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DWWA 2014: Middle East, Far East & Asia insights

Hear from our Middle East, Far East & Asia Regional Chair Ch'ng Poh Tiong on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

After three days of judging 205 wines, the most tantalising thing about this category is that you never know what to expect, from obscure varietals such as Koshu and Muscat Bailey from Japan, to a winemaker striking out with Riesling in China. Hats off to these driven daredevils. Otherwise, it’s a pretty predictable pattern of Bordeaux blends and Shiraz/Syrah for reds (and Israel and Lebanon may be better off blending their Rhône red varietals). Overall, for the entire category, winemakers are better off with less oak to shield, and in many cases, decimate, the fruit.

What should we buy from here?

Sauvignon Blanc remains India’s most convincing wine and Chenin Blanc from Thailand is wonderfully engaging. Koshu from Yamanashi prefecture is scintillating – and very exciting this grape has led to Japan’s first DWWA Trophy. It’s a shame China doesn’t experiment with Koshu, though in the meantime we applaud the Trophy for Terroir Greatwall’s Chardonnay.

What should we leave on the shelf?

Ignore scrawny Japanese reds that are lean and – like sashimi – raw unless the dominant taste of oak is what you crave. Also forget any wine associated with flashy consultants more interested in hyper-extraction and making winery owners buy new oak barrels: wannabe cru classés from these emerging regions can’t compete with a well-made, balanced wine made from Bordeaux grapes. Equally, ignore Chardonnays reminiscent of a vanilla-oak milkshake and mono-dimensional fruit.

What should we keep an eye on?

Year by year, bottle by bottle, Thai Chenin Blancs have slowly but progressively impressed our panel with great expression of fruit, tension and knife-edge freshness. This year, for the first time, we awarded a Silver to a dry Chenin (a sweet wine won a Trophy last year) and it can’t be long before we see our first Gold. Red- or yellow-shirted Thais on opposite sides of the political spectrum should put aside their differences and celebrate this achievement.

Written by Decanter

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