Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fauzi the Bear?

Here’s a new concept for Indonesia, designated non smoking areas. For a country that has been built on tobacco funding, I have to say this is a gutsy number. For a culture that seems to be based on cigarettes as means to build relationships, banning smoking in covered public areas such as offices and recreational facilities will come with its’ share of headaches and challenges for most, if not all involved. As an active Food and Beverage operator, Monday November 1, 2010 (first day of the non smoking regulation to be implemented) comes with a share of its smoke free “Monday Mayhems”.


For most Indonesians, smoking is not just a habit but perhaps can even be consider cultural tradition. So why this radical plan by Jakarta’s Governor Fauzi Bowo? Being a true born and bred Betawi, I am certain he must be aware of the implications of passing such a bill. With the amount of smokers around town, it must be difficult to ignore the fact that smoking is a big part of life here. So what is the objective? Is he really trying to make a stand against the cigarette consumption like they have in other countries such as Singapore or is this just another attempt that will wither and fade away as it did a few years ago?


For the entertainment industry, having such a law carries a hefty repercussion. Since smoking cigarettes or cigars is usually associated with eating and drinking, the sense of enjoyment is decreased with its absence. As a passively second hand smoker, I personal enjoy the change in the air I work in. It feels cleaner and healthier for us all that in constantly in the smoke filled environment. Not to mention my wine has lost some of that “smoky” aroma, while my chef’s delectable work doesn’t come with a hint of burnt cloves anymore. Having said that, I also understand the importance of smoking, especially for people living here in Indonesia. Personally, I know a few people (including myself) who would love to enjoy our meals in a smoke free environment however I guess this will all come down to implementation. Either way, as long as the bill is implemented fairly and appropriately, I’m game. Otherwise, someone is just blowing smoke up our chimneys, again.


Should smoking be permitted in restaurants and bars? What are your thoughts? Please drop me a line with your comments.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

South African Hat Trick

Here we go, here we go, here we go!! Whether football is your sport or not, it is safe to say that the World Cup has grabbed the world’s attention. From five star hotels to road side stalls, all televisions will be tuned to South Africa.

No matter which country will be the color of your jersey or whether the host (that would be South Africa for those living in sticks of New Guinea) keeps the trophy on home turf or not, I would recommend honoring their delicious wines to celebrate with.

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2009 Springfield Estate “Life from Stone” - Sauvignon Blanc

Robertson Valley

A friend recently turned my attention to this Sauvignon Blanc that eerily reminds me of the Loire version of this varietal with elegance, depth and just simply, pure glee. Unlike most new world styles of Sauvignon Blanc that are filled to the brim with aromas of tropical fruits and a gob full that follows suite, this number is light on its’ feet like a springbok and well layered. As the label suggests, it is the schist stones found in the vineyards that gives it’s similarities to the French counterparts.

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2007 Kanonkop - Pinotage

Stellenbosch

This is actually a double whammy for the South Africans. Firstly, the grape itself is a native of the region, having been created and developed in South Africa by cross breeding 2 grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. The breeding of this unique grape variety definitely has put South Africa on the map as a major wine producing country.

Secondly, the producer ain’t some mickey mouse just new into the wine scene. Still a family operated winery (already a good sign), the 5th generation is now at the helm of maintaining Kanonkop as South Africa’s equivalent to Bordeaux top chateaux. With 50% of the plantings dedicated to 59 year old Pinotage vines, you can expect that they know a thing or two about this grape. Full bodied and packed with layers of flavours ranging from ripe forest fruits, plum and banana, Kanonkop is definitely a name to look for when it comes to outstanding Pinotage examples.

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2003 Meerlust “Rubicon” – Cabernet Blend

Stellenbosch

This beautiful winery is located on a 300 year old heritage site and is kept in check by 8th generation custodian, Hannes Myburgh.

Drinking Rubicon, Meerlust’ premium Cabernet blend is like having a top Bordeaux with an edge. It is intense, powerful yet elegant. Shy at first pour, the aromas of cassis, cigar box and smoked meats emerges like a lion from the tall grass. Don’t be hasty in cracking this underachiever as you may miss all the glorious potential this wine may offer. Give it time to chill, grow and reap the rewards of your patience. Otherwise, if time is not on your side, give it ample decanting time.

Why we do what we do

Sight

Pour yourself a glass of wine and what’s the first thing you would do? Before any of our olfactory is put to work, our eyes are already sizing up for what’s to come. Just the sight of a white or red wine in your glass will already start to kick up our taste buds.

Taking a good look at what you are drinking can provide you with vital information such as age, style and even grape variety. Tilt your glass against plain white background and observe the colour. White wines then to be lighter in colour when young and takes on a more golden and slightly brownish tinge with age. Whites aged in oak barrels also tend to be more golden than those aged in stainless steel tanks, which are more straw or light yellow. Red wines are the opposite, retaining deep ruby red to inky purple hues (depending on the grape variety) when youthful and fading into a lighter, brick like red as time passes.


Swirl
Swirling your wine glass whilst chatting can be seen as a nervous habit or trying to keep the flies out of the glass, however make no mistake, this is a crucial part of your tasting experience. Just like perfume, wine reacts to oxygen (known as aeration), the more the aeration a wine gets, the more aroma is released hence more consumable pleasure. As the aromas are released into the stemware, this is when you dive in nose first to reap all that nostril glory. This is the reason why restaurants (at least those that knows how to serve wine) serve an oversized glass with the wine half full. It’s simply to give you more room for you to aerate your wine instead of ending up wearing the wine!

Smell
You have just stuck your nose into the glass and been assaulted with a battery of aromas. As your brain registers, you will start to categorize what’s good and what’s not, what’s recognizable and what’s not.

Each grape variety has its’ own unique characteristic which can be identified on the nose. For example, the smell of lychee fruit is unique to gew├╝rztraminer, cassis is to cabernet sauvignon and so on. Once you familiarize your memory bank with this aromas and relations, you have embark on your journey on being a true wine connoisseur. Age of the wine can also be noted as the primary fruit aromas are replaced by what’s known as secondary characters. Usually the wines sweet fruit aromas change into something more earthy and delicate.

Taste

After all that visualizing and swirling, you must be parched! Take a nice gulp and give it a good swirl around in your mouth allowing all the fluid goodness to awaken your flavor sensors. Note all that is happening, this is pinnacle of your earlier efforts. There are four main tastes that everyone has, sweet, sour, bitter and salt. Note these coming alive while you swirl the wine around your mouth and allow some air to enter through your teeth. I know it’s not the sexiest of sounds but it does make the wine more appealing.

Now it is just a matter of savoring and enjoying your wine.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Aussie Aussie Aussie!!

Australian wines have been a power house for the past couple decades, producing consistent and reliable house hold names such as Lindemans, Yellowtail and De Bortoli to icons such as Penfold’s “Grange”, Chris Ringland’s “Three Rivers” and Henschke’s “Hill of Grace”, which fetches hundreds of dollars per bottle at current release. Ranked as 4th largest wine exporter, Australian wines are wines to be reckoned with. However, like most good things, they usually start with humble beginnings, and Australia is without exception.


The first vine plantings came in the 1700’s with the immigration of settlers from Europe. Beginnings were challenging and only in the 1800’s did Australian growers manage to start producing fruit suitable for winemaking, with the importation of French grape varieties by James Busby. The industry was dominated by sweet and fortified wines that lend to the perception of Australian wines being sweet and cheery. A devastating louse known as phylloxera (which nearly wiped out the entire global wine production) arrived on Australian shores and nearly diminished most of the plantings. Vines had to be ripped out and lands scorched to avoid the spread of the pest and avoid another massive invasion. With this, came a change in winemaking style which rapidly put Australian wines into the forefront of new world wines. Sweet and fortified wine productions declined and producers a started to focus on quality over quantity along with gaining knowledge in varietal expression. Vines that survived the louse attacks were gaining quality with age and were being used to produce small quantities of highly concentrated wines, of which most were Shiraz plantings.


Today Australian wines dominate most of Jakarta’s wine shelves, with a vast range to suit all palates. You will be able to find the accessible DB range from De Bortoli, affordable and “bang for your buck”, comes in both white and red styles. Nothing short or shy, these wines are great for those looking for a good introduction to Australian wines. If red, rich and muscular is more to your liking, grab yourself something from the Barossa or Mclaren Vale regions such as Cats Among the Pigeons or Mollydooker. These guys makes nothing but high octane, teeth staining, mind altering full bodied reds which if these wines won’t give you a lasting impression then perhaps nothing will. For most people, these wines are the epitome of Australian Shirazes. With a little effort, collectables are also gaining ground in the Jakarta wine scene. Age worthy and prized wines such as Penfold’s Grange, Greenock Creek or Clarendon Hills “Astralis” have hit the scene creating significant buzz and following. Definitely keep your eyes peeled for this space, mate!

Wines mentioned are available in the following wine establishments:

Vin+ Arcadia

Vin+ Kemang

Cork and Screw

Cheese and Caviar