Having rated no less than 20 perfect wines after tasting more than 10,000 bottles just in 2016, Vanilla Luxury chats with International Wine Critic James Suckling at The Nai Harn, Phuket.
Vanilla Luxury: Tell us how you came to become a wine critic?`
James Suckling: It was by chance actually. I used to work as a daily journalist and was a police reporter during university. I went back to LA to look for a job and saw an ad for wine spectator, which was a tiny magazine back then. My dad lived in San Diego and the job was based there. My dad was a big wine collector. I never intended to be a wine critic but a political reporter.
Vanilla Luxury: When it comes to investing in wines, what types are worth splurging on?
James Suckling: Wine investment is buying with the intention of selling later. It is more difficult than what it used to be. Wine price has increased so much. I would suggest investing in classic wine like Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. There are also blue chip wines from California and Italy. It is always good to buy at the beginning for a good price. And if the price ever falls, invest in a corkscrew, at least you can always drink the wine later.
Vanilla Luxury: What do you think of wine pairing?
James Suckling: Really boring particularly in Asia. My wife is Korean and I have lived in China. Be it India, Thailand, China, the different courses of food comes at the same time. We cannot approach wine in Asia the same way we do so in Europe. Asians have to enjoy wine at their own terms. I am not against wine pairing but it is not about looking for the perfect pairing. Some people have spent too much time thinking about it in Asia and that builds up boundaries. Just drink your wine, eat your food and enjoy life. We don’t need to set up rules.
Vanilla Luxury: Your personal favourite vineyard?
That’s a good question. The problem is that it changes all the time. Bruno Giacoas, which is an Italian vineyard and their Barolo and Barbaresco. I am a big fan of Bordeaux wine. There are so many good wines. Chateau Lafleur is really rare but very interesting. I am really happy with Beaujolais and I drink that in Hong Kong.
Vanilla Luxury: We have seen a trend of people looking for Organic and Biodynamic wines. What are your thoughts?
The first step is to ensure that it is a good quality wine. If a good quality wine is organic or biodynamic, that is a bonus. Some natural wines are not good because they have not been produced properly.
Organic wine means when growing the grapes, the vineyard is not using synthetic chemicals but natural products like sulphur. Biodynamic is the next level, almost like a religion where farmers follow the moon and the growing calendar. In the end, it is all about not ruining the ecosystem or soils when growing the grapes.
Vanilla Luxury: What wine is favourable to the hot and humid weather conditions of Singapore?
Well, most of the times when you drink wine in a hotel or a restaurant, it is air conditioned. Never worry about a specific wine. My personal favourite thing to do in Singapore is to round up some friends, bring several really good quality wines in a cooler and have it at a hawker center. I find it more exciting and I rather enjoy good quality wine at a hawker center than mediocre wine at a 3 Michelin star restaurant.
Vanilla Luxury: What is the most basic thing non-connoisseurs should know about picking the right wine?
James Suckling: You should not always buy wine by the label. Trust a sommelier or a good wine store for their recommendations. It is not always the most expensive wine that is the best. Do not be afraid to ask for advice. Don’t feel embarrassed. These experts are there to answer your questions.
Vanilla Luxury: Lastly, does wine score really matter?
James Suckling: Yes, it does really matter because if I rate a wine 90 points, that’s a wine that I want to drink a glass immediately. Trust me, I won’t drink a bad wine.
James Suckling is one of today’s leading wine critics, whose views are read and respected by wine lovers, serious wine-collectors, and the international wine trade. Visit https://www.jamessuckling.com for your guide to buying great wines.