Monday, 4 August 2014

Wine Culture Portfolio Tasting

How do you set yourself apart in a country where the wine scene is as competitive as Singapore’s? For fine wine merchant Wine Culture, the answer was to establish a presence in the restaurant industry as an avenue to showcase their offerings. This allows consumers to experience the wines before committing to a retail purchase. Wine Culture’s Executive Director Renny Heng has already opened two restaurants, Verre Wine Bar at Robertson Quay, and Shelter in the Woods at Bukit Timah. His next project is the newly opened 3,400 sq ft restaurant named Corner House, located within the Singapore Botanic Gardens and helmed by chef Jason Tan, formerly of Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands. One of the things I’ve liked about Wine Culture is the care that they take with their bottles, wrapping each one in plastic so that the labels don’t get damaged.

Wine Culture has a strong focus on Bordeaux and Burgundy labels, including notable producers such as Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Domaine Emmanuel Rouget and Domaine Hudelot Noëllat for which they are exclusive distributors. Renny started visiting Burgundy back in 2000, a shrewd move considering how much in vogue the wines are currently. “Most of these wines have been with us for a very long time,” commented Vincent Tan, Restaurant Manager at Shelter in the Woods. Burgundy is a complex maze of tiny vineyards and numerous producers, and my hat goes off to anyone who can navigate the minute differences between a Puligny-Montrachet versus a Chassagne-Montrachet. By contrast, the grape varieties used are easy to remember – all whites are made from Chardonnay and all reds from Pinot Noir.

The notes in this article are from a tasting held in June and attended by several sommeliers from various restaurants in Singapore. It was a good opportunity to catch up with them, and one in particular was beaming about a SGD167k dinner bill achieved the night before from a single table, which goes to show that having a sommelier in the house really does pay for itself.

Tasting notes:

Domaine Jean- Noël Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Blanchot Dessus 2006 – The estate has been run by Caroline l’Estimé since 1989. She is known for moving the winery towards organics and increasing the number of white wines by vinifying each premier cru vineyard separately. This wine has a pale lemon colour with medium intensity aromatics of honey, acacia and vanilla. The palate reveals lovely citrus fruit and orange pith, with refreshing acidity and a very long finish.

Lucien le Moine Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Terre Blanche 2009 – Set up in 1999 by Mounir Saouma, who hails from Lebanon, and his Israeli wife Rotem Brakin. As pure négociants, they buy in ready-made wines and age them in Jupilles oak without racking, pumping, fining or filtering. The wines spend a long time on their lees (dead yeast) which accounts for their rich, yoghurt-like flavours. There was no lees stirring for the 2009 Nuits-Saint-Georges, and the wine shows a fine, seductive perfume with cashew and hazelnuts coming to the fore. It maintains a high level of acidity, with a broad frame and punchy flavours. The finish is bright and long.

Château de la Maltroye, Santenay Premier Cru la Comme 2009 – Quite a rarity to find a white wine from Santenay. This example was fresh and light, with delicate honeysuckle aromas and a persistent finish. Refined and an utter joy to drink.

Domaine Buisson-Charles Meursault 2010 – Michel Buisson has since handed over the reins of the winery to his daughter and son-in-law Catherine and Patrick Essa. The wine is textbook Meursault, showing rich honeyed aromas and a broad texture with hints of nougat and custard mixed with musk melon notes.

Domaine du Nozay Sancerre 2012 – This Sauvignon Blanc-based wine shows varietal notes of passionfruit, lemongrass and herbs. The emphasis here is more on the fruit than aggressive vegetal notes.

Lake’s Folly Chardonnay 2002 – Made by unassuming winemaker Rod Kempe, Lake’s Folly is one of the few producers making Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines in the Hunter Valley. Credited as the first boutique winery in Australia, demand is such that each year’s release is sold out within a few months. The 2002 shows a pronounced toast and vanilla bouquet, wrapped in smoky gauze. The palate displays notes of peach, pineapple and a weighty intensity. At 12 years old it is really starting to hit its stride.

Domaine Paul Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes 2011 – Produced from Pinot Noir vines with an average age of 35 years. Exuberant red cherry and raspberry fruit, underpinned by oak and hints of tobacco and game. Overheard a sommelier describing this wine as a “macho Montrachet”.

Domaine Denis Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin 2008 – A small producer known for making wines with incredible finesse. The 2008 has a bright crimson robe with an elegant nose of talc, spice and red fruit. Very fresh, with dry powdery tannins and fine acidity. Excellent depth and purity of fruit.

Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Les Murgers 2009 – From one of the top producers in Burgundy. Medium ruby appearance with a smudgy rim. Intense Pinot character with spice and perfume aromas. Bright, polished fruit on the palate, light-bodied with sweet anise notes. Majestic pedigree.

Le Pauillac de Château Latour 2006 – The third wine of Château Latour, produced since 1973. There is a nice definition to this wine, which ticks off all the boxes for a classic Bordeaux. Blackcurrant, cedar box and well-integrated oak flavours combine to form a wine that offers pleasurable drinking but is just a tad linear.

Domaine Alain Voge, Cornas Les Chailles 2011 – A chewy, meaty wine with savoury tannins and hints of game and leather. Firm, concentrated and well-structured.

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