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December 10, 2009

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'Starters' back on the menu

IT'S sobering when new wine styles being launched on the market resemble those you cut your palate on in the roaring days of youth. The daunting deja vu comes from a range of wines introduced recently in Shanghai by the Australian exporter Brown Brothers.

The wines are predominantly light in body and low in alcohol - not much more than a full-strength beer - and signaled a full turn of the wheel back to the styles of the early 1970s.

They are designed to ease a new generation of palates into the wonders of wine drinking and start a new cycle of wine marketing and consumption that may wean young drinkers away from mixed spirits.

Four examples of the "new" breed easy-drinking styles were sampled recently at a small tasting in the 3 Top Asian fusion restaurant and wine bar in Xinle Road.

The Zibibbo is a sparkling white from the muscat grape and is similar to the northern Italian Asti Spumante sparkler with a fresh, grapey style and 6.5 percent alcohol content.

The Moscato (white) and Moscato Rosa come also from the muscat grape but the latter includes 5 percent of cienna grape for color. Again their heritage can be traced to the Italian Moscato d'Asti from Piedmont.

The white, with 5.5 percent alcohol, is sweet with a moderate spritz while the Rosa, at 7 percent, is drier with a frizzante (light sparkle) effect. Both are distinctly fruity and refreshing.

Harking back again to a tried and true quaffer called Lambrusco, Brown Brothers Cienna has a unique heritage, coming from the crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and the Spanish grape sumoll to yield the cienna grape.

Its spritzy, ripe berry fruit style makes for a light and fresh low alcohol (6 percent) red that is one of the fastest-selling products in the Australian market.

Also aligned to the Lambrusco style is the Dolcetto & Syrah label, a blend of the two grapes to yield a more full-bodied, fruity red but with a frizzante that makes it suitable for summer drinking. It checks in at 11 percent alcohol content.

All wines are designed to be served chilled and have become staples in Australia but are relatively new to China where without question - given their matching to Chinese, Japanese and Indian cuisine styles at 3 Top - they will quickly make a mark.

Brown Brothers wines are distributed in China through ASC Fine Wines.


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