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.


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.

Top wines 2011/2010 (Peak Challenge- Spring & Winter)

Life is too short to drink the bad wines –  we are told time and again. So here are some wines that have been tasted (over 700 wines were tasted; many were rejected) and that were highly recommended by as many as a dozen panelists – some from industry, others from trade and even collectors and experts – at the Peak G wine tastings, which I organised.  You can’t go far wrong with these wines.

Luetzuendorf, Karsdorfer Hohe Gräte “Grosses Gewachs” 2007 Silvaner $78, Germany, Magma Trade and Consult Pte Ltd

Deep yellow colour, brimming with aromas of tropical fruits, red apples, nectarine, pear, lemons, floral, honeysuckle, nuances of lychee, lemon zest and orange. Sweet nose balanced by excellent balance, texture and finish. This is a stunning wine from the unique vineyard of Karsdorfer Hohe Gräte, that lies in the former German Democratic Republic. The microclimate of the site is low in rainfall with relatively warm summers and mild winters – but uniquely, the growing season here is about a week longer than the regional average – the result is wine with depth of flavour and fine-grained acidity.

Van Volxem, Altenberg Alte Reben (old vines), Riesling 2008, $150, Germany, Wein & Vin Pte Ltd

Subtle yet complex nose incorporating stone fruit, flowers, orange blossom, citrus, spice and a touch of toast. Fleshy with a good structure and acidity. Balanced, weighty and quite rich. Excellent minerality. Honeyed texture, tightly woven, powerful and with an ultra long, racy finish. Will improve over the next decade. Benefits from decanting/aerating prior to drinking.

Domaine Maroslavac-Leger, Puligny Montrachet “les Folatieres” 1er Cru, 2006, $95, France, Vino Cave

Intense nose of stone fruit, dried tangerine peel, Anjou pear, grapefruit and wet stones. Some notes of yellow apple in the mid palate leading up to steely minerals. Zippy and zesty, yet acids are quite soft. Creamy, light lanolin texture, precise and with a long finish. Enjoy with roast chicken or dishes featuring white/butter sauces.

Capannelle, Solare IGT 2004, $112.20, Italy, Hermitage Wines Pte Ltd

Saturated, medium-dark red. Serious nose with loads of depth, cherry, peach pit, currants. Nuances of tobacco and meat reveal good bottle ageing. Medium plus acidity in the tart red fruit flavours, with a sweet core of fruit allied with good structure and fine grained tannins. Medium bodied. Finish is bright and long with the lingering taste of fresh red fruit. A Sangiovese-Malvasia Nera blend.

Thibault Liger Belair, Clos De Vougeot Grand Cru, 2006, $171.20, France, Vinum Fine Wines

Ruby centre with bright red rim. Aromas of black fruits, plums, raspberries and maraschino cherries. Dry with finely grained tannins. Flavours of sour red plums, haw flakes, eucalyptus, cloves and black pepper. Tight, youthful, well-balanced and stylish. Excellent example of a Clos de Vougeot. Drinking well now.

Osmose Vins, Gigondas AOC 2007, $58, France, Top Wines Pte Ltd

Complex nose of sun ripened fruit, cherries, raspberries, pepper and a hint of animal aromas. Good balance, with a touch of tannins, soft and smooth texture, medium bodied and a medium finish. Easy drinking wine suited for roasts and cold meats.

Ramey, Shanel Vineyard Syrah, 2006, $124, USA,Water & Wine (S) Pte Ltd

Deep red-black centre, bright red rim. Incredibly complex with red and black fruits, figs, leather, earth, vanilla, coconut, violets, milk chocolate, hawthorne and sweet plum. Pure and vibrant fruit. Big and bold, supple and smooth, dense and layered with chewy tannins and a sweetish finish. The Rhône has a rival in this cool-climate, coastal California Syrah. Best cellared for at least five more years.

Doña Paula, Malbec, Seleccion De Bodega 2006, $83, Argentina, Crystal Wines Pte Ltd

Intense violet colour with a bright red rim. Perfumed and slightly spicy, with powerful flavours of dark plums, red berries, baked red fruits, and boiled sweets. Dry finish, with the lingering taste of red fruits, blueberries, mocha and dark cherries. All presented in a concentrated form yet makes for easy drinking. Formidable tannins, rich and memorable, this is one of Argentina’s icon wines and it is only made in exceptional years.


Wairau River, Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, $40, New Zealand, Austral Pacific Wine Merchant

Light bright yellow. Aromatic and exuberant. Gorgeous melange of flowers, herbs, pears, passionfruit, lemon and soft green fruits. Soaring notes of candy, exotic fruits and stonefruit. Complex yet not intellectual. Good balance, medium high acidity, medium long finish. Delicious and sensational value. For immediate enjoyment – best with mussel dishes, creamy cheese and cold seafood.

Tenuta SantAntonio, Amarone Valpolicella Campo Del Gigli DOC, 2004, $158, Italy, Water & Wine (S) Pte Ltd

Deep and dense with red black centre and bright ruby rim. Mix of dark fruit and florals on the nose. Unbelievable flavour intensity, consisting dark fruit, tea, toffee, currants, earth and dried plums. Full bodied and dry, yet juicy with smooth tannins and a lingering finish. A luscious wine. Carpineto Farnito Vin Santo, 1992 Italy, Monopole Pte Ltd, $98 Light amber in colour, smoky caramel, rancio notes with hints of straw on the nose. Sweet with flavours of caramelised fruit, hazelnut, Gula Melaka and coconut (grated), lovely chocolate and bright acids. Medium length.

Oremus, Aszu 6 Puttonyos Tokaji, 2000, Hungary, Vinum Fine Wines, $116 Light amber. Aromas of fruitcake, tangerine, Chinese dates and “Nian gao”. Really rich with inviting flavours of dried longan, orange peel preserved plum, apricot, biscotti, hazelnut and watercress.  Luscious, long and memorable.

Chateau Doisy Daene, Sauternes 2006, France, Wein & Vin, $65 Bright amber with gold, high viscosity. Perfumed with a lovely mix of caramel, smoke, sweetened apples, bittersweet almond cake, botrytis, peach, lychee, roasted nuts and orange rind. Some minerality and with a rich texture.

Bruno Paillard, Blanc De Blanc Reserve Privee MV, Champagne, France, Vinum Fine Wines, $121 Straw gold, hint of minerals, bread and toasted barley. Flavours of limes, broad mid palate and a medium long finish. Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royale Brut 1999, Champagne, France, Hai Choo Wines & Spirits, $135 Dark gold and perfumed with a mix of flowers, dried apricots and toast. Fruity in the mouth, integrated and balanced. Beautifully presented given the follow through and long finish.

Duval Leroy, Vintage 1999 Blanc de Chardonnay, Champagne, France, Top Wines Pte Ltd, $145 Medium gold, soft mousse. Aromas of red apples, minerals, yeast and hint of petroleum.  Dry with a lingering taste of apricots.

Domaine Charbay, Port Release III, USA, Water & Wine (S) Pte Ltd, $102 Tawny with a brick red border. Aromas of bark, cherries, dried tea-leaf and flowers. Flavours of vanilla, herbs, liquor chocolate, dried red fruit, spice, toffee, pepper, mocha and caramel. Balanced with a warm, clean medium dry finish and a hint of oak. The ideal Christmas pudding wine.

Quartz Reef, Methode Traditionnelle 2006, Central Otago, NZ, The Cellar Door Pty Ltd, $52 Persistent bubbles, straw yellow with golden hues. Complex with toast, bread, yeast, biscuits, red apples, nougat and honey. Rich and complex yet balanced and refreshing. Perfect for aperitif and crudités.

Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvee 2005, Australia, Monopole Pte Ltd, $61 Medium gold with a fine mousse. Rich nose of red apples, Chinese pear, green apple and hazelnuts. Good palate weight. Quite complex and refined. Ideal wine for tim sum or as a party welcome drink.

Philipponnat Millesime Sec Sublime Reserve 2000, Champagne, France, Indoguna Singapore Pte Ltd, $115 Dark gold. Good mousse and aromas of shitake mushrooms, forest floor, with straw, minerals and pears.  Round and smooth on palate, good acidity and mild sweetness, balanced with a long clean finish

De Bortoli ‘Old Boys’ Tawny Port, Australia $78, Crystal Wines Retail Australia’s top sweet white wine producer excels again with this port-style wine. Dark with an orange rim, this wine has aromas of nutmeg, mint, caramel, spice, milk chocolate leather and spice.  Palate –wise, this is abig voluminous concentrated wine with well-integrated and refreshing acids and good length.

Kaesler Touriga Nacional NV ‘Port-style’Australia, $43, Straits Wine Company Outlets Opaque crimson with vibrant pink rim. Woody, with black brambly fruit, rose petals, prune jam, raisins and bitter-sweet cherries. Medium bodied with uplifted tannins and warm long finish.  Lighter style fortified wine from the Barossa straddling the styles of a big dry red wine and a vintage-port.

Valdespino Jerez-Xérès-Sherry Pedro Ximenez El Candado (NV) Spain $53, Straits Wine Company Outlets 13th Century, Spanish knight, Alonso Valdespino, did well with the land given by the king. Today, this bodega is acknowledged as the oldest sherry house in Spain. Offerings range from Fino to this decadant ‘PX’ that is deep mahogany in colour, brimming over with flavours of rum and raisin, coffee and chocolate, sultanas, soy, pecan pie, molasses and nuts. Good acidity to balance and delicious finish.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne NV, France $118 Isetan, Meidiya, Carrefour The revived ‘Champagne Charlie’ of NY high society. It’s light gold with a toasty, almost oaky-nutty nose. Medium bodied, concentrated, intense and oxidative characters and layers of flavours including walnuts, minerals and baked apple. Dry with excellent acid backbone/texture and medium length. Complete.

Perrier-Jouët ‘Belle Epoque’ Champagne 2002, France, $330 Le Rouge Together with the rosé and Blancs de Blancs this Brut style wine is the house’s flagship. Subtle nose of biscuits, citrus fruits, pear, apple and minerals. Subtle hints of pineapple, grapefruit and lime.  Fine mousse, elegant, soft, light texture yet with a good structure, balance and finesse – the essence of a true Prestige cuvée. Long finished and memorable.

Henriot, ‘Cuvee des Enchanteleurs’ 1996, France $ 299, Booze Wine Shop Raffles Place, Booze Wine Shop Jalan Besar, Taste Fine Wine Merchant Aromas of burnt butter, Brazil nut and caramel lead into floral scents of Hibiscus and Peonies. Aromas of evolution – mushrooms, earth are evident and are supported by savoury flavours including mocha and toast. Yet the wine finish is dry and long, thanks to some citrus flavours and a good acid backbone. A Prestige cuvée that is ready for enjoyment.

Joseph Perrier ‘Cuvée Josephine’ 2002, France $320, Oaks Cellars, Bacchus, The Momba Wineshop Cuvée Josephine, named for the owner’s daughter is exactly that – Golden colour, discreet bubbles but with delightful aromas of toast, biscuits and fruit. It is also well structured and with a good balance, and with the lingering taste of minerals.

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt, Majorat Brut Riesling 2007, Germany $70, Wein & Vin Light yellow. Aromas of peach, lemongrass, lemon, honey and mint with a hint of biscuits and petroleum. High acidity, low volume. Makes this a serious wine style. Delicious though. The wine came to being when the Von Kesselstatt family purchased disused monasteries, complete with vineyards in the 19th Century.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Spain Made from Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes grown in the renowned Alt Penedès region this blend of reserve and non-vintage wines, is clean and delicate, yet rich in flavour. It has a pale green tinge and citrus aromas are lifted. Light bodied and steely dry with green apples, Lemongrass, mint, and grapefruits. Clean tidy finish.

Rene Bezemer, Ninth Island sparkling wine 2003 Australia $63 The Butcher, Le Vigne Wines, World of Wines One of Tasmania’s and Australia’s best sparkling wines shows well here with a watery pale yellow colour and a green hue. There’s lemon curd and toasty characters as well as marzipan, pear, peach and pineapple – deeming it very attractive. A lively mid palate freshness and concentration with a mid-length finish completes this wine

Schramsberg Vineyards, Blanc de Blanc Calistoga  2006, USA, Morton’s of Chicago, Krish the Restaurant, The Standish A truly complex wine with a gold highlights and complex nose of lemon-lime, bread and autolysis characters.  Good bead, velvety texture, and a minerally, tangy finish. For an even more complex version, indistinguishable from Champagne, try the J Schram Methode Traditionelle 2001, available only via private on line retail.

Ca’del Bosco Cuvee Prestige NV Italy, $84, Crystal Wines Pte Ltd
Pale golden yellow. Slight medicinal, almost herbal notes with bread and toasty notes. Very dry palate with abundant bubbles, soft texture, medium length with flavours of lime on the finish. A food wine.

Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner 2007, Indoguna Singapore
Schloss Gobelsburg is a historic winery, owned by a Cistercian monastery with vineyards in the Kamptal region of Austria. Peach, pear nose giving way to some earth and lightly fried pork with herbs. Full, ripe, round, herbal, floral, with tingling spice. Long and very good.

Domaine de Roches Neuves, Saumur Blanc l’Insolite,  2007, Alfa International Pte Ltd
Bordelaise Thierry Germain moved to the Loire to make wine. This barrel fermented Chenin Blanc from 75 year-old vines. Refined nose of ripe Chanticleer pears, apples, peach peel and some baked fruit. On the palate it is rounded with a hint of sweetness; finishes long.

Quinta Do Zambujeiro, Terra Do Zambujeiro 2004, VINHO! Pte Ltd
From Portugal’s Alentejo region; this quinta was purchased by a Swiss wine lover in 1998.  Look out also for the flagship Zambujeiro wine. Nose of ripe raspberry, violets, caramel, toffee, vanilla and some white pepper. Med-full, ripe, dry entry, good balance, supple tannins. One of the most exciting wine finds.

Montes Purple Angel 2006, Crystal Wines Pte Ltd
After creating creating super-premium Chilean wine, the Montes Alpha M (Cabernet blend), Aurelio Montes turned to making a super-premium Carmenère. Dense opaque, dark red in colour,  juicy with plums, blackcurrants,  toasty oak, coffee, spice, with a hint of vanilla.  Full bodied, big, chunky tannins and long finish. Outstanding.

Catena Zapata, Alta Malbec 2005, Pinnacle Wines & Spirits Pte Ltd
Catena Zapata (although not officially), is referred by wine cognoscenti as Argentina’s Grand Cru estate. Nose of sweet, ripe red fruit with black berries and violets.  Flavours of blue berries, black berries, with supple fine-grained tannins. Impressive.


Chateau Armens 2004, Wines2u
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend. Juicy red fruit with black cherries and backcurrants. Also some apple peel and hint of meat, cedar and spice. Pepper and fruit flavours, chewy tannins, dry spicy long finish.

Andre Lurton ‘L De La Louviere’ 2006 , Top Wines
Producer that owns 11 chateaux in Bodeaux and consult-build wineries in France, the Americas and Spain.Cigarbox, herbs, freshly crushed red fruit, mocha and a touch of capsicum, licorice and orange. Sweet entry, elegant structure balance and long finish.

Chateau de Pez 2007, Grand Vin Pte Ltd
Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel; one of nine at the top of the tree of classified Cru Bourgeois wines. Dense red fruit, spice, graphite, sandalwood, cedar, black currant and overtones of licorice and black cherries. Medium acidity, finely grained tannins, ripe long finish, not too intense but with finesse.
Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2005, Cellarmaster Wines (S) Pte Ltd
Top producer’s blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc – named after a cabinet member of the union of South Africa. Cedar, spice cinnamon, juicy with some capsicum on the palate. Solid fruit, some woodiness dry, ripe finish, spicy length. Long and excellent value.

Ashridge Cabernet Merlot, Rubicon Reserve Wines Pte Ltd
From New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay.
Spicy red fruits on the nose, Chinese herbs, also thyme and cassis. Bright clean, silky texture, medium acidity, balanced, some oak but longish finish.

Tenuta di Trinoro, Le Cupole 2006 Vermilion Wines and Spirits
With a South Carolina textile fortune, Andrea Franchetti set about producing just one wine using grapes from an isolated vineyard located between Tuscany and  Umbria.Dark red fruit, savoury, mushrooms and dried longans add to the complexity. Light style cabernet, fresh, bright, understated with good length.

Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia, Le Serre Nuove 2006, Beam Global Asia Pte Ltd
Second wine of Ornellaia Supertuscan estate. Dark red, New World! Robust nose – mocha and coffee; chocolate, mixed with herbs. Palate – classic cab, blackcurrant, slight peppery spicy note, good fruit core, concentrated and hint of bitterness with grippy tannins, still youthful.

Parker Coonawarra Estate 2001 Hermitage Wines
South Australian Cabernet-Merlot blend from Australia’s branded 1st Growth producer.Dense and almost black at rim. Blackcurrant, blueberry, apple and hint of eucalyptus- leather. Concetrated fruit focused, Chinese medicine and mint. Long finished.

Chapman Grove Atticus 2005, Rubicon Reserve Wines Pte Ltd
From Margaret River of Western Australia. Young. Very extracted, malty  with black cherries and cassis plum cigar box, juicy entry, med+acidity, very juicy fruit core with med tannins that tighten the finish. Medium length. Good!
Champagne Moutard, Cuvee Des 6 Cepages, 2003, Wines2u
Ancient varieties such as Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc in the blend make this wine unique. Interesting with freshly baked bread, hints of sour raspberry, over ripe apples and honeyed notes on palate. Assertive initial entry, lots of character – unique wine appealing to some.

Veuve Fourny, Reserve Brut 1er Cru NV, The Oaks Cellars Pte Ltd
Organic grapes and low dosages preserve terroir here.Fine mousse, lemon zest, med-bodied, with pear, lemon curd and a touch of honey. Lean citrus style and priced as a party drink.

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2008, The Cellar Door
One of New Zealand’s Chardonnay specialists. Toasty nose with oak, vanilla.  Also limes, lemongrass, grapefruit, verbena. Good finish and fruit extraction.

Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2006, Certain Cellars Pte Ltd
Beringer’s reputation is that of good value Californian wine. Developed aromas, oak, vanilla, pineapple and coconut. Good weight and opulent. Bittersweet finish.
Special mention

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2006, Singapore Straits Wine Co.
A premier wine estate of the Margaret River.Vanilla milk, lemon, lemongrass grapefruit. Excellent fruit concentration, tasty and long.

Domaine de la Janasse  Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge 2006, Vermilion Wines and Spirits
Rising star estate in the South Rhone, led by Christophe Sabon. Dense, rich nose with licorice, black fruit, good structure.

Ca’ Marcanda Promis IGT 2007, Pinnacle Wines & Spirits Pte Ltd
Angelo Gaja’s foray into Tuscany. Lively, lifted spicy armoas and some cedar wood. Also chocolate, mocha with hint of leather.  Warm, good texture and finish.

Nino Negri, Sfursat Valtellina DOCG 2002, Intervino Singapore
Lombardy wine  made from Chiavennasca, the local designation for Nebbiolo. Big structured wine with black cherries, prunes and leather. Baked earthy flavours, all fairly complex.  Medium length finish.

Pio Cesare, Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2006, Excaliber Trading (s) Pte Ltd
Cesare Pio in 1881 set up the winery. Today, the ethos remains – minimal intervention. Indian spices on nose, allied with cherry and strawberry. On palate –  cherries, tar, mushrooms, leather and earth. Dry, ripe, fruit, fluid and long finished.

Schramsberg Brut Rose 2006, Straits Cellars Pte Ltd
Highly regarded sparkling wine producer of California. Pretty, pretty pale. Lovely nose of creamy strawberry and rosemary – delicious and fresh with pepper nuances. Delicate bead. Creamy, toasty with lovely freshness. Elegant

G.H. Mumm Rose N.V, Pernod Ricard
Mumm was founded in 1827, and famous for its Cordon Rouge.Pale salmon pink with watery rim. Restrained nose of grapefruits, lemon confit, marmalade, with some toasty notes. Creamy, delicous bread. More breath than others – balanced.

Rose Champagne, Perrier-Jouet Blason Rose N.V, Pernod Ricard
The famous producer of high end Champagne. Lovely delicate toasty, creamy strawberry nose – very restrained but fresh – lemon grass and mineral on the finish. Soft attack, volume and good balance.

Louis Jadot, Bourgogne Couvent Des Jacobins 2007 $50 Pinnacle Wines & Spirits Pte Ltd
Highly regarded négociant company that also operates vineyards. Pale with green tinge. Restrained closed nose with some peach, lemon mineral oil, pear and toastiness  Tight, good oak treatment – youthful,  refined and lengthy.

Patrick Piuze, Chablis Terroirs De Fleys  2008 , $58.85 Artisan Cellars Pte Ltd
Second vintage of a Canadian making wine in France producer.
Tropical on nose with grapefruit, pear, pineapple and herbs. Racy acidity with good concentration.

Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2005, $285.60 , Beam Global Asia Pte Ltd
From one of a few highly-respected négociant-éléveurs of Burgundy. Quite restrained nose with stone fruit and a little vanilla, toast, apricot, yellow peach honey and caramel.  Broad textured and quite ripe style.

Mischief and Mayhem, Puligny Montrachet 2006, Singapore Straits Wine Co.
Two friends, one from England, another with wine interests in Australia decided to move to Burgundy to become wine brokers. Fresh smoke, toast, apricots, pineapple, minerals, toast and cream. Voluminous, full- bodied style with abundant new oak treatment to give structure – a keeper.

De Loach Russian River Zinfandel 2006, Top Wines
Pinot producer of Russian River, Sonoma’s version of Zinfandel. Complex nose with herbs, black fruit, but still fresh with slightly firm tannins.

Gianfranco Fino Primitivo di Manduria ‘ES’ 2005, Intervino Singapore
One of a new breed  of  ‘garagiste’ producers buying old vine vineyards in Puglia and making award winning wines. Blueberry, blackberry, coffee and lots of fragrant aromas. Medium  bodied, powerful structure and tannins, heaps of fruit and complementary acid. Racy and elegant wine.

Bodegas Roda Reserva 2004, Alfa International Pte Ltd
Rising star in the sub-zone of Rioja Alta. Tempranillo. Baked berries, strawberries, cinnamon and pepper on the nose. Smooth tannins, round and medium bodied, with some oak and a hint of orange with a slight alcoholic edge.

Mas Perinet,  2004, CT Venture
From a vineyard in the Priorat region, this wine is a blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet and Merlot.
Dark cherry notes, slightly earthy Juicy with cherry flavours, medium bodied, some tannin, medium length.

Tandem, Ars Memoria 2005, CT Venture
Relatively new player in the Navarra region. Tempranillo. Complex nose, with pronounced aromas of black cherry, strawberry and raspberry. Overtones of  caramel/toffee and vanilla, some earthiness. Dry with good tannins

Geografico, Montegiachi Riserva 2004, Hermitage Wines
Cooperative winery at Gaiole in Chianti, of Chianti Classico. Founded in 1961 by 17 growers. Black cherry aromas including pepper, herbs and raspberry jam. Chalky tannins and good oak integration. Balanced with some tannins and finishes with a touch of acidity. Needs time.

IL Molino di Grace, Chianti Classico DOCG 2004, Top Wines
Shows what can be achieved by putting together an American entrepreneur a German banker and  an eminent oenologist in traditional Chianti Classico.Perfume of dried herbs, mint, blackberry and chocolate.  Tannic, toasty and quite dry but with good acidity and length.

Testamatta, Grilli del Testamatta IGT Toscana Rosso 2006, Beam Global Asia Pte Ltd
Italian/Norwegian artist Bibi Graetz is an upcoming star producer. Black cherry, strawberry, candy, nutmeg, spice and some mocha hints on nose. With chocolate and underlying herbaceous tones. Sweet but with astringent tannins and with a lengthy finish.

Petrolo, Torrione 2006, Beam Global Asia Pte Ltd
Famous olive oil producer also makes two admired wines – the Merlot based Galatrona and the Torrione (Sangiovese).Dense, closed nose but then opens up to bright cherry notes with blackfruit nose. Firm yet ripe tannins. Plum, raspberry jam, mint and coffee flavours. Big body, and needs time.

Frescobaldi, Montesodi Chianti Rufina  2004, Giorgio Ferrari Pte Ltd
The prominent Florentine family that has been involved in the political, sociological and economic history of the region.Fragrant, floral, spicy, and ripe fruit nose – very inviting and complex. Tastes savoury and firm but enticing with layers of blueberry jam, plum, mint, leather, rose and more. Sticky tannins and long.

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino 2004, Singapore Straits Wine Co.
Small estate in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, a village outside Montalcino. Charming with black cherries, orange, mint, dried herbs and some earth. Strong tannic attack, rich, layered and good balance. Lots of amplitude and opulence.

Henri Bourgeois, Pouilly Fume, La Demoiselle 2007, Pinnacle Wines & Spirits Pte Ltd
Tenth generation Loire producer whose passion for Sauvignon even led to establishing a vineyard in New Zealand.Tropical fruit and passionfruit aromas and flavours.  The palate opens with herbs and fruits and then finishes with fresh acidity.  Delicious.

Errázuriz, Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Beam Global Asia Pte Ltd
Viña  Errázuriz is the benchmark for  quality wines of Chile. Lovely nose of apples, white fruits, flowers and grass. Flavours of herbs, melons and tropical fruits complete the taste experience.  Finishes with some grapefruit lemongrass and a hint of bitterness.

TMV, Theta, Syrah 2003, Rubicon Reserve Wines Pte Ltd
Tulbagh Mountain vineyards (TMV)  is a rising star winery in the Swartland,  South Africa. Concentrated licorice and black fruits with meaty, savoury elements on nose. Vanilla and cherry tones in the mouth, bigger architecture, layered with a touch greenness but nice and pleasant, with a sweet balance. Lingering.

Mount Langi Ghiran, Cliff Edge Shiraz 2004, Top Wines
A Shiraz specialist from the Grampians, South Australia. Concentrated but closed with some black fruits and hint of bubblegum. Very attractive. Tight, delicious fruit and balance; a wine that will evolve well.

Brokenwood Hunter Valley Shiraz 2007, Hermitage Wines
Hobby winery in the Hunter Valley.Very attractive nose, quite complex with savoury oak notes and ripe crushed black fruit. Med-bodied palate – beautifully balanced, lean rather than lush, and ultimately elegant.

Solinero IGT Sicilia 2004, Intervino Singapore
From Tenute Rapitalà, Sicily comes this international (as opposed to indigeneous grape) varietal.Very fragrant and lifted notes on nose – very enticing and quite complex. Fresh, juicy, chewy, palate – lots of fruit, especially sour cherries. Tangy acidity and abundant fine tannins. Long finished.

Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2005, Foster’s Asia
In contrast to the flagship Grange, this wine is made for early appreciation thanks to its supple tannins from old oak vat ageing. Opaque with dense inky middle.  Concentrated mulberry and licorice nose.  Baked fruits. Big, alcoholic, opulent sweet, warm, buttery and smooth.

E.Guigal Cote Rotie Brune Et Blonde 2005, Grand Vin Pte Ltd
One of Rhone’s most respected producer’s mid priced wines.Pepper and spice, especially white pepper. Flavours of dark chocolate and Asian spices.   Firm structure with power yet delicious ripe fruit and lift at the end. Medium length.

Di Majo Norante, Moscato  Apianae  2006, Intervino
Premier producer of Italy’s Molise region lying next to the Adriatic Sea. Moscato.Golden-yellow, slight mint, florals, grapes, orange peel, sage, fresh acidity, long finished.

Chateau Du Juge, 2005, Wines 2 U
Bordeaux Cadillac region; Semillon based.Dark gold. Sweet honeyed, caramel. Nutty peach, apricot and bitter-orange liqueur with some spice. Biscuity, fluid, framed by excellent acidity.

Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Gold Cap 2004, Just Palate Pte Ltd
One of Germany’s best producers. Gold Cap signifies even higher quality. Riesling.Floral, oily, lemon-lime peel notes, honey on swirling. Light, ripe, sweet, oily, med acidity, floral, honeyed, ripe, with hint of petroleum from ageing. Tropical fruit, apples and a long finish.

Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir 2007, Auric Pacific Marketing Pte Ltd
Ocio is the Chilean producers icon wine. Opulent nose of black cherry, lemon zest, blueberry jam, sligltly underripe tannins, lively acidity.

De Loach O.F.S Pinot Noir 2006, Top Wines
O.F.S. (Our Finest Selection) is the offering from the Sonoma – Russian River vineyards of this well known producer. Refined and elegant aromas. Juicy with good oak, strawberry, rose, cherry flavours. Velvety tannins and rich style.

Smith Woodhouse, Late Bottled Vintage, 1995
Highly respected houses’ LBV is intended to provide the pleasure of Vintage Port but without the need for lengthy bottle aging. Deep, dark garnet/crimson. Raisined fruit aromas with well integrated spiritous nose.  Rich, warm, tannic.

Ramos Pinto Porto – Quinta da Ervamoira 10 years
Single quinta port from the winery’s experimental vineyard. Ramos Pinto wines  are highly regarded in South America.Dried fruits, with spiritous port and oak characters and good acidity to balance abundant sweetness , slightly oily texture, smoky, long finish.

Bouchard Père & Fils 1er cru du Château 2007, Taste Fine Wine Merchants
A famous négociant and producer, now owned by the Henroit Champagne house. Smoky, toasty with plum, and ripe red fruit. Coffee notes, nuances of leather and earth, soft entry, balanced and silky with a long finish.

Château Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2005, Beam Global Asia Pte Ltd
Another famous négociant and producer whose white Corton Charlemagne is much admired. A little closed but with sweet ripe cherries straberries and cedar notes. Elegant with good structure and power, textured, balanced with strong alcohol on finish. Long.

Bassermann Jordan, Auf Der Mauer Riesling, 2008, Magma Trade and Consult Pte Ltd
Medium-large winery in the Pfalz, Germany, Floral with aromas of apple and lemon. Entry is dry with a chalky light bitter finish. Bright and lively.

Malat, Riesling Das Beste Von Grosse Reserve 2007, CT Venture
Austrian producer of repute – wines are served at state banquets. Wonderfully developed nose, exuberant with pineapple and candied fruit. Savoury taste, medium bodied and good length.

High End Cabernet Sauvignons from Around the World

Tasting Room in Cape Mentelle

If you’re a Cab Sav fan, one highlight on your calendar must surely be The Cape Mentelle biannual International Cabernet Tasting.This event is one of the wine world’s benchmark events for Cabernet. Established in 1982, it showcases selected Cabernets from around the world. It being based in the Western Australian wine country also means that local stars, some established, others rising, each unique and exhibiting a different terroir, also get a chance to be featured.

Another tasting, which excites Cabernet fans is the Berlin Tasting. This tasting began in 2004 when Chilean producers organised a tasting involving wine journalists, writers and buyers in Berlin. Blind tasted were sixteen wines – six Chilean, six French and four Italian. A smaller version was conducted in Singapore recently. My notes are found beneath.


Cape Mentelle International Cabernet Tasting

Here are the notes of the wines from the 2007 vintage. Some of the wines were retasted in Singapore in 2011, showing the development of the wines, 8 months hence.

The 2007 Vintage, tasted in Australia and Singapore

A: Notes taken at the Australian tasting, late 2010

S: Notes taken at the Singapore tasting, mid 2011


Chateau Pichon Baron Longueville Baron, Pauillac, Bordeaux, FR

A: Toasty aromas with flavours of chocolate and leather. Good structure, lightly tangy with a medium long finish.

S: Earthy and coffee aromas with smoky overtones. Flavours of cherries, plums, dry powdery tannins and with a medium long finish.


*Suckfizzle, Margaret River, AU

A: Aromas of red berries, currant and spice box with a hint of capsicum. Mix of flavours including Chinese herbs, dried herbs and red fruit. Sticky tannins.
S: An interesting nose of camphor, Chinese bitter herbs with nuances of red and green peppers. Sweet medium bodied with graphite flavours. Fine tannins and medium long finish.


Petaluma, Coonawarra, AU

A: Intense note of red fruit, tea leaves, cherries and sweet caramel. Broad and savoury in the mouth with mineral nuances leading up to a medium dry finish.
S: This wine had closed up and was quite reserved with a nose of oak, red fruit and Ribena. A sweet mid palate with a tangy finish.


Chateau Margaux, Margaux, Bordeaux, FR
A: Well-integrated fruit and wood – with peach, violets, roasted hazelnuts, to1ast and spice. Fine all round with acids, tannins and aftertaste. Slightly dusty tannins and medium bodied.
S: A nice mix of red fruits, smoke and ham. Fine tannins and round warm and savoury finish.


Moss Wood, Margaret River, AU

A: Nose of toasted almonds, nougat, chocolate milk and plum liquor. Savoury minerally taste, rich yet fine tannins and with a long finish. Stylish.
S: Plush presentation with a melange of toffee, cough syrup, cherries, cranberries, good tannins and a warm finish.


Far Niente, Napa, USA

A: Mulberry, mixed fruits, succulent mid-palate, medium body, light sweet bright fruit, dried herbs. Sprightly, medium-length with a floral aftertaste. Feminine.
S: Brimming with red fruits. The wine quite bold with a sweet core. Fine tannins, round in the mouth with a long finish.


*Chateau Cos’ d’Estournel, St. Estephe, Bordeaux, FR

A: Layered with a melange of vanilla, cedar, toast, caramel, mixed red and black fruits and minerals. Different in character from the rest.
S: A very unique wine. Stood out for its distinct aromas of smoke, Chinese herbs that mingled with that of air-dried ham and bitter chocolate. Broad in the mouth, yet with a light dry bittersweet finish.


*Cape Mentelle, Margaret River, AU
A: Juicy crushed red and black fruits. Sour plums, and some soy nuances. Medium-bodied with fine tannins, tangy acids and a tasty finish. Memorable.
S: An intense nose of spice, a mix of red and black fruits, bramble and herbs. Firm with good acids and a long finish.


Araujo Estate, Eisele Vineyard, Napa, USA
A: Caramel and sweet fruit – plums, mulberries, bitter-sweet dark spices, mocha, mint gum, butter and a clean finish.
S: Closed but had a pronounced black cherry, mocha and milk chocolate flavours with sticky tannins.


Chateau Leoville Las Cases, St. Julien, Bordeaux, FR
A: Toasty, earthy and spicy. Rich, dark fruit with ginger and humus, caramel and toffee. Complex with a big finish.
S: Barley and fruit cake nose with a hint of leather. Elegant liquorice finish.


*Houghton Gladstones, Margaret River, AU
A: Intense with oregano, eucalyptus, capsicum and coffee. Mouth-filling with flavours of tobacco, fruit and bay leaf. Clean finish. Polished.

S: A perfumed nose with camphor, sour plums and mandarin peel. Finer tannins with a sweet and flavoursome finish.


Ornellaia, Tuscany, IT
A: Tight knit with ripe black fruits and spice, some straw. Dry chunky tannins, powdery tannins, big, bold and impressive.
S: Intense with jammy fruit, earth and herbs. Well-integrated flavours, a dry finish (the signature of this wine) solicited divided opinions. Some judges absolutely loved this wine.


Newton Unfiltered, Napa, USA
A: Subtle mix of plums and red fruits; mint and milk chocolates with hay. Good structure and length. The wine is the result of the Spring Mountain high altitude and cool climate viticulture terroir, and an outstanding vintage.
S: Hint of dried leaf with the taste of small red fruit, blueberries and a hint of cherry-cough syrup. A pleasant sweet aftertaste.


Leeuwin Estate, Art Series, Margaret River, AU
A: Melange of orange peel and pencil shavings and red fruit. Good lively acids, silky tannins, medium long finish.

S: Eucalyptus and ginseng, citrus plum and small red fruits – quite memorable.


Vasse Felix ‘Heytesbury’, Margaret River, AU
A: Flourish of red peppers, plums and ripe fruit. Good balance, medium length warm finish, fine tannins. Intense and complete. A judicious blend containing some Malbec and Petit Verdot.
S: Red and black fruits, rich sweet mid palate with a hint of leaf. Sticky tannins with a hint of smoke.



Tasted in Australia only

Craggy Range, NZ

Nuances of currants, plums, bright fruit aromas with chocolate overtones. Textured and round in the mouth, lightly sweet finish.


Houghton Jack Mann, Frankland River, AU
Small sweet red and black fruits, pomegranate, lively in the mouth with barley overtones and long finished. Fruit is from 35 year-old vines, and the wine is made in honour of one of the founding fathers of wine in Western Australia.


Fraser Gallop, Margaret River, AU
Complex with a mix offruits, red berries, raspberries, blackcurrants. Juicy, tight mid-palate with excellent balance from tangy acids. Herbs, minerals and red fruits on the finish. Outstanding.


Balnaves The Tally, Coonawarra, AU
Floral with rosemary, brambles and sweet dark fruit. Dense, with flavours of chocolate, mint and blackcurrants. Textured with velvety tannins. A serious wine.


Woodlands ‘Nicolas’, Margaret River, AU
Currants with leather, forest fruits and grilled peppers. Layered with fine tannins and an elegant finish. Fragrant and seamless.


Berlin Tasting, held in Singapore 2010

Château Haut Brion 2006 – Mixed red and black fruits with a hint of old wood and olives and animal notes. Dry tannins, good follow through, elegant.

Vinẽdo Chadwick 2004 – Mixed forest fruits, sour plums, earthy, with caramel overtones. Medium dry tannins, warm and long finish.

Errázuriz Don Maximiano 2006 – Blackcurrants, ripe capsicum, sweet dark fruit and chocolate. Flavoursome, mouthfilling with mixed fruit and sweet plums. Moderate tannins. 

Château Latour 2006 – Crushed blackberries, plums, vanilla, elegant mid-palate and long finish. 

Vinẽdo Chadwick 2006 – Forward nose with Ribena and blackcurrants. Medium bodied, balanced, soft and silky. Light saline notes, with a sweet fruity finish. For enjoyment now

Ornellaia 2006 – Subtle nose, with cashews, barley, and a hint of soy. Velvety texture, slightly chewy tannins, broad in the mouth with a luxurious long finish. For long maturation.

Vinẽdo Chadwick 2007 – Red fruits with a hint of capsicum and brown leaf. Firm sticky tannins, good tasty acids, slightly bitter with a medium length finish

 Errázuriz Don Maximiano 2007 – Red berries, Ribena, camphor, spice, cherryade, currants and lolly. Flavoursome with sweet bright fruit, firm tannins and uplifted acidity. Drinking well now. 

Opus One 2006 – Mixed red fruits, cherries, quite understated with nuances of mint and wood. Dry and slightly powdery tannins. Medium long.

Château Margaux 2006 – Red fruits, tobacco and smoke. Good entry and finish, with lingering flavour of bittersweet small fruits. Needs time.


Burgundy 2008 Vintage Report

When you cradle a bottle of wine, you’re holding a moment suspended in time. Drink a wine from a particular year or vintage, and you’re traveling back to that place and time the wine was grown, harvested and bottled.


But what determines the quality of what’s in the bottle? What makes a particular vintage stellar and another just average?


Weather for the most part. Good weather produces good harvests of healthy grapes – the ideal being a long cool growing season where sufficient sun enables the acids and fruit flavours in the grape to develop in a harmonious way.


In contrast, rain prior to harvest tends to dilute the flavour of the fruit. Frost, hail and pests destroy fruit resulting in rotten grapes and ultimately less than decent wine.



Weather and growing conditions

In 2008, one of the world’s famous wine producing regions, acclaimed for some of the world’s most expensive wines and acknowledged as the most terroir-conscious of French wine regions had to face the wrath of Mother Nature.


Spring came off with a good start. It was warm and by mid May, vines were producing leaves. Summer in Burgundy was nothing short of disastrous. The flowering period was cold and rainy. Grapes are formed when the flowers on the grapevine are fertilized. But because of the unfavorable weather, many grapes failed to develop. What resulted was coulure (loose bunches of grapes), and millerandage (uneven berry sizes) – bunches of grapes of which more than half of the grapes are undeveloped green hard small berries.


Wet weather during ripening compounded things further – mildew and rot became a concern. Then came some hail. Hail can shred leaves and also break open berries. One could imagine growers wringing their hands in woe.


Luckily, things turned around in September, when the sun came out during the last phase of the ripening season. A wind from the North also helped dry the crops and by harvest, things were looking up. And with good weather all the way through, the vintage was saved. If vignerons ended up with fewer and smaller grapes, the resulting juice turned out to be quite concentrated. At the end, wines, from the basic Bourgogne right up to the Grand Cru turned out to be quite elegant, with good acids (thanks to the cool temperatures throughout the year) and considerable elegance. Reds were pure whilst whites were delicious.


The 2008 is turning out quite well indeed

It’s true what they say about ‘what makes the news’ – that bad news sells good press. Burgundy’s 2008 vintage struggles with the weather certainly were no exception.


Many a Burgundy aficionado decided to write off the 2008 vintage. I was not an exception.


All that changed only recently when I visited Burgundy. Thanks to a well-connected restaurateur friend, I got to meet three of Burgundy’s most eminent producers. What I tasted were the 2008 wines, mostly red, still being nurtured in the barrel. Though not a bountiful vintage, I am happy to report that the best producers are turning out excellent wines. All the red wines show a vibrancy of fruit, good balance and lovely expression.


How can that be?


Growing conditions of grapes are not the only influence on the finished wine. Discriminating growers can still salvage the pickings of a crop. At harvest stage, the most dedicated of producers will select grapes so that only the best grapes are used and the resulting wine could turn out to be a much higher quality than expected. Furthermore, elevage (or the nurturing of wines in the barrel) after the harvest has a lot of influence on how the ultimate wine tastes.


So the next time you uncork a vintage wine, think of what you’ve just unleashed ­ – the bounty of the earth and skies and the inspiration, blood, sweat and tears of the producers who made the wine what it is today.


Here are the notes of some 2008 Grand Cru red wines (in barrel) at Domaine Dujac, Domaine Ponsot and Domaine Romanée-Conti (DRC). They will be sublime in years to come.


Dujac Charmes-Chambertin – Sour cherries, nuances of butter and toast, hugely tannic and impressive. For the long term.


Dujac Echezeaux – Perfumed with florals and mixed red and black fruit; sensual, lively with moderate tannins.


Dujac Clos de la Roche – Spice cabinet and mixed fruits, camphor and more. Sumptous and handsome, with tannins lurking beneath.


Dujac Clos St. Denis – Sweet nose of red and black fruits, silky tannins, chewy tannins and a long warm finish. Sensual.


Dujac Bonne-Mares – Rich and fruity with floral nuances, broad, silky tannins, with an elegant long finish.


Ponsot Griotte-Chambertin – Small red fruit, structured backbone, acidity with lots of delineation. Grip and good finish.


Ponsot Chapelle-Chambertin – Black fruit, broad in the mouth with good tannins and acid, excellent balance, developing flavours of black and red fruits, more pronounced tannins.


Ponsot Clos Vougeot – Perfumed, with blackcurrants, plums, dark fruit and spice. Tannins around the side of the mouth with flavours of black fruit, mocha, herbs and mint. Long finished.


Ponsot Clos St. Denis ‘Tres Vielle Vignes’ – Red and black fruit, herbs, pepper. spice. Flavours of yellow fruit, white fruit, flower petals, mixed spice. Silky tannins and long finish.


Ponsot Clos de la Roche ‘Veille Vignes’– Chinese herbs, mixed fruit, champignon de paris, blackberries and hint of boiled sweets. Warm long finish with bittersweet fruit, tropical fruit cake spice and structured tannins.


DRC Richebourg – Red and black cherries with a little plum; mixed red fruit, flowers and bread; fine tannins, broad in the mouth and beautifully textured but not weighty. Good acidity and finish.


DRC La Tâche – Small stone fruits and spice. Medium structure, supporting lots of sweet but never jammy, ripe fruit. Nuances of vanilla, ripe citrus fruits, stone fruit, and spice. Fine velvety tannins and long.


DRC Romanée-Conti – Perfumed, reminiscent of La Tâche with additional flavours of small red stone fruit and cassis. With the light weightedness of the Richebourg, yet with a solid structure concealed by creamy, silky textured tannins like intricately woven lace. Multi-dimensioned, long finished, feminine and sensuous.





Sorine et Fils, Maranges 1er Cru “Clos Roussot” – Red fruits, light yet present acids, and soft as fleece. Delicious.


Georges Chicotot, Nuits St.-Georges 1er Cru “Les Vaucrains” – Red fruits, white pepper, hint of jam and minerals.


Didier-Montchovet, Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune – Silky soft, full on flavour balanced with a sweet note.


Genot-Boulanger, Pommard 1er Cru, “Clos Blanc” – Red fruits, hint of strawberry, spicy and with tasty acids.


Stephane Brocard, Corton-Renardes, Grand Cru – Intense with lots of layers, spicy and silky with good structure.


Bouchard Aine & Fils, Charmes Chambertin, Grand Cru – Smoky with woody overtones but balanced by fruit; broad in the mouth.


Albert Bichot, Echezeaux, Grand Cru – Perfumed and quite feminine with good structure and a long finish.




Henri de Villamont, Chablis Vaudesir Grand Cru – Lots of fruit and balance, complex and complete.


Joseph Drouhin, Chablis Bougros, Grand Cru – Lots of different aromas mingling together – herbs, flowers, nuts and marmalade, lively.


Louis Latour, Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru – Minerals, almonds, good structure and ample in the mouth


Rous Pere & Fils Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru – Pears, ripe fruit, tasty acids and round.


Seguin Manuel Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru – Mineral oil, balanced, luscious in the mouth and long.


Domaine des Perdrix, Nuits-Saint Georges, Blanc, 1er Cru, “Les Terres Blanches”– Brimming with pear, grapefruit and green apples made for a memorable and unexpected white wine from a mostly red wine appellation.


Denis Bouchacourt, Macon-Solutré – White fruits and florals, beautiful mid palate, complete in every sense with a lovely long finish.


Domaine de la Saraziniere, Bourgogne Aligoté – Floral, round lively with a touch of tangy acid and a finish of peach and pear. Very tasty.


Ninot Rully 1er Cru Gresigny – Scintillating acidity yet elegant with citrus white and yellow fruits, a hint of minerals and nuts with a long finish.


Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay – Nose of white flowers, flavours of white fruits, round and sweet, soft effervescent acids, beautifully presented.

Wine Pioneers of Oregon

Oregon’s Willamette Valley

They say that when grapevines struggle, they produce the best grapes and ultimately, the most intriguing wines. But little did the pioneers of Oregon know that they too, had to strive to produce wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley (WV).

Domaine Serene

Argyle Winery

Meet the Texan, Rollin Soles, complete with hat, handlebar moustache and accent. As the winemaker of Argyle Winery, he’s had his fair share of hardship in his early days and is more than willing to share his stories. Today his wines ranks as Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of the world –no less than eleven times.

Rollin tells of the 1960’s when “it was a hit and miss affair then. Only in some years, did we get ripe grapes. You would think that if grapes got enough heat, just like in California they would ripen. Then we realised that WV, situated at the 45th parallel, we also have the shortest growing season because of the lack of light. Because of this light deficiency, grapevines begin shutting down for the winter really early. It took us awhile to work out that grapes planted on the south or east facing slopes ripened well. Not only that, we found that grapes also struggled to ripen at elevations above 800ft.”

Next came mouldy grapes. “We planted bush vines. In hot climates, un-trellised vines grow like a bush with leaves shielding the vines from the sun. However, in our region, the bush traps moisture and prevents air circulation. We soon wised up though and began trellising our vines so we could ‘open’ the canopy and expose our grapes to the sun, just like in Europe.”

And there’s more. “Our vines were generously spaced out. That is until Domaine Drouhin from Burgundy planted grapes in 1987. We tasted their wines and realised that close spacing of vines matched by lower yields, resulted in higher quality grapes and better wine.”

Finally I taste a product of his labour of love. Rollin pours me a 2007 Argyle Nuthouse Pinot, the culmination of many lessons learnt. The wine was an excellent Pinot, with a lingering taste of mocha, blueberry and wild berries. His white wine – a Riesling was also a delight, with lovely stone-fruit and pear aromas and a silky texture.

Fans of WV wines take note. Whilst the region is already known for its Pinot, it will be soon be admired for other cool climate wines too.

Ken Wright Cellars

In the town of Carlton, I meet another pioneer. Originally from Kentucky, Ken Wright made wine in California before he moved to Oregon in 1986 to start up Panther Creek Cellars. Ken has also the distinction of being known as ‘One of the Founding Fathers of Oregon Winemaking’. After all, he was instrumental in organizing the six new American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) in the Northern Willamette Valley. Each AVA defines in detail, a unique growing area. It wasn’t a surprise that Ken naturally gravitated to the subject of terroir in our conversation. After all, matching wine varieties to climate and soils was something that he had to deal with, through trail and error in his early days. Patiently, he introduced me to the various soils of the WV – basalt/volcanic soils that originated as lava flows; marine sediment from the way the valley was formed; loess or silt carried up by wind from the valley floor; and deposits of silt and sand.

“Consistency of grapes is now the preoccupation of many producers”, says Ken. “We found that if you control your yield, you can hasten ripening – as much as two weeks – and harvest before the rains arrive. Additionally, we want our grapes to experience the long growing season as the WV is an extremely cool area. The extended ‘hangtime’ lets grapes develop of flavour, aroma and texture. If you pick the optimal site, use the right clones and rootstocks and modify your vine spacing and trellis system for each individual vineyard site, you will be able to produce some fine wine.”

I taste two pairs of 2008 Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noirs.

From the Eola Hills AVA with volcanic soils: a Canary Hill Pinot, exposed to morning sun; showed soy, earth and mixed red fruit, vs. a ‘Carter’ Pinot, exposed to afternoon sun; that was savoury and firmer, with lots of dark fruit flavours.

From the Yamhill Carter AVA with sandstone and silt soils: an Abbott Claim Pinot was dark and had aromas of black cherries, plums and was linear and long. The Savoya Pinot (made from Savoya grapes grown at a 50 feet higher elevation than Abbot Claim) was complex with nutmegs, earth and mixed fruit.

Ken is pleased that I can appreciate the terroir differences. He parts with these words, “We may not have the scintillating acids of Burgundy but we do have better acids than most other Pinot Noir producing regions around the world. Moreover, our Pinots have a lush mid palate, vibrant fresh fruit that does not dry out. Best of all, you don’t need to wait to enjoy our Pinots even if they age well.” In the coolness of his tasting room, I drink to that.

Beaux Frères Vineyards & Winery

Next day, I am standing in front of what looks like a huge pile of dirt. To Mike Etzel it’s a two-ton compost heap and the life force of his vines. Already Etzel is scrabbling arm deep in it. He comes up with a handful of warm dark ‘earth’ and invites me to take a sniff. “Better still, stick your head in the hole,” I wonder if he’s serious. “Doesn’t it smell wonderful?” Etzel asks. Hesitantly I take in a big whiff. Certainly, the ‘earth’ has indeed some floral nuances. I run my fingers through the material and Etzel, a biodynamic practitioner, explains that his compost is made from daisies, chamomile and other plants growing in the nearby field. Here’s a man that defies convention, choosing to do things (his soils namely) the hard way.

To Etzel, all compost are not created equal. However labour intensive, he maintains different heaps for different needs. For example, one compost type is destined as a carbon source for long-term slow release in the vineyard whilst another, rich in nitrogen is used to ward off phylloxera. “See how healthy our vines look…. And oh, and you might want to wash before we go to lunch – there’s some humus somewhere in there too as this land was a pig farm previously” remarks Etzel humorously.

Mike Etzel, founded the Beaux Frères, named after himself and his famous brother-in-law Robert Parker Jr. At lunch (after a through hand wash), I compare the 2007 and the 2008 Pinot – both immensely delicious wines. The former had soft tannins, and depth of flavours with hints of chocolate and mixed red-black fruit. The latter was lighter with raspberries and minerals and with structured tannins.

Lunch with the crush crew

Etzel shares with me that each vintage is starkly different at his estate. This is because in producing wine, he believes in minimal intervention in the winery. And in the vineyard, only physiologically (rather than analytically) ripe grapes are harvested each year. As such yields are different each year, every year’s “wine is guaranteed to be the most natural and authentic vineyard expression possible”.

Some Wines Tasted


Tasting grapes at Archery Summit


The WV boasts over 200 wineries. I perhaps visited just a handful of them and found them all exceptional. The Pinot Noir certainly, and the Chardonnay was especially notable. As these producers are starting to make wines from other varietals, it will only be inevitable that wine lovers will soon enjoy some excellent Pinot Blancs, Rieslings and rosé wines from this charming part of the world.

Archery Summit

Premier Cuvée  Pinot 2007 – Bright with cherries, chocolate, jasmine and restrained tannins.

Dundee Hills Pinot 2007 – Intense perfume of red and black fruit. Big structure, layered with a long finish.

Domaine Serene

Etoile Vineyard Chardonnay 07 – Perfumed with florals, white stone fruit, pineapple, pear and almonds. Balanced, medium bodied, with chalk and tangy finish.

Evanstad Reserve Pinot Noir 06 – Plums, florals, ripe pomegranate, depth of flavour with earth cedar, medium tannins dried herbs and a broad smooth finish.

Domaine Drouhin

Arthur Chardonnay 08 – Subtle nose of pear, apple, with flavours of tea and stone fruit. Silky, light citrus finish.

Laurene Pinot Noir 07  – Floral feminine wine with lots of layers, quite different from the concentrated 06 or the masculine 05. Barrel sample.


Beacon Hill Brut Rosé 05 – Pale pink with small red fruits, ginger and spice. Refreshing.

Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot 08 – Intense with red- and dark fruit, cloves, orange peel and vanilla. Good balance, fine tannins, and a clarity of finish.


Pinot Gris 08 – Crisp with green apple and citrus fruit, dry finish.

Citation Pinot Noir 00 – Nuances of leather, animal and with structured but soft tannins, proving Pinots of the region can age well.

Tori Mor

Reserve Pinot Gris 09 – complex and layered with almonds, herbs pear and a lively tail.

“Deux Verres” Reserve  Pinot 08 – Perfumed, structured, long and warm with bright cherry flavours and good concentration.


Elk Cove

Willamette Valley Pinot 08 – Concentrated with currants, cherry and coffee with beautiful texture and adroit balance.

Elk Cove Pinot Blanc 08 – White apricots, flowers and minerals, soft acids, sweet velvety texture and lovely clean finish.

Southern Affair – Italy

My love affair with southern Italy wines started at Vinitaly several years ago. Walking past a stand, I noticed various brands of Primitivos exhibited, all a selection of wines made by the Accademia dei Racemi — a group of winegrowers, agronomists and oenologists whose passion is to promote terroir-based quality wines. Curious to find out more, I stopped to taste them.

Every Primitivo was so remarkably different from the other. Many showed all the qualities of fine wine — complex, good structure, texture and a long finish. Gregory Perrucci, the owner of the Accademia dei Racemi explained, “These wines come from grapes of old vines, hence the complexity and individuality, compounded by the fact that each wine is made from grapevines grown in different microclimates and soils. No two Primitivos will taste the same!”  I was certainly impressed that a single variety, Primitivo, could be expressed in so many ways, just like Nebbiolo or Pinot Noir.


Fast-forward a few years. My Australian wine-school classmate, Lisa Gilbee visited Singapore, and brought with her a couple of bottles made from Morella Primitivo old vines. At first taste, I was stunned by the concentration and quality of the wine.

Lisa and her husband had stumbled upon a patch of old Primitivo vines in the province of Manduria in Puglia, and huge swathes of old vines were being pulled up because they were thought to be too old to produce ‘good wine’ — wine that can be produced in big quantities. But the couple saw something else in  the vines and hurriedly purchased a vineyard. “These were all bush vines,” Lisa gushed. Coming from Australia, she understood that vines growing like bushes, like the rare Australian bush vines that are neither trellised nor irrigated, can stand up to the heat and drought. Although they produce little fruit, the flavours are concentrated. Overnight, Lisa and Gaetano became producers. Their hard work paid off when their wines garnered the Gambero Rosso ‘due bicchieri’ (two glasses) and recently an upgrade to the highest accolade of ‘tre bicchieri’ (three glasses).

Added Lisa, “South Italian climate, soils and indigenous varieties like Primitovo are ingredients for fine wines.  The wines from these southern regions are so good, they have been used to beef up wines in the north and even further afield.  Look south the next time you are in Italy, and you will discover some amazing wines.” With Lisa’s advise in mind, I made my trip to Vinitaly 2010 earlier this year.

First stop was Agricole Pietraventosa. I tasted a Primitivo Allegoria, aged in stainless steel, and the wine was at once floral with clean, bright red fruits, tobacco, smooth tannin, soy and spice with a delicious saline taste. Another wine, Ossimoro (Primitivo with 25 per cent Aglianico), combined the best of two worlds — the sweet dark fruit and floral characteristics of Primitivo and the density and strength of the Aglianico. The Riserva 2006 was most memorable with chocolate, blackcurrants, spice, balance and a long finish. It too showed a characteristic saline edge. The producer explains, “Roots have to push through the rock to get water — hence, the bright fruit and the salinity.”


Next I turned to Campania, famous for a black grape-based red wine Taurasi (denoting the pure varietal Aglianico from around the Taurasi village) and whites such as Greco di Tufo and Falanghina. The first was a soft, nutty yet fresh citrus wine from Cantine Olivella, called Katà. Made from the Catalanesca grape, the white wine was thirst quenching yet not frivolous. Next was a Falanghina. I was already familiar with the Falanghina dei Feudi di San Gregorio — grapes from small vineyards in the Sannio zone, at over 300 m, grown on the sides of volcanoes. The wine style is uniquely crisp, with aromas of green apples. How was the Falanghina from Cantine Astroni going to taste like? Certainly the terroir was similar — grapes grown on the slopes of the Astroni Crater at 200m high. Imagine my surprise when the wine came across as altogether different. It was floral, citrus with hazelnuts. Yet another Falanghina from the boutique La Sibilla winery showed ripe fruit with minerals and smoked herb overtones. Then it dawned upon me: the wines from Astroni and La Sibilla are from the coastal area around Naples, called Campi Flegrei. Falanghina wines can taste distinctively different depending of the vineyard’s location — inland (such as Feudi di San Gregorio’s inland version) or by the sea.

They are ultimately ‘coastal’ wines, made from grapes that enjoy a hot and dry climate and therefore possess a mellower character.


The wines from Basilicata, a small region with a rugged landscape, also impressed. It is the most mountainous region of Southern Italy, where vineyards are found in the centre of the Southern Apennine Mountains, 150 km from the sea on both sides. The best wines come from the volcanic hills to the southeast of the Vulture volcano. Hence many wines sport the name Aglianico del Vulture. The region is windy and  day temperatures in summer can reach 40 ºC , yet dip to a comforting cool in the evenings. Gerardo Giuratrabocchetti of Cantine del Nataio reveals that the radical changes in temperature are ideal for Aglianico — the heat concentrates character whilst the coolness ensures grapes retain acidity. The extreme conditions mean that the grape skins develop good tannins, the backbone of Aglianico’s signature characteristic. Gerardo’s challenge at Cantine del Notaio is to find that perfect balance between flavours and tannins. And he does this by harvesting the same grape at different times. The resulting wines couldn’t taste more different.

L’Atto, made from Aglianico harvested during the second week of October, showed red fruits, fine soft tannins and was  easy drinking. La Firma, made from fruit harvested at the end of October or beginning of November, was medium red, perfumed with spice, plums and had an impressive, long finish. The Il Sigillo, made from grapes harvested at the end of November and left for one month to dry on racks,  was concentrated with ripe dark fruit and hints of coffee, and boasted structured tannins and a fruity tail.

“There’s more to Aglianico, my friend”, said Gerardo with a grin, and presented two versions of La Stipula, a sparkling white and a sparkling rosé wine, both made from early harvested Aglianico. The former was balanced, fresh with fine bubbles whilst the pink wine showed red fruits with a hint of chalk and minerals. No wonder Cantine del Notaio has earned many accolades, not least Robert Parker’s comment, “…one of the finest Aglianicos I have ever tasted.”

I next sought out Elena Fucci, a small family-owned winery. With a mere three hectares currently planted with vines, the Fucci family produces only one wine: the Aglianico del Vulture Titolo. The wine tasted of blackberries and blueberries with some smoke, good acids and minerals and finished long. Quality wines as such this reminded me that small and medium- sized producers are making some truly outstanding Aglianicos in Basilicata.


Last but not least were the wines from Calabria. Here, vineyards are planted within a stone’s throw from the sea and rise steeply into the hills. The major red variety is the indigenous Gaglioppo grape, used to make Ciro Rosso (red) and Ciro Rosé (pink) wines.  There is also Ciro Bianco (white), made from Greco Bianco and a little Trebbiano Toscano. Even from a speed-tasting, the range of Ciro at the Calabria stand left at impression: the Ciro Bianco redolent with aromas of flowers, tropical fruits, melon and pear; the Ciro Rosé bursting with delicious bright red fruit and the Ciro Rosso is a wine worth seeking out for its marvelous fruit, big broad palate and fine tannins. The best examples even show a hint of spice and meat.

Looking back, it had taken two whole days for my ‘virtual visit’ to Italy’s south at Vinitaly. Two days is too short, compared to a lifetime of dedication by Southern Italy’s finest winemakers, to sample just some of the fruits of their labour. And what sweet taste it leaves in the mouth!

Originally Published in Appetite Magazine



When the Greeks settled in Sicily in the 7th century BC, they brought with them vines to the island and the southern parts of Italy. Some studies also point to an earlier period when Spaniards brought vines into Sardinia, Sicily and other places, centuries after the Arabs and Phoenicians planted what many believe to be the first ‘foreign” vines in Italy,
In the northern parts of Italy, the Etruscans (the English name for the people of ancient Italy and Corsica, whom the ancient Romans called Etrusci) also made wine. But whatever the origins of the grapevine in Italy, it was only later in 120BC when the Romans embraced wine and began the systematic cultivation
of vines.
Italy has since remained faithful to her indigenous varietals — varieties such as Greco and Nerello that were planted in Italy hundreds of years ago are still made into wine today. Until recently, most of the Italian wines exported were from the northern regions and middle Italy. Ironically, it was Pierro Antinori, a 26th-generation wine producer who now runs one of the most famous wine companies in the world, who recognized the potential of the south when he visited Puglia in the 1990s. He went on to acquire an estate there, which he thought to have excellent terroir for the varieties of Primitivo, Negroamaro and Aglianico.
Ten years ago on a study visit to Sicily, I found the local variety Nero D’Avola had become synonymous with the island’s offerings alongside Chardonnay and other international varieties. I came across two other rare varieties — Nerello Mascalese blended with Nerello Cappuccio — that I tasted from the Palari winery which impressed me even more.
If Nero d’Avola was all fruity with soft tannins like a Merlot, the blend of Nerellos were like traditionally styled Nebbiolos and Burgundies with finer tannin structure and acidity. Later, at the Benanti winery, I encountered the Nerello blend again and learned that the varietals of Nerello, amongst others, were being saved from extinction thanks to work at Benanti.
On another trip, driving around the foot of Italy, I was surprised to find powerful red wines by the strange name of Aglianico del Vulture. But it was the unforgettable taste of a Vermentino that a friend brought to the dinner table in Singapore that left an indelible taste memory of a wonderful white wine of ancient Italy.

Aglianico Originated in Greece, it was brought to Campania by Greek settlers. It is now found in Basilicata where it is the region’s only DOC wine, Aglianico del Vulture. As the south’s ‘noble’ variety, it makes very age-worthy wine — full bodied with firm tannins and high acidity.

Bombino Bianco Generally produces bland, low-alcohol wines that are used in blends, and sometimes for vermouth. In Abruzzo, it is called Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and when yields are reduced, the wine canbe quite flavoursome with creamy and citrus characters.

Bonarda From Emilia-Romagna, it is the original Croatina black indigenous grape which is also found in Lombardia and Piedmont. Wines made from it are dense and tannic, and it is a good wine or blends.

Catarratto The second most planted single variety in Italy is Sicilian and found in the far western province of Trapani. In the past, it was much used in the production of Marsala. Today, producers are exploring its potential as a blending or single varietal.

Corvina Along with the varietals Rondinella and Molinara, this is the principal grape that goes to making the famous wines of the Valpolicella and Amarone in Veneto.
Falanghina A Latin word for the stake that supports the vine, Falanghina suggests that the grape originated at a point so early in viticultural history, when staking a vine was a new technology. It is a widely grown Campania grape and thrives in mineral-rich volcanic soils, producing wines that have an alluringly savoury taste.
Fiano Believed to be an old Roman variety, rescued from extinction by Antonio and Walter Mastroberardino a few decades ago. They gathered and cultivated cuttings from the few examples and began making wines with a penetrating piney scent and crisp taste.
Greco As its name implies, Greco is of Greek origin. It makes a fairly robust and full-bodied white wine although semi-dried Greco grapes can be turned into sweet wines too. A predominant white in Calabria.
Grecheto Previously ignored in Tuscany but accepted in Umbria as a blending grape. As a single varietal wine, this Greek-origin grape has become famousin Orvieto. Wines are often floral with nutty overtones.
Montepulciano The grape has nothing to do with Montepulciano the Tuscan town. The most famous region for this grape is Abruzzo, where it is made into a fruity, plumy, soft tannin wine.
Negroamaro Grown almost exclusively in Puglia and particularly in Salento, it produces deep coloured rustic wines with an earthy bitterness — hence the namesake ‘amaro’, the Italian word for ‘bitter’.
Nero d’Avola This ‘black grape of Avola’ was, several hundred years ago, a favourite of growers near Avola town in southeast Sicily. Its sweet tannin, cherry-spice flavour enabled it to become the darling grape of Sicily. Production is up by 30 per cent since 2000, placing it among Italy’s top varietals by plantings.
Nero di Troia A very little known indigenous varietal of Puglia often used in blends. Recently, however, producers found that when allowed to ripen, it can be made into a distinctive wine.
Nerello Mascalese Named after the Mascari plain in Catania where the grape is thought to have originated. Thrives in the Etna region of Sicily.
Nerello Cappuccio Like Mascalese, it is found in Sicily and Sardinia. Once a blending grape, it is showing potential as a monovarietal.
Primitivo Studies have determined that Primitivo and Zinfandel share the same DNA. It is now disproven. Puglia’s 85,000 hectares is Italy’s largest ‘vineyard’ of this variety.
Vermentino A late-ripening grape, it is found in French Corsica and Spain. The famous Italian DOCG is the Vermentino di Gallura.


Some wines tasted and rated:

2006 Rivera I Vini Pregiati di Puglia, Rivera Fedora Castel del Monte DOC (Puglia) $38

Made from Bombino Bianco grapes grown in the Castel del Monte DOC zone, extending over the Murgia hills north-west of Bari, with deep sandy and calcareous soil. Vines are about 10 to 15 years old. The white wine is fermented at a controlled temperature of 16–18ºC and then matured in stainless steel vats.

Taste: straw yellow, fresh lemons and hazelnuts, good acidity, pleasant finish. *** stars.


2006 Cantina Janare, Fiano “Colle di Tilio” Sannio DOC (Campania) $48

The Azienda Agricola Janare, located northeast of Naples, is dedicated to producing wines from indigenous varieties such as Aglianico, Greco & Falanghina. Strict yield reduction, technology and modern cellars is the approach taken to ensure quality. The Janare vineyards lie between 200 to 500 metres. Janare’s project is supported by the Agricultural cooperative “Il Guardiense”.

Taste: Floral with passionfruit, minerals, peach, pear, good acidity and elegant finish. *** Stars.


2006 Cantina Janare, Greco “Pietralata” Sannio DOC (Campania) $48

Sannio DOC is a hilly area in the heart of Campania. Sannio refers to the land of the Samnites, the pre-Roman inhabitants of the region. Greco grapes are grown besides the other pre-Roman grapes of Fiano, Aglianico, Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Moscato, Piedirosso, and Sciascinoso.

Taste: Mineral and herbal notes, almonds, and a nice dry acidic finish. **1/2 Stars


2006 Cantina Janare, Falanghina “Senete” Guardiolo DOC (Campania) $48

The relatively small DOC Guardiolo wines are made from the Falanghina grape.

Taste: Hints of pomelo, jasmine, mango and herbs, fuller bodied than the Fiano or Greco, with more texture and a zippy finish. ***1/2 stars


2006 Cantina Gallura, Vermentino di Gallura, DOCG (Sardinia) $58

Vines are planted on 325 hectares of sandy soils over granite that is poor in nutrients and located between 500 and 600 metres above sea level. Summers are long and hot here. The Vermentino grape has always expressed itself best in the Gallura, an area incessantly swept by the fierce winds from the Alps. It is believed that the thin and poor soils with some granite accounts for the wine’s aromas and body. Wines made by Cantina Gallura are matured in the cellar for four to six months prior to release.

Taste: Yellow with golden hues. Aromatic with rose petals, Seville oranges, yellow plums, honey, nougat and stone fruit; generous, balanced and yet fresh with a clean finish. ***1/2 Stars


2005 Re Manfredi ‘Terre Degli Svevi’ Bianco IGT (Basilicata) $48

Basilicata is a region where there is relatively little wine. But within areas with good soil and climate, distinctive wines are made. At Re Manfredi’s Terre Degli Svevi estate, on the slopes of the ancient extinct volcano Vulture, Aglianico red grapes are grown. Muller Thurgau and Traminer have also found a natural habitat on the volcanic soil. This wine is made from a blend of Muller Thurgau and Traminer planted at 400m above sea level.

Taste: Perfumed with kumquats and quince, smoky even, light bodied with a tinge of sweetness and thirst quenching finish. **1/2 stars.


2006 Bigi, Grechetto, IGT, (Umbria) $30

Bigi was founded by Luigi Bigi in 1880, and for some years now, has been part of the Gruppo Italiano Vini empire. Today Bigi is a leading winery in Orvieto, and manages a vineyard area of almost 500 acres. Wines are made by oenologist Francesco Bardi, one of Umbria’s respected winemakers.

Taste: Tomatoes, guava and citrus notes, chicken essence, wolfberries, lively acidity and a savouriness with fresh mineral-like finish. *** Stars.


2006 Vignali Roccamora, Cataratto Bianco Sicilia IGT, (Sicily) $55

The “Vignali Roccamora” estate is situated in Contrada Montoni, at Agrigento, near the south west coast of Sicily. The wine project came about as the result of a collaboration between producers Gian Andrea Tinazzi (from Verona) and Gaetano Alfano (from Agrigento).

Taste: Pale straw yellow in colour, herbaceous with basil, lime and sour plums, pine and peppermint and a sustaining elegant finish. One panelist disliked it. ***


2005 Vignali Roccamora “Cratey’s” Nero Avola Merlot IGT (Sicily) $35

The Cratey’s is a 70% Nero d’Avola with 30% Merlot blend, intended to combine the exuberant bright fruit of Nero d’Avola with the velvety texture of Merlot. This wine is matured for 12 months in American oak.

Taste: Beautiful, warm spicy, red fruit, morello cherries, plums, medium weight with round and plumy finish, solid, yet not overbearing, with good length. ***


2005 Etna Rosso, Feudo Di Mezzo, Etna DOC, (Sicily) $56

Terre Nere is located on Sicily’s Mount Etna, and vineyards are planted with late-ripening indigenous Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio — many of these vines were planted pre-phylloxera. The soils are mostly volcanic ash speckled by black pumice and peppered with abundant volcanic rock. Marco and Iano de Grazia are the proprietors here. The first vintage was in 2002.


The Feudo di Mezzo vines average 80–100 years old. The 1.35-hectare vineyard is terraced, although not as steeply as the Guardiola vineyard. The soil here is a blend of volcanic ash and volcanic sand, quite unusual in this area. Feudi di Mezzo is located at high altitudes, ranging from 650–700 meters above sea level. The wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio.

Taste: Perfumed with cherries, coconut, blueberry and almonds; well-balanced, and with nice acidity and longish finish. ***


2005 Etna Rosso, Guardiola, Etna DOC, (Sicily) $56

The Guardiola is comprised of two vineyards planted to 100 per cent Nerello Mascalese for a total of 2.1 hectares. Vines are 50–150 years old. At 800–900 meters above sea level on the north side of Mount Etna, the Guardiola vineyard is the highest red-wine producing vineyard in all of Europe. Days are hot and tempered by breezes while it gets very cool in the evenings. The vineyard is organically farmed and vinification includes 10–15 days of maceration and 18 months in 25 per cent new French oak barriques.

Taste: Raspberries, vanilla, cherries, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut and multi-layered; well-knitted with a stone fruit-bitter aftertaste. ***1/2


2005 Etna Rosso, Sottana Calderara , Etna DOC, (Sicily) $42

The Calderara Sottana, is from 40- to 50-year-old vines grown at 700m altitude.

The ‘Calderara Sottana,’ made from the indigenous Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. The Calderara vineyards are well exposed, and are not surrounded by hills; the “airiness” helps to protect the vines from mildew and oidium. The grapes are harvested at the end of October (making it the second to last harvest in all of Italy, after Aglianico). Vinification is simple, classic, and Burgundian in technique. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration on the skins lasts between 10 to 15 days; malolactic fermentation and maturation are carried out in oak (25% new). After 18 months the wine is bottled without filtering.

Taste: Plush with almonds, exotic spices, Christmas cake, soy sauce, with a dry mid palate and some light chewy tannins, and quite elegant. ***


2004 Drei Donà Tenuta La Palazza, ‘Pruno’ Sangiovese di Romagna DOC (Emilia Romagna) $ N.A.

The estate Drei Donà is located on the ancient hills of Romagna between the towns of Forli, Castrocaro and Predappio. Drei Donà is dedicated to the production of Sangiovese. Owner Claudio Drei Donà, runs the 30-hectare property. Of this, 27 hectares is cultivated to Sangiovese di Romagna. The Reserve selection is called ‘Pruno’ while the second wine is called ‘Night’. Wines take their names from the horses of the family’s race team. Franco Bernabei is the oenologist.

Taste: Some animal (goat) and tar notes, tobacco and firm acidity, ripe red fruits. **1/2


2004 Il Poggiarello, Gutturnio Riserva “La Barbona” Colli Piacentini DOC (Emilia-Romagna) $55

Wines have been made from the vines around the Il Poggiarello estate since the 16th Century. But when the new owners bought the estate in 1980, they immediately embarked on a programme of upgrading. Today, there are 32 acres of vineyards of indigeneous and international varieties. Wines include Chardonnay Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Nero, and Spumantes. La Barbona is a blend of Barbera and Bonarda grapes. The vines are planted on calcareous, slightly sandy soils facing south. After a nine-day maceration, the wine is fermented at moderately high temperatures and then aged for 14 months in oak barriques.

Taste: Ripe black fruit, barnyard and hint of leather, generous with dry tannins, high in alcohol and concentrated. **1/2


2001 Terredora, Taurasi, DOCG (Campania) $NA

Walter and his brother Antonio became famous for championing indigenous varieties. When their single vineyard wine Radici Taurasi made its debut in 1986, the wine world oohed and ahhed. Walter then went his own way and founded Terredora in 1994. The estate has access to 150 hectares of vineyards in Campania, making it one of the larger producers in the region. The 2001 Terredora Taurasi spent 18 months in small French oak barrels, followed by another year in cask. Taurasi is an Aglianico-based wine.

Taste: Mint, cranberry, capsicum, lavender and some ash. Sour red fruits with some stalk-stem notes too. Chewy tannins. **1/2


2001 Alovini Armand, Aglianico del Vulture DOC (Basilicata) $55

Alovini is a high-tech winemaking facility packed into a small space. The owner Oronzo Alò somehow managed to fit gleaming stainless steel tanks, the latest pumps and filters, and state-of-the-art bottling equipment into three garages. Alò was a director at two co-ops in the area near Monte Vulture and admits that he learnt much from French flying winemaker Jacques Lurton, who was responsible for several vintages at the co-ops. Alò today makes Greco and Aglianico based wines at his winery.

Taste: After the red fruits, there’s shallot oil, sesame seeds, pork lard, caramel, cocao, mushrooms, animal, jasmine, mushrooms and more. Interesting. **1/2


2004 Rivera I vini Pregiati di Puglia, Rivera Rupicolo, Castel del Monte DOC (Puglia) $38

The Castel del Monte DOC extends over the Murcia hills, north west of Bari city. The Rupicolo is a red wine obtained by the vinification of the indigenous red grape varieties of Montepulciano (70%) and Nero di Troia (30%). The goal was to combine the strengths of the two grapes to achieve structure, fruitiness, character and drinkability with a good ageing capacity.

Taste: Ruby red colour, shiso peppers, leafy with beetroot juice overtones. **


2001 Mocavero, Puteus Riserva, Salice Salentino DOC, (Puglia) $44

The winery is located in the Salento region. Along with their father Pietro, brothers Francesco and Marco Mocavero began making and selling wine in bulk in the 1950s. In 1990, they decided to produce their own brand and founded the Azienda Agricola Mocavero. This wine is a 80 per cent Negroamaro and 20 per cent Malvasia Nera blend from 30-year-old vines. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and ceramic vessels, then aged in barrels (Slovenian oak and Allier barrels). This ‘Riserva’ is aged a minimum of one year in wood and one year in bottle. The name Puteus comes from the ancient well which stands on the property.

Taste: Prunes, soy sauce, tealeaves, spice; jammy with some liquorice. Good structure and dry tannic finish. Panelists were divided between excellent and mediocre scores. **1/2


2003 Francesco Candido, Immensum, IGT Salento Rosso (Puglia) $45

Candido produces a range of wines, supervised by Severino Garofano, the leading ‘wine guru’ of the region who is pro indigeneous grapes. Their best wines are reds since the region is just too hot for producing good white wine. With 160 hectares of vineyards and a two million bottle output, quality is in question, but Candido’s reputation is that of a ‘super-Puglian’ wine producer of wines such as the Negromaro-based Capello di Preta and the Negroamaro-Malvasia Nero-Montepulciano blend of Duca di Aragon. Immensum is Negroamaro-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, hence its IGT status. – The IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) designation that allowed foreign grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon to be added and played a vital part in the renaissance of Tuscan wines in the 1980s and Sicilian wines in 90s, is now in full play in Puglia.

Taste: Complex with red fruits, cherries, prunes, a touch of coffee, warm and generous, with almonds and jam. **1/2


2001 Mocavero, Primitivo, Salento IGT, (Puglia) $33

Grapes are sourced from 35 hectares (77 acres) of vineyard land, 20 of which are owned by the family. This wine is made from 100 per cent Primitivo, 35-year-old vines. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks then in barrels for four to five months.

Taste: Leather, cream crackers, leather and hawthorn with wild currants. Panelists were divided between excellent and mediocre scores. **1/2


2006 Castello Monaci, Primitivo Salento “Piluna” (Puglia) $35

Castello Monaci’s vineyards are found just a few kilometers from the sea. The estate covers 220 hectares, of which 60 hectares are vineyards. The soils are mainly limestone, clay and silica. Castello Monaci takes its name after the Monaci Cistercians who first occupied the ‘castle’. Both indigenous varieties such as Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera and certain international varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are made into wine. A feature of this winery is its 1,000-barrique cellar dug out of hard rock. Wines on offer include Liante (Negroamaro and Malvasia), Maru, (Negroamaro), two single vineyard wines (Campure Meridio and Campure Metrano) and the flagships of Artas, Aiace and Medos — all named after ancient and mythic heros and objects. Piluna is pitched at above the entry-level wines and is a Primitivo.

Taste: Meat and leather with some bubblegum and confectionery, nice acid and structure. **1/2


2005 Tinazzi Numero 3 Opera, Vino da Tavola, $75

A tri-regional blend, very uncharacteristic of Italian winemaking, with Corvina from Veneto, Nero d’Avola from Sicily and Primitivo from Puglia. The winery is located in Veneto, and was slipped into the tasting as a red herring.

Taste: Uplifted sweetish wine with coffee, baguettes, toffee, cassoulet, tobacco, with the rich mouth feel of ripe fruits, a complex, creamy texture and excellent aftertaste. A little alcoholic but otherwise, rich and smooth. ***1/2


Cantine Polvanera, Vindemiatrix ‘demi sec’, Gioia del Colle DOC (Puglia) $NA

Filippo Cassano, Angelo Antonio Tafuni and brothers Giuseppe and Michelino Posa fell in love with the Primitivo grape and recently brought and restored an old farmhouse in the Marchesana, an area in the municipal district of Gioia del Colle (a DOC), about an hour south of Bari, the capital of Puglia. The name Polvanera is derived from the typical dark brown colour of the soil of the estate surrounding the farmhouse. Of the 25 hectares of estate-owned vineyard, 15 are under Primitivo vines and the rest are planted with Aglianico, Aleatico and Fiano. Seven wines are made, from red to pink, sweet and sparkling. The Vindemiatrix of Polvanera comes in Brut and demi-sec and, made in the metodo classico, is the only sparkling wine in our line-up.

Taste: Fresh strawberries, some tinned green peas but with raspberries, peach and fruit basket overtones. Excellent mousse, soft and approachable despite the big bubbles, finishing off dry. Drinkable and perfect for spicy food. **