The dust has settled over the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit fair. It was the first in its new format with Asian palates firmly in control of the award results.

Although there have been many competitive wine shows in HK this was the inaugural one for all-Asian judging panels save the chief judge who was Australian. Past HK shows have been structured around European event organisers who tended to fly in most of the judging panels rather than scout locally. So the definition of a wine expert “as someone from out of town” is now dead in HK.

Judges from Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan participated although the actual judges list is yet to be provided.

An even greater challenge was to hold part of the judging while serving food, seeking Asian wine flavor and texture matches. Very heroic but logistically difficult.

When do you serve the food? At the start-no; too many wines to test. I gather the organisers just served the gold medal wines up four times-against braised abalone, Kung Pao chicken, dim sum and Peking duck to find out what worked.

The answer was amazing because there was no Bordeaux or cabernet to be found-as the French keep telling the Chinese. And the Chinese keep reciprocating by adding coke, sprite or Pepsi to their Bordeaux because they cannot stand its tannin attack and require palate respite with sweetness.

Well good wine matches came from a faintly pink off-dry bubbly (Australia’s Jacob’s Creek Rose NV), a sweet and fizzy, low alcohol muscat (California’s Martin & Weyrich Moscato Allegro 2007), a medium bodied chewy dry white (NZ Wairau River Pinot Gris 2009) and a medium weight dry red varietal malbec (Argentina’s Judas 2006) respectively.

So the judges are providing some leadership as to what every day wines will suit every day cuisines in East Asia-and not often cabernet. Fruity and mildly-flavoured wines are preferred.

Another wine show which historically tests wines with food courses is the Sydney International run by Warren and Jacqueline Mason. They do a first round of tasting, then for the successful entries the chief judge rearranges the wines into groups by body; light body, medium body, full body regardless of variety, then the shortlisted groups, usually 12-14 wines are tasted with respective courses of increasing flavour intensity; .

The Australian giant killer was the tiny Eden Springs vineyard owned by Ray Gatt who bagged four trophies-Best white below HK 150 (Riesling 2009), Best red below HK 200 (Barossa Shiraz 2007), Best Shiraz and Best Australian Shiraz (Eden Valley 2007).

Ray says “This success in HK has vindicated my judgement to purchase and revitalise this vineyard. I took over Eden Springs from Meredith Hodgson, the spouse of the deceased Richard Wiencke, in February 2006. She came home from work one day in 2005 to find that Richard had passed away from a heart attack in his Eden Springs vineyard. He was previously the assistant editor for the Advertiser in Adelaide, but left in the early 1990’s to pursue his vineyard dream.”

Eden Springs HK importer Hermann Hofmann says “On one of my wine sales trips to Malaysia in 2003, I met Richard Wiencke previous owner. He brought a bottle of High Eden Shiraz 1999 and my first sip of it was “love at first sight.” The Shiraz’s flavors stroke me, because of the strong dark berry fruit and chocolate notes which both reminded me so much of my youth home in the Swiss Alps. The 1999 was a very pleasant and unique shiraz with super elegance.”

“I am very pleased to see, that Ray Gatt’s investment into Eden Springs, his choice of the fabulous wine makers and team indeed further elevated the quality of wine and Eden Spring’s ability to win Trophies and gold medals,” says Hermann.

Australian gold and trophies continued: John Quarisa’s Treasures Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (AUD 15) from Coonawarra for best Cabernet/Cabernet Blend; Stella Bella Chardonnay 2007 (AUD 29) in Margaret River (gold in Brisbane RNA but pipped for the top gold by a Queensland chardonnay last July ) going one higher for best Chardonnay and best New World Chardonnay; Petaluma’s Hanlin Hill Riesling 2009 (AUD 22) from Clare taking best Riesling and best New World Riesling and Ben Riggs Mr Riggs Yakka Paddock Tempranillo 2007 (AUD 25) from the Adelaide Hills taking best Tempranillo and Blends.

I heard the organisers were rushed with entries, and changed tasting rooms in order to accommodate the judging load. Chief judge Dr Tony Jordan of Moet and Chandon Australia fame had a challenging time in managing the Asian interpretation and voices on wine style, but achieved commendable outcomes.

I understand Tony’s most recent project is seeking sparkling wine sites in China. No doubt he is chasing vineyard elevation!

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