MASTER OF VIN

T.Dining by Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

In­tro­duc­ing Sarah Heller, Asia’s new­est Master of Wine

The pri­mary ob­jec­tive of at­tain­ing the Master of Wine ti­tle has al­ways been to help build a healthy cul­ture of wine con­sump­tion in Asia: less gan­bei, less price spec­u­la­tion, more drink­ing for plea­sure.

The big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about be­ing a MW is that it means you’re fa­mil­iar with ev­ery vin­tage of ev­ery brand of wine avail­able any­where and can thus serve as some kind of wine Google. I only wish I had that level of re­call!

At the first wine trade fair I ever vis­ited,

I re­mem­ber ner­vously telling this wine­maker her white re­minded me of pineap­ples. To my re­lief, she was de­lighted; it was ex­actly the aroma she’d had in mind, but no­body had yet picked it up. As an art stu­dent, I recog­nised that elec­tric thrill you ex­pe­ri­ence when some­one “gets” your work.

Over an after­noon of drink­ing, this thought mor­phed into fan­tas­ti­cal no­tions about wine’s preter­nat­u­ral abil­ity to con­nect peo­ple and cul­tures, bring about world peace, et cetera. Even the en­su­ing hang­over did noth­ing to dampen my en­thu­si­asm.

When din­ing out, I look at the bot­tom end of the price scale; if I see wines around the HK$500-800 mark from non-stan­dard, trendy re­gions – say Yarra Val­ley in Aus­tralia, Rias Baixas in Spain or Wachau in Aus­tria – I know I’m in safe hands.

I de­rive im­mense en­joy­ment from slightly ir­rev­er­ent wine pair­ings— at one point I dis­cov­ered that Chachawan has Bollinger at an al­most out­landishly rea­son­able price, and since then it’s my go-to. With the smok­i­ness of Chachawan’s chicken thighs and crab fried rice, a de­li­ciously toasty Bolly is just mag­nif­i­cent.

Cham­pagne is the white silk blouse of wine pair­ing, and so the easy choice for a BYO op­tion. I’d pick a pinot noir-dom­i­nant grower cham­pagne, maybe Cham­pagne Dos­non or Charles Du­four: both have lit­tle or no sugar and have sour­dough, berry and turf pro­files that will wrap them­selves gor­geously around what­ever you throw at them.

De­li­cious as French reds are, I think our sul­try cli­mate in Hong Kong de­mands some­thing de­signed for hu­mid­ity and heat: Si­cil­ian reds from Etna or Vit­to­ria, Cor­nelis­sen and COS are per­fect.

If I were a wine, I’d love to be Aldo Con­terno Gran­bus­sia Barolo Ris­erva 1988 – lay­ered and in­trigu­ing, with lots of life in it yet.

Asia’s new­est Master of Wine is none other than 29-year-old Sarah Heller— a Hong Kong na­tive, bev­er­age con­sul­tant and cham­pion of us­ing the dig­i­tal land­scape to open up the world of wine ap­pre­ci­a­tion. She speaks to T.Din­ing about life be­hind the rosé-tinted glasses

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