My Tuesday nights have just become A LOT more exciting with the arrival of Hakkasan’s Tuesday Tastings. Last Tuesday night, I was delighted to be invited to the hottest event in town – a dinner at Hakkasan Dubai with world-renowned wine expert Christine Parkinson. With restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, Hakkasan is known for its outstanding modern Cantonese cuisine, however, what I didn’t know was how much time and attention went into procuring and compiling their expert wine menu.
Overseen by Christine on a global level and under the guardianship of Olivier Gasselin, Head of Wine for the Middle East and Asia regions, Hakkasan’s wine philosophy is simple – find wines that work exceptionally well with Chinese cuisine – and that was our mission on Tuesday night! Faced with a selection of dishes from mild to spicy, sweet to savoury, we were gifted with the task of determining if five new wines (two white and three red) were positive matches with the rich Cantonese food and deemed good enough to make the Hakkasan Wine List – and note, no wine is allowed on any Hakkasan group Wine List unless it has passed this test.
Christine, who has been with Hakkasan since 2001, created the first Wine List for Hakkasan, and then became Wine Buyer for the group. She is also a wine judge on numerous trade and consumer panels including Decanter World Wine Awards, New Wave Spanish Wines, IWC Sake Awards, and Sommelier Wine Awards.
The tasting has become an integral part of each of Hakkasan restaurant’s rituals where the whole team get involved in the session in order to ensure quality. “One of my rules,” says Parkinson, “is that however much I like a wine, there’s no point putting it in a restaurant unless the staff there love it.” Over the years, has Parkinson found wine styles that in general work well with the bold flavours? “Barrel-fermented chardonnay is often a good bet. Riesling with a little bit of residual sugar often succeeds, as well as pinot noir which has a fairly high success rate.”
We were in a bit of luck – on our list of wines to try was a Riesling ‘Blue Slate’ Dr. Loosen 2013 and a Pinot Noir Astorlabe 2014 as well as a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, a Primitivo Salento and a Fitou Domaine. After a mouthful of the Chilean Seabass with Chinese Honey, the Fitou Domaine was vetoed by Parkinson, who expressed that she was put off the dish after trying it with that particular wine. The Primitivo Salento from 2013 was also not given a clean bill of health and was marked as ‘questionable’ after being paired with the Fried scampi and foie gras and the Crispy duck salad. The Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir passed with flying colours, which I, infact agreed with, despite my limited knowledge of wine. The Riesling really did seem to go with everything! During this process, the theory of “the food chooses the wine” really took precedence – and even though food is very important at Hakkasan, I truly believe they hold their wine to the same high standards. For ‘winos’ and complete beginners (like myself), Hakkasan’s Tuesday Tastings are definitely one to try.