Tuesday 24 September 2013

A Primer on Pinot

To judge by the packed crowd at the Pinot Noir Masterclass organised by local wine merchant Crystal Wines, market sentiment has firmly shifted away from the overextracted fruit bombs that dominated in the last decade. The grape that has all the limelight at the moment is Pinot Noir, a variety that has spread so widely across the world that it rivals Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in terms of recognisability. An unlikely turn of events and one that shows what secret masochists winemakers are, as Pinot Noir is one of the most persnickety members of the vinifera family. Its early budding makes it susceptible to spring frosts and it has the same resistance to fungal diseases and viruses as a new-born baby. Yet its enchanting perfume and ethereal silkiness make it the Holy Grail for wine devotees.

Chaired by Olly Masters, winemaker at Misha’s Vineyard, the guest panel was made up of well-known figures in Singapore’s wine scene including wine writer, educator and judge Lim Hwee Peng, and sommelier Gerald Lu. As Misha Wilkinson (owner of Misha’s Vineyard) put it, we would be hearing about Pinot Noir from several different perspectives – a person who makes Pinot Noir, a person who educates about Pinot Noir, and a person who selects and serves Pinot Noir. Not to forget a whole audience of people who drink Pinot Noir!

Featured wines included Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Chile, USA, Australia, Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago, the latter three being from New Zealand. About the lineup, Misha commented that “It's not just a Pinot Noir masterclass but also about New Zealand's place in the world because we are representing three New Zealand regions in a global context.” We would be tasting the wines blind, but some hints were given by Olly, who pointed out that New World Pinot Noir had more overt fruit characters of red cherry, black cherry, raspberry, strawberry and plum while Old World Pinot Noir had more savoury and farmyard characteristics. With age, Pinot Noir tends to develop notes of mushroom and spice.

On pairing Pinot Noir with food, Olly stated that it is the most versatile of red wines as it matches with more food than any other. Thanks to gentle tannins, it can be paired with a variety of dishes including grilled salmon, lamb, venison, game birds such as pheasant and turkey, and even vegetables such as mushrooms. In a local context, I have found it an excellent match with roast duck and dim sum.

Tasting the wines blind had the effect of removing any preconceptions about the relative merits of each wine. In hindsight, the Burgundy was the odd one out, with barnyard and earthy notes that hinted at its origins. I found all three of the New Zealand Pinot Noirs excellent, with bright fruit and jewel-like intensity. The Oregon and Chilean Pinot Noirs led me astray, as I expected a more impressive showing from the former and vice versa.

Looking at the price points for these wines, one can immediately notice that Pinot Noir commands a substantial premium over other wines. Add to that the high markups that restaurants and hotels charge on wine and it can be difficult to sell Pinot Noir on-trade. Gerald also highlighted the challenge of maintaining the right temperature when serving Pinot Noir. “A bucket with ice and no water is the ideal way to bring a bottle of Pinot Noir to the perfect temperature of 14°C. The bottle should be cool to the touch and when poured into a glass it should condense a little but not to the point that the whole glass condenses.” Hwee Peng had the following advice for those looking to add Pinot Noir to their wine lists: “When it comes to inventory, you want to look for a Pinot Noir that shows well from now at the point of tasting until probably a year later, because a wine list changes every twelve months or so.”

It’s good news that Pinot Noir acreage is expanding worldwide, especially since Burgundy has now found favour in the Chinese market leading to the inevitable price increase. As the tasting showed, these New World regions offer remarkable quality at affordable (for Pinot Noir) price levels.

Tasting notes:

20130925 Pinot Noir Masterclass
Maison Kerlann “Cuvee H” Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2009 (SGD53) - Slightly musty and barnyard-like on the nose with notes of wet clay. Light bodied with soft tannins, lacking in primary fruit character.

Montes Alpha Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir 2010 (SGD50) - Leafy with sweet cherry notes, cinnamon and orange peel. High alcohol, giving an impression of sweetness, but well integrated. Expressive fruit and varietal character.

Domaine Drouhin Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2010 (SGD93) - Slightly closed with notes of red cherries and oak. Shows freshness but on the whole lacking interest. The producer has a good track record though so perhaps this wine is going through a quiet phase.

Bindi Composition Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir 2011 (SGD93) - Noticeable vanilla, cream and woody notes, with boiled sweets and slight gaminess. Quite overt, thickly layered with a candied sweetness to the fruit. Lively acidity provides a lift to this wine and prevents it from becoming flabby. Very good.

Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 (SGD95) - Crushed strawberries and leafy notes framed by a suggestion of oak. Silky texture with apparent warmth on the palate.

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 (SGD73) - Brilliant purplish crimson hue. Nervy acidity, layers of red fruits, strawberry and plums, exuding magnificent intensity and poise.  

Misha’s Vineyard Verismo Pinot Noir 2009 (SGD77) - An elegant and layered nose of cloves and small red berries gives way to intense redcurrant and raspberry notes on the palate. Showing gorgeous precision and length.

All wines available from Crystal Wines.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Singapore Corkage Fees

While the fine dining scene in Singapore has exploded in recent years, restaurant corkage policies remain somewhat murky. The right to bring your own wine to a restaurant, or BYO, remains a contentious issue, as it means that restaurants are unable to make profits from the sale of their own wine. It is not uncommon for restaurants to mark up the price of a wine to twice the amount or more of its retail price.

The following list details the corkage policies of various fine dining restaurants in Singapore (and is also available at www.thelocalnose.com/index.php/corkage-fees/22). In general, you’ll find restaurants serving Chinese cuisine to be more accepting of BYO, while some have instituted a 1-for-1 policy where corkage is waived for one bottle for each wine that you purchase from the restaurant. The latter allows the restaurant to earn a decent margin and also provides the customer with an opportunity to showcase that treasured bottle he picked up from some faraway country. 

Note that the charges below are subject to change. It is always a good idea to reconfirm with the restaurant when making a booking. Restaurants that have corkage free days or do not charge corkage at all are marked with a ✪

Au Petit Salut (Contemporary French)
40C Harding Road
Singapore 249548
Tel: 6475 1976
CF: $50 per 750ml ($60 per 750ml on eve of / and Public Holidays)

Au Jardin (Classic French)
EJH Corner House
Singapore Botanic Garden Visitors Centre
Cluny Road
Singapore 259569
Tel: 6466 8812
Wine list: www.lesamis.com.sg/AuJardin_winelist.pdf
CF: $80++ per 750ml bottle

Blue Lotus Chinese Eating House (Chinese)
31 Ocean Way
#01-13 Quayside Isle
Singapore 098375
Tel: 6339 0880
CF: $50 per 750ml (wine)

Brasserie Gavroche (Classic French)
66 Tras St
Singapore 079005
Tel: 6225 8266
CF: 1-for-1

Broth (Australian)
21 Duxton Hill
Singapore 089604
Tel: 6323 3353
CF: $30 per 750ml (wine), $40 per 750ml (sparkling)

Brussel Sprouts (Belgian Beer and Mussels)
Various outlets
Wine list: www.brusselssprouts.com.sg/home/wines-champagnes/
CF: $30 per 750ml (wine), 1-for-1

✪Burlamacco Ristorante (Classic Italian)
77 Amoy St
Singapore 069896
Tel: 6220 1763
CF: Free corkage on Tuesday, $30 or 1-for-1 otherwise

✪ Coriander Leaf (Pan-Asian)
3A Merchant Court #02-03
River Valley Road
Clarke Quay
Singapore 179020
Tel: 6732 3354 
CF: Free corkage on Tuesday (à la carte dining only, for tables up to 8 pax, up to 2 bottles per table, other T&Cs apply), $30++ per 750ml bottle otherwise

✪Da Paolo Ristorante (Italian)
80 Club Street
Singapore 069448
Tel: 6224 7081
Wine list: www.facebook.com/DaPaolo.Ristorante.ClubStreet/app_153284594738391
CF: Free corkage on Tuesday, $45 (wine & sparkling) otherwise

Da Paolo BistroBar (Contemporary European)
3 Rochester Park
Singapore 139214
Tel: 6774 5537
Wine list: www.facebook.com/BistroBar.RochesterPark/app_117784394919914
CF: $45 (wine & sparkling)

Da Paolo PizzaBar (Pizzeria)
44 Jalan Merah Saga
Singapore 278116
Tel: 6479 6059
Wine list: www.facebook.com/PizzaBar.HollandVillage/app_117784394919914
CF: $35 (wine), $45 (sparkling)

✪ De Classic Golden Spoon (Chinese)
62 Seng Poh Lane
Singapore 160062
Tel: 6536 2218
CF: Free corkage all week

Fat Cow (Japanese inspired Steakhouse)
1 Orchard Blvd #01-01/02
Camden Medical Centre
Singapore 248649
Tel: 6735 0308
CF: $50 per 750ml bottle and 1-for-1

Garibaldi (Italian)
36 Purvis Street #01-02
Singapore 188613
Tel: 6837 1468
Wine list: www.garibaldi.com.sg/menu.html
CF: $50 per 750ml bottle and 1-for-1

Gunther’s (Modern French)
36 Purvis Street, #01-03
Singapore 188613
Tel: 6338 8955
CF: S$70 for 750ml wine bottle / S$70 for a bottle champagne / Buy one from wine list and bring one free of charge

Iggy’s (Modern European/Asian/Australian)
The Hilton Hotel
581 Orchard Rd
Singapore 238883
Tel: 6732 2234
CF: $50++ per 750ml bottle and 1-for-1

✪Imperial Treasure (Chinese)
Various outlets
CF: Free corkage all week

✪Jade Palace Seafood Restaurant (Chinese)
583 Orchard Road, B1-13
Forum the Shopping Mall
Singapore 238884
Tel: 6732 6628
Wine list: www.jadepalace.com.sg/wine.html
CF: Free corkage all week

Keystone Restaurant (Modern European)
11 Stanley Street
Singapore 068730
Tel: 6221 0046
CF: $55 per bottle (750ml) or 1 for 1

La Nonna (Traditional Italian country)
76 Namly Place
Singapore 267226
Tel: 6762 1587
CF: $35 per 750ml (wine), $45 per 750ml (sparkling/liquor)

Lawry’s The Prime Rib (Western)
333A Orchard Road
#04-01/31 Mandarin Gallery
Mandarin Orchard
Singapore 238897
Tel: 6836 3333
CF: $30++ for Standard Red / White Wine, $40++ for Sparkling Wine, Rose and Champagne (Per bottle) (January – October)
$40++ for Standard Red / White Wine, $50++ for Sparkling Wine, Rose and Champagne (Per bottle) (November - December)

Les Amis (Modern European)
1 Scotts Road
#02-16 Shaw Centre
Singapore 228208
Tel: 6733 2225
Wine list: www.lesamis.com.sg/LesAmis_winelist.pdf
CF: $80 per bottle and 1-for-1

✪Mamounia Restaurant @ The Screening Room (Mediterranean) 

12 Ann Siang Road
Singapore 069692
Tel: 6221 1694
CF: Free corkage every Mon & Tue (à la carte dining only, for tables up to 8px; Up to 2 bottles per table; Other T&Cs apply)

New Ubin Seafood
#01-174, Block 27
Sin Ming Road
Singapore 575680
Tel: 64669558
CF: Free corkage all week

Pasta Brava (Italian)
11 Craig Road
Tanjong Pagar
Singapore 089671
Tel: 6227 7550
Wine list: www.pastabrava.com.sg/menu/pasta_brava_wine_list_2012.pdf
CF: $30.00++ per bottle of wine (750ml) and $40.00++ per bottle of Sparkling/Champagne

✪Porta Porta Restaurant (Italian)
971 Upper Changi Gardens
Tel: 6545 3108
Singapore 507668
CF: Free corkage Tuesday to Thursday. Friday to Sunday $15.

Picotin Express (Pizzeria)
Various outlets
CF: $30 per 750ml (wine), 1-for-1

Rocks Urban Grill + Bar (Western)
2 Marina Boulevard
#02-01/02 The Sail @ Marina Bay
Singapore 018987
Tel: 6438 4404
Wine list: www.rocks.com.sg/bar_winelist.asp
CF: $30 per 750ml (wine)


Salt grill & Sky bar (Modern Australian)
2 Orchard Turn
ION Orchard #55-01 & #56-01
Singapore 238801
CF: $50 per 750ml bottle and 1-for-1

Saint Pierre (Modern French)
31 Ocean Way
#01-15 Quayside Isle
Singapore 098375
Tel: 6438 0887
CF: $50 per 750ml (wine)

Senso Ristorante & Bar (Italian)
21 Club Street
Singapore 069410
Tel: 6224 3534
CF: $50 per 750ml (wine), $60 per 750ml (sparkling/liquor)

Skyve Wine Bistro (Modern European)
10 Winstedt Road
Block E, #01-17
Singapore 227977
Tel: 6225 6690
Wine list: www.skyve.sg/the-bar/wine-list/the-charismatic-drinks
CF: $30++ for wine or $50++ for sparkling per 750ml bottle or 1 for 1

Spizza (Pizzeria)
Various outlets
CF: $20 per 750ml (wine)

Sque Rotisserie & Alehouse
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
The Central #01- 70
Singapore 059817
Tel: 6222 1887
CF: $40 per 750ml (wine)/ $20 per 375ml (wine)/ $60 per 700ml – 750ml (spirits)

Table at 7 (Modern European and Gourmet Indonesian)
7 Mohamed Sultan Road
Singapore 238957

Tel: 6836 6362
CF: Free corkage on Mondays, otherwise $30++ for wine or $50++ for sparkling per 750ml bottle or 1 for 1

✪Wild Rocket
Hangout Hotel
10A Upper Wilkie Road
Singapore 228119
Tel: 6339 9448
CF: Free corkage on Tuesday, otherwise $25++ for wine, $35++ for sparkling, $50++ for magnums and $100++ for liquor.