Chinese New Year Dinner (1st of 2019)

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.

A Krug Unforgettable Journey at Jann

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“To enjoy Krug, you have to understand that there is no hierarchy in our wines,” said Olivier Krug recently at dinner held at Jaan. “We make two cuvées and they both get the same care. True, one cuvée may be more expensive because it’s a single expression of one year and it is rarer.”

The affable and well spoken Krug continued, “When we make a cuvée, it is the ‘blend of the best’  and it is re-created each year – you realise that it is never the same each year but the best possible quality that exhibits the full spectrum of flavours.  Unlike other houses, we ferment as many as 250 different grower plots separately. We taste each of the ‘plots’ and added to that, 150 other reserve wines (as old as 15 years) each year –  to create (blend up) the best possible cuvée each year. This is unlike many others who ferment all that they obtain from various growers/vineyards together.”

He explained, “Cuvée 1 is the Grand Cuvée which we have been making since 1948. Cuvée 2 or the Krug Vintage – composed of wines from a single year which is the ‘fullest expression of the year’. And there’s the single plot wines. After tasting plots for the cuvées, my ancestor/great great great grandfather Joseph Krug noticed that quality of the wine from the single vineyard (over eight years) was consistently good / special and one day decided to keep it aside and bottle it – hence the Clos Du Mesnil.  We also have a Clos d’Ambonnay (single vintage, single vineyard) and a Rosé.”

As we savoured our dinner over various bottles –  Clos du Mesnil 2002 and 2003, Krug 2003, Krug Grand Cuvée and Krug Rosé, Olivier Krug left us with with a few updates (he was heading off to the post launch party of Singapore’s Michelin guide)…

“Music and champagne go so well together – we realised that there is an increasing amount of research recognizing the considerable changes hearing can make to the tasting experience, such as the work carried out by Charles Spence and Janice Qian Wang of Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory. As such, we are collaborating with various musicians to pair music with our wines.”

“We are very pleased about our Krug iD, a six-digit number on the back label of each bottle, allows you to identify your bottle by revealing its unique story, as told by our Krug Cellar Master. You just need to enter the Krug iD online, via krug.com or the Krug App!”

“A little advice – please do not use the flute- drinking Champagne from a flute is like going to an opera and using earplugs. Instead, enjoy your champagne in a white Burgundy wine glass or our ‘Joseph’ glass. See you in Champagne soon!”

 

My notes:

Clos du Mesnil 2002 – butter, caramel, velvety mousse, long with mandarin orange peel, pomegranate, buah duku and finishing with smoke and lime nuances

Clos du Mesnil 2003 – smoke, vanilla toast, lon gmid paate, minerals and complex with slightly bigger bubbles and a bittersweet big long finish

Rosé – salmon pink, complex nose with a delicate mousse and velvety texture. Small red fruit, minerals, chalk, mangosteens and long.

Bruno Paillard launches the Rosé NPU 2003 in Singapore

Mr. Bruno Paillard, unlike other Champenoise, started his estate only in 1981, at the age of 27 and with a fistful of French Francs (about 15,000 Euros, I believe). He did come from a family with a connection to the land – they were brokers and growers in the two Grands Crus villages of Bouzy and Verzenay, dating back to 1704.

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Paillard, over a lunch at les Amis, described Champagne’s terroir, “… it’s the savoir faire of the producers and growers combined with the unique conditions – Nordic climate, sealife sediment in the soils and four marked seasons – that makes Champagne what it is.”

“The term ‘Non-Vintage’ sounds so negative. I prefer the term MV or ‘Multi-Vintage’ and you could say we were the first to use this term. It best describes how we make our wine – We use a solera style system of reserve wines so every wine you get is a blend of older vintages. To do this well, we store our reserves cuvee by cuvee rather than by vineyard. We also age our wine longer than most other houses,” states Paillard.  “Naturally, all our wines carry the date of ‘degorgement’,” he continued.

Champagne aficionados will be familiar with N.P.U. – another term that Paillard came up with. In latin, N.P.U. or ‘Nec Plus Ultra’ means ‘there is nothing beyond’. Certainly a highly ambitious statement.

Bruno Paillard’s first NPU was a 1990, released in 2002.  Only Grands Cru village grapes are selected; first pressings are only used,  the wine was aged in small oak barrels and the wine is matured in the bottle, on lees for at least a decade; after which the wine is returned to the cellar following degorgement. Hence an NPU is always at least 12 years old. Whilst NPU wines made to date have been ultra-luxurious elegant and complex champagnes (11,000 bottles and 500 magnums for each issue), 2016 marks the release of a magnificent rosé – the N.P.U. 2003.

Only 826 bottles of the N.P.U. Rosé 2003 were produced.  The wine is sumptuous and sublime – with aromas of red berries, spices and candied fruit and a generous broad palate and minerals.

Available at Vinum.

History, Evolution & Revolution of Australian wine

A series of tastings held around the world to showcase Australian wines has finally made it to Singapore.
 
Gone are the days when Australian wines are thought of as less complex or interesting as the European counterparts. Today’s Aussie wines have a place in every wine-lover’s cellar.
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Revered favourites such as Hunter Semillon continue to impress… I have yet to taste a Semillon that will rival this wine in terms of its uniqueness. Although still youthful, with a pungency of citrus/laksa leaf/ buah long long and bone-dry acidic tension, Tyrells Vat 1, Semillon 2005 promises to deliver a lanolin-roundness and delicate complexity in another 10-20 years.
 
An personal old favourite, the St. Hallett Old Block Barossa Shiraz has come of age! A frequent pour amongst students at Roseworthy, I recall it to be a fuller-bodied wine with smooth tannins. The 2012 vintage is medium-bodied with fine tannins and a medium-long finish. The wine is complex with a lovely nose of mint, Chinese dried red dates,  sour plums, chocolate with overtones of toasty oak and toffee.
 
Another classic, the Wynns Cooonawarra John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 proved to be worthy of its time-honoured status. Brimming with herbs, black and red fruit, red peppers, hints of bitter herbs, ginseng and dried figs, this wine is concentrated with chewy, sticky tannins and a long finish. This wine will remain a favourite amongst Bordeaux drinkers in a blind tasting line-up.
 
I especially enjoyed the comparison of the St. Hallett with two other Syrah’s/Shiraz.  First is what I would call an Aussie New Wave Syrah producer – the Luke Lambert Yarra Valley Syrah 2015. This cool-climate style wine with berry aromas, attractive cough syrup flavours and a fine grind of black and white pepper is flavoursome and delicate at the same time. I could not believe this was a typical Australian Syrah – the kind that jumps out of the glass and punches you in the face. And no wonder… the producer had aged the wine in 4000-litre foudres, Guigal-Cotes du Rhone fashion.
 
The other Shiraz is the Battle of Bosworth Puritan McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015. Organic, natural with no sulphur added (yes, and perhaps this fore-tells the future of winemaking!) This wine showed a purity of fruit with plums, berries and attractive medicinal overtones. It was delicious, forward-juicy with bittersweet finish and medium tannins.
 
For whites, I enjoyed the sweet-balanced Grosset Alea Clare Valley Riesling 2014. Grosset has always been my Ocker Riesling favourite alongside Pikes, Pewsey Vale, Knappstein and Henschke.
 
A Vasse Felix Premier Margaret River Chardonnay 2014 came across intense with lemon lime, butter-peach and pear with a aftertaste of dried apricots. Medium bodied and with a crisp backbone – ABC drinkers will be surprised indeed!
 
The wine of the tasting was made from Savignin! The BK Wines Skin ‘n Bones Adelaide Hills White 2015 had savoury characteristics with barley overtones and flavours of crushed green grapes and dried fruit. In some ways it was reminiscent of an organic Savignin from Arbois. I felt that with a little more time in the bottle, it might develop those biscuit characteristics that I savoured in an aged bottle of Langhe Chardonnay from a famous Piedmonte producer.
 
The Moorooduc Estate Robinson Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2013, was immensely enjoyable for its beautiful fruit underlined by its hints of pomegranate, chestnuts, cherries and spice. It was juicy, refined with a satin texture and a bittersweet long aftertaste.
 
How far Australian pinots have come! Looking back, 30 years ago, they were mostly over-extracted, lacking in taste (due to over-cropping) or uninteresting (with typical jammy warm climate flavours).
Today, this Pinot can stand alongside some of the tastiest from Martinborough, Willamette and the Ahr.
 
Australia continues experimenting with new varietals. The La Linea Adelaide Hills Tempranillo 2014 is an example.  This wine was juicy-savoury with a nice backbone of tannin. Like European wines, with a little coaxing, the wine opened up to reveal sour cherries with a sweet fruity finish. In a blind tasting, I might have mistaken this wine for a modern-styled Temp-Garnacha blend from Rioja Baja.
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