Find wine pleasure in tea
To help others understand what you can expect to find in a wine and to offer guidelines for future reference, wine critics and other wine professionals need common references to describe wines.
The ones I use were adapted from a method developed in France many years ago and they are easily understood throughout the world. At a tasting recently, a reader of this column, my young friend Sherman Gang Liu, asked about the wine cards I use when tasting. To make the marking process flow quickly, the cards are divided into sections. Briefly:
Firstly, visual: How does it look? Is it clear or not? What hue is the colour (such as pale straw or deep purple red)?
Secondly, the nose: Good aromas and unwanted aromas (i.e.) guavas, other fruits and honey - good. Stagnant or metallic - not good.)
Thirdly, the palate: ranging from sweetness and acidity to precise impressions.
Last but not least, balance: (tannins and acidity) and finish: (length of time the wine lingers in the mouth).
You may want to develop your own method but keep in mind it may not be clear to anyone else.
In Asia, where tea drinking has been honed to a fine art over the centuries, I have found it useful to note similarities in tea tastes and the flavours commonly found in wines (especially with people new to wine drinking who have a good understanding of Chinese teas).
For newcomers, the process begins by identifying the teas. Once you have mastered the flavours of six to eight Chinese teas you have a good base from which to work.
One of the best opportunities for tasting the true flavours of fine teas will occur at the JW Marriott hotel on May 19, 2005.
The Canton Tea Company Dinner, together with the Marriott's Executive Chef Thomas Rebler, have taken a bold step in melting East and West by pairing premium teas to Western dishes with an Asian influence (at HK$488 plus 10 per cent).
A pre-event tasting showed Truffle Egg Tart and Oscietra Caviar with Darjeeling tea. Tea-cured Salmon and Ginger Mascarpone with Oriental Pearls tea. Abalone, Asparagus and Yunnan Ham with Chamomile tea. Shark's Fin and Risotto cake with spiced crab and Bi Lou Chun tea. Spicy Squid Cucumber dip with Peony tea. Smoked Lamb with Chanterelles with a blended Red tea similar to a Merlot wine. And Osmanthus tea cake with Osmanthus tea. The dinner was concluded with Iron Buddha.
The most prestigious of Indian teas, Darjeeling, is fruity. Some of the best is grown in Assam where the shrubs yield small leaves with golden tips producing a full bodied flavour. In general the taste is comparable to a Semillon/Chardonnay wine.
Oriental Pearls: a light fragrant tea similar to Jasmine, Hern Peen. Chamomile is flowery and light. Resembling small green curls (or snails as its name suggests).
Bi Luo Chun has stone-fruit fragrances similar to a Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio).
Personally, at the Marriott tea dinner I would also ask for Yellow Wine such as Fah Ku, Xian Diao, not only to explore new tastes but also to further balance the dairy content of some of the dishes. At HK$420 a small bottle, it offers 15 to 18 servings.
A word to the wise: To get the best from tea it should be made with water which is off the boil. When the water is too hot, it will burn the tea and the result will be bitter.
(HK Edition 04/15/2005 page4)
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