In this episode the concept of wine appreciation is conveyed in two very different ways. At the beginning of the programme Joe looks at wine trends in Hong Kong – the wine centre of Asia. There he meets Asia’s first master of wine, Jeanie Cho Lee, who explains the current obsession in Hong Kong is the extremely limited and therefore extremely expensive Burgundian estate, Domaine de la Romanee Conti. Joe visits a wine club where clients can easily spend up to £200,000 a night on special vintages from both Bordeaux and Burgundy. And we also see Joe going to a wine auction where dizzyingly high bids are being given to wines which due to their exclusive status have had to go through sophisticated security checks in order to confirm their provenance. For a certain social demographic in Hong Kong, wine is shown as a luxury and acts as a status symbol – with the in vogue wine being reflective of its rarity.
My trip to the Seppeltsfield in the Barossa valley shows wine of equal rarity but their winery experience allows you to engage with wine in a totally different way. Set up in the mid nineteenth century by a Silesian immigrant, Joseph Ernest Seppelt, it is now becoming one of Australia’s – and the world’s – wine showpieces for fortified wines. To find stocks of much older wine it pays to look at those parts of the world that used to produce fortified wine in quantity but have seen them fall from fashion.
I had no idea what to expect from this trip. It was the first piece of filming that I was doing for The Wine Show. I had never been to Australia and was fresh off a twenty-four-hour flight. I just didn’t quite know how to picture this iconic winery that was surviving on these vinous relics. Within the first sighting of the drive I was in awe. With its avenues of majestic palm trees, Seppeltsfield is the most recognisable landmark in the Barossa. I felt like I was going back in time as the property includes a historic homestead, atmospheric stables and outbuildings, a cooperage and even the Seppelt family’s neo-classical mausoleum. I didn’t choose to spend too much time around the latter. Apart from the mausoleum, which obviously has been added to over the years, and a recently built restaurant called Fino, I really felt like everything was more or less the same since Ernest Seppeltsfield first set up the winery.