Sated the Alsatian way

Aussy A. Aportadera | Feb 19, 2014

Senju’s Japanese cuisine paired delicately well with the gracefulness of Hugel wines from Alsace.

Etienne Hugel is among the twelfth consecutive generation of an Alsace wine legacy, his family belonging to Primum Familiae Vini – the exclusive association of some of the world’s most prestigious family-owned wineries. Etienne is one of three heirs who now own the 300-year-old brand founded by Hans Ulrich Hugel in 1639.

Over dinner at Senju in EDSA Shangri-La, Manila, Etienne jokes that his brother Marc has no idea about what he does. “He is very passionate about all the little details, but he does not talk to customers,” he says, but adds that this is good for his role as commercial director of the brand. Kaoru, his elegant Japanese wife – who is also a sommelier of Mandarin Oriental Tokyo – joined Etienne on this trip around Asia as an extension of their honeymoon. It is business that brings Etienne to this part of the world, but clearly he loves his job and inheritance. “You don’t stay in a family business for 12 generations out of coincidence,” he says.

Wines from Alsace are among the finest whites, distinguished by crisp, fresh fruit and clarity. At Hugel et Fils, the grapes are handpicked with presses filled by gravity, not through pumping. The winery uses the world’s oldest oak cask that dates back to 1715. Of the delicate wines of this region, the Hugel family pioneered the Alsace late-harvest “Vendage Tardive” and “Selection de Grains Nobles,” contributing to the law that ensures its high quality production.

It is then the goal of Etienne’s generation to make Alsace wine the finest of the 21st century. Fortunately, the dinner prepared by the chef Kiyoshi Ogawa was a perfect match to celebrate the wines.

The Hugel Riesling Classic 2011 was served with appetisers of shake toro kimizu (salmon belly with egg yolk sauce), maguro toro kinome miso (tuna belly marinated in kinome miso), and Hiroshima kaki motoyaki (baked Hiroshima oyster with miso gratin). It was a harmonious marriage that revealed layers of the fresh fruit flavours that blossomed from the wine. With the salmon, a hint of citrus and grapefruit and with the tuna, some peach. The wine hinted at complexity without overwhelming beside the sakizuke.

The sashimi that followed invited the Hugel Riesling Jubilee 2007. This awarded wine is from the estate’s grand cru sites, a premium bottle that was served beside monkfish liver with marinated seaweed and ponzu sauce (ankimo ponzu). It was as expected an elegant display of acidity and fruit.  The Hugel Pinot Gris 2009 was later served alongside the suzuki wakame ankake (French sea bass with thick seaweed sauce) while the rare Hugel Pinot Noir Jubilee 2008 accompanied the main dish of wagyu with golden mushrooms and asparagus.

Last but not least, a dessert of water chestnuts with green tea ice cream and red bean was served with the Hugel Gewurtzraminer Vendage Tardive 2006. The characteristic bouquet of this vintage was perfect. The choice of Japanese cuisine with this selection from Hugel et Fils seemed effortless but well  thought out, providing the guests satisfaction from the memorable experience.