Sunday, 29 November 2015

Wine of the Month - November 2015

How on earth to keep track of all the Penfolds wines? They have the Cellar Reserve Range, Koonunga Hill, Bin Wines, Luxury Wines, the list goes on and on. Fortunately, one thing Penfolds excels at is communication. Every Penfolds tasting that I have attended has had eloquent, passionate ambassadors with in-depth knowledge of the wines, who could explain the technical differences between the RWT Shiraz and Magill Estate Shiraz. A Penfolds event is truly a sybaritic feast, a line-up of voluptuous, sensual wines that leave you giddy with delight. No need to tease out subtle flavours here; the wines are unabashedly rich, proudly Australian and compellingly pure. It would be easy to select Grange or Yattarna as the WOTM - these are fantastic wines, but the breadth and quality of Penfolds is such that there are many gems to be found within their collection. One wine that I enjoyed recently was the Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz, first introduced in 2008. Made from Barossa Valley fruit, this wine is matured 16-18 months in new and seasoned American and French oak.

Wine: Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2013

Tasting note: This new-ish addition to the Penfolds portfolio displays the classic richness and ripe fruit one would expect from the Barossa Valley, but what elevates this wine is its enticing cornucopia of spices - a mix of clove, mint and caraway seeds. Plush, gorgeous and refreshing, this is a wine to uncork when you want to make an impression.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Comparing Apples to Apples to Apfelwein

Producer: Obsthof am Steinberg

For those who are only interested in wine, you may want to skip this post. Although if you are in Frankfurt, spiritual centre of apfelwein, you certainly shouldn't deprive yourself of the opportunity to try this local specialty. Made from pressed apples and fermented to produce a beverage with alcohol in the low-to-mid single digits, it bears more than a passing similarity to wine made from grapes. Vintage apfelwein? Check. Use of different varieties, each which contributes its own flavours? Check. Ability to improve with age? Check (well at least that's what I was told).

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Wine of the Month - October 2015

German Riesling is proof that wine doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg to deliver great pleasure. Provided you choose a good producer, even their entry level Rieslings can be great. Poor and mass-market Riesling will often use sweetness to mask faults in the wine and lack that electrifying quality that the best Rieslings possess - a combination of thrilling acidity and explosive fruit. This month's WOTM is produced by Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, managed by Annegret Reh-Gartner whose husband is a two-star Michelin chef.

Wine: Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt RK Riesling 2014

Tasting note: Made from a combination of own-grown and purchased fruit from the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer Valleys. Light bodied with a little residual sugar, this wine has immediate charm, but also packs a solid extract of quince, grapefruit and lime flavours. An ideal wine to entertain guests or with light dishes, the wine's low alcohol (9.5%) and bracing acidity simultaneously refreshes and stimulates the palate.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Tolpuddle Makes a Splash at Shaw + Smith Luncheon

Producer: Shaw + Smith, Tolpuddle Vineyard

Michael Hill Smith (R) with Monopole Managing Direct Michael Chong

This year Shaw + Smith celebrates its 26th vintage. In town for a tasting of his latest wines (paired with exquisite dim sum from Jade Palace Restaurant), winemaker Michael Hill Smith MW shows no sign of resting on his laurels. Highly anticipated was the tasting of wines from Tolpuddle Vineyard, an estate in southern Tasmania that Michael and his cousin Martin Shaw had acquired back in 2011. “We went on a road trip not expecting to buy anything except lunch and dinner in Tasmania, and ended up with probably the best vineyard in Tasmania with 20-year old Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.” The north-east facing vineyard has soils composed of light silica over sandstone.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Weekend Winery Business with a Co-op

This post was contributed by Lucia Santoso, an avid wine lover, musician and traveller currently based in Germany.

Harald Weiss presents a selection of Schriesheim wines

Imagine you’ve inherited a hectare or two of vineyard. What do you do? Quit your day job and honour the family tradition by launching into the wine business? What would be the risks? Can you earn a living out of it?

First world problems, I see you roll your eyes… But in Germany this can be a real situation one would face, and there is a solution - keep your day job and run the wine business in the weekend, by joining a winemaker’s co-operative (Winzergenossenschaft), explained Harald Weiss, GM of the Schriesheim co-op.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Wine of the Month - September 2015

One of my favourite wine merchants in London is The Sampler in South Kensington. Not only do they have a wide range of wines available for sale, but what really draws me back time and again are their 80 wines on tap thanks to the Enomatic machine. Credit goes to them for maintaining such a cumbersome system, which requires regular maintenance and is prone to breaking down. It is a marvelous system for wine geeks such as myself who will while away an entire afternoon sampling wines from obscure appellations such as Bierzo and Jura. This month's WOTM was unearthed in their "Icons" cabinet, which is reserved for rare and usually mature wines.  

Wine: Domaine de Chevalier 1983

Tasting note: Hailing from the Graves region, Domaine de Chevalier is one of the rare Bordeaux producers that is noted for the quality of both its red and white wines. Recent vintages have displayed sumptuous fruit and pronounced freshness. This wine, from a vintage that yielded a large, high quality crop but was overshadowed by 1982, showed remarkable verve and definition. Pale ruby colour with an enchanting nose of tobacco, dried leaves and smoke. Fully mature yet in beautiful condition, showing flavours of dried leaves, prunes and cocoa nibs captured in a silky, ethereal frame. Finishes pure and long. 

Monday, 21 September 2015

On Franken’s Stein, Animal Parts and Charitable Causes

Producer: Weingut Juliusspital Würzburg

Comment ça va? My activities these past few months have had a markedly European slant, from a visit to Spain (sadly, no wines!), to a party celebrating French culture, and upcoming trips to Vienna and Bordeaux. In August, I was introduced to the wines of Juliusspital thanks to the good offices of Schmidt Vinothek, local distributor of German and Austrian wines. The tasting was held at Joël Robuchon at Resorts World Sentosa, which boasts a luxuriously decked out interior with black accents. This was my first time at Joël Robuchon and I was wondering why the smell of basil was so prominent until Chef Sommelier Kenneth Au pointed out the plants in the indoor garden. Apart from providing an attractive focus for diners, these herbs also act as air fresheners, cleaning up cigar smoke more effectively than any ioniser.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Wine of the Month - August 2015

I had a glass of Rioja next to a Cos D'Estournel 1986 at Praelum Wine Bistro and even though the latter was still alive and kicking I much preferred the Spanish red for its vibrancy and mouth-filling flavours. Doubtless the Rioja was much younger, but at nearly ten years it was no baby and considerably gentler on the wallet. The producer, R. Lopez de Heredia, is a top supplier of traditional Riojas with long aging in American oak. The wine is made primarily from Tempranillo with small additions of Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano, aged for five years in American oak barrels, well above the legislated minimum requirements.

Wine: R. López de Heredia Vina Bosconia Reserva 2006

Tasting note: Age has given this wine a patina of dried fruit and licorice overlaying the coconut and dark fruit flavours, but left its energy and grip intact. It is drinking beautifully now and shows no sign of slowing down.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Make Your Way to the Cellar, on the Kellerweg

This post was contributed by Lucia Santoso, an avid wine lover, musician and traveller currently based in Germany.

What would you do on a German Summer's eve? Why, go to a Weinfest, natürlich! How else would you celebrate summer by the Rhein?

Every single weekend from June to September is jam-packed with wine festivals, duly advertised by the public transport networks (read: no driving! :) ). This very one comes well recommended by my friend Sonja John, a native of Hessen and the owner of her own wine shop.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The One and Only Biondi Santi

Producer: Biondi Santi

It’s not often that the opportunity arises to taste with an estate that is responsible for developing one of Italy’s pre-eminent fine wines. There are hundreds of producers bottling Brunello di Montalcino today, but original credit goes to one Ferruccio Biondi Santi from Tenuta Il Greppo, who crafted a wine meant for long aging from a particular clone of Sangiovese known locally as Brunello. The first vintage of this wine, of which some bottles can still be found in the winery’s cellars, dates back to 1888 (how’s that for a lucky number?).