On 7 November 2022, Hatten Wines received wonderful news as the full results of the 11th Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition were released. The competition has been the guide to quality international wines and spirits for the booming Asian market and represents a true voice of Asia with 74 judges from 10 Asian cities.
Hatten Wines sent their wines and joined two categories: the Wines Award and Asian Food Pairing Medal Award, and Bali’s original winery brought home some high achievements! Silver Medals were awarded to Hatten Sparkling Jepun, Aga White, Syrah 2018 Vintage and Pino de Bali; plus Bronze Medals for Hatten Sparkling Tunjung, Sweet Alexandria, Chenin Blanc 2021 Vintage, Aga Rose & Aga Red.
In the Food Pairing Medal Award, Sweet Alexandria got the highest trophy as Best Pairing and Gold Medal for pairing with Thai Green Chicken Curry; a Bronze Medal for Hatten Sparkling Jepun pairing with Japanese Grilled Eel Rice Bowl; a Bronze Medal for Aga Rose pairing with Hai Nan Chicken Rice; and another Bronze Medal for Aga Red pairing with Wagyu Beef Bibimbap.
I was thrilled to hear of these achievements, announced by the competition’s Founding Director and Master of Wine, Debra Meiburg, as I had curated these pairings! I’d like to take you on my pairing journey for Hatten Wines and how the format works for this particular awards category.
Firstly, the organised provides a list of Asian dishes that are open for pairing and it is up to the participating wine producer to provide their pairing proposal to be judged. I was initially worried that the food I chose was not authentic enough compared to the food provided in Hong Kong, but why not try it?
The fundamentals of a good pairing are actually looking for the balance between the food and wine. So it is very important to understand both the wine and the food characteristics. When analysing the wine, you need to focus on the body, the intensity of the aroma and the palate, the acidity level, the level of alcohol, and a big one is the tannins. In food you need to also pay attention to the body of flavour, what are the most dominant flavours, the intensity of the spice, and the fat and texture of the food on the palate.
A basic pairing aims to achieve balance, but if we go beyond this, a more advanced pairing will find a combination that complements both the food and wine where a new flavour is developed, a new sensation from the combination. Synergy.
So this award challenged me to find the perfect pairing between the food and all the Hatten Wines ranges — well, not at all, as I knew quite quickly that certain wines would match better, based on their body. Here was my pairing process:
Japanese Grilled Eel Rice Bowl
This was very fishy with a kind of jelly texture, a bit sweet and savoury from the soya sauce. First I thought it would be suitable with white so I tried with Hatten Aga white but it turns out the acidity in the wine was increased and the aroma of fish was really present on the palate. Next, I tried the Hatten Rose thinking the minerality of the wine would help the savoury of the unagi, but it turned out again that the acidity was increased and it was unpleasant. I didn’t even dare to try Hatten Sweet Alexandria, a sweet wine with sweet fishy food would be a very bad combination. Last I tried to pair it with Hatten Sparkling Jepun. I chose Jepun as it was demi-sec rose sparkling, the wine had a high acidity that will flash the fishy element in the food, the demi-sec – medium sweetness helps pair with a bit sweet from the soya sauce in the unagi, the low tannin in the wine increased the body in the palate creating an interesting combination.
The food was easier to enjoy, it was harmonious, and it was creating new flavours that we do not get in either the food or wine. This was the wine I submitted, and was happy to find the judges agreed with my palate and awarded the Bronze for this pairing.
Thai Green Chicken Curry
This dish is rich in flavour, with a lot of spices, a bit of a sweet creaminess from coconut milk, and a bit of spicy and notable lime. For the pairing I needed to be careful with this one as the spice in the food could be lifted up by the alcohol and CO2 in the sparkling wine. So, I tried Hatten Aga White as I assumed with an acidic and aromatic wine, the pairing will be good.
It turned out the spiciness in the food went up and created slight bitterness on the back of the palate. The wine is also a bit lost in the body of the food. Then I try with Hatten Aga Rose I assumed a little bit of tannin and minerality in the wines will help to pair in the same body, but I was wrong, I tasted raw spice on the back of the palate. Then I focused on the spice level in the food which needs a wine with a bit of sweetness to reduce the spice, so I paired it with Hatten Sweet Alexandria, and it turned out just perfect. The spiciness balanced nicely with the semi-sweet of the wine, and the sweetness from the coconut milk is actually not overpowered. The acidity in the wine made it a very enjoyable pairing, it created a confrontation with the food that complimented the other. This pairing was awarded Best Pairing and a Gold Medal!
Hainan Chicken Rice
Steamed chicken with light soya sauce with a lot of ginger in the dish, sweet and savoury, I was torn on the pairing between Hatten Aga White and Hatten Rose, both are good pairings and complement each other. But interestingly I found that Hatten Rose with its light tannin and a lot of minerality gave added flavour to the Hainan just like giving an extra spark to the chicken, and guess what, the judges agreed by giving the Bronze medal on this pairing!
Wagyu Beef Bimbimbap
This was tricky. A Korean rice dish with lots of vegetables with the sourness of kimchi and gochujang and soya sauce. That gochujang has a bold spicy, sweet and umami flavour, a challenge to pair with wine, considering its level of spice level. I right away paired that with Hatten Sweet Alexandria but you know what, the wine was too sweet. I tried with Hatten Aga White and found the flavour actually quite balanced, the sauce doesn’t overpower the wine but when you have it with a slice of beef it did not bring out the flavour of the beef itself. Then, I tried the Hatten Aga Red and it turned out to make the beef flavour really present on the palate, the light body and light in tannin yet very refreshing with high acidity was the perfect pairing for the spice, acidity and umami flavour in the bibimbap. Another interesting yet surprise pairing for me, the judges liked it and it got a Bronze Medal in this category.
Overall, I am very happy with the award result of the pairing, it’s actually not that hard to pair Hatten Wines with Asian food, the unique fruit characteristics of the wine suit very well with the rich flavour of Asian Food. There is a terroir concept in wine pairing, everything that comes in the same soil will complement each other.
Big congratulations to the Hatten Team, especially James Kalleske and Yeni Iramahayani, the perfect duo of winemakers for these beautiful wines!