This May, the House of Veuve Clicquot puts a playful twist on the idea of the black sheep who stands out from the flock for being different. By using the signature Clicquot Yellow colour and positioning a yellow sheep as the stand-out character in a flock of black sheep, the house is making a striking statement that “Yellow is the New Black”.
Kicking off with a launch party on 13 May 2015, “Yellow is the New Black” will include a city-wide installation of quirky sheep to surprise and delight, alongside a series of “Yellow Hour” and “Yellow Night” parties through the end of May.
We had a chat with Timothy Beck who dropped by Hong Kong to explain a little about the bubbly bevvy we all love to sip (read: gulp). Timothy has lived in Japan for 10 years and is a wine specialist in the Asian market and is 4th generation from the original settlers in the famous winemaking region of the Barossa Valley, South Australia. As a fluent Japanese speaker, he consults for numerous wine businesses and is a lecturer at Japan’s most prestigious wine school, Academie du Vin.
Timothy, thanks for joining us. Firstly and of prominence, what do you enjoy about your being a brand ambassador for such a prestigious company?
Having the opportunity to travel all around Japan, Asia and Europe speaking with people about champagne is certainly one of the most enjoyable facets of my job.
Champagne is the choice of beverage for celebrations and important milestones, so people are always in good spirits when enjoying a chilled glass of champagne. Of course, champagne goes hand in hand with the finest of cuisines, whether that be French, Italian, Chinese or Japanese, so I also have the opportunity to visit some of the finest restaurants in the world.
Pairing wine with Japanese food can be tricky to get right, what are your top tips?
Pairing ‘wine’ can be difficult, but actually pairing champagne is not difficult at all. For example, I wouldn’t recommend pairing a rich, full bodied red wine from Bordeaux with a delicate sashimi, however a champagne such as Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, can pair very well with a whole variety of Japanese foods, from sashimi and sushi, through to tempura and yakitori.
Generally I would say that the more delicate the flavours, think of white fish sashimi with a hint of citrus, select a light style white wine or champagne. Champagne is rich in mineral characters which can balance the minerality in a lot of seafood. Moving into richer flavours such as toro tuna, or Wagyu beef, a Rosé Champagne can be a great accompaniment as the extra structure (through the red wine addition) will stand up to the sweet richness present in the marbling of the dish.
How long have you been in your current role? And how did you end up doing what you are doing now?
I am in the 4th year of my current role, however I have been around wine for my entire life. I’m actually a 4th generation from the original settlers in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. My family had a wine business growing up and I always wanted to do something related to wine. I loved the idea of spending days at university tasting wine, so I studied oenology (winemaking) at the world renowned University of Adelaide. On the way to doing some winemaking in France, I decided to break up the journey by holidaying in Japan for a few weeks. I really enjoyed the people and food culture in Japan, so I decided to extend my stay. I did various things in the wine industry in Japan including consulting, events and lecturing at the Academie du Vin in Tokyo, and was approached by someone from Moet-Hennessy who were looking for a champagne ambassador.
How do you find the wine drinking culture in Asia compared to other parts of the world?
The culture is interesting because people in Asia don’t necessarily grow up with wine in the home. Western and European people tend to grow up with wine being served at meal times and are therefore not particularly intimidated by the notion of drinking or ordering wine with a meal. That said, I think it’s great that people who really enjoy trying different types of cuisine are very open to taking a recommendation on a wine match.
Are there any specific challenges/benefits that you haven’t experienced elsewhere in this job?
Occasionally when looking for an appropriate pairing with champagne, you come across a very unique flavour present in a dish. For example, shiso in Japanese cuisine has such a unique flavour. I really enjoy having unusual flavours that are not present in many European dishes and trying to find a nice pairing. I find that the pungency and herbal notes in the shiso balance very nicely with a champagne such as the Veuve Clicquot Rose Label NV. The extra pinot noir used in the blend as red wine gives extra structure to the champagne and the red fruits lift the shiso into almost a menthol sensation; it’s quite a wonderful match.
What is your favourite wine and food pairing?
You can’t go past the traditional pairing of an aged vintage champagne with truffles, however a younger, fresher champagne and a sashimi selection is also a must. The way you can balance the flavours and textures of the fish with fresh citrus, salt, nori, wasabi and soy sauce, gives such a magical sensorial experience with champagne. Playing with these different flavours and getting the exact balance right for your own personal preference gives the whole experience an extra dimension.
How has the market changed during your time in this role?
A contraction in the traditional European champagne markets has been offset with an increase in imports to countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Countries such as Japan, Australia and China have seen increases in recent years in champagne imports and as a result, champagne is much more accessible than perhaps it once was. Another recent trend has been the interest in older vintage champagnes that have had extended ageing in the champagne cellars. Products such as the Veuve Clicquot Cave Privee, Dom Perignon P2 and Krug Collection have received enormous interest in the market due to their rarity, age and complexity of flavours.
What is something all our drinkies should know?
Always remember that the best wine for you is the one you enjoy drinking the most. Sommeliers, wine reviews and scores can be an extremely useful guide, but trust your own palate and remember that wine is something which should make our day a little bit brighter. As the father of modern science Galileo once exclaimed, ‘Wine is sunlight, held together by water.’