The holidays are officially upon us, and with Hong Kong’s diverse culinary melting pot, there’s a delightful spread of options when it comes to dining out or ordering in this Christmas. Yet when it comes to pairing wines with a traditional holiday ham or even more unconventional Asian flavours for Christmas (Peking duck or sushi, anyone?), the biggest question remains: what to drink?
Enjoying good wine is a crucial component of the holidays, so we’ve put together a few options for easy-to-drink, versatile vintages this season, whether you’re hosting a holiday party or venturing out for a Christmas dinner on the town. While no means exhaustive, this list offers options which may not normally make your shopping list but are definitely worth trying — well suited to an international spread of flavours at the holiday table, and with plenty of family, friends and loved ones to pass the bottle ‘round. With this adventurous spirit in mind, here are our top 10 wines for enjoying over the holidays.
1. Nyetimber Classic Cuvée, NV
While French Champagne is usually a holiday go-to, why not consider English sparkling wine as a bubbly alternative this season? According to Mark Pardoe, wine director for Berry Bros. & Rudd, Southern England sparkling wine is becoming a “serious player — it’s made like Champagne, from Champagne-like varieties and soils but with a completely different acid profile, resulting in bright, luminous sparkling wines with ageing potential similar to French-made Champagnes.” English sparkling wine has been making a name for itself on the international wine stage, most notably with the Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2009 outperforming French Champagne in a recent blind tasting in Paris. We think it’s worth giving English fizz a go.
HK$420 at Watson’s Wine
2. Krug Grande Cuvée 166th edition
For die-hard Champagne fans, the latest release of Krug’s Grande Cuvée, edition 166 (2010 vintage) does not disappoint. Beautifully complex and layered, its marzipan hue with bright acidity tickles the tongue followed by lemon, pear aromas and creamy, vanilla notes combined with a lingering acidity on the palate. Those looking for a more sensory experience can download the Krug app for tasting notes and experience a musical composition selected by the House just for this particular edition of the Grande Cuvée. According to sixth-generation Krug family member Oliver Krug, the music offers a “a rational expression of emotion” which can affect the sensory perception of the Champagne and add to the tasting experience.
HK$1,300 at Regis Wine
3. Etienne Sauzet Les Folatiéres, Puligny-Montrachet 2014
An enduring classic for any occasion, a white Burgundy from the Puligny-Montrachet region is always a safe bet for a work holiday dinner or party. While this medium-bodied Chardonnay from highly reputable Domaine Etienne Sauzet has the characteristic stoney, grassy aromas typical of wines from this region, it pleasantly surprises with subtle apple flavours, minerality and a richness on the palate with an intensely long finish that offers more than what’s on the nose. It’s lovely as an aperitif but deserves food given its weightiness.
HK$995 at Berry Bros. & Rudd
4. Schuchmann 2016 Vinoterra Kisi
For a more informal gathering at a friend’s home, why not be the cool kid and bring a wine from off the beaten path? While hardly new to winemaking — the Republic of Georgia has been making wines for nearly 8,000 years — it’s only recently emerged as a contender on the world wine stage. With orange wines also being all the rage now, we recommend wines from trusted German-owned Schuchmann, whose Vinoterra Kisi is made by fermenting the native Kisi grape variety in the traditional Georgian winemaking method of using a clay qveri (clay jar) with only natural yeasts and then matured in French oak. With light amber hues, floral bouquet, aromas of dried fruit, apricot and hints of herbs, nuttiness and caramel, this makes for a perfect aperitif wine, and it’s a great conversation starter as well.
HK$398 at Wineknot.hk
5. Freeman Ryo-Fu Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California 2015
Named after the cool breeze that comes off the Pacific Ocean, Freeman Ryo-Fu Chardonnay is a delicate balance of refreshing acidity and subtly creamy finish. With aromas of lemon citrus, stone fruit and hints of subtle oak and butter, it offers warmth on the palate and is ideally paired with seafood or lighter Asian fare. Independently owned by husband-and-wife duo Ken and Akiko Freeman (who happens to be the head winemaker), the winery has been practicing restraint and balance in its wines long before the rest of Napa and Sonoma decided to do the same. With limited production, quality has been key, resulting in consistent 90+ point wines from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.
HK$611 at Golden Gate Wines
6. 2015 Domain Drouhin Oregon Roserock Zephirine Pinot Noir, Eola Amity Hills
Though often seen as an alternative to Burgundies in Francophile-driven Hong Kong, Oregon Pinot Noirs are increasingly standing on their own. Newly released in Hong Kong in 2018, the Roserock line of wines from established Burgundy producer Joseph Drouhin offers classic cool climate Pinot Noirs from its vineyards in Eola-Amity Hills in Oregon’s celebrated Willamette Valley. Rated 93 pts by Wine Enthusiast, 98 pts by James Suckling and 94 pts by Wine & Spirits, the full-bodied Zephirine with its ripe cherry fruit, bouquet of violet, cinnamon, oak, subtle hint of cocoa and vanilla with a long satisfying finish brings a lot to the table at a relatively affordable price for a wine of this complexity and quality.
HK$368 at Berry Bros. & Rudd
7. Clos de L’Oratoire des Papes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone 2016
GSM blends are always crowdpleasers for their versatility with food regardless of the cuisine, and this smooth-drinking Rhone vintage from Clos de L’Oratoire des Pape is no exception. With its subtle mix of fresh and cooked fruit flavours and pleasantly integrated tannins, this medium-bodied wine with a long lingering finish and nice acidity is a good standalone or food-pairing option. Along with its trademark multi-coloured medieval label seeming to espouse the holiday spirit, it’s perfect as an accompaniment to dinner or special gift for a wine-loving host.
HK$750 at xtrawine.hk
8. 2015 Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py
Beaujolais often gets a bad rap as a cheap wine, but the latest revival of the Gamay grape variety is showing expression and complexity to rival its sophisticated peers in the north. With renewed investment in the region and smaller scale producers like Foillard leading the natural wine movement, these wines showcase both the versatility of the Gamay grape and the terroir at a relatively affordable price. From the revered Brouilly site in the Morgon region, this wine packs a resounding punch. With juicy red cherry and raspberry aromas, vanilla and spice, a hint of herbs with high acidity and a long finish, this wine is wonderful to drink alone or paired with a meaty fish and lighter proteins such as chicken or pork.
HK$278 at Cru World Wine
8. Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015
With 2015 apparently the “best vintage in South Africa in the last 50 years” according to wine experts, this beautiful Cape Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from South Africa’s Stellenbosch wine region is a testament to nature’s forces as well as head winemaker Abrie Beeslaar’s steady hand. Not a shy wine, its full-bodied, deep purple hues combined with violet bouquet aromas, dark cherry fruit, black plums, prunes, kirsch, cedar and spice make a statement. A high-tannin wine that definitely calls for food, this will pair nicely with a traditional Christmas meal with classic meat dishes and cheeses.
HK$528 at The Flying Winemaker
9. Chateau Mercian Jyonohira Ortus 2013
For those who prefer a medium to full-bodied red wine with lower alcohol levels, try a Bordeaux blend from Japan’s leading wine producer, Chateau Mercian. A left bank Bordeaux style blend (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc), it has lovely black cherry fruit, blackcurrant with earthy, herbal notes, aromas of vanilla, wood, smoke and leather with smooth tannins and subtly delicate finish — all at only 12.5% alcohol which means it won’t overpower the palate when pairing with more delicate Asian cuisines.
Available through Hing Lung Food Place, price on request
10. Chateau Climens Sauternes 2012
For those with a sweet tooth or looking for a sweet wine to pair with a cheese or dessert course, a Sauternes from a Premier Cru estate in the Barsac appellation in Bordeaux is always a safe bet. From leading high producer Chateau Climens, this liquid gold nectar with lush layered notes of fresh lemon and honey, delicately balanced with oak and spice-tinged finish is sure to be a crowdpleaser.
HK$3,275 at Millésima