The Flying Winemaker: Hong Kong's hotshot vino expert
Like a Dionysus in jeans and flip-flops, Eddie McDougall wants Hong Kongers to liberate their minds and drink a lot of wine.
"Wine should be fun, wine should be approachable," says the 28-year-old wine expert. "Wine doesn't need a fancy glass or a fancy place."
Hong Kong-born and raised in Australia, McDougall started making wine when he was 19. Returning to Hong Kong in 2009 as a winemaker for the 8th Estate Winery, McDougall has now struck out on his own, creating "The Flying Winemaker" brand.
The Flying Winemaker is ultimately about making more wines more accessible to more people. It's what most wine marketeers strive for, but McDougall goes about it in rogue style.
The Eurasian winemaker tries to break down stereotypes of elitism and snobbery amongst wine drinkers with the tongue-in-cheek slogan "Vino La Revolution."
"It is a revolt against the stuffy, snobby, and pretentious in order to allow for great wines to stand on their own merits," says McDougall.
"An open system of sharing knowledge, creating connections and finding humanity is our revolution."
In practical terms, this translates to campaigns such as the Plastic Cup Movement, where McDougall encourages drinkers to consume wine using non-expensive containers -- plastic or reusable or anything at all -- as a statement against the elevated status of specialized wine glasses.
Drinking is educational
Last Saturday, McDougall opened The Flying Winemaker wine store and education center in Lan Kwai Fong.
The integrated space offers by-the-bottle wines from "weird and wonderful wineries around the world." Free tastings are taken for granted here and staff are friendly, making the shop feel more like a hangout for wine-lovers.
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"Wines are selected because of the stories behind every bottle," says McDougall. "We give an opportunity to small wineries that otherwise wouldn't stand a chance of making it here. Not only does the consumer get to explore the wine but producers also get to fly in and show off their creations.
That's why we're called 'The Flying Winemaker' as it is like taking a vineyard tour around the world when you step in here."
For instance, McDougall is now selling Chateau Musar 2002, a spicy, herbal Cabernet blend from Lebanon.
McDougall's tasting notes say: "I never thought Lebanon could produce such cool examples of Cabernet blends, but boy, was I wrong. Probably will pair up well with a kebab."
On the second floor of The Flying Winemaker space, McDougall holds his WineSkool. Different workshops are tailored to different lifestyles, such as WineSkool Executive to boost your confidence at that next power lunch, or Wine 101 where students can learn the nitty-gritty of winemaking.
Get a taste of WineSkool on YouTube.
The Tongue Explorer class sounds enticing; a short and sweet course on understanding how your tongue reacts to wine, it promises to teach students how to distinguish between a "good wine" and a "bad wine" by the end of the session.
Top 5 Cantonese food and wine pairings
So how does a professional winemaker pick wines at a Cantonese dinner?
"I don't believe there are any real rules. I would just order what I want to eat and order wine I want to drink and not think too much about it," says McDougall.
But to make it easy for us less experienced hedonists, McDougall suggests a "nice, juicy, fruity, very chilled rosé, perhaps sparkling" as an almost fool-proof wine for Cantonese food. An Australian, Portuguese or Spanish rosé would be better than a French one in this case.
Some Cantonese dishes that go particularly well with wine for McDougall are:
1. Stir-fried beef ho fun and a Cabernet Sauvignon
2. Barbecue pork that has charred crispy bits on it and a fruity rosé
3. Crispy chicken with a Gewürztraminer
4. Clams in black bean and chili sauce with off dry German Riesling
5. Shiitake mushrooms, wood ear fungi and black moss braised in soy sauce with dried oysters, paired with a New Zealand Pinot Noir
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Getting there: The Flying Winemaker flagship store, G/F-U/F, 31 Wyndham St., Lan Kwai Fong, Central, +852 2522 2187 eddiemcdougall.com