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

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.



Berry Brothers & Rudd

Fine Wine and Spirits Merchant, Berry Brothers & Rudd, who have an office in Singapore, held a Grand Portfolio Tasting this August.

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Champagnes & Whites
Amongst the wines tasted, I enjoyed the Thienot Brut for its texture, fruit and ready characters – every bit an excellent Champagne for $95. The house brand Berry’s UKC Rose Grand Cru Marguet was a surprise – many pink Champagnes show good fruit but lack the minerality – but this one has it all.

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How about a 2014 Tavel Rose, Prier de Montezargues – warm, lush with red fruit – and flavours that brought me back to Southern France – and all for $39.
Then there is also a perfumed and beautifully balanced 2012 Domaine de la Renjarde Cotes du Rhone Villages Blanc, similarly priced and every bit as enjoyable.
For oysters and cold seafood – nothing like a crispy lemon-lime pith flavoured 2013 Muscadet sur lie, Domaine la Haute Fevrie ‘Excellence’ – $35 – why look elsewhere?
I also tasted a Benjamin Lerous Auxey Duresses Blanc, a Philippe Colin Chassagne ‘Chevenottes’, a Mirum Verdicchio di Materica Riserva, Mas de Dumas Gassac Blanc and a  sweet Churn Petit Manseng – all delicious.

Reds
So many wines, so little time to taste (1 hours hour had gone by already and 1 hour left…). Red wines I enjoyed were the Olivier Bernstein 2009 Chambolle ‘Les Lavrottes’ as well as the 2003 Collection Bellenum Camille ‘Derriere la Grange’ – both 1er crus of course- yet if you could put gender to the wines, the former was masculine whilst the other, womanly. And for $295 there is a lovely 2003 Louis Remi Latricieres Chambertin – silky, juicy and structured – price wise, its not over the top for a Grand Cru…

Spanish wine lovers should not miss the Riu Trio Infernal by three French winemakers Combier-Fischer-Gerin ( from Crozes Hermitage, Provence and Cote-Rotie respectively) – who decided to make a Grenache-Carignan blend. Its a solid, Priorat big bodied, ripe, powerful yet fruity and balanced, velvety wine – and very good – I say that after having tasting over 35 Spanish wines the previous day.

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Two other wines I loved – the 2008 Paje Roagna Barbaresco – delicate and complex at the same time; and the NZ  2011 Churton Pinot – with beautiful fruit and texture, yet not overtly fruity like many NZ and New World Pinots; rather with some Burgundian restraint and structure.

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Fortified & Others
An oxidised, nutty with good lingering acidity wine form the Jura – the 2010 Domaine Grand  Cotes du Jura Savagnin – was calling out for some Lobster Amoricaine to accompany.

And to end – well, a Berry’s William Pickering 20 year old Tawny which I am told is a Quinta da Noval cuvee – with nuts and red fruit in the forefront and delectable sweetness and complexity.  Wait- there was also a Madeira – the Berry’s Rainwater 5 year old Medium dry that was lush and gushing with Chinese New Year fruit – preserved longan, dried plums and the like.

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I enjoy the occasional aged rum and here before me, just near the exit, were five rums that heralded a taste. I promptly got the required portions poured out and retreated to a corner of the room for a taste of the amazingly unique rums. Here are the notes – some descriptors given by a few passerby’s that decided to partake as well…

2000 Berry’s Own Selection Guyana Rum 15 year old – crispy crushed mixed fruit, raisins, plums and all.
NV Berry’s Own Selection Jamaican Rum Genex 13 year old – forward notes of bush salad, overripe pineapple and tropical fruit
NV Berry’s Own Fijian Rum – Lots of wood – raw pine with nangka, jackfruit, over the top pungency – totally characterful
NV The Pink Pigeon, Mauritian Rum – Creme caramel, balanced, sweet and smooth – will woo whisky and cognac drinkers over
NV Berry’s Own Selection Barbados Rum 10 year old – Fruit, caramel, glutinous rice, dates and some sea salt
( Note: for newly converted rum lovers – like myself – Berry’s offers other rums  – from Haiti, Guadeloupe, Nicaragua, Venezuela and more – imagine having these with single estate chocolates such as those from Amedei)

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After, I looked forlornly at the other spirits yet to be tasted – the Pot Distilled Junipero Gin,  the Hophead Vodka and Karlssons Gold Vodka from Sweden –  but I had had enough for the day – they would have to be tasted next time.