121 BC (Central, HK)

Our drinks (plus an orange wine!!) to keep us hydrated during our meal.  

Grilled octopus with chickpeas and olives ($150).  Octopus was tender and flavours were good, although the dish as a whole was a bit salty.  

Potato ravioli with cherry tomatoes, anchovies, and olives ($150).  The ravioli was a bit too al dente, almost to the point of being undercooked. 

Clams with cavatelli, chilli, prosciutto, and roast cauliflower ($170). Our favourite dish of the night. 

Hanger steak with potato, anchovy, and watercress ($220).

Where: 42-44 Peel Street, Central, HK

When: Tues-Sat 5:30-late

Reservations: Yes. 


A tasting on Saturday with JC Viens of Grande Passione and Giorgio De Maria of Hong Kong’s hottest new wine bar 121 BC gave me new insight into so called “natural wines”. With no strict definition, these wines have become highly controversial amongst wine experts, with some, such as De Maria, extolling their virtues, and others dismissing them as faulty and misleading for the average consumer. 

Certainly they do not adhere to what we would usually classify as wines fit for consumption. Often cloudy or hazy, with fairly funky flavours, they are more rustic and rough around the edges than your standard supermarket or restaurant offerings. But this is precisely why they have received such popular acclaim. For consumers bored, like me, by the sheer quantity of average wines out there, wines lacking in character and personality with no clues as to the place from which they have come, these wines are proving a breath of fresh air. 

The key to their enjoyment, however, is to seek out those professionals, such as Giorgio, who have made it their mission to discover the very best ones. And then to taste as many as you can to get an idea of what they are really all about! 

Saturday’s tasting consisted of x11 wines, all Italian, following 121BC’s exclusively Italian list, and all “natural”. I was impressed by the overall quality of the wines, something I’ve not experienced in prior tastings of “natural wines” as they can be very hit and miss (usually more miss in my experience!). There was no doubt that each wine, even if not to my particular tastes, was expressing the character of the place from which it had come. 

My personal favourites were Alice Bonaccorsi’s Mount Etna wines, a very interesting Rose, Rossorelativo 2009 which was all red fruits, freshness and minerality. And her Val Cerasa Etna Rosso 2007 which displayed dark plum and black cherry fruit with a nice mineral edge and a long spicy, herbal finish. 

Two stunning Cannonau (Grenache) wines from Panevino were for me the pair of the day. UVA was full of red strawberry fruit and spice with a lovely freshness on the palate uncommon for Cannonau. Cicipi was my highest score of the day displaying complex rich red and black fruit character, raspberries and blackberries with lovely ripe tannins and lively freshness. The wine is made from the best grapes of very old vines grown in 3 single vineyard sites. 

The most unique wine of the day and one which gave the most lasting impression, despite the fact it was not to my personal taste, was the 2007 Bressan Schioppettino. Unbelievably herbal in character with oregano, basil and balsamic notes just pouring off it, this wine was simply amazing in terms of its uniqueness, telling the story of both its variety and sense of place.  

Of the white wines I preferred the 2010 Cantina Giardino Gaia Fiano. Lovely aromas of peach, pear and nectarine with some tropical fruit touches, mango and guava. Very intense aromatics and highly perfumed. More honeyed on the palate with a rich and rounded texture. The finish could have been a touch fresher but overall a nice, expressive wine. 

The 2007 Casa Caterinia Francciacorta had some nice brioche and ripe apple and lemon citrus notes. Toasty on the palate with medium acidity and medium length it was good but could have been more lively. 

Quarticello Ferrando Lambrusco 2012 was certainly one of the tastiest Lambruscos I’ve ever tried. Bright pink in colour and full of vibrant confected cherry and strawberry fruit. Refreshing and easy going. A wine for drinking rather than contemplating in any great detail. 

2010 Dario Princic Pinot Grigio was undoubtedly very interesting in terms of its cloudy pink colour (usually we see Pinot Grigio as none other than pale lemon/green). Lots of bruised red apple character on both the nose and the palate which was interesting and unique, certainly characterful and speaking of place and its long maceration period, however, I thought it finished bitter and a touch flabby. 

The 2008 Serafino Rivella Barbaresco was full of red fruit character with lots of plum and violet perfumes. Lovely tannins, very expressive, young and still a bit closed on the nose but with plenty of life left to give. Will no doubt just continue to improve with age. 

2005 Praesidium Montepulciano was very spicy and full of dark, rich, ripe black fruits. Some savoury notes on the palate, solid tannins, a decent wine but it could have been more expressive in my mind. 

For interest Giorgio also added a Ratafia and a Mosto Cotto made by Praesidium from the Montepulciano grape which were nice additions to finish off proceedings. Ratafia is a liqueur which has been made by Praesidium from an old recipe which has been guarded for generations. It’s an infusion of local cherries in Montepulciano wine which is then fortified with alcohol. The marzipan and cherry pip aromas were amazing and totally unmistakable. Mosto Cotto is simply the Italian for “grape must” so here it had all the rich dark fruit flavours of the Montepulciano grape. Would be perfect to pour over ice cream or add to sauces as you would balsamic vinegar in cooking or other dishes. 

If you are looking for a wine selection far away from the endlessly cloned lists of most restaurants in HK, I would highly recommend an evening spent at 121BC. I for one, am already looking forward to my return! 

All wines above are available to buy exclusively at 121BC.