Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Visiting Beaune - An Introduction

Is there any region that appears more deceptively simple than Burgundy? Along with Bordeaux it is one of the most famous wine regions of the world. The grape varieties are simple – Pinot Noir for the reds and Chardonnay for the whites (not counting the small quantities of Aligoté and Sauvignon Blanc, and the Gamay of Beaujolais). The wines of Burgundy frequently dominate wine auctions and certainly anyone who is even faintly interested in wine would have tried a bottle, if very lucky, perhaps even a grand cru.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Changing Face of DFS

DFS (the travel retail group) really knows how to throw a party. The recently concluded Masters of Wines and Spirits was a free-flow extravaganza of luxury champagne, cru classé wines, smooth single malts and inspired cocktails. The event was held at Tras Street in Tanjong Pagar, an area populated by small startups and dodgy KTV bars a decade ago and in recent years has seen a profusion of hip restaurants and cafes. Musical entertainment was provided by pop-rock string quartet VOX while faux traffic wardens, looking as though they had just stepped out of a modelling catalogue, helped direct the flow of bemused car drivers passing through. Canapés at these events are usually not the main attraction, but I could not help gorging on a couple of the plump baby squids on offer at Sushi Mitsuya.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

All about Gambero Rosso

Now in its 30th edition, the Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia Wine Guide covers 2400 producers and 22000 wines, making it the most comprehensive guide to Italian wines. There is compact and relevant detail for each featured producer, but I found more interest in the preface for the guide. Of the 429 wines awarded the top rating of Tre Bicchieri, 80 hailed from Tuscany, 75 from Piedmont, and 38 from Veneto. Yet the top two still wines in this edition were from neither of these places. The top red is the Gioia del Colle Primitivo Muro Sant’Angelo Contrada Barbatto 2013 from Tenute Chiaromonte, while the top white is the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Misco 2015 from Tenuta di Tavignano. Side note – it boggles me that anyone would think that the longer the name the more impressive the wine. Surely wines such as Sassicaia, Margaux and Opus One have proven that consumers appreciate easy to remember labels? The key point here though is that these wines, from Puglia and Marche respectively, show that there is value to looking outside of the traditionally more famous wine regions of Italy.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Wine of the Month - March 2017

One of the pleasures of attending the Gambero Rosso Top Italian Wines Roadshow this month was the opportunity to taste some unusual grape varieties. Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is a richly scented red wine that bears a striking resemblance to Gewürztraminer. Most recognisable is the note of rose petal, which anyone who has tried bandung would immediately find familiar. It is found in the central-eastern region of Marche which shares a border with Tuscany. The Lacrima grape, which means teardrop in Italian, should not be confused with the Lacryma Christi of Campania, and the town of Morro d'Alba is not the same as the Alba of Piedmont. The winery representative suggests a match of Thai curries for this wine.

Wine: Velenosi Querciantica Lacrima DOC 2015

Tasting note: Macerated on skins for 20 days with daily pump-overs in closed vats to preserve aromas. A heady scent of rose petal issues from the wine, the signature of this unique variety. The palate is medium bodied with ripe tannins and a delicate fruitiness accompanied by juicy freshness. It is a wine likely to find as many detractors as followers due to the strength of its character.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Wine of the Month - February 2017

A growing trend in the wine world is the rise of natural wine. Pushed around by wild-eyed sommeliers and equally wild-haired wine critics, these wines are made with as little intervention as possible. In some cases, they can be good, and surprisingly long-lived. When they're bad, they smell and taste of sweaty socks. Their advocates can be seen insisting that these off flavours show purity and a sense of place. Perhaps, but people do some pretty unnatural things, such as showering with soap, so that their terroir is less noticeable to others.

I have tasted some natural wines that were deliciously clean and impressive. One of the best places to sample some is Wine RVLT, which I wrote about previously here. The wine world is constantly evolving, and now we have sparkling natural wines, pétillant-naturel or pét-nat for short. During the process of fermentation, carbon dioxide is generated as yeast consumes the natural sugar in grapes. Pét-nats are simply wines bottled before the fermentation is complete, thus the carbon dioxide is trapped inside the bottle while the yeast finishes eating the sugar. The cloudy appearance of the wine is due to the dead yeast cells.

For some reason or another, Australia is a large producer of pét-nats. The combination of hipster cafes, vegan and gluten free options seems to be fertile breeding ground for lovers of natural wine. This wine was made by Tim Wildman, a British-born Master of Wine who conducts wine tours in Australia. It is a blend of  50% Vermentino, 25% Nero d’Avola, and 25% Muscat. The source of the fruit is Riverland, a warm wine-growing region in South Australia.

Wine: Astro Bunny 2016

Tasting note: I was informed that the wine should be shaken to stir up the sediment evenly. Wouldn't this cause the wine to fizz upon opening? The sales staff said that it wouldn't, but it did. Consider yourself warned. The pressure is not as high as say, Champagne, more akin to cider. Very distinct grapefruit flavours, with peach and grape on the finish. Dry and light bodied. Not particularly complex but unusual and refreshing. Worth exploring at AUD35.  

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The French Prince of Liger-Belair

Producer: Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair

Thibault Liger-Belair’s introduction to wine began in 1988, where as a teenager he would spend his weekends in Nuits-Saint-Georges helping a family friend in the vineyard. He announced his intention to become a winemaker to his father at the age of 16, but it was not until 2001 that he established Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair and started making his own wine. While blessed with holdings that had been in the family for generations, when Thibault reclaimed control of the vineyards which had previously been leased out he found it necessary to effect wide-ranging changes. “In 2001 when I took over the family vineyard the soil was grey. Grey soil is a sign of dead soil. That is why for the first vintage it was very important to give new life to the soil. Since the beginning I have decided to stop all chemical products and to go organic.” In 2004, Thibault went further and adopted a biodynamic approach to managing his vineyards. “The main thing in Burgundy is the soil, and the problem in the last 30 years, is that we have integrated into the soil what the vine needed, in terms of fertilisation. I have decided to integrate into the soil what the soil needed, [in order to] give to the vine what the vine needed, which is one step more. The vine is just a reflection of the soil.”

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Wine of the Month - January 2017

This was one of the wines tasted at Dr N.K. Yong's Celebration 90 wine masterclass. It is a hedonist's dream, a pure exercise in pleasure from one of the best producers in the Mosel. Sugar is known to trigger a release of dopamine (the brain's reward centre), and this wine - so complex, rich and sweet, is certainly likely to have people addicted at the first sip. Gold capsules are used to distinguish the best wines of Egon Müller.

Wine: Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2010

Tasting note: The Scharzhofberg vineyard, comprising soils of grey and red slate, is the most exalted location for Riesling in the Saar Valley. Egon Müller owns 8.2 ha of the 28 ha site, making it the most prominent producer of wines from this vineyard. The colour of molten gold, this wine showed impeccable balance and freshness, with notes of sweet peach, pineapple, and a limey freshness. There are few wines that could match the finish, an impression that lingered so long on the palate it is etched into memory.

Friday, 27 January 2017

A Look at New Zealand Pinot Noir Regions

Financial markets have a saying – as January goes, so goes the year. So far, this month has been all about Pinot Noir. The La Paulée de Singapour (a celebration of Burgundian wine) has just concluded, an evening which saw several esteemed winemakers descend onto our island with treasured bottles of premier and grand cru wines. The dinner took place just a week after a tasting organised by New Zealand Winegrowers and Air New Zealand. While New Zealand’s fame as a wine producing country was built on Sauvignon Blanc, it is the Pinot Noir which has been gaining emerging as a serious contender to red Burgundy. The tasting was billed as a 360° View of New Zealand Wine, and through the creative use of a VR headset visitors were able to experience the magnificent scenery of New Zealand.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Ground Report from Istanbul

The first time I visited Istanbul was in the spring of 2008. It was glorious weather – blue and sunny skies, with a crisp breeze blowing as we cruised down the Bosporus. With a fingerhold in Europe, Istanbul represented the meshing of the best of Middle East and European cultures, acting as a beacon of democracy alongside a respect for Islamic values. Visitors were treated to a rich cultural history spanning Greek, Christian and Ottoman rule, and a bounty of exotic foods; raw honeycomb, sweet baklava, moreish hazelnuts. Security was ever-present, but this felt more like reassurance and the dangers seemed no greater than any other European city. Istanbul was truly a Turkish delight.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Beaujolais Closer to Burgundy

Producer: Domaine des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun)

Think that wine has outpaced beer? I was brought down to earth in a recent conversation with a young, bubbly lady who had just entered the wine trade. It occurred to me to enquire what wines her generation were into, and the reply was more humbling than enlightening. “Actually millennials don’t drink wine,” she said. “My friends are more into beer.” Research by Barclays in the USA shows that the 18-29 year old demographic is increasingly favouring wine, but 40% still choose beer as their preferred beverage, versus 23% for wine and 30% for liquor. I suspect that the consumption in Asia is even more skewed towards beer, judging by the sales of Tiger and Heineken, and the growing popularity of craft beer. Now I know what to order when drinking with younger colleagues.