Taiwan round-up: From Sherry to skeet shooting

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– By John Isacs

For his first blog entry, Taiwan-based wine educator and consultant John Isacs provides some predictions for the year ahead in Taiwan and a review of adventures in the outgoing Year of the Pig.

As I sit in my office on the first day of the Year of the Rat, a few thoughts on what is happening as we enter the Year of the Rat as well as some wine-related highlights from the Year of the Pig come to mind. In terms of the Taiwan market, a few predictions for the coming year:

– Overall wine sales will be flat until after the presidential elections when there will be slow growth, though high-end wine sales still continue to be very strong.
US wines will miss out on weak-dollar opportunity due to lack of promotion and market strategy, while Chilean and Argentinian wines will gain market share because of price advantage and more agressive promotion
– The French wine market share continues to drop, while Italian wine market share grows, especially in terms of Pinot Grigio
Tokaji will become the new darling of wine connoisseurs
Sherry will become popular (OK, this one is personal, as I am interested in this area!)

In terms of the year past, it started with Madrid Fusion 2007, a food and wine congress and exhibition. I participated in the wine tract as the representative of Taiwan. We must have tasted about 500 different wines over a period of three days. The combination of jet lag and palate overload somewhat compromised my ability to fully appreciate every wine but it was educational and fun. My overall impression of Spanish wines:

Cava has a long way to go
– The best reds are great
– Most of the whites are merely pleasant, save for the sensation Albarino
Sherries rank among the world’s greatest wines

Speaking of Sherry, I took a quick trip to Jerez to present on the Taiwan and China markets to producers there and meet the CEO of the Jerez-Xeres-Sherry DO, Cesar Saldana. The trip’s highlight was enjoying a range of tapas and Sherries with Cesar and Paul, marketing director of Gonzalaz Byass, on the streets of Jerez. The proper way to do this is to stop at a tapas bar, have one dish and one Sherry, then move on to the next bar. Big fun.

The Year of the Pig also saw me doing a Taiwan road show for a Chinese bank. The events were for the VIPs. The bank gave them an hour presentation on investment strategies and then I introduced, in Mandarin, “The Art of Wine Appreciation“. Though I enjoy doing TV and radio programs, live performances are the most exciting. Each show for the bank had about 200 attendees to whom I introduced an Italian Chianti Classico, a Rioja Reseva and a New World wine. My recipe for a successful event: keep it lively and fun, and make sure the wines are good.

Meeting wine producers and makers is another benefit of my trade. Among the highlights last year was dining with Wolf Blass, who is is a blast, fooling around with my buddy Francesco Ricasoli, the 32nd Baron Ricasoli and a fun and nice guy, the larger-than-life Hungarian wine producer and expert, Csaba Gergly, and meeting and tasting with numerous other wine celebrities who stopped by Taiwan.

My trip to Scotland was also memorable. Grant & Sons sent me to learn more about Whisky so that we develop a formula along the lines of our successful wine dinners and events. The short trip was great fun. Visiting the Glenfiddich distillery in the morning and tasting Whisky directly from the barrel, then going out to shoot skeet was a highlight. Only in Scotland would they mix the two in that sequence.

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They’re not Famous Grousse, but skeet will do.

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5 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I really enjoy drinking obscure whisky brands.

    I have heard some very good rumblings about a brand called Scottish Leader; but have not been able to find it anywhere in Taiwan although I am sure it is here; what is your opinion and insights regarding this brand?

    Thanks!

  2. @ Dr. Vino,

    Cheney seems more like a Bourbon than a Scotch Whiskey man, so I assume the participants were safe that time around.

    Cheers, Boyce

  3. @ Y A Li,

    I agree – some Sherries could appeal to the Chinese palate. As mentioned in the article, producers should be looking at taking part of the liqueur market, instead of the saturated grape wine market.

    Cheers, Boyce

  4. There should be a market for sherry in China. The flavour and aroma are comparable to tea and some type of Chinese herbs that are sweet. The Chinese have immersed herbs in whisky (baiqiu) for centuries.

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