Tuesday 29 July 2014

Argentinian Wine to the Fore

It seems that the further away you go from home, the more exotic the destination becomes. Argentina, located right on the other side of the globe from Singapore, qualifies as one of the lesser visited places, but thanks to gauchos, tango and chimichurri, we know that the country has a rich and unique cultural heritage. During the recent World Cup, Argentina gained further recognition as football fans cheered each goal scored by its star export Lionel Messi. Perhaps Messi himself celebrated his victories with a glass of Leo, a wine born from a joint venture between the Leo Messi Foundation and Bodega Valentin Bianchi.

Celebrity promotion aside, much of the groundwork for the promotion of Argentinian wine in Singapore has been laid by Wines of Argentina (WofA), the umbrella organisation that represents over 200 wineries. For the second year in a row, WofA has held a tasting in Singapore with the aim of showcasing the best the country has to offer. This year saw 22 wineries take part in what was billed as “the largest selection of Argentine wines ever gathered in Singapore”.

While the image of other wine producing countries may be built around affordability (such as Australia), or diversity (such as South Africa), the trump cards for Argentinian wine are its star grape varieties of Malbec and Torrontés. The former, a red grape variety hailing from France, is the most widely planted grape in Argentina. It produces wines that are deeply coloured, with a plush texture and soft, rounded tannins. Alcohol levels tend to be on the higher end of the scale, but this is balanced with a juicy freshness that makes the wines immediately appealing upon release. The vineyards in Argentina tend to be planted at extremely high altitudes that help to maintain the natural acidity of the grapes.

Wines made from Torrontés, a white crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica, fall into two camps. Some producers, like Alta Vista, chose to make a completely dry style, with aromatic and floral notes reminiscent of Gewurtztraminer. I also tasted a Torrontés from Casa Bianchi that had some residual sugar to it, making it more like an off-dry Moscato. “It is a style that goes well with the grape and is easy to sell,” commented the winery’s representative. Knowing which style you’re getting when you buy a bottle of Torrontés can be tricky as the label often doesn’t provide an indication.

At a mere market share of 0.7%, there is clearly much room for Argentinian wines to grow. If you’re looking to try something different, then these are just the wines for you, chock-full of character and with an interesting story to boot. Several of the producers I spoke to were seeking representation, and I can’t help but feel that we are on the verge of an Argentinian wine revolution here in Singapore. Maria Innocenti of Angulo Innocenti Wines commented “We think that even though Singapore is a small market, it is very good for branding.”

Monday 28 July 2014

Luxury Redefined

You’re going to hear a lot more of the word plénitude. Meaning “the quality or state of being full”, it is now the name of Dom Pérignon’s late-release wine, previously known as Oenothèque. While Dom Pérignon has always been the result of a single vintage, the plénitude editions are staggered releases of the same vintage which have been aged longer by the company in its chalk cellars in Epernay. According to the house, each plénitude represents a window of opportunity where the wine sings higher and stronger, as determined by Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy. The first plénitude is reached after at least seven years of maturation on its lees (the spent yeast cells that are responsible for the biscuity notes of mature champagne). This is embodied in the Dom Pérignon Vintage champagne, a perfect plénitude of harmony.

The Second Plénitude of Dom Pérignon Vintage 1998 was recently revealed in Singapore, representing 16 years of aging. Here the wine reveals a burst of energy, with more focused aromas and a penetrating intensity. The packaging has also been refreshed with a brushed aluminium box and a deep matte label that oozes chic sophistication. Prepare to pay slightly more than double the price of the Dom Pérignon Vintage 2004 to obtain this exceptional wine.

With the new plénitude programme, it is likely that the house will reserve more of its stocks to be released later, resulting in less of the Vintage, or P1, champagnes. The first P3s, from the 1970 and 1982 vintages are expected to be released later this year and represent more than 20 years of maturation on the lees.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

The Real House Wines of FIFA World Cup 2014

Bleary-eyed football fans across Singapore are slowly coming back to reality. Tears of joy have been shed, hopes have been dashed, and the National Council for Problem Gambling found out that betting on an ad campaign can be risky business (that’s the real lesson here, folks). New viewership records were set in several countries, a fact that should please sponsors such as Taittinger and Budweiser.

It got me to thinking, what wines best capture the footballers’ defining moments? And so, like those many “What X are You?” quizzes that have been popping up on Facebook, Éclaircissage presents The Real House Wines of FIFA World Cup 2014.

1. Luis Suárez & Chateau Diana Zombie Zin

The World Cup uncovered many talents, but Suárez's talent for post-apocalyptic survival was one of the highlights. This is a guy who knows what he wants and goes for it with teeth bared. This guy is out for blood, and if that's not readily available, then a glass of Zombie Zin will do in a pinch. According to the producer, the flavours of this wine are complex and rich, sporting succulent blackberries, powdered cinnamon, cola and cherry jam. Pairs well with Italian footballers. His transfer to FC Barcelona should help give that team some bite, although critics may find his €94 million fee a bit hard to swallow.

2. Mario Götze & Strut Well-Heeled White

Mario Götze must be feeling on top of the world after scoring the goal that won Germany the World Cup, but even non-football fans would have noticed the stunning blonde locking lips with him immediately after the win. Lingerie model Ann-Kathrin Brömmel bears more than a passing resemblance to Canadian winemaker Strut's Well-Heeled White, made from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Schönberger. They're both fresh, stylish, and have stunning legs.

3. Luiz Felipe Scolari and Giant Mistake 

After the drubbing Brazil received at the hands of Germany, where they lost 1-7 on home soil, it was clear that someone had to take the blame. Scolari and his coaching team were the fall guys, even though he leaves with a record of 19 wins, six draws and four defeats. Lets hope that he will be remembered for more than his Giant Mistake.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Angulo Innocenti – Vineyards in the Sky

After tasting through a dozen wines at a recent Wines of Argentina event, I wondered why it had taken me so long to discover the delights of this wine region. Bursting with sumptuous fruit and refreshing acidity, there was a lot to like about these wines. Singapore benefits from a wide selection of wines from countries that can be seen as comfort zones – Bordeaux, Burgundy and Australian; this tasting was a reminder not to ignore wines from other countries lest we miss out on some truly delicious alternatives.

A producer that stood out at the tasting was Angulo Innocenti wines. At the start, the table was pretty much deserted, as this is a small winery and does not yet have distribution in Singapore. The crowd around the table grew rapidly larger as word of mouth spread. Representing the winery was Maria Luz Innocenti, a fourth generation member of the Angulo Innocenti family. The trip to Singapore was one of her longest flights, a 36 hour journey that required multiple transfers between cities. 

Angulo Innocenti is a joint venture between Mariano Innocenti and his uncle Alejandro Angulo. Both families have winemaking roots, the Angulos hailing from the Basque country and the Innocentis from Tuscany. The winery is located in the Uco Valley south of the city of Mendoza, known for producing some of Argentina’s best Malbecs. The vineyards are planted at high altitudes of 1,200 m with the majestic Andes a constant presence in the background. These vineyards in the sky benefit from strong sunlight during the day and cool temperatures at night, a combination that yields richly concentrated fruit and a crisp acidity to the wines. 

This is a very new project – the first wines were bottled as recently as 2010, but they show lots of exuberance and brilliant structure. According to Maria, the fruit is picked and fermented in several batches. The first picking aims to select fruit for its aromatic qualities, while the second and third pickings aim to add structure to the blend. A check on www.wine-searcher.com shows that the wines are distributed only in the United States currently, but if there is any update on local distribution I will mention it here. 

Tasting notes:

Angulo Innocenti Nonni 2013 – A blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, un-oaked. Deep purple in appearance, with youthful primary fruit aromas. The palate shows a soft and supple texture, with generous fruit and soft, rounded tannins. 

Angulo Innocenti Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – Fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks and concrete vats using indigenous yeasts. Oak aged for 7 months. Deep ruby with sweet black fruit, lively acidity and high but balanced alcohol. Soft, rounded edges and ready to drink. 

Angulo Innocenti Malbec 2012 – Same winemaking as the Cabernet Sauvignon, but here the wine shows more aromatic notes of violets and rosemary. Very fresh with a generous dollop of cassis fruit and a full body.

Angulo Innocenti Unisono 2011 – A big wine at 15.8% alcohol, but it carries its weight well. The addition of 7% Syrah contributes some spicy notes to the blend, which is mostly made up of Malbec (67%) and Cabernet Franc (26%). Blackberry jam, pepper and a hint of dark chocolate on the palate. Long, warm finish.