Ningxia province offers an exciting perspective on China’s potential to make great wine. Ningxia is about 900km west of Beijing.
A tasting of a dozen of the region’s best wines was a revelation for someone who has only ever tasted a handful of palatable Chinese wine. Since 2011 I have tasted several score of reds and whites costing from 30 RMB to about 200 RMB ($US 5 to 35). Almost all were undrinkable. Too much like coloured water and alcohol, with no flavour or character.
Meanwhile, Ningxia has decided to focus on quality. Jim Boyce, creator of the Grape Wall of China blog in Beijing, said at the Hong Kong tasting that this focus was a wise move for the region, though he thought prices were still too high.
Ningxia has about 30 vineyards, with another 60 scheduled. Some of those 30 produce wines would gather silver medals at international events, and exhibit significant potential for improvement.
The region decided to plant mostly international varieties. The most common are cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet gernicht (believed to be related to carmenere), chardonnay and Italian riesling.
Ningxia has lots of advantages as a wine-growing region. It is located in a beautiful valley between the Yellow River, which provides plenty of water, and the Helan Mountains, which provides protection from winds. Jim Boyce said it also had a local government that supported the region’s aspirations to produce quality products.
The only disadvantages, Boyce said, were lack of consumer awareness of the region and high labour costs, which means wines were relatively expensive.
Of the dozen wines tasted, most were worthy of medals at international wine events.
The 2011 Helan Mountain special reserve chardonnay was an attractive wine, green gold in the glass with crisp green apple aromas, and the same taste in the mouth, along with fresh acidity and formidable length.
The taste of the wine lingered on my palate the way music from the classic Chinese stringed instrument, the erhu, floats across a lake at night. It sells for about 300 RMB (about $US 50).
The 2011 Xixia King Diplomatic Envoy Italian riesling costs the same price. While not as impressive a wine, it has a certain charm with its floral rose and sweet mouthfeel. It tastes like ripe melon, with a hint of lemon rind at the end. It might present better with appropriate food, such as dumplings.
The vineyard was founded in 1984 and has major plans for expansion with 132,000 mu under vines in a total available area of 300,000 mu. The vineyard also produces 50 million seedlings a year for sale to other properties.
The 2009 Chateau Yuhuang cabernet sauvignon was one of the most expensive wines presented, at 688 RMB (about $US 110), but it exudes class. It has a classic cabernet nose of cassis and red berries that positively jumps from the glass, followed by flavours of ripe plums and raspberries in the mouth.
Tannins are silky with a pleasant green pepper tang. Winemaker David Tyney should be congratulated on his achievement, given the vines are only a decade old.
Highlight for me was the 2009 Silver Heights Emma’s Reserve cabernet sauvignon. Winemaker Emma Goa is part of a family-owned operation that only produces 5,000 cases a year.
This wine offers aromas of mint, cedar and dark berries plus an elegant quality that was like catching a hint of perfume on a hot summer night, even though the person wearing the fragrance was many metres away.
Tannins are relatively well integrated given the fact the wine was stored in new French oak for 24 months. It still needs some time but this wine will be a delight in another few years. It is well priced at 400 RMB (about $US 60).
The final wine presented was the 2008 Chateau Changyu Moser, a blend of 90 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 10 per cent merlot. This is the first Chinese wine that Berry Brothers and Rudd in the United Kingdom started stocking, from earlier this year.
It is pricey at 540 RMB (about $US 90) but you can tell your friends you drank wine from what is believed to be China’s first vineyard, established in 1892, even though this wine was made from vines only 10 years old.
The wine offers aromas of truffles, ripe plumbs and mushrooms. The tannins are still tight so this red is best consumed in another half decade.
After years of drinking very ordinary Chinese wines, it was a pleasure to encounter bottles I would happily drink again. Ningxia has great potential.
Portugal has about 250 grape varieties, many of them unique to the country, and they represent a large number compared with most other wine-making nations because of the country’s relatively small population.
Portuguese winemakers specialise in blended wines, and Portugal is the world’s eleventh largest producer and tenth largest exporter, impressive achievements given the country has only about 10.5 million people.
The Tartessians introduced winemaking to Portugal about 2000 BC. The Phoenicians took over from the Tartessians about 1000 BC. Portugal exported wine to the Roman Empire from about 200 BC and the wine trade boomed with the spread of Christianity 400 years later, because the latter used wine in their religious ceremonies.
A naming structure — what the French call an appellation controllee or controlled naming system — was established in the Douro region in northern Portugal almost 200 years before the French set up their system in the 1950 to ensure quality.
Portugal’s success has come about because winemakers matched grapes to microclimates with appropriate and quality soils and terroir, and proper application of new technologies.
Wine in Portugal has improved considerably in the past 30 years, especially since Portugal joined the European Community in 1986. The biggest advances have been in table wines made from grapes traditionally used to make ports.
This has mostly occurred because of limits to port production, which meant grapes were left over and available to winemakers to experiment with.
The 2009 Po de Poeira red is a blend of a range of grapes. The bottle does not make clear how many, but probably at least four. Think of it as being similar to a “field blend” where the winemaker assembles a group of grape varieties that seem to work together.
The Po de Poeira red is almost black in colour, with intense flavours of both red and black fruits, plus aromas of violet and bergamot (the latter is what give Earl Grey tea its smell). The aroma of bergamot suggests a high proportion of touriga nacional grapes in the blend. The grape is pronounced “too-ree-gah nass-yon-nal).
The tannins are silky and the acidity sings in the glass, giving the wine great balance. It, too, is refreshing and relevant for summer in Asia, provided the wine is chilled before serving.
The 2010 Po de Poeira white, also from the Douro region in the north-east, is also made from 80 per cent alvarinho with the balance gouveio. It is aged for six months in 50 per cent new oak barrels.
It dances lightly on the palate but the flavours are pungent enough to impart a taste of mandarin orange and acid zing in the mouth. I loved the sense of minerality, which gave a study sense of structure. Another excellent wine that is most appropriate for summer.
Jorge Moreira, who made the Po de Poeira, is also the winemaker at Quinta de la Rosa, one of the country’s best port producers. Moreira was Portugal’s winemaker of the year in 2011. He is willing to innovate and the Po de Poeira range offer excellent value for money combined with high quality.
The 2005 Julian Reynolds reserva has developed secondary characteristics and the tannins have softened to the point where the wine could be matched with a range of white meat dishes, or lighter meats such as lamb. It could be described as brooding, a vinous version of Heathcliff. It is a delightful combination of plums, raisins, brambles and spice. Worthy of a further half decade of ageing.
This wine is a blend of alicante bouschet, trincadeira and syrah. Alicante bouschet is a teinturier, a French term for a grape with red flesh and deep colour blended with light red wine to give the latter deeper colour.
The trincadeira (pronounced treen-ka-day-rah) balances the lack of acidity in the other grapes and provides aromas of blackberries and spices. The syrah, another name for shiraz, provides body plus black fruit tastes and pepper aromas.
The alvarinho grape has developed a great reputation because of the quality of the white wines made with it from the Vinho Verde region in north-west of the country. This white grape has a floral and fruity profile with hints of honeysuckle, peach, grapefruit and apple. Alvarinho is known as albariño in neighbouring north-west Spain.
The 2011 Quinta da Lixia Pouco Commum is an example of what modern winemakers can create with this grape in areas other than the Vinho Verdhe region. It has fine acidity, and is well balanced with aromas of tropical fruit and lemon-honey. Delicious at any time, but especially relevant in summer in the Asian region.
Wednesday June 05th 2013, 8:51 pm
Filed under: wine
A famous French Bordeaux critic has been visiting Hong Kong to introduce his method to distinguish great red wines from the merely good.
Jean-Marc Quarin, often called the “palate coach,” is the author of the Guide Quarin des Vins de Bordeaux, a book that has won several prizes and received positive reviews in the past year.
In June he showed Hong Kong sommeliers and others in the wine trade a technique that winegrowers of yesteryear used to assess quality, using their palate rather than their nose.
Quarin said the tulip-shaped tasting glass, introduced in 1970, compelled tasters to focus on the nose because of the way the glass funnelled aromas to the face.
“But smell perception is very personal and subjective, and varies considerably,” he said. “We should pay more attention to what happens in our mouth and identify the tactile sensations which are clear indications of the level of quality.”
Quarin publishes a subscription-based web site in French and English that allows people to compare prices and vintages in Bordeaux.
He spoke with video reporter Stephen Quinn about his tasting methods.
Family-owned vineyards in France and New Zealand feature this week, to show the importance of tradition and terroir.
A three-masted sailing ship, La Minerva, features on the label of Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere in Bordeaux, a tribute to former owner Count Hippolyte de Maures de Malartic, an admiral of the French Navy who fought against the British at the battle of Quebec in 1756.
In 1792 he defended Ile de France, known today as Mauritius, from invasion by the British. An obelisk was erected in his memory in the Champ de Mars at Port Louis in Mauritius.
Malartic-Lagravière is one of only six classified growths in both red and white in Bordeaux. The Bonnie family from Belgium bought the estate in 1997 and have spent millions of euros upgrading it, plus acquiring the neighbouring Chateau Gazin-Rocquencourt and investing in Argentina under the Domaine DiamAndes label.
Jean-Jacques Bonnie runs the estates in Bordeaux and has focused on organic growing methods, banning insecticides and planting a range of plants and trees to encourage biodiversity.
The estate received Agrocert certification in 2008. This is a French government ministry responsible for quality in agriculture. The result shows in the wines, which are elegant and opulent at the same time. The 2008 grand cru classes de Graves — 85 per cent sauvignon blanc and the rest semillon — coats one’s palate with joy.
The 2007 DiamAndes from a new estate in Argentina is a blend of 70 per cent malbec and 30 per cent cabernet sauvignon. This is the first vintage yet this wine has silky tannins and a nose of mocha and black fruits.
Jean-Jacques Bonnie said the temperature differences in both Bordeaux and Argentina produced a concentration of flavours in the grapes. Wines made in Bordeaux are defined by national laws, but Argentina allows the company a chance to experiment with grape combinations.
“Business is business, but what’s in the bottle is what counts, year after year,” Bonnie said.
DiamAndes is part of the Clos de Los Siete estate. The wine consultant Michel Rolland, featured in the famous wine documentary Mondovino, partnered with six Bordeaux winemakers in the Uco Valley in Mendoza. They divided more than 850 hectares into seven plots with the aim of producing quality yet unique wines.
The Bonnie family own 130 hectares of this estate. They planted grapes in 2005 and built a winery in 2009. It won an international award for wine tourism in 2011.
Meanwhile in New Zealand, the Brajkovich family has been making excellent wine since 1944 on a property northwest of Auckland, the major city in the north island. Winemaker Michael Brajkovich became New Zealand’s first Master of Wine in 1989.
He crafts superb chardonnays from estate fruit. Lisa Perrotti-Brown, writing in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, described Kumeu River chardonnays as “some of the best in the world”. When I first visited the estate in 1991 Brajkovich only had a handful of wines. Now the estate has five superb chardonnays. The best known is the Mate’s Vineyard, named after Michael’s father. The first vintage appeared in 1993, the year after Mate died.
Michael described the 2010 Mate’s Vineyard as the best he has yet made. It is a superb wine, with white peach notes on the nose and lively acidity leading to a crescendo of flavours, balanced by restrained minerality. The zesty acidity would make it a perfect match for a range of Asian foods.
The 2007 Hunting Hill chardonnay is a recent addition to the range. The first vintage was in 2006. This is another elegant white with floral notes on the nose and a smooth combination of peach and butter in the mouth. It has received glowing reviews in all of the major wine publications.
The 30 hectares of the vineyard consist mostly of clay soils on a sandstone base which retain moisture, meaning the vineyard does not require irrigation. The vineyard is situated between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. These keep the temperatures moderate in summer and slow ripening helps to enhance fruit flavours, Michael Brajkovich said.
Michael Cooper in his book Classic Wines of New Zealand describes Kumeu River as “one of New Zealand’s great chardonnays”. Sometimes wine writers tend to overuse adjectives, but in this case the descriptors are appropriate. Kumeu River makes great wines.
Macau’s first wine and dine festival, held May 23-26 at the Venetian resort, has been acclaimed a major success, with plans to expand to other regions in future years.
Organised by The Wine Society of Macau, it was held in conjunction with the Venetian Carnevale, a celebration of Italian lifestyle.
The festival included a wine school, cooking demonstrations, and booths where the large crowds sampled wine and food from around the world.
A highlight of the wine school was a presentation by Joao Paulo Martins, editor of Portugal’s most important wine magazine, Revista de Vinhos. Martins, often referenced as Portugal’s answer to Robert Parker Jr, was sponsored by Wines of Portugal.
Filipe Santos, the Macau wine society’s president, spoke with DecanterChina’s video reporter Stephen Quinn.
The man often referenced as Portugal’s answer to Robert Parker Jr gave workshops about Portuguese wine in Hong Kong and Macau earlier this month, and spoke about the future for Portuguese wines in China.
Joao Paulo Martins has been a wine journalist since 1989, and is editor of Portugal’s most important wine magazine, Revista de Vinhos. He also writes a weekly column about wine in Expresso, Portugal’s most influential weekly magazine.
Martins has written a guide to Portuguese wine for the past 19 years known as Wines of Portugal, and has published an acclaimed book about port in English. He has run wine workshops in Brazil, Angola and Brussels, and been an international wine judge in five countries.
Martins spoke with DecanterChina’s video reporter Stephen Quinn about the potential for Portuguese wines in China.
One glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. “The nerves are braced, the imagination is agreeably stirred; the wits become more nimble.” Thus wrote Winston Churchill, the great British prime minister, of his favourite wine.
These words came to mind after sampling Godme champagne from the village of Verzenay near the Montagne de Reims, the famous hills that house a collection of grand cru and premier cru vineyards in the Champagne region of France.
The influential American magazine Wine Spectator ranked Godme in its list of the world’s top 100 wines in 2010. The Godme family has owned the house for five generations.
The vineyards have not used artificial fertilizers for more than a decade. Grass is sown between rows to prevent erosion, and to retain moisture and provide natural fertilizers.
Other natural products such as herbal teas and essential oils are added, along with a mixture of shredded vine prunings to enhance nitrogen in the soil.
This emphasis on organic farming shows in the quality of the grapes, which produce excellent champagnes. The entry level brut reserve premier cru non vintage has an elegant nose of white flowers and mineral notes, plus a lively lemon zestiness in the mouth.
This brut is Godme’s best-selling champagne. Its annual production of 60,000 bottles sells quickly and represents about half of the company’s total output.
The brut blend is 50 per cent chardonnay, 15 per cent pinot noir and the balance pinot meunier. The chardonnay provides the finesse and elegance, the pinot noir supplies the structure and sense of fullness in the mouth and the pinot meunier enhances the sensation of freshness and fruitiness.
The 2004 Les Alouettes premier cru blanc de blancs comes from a specific vineyard, Les Alouettes, in the village of Villers Marmery. It spends five years in the cellar after fermentation in barrels and six months stored in oak.
A blanc de blancs is made only of chardonnay grapes. These are hand harvested late in the season so they have relatively high sugar levels (though very few grapes in the region could be said to be high in natural sugar because the region averages less than five hours of sunshine a day over a year).
This is a sophisticated champagne. On the palate it has a grapefruit zing and the flavours of spice and citrus hang around in one’s mouth for a long time. It is also a delight to observe in the glass, with its fine bead and shimmering appearance of pale gold.
In a good year perhaps 8,000 bottles are made. Godme exports to the United States, Europe and parts of Asia, and has an office in Shanghai in China.
The grand cru champagnes from Godme are high quality. The non-vintage brut blanc de noir, as the name implies, consists only of pinot noir grapes — the name literally means a white wine from black grapes. It offers an echo of gold in the glass and tastes of raspberries and other red fruits, and a touch of white pepper.
This is a wine to savour as an aperitif, or any part of a meal. It could even be served with a creamy dessert, because the high acidity would balance the richness of the food.
A tasting highlight was the 1998 grand cru, a blend of 40 per cent pinot noir and the rest chardonnay. Its body could best be described as voluptuous. It has an enticing aroma of freshly-sliced green apple, and tastes like fresh grapefruit with a hint of smokey tea.
The feeling of the wine in one’s mouth, known as the mousse, is like listening to fine opera as the star builds to a climax on stage. The flavour lingers in one’s mouth for what seems like an eternity. A wine that made me want to sing.
All Godme champagnes receive low dosage, the amount of sugar added to the wine to create the secondary fermentation. Typically the dosage is about 6 grammes per litre of liquid.
Debate continues in the Champagne region about the amount of sugar to use in the dosage. Some winemakers argue that the sugar is needed for long-term ageing. Generally the riper the grapes the less sugar needed in the dosage, and Godme even make a champagne without added sugar, known as a a brut nature, though I have not tried that wine.
After tasting the grand cru champagnes I bought some of these delights.
* Published 28 May 2013. Find a link here. And published 30 May 2013 in Taiwan here.
Fine wines from Chile and New Zealand, though made from different grape varieties in different parts of the world, reflect the profound influence of wine-making philosophy and history.
Lapostolle Winery in Chile, founded in 1994, focuses on reds blended from Bordeaux varieties and the local carmenere. Alana Estate started a year earlier and produces the classic white varieties of riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, plus pinot noir.
Both use bio-dynamic or organic methods to produce grapes that make memorable wine.
Lapostolle is connected with the Marnier family of France, owner of Grand Marnier, the most exported of all French liqueurs.
Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle decided to create her own winery outside France to make world class wines. She has surely succeeded. The Clos Apalta has received 90 points or more every year for the past decade from Wine Spectator magazine, making it the most awarded Chilean wine. In 2005 the magazine pronounced Clos Apalta the best wine in the world.
Apalta has a special meso-climate different from the rest of Colchagua Valley where the vineyard is based. Hot days and cold nights produce a wide range of temperatures, which concentrate flavours, noted Alexandra’s son, Charles. “Slow maturation allows the grapes to reach ideal maturity with high concentration and character, preserving the fruit and high levels of natural acidity, ensuring a long ageing potential.”
Fog from the ocean cools the vineyard in summer. It is similar to the fogs that bring relief to America’s Napa Valley and helps to produce world-class Bordeaux blends there.
The 2003 and 2010 vintages were tasted, the former to show how the wine evolves and the latter to illustrate the latest release. These are superb wines, dense black cherry in colour and brimming with ripe black berry and cassis flavours in the mouth. The colour comes from the carmenere grapes that make up about two-thirds of the blend, with merlot and cabernet sauvignon providing the balance.
The vineyard has adopted bio-dynamic methods — what some people describe as an extreme form of organic production. Lapostolle uses these techniques “because they work,” said Charles de Bournet Marnier Lapostolle, a rational man who trained as an engineer. “Vines are like humans. When they are happy they work better.”
Alana Estate in New Zealand is also organic because of the perceived impact on the quality of the fruit. The Martinborough region near the base of the country’s north island remains one of the best places to produce wine in that country.
All grapes are hand harvested. The winery is built into the side of a hill. The natural slope allows the maximum use of gravity and reduces the amount of pumping. This limits the introduction of oxygen to grapes — oxygen can kills flavours. The gravity feed means the grape juice is treated gently, which also preserves flavours.
Different parcels of fruit are kept separate and made into wines that allow specific grape varieties to sing. The attention to detail shows in the wines.
Tasting the 2011 riesling is a profound experience — a majestic concentration of lime and pineapple wrapped in a cloak of acid tang and beeswax smoothness. A wine to return to in a two decades.
The 2011 sauvignon blanc is more sophisticated that many wines made with this grape in New Zealand, which tend to smell too much like the result of a cat trapped in a room without a litter tray. This white is dry and lean and has a minerality that makes it a perfect match with oysters or clams.
The 2011 chardonnay suggests a blend of caramel and cream biscuits within a structure of lemon and toast.
The 2009 pinot noir was my favourite. It offered a bouquet of ripe cherries, vanilla and dried spices. In the mouth it was a blend of savoury acids and ripe raspberries, with hints of liquorice and tobacco leaf. A wine to enjoy in a decade.
Both the pinot and the chardonnay won silver medals at this year’s Hong Kong international wine challenge, and the pinot also received a silver at last year’s Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International wine competition.
* Published 24 May 2013. Find a link here.
Wednesday May 15th 2013, 11:32 am
Filed under: wine
Australia’s Barossa Valley has some of the world’s oldest vines still producing wine, including semillon, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and mouvedre.
Friedrich Koch planted the mouvedre in 1853. It is the oldest surviving version of this grape in the world, based on historical records and family diaries.
Dean Hewitson makes magnificent wine with this mouvedre at his Old Garden vineyard. Until 1998 the grapes were blended or used to make fortified wines. “I wanted to see what I could do with a single variety with this pedigree,” Hewitson said.
In May he offered a vertical tasting in Shanghai and Hong Kong of 15 vintages since 1998. A similar vertical was held in New York in February and Hewitson plans another in London in September.
He noted that the vines had witnessed the entire history of the Australian wine industry. The Barossa escaped the ravages of the phylloxera louse in the 1880s but has endured floods and fires.
“The roots of these vines are so deep that even on the hottest days, when all other vines in the Barossa have shut down, their leaves are bright. Like sunflowers they track the sun.”
The vines are planted on what was an ancient lake. The Old Garden vineyard grows in two metres of sand over limestone.
“Mouvedre is a very late ripening variety and these conditions let us harvest at the end of the season with perfect maturity.” Mouvedre needs a long ripening season because of the thickness of the skins.
The vines are hand-harvested and not irrigated.
Dean Hewitson spoke with Stephen Quinn about the vineyard site and the origins of the wine.
The Hong Kong international wine challenge held in May in conjunction with HOFEX, Asia’s leading hospitality tradeshow, revealed a handful of innovative wines.
Tradeshows can sometimes be stuffy, with lots of sales people in dark suits and ties. Winemaker Chris Archer created a fun atmosphere to launch Joiy, a sparkling riesling, at a stand where staff wore Hawaiian style shirts and necklaces of flowers.
Archer, based in Wellington, the New Zealand capital, wanted to make the point that wine was meant to be fun. It works. Joiy will soon be New Zealand’s biggest selling riesling.
It is a delight to drink, especially with a slice of lemon. It has delicate honey and floral notes with a citrus zing, and only 9.5 per cent alcohol, making it ideal for social events. It would be excellent with fatty Asian food in summer, the acidity cutting through the oil.
Archer said wine was meant to be joyous and easily approachable. “I wanted a wine that was unpretentious and at the same time distinctive.”
The wine is sold in packs of four bottles each of 250ml, with eye-catching packaging that suggests a sense of fun. Archer has created a range of cocktails that work well with the riesling. The wine won a silver medal at the wine awards but should have been named champion wine for the level of innovation. More details can be found at http://thecrushhk.com/.
Another new idea that impressed was a range of premium beers made using wine techniques, also from New Zealand.
Winemaker Josh Scott, who has already made a name for himself with award winning Scott Wines, decided to make beer using the attention to detail related to wine. His Moa Breakfast beer, for example, is fermented with cherries as well as hops, and has a champagne-style bottle and closure. It is delicious.
The beer is named after the moa, an extinct flightless bird that apparently was about the size of a horse. Archeologists working near the brewery in Marlborough, famous as a sauvignon blanc region, discovered moa bones. A cheeky advertising campaign later proclaimed: “Finally, something drinkable from Marlborough.”
The beers are finished using wine-making techniques such as barrel ageing and bottle fermentation. These bottles are hand-turned the same way as in Champagne.
“We could go out tomorrow and buy the same machines that other breweries use instead of people,” Scott said. “But instead we brew beer the way it used to be made 100 years ago.” More details can be found at http://www.moabeer.com/.
Moa exports to the US, Canada and a range of Asian countries, including China.
The wine that won the prize for best sweet beverage at the show happens to be the second oldest wine in the world still in production. Lambouri Winery in Cyprus makes the Commandaria Legacy from indigenous mavro and xinisteri grapes.
The name comes from the estate of the Knights Templar in Cyprus known as the Gran Commanderie, which later became known as Commandaria.
The oldest wine, incidentally, comes from the same vineyard — Ya’in Kafrisin, which translates as “wine of Cyprus”.
The techniques used to make the Commandaria later gave us the method known as passito, where grapes are dried on straw beds in the sun before the juice is extracted. This concentrates flavours.
This wine matures for nine years in large oak barrels. Because of that process it offers intense aromas of toffee, dried figs and fruitcake. Think of it as pedro ximenez (PX) but with soft tannin and acidity, instead of the overwhelming sweetness of PX.
The English king Richard I, known as the Lionheart, drank Commandaria at his wedding in Cyprus in May 1191 and proclaimed it “the wine of kings and the king of wines”.
Legend suggests that the grapes used to make Commandaria were taken to Portugal and eventually became the source for port. But that is another story and needs to be verified.
After the Knights Templar exported the wine from Cyprus to Europe’s royal courts it became famous around the world. But it is little known in Asia, and deserves a wider audience. It would be perfect with strong cheeses, but is delightful by itself. The bottle is cleverly designed so that it sits at an oblique angle. Another delightful innovation. You can see a photo here.
Find a link to the story published 13 May 2013 here. And 16 May 2013 here.