Eager to find out a bit more about the wine program of one of our favorite partner restaurants here in Hong Kong, that Two Michelin Masterpiece of Chef Richard Ekkebus named Amber, I met with John Chan, Head Sommelier of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental. John explained to me the composition as well as the physical arrangement of his wine list. He described the steps taken by Chef Ekkebus to make sure his cuisine stays “wine-friendly,” and let me in on why white Burgundies seem to pair best with a wide array of Amber’s signature dishes. We discussed some of the changes (and the reasons behind these changes) in wine preference, which John has noticed in recent years, such as a shift in interest from Bordeaux to Burgundy and the comeback of Chardonnay. He shared his opinion on Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay and explained why he thinks of Pinot Noir as “a charming lady in a silk dress.” He also revealed what he considers to be one of the trendiest up-and-coming wine regions in the Old World, one that will surely be a big hit in the near future.
John Chan, Head Sommelier of Amber (Photo courtesy of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong)
When asked to recommend his favorite signature dishes at Amber, he chose the Steamed and Char-Grilled Foie Gras with Cherry Reduction and Hibiscus, pairing it with the 2008 Leth Gigama, from the Weingut Leth Gigama Reserve area of Southern Austria, and the Line Caught Red Amadai with the 2002 Maison Leroy Meursault 1er Cru “Blagny”.
Selection is an obvious first step in a perfect wine experience, yet there can be a lot more to this than you might think. Even those who insist that they “know nothing about wine” can enhance their wine enjoyment immensely by enthusiastically engaging in the selection process. Sure you can go to your favorite wine shop and just ask for a recommendation, but even in that, your approach to choosing is meaningful. It takes a little work, research, and thought but finding a good wine for the occasion can be as much fun as drinking it. Here are some tips:
Our first thought when choosing a wine is about what food we’ll be having. Some wines are fine alone but the truth is most wines are their best with food. We always select wine in relation to the dishes we plan to serve. This can also go the other way around. We’ll already have a wine in mind and then choose food to go with it.
Tasting Notes and thoughts: The nose on the Millton Chenin Blanc is clean and complex boasting a tame yet impressive aroma of golden apple, fresh Meyer lemon and honey. Secondary hints of sweet dough and wet river rock add to this beautiful expression of Chenin Blanc. The palate brings more of the flavors found on the nose with an added granny smith apple and lime touch. The acidity in this wine is moderate plus and near perfect. Clean, searing yet balanced the pristine acid gives way to apricot pit and mineral notes on the finish which last well beyond 30 seconds. Near perfect…
There’s a chalky flintiness everywhere in Montlouis, a long under-appreciated region in France located across the Loire River from the Vouvray AC; the latter better known around the world for its soft, flowery fresh, demi-sec (“half-dry”) styles of whites made from the Chenin Blanc grape.
Montlouis is also planted exclusively to Chenin Blanc; but because its best whites are probably its dryer ones, flinty or chalky sensations seem more pronounced in Montlouis; the understanding of which doesn’t require much of a leap after you see its whitish soils, which consist of almost no clay, but rather a predominance of silex (finely ground flint), sand and limestone.