Epicurean Review: James Suckling – Great Wines of Italy 2016, Hong Kong

The Luxe Factor: The premier Italian wine tasting event of the year in Hong Kong

BY Arjun Sekri



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Asia’s Italian wine market is booming. How else to explain the nearly 1500 consumers and local wine trade who registered for Great Wines of Italy Hong Kong and the 1300 who registered for Great Wines of Italy Bangkok.

The explosive week started in Hong Kong at the Four Seasons. The record-breaking event in the Grand Ballroom featured more than 80 prestigious Italian wine brands, wines like Bruno Giacosa, Ornellaia, and Fattoria Le Pupille. The night before Wednesdays’ grand tasting, JamesSuckling.com hosted the producers at a welcome dinner at the Michelin-rated Duddell’s and uncorked around 90 magnums and about half as many bottles of sparkling and white wines. Attendees chowed down on barbecue pork buns, mingled on the open terrace and grooved to Surahn Sidhu’s rock-and-roll tunes. Sidhu was on guitar, bass, and vocals for Empire of the Sun for several years and frequently goes on global tours.

Producers seemed keen to taste (and finish) the Barolos first and after went for the Brunello di Montalcinos. That trend repeated itself the following day during the grand tasting during both trade and consumer sessions. During the latter, the ballroom was packed within 30-minutes of the doors opening—and remained so until the very end of the tasting. Coravin, a sponsor of JS.com, was on hand demonstrating their device, as was the ocean preservation group Sea Shepherd, a charity supported by JS.com.

1.  Djemaa el Fna – Djemaa el Fna is the largest square in Africa and one of the symbols of Marrakech since its foundation in the 11th century. During the day, you will find fruit juice stands, henna tattoo artists, and snake charmers. In the evening, the square fills with food vendors, musicians, and fortunetellers. Have a mint tea at one of the rooftop cafés and enjoy the view.

2. Koutoubia Mosque – The Koutoubia mosque is approximately 67 meters (221 ft) high, and is the largest mosque in Marrakech. Its minaret, built in a traditional Almohad style and topped with four copper globe, is what dominates your view when you see Marrakesh from a distance for the first time. It is one of the oldest monuments of classical Moroccan architecture and the city’s highest. The mosque is ornamented with curved windows, a band of ceramic inlay, pointed merlons, and decorative arches; it has a large plaza with gardens, and is floodlit at night.

3. Old Medina Souks – If you like shopping you will love the Souks (markets) in the old town. The twisting medieval passageways of the souks can be intimidating, but the best approach is to just plunge in. Get lost in a maze of market stalls with Moroccan goods from jewelry, teapots, ceramics and lamps to hand made carpets, clothes, leather, spices and so much more. Be prepared for some friendly bargaining!

4. Jardin Majorelle – The garden was designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle, who bought the property in 1931 and then spent 41 years turning into a luxurious oasis. The garden was made in the 1920s with marble pools, raised pathways, banana trees, groves of bamboo, coconut palms, and bougainvilleas. Years later, it was purchased and restored by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. They lived there, drawing inspiration from the garden retreat and adding new species of flowers and plants. When Yves Saint Laurent passed away in 2008, his ashes were scattered at the Jardin Majorelle and a memorial was built there.

5. Visit a Hammam – No trip to Marrakech is complete without having tried the typical Moroccan hammam. Hammam means “spreader of warmth.” It is a bathing retreat that has its origins over a thousand years ago in Rome and is still found today in Morocco as well as Turkey and Spain. After soaking in the steam, you will be lathered up with ghassoul (black soap made from natural mineral clay) and then scrubbed down thoroughly with a kessa (a sort of rough glove). It also fairly cheap, around 40$ for a sauna, scrub and one hour massage.

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