Luscious ice wines, sticky maple syrup and a marshmallow to top it off: Why Niagara is the sweetest place on Earth

Published on MailOnline on 27th February 2016:

Minus 10 degrees Celsius is a feeling that’s difficult to explain until you’ve felt it.

It’s the moment your face begins to feel the chill and then moments later, almost nothing at all. Until, that is, the wind lowers the temperature just a few degrees further and it becomes colder than you knew possible.

Those were the bracing conditions I faced when I travelled to Canada for the first time – to Ontario’s Niagara-on-the-Lake for the ice wine festival.

Read more at MailOnline

Chinese New Year is a celebration of feast and family

Published on Matching Food & Wine on 7th February 2016:

Food, drink and travel writer Qin Xie explains what the Chinese drink with the most important feast of the year and what goes down well in her own family.

Like Christmas, missing the familial gatherings during this fifteen-day festival is, in a word, unthinkable. That’s why each year, millions of Chinese battle the impossible crowds to return for that reunion.

Typically, a feast on New Year’s Eve is a table loaded with dishes and surrounded by multiple generations. It will start at lunch, which might be lighter, with a break for snacks, tea and games like mahjong or cards, before continuing onto dinner. Several members of the family will have invaded the kitchen at some point to lend a hand or to create their signature dishes.

Read more at Matching Food & Wine

The freshest seafood and the most lovingly made wines: Why gorging on the sensory delights of Chile’s Aconcagua Valley will leave you absolutely speechless

Published on MailOnline on 29th November 2015:

Lush, green grape vines, neatly trellised in cross-directional rows, cut through the landscape. The sun slouched and cast a dim orange hue over the loose soil. Beyond, the snow-capped Andes framed the idyllic view.

It should be beautiful, but it’s not – there’s an unmistakable feeling of desolation in the air.

The soil is dry, cracked and studded with rocks. Sparse grass growing in between the rows resembled a bed of straw. And the only thing that took my breath away was the wind, which threatened to steal my hat at any given opportunity.

Read more at MailOnline

Wine will never replace baijiu but it can be an occasional substitute

Published on host. Milano. on 11th September 2015:

vineyard in Chile

Earlier this year, Guillaume Deglise, CEO of Vinexpo, expressed what was described as a ‘silver lining’ for winemakers wishing to enter the Chinese wine market. He posited that, in spite of the clamp down on gifting, China is set to be a growing market.

But while wine at the banqueting table is no longer a rare occurrence, neither is it a staple. For the inescapable banquets like birthdays, weddings and funerals, baijiu, the traditional Chinese spirit, is still the drink of choice for toasting. In every day feasting however, grape wine has made steady gains.

In the service industry, those that are catering to an affluent crowd are already serving up a good selection of wines. The recently opened St Regis in Chengdu, for example, has the city’s first wine-only hotel bar. And with an increasingly knowledgeable consumer base, food and beverage mangers are only looking to diversify into other markets.

Bordeaux and Burgundy are still popular. Case in point, new Hong Kong wine magazine Le Pan has chosen to host its launch in Bordeaux. But those wishing to stay ahead of the curve should look to other wine regions.

The new world in particular is vying for the top spots in the tightened premium wine markets.

Chilean pioneers Vina Errazuriz and Vina Montes have both long invested in the Chinese market, including regular brand focused events. Australian cult-wine Penfolds already has a loyal following. And New Zealand’s Marisco Vineyards is still incredibly proud of the fact that they were judged the best wines for Chinese food at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition, two years ago.

So what does this mean for HORECA?

Well there are some obvious design changes.

As well as allowing space for storage, temperature considerations are important. This is especially true for a country where seasonal temperatures vary greatly but indoor temperature control is not the norm. A second consideration would be display – consumers should be made aware of your product offering and be enticed by it. Finally, you’ll have to think about the details like wine glasses, corkscrews, decanters and maybe even enomatic machines.

Offering wine, and doing it well, will certainly mean greater expense in terms of restaurant design. But it may well pay off in the long run.

Read moer at host. Milano.

Winemaker in four steps

Published in Condé Nast Traveller China October 2014 Issue 19:

Qin Xie Condé Nast Traveller China Oct 2014 Bordeaux winemaker

(The copy has been translated into Chinese so the below is my original)

There’s nothing quite like hands on experience to learn about wine. It gives you an appreciation of the amount of work that’s gone into your daily tipple and affords you an understanding of what makes one wine better than the other.

Where better to learn than in the heart of the fine wine world, Bordeaux. Here are three courses to give you a taste of the life of a novice winemaker:

1. l’École du Vin de Bordeaux – Learn the basics

Given the old adage “walk before you run”, it’s wise to start at the l’École du Vin de Bordeaux.

The centrally located school is run by the Bordeaux Wine Council where, in the space of two hours, you’ll build a foundation of knowledge. The sessions always start with a little history of the region before moving on to the different appellations and their respective wine styles.

An essential skill for the budding winemaker is being able to discern between the different aromas and flavours in a wine; luckily, this is a key part of the interactive workshop.

There’s also a wine bar at the school, if you need to further your study.

Prices start from 39€, private sessions are available

2. Château Paloumey and Château du Taillan – Try your hand at harvest

Martine Cazeneuve (Château Paloumey) and Armelle Falcy Cruse (Château du Taillan) are the two formidable female owners who have joined forces to create Les Médocaines. Based in the Médoc, Les Médocaines offer a full day’s harvest and vinification workshop split across the two châteaux.

The day begins with the harvest.

Starting at the first property, you will get to taste the berries, pick and sort the grapes and generally muck-in. After a grape-picker’s lunch, you will visit the second estate and learn about the vinification process, from fermentation to ageing, and even taste the grape must (the pressed juice) from different vats.

A hard day’s work is rewarded with a tasting of the finished wines from previous vintages.

Priced at 62€ per person

3. Château Haut-Sarpe – Blend your own Grand Cru Classé

At Château Haut-Sarpe, a Grand Cru Classé estate in Saint-Émilion, winemaker Pierre Dufourq has set up B-winemaker to offer hands-on blending experiences. Blending comes only after the fermentation has completed so you’ll be working with the previous season’s wines.

For Château Haut-Sarpe, the main grapes are Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Tasting the single varietal wines first will give you an idea of the range of styles available. The next step is to create different blends, by adjusting the percentage of each varietal in the blend, until you find the wine for you. It gets pretty competitive.

Once you’re happy, you get a 75cl bottle to fill which you then have to cork and capsule before slapping on your own label. Of course, you also get to take it home.

B-winemaker runs courses at a number of other châteaux as well so you can experience the different terroirs of Pessac Léognan, Margaux and Haut Médoc too.

Prices start from 65€

Château Lynch-Bages – Go the whole way

For serious connoisseurs, Viniv are the people to go to.

Based out of Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac, their experts will take you by-the-hand to create your own style of wine from start to finish; including selecting the grape variety and the vineyards where they are sourced from. And as they work with several other châteaux in Bordeaux, there’s a range of options available.

Come harvest, you can help with the grape picking and vinification; and later, there’s decisions to be made about blending, ageing and label design. Of course, you could sit back and let the experts get to work.

The downside is, you will have to commit to a minimum of a barrel, or around 288 bottles of wine. It’s a snip of the price of a château though.

The question is, just how serious are you?

Prices start from 7,350€ per barrel