Saturday, 30 April 2016

Wine of the Month - April 2016

Hot climate = low acidity. That's one of the truisms of winemaking. Unless you're talking about Assyrtiko from the Greek island of Santorini, where the volcanic soil helps the grape maintain its acidity even as it ripens. Courtesy of a civilisation-wiping volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, the whole island is blanketed with this porous, sandy soil, making the wines a great expression of terroir.

Wine: Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko 2013

Tasting note: Crisp, citrussy and full-bodied, the standout character of this wine is its ability to combine high levels of alcohol with piercing acidity. There's a touch of honey to the crystal clear nectarine and mandarin orange fruit. Considerable undervalued, although getting hold of a bottle is as difficult as completing the twelve labours of Hercules.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Black to Basics

Producer: Black Estate


It’s comforting to know that despite increasing decrepitude I can still muster enough energy to do the things I want before losing the ability to distinguish a Pouilly-Fuissé from a Pouilly-Fumé. While visiting the South Island of New Zealand, the timing was perfect to squeeze in a refreshing morning swim with wild dolphins in Kaikoura before driving one and a half hours to Waipara for an appointment with Black Estate. There was scarce time to admire the coastline but I did manage to get a few shots of the ruggedly beautiful scenery at one of the thoughtfully placed pitstops along the way. Road accidents, many caused by driver fatigue, is taken seriously here.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Hennessy X.O. Collection by Tom Dixon

Producer: Hennessy


The reveal of the final Hennessy X.O. Exclusive Collection in Singapore last month marked several milestones in the company’s history. Not only does it commemorate Hennessy’s 250th anniversary, but it also marks a turning point in the company’s fortunes, which had seen a decline since China implemented anti-austerity measures in 2012. The mood at the launch, held at Szechuan restaurant Shisen Hanten at the Mandarin Orchard, was (to use a forced pun) decidedly spirited. Ian McLernon, Director & General Manager of Moët Hennessy Diageo Singapore was all smiles as he reported on the health of the company. “We’ve had an exceptional 2015, and to be very honest with you quite often we’re running out of stock. With these very old eau-de-vies, we can’t produce any more.”

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Wine of the Month - March 2016

Has affordable Burgundy become an oxymoron? The past few years have seen auction houses rubbing their hands with glee at the records being broken for cases of grand cru wines. According to Bloomberg, Burgundy vineyards are now the most expensive in France, outdoing even Bordeaux and Champagne. Look a little closer though and there are still pockets of value to be found, and you need not shell out thousands of dollars for a great wine.

The caveat though is that we're talking about white wines, specifically Chablis. Called "the best-value white burgundy of all" by wine expert Jancis Robinson, it is possible to obtain grand cru Chablis for less than SGD100. This month's WOTM is made by négociant Albert Bichot, coming from their own estate of Château Long-Depaquit. The estate was founded in 1791 and managed by winemaker Matthieu Mangenot.

Wine: Maison Albert Bichot Château Long-Depaquit "Les Blanchots" 2014

Tasting note: The Blanchots grand cru is a steep vineyard that receives predominant morning sunlight. This, combined with the Kimmeridgian limestone soils, gives the wine its rare delicacy. The pure aromas of lemon, oyster shell and custard blossom with pinpoint precision on the tongue, filling the palate with generous fruit and a lengthy finish. The slightest hint of vanilla is present - the wine sees vinification in only 15% oak barrels previously used 1-4 times.

Monday, 29 February 2016

KOT Selections adds Mosel Rieslings to its portfolio

Producer: Daniel Vollenweider, Weiser-Künstler

(Pictures from Weingut Vollenweider and Weingut Weiser-Künstler)

Fate can have a serendipitous effect. Seventeen years ago, when Ong YiXin was a cellar hand at Dr. Loosen, it would have been a long shot to imagine that the friendship he struck with fellow intern and budding winemaker Daniel Vollenweider would evolve into a business partnership today. In his current role as Managing Partner of wine merchant KOT Selections, YiXin reminisces about those early days. “We both young, crazy and didn’t have girlfriends back then, so all we could talk about was wine and more wine,” quipped YiXin. Subsequently YiXin worked several vintages with Daniel, starting off in a small one room apartment that doubled as a makeshift winery.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Nakata Scores a Hat-trick with “N” Sake

Producer: "N" Sake by Hidetoshi Nakata, Takagi Shuzo


Clad in a dark blue Tom Ford denim jacket with matching jeans, Hidetoshi Nakata cuts a precise figure as he enters the private room at French fine dining venue Les Amis to promote his latest venture. After achieving worldwide fame in the arenas of football and fashion, Nakata’s third big venture focuses on promoting something closer to home and heart – Japanese sake. After a pilgrimage through various Japanese prefectures that saw him visiting over 250 producers, Nakata discovered one that could help him realise his vision of producing a premium sake. The chosen brewery, Takagi Shuzo, has been making sake since 1685 and already produces the much sought-after Juyondai label, one of the few internationally recognised brands. “To me Takagi Shuzo was the best, because of the sake master’s knowledge,” said Nakata.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Austria's Wine Specialties

Producers: Wieninger, Loimer


The famous Danube river provides the backdrop to this vineyard in Wachau

In souvenir shops around Austria it is common to find T-shirts light-heartedly proclaiming “No kangaroos in Austria.” It’s a self-deprecating reference to how the small Central European country (pop. 8.5 million) is often overshadowed by the fame of its barbeque loving namesake. But this country, which holds a wealth of Baroque architecture and birthed talents such as Gustav Klimt and Johann Strauss could not be more dissimilar. A recent trip there unearthed further secrets unique to the Austrian wine landscape.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Wine of the Month - January 2016

This month's WOTM is a real curio. It is a white wine made from Rotgipfler, which even in its native country Austria is a rare find. I only had the pleasure of tasting it due to a chance encounter with a fellow sommelier who showed me this wine in a blind tasting. While it was a good bet that the wine was made from an indigenous grape from an Old World country due to its unusual taste profile, pinning down the actual region was a challenge. The density and richness of the fruit led me to believe that it was from a warm climate, a guess that proved wrong when the wine was revealed as having come from Thermenregion, named for its profusion of thermal springs and marked by sunny, dry summers with cool winters. Although the grape can be made into sweeter styles, this is a dry wine. 

Photo credit: WineLeo
Wine: Johanneshof Reinisch Rotgipfler 2012

Tasting note: A beautiful golden hue to this wine that hints at its generosity. The palate lives up to the promise, exhibiting ripe tropical fruits and notes of yellow peach, rock melon, herbal candy and a slight nuttiness. The full, oily texture is counterbalanced by high acidity and a refreshing finish. The unique flavour offers an interesting alternative to common grape varieties and the price is very wallet-friendly.

Distributor: WineLeo

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Wining and Dining this Festive Season

Company: Pernod Ricard


It's a few short days till the close of the year and I hope that you have met your goals better than I have. My resolution to have a quiet, wallet-preserving December have so far been for naught. Dinner at the Michelin starred Qui Plume La Lune in Paris far overshot my budget, but their rendition of roast pigeon was as good as it gets. Juicy, oh so flavourful and accompanied with a rosemary jus that shows how good the French are with sauces. Closer to home, a Christmas dinner at Snack Culture brought out the playful side of dining. The sous vide and deep-fried chicken breast was a pleasing contrast in textures and exemplified owner Tat Hon's creative approach to cooking (he promises "fun dining, not fine dining"). If you lament the profusion of soulless franchised restaurants in Singapore, do try out this place, located in the convenient and yet obscure CT Hub along Kallang Avenue.

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.