Thursday, 6 June 2013

A tasting of VERY decent wines

I will admit to feeling a little trepidation at a recent wine dinner with my regular group. We usually have a theme to the tasting, whether it is by country, grape variety or wine style. This time around, the theme would be wines above a certain price point. The message on our phones sternly reminded us that the organiser was expecting "some VERY decent wines".

Price however, played only one part of the equation. With the number of wine distributors in Singapore, finding a bottle of expensive Bordeaux classed growth would only be too easy. Being wine geeks, there would ideally be something interesting about the wine as well. The bar with this group would be set pretty high, I knew, as most of them would have access to rare and unusual wines.

Fortunately, I had learned that Berry Bros and Rudd had recently set up an office in Singapore. BBR is the oldest wine merchant in the UK, with a huge selection at their main outlet at St. James's Street in London. Several years back, I ventured there to obtain a bottle of Château Palmer for a friend and spent far longer than I had intended to perusing their collection of wines and whiskies. 

The Singapore selection is more limited (although still extensive), but the good news is that they will ship anything from their UK offices to Singapore. Within the list I was delighted to discover some fine red Burgundies from Nicolas Potel's Collection Bellenum. These are wines obtained directly from the cellars of anonymous producers in Burgundy and relabelled under the Maison Roche de Bellene name. Thus although the vintage and appellation are known, the  producer can only be guessed at.

As expected, the dinner yielded a plethora of fascinating wines. Coincidentally, most were reds either from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Spain or the USA. My Chambolle-Musigny, Derrière la Grange 1er Cru 1996 was light and delicate, slightly dominated by acidity with typical Pinot floral notes and red fruits. Alas, the cork yielded few clues as to the producer, but from some sleuthing on the Internet, I have it on good authority that it was most likely from Domaine Louis Remy (since renamed to Domaine Chantal Remy). I am glad that it was one of the first wines to be opened, as the next wine, the Domaine Prieuré Roch Vosne-Romanée Le Clos Goillotte 2002 was much sturdier with rich notes of wood, coffee bean, cacao and redcurrants. The wine was bottled unsulphured, and showed amazing length.

Representing Spain were wines from various regions including Rioja, Ribera del Duero and a particularly interesting Bodegas Viña Magaña Torcas 2002 from Navarra. A Bordeaux blend with Syrah, the flavour profile was that of sour cherry, black fruits, spice and a curious note of incense that added an exotic touch. Delicious and very well-priced.

The wine that blew me away was the Beaulieu Vineyard 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon. Superbly integrated yet with still intense flavours and delicious tertiary elements, this wine shows the incredible longevity of Napa Valley wines. Upon tasting it, a fellow sommelier commented that it had the signature "Rutherford dust", a tasting term referring to the specific terroir of the Rutherford AVA. I do not think that it refers to tasting of dust specifically, although there was a wonderful earthiness to the wine. A rare treat indeed!

There were also some eclectic additions to the line-up such as a Texan wine and an unfiltered sherry (the last being discreetly slipped in by myself). As can be expected, the Becked Vineyards Claret 2005 was quite a big, burly wine, with a rich jammy sweetness and a noticeable charry note. Compared to regular sherries, the Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla "en Rama" was turbo-charged, with precise and clear saline notes and a long, nutty finish. Mix this with some oily olives and you are in heaven. Really a pity that sherry does not find much favour in Singapore.

The final tally of the evening, taken at around 3am, was a total of 23 wines. 


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