The annual Vintage Port Academy (VPA) decanting competition saw eight teams from Shanghai’s hotels and bars battle it out to decant a 1985 Taylor’s in the quickest time with minimum wastage.
The Fladgate Partnership’s Nicolas Heath, Jessi Peng, Jacky Ma and Symington’s Euan McKay
Tersina Shieh who helped organize the event said, “Vintage Port, bottled only after spending around two years in wood and without fining or filtering, develops significant sediments in the bottle especially when it has been aged for 10 years or so. With an average of only three declared vintages in 10 years, Vintage Port is one of the most long lasting wines meant to age for decades. Therefore, it is essential to decant an aged Vintage Port before consuming.”
VPA was formed by two competitors, Symington Family Estate and The Fladgate Partnership, who between them own six premium Port houses—Croft’s, Dow’s, Fonseca, Graham’s, Taylor’s and Warre’s – with the aim of promoting the appreciation and knowledge of Vintage Port in Asia.
Nicolas Heath, marketing director of The Fladgate Partnership, said that the goals of the competition were to “demystify decanting, and to encourage on-premises not to view decanting as a chore, but rather as an opportunity to create a theatre at the table.”
Euan Mackay, sales director of Symington, added: “The competition was judged on two elements: clarity as all customers would expect a clean glass of wine, and wastage, which has to be kept to a minimum.”
The winning team was Courtyard by Marriott, represented by lobby lounge manager, Jessi Peng and café supervisor, Jacky Ma. They scored 17.5 out of 20 on clarity and wastage, even though they spent the most time (over four minutes) decanting.
All candidates received a certificate and a VPA cork puller (an essential tool to open old wine). The winning team also each received a duo vintage case, consisted of a bottle each of Graham’s and Taylor’s 2003 vintage.
The rest of the teams were Felix Zhang and Robin Wang from Hakkasan; Christie Xu and Shaun Shao from Hyatt on the Bund; Irene Han and Walter Liu from the Mandarin Oriental; Adrian Zhang and Harris Ding from the Park Hyatt Shanghai; Darren Wang and Delphin Duan from the Ritz Carlton Shanghai Pudong; Henri Bakker and Theo Kaung from The Portman Ritz Carlton Shanghai and Joyce Zhou and Tracy Cui from Yacht Club On the Bund.
The Vintage Port decanting competition is now in its third year in China but was launched for the first time in Hong Kong and Macau last year. Previously, Johnny Symington has also spoken of the potential for Port’s success in Taiwan.