Top Wines 2014/2015 Peak G Wine Awards

2014 – submissions of 300 wines; 100 selected at the top 100 wines in Singapore. Some excellent value wines included Massenez Family Flaviata Cabernet (Red and White International); Donnafugata Tancredi (Cellarmaster Wines); Olsen Personal Reserve Vin 888 Cabernet (Hock Hua Wines); Champagne Fallet Dart Brut Rose (World Wine Vault); Cantine Sant Agata 9.99 Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato (Wine Tatler); Balbi Soprani Barolo 08 (Hock Hua Wines);  Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa concha Pinot (Vina Concha Y Toro Group);  Vina Tabali Pinot (Le Vigne); Georges Duboeuf Morgon ‘JE Descombes’ (Le Vigne); Jean Paul Thevenet Morgon (Artisan Cellars); Casa Santos Lima. Sousao (Viva Vino) ; John Val, Nanny Goat Pinot (Red and White International); Surveyor Thomson Single Vineyard PInot (Singapore Straits Cellars); Pago de los Capellanes, Joven Roble Tinto (Cellarmaster Wines); Paolo e Noemia, Falesia d’amico Chardonnay (Angra Wine & Spirit); Donhoff Riesling Trocken (Wein & Vin) and Olsen Old Bailey Muscadelle (Hock Hua Wines).

Top wines of the year included Marchesi di Barolo, ‘Cannubi’ (Indoguna);  Shaw Vineyard Estate Premium Botrytis Semillon (World Wine Vault) and Van Volxem ‘Alte Reben’ Riesling (Wein & Vin). Other outstanding wines were Mazzei Siepi (SUTL); Misha’s Vineyard Highnote Pinot (Crystal Wines); Henri Billiot Millesime Brut 07 (Artisan Cellars),  and Marques de Riscal Gran Reserva (SUTL).


2015 –  Wines of the year  were the Askerne Noble Semillon (Hock Hua); Newton Johnson Famile Vineyards Chardonnay (Stellez Vine); Marchesi di Frescobaldi, Luce Della Vite, Luce (Water and Wine). Pick up the 2015 Peak G Wine issue to read the tasting notes the rest of the top 100 wines of 2015


Asian Wine Lexicon

The Asian Wine Lexicon is a project to “translate” some of the typical wine descriptors into terms that are more recognisable in Asia.

The wine world at large has always used Western descriptors when talking about and describing wines.  However, many people living in Asia do not know many of these descriptors, as they may not have been exposed to items like Bramble Bushes, Violets, Quince, or even more commonplace items like Raspberries and Blackberries (the fruit and not the smartphone…).



Wine with Umami

How to pair wine with the complex flavours of the fifth taste, umami
by Vivian Song
Published Friday, October 31, 2014 9:33AM EDT in CTV News , CTV television network Canada
Given that umami was only formally accepted as the fifth taste by the scientific community less than 30 years ago, the enigmatic flavour sensation is at a bitter disadvantage when it comes to wine pairings.
Adjectives used to describe the final flavor profile include expressions like “pleasantly savory,” and “earthy.” That is, unlike its counterparts sweet, salty, bitter and sour, umami is more complex and evades a tidy definition.
Imagine, then, the kinds of challenges umami-rich foods present for wine lovers. How do you choose a wine that complements, rather than destroys, the delicate balance of flavors found in many Japanese ingredients like soy sauce, miso and shiitake mushrooms?

At the inaugural edition of Vinexpo Nippon in Tokyo this weekend — the first time the world’s largest wine fair will host an event in Japan — sommelier Hisao Morigami will teach Japanese wine lovers how to reconcile wine with the fifth taste experience that’s so integral to their native cuisine.
Morigami’s biggest tip? Bypass wine altogether and consider pairing a common Japanese dish like eggplants in sweet soy sauce with a glass of Brut champagne that offers a good complement with its minerality and sharpness, he suggests.
Champagne house creates Umami bubbly
In response to Japan’s growing interest in wine, biodynamic champagne house Champagne De Sousa recently released a limited run of bubbly aptly called Umami, developed specifically with the fifth taste in mind.
Described as having a velvety texture, length, minerality, softness, depth and viscosity, Umami was developed to be paired with dishes that carry its namesake in addition to replicating the mouth-watering sensation produced by umami-rich foods.
Umami wine is made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.
In his book ‘Pairing Wine with Asian Food,’ Singapore-based wine expert Edwin Soon also offers tips on how to get around the complex flavor profile of the fifth taste.
One rule of thumb when it comes to pairing umami-rich seafood dishes heavy on ingredients like shrimp paste, for example, is to avoid chewy, tannic red wines as the reaction produces a metallic taste, leaving the mouth dry and rough, Soon says.
Adding a teriyaki sauce, however, could render a seafood dish friendlier to a young Bordeaux or Italian Barolo.
Another general rule of thumb: A dry Pinot Noir, with its silky tannins and good level of acidity, works well with umami-rich foods, as do dry white wines and dry sparkling wines.
The one Japanese food that defies any wine pairing?
Tsukemono — preserved Japanese vegetables.
“The pickles should simply take the place of wine to leave your palate refreshed,” he said.
Here are Soon’s wine suggestions for umami-rich foods:
•    Aligote
•    Bacchus
•    Chasselas
•    Chenin Blanc
•    Muller Thurgau
•    Muscadet
•    Picpoul de Pinet
•    Patrimonio
•    Quincy
•    Soave Classico
•    Sylvaner
Vinexpo Nippon runs November 1 -2 in Tokyo.

Gamberro Rosso 2014


Sixty-three producers gathered at the Chijmes Singapore this year, bringing with them wines from all over Italy. This is the 3rd time Gamberro Rosso has brought the roadshow to Singapore and again, wine lovers, the hotel and restaurant professionals and wine trade members got to taste extraordinary wines (3 bicchieri), very good wines (2 bicchieri) and good wines.

Last year during Gamberro Rosso’s 2nd visit, I was given a tour by Mr. Lorenzo Ruggeri, International Wine editor of Gambero Rosso. I tasted and discovered the many faces of Vermentino. They ranged from late harvested Sardinian Vermentino (Carpichera Vigna’ngena) with upfront notes of orange, red apple and ripe fruit and saline notes to a Vermentino from Liguria included a  zesty, wildflower nuanced wine (Cantine Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni Vermentino). Not only that a red wine Fattoria Poggio di Sotto, Rosso di Montalcino, became the most memorable I tasted at Gamberro Rosso 2013.

So with high expectations of more discoveries and the anticipation of tasting even more stunning wines, I attended Gamberro Rosso 2014 – and i was not disappointed!

Amongst the many impressive wines for me this year were Cantina Tollo’s fragrant Trebbiano d’Abruzzo C’Incanta 2010, the organic producer Di Majo Norante’s Molise Falanghina Rami 2012, Otella’s aromatic and floral Lugana Sup. Molceo 2011, Cantina Due Palme’s Salice Salentino Rosso Selvarossa Ris 2010, all plum spicy and robust and Tenuta Ulisse’s trio of Montepulciano d’Abruzzos – the Unico, the Amaranta and the Nativae. Each Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was made (fermented) differently – in stainless steel, in oak and in concrete – and each showed different characters due to the respective enological treatment. Additionally Volpe Pasini’s COF Merlot Focus Zuc di Volpe 2006 was impressive with its complex flavours and length whilst Tenuta Carretta’s Barbera d’Asti Sup. Nizza Mora di Sassi 2011 was redolent of small fruit and had a lively nature. These were just some of the amazing wines on show.  There were too many great wines to report on and the omission does not reflect the standard of the wine. And just like in the previous year, I left with the taste of my favourite wine, lingering in my mouth – the Nals Margreid A.A. Sauvignon Mantele 2012 – complex, layered and long finished.


Take A Deep Breath

published in Jetstar, Nov 2013; with photo of Ai by Aaron Wong

“What foolhardy situation have I gotten myself into now?” I thought as I clung nervously to the bobbing float that had been set up in the middle of the Banda Sea. I shuddered, not from cold – the water was a comfortably warm 28ºC; but from the prospect that I might die.

An hour earlier, in a gung-ho mood, I had signed up for freediving at the Wakatobi Dive Resort, on a remote island off Sulawesi. Whilst scuba diving over several days, I had watched with fascination and envy, a lone freediver, unencumbered by clunky equipment, manoeuvering amongst the myriad of coral and fishes.

In Besson’s movie, The Big Blue, professional ‘No-Limit’ competitive divers, used a weighted sled, accelerating rapidly down hundreds of metres and then inflated a balloon to propel themselves back to the surface.

Ai Futaki, my instructor assured me that with no records to break in recreational freediving or ‘Free Immersion Apnea’, all I had to learn was effortless breath holding. I would to pull myself down a rope. I was in good hands, after all, Ai is a Guinness Book of Record holder for “The Longest distance swam in a cave with one breath, with fins for 100m and without fins for 90m.” Tanned and diminutive, Ai radiated calm and confidence. But why did I have doubts?

I thought of mountaineers who related that getting to the summit was only half the journey. If I were to make my goal of 10 meters down, would I have enough air and composure to resurface?

“Forget your ego!”, Ai snapped me out of my doomsday thoughts. “Breath holding is only about 60 seconds. Besides, I will be alongside you all the way”.

Clinging onto the float, I begin the yoga breathing that Ai taught me – to maximize my lung capacity and also quiet my mind. I descend. First attempt – my low density mask fills with water. Second attempt – I forget to equalize. Third attempt – I want out, before I drown. On my fifth attempt, with slow pulls down the line, I make it to the bottom.

Exhilarated, I notice the unearthly quiet of my darkened surroundings with sun rays streaming through the water. Batfish swim by nonchalantly. I even forget I’m holding my breath. Too soon, Ai signals for me to ascend. I obey.

Back on the bobbing float, I’ve never felt more alive. So close to death.

Where to do it


Rich Pickings in Apulia

Apulia, in Southern Italy, is far off the tourist radar but has rich pickings for the inquisitive wine lover

WITH scorching days and cool breezy nights, Italy’s Apulia region is famous for its fruits of the land. Three-quarters of Italy’s pasta are produced from durum wheat grown in the rolling fields scattered across the land. Abundant olive trees provide for a third of Italy’s olive oil. And here too, you’ll find the country’s prolific wines.

Primitivo, Italy’s 12th most planted variety is Apulia’s most famous grape. Historically used to produce bulk wine, the region consequently became known for its mass-produced wines, good only for blending.

Of late, however, producers have discovered the untapped bounty of Primitivo. With its attractive fruit flavours and smooth tannins, talented winemakers have decided to go upmarket – turning grapes made for bulk into boutique wines.

To witness this remarkable transformation, I travelled into the heart of Apulia – 40km inland and south of Bari, Apulia’s capital, to the little hillside town of Gioia del Colle.

To look into the future, I first had to understand the past.

It was here in the late 1700s that Primitivo grapes came to being. A priest in Apulia began looking for an early ripening grapevine for propagating, the reason being that spring frosts usually occur late in the region and would damage new buds (which would grow into fruit). If the priest could find vines with a shorter vegetative cycle (faster growing vines), new buds would sprout after the debilitating frost and yet grow quickly enough to produce ripe fruit before the detrimental autumn rains. Happily, the priest did find such a vine in Gioia del Colle. He made cuttings and named the “new” vines Primativo, meaning “early ripening”.

Vincenzo Verrastro, an agronomist, took me for a walk around his small town of 28,000 inhabitants.

Vincenzo Verrastro

“We are in the real country here; every resident is a farmer.” Vincenzo explained that every home has wine cellars – whether banker, baker or babysitter, every resident makes wine in one form or another.

Wine cellar of a typical home

My next stop was the vineyard of Cantina Polvanera. Standing on the rich red soil among the old bush vines of Primitivo, its affable owner Filippo Cassano explained that many styles of wine can be made from the Primitivo grape.

Fillippo Cassano, relaxing


“Taste a Primitivo and you will be seduced by the flavours of berries, prunes and herbs. Not only that, the wine takes on different characters depending on the soil the vines grow on.”

Cassano handed me a wine called “16”. Made from vines planted on dark rocky but iron-rich soils, I detected dark fruit flavours in a rich wine with medium tannins. In contrast, another wine called “17”, made from vines growing on limestone-loam soils, exhibited finer-structured tannins with a lovely texture.

“Primitivo also comes in different styles,” explained Cassano proudly as he poured me three other wines.

One was a sweet, light-red Primitivo called “21”; another was a sparkling pink, which was bubbly and refreshing. The last wine was a Rosato (Primitivo blended with other varietals) with red fruit notes. I was delighted to have been introduced to the many facets of Primitivo.

Mariangela Plantamura, in town


At another vineyard, Plantamura, I met its owner, the petite and charming Mariangela Plantamura. Originally a city slicker, she moved to the countryside to be closer to her first love – growing Primitivo and making wine.

Whilst strolling in her fields, where herbs such as wild mint, thyme and lavender grow abundantly alongside vines, she reached down and picked some.

Herbs grow alongside vines


“Wines take on the subtle aromas of the herbs and flowers that the vines grew with. Smell these herbs and then tell me if you can detect the same in my wine,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.

Sure enough, a Plantamura Primitivo 2009 had pronounced red berry aromas accompanied by a beguiling scent of flowers and herbs. Additionally, Primitivo responds to growing conditions. Being from a hot and dry year, Plantamura’s 2011 wine was resplendent with black fruit and black cherry flavours.

A true great wine will stand the test of time. You may wonder how these former mass-market wines compare to some of the famous wines of the world.

Vertical of Fatalone

At Cantina Fatalone, I tasted some mature versions of Primitivo, dating back more than a decade. The Fatalone Primitivo of 2005 had hints of farmyard, bovril and a tinge of iodine – it reminded me of an old Bordeaux. The 2003 with its chocolates, red fruit, soy, earth and silky overtones was reminiscent of a Burgundy.

The 2001 had a Barbaresco-like camphor-mint leather bouquet. I declared that the 2000, with its balsam, meat, stewed fruit hints and a dry finish, was in a class of its own.

The successful evolution of the Primitivo grape is truly something to celebrate – it is no longer a bulk wine but one to collect, savour and cherish. And it is still surprisingly easy on the wallet.


Marianna Annio of Pietraventosa

Impressive Wines from Gioia del Colle

Guiliani Primitivo Riserva 2008 – Forest fruits, cherry, hint of mocha, tobacco and soy with a sweet core and a satin texture. Higher altitude vines at 500m; wine aged in big casks as well as barriques.

Guiliani Primitivo Riserva 2007 – Forest fruit, with a sweet fruit core, cotton-satin textures and firm finish.

Guiliani Primitivo ‘1922’ Vino da Meditazione – Intense red, with savoury sweet flavours, honeyed yet with a dry firm finish. Late harvest wine.

Tenuta Chiaramonte “Muro Sant’Angelo” Primitivo 2008 – Full-bodied with extract, pomegranate, small red fruits and an intense sweet tangy finish. From 60-year-old vines and low yields.

Tenute Chiaramonte Primitivo Riserva 2006 – Sweet-sour fruit, tobacco, minerals, leather and fine sticky tannins.

Pietraventosa “Ossimoro” 2007 – Smoke, sweet core of fruit, minerals, velvety, complex and long. Primitivo blend with 30% Aglianico.

Pietraventosa Primitivo 2007 – Soft and silky, melt in the mouth wine with succulent fruit, berries and spice

Pietraventosa “Allegoria” Primitivo 2008 – Intense ripe fruit, hint of biscuits, velvety, soft with a saline finish. Stainless steel ageing only.

Pietraventosa Riserva 2008 – Mixed berries, spice, fresh soft, silky and long. Unwooded.

Tenuta Viglione “Johe” 2008 – Fragrant wine with fresh cherries, strawberries, pepper spice and orange peel. Primitivo blend with 50% Aleatico.

Tenuta Viglione “Marpione” Primitivo Riserva 2008 – Perfumed and intense with nuances of leather. From 78-year-old vines, aged in big casks and stainless steel tanks.

Tenuta Viglione Primitivo 2005 – Mixed fruit, green plums, subtle leather notes, balanced

Tenuta Viglione Rupestre IGT 2008 -Nutty with red fruit, chocolate and old leather. Lovely acids, long finished. Primitivo-Merlot blend.

Plantamura (red label) 2010– Floral nose with basket of red fruits. balanced, elegant and with sticky tannins. Long.

Plantamura Riserva (white label) 2008Forest fruits, sour cherries, vanilla, intense and structured. For long ageing. 

Plantamura (black label) 2009 – Red and black fruits, herbs, florals and balsam notes; structured and elegant.

Fatalone Primitivo Riserva 2009 – Intense with red and black fruits, coffee nuances and tight tannins (tank sample)

Fatalone Primitivo Riserva 2008 – Balsam n0tes, sour cherries and with a sweet balance (tank sample)

Fatalone Primitivo Riserva 2007 – Black plums, blackcurrants, silky texture, touch of sweetness in the finish (tank sample)

Fatalone Primitivo Riserva 2006 – Sweet fruit nose with pepper, florals and vanilla, balanced.

Fatalone Primitivo Riserva 2004 – Mocha, chocolate, Alacantra leather, stewed fruit, vanilla, lively acids and medium long finish.