Introducing Muscat Bailey A

JFOODO, a Japanese food products promotion agency, understands very well that we Hong Kongers love everything Japanese, especially when it comes to the country’s food. They cleverly organised a recent Cantonese food and Japanese wine event to introduce Muscat Bailey A (MBA), a red wine from Japan that was well received by guests.

Muscat Bailey A is a hybrid grape variety created to adapt to Japan’s climate. It is the most widely planted red variety in Japan, but most are used as table grapes or made into easy-drinking wines with a candyfloss flavour. The grape has now caught the attention of serious winemakers. Through yield control and better winemaking techniques, including the use of oak ageing, MBA is now much more palatable, with pleasant red fruit and floral aromas, fresh acidity and mild tannin.

Muscat Bailey A Japanese wine

Cantonese Cuisine with MBA

Chef Jimmy Ma from Hey Hey Kitchen carefully prepared three Cantonese dishes – cold soy-sauce-marinated abalone (冰鎭鮑魚), pan-fried chicken with zedoary (沙薑煎雞) and vegetarian roll (腐皮卷) – to pair with four MBA wines from Yamanashi (山梨縣), Yamagata (山形縣) and Miyazaki (宮崎縣). The wines have different expressions, from light and subtle to more concentrated. All paired well with the three dishes. The wines acted in supporting roles to enhance the food rather than overpowering the flavours of the dishes. The two outstanding pairings for me were the abalone with Château Mercian Yamanashi 2016, where the ingredients accentuated the wine’s aromas, and the chicken with Tsuno Private Reserve 2013 from Miyazaki.

I first tasted MBA a long time ago, and to be honest, it was disappointing. Attending the event with a somewhat negative expectation, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wine we tasted. It reminded me of Pinotage, a cross variety from South Africa created in 1925. Pinotage went through a roller-coaster path before finding its place in the wine world. I believe Muscat Bailey A is going through the same journey. Excited wine critics are comparing it to Pinot Noir and Gamay.

Muscat Bailey A Japanese wine

As Debra Meiburg MW said, new wine gives us new flavours and diversifies our experience. Muscat Bailey A is a unique Japanese grape variety that reflects the country’s culture and food. People new to this variety may find its aroma and taste unfamiliar, but this should not deter us from exploring it. The name Muscat Bailey A might sound technical and clumsy, but the abbreviation “MBA” is catchy and easy to remember!

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The four wines we tasted:

• Suntory Japan Premium Muscat Bailey A 2014 (available in Hong Kong from ASC Fine Wines)

• Château Mercian Yamanashi Muscat Bailey A 2016 (available in Hong Kong from Hing Lung Food Place Ltd)

• Tsuno Private Reserve Muscat Bailey A 2013 (available in Hong Kong at NANA FARM, Shop 4E, 4/F, Miramar Shopping Centre, 132–134 Nathan Road, TST)

• Asahimachi Rouge

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A marketer turned winemaker, I make, promote, judge, write about and drink wine.

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