Print this page

Wine appreciation is a funny thing. Most people discover wine by having a sip out of their parents’ glass. Maybe they like it, maybe they don’t, but either way it is a very ‘grown-up’ thing to do. Growing up through the teen years, most young people try alcohol but more often than not it is in the form of beer or cocktails. But once people discover the magic of wine there is usually no turning back. A whole world of flavours, smells, language and confusion awaits.


In Vietnam, as in many developing wine markets, drinking wine is still seen as a very elitist activity. Wine is expensive here, and so are the vessels from which it is drunk, so it is easy to see how drinking wine is associated with success. Many markets, like the UK, Australia and the US, have also gone through this attitude to wine. As acceptance of wine consumption becomes more commonplace, it begins to become less about an image of class and more about enjoyment.


Self-satisfaction is what it is really all about. If we drank alcohol purely to feel its effects, then we would all be taking doses of pure spirit. Drinking wine is about choices. Choices in flavours, choices in sweetness, strong and powerful or light and delicate, young or old.


Bargain Bouquet


Once a consumer realises this they are hooked and want to try as many different wine experiences as they can. Experiencing the myriad of aromas and bouquets becomes addictive. Something else interesting happens. Not only do wine lovers want to try to taste as many different wines a possible they also want to try and do it as cheaply as possible. Finding a wine at a bargain price, a wine “that’s just as good but half the price” becomes paramount. There is nothing wrong with this if you are going to drink a lot of the stuff. The more you can save the better.


So what is a fair price for a bottle of wine? If only this were a simple question. Many things affect the cost of a wine. The value of the land on which it is grown, the yield of the vineyard, the type of oak used, the cost of the bottle, transport and so on. These are all factors in the cost of production and yet still you can find excellent wines that retail for VND250,000 and terrible ones for VND1 million.


I believe that wine improves in quality up to a point, and in Vietnam that point is around VND3 million. After that you are purely paying extra for age, status, rarity or collectability. This does not mean that wines over this are not worth the money — it just means that the major factor deciding the price is no longer how much it costs to make them.


The quality of a wine is usually related to its cost, but not always. There are some great value gems to be discovered from unknown regions, untrendy grape varieties or yet-to-be-discovered producers. This is part of the magic of appreciating wines. Still, it is imperative to try great wines from great producers from around the world so that you can benchmark quality, varieties and styles.


But just when you think you have found the perfect wine, and you have learnt it all, something new comes along and you are back at the beginning again. How much is too much?


But this is not the right question. The answer depends on the individual. The question should be: “Is this wine going to make me happy?”


Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz 2014


Torbreck is known for producing some of Australia’s best red wine wines. These eye watering expensive blockbusters from extremely rare lots of 100-plus-year-old vineyards are amazing and something not to be missed.


Lucky for us there are also some excellent affordable wines in their range. Made from selected vineyards from around the Barossa Valley with an age of up to 80 years, this is a very sexy wine. Inky black, silky smooth with power, grace, finesse and precision. A joy to drink


Jim Cawood

One half of the brains behind contemporary Mediterranean restaurant Lubu, Jim is a wine nut who has worked in the industry since his early 20s. A trained sommelier, he is one of only a small handful of people living in Vietnam who truly knows his wine.