You'd be surprised which countries top wine connoisseur Eddie McDougall's list of Asian winemakers.
Can you pair wine with beef rendang or char koay teow? What about stinky tofu? Did you know that countries like Thailand, India and Vietnam also produce wine? How do these Asian wines stack up against those from the more established international ones?
Find out the answers to these questions and more, on TLC’s brand new show The Flying Winemaker, in which Hong Kong-born, Chinese-Australian wine connoisseur Eddie McDougall travels around Asia to revolutionise the way people view and consume Asian wine and food.
Over 13 episodes, McDougall ventures from his world-famous Hong Kong wine gallery – The Flying Winemaker – to Thailand, India, Indonesia, China, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam in search of unique wine production and world-class varieties yet to be discovered.
Along the way, he not only attempts to find the perfect pairing of wine and Asian food, he also introduces viewers to the relatively young Asian wine industry, visiting wineries around Asia, meeting the people behind the wines, and sampling some phenomenal wines being grown from grape-virgin soils which, until now, have never been considered worthy of making first-class wines.
During a phone interview, McDougall shared that he was initially sceptical about Asian wines.
“Many of these wines which are produced in Asia don’t leave their domestic presence, so it’s very difficult to find them outside of the country of origin. So I was always sceptical as to what’s really happening and whoever is making it ... and whether the terroir suitable for wine grape production,” he said.
When he got to those wineries, however, McDougall was blown away by what he saw and tasted. “It really put me back into my place. I started to realise that it is possible to make wine in these places,” he said, adding that it really came down to experience, and understanding your land and environment.
“The winemakers in these multiple regions are learning what grapes work in those countries and what doesn’t. You can’t replicate Bordeaux, Barossa Valley, or Napa Valley – you need to find your own sweet spot.”
He reckons that most people are afraid to try Asian wines for fear of losing their money or having a really bad experience.
“After the journey I went through, I can go through an Asian wine collection and have no fear of choosing something that’s well made, commercially acceptable and potentially very delicious,” he said. “It’s very comforting and makes me very proud to be part Asian, to see these guys doing something truly exciting.”
The two countries he visited that surprised him the most were India and Thailand.
“Thailand being so tropical, I just didn’t think it was possible (to make wine there)! But the two really talented young female winemakers I met there are absolutely turning the wine industry on its head,” he said.
“India is also very exciting. It’s a very young industry in a big country with lots and lots of land, and lots of unexplored places for potential as well.”
A big part of what McDougall is trying to accomplish with the show is to get Asian people from these wine-making countries and regions more proud of their own wines.
“Drink more locally, enjoy the local wines and hopefully, that creates a local wine industry that has been quite prosperous for places like France, Australia, America, South Africa and New Zealand,” he said, adding that having a prosperous domestic wine production industry can open up opportunities for tourism and other industries.
According to him, the key concept of the show is to show that it is possible to produce wines in Asia. What he doesn’t do, however, is say that every wine made in Asia is good.
“There are certainly some parts of the programme where you’ll have a bit of a chuckle and see that certain wines weren’t quite as well performing as others. I wasn’t there to insult people – I was really there just to give you the truth,” he said.
Last, but not least, McDougall wants viewers to know that this is not a “stuffy wine show”.
“There’s something for everyone, for people who don’t like wine, for people who love wine, for people who are really into food and into travel, so there’s kind of a bit of everything for everyone,” he said.
“It’s high energy, lots of fun, pretty useful and quite memorable in many settings ... there’s a lot of humour in the show so, you know, it’s definitely not a stuffy wine show!”
> The Flying Winemaker premieres tonight at 9.30pm on TLC (Astro Ch 707).