How the FCC’s Wine Tasting Group Chooses Our House Wines
Every February, the FCC’s Wine Tasting Group kick-starts the process for choosing the next Correspondents’ and Publishers’ Choice wines, which will debut in July 2021. We caught up with group leader Joël Leduc to hear how it all works.
Whenever we bring guests to the FCC, they are often pleasantly surprised by the wine prices. HK$34 for a glass of the Correspondents’ Choice Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mapu Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon? HK$54 for a Publishers’ Choice DeLoach Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir?
We can thank the FCC’s dedicated Wine Tasting Group for such consistently high-quality, low-priced house wines, which change every July. In February, group leaders Joël Leduc and FCC Food & Beverage Manager Michael Chan begin the lengthy selection process, starting with two Correspondents’ Choice wines: one white and one red.
“The Correspondents’ Choice is an entry-level, great-value wine that should be easy to drink with or without food,” says Leduc. “In France, we say it should ‘drink like milk.’ And once the bottle is finished, you’re ready for another one!”
First, the Wine Tasting Group shares an open bid with wine distributors that can satisfy the club’s high-volume needs and daily delivery schedule. “We are the biggest wine cellar in Hong Kong in terms of sales – we go through about 3,000 bottles a month,” says Leduc. “But we don’t have any space to store wines at the club, so we need to work with a distributor who can match our pace.”
Next, shortlisted distributors share their proposals – roughly 400 wine labels in total – which the group culls to 20 reds and 20 whites. “We cut down the initial list based on pricing, profile and stock – we always try to think about what our members will enjoy most,” explains Leduc. “If it were up to me, I’d just choose Burgundy all the time – all red, no whites! But this is about the members, not about our personal preferences.”
From there, the group hosts a wine social that’s open to all members, though there were some restrictions last year due to Covid-19 precautions. At the event, members rank their favourite – and least favourite – wines, then submit their feedback.
Wine Tasting Group members then meet to discuss the results and choose six wines: three whites and three reds. “Once we’ve narrowed it down, we test those six wines at the club for a month-long trial to see what sells best,” says Leduc. “And at the end of that month, we see which one is the winner.”
If there is no clear winner, the group will meet once more to make the final decision, with each member casting one vote. And voilà! The Correspondents’ Choice wine is chosen for the rest of the year.
But the Wine Tasting Group’s work is not over yet. The following month, in March, they’ll repeat the process to select the Publishers’ Choice house wines – also one white, one red. “The Publishers’ Choice should also be of great value, but it is more upscale,” says Leduc. “So we tend to choose wines that go well with a variety of dishes and have a little more body, more robustness.”
The group is also responsible for selecting the FCC’s house Champagne and all of the Wine of the Month promotions throughout the year, which you can enjoy at the club or for takeaway.
“We are all volunteers who love wine and love the FCC,” says Leduc. “We have a great team, and we look forward to seeing new faces at our next wine socials.”
Interested in joining the Wine Tasting Group or a wine social? Check online for upcoming dates, pending Covid-19 restrictions.
Tasting Notes: FCC House Wines
FCC Food & Beverage Manager Michael Chan shares his expert impressions:
Zardetto Prosecco di Treviso Extra Dry DOC
“A celebratory Italian prosecco, Zardetto has a light, straw-coloured tone. Expect a round, lively and persistent palate and a beautiful floral bouquet with complex citron aromas.”
Correspondents’ Choice, White
Sieur d’Arques Aimery Chardonnay 2019
“This French Chardonnay greets you with fragrant, lively fruit on the nose and balanced acidity. Enjoy it with grilled salmon, asparagus and greens with anchovy dressing.”
Correspondents’ Choice, Red
Rothschild Mapu Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
“In this Chilean cab sauv, expect a fruit-forward aroma mingled with black pepper and coffee. It’s well-balanced with gentle tannins, a long finish, good acidity and a ruby-red hue.”
Publishers’ Choice, White
Prinz von Hessen Trocken Hessenstein Riesling 2018
“Delicate and dazzling, this German Riesling is the definition of elegance and crispness. Tropical fruits caress the palate with hints of green apple and apricot. Riesling at its finest!”
Publishers’ Choice, Red
DeLoach Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir 2019
“On the nose, this medium-bodied red is a bouquet of red fruits – cherry, cranberry and strawberry. A touch of spice complements a fruity flavour for a balanced California pinot noir.”