Eddie McDougall: Grape Escape Asia

Time Out Hong Kong’s resident wine guy returns and tells us quality Asian wines aren’t ‘coming’ but are already ‘here’
Asian Wines
Quality Asian wines are here now. Illustration: Cat O’Neil
By Time Out Hong Kong |
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Hello Time Out Hong Kong fans! I’m back!

After a two-year hiatus from my favourite column I’m back with a re-stocked arsenal of wild wine stories, untapped grape travels and the continuing desire to hunt down the local drinks artisans breaking new ground.

In the coming weeks I’ll be taking you on a journey in search of the best wines made in Asia. Yes, that’s right, Asia. Not Bordeaux, not Burgundy, but emerging wine regions like Ningxia, Yamanashi, Khao Yai, Bali and Nashik, just to name a few.

You’re probably thinking, this wine guy has gone bananas! And I’m sure you’re asking yourself questions like: Can they produce drinkable wine in Thailand? Impossible! Or, would I ever spend $150 on a bottle of sparkling wine made in Bali? Not in a million years! And, do they even plant wine grapes in Japan because I thought they only make sake and beer?

All these questions and comments are perfectly valid as it wasn’t too long ago that I had the same thoughts going through my mind. Becoming a disciple of Asian wines was no overnight conversion. It required pilgrimages to all these regions to meet the makers and of course, taste the wines.

Yet I became captivated by the beauty of these regions and the sheer passion of the winemakers involved. Being an entrepreneur, I also saw the economic potential of Asia’s budding wine regions. There’s no doubt in my mind that Asian wine lovers will, in time, shift their preferences from traditional imports to more locally produced ones.

Many F&B industries are already experiencing a locavore trend. The best example is probably the craft beer scene. Local breweries are popping up all across Asia and providing young artisans ways to help enhance their local communities. Localism has clear economic and social benefits, however there’s another area that will benefit in the long term – the environment. A simple reduction in our food and drink miles is clearly a sensible step towards a lifestyle that better protects the world we live in while still letting us enjoy the finer things in life.

It’s clear from the above that I’m convinced that Asian wine firmly deserves its place on the Lazy Susan. The days of Asian wine as a gimmick are over. Some of the infrastructure, such as a French chateaux replicated in a Chinese vineyard, may still scream kitsch but what matters most is the Asian wine revolution taking place inside the bottles. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, wines of Asia are no longer ‘coming’ but are well and truly ‘here’. Find out more in the comming weeks! Eddie McDougall

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