Mooncake Festival Tastings in Singapore 2019

Fairmont Hotel

Here are my favourites.

Seed Based Mooncake – Baked Combo from Goodwood Park Hotel. You can choose from Lotus Seed Paste with Melon Seeds, White Lotus Seed Paste with Yolk and Assorted Nuts with Ham – from $38-$46 for two mooncakes.

Green Tea MooncakeMama Bakery. This snowskin Matcha green tea tastes unmistakably of Matcha! About $11 each.

Black Tea Mooncake – Premium Earl Grey Tea White Lotus Paste with Chia Seed from Peach Garden. About $17 each. If you are into tea flavoured mooncakes, this one and the Matcha one from above are the ones!

Traditional Mooncake – Tung Lok. Not too sweet, not to dense, balanced – just perfect. Go for the Double Yolk Red Lotus and Double Yolk White Lotus – 2 each in a box of four for $78

Surprise Flavour Mooncakes – Beetroot and Rose, mini snowskin from Fairmont Singapore. You get eight of these memorable tasting lavender hued mooncakes in a box for $72. If corn is your thing, then go for the Mini Golden Corn (8 pieces) for $64 from Demon Chef Alvin Leung.

Sorry, not covering durian mooncakes today.

Janice Wong’s display

Display of MooncakesJanice Wong. Mooncakes named for the nine prefectures of Japan and their flavours (Yuzu, Hojicha, Peanut, Sweet Potato, Chestnut, Azuki, Matcha, Kinako and Ume). Each mooncake in a different pastel colour – the display was like a kaleidoscope!

PackagingConrad Hotel’s packaging is a tall drawer box with choices of Emerald Green Auspicious Red or Burgundy Red.Their Traditional Baked Honey Osmanthus $84 is the one I liked best. Regent Hotel’s ‘tower block’ packaging of mooncake in red and gold is also lovely. Goodwood Park Hotel’s gold themed packaging is pretty.

Two excellent deals are from Awfully Chocolate (with four mooncakes, you get a art deco inspired wooden ‘chest’, some with intricately carved wood knives) for $88. For the exquisite packaging, it has to be the one from Fairmont Hotel. At the fair in Takashimaya, for the price of the mooncakes, you also get a Chinese pot and cup set thrown in.

Awfully Chocolate

from Southern Rhone…

Maison Guigal comes to mind as one of the top producers of the Rhone Valley. You might be surprised that Guigal is only three generations young; having been incorporated in 1946. Grapes had been cultivated in the Rhone Valley for more than 2000 years!

That said, Guigal’s wines are undisputed for delivering quality at all levels. At blind tastings I am amazed when Guigal Cotes du Rhone ‘performs’ as well as wines going for almost twice the price.

What about wines from the Rhone Valley’s other appellations? Guigal has them too – from Condrieu, St. Joseph and Crozes Hermitage to Gigondas, Tavel and Chateauneuf du Pape. And then there’s more – the Ermitage, the Brune et Blonde and the Guigal Ampuis – blended wines of various terroirs. Also some of the world’s most collectible wines are Guigal’s La La’s (La Turque, La Landonne and La Mouline).

The Guigals have always been producing in the Rhone Valley. I look back at my notes from the late nineties and recall their purchase of Chateau Ampuis – which has become their icon chateau in Northern Rhone. Depicted on the Guigal brochure, “Chateau Ampuis” evokes the fairy tale history and romance of the distinguished Cote Rotie wines. The wine, which I tasted, lived up to the promise.

I had not kept up with the evolution of the Guigal business but learnt lately that since the nineties, they have added other estates. They are the domains of de Grippat (St. Joseph), de Vallouit (Hermitage), and de Bonserine (Condrieu and Cote Rotie wines).

Last week, the wines of Chateau de Nalys were shown in Singapore. Chateau de Nalys in the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation is Maison Guigal’s latest acquisition (in 2017). Although Guigal offers Chateauneuf du Pape wines under the E. Guigal collection of wines, the Chateau de Nalys will represent wines of an exceptional terroir in the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation.

Here are my tasting notes.

St. Pierres de Nalys, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2017 – Pale gold, citrus, soursop and stone fruit aromas, chalky acidity, quite big and with a long finish. (mostly Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc grapes)

Chateau de Nalys, Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2017 Grand Vin – Yellow gold, ripe citrus and tropical fruit including rambutan and sweet mangosteens, with a hint of creme patisserie. Rich yet beautifully balanced. (Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and some Clairette and other grapes).

St. Pierres de Nalys, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2016 – Dark red. Beautiful bouquet of small red fruit and some black fruit. (Grenache and some Syrah with a little Cinsault, and other grapes)

Chateau de Nalys, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2016 Grand Vin – Dense dark red. Small ripe red fruit including sour cherries, some dark fruit, plums and five spice. Soft medium grained tannins with the texture of cotton. Long finish and totally sophisticated in presentation. (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre and a little Counoise and Vaccarese).

The wines are approachable now, being quite tasty with moderate tannins but lay these wines down (especially the Grand Vins) and you will be rewarded. Chateau de Nalys is destined to be the Maison Guigal’s icon estate in the of Chateauneuf du Pape.

Contact Grand Vin for these wines.

Delicious Barbaresco – Dante Rivetti Bric’Micca, 2007

The Piedmonte wine cognoscenti aren’t going to like me sharing this excellent value wine. For less than S$100 you get an amazingly complex and delightfully mid-aged Barbaresco that delivers all that you wish for in this wine style. There’s cherries, there’s small red and black fruit, Chinese plums, hawthorn, hints of Yunan ham and leather; fine structured tannins and a juicy balanced long finish. My other two favourite Barbarescos are from Gaja and Bruno Giacosa – and you know how much those wines cost!

Bric’Micca is grown on sandy-limestone soils, and made in the modern-traditional style with ageing in large Slavonian oak and small French wood.

You can get this wine from Wine Concierge APAC Pte Ltd.

Orin Swift

Wine, and art, go together. Go to any ‘vernissage’ (French term for preview of an art exhibition) and guests will be cradling a glass of wine whilst they take in the visual feast. Wineries that feature art aren’t uncommon. And art on wine labels – well, there are quite a few examples. Mouton Rothschild’s depiction on its label, of one great artist’s work every vintage – from Picasso to Gu Gan, comes to mind immediately.

A new entrant to wine is David Phinney, a would be lawyer who, after an epiphany in Italy, decided he wished to make wine in California. His wine labels feature art. They are unconventional, or if you were the slightly inhibited, you might deem the art work as bizarre. The fact is, Phinney’s labels are memorable (marketers strive to make their labels stand out so that consumers can remember the wine, especially when the wine sits on a shelf in a sea of other wines). Not only that, Phinney’s wine is quite good!

Phinney has chosen Orin Swift as the name of his brand. And wines go by the names of Machete, Mercury Head, China Doll, Blank Stare, Mute, Papillon, Trigger Finger, etc.

From a wine point of view – the wines stand on their own. Here are some tasting notes

Mannequin Chardonnay – Fresh ripe lemon, stone fruit and Madagascar vanilla, smooth velvety textured in the mouth, firm finish with some soft acids, lightly warm with hazelnuts and very long. Would you hug this mannequin?

Palermo Cabernet Sauvignon – Lots of dark fruit and small red fruit too. Herbs and spice nicely incorporated with very smooth tannins but still with the typical Cab power and weight. Does it bring back memories of my visit to Palermo? …. perhaps.

Slander Pinot Noir – Elegant with all the aromas of a fine pinot made from ripe fruit. Some florals, and sesame. Lovely smooth tannins.

Chinese New Year Dinner

Treasury Wine Estates hosted the first of the Loh Hei dinners to usher in the year of the Boar. Amongst the dishes and wines served up, the Cuvee Grand Esprit Champagne was a befitting suitor for the Abalone Yu Sheng. Other enjoyable dishes included a BBQ whole suckling pig, hokkien fish maw soup, crispy fried soon hock with trufle sauce and broccoli, fujian prawn ngoh hiang and stewed hokkien mee sua.

Guests were encouraged to find their favourite pairings of food and wine. Highlights for me included the pairing of Penfolds bin 407 (2016) with the mee sua, the Beringer founders estate cab sauv (2016) with ngoh hiang and the synergistic pairing of an entire new style of ‘wine’ with the suckling pig. The wine is the Penfolds Lot 518 spirited wine with Baijiu.

Most interesting ‘wine’ of 2019

This is a wine that has been ‘ennobled’ with the famous Chinese Baijiu. You might expect the wine’s fruit to be subdued, but the blend is so sensibly achieved (only 6% of the spirit was added to wine), that all the wine’s aromas are still intact. Similarly, in this blend, the wine has not diluted the baijui’s spirited veurve . The spirit still shines through at the back palate. The ‘bite’ you get from drinking the Baijui still comes through, but as a spicy and rich finish that warms your mouth. Potent enough and ideal as accompaniment to some Asian dishes that would otherwise overbearing and subdue wine. I look forward to trying the lot 518 with prawn paste chicken, rojak, Sichuan hot pot etc.

Sweet ends came with the lovely pairing of Penfolds Father 10 year old Tawny with love letters and pineapple tarts.

Barolo of Pio Cesare

Pio Cesare’s Barolo Wines – published in Wine & Dine end 2018

On the mist-covered vine-clad hills of the Piedmonte, you’ll find two of Italy’s most engaging wines – the Barbaresco and Barolo. Grown from the Nebbiolo grape, no less.

Nebbiolo wine flavours

What lies in every bottle is pure poetry. In its youth there is already maturation and complexity. The Nebbiolo grape produces lightly coloured red wines with a huge dose of astringency. The aromas are plentiful – blackberry, strawberry, cherries, raspberries with overtones of herbs, liquorice and roses. Over time, Barbaresco and Barolo wines mature to reveal perfumed aromas and flavours such as truffles, smoke, leather, tar, violets, wild herbs, tobacco, prunes and animal notes – the hallmark of lovingly aged fine wine.

But that’s not all. Choosing when to enjoy your Nebbiolo wine is half the fun.

Traditional, Modern or something in-between?

Some Barbarescos and Barolos are made in the traditional style. Here wine is kept with skins and seeds for two months then aged in big old casks made of chestnut or Slovenian oak called botti. The liquid then slowly oxidizes. What results is a tannic and austere wine, with delightful notes of tar, camphor, leather and more. These bottles are best approached after ten years.

Then there’s the ‘New Wave’ Barbaresco and Barolo. Made in the modern style, with fruit flavour intact, the wine is aged for a shorter period in new small oak barrels and/or a blend of new and old oak (French and Slovenian).

With climate change, producers of the New Wave claim that being able to harvest ripe grapes means that the traditional method of extended maceration is no longer necessary. The resulting wines have creamy, fruity-sweet New World characteristic coupled with vanilla, smoke and spice overtones imparted by the barrels. Best of all, one does not have to wait too long for the wines to confer gratification.

Then there’s the middle-ground winemakers. Several producers felt that the New Wave style approach led to Barolos and Barbarescos being undistinguishable from other New World wines. They began to use production methods which incorporate the traditional and the modern. Wines are aged in both the botti and barrique. You may surmise that this style incorporates the best of the worlds.

Pio Cesare is one such producer and estate of the latest category. Grapes still go through a relatively long maceration, pre- and post- fermentation; but ageing is both in small barriques (composed off 1/3rd new, 1/3rd one year old and 1/3rd two year old) as well as in the traditional botti.

Recently, fourth generation Pio Boffa was in Singapore to present ‘An insight into Pio Cesare Single Vineyards, Blends and Barrel Samples’.

Pio Cesare dates back to 1881 and in historical terms, is as traditional as you get. In those days, every Piedmont family each had their secret recipe of how to produce wine. Grapes were purchased from vineyards in various parts of the region. For example, if grapes came from the western hills of Barolo, they were grown on sandy light soil with some stones. The resulting wine would have a certain finesse, with softer tannins and is often approachable early. If grapes were grown on the limestone compact soils of the eastern hills, the wines will be concentrated and have heftier tannins. Wines would be long ageing.

Yet soils are not the only distinguishing factor. Research has revealed that microclimate is another variant. The western commune of La Morra offers wines that are often fruity and elegant, thanks to the moderating influence (warmth) of the river nearby.

And in the east, Serralunga d’Alba and Monteforte d’Alba, the commune wines are perfumed but big and tannic, the result of a colder growing area.

By the 20th Century, Pio Cesare sought better control of the fruit source and began acquiring vineyards. Production today remains at 400,000 bottles per annum – the output of a boutique winery. With total control of the vineyards, Pio Cesare began offering single vineyard wines.

Wine lovers can enjoy the Pio Cesare crus of Barolo Roncaglie (La Morra), Barolo Ornato (Serralunga d’Alba) and Barolo Mosconi (Monforte d’Alba).

Pio Boffa admits that these single vineyard wines are indeed complex and impressive. Yet they are not considered to be their flagship wines.

Rather, it is the ‘classic’ Barolo – a blend of five different communes that is the estate’s best wine. Each commune imparts the following characteristics

  • Serralunga d’Alba (vineyards of Cascina Ornato, La Serra and Briccolina) – structure and longevity
  • Grinzane Cavour (vineyards of Gustava and Garretti) – finesse and body
  • La Morra (Roncaglie vineyard) – elegance and immediacy
  • Novello (Ravera vineyard) – freshness and fruit.
  • Monforte d’Alba (Mosconi vineyard) – structure and power.

With each commune and their single vineyards contributing unique characteristics, the ‘classic’ blended Barolo is the singularly most expressive and memorable wine of the Pio Cesare estate.

The following notes of a ‘vertical-horizontal’ tasting attest to this.

Barolo Roncaglie 2016 (single vineyard barrel sample) – fruity with floral characteristics, dark ripe cherries, dried herbs and a hint of nuts, good structure, long-sweetish finish. Can be enjoyed.

Barolo Ornato 2016 (single vineyard barrel sample)
– Attractive fresh mint and cherry notes, flavoursome with fresh herbs, basil, white pepper. Bigger than previous, almost powerful and mid-length with lingering nuances of eucalyptus.

Barolo Mosconi 2016 (barrel sample) – Fruit and herbs with small fruit dominating; some pepper and lots of spice. Balanced with fruit sweetness, tannic structure and some complexity. Develops in the glass with vanilla overtones. A wine for longer maturation.

Barolo blend of Mosconi 2016, Roncaglie 2016 and Ornato 2016 (possible classic Barolo for 2016) – Reminiscent of a lighter version of Mosconi but quite compex with good fruit, boiled sweets, herbs spices with fine tannins. Potential for the long haul.

Barolo Roncaglie 2015 – Purple edge and dark core. Forward sweet fruit including crushed cherries and hay. Touch of higher alcohol tones add some complexity. Fine structured tannins, ripe and long finished with fruit.

Barolo Ornato 2015 – Sweet ripe cherries, plums and black fruit. Meaty characteristics. Luscious with stronger tannins and creamy finish.

Barolo Mosconi 2015 – Complex with crushed cherries, ripe fruit as well as cooked fruit underlined with leather tones. Blackcurrant flavours with medium tannins and a lifted sweet finish.

Barolo blend of Mosconi, Roncaglie and Ornato, 2015 – Superb balance of fruit (cherries, currants, etc.), tannin, acid and sweetness. Elegant and subtle yet this wine is no pushover. Tannins are fine-grained, ample and the wine has with a long finish. Evident that this wine combines the qualities of the single vineyards in its expression.

Barolo 2013 – Sweet fruit, soft tannins, complex and utterly delicious.

Barolo 2010 – Florals giving way to fruit characters. Perfume of orchids, complexity in the nose and palate with leather and earth. Ultra fine tannins, ready to be savoured. Memorable.

Barolo 2008 – Fruit emerging after perhaps a closed period. Some florals and meat, and starting to show some life. The peak has still to be reached.

Barolo 2004 – Big muscular wine, with coffee, meat, banana and mega-tannins. Thick and textured, with a long finish. Impressive.

Barolo 2000 – Elegant, balanced, fully-flavoured and complex. Soft yet with sticky tannins and a lightly-dry finish. Beautiful drinking. Another favourite.