly my self-learning observation from a big Alcoholic’s point of view.  Especially when everything changed during the course of things and I was becoming a little lost.  Got a bit lost within the tasting but it was fun.

Food to Come for the 2nd Food Pairing Session,  with the 2009 Vintage Almaviva -
I was actually salivating at this stage, as the previous wines had opened up my appetite..

BBQ Charsiu Pork (叉燒) -   Seemed a little dense today and wasn’t using the same exclusively trimmed Chuck Loin muscle at Island Tang.  But I actually liked that this wasn’t overly Tenderized unlike the Island Tang’s pre-frozen and soaked tenderized version   ~  6/10      Sautéed String Beans with Minced Pork (乾煸四季豆) -   A Sichuan dish here served without much hot chili,  quite decent in a Cantonese interpreted way  ~  7/10   Jelly Fish (海蜇) -   Crunchy and quite Cantonese in that they don’t use the crunchier Head part like on the Eastern Coast and not too white peppery ~  7/10   Roasted Suckling Pig (燒乳豬)This was actually really nice with a thin crispy skin.   I simply wanted more at that stage as it worked so well with the wines ~  9/10


Fried Salted Egg Yolk Prawns (黃金蝦球) -
Fried non-oily with a nice buttery and salted yolk coating.  The prawns were really crunchy with great prawns taste.  Quite balanced.  On theory it doesn’t work well with bold red wines,  but I personally thought it paired with the more violet and oaky 2010 Almaviva,  may be it didn’t clashed with or covered the oily flavours and greasiness   ~  8/10

Braised Hairy Marrow with Conpoy (瑤柱節瓜甫) -
Dried scallops with a cooked cucumber-like veggie,  a typical local Cantonese dish.   It was simple and cooked well enough.   Usually these are hollowed out with a circular mould then stuffed with conpoy.  This one today was just topped with Conpoy as a variation…  You can sometimes find it during Wedding Banquets or Chinese New Year dishes  ~  7/10



Sauteed Diced Angus Beef with Broccoli -
The beef were a little too tenderized and have lost their real beef flavours,  but I am so used to this from living overseas,  at least it was sliced thickly here.   I often say that China Club is aimed at Westerners than Chinese customers because of this,  it is just so compromisingly aiming to strike the balance for everyone,  but texture presided over real beef taste.   This was quite Cantonese with the slightly starchy sauce coating -  which is meant to give it more smoothness.  At least the cubes were thick enough for being bitey but just.   A little too Chinatown like ~  6/10



Jin Jiang flavoured Pork Spare Ribs (鎮江局肉排) -
This was quite balanced between batter thickness, sauce and the marbled pork ribs.  Due to the more sweetness nature of this,  I personally wanted it with the more sweet oaky 2010 Almaviva.  But it also worked with the 2009 very well with totally different white peppery base as my mind told me the pork could handle more spice?  There are Marriage principles and Complementary preferences when it comes to wine & food pairing.  Can I just drink both of them please!?   I honestly thought both of these worked so well but in different ways.  But from a Foodie’s point of view than wine. Secret telling smile  ~  9/10



Fried Rice with Diced Vegetables and Egg White  (素菜粒 蛋白炒飯) -
The rice grains were individually grainy dry and appreciated al dente, but for long grain rice this is not difficult to achieve.   Yet it could either do with a more elegant Hotel style elegant Wok-Chi,  or like the more rougher Street stall style maillard reaction activated Wok-Chi with a more fiery background.  It was too subtle in the frying process and also weak in seasoning, whether in salt or soy sauce or also pepper.   Actually even the vegetables and egg whites couldn’t be tasted and that was sort of unusual for this fried rice.   For something aimed to be subtle it could really benefit from finer adjustments or remain old school and carry some Ginger.  I must sound like I am whinging but if you consider it from a 3D kind of view,  this underperformed in some ways.  Dai Pai Dong me any day!  A little too subtle  ~  5/10 



A Fried Taro’s Nest with Assorted Vegetables dished for the next door Vegan Friend -
I didn’t tried this but it was presented neatly.  Couldn’t help to take a pic of this. Great presentation.


Chilled Sago Cream,  with Mango and Pomelo with 椰果 Coconut Gelatin (楊枝甘露)- 
I don’t know how to translate the 椰果 bit into English as I never gave it much thought and it is not a usual add-on in this modern fruity dessert soup.  It does give it more bitey texture contrast.  Acetobacter isn’t too alien to those who drink Taiwanese bubble teas.  But apparently it is some sort of Acetic Acid Bacteria gelatinized in Coconut Water.  Judging from a normal  楊枝甘露  soup with Pomelo, Mango, Cream/Coconut Cream and Sago dessert point of view,  this needed more Mango and Pomelo.  The version eaten at sister restaurant Island Tang had almost the same problem with being too creamily milky. As more of a Summery dessert,  some of the shops in HK serves this with a mango granita ice in the dessert soup for soothing effect.  Such as the one at:  口甜舌滑 Mrs. Sweetie   ~  5/10

Thanks for the Invitation for this Wine Tasting Event.  This Lunch was truly about the Almaviva Wine Technical Tasting and it’s ability to pair with Chinese Food as a challenge -
The food was again to me a little Westernized biased in adjustment,  but I happen to like this style.  But do cut back on the tenderizers and gooey starch sauce and only then,  can we get to pair them with the right White and Red wines with true Cantonese courses and explore truthfully.   From my personal blogging point of view as I am probably not as wine orientated based,  wine and alcohols to me are more about ending up being happy and in moderation.   But I do find it really intriguing to discover good wine pairings with different Chinese food and not just Cantonese food or Dim Sums either,  but the many cuisines.  Sometimes you encounter the odd individuals who tries to force you to think that such and such wines vs food combo is the best pairing ever,  but will the playful nature within you accept?    Let the whole discovery fun begin if you happen to disagree!   It is all about balancing between theories and final taste outcome personally for me.  Today’s pairing worked pretty well indeed.

Price:  $400- $500 Per Person Usually.  This was an invited Almaviva Wine and Lunch Tasting
Ease of Access:   4/5  (Next to Norman Foster HSBC building,  in old HSBC building.)
♕♕♕♕1/2  (Slightly below Island Tang standards but close enough in style)
Wine:  ♕♕♕♕ to ♕♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours:
Mon to Sun -    12:00pm – 14:30pm,  18:00pm - 23:30pm
Address: 中環德輔道中2A中國銀行大廈13樓-14樓
13-14/F, Old Bank of China Building, Bank Street, Central
Ph: 2521 8888


  1. shop, one finds wines from all over the globe, presented in impressive scope and breadth. It seems understandable that, scattered in the latter retail setting, "natural" wines might seem a bit lonely and suspect.
    For more info visit: Baacco The Community Based Wine Marketplace

  2. Everything looks delicious. I think the dish I would definitely have to try would be the fried and salted egg yolk prawns. I always like prawns and I completely enjoy them dipped in batter and fried. This looks like an interesting way to enjoy them.



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