Sunday 27 December 2015

Wining and Dining this Festive Season

Company: Pernod Ricard

It's a few short days till the close of the year and I hope that you have met your goals better than I have. My resolution to have a quiet, wallet-preserving December have so far been for naught. Dinner at the Michelin starred Qui Plume La Lune in Paris far overshot my budget, but their rendition of roast pigeon was as good as it gets. Juicy, oh so flavourful and accompanied with a rosemary jus that shows how good the French are with sauces. Closer to home, a Christmas dinner at Snack Culture brought out the playful side of dining. The sous vide and deep-fried chicken breast was a pleasing contrast in textures and exemplified owner Tat Hon's creative approach to cooking (he promises "fun dining, not fine dining"). If you lament the profusion of soulless franchised restaurants in Singapore, do try out this place, located in the convenient and yet obscure CT Hub along Kallang Avenue.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Wine of the Month - November 2015

How on earth to keep track of all the Penfolds wines? They have the Cellar Reserve Range, Koonunga Hill, Bin Wines, Luxury Wines, the list goes on and on. Fortunately, one thing Penfolds excels at is communication. Every Penfolds tasting that I have attended has had eloquent, passionate ambassadors with in-depth knowledge of the wines, who could explain the technical differences between the RWT Shiraz and Magill Estate Shiraz. A Penfolds event is truly a sybaritic feast, a line-up of voluptuous, sensual wines that leave you giddy with delight. No need to tease out subtle flavours here; the wines are unabashedly rich, proudly Australian and compellingly pure. It would be easy to select Grange or Yattarna as the WOTM - these are fantastic wines, but the breadth and quality of Penfolds is such that there are many gems to be found within their collection. One wine that I enjoyed recently was the Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz, first introduced in 2008. Made from Barossa Valley fruit, this wine is matured 16-18 months in new and seasoned American and French oak.

Wine: Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2013

Tasting note: This new-ish addition to the Penfolds portfolio displays the classic richness and ripe fruit one would expect from the Barossa Valley, but what elevates this wine is its enticing cornucopia of spices - a mix of clove, mint and caraway seeds. Plush, gorgeous and refreshing, this is a wine to uncork when you want to make an impression.

Monday 23 November 2015

Comparing Apples to Apples to Apfelwein

Producer: Obsthof am Steinberg

For those who are only interested in wine, you may want to skip this post. Although if you are in Frankfurt, spiritual centre of apfelwein, you certainly shouldn't deprive yourself of the opportunity to try this local specialty. Made from pressed apples and fermented to produce a beverage with alcohol in the low-to-mid single digits, it bears more than a passing similarity to wine made from grapes. Vintage apfelwein? Check. Use of different varieties, each which contributes its own flavours? Check. Ability to improve with age? Check (well at least that's what I was told).

Saturday 31 October 2015

Wine of the Month - October 2015

German Riesling is proof that wine doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg to deliver great pleasure. Provided you choose a good producer, even their entry level Rieslings can be great. Poor and mass-market Riesling will often use sweetness to mask faults in the wine and lack that electrifying quality that the best Rieslings possess - a combination of thrilling acidity and explosive fruit. This month's WOTM is produced by Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, managed by Annegret Reh-Gartner whose husband is a two-star Michelin chef.

Wine: Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt RK Riesling 2014

Tasting note: Made from a combination of own-grown and purchased fruit from the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer Valleys. Light bodied with a little residual sugar, this wine has immediate charm, but also packs a solid extract of quince, grapefruit and lime flavours. An ideal wine to entertain guests or with light dishes, the wine's low alcohol (9.5%) and bracing acidity simultaneously refreshes and stimulates the palate.

Friday 30 October 2015

Tolpuddle Makes a Splash at Shaw + Smith Luncheon

Producer: Shaw + Smith, Tolpuddle Vineyard

Michael Hill Smith (R) with Monopole Managing Direct Michael Chong

This year Shaw + Smith celebrates its 26th vintage. In town for a tasting of his latest wines (paired with exquisite dim sum from Jade Palace Restaurant), winemaker Michael Hill Smith MW shows no sign of resting on his laurels. Highly anticipated was the tasting of wines from Tolpuddle Vineyard, an estate in southern Tasmania that Michael and his cousin Martin Shaw had acquired back in 2011. “We went on a road trip not expecting to buy anything except lunch and dinner in Tasmania, and ended up with probably the best vineyard in Tasmania with 20-year old Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.” The north-east facing vineyard has soils composed of light silica over sandstone.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Weekend Winery Business with a Co-op

This post was contributed by Lucia Santoso, an avid wine lover, musician and traveller currently based in Germany.

Harald Weiss presents a selection of Schriesheim wines

Imagine you’ve inherited a hectare or two of vineyard. What do you do? Quit your day job and honour the family tradition by launching into the wine business? What would be the risks? Can you earn a living out of it?

First world problems, I see you roll your eyes… But in Germany this can be a real situation one would face, and there is a solution - keep your day job and run the wine business in the weekend, by joining a winemaker’s co-operative (Winzergenossenschaft), explained Harald Weiss, GM of the Schriesheim co-op.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

Wine of the Month - September 2015

One of my favourite wine merchants in London is The Sampler in South Kensington. Not only do they have a wide range of wines available for sale, but what really draws me back time and again are their 80 wines on tap thanks to the Enomatic machine. Credit goes to them for maintaining such a cumbersome system, which requires regular maintenance and is prone to breaking down. It is a marvelous system for wine geeks such as myself who will while away an entire afternoon sampling wines from obscure appellations such as Bierzo and Jura. This month's WOTM was unearthed in their "Icons" cabinet, which is reserved for rare and usually mature wines.  

Wine: Domaine de Chevalier 1983

Tasting note: Hailing from the Graves region, Domaine de Chevalier is one of the rare Bordeaux producers that is noted for the quality of both its red and white wines. Recent vintages have displayed sumptuous fruit and pronounced freshness. This wine, from a vintage that yielded a large, high quality crop but was overshadowed by 1982, showed remarkable verve and definition. Pale ruby colour with an enchanting nose of tobacco, dried leaves and smoke. Fully mature yet in beautiful condition, showing flavours of dried leaves, prunes and cocoa nibs captured in a silky, ethereal frame. Finishes pure and long. 

Monday 21 September 2015

On Franken’s Stein, Animal Parts and Charitable Causes

Producer: Weingut Juliusspital Würzburg

Comment ça va? My activities these past few months have had a markedly European slant, from a visit to Spain (sadly, no wines!), to a party celebrating French culture, and upcoming trips to Vienna and Bordeaux. In August, I was introduced to the wines of Juliusspital thanks to the good offices of Schmidt Vinothek, local distributor of German and Austrian wines. The tasting was held at Joël Robuchon at Resorts World Sentosa, which boasts a luxuriously decked out interior with black accents. This was my first time at Joël Robuchon and I was wondering why the smell of basil was so prominent until Chef Sommelier Kenneth Au pointed out the plants in the indoor garden. Apart from providing an attractive focus for diners, these herbs also act as air fresheners, cleaning up cigar smoke more effectively than any ioniser.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Wine of the Month - August 2015

I had a glass of Rioja next to a Cos D'Estournel 1986 at Praelum Wine Bistro and even though the latter was still alive and kicking I much preferred the Spanish red for its vibrancy and mouth-filling flavours. Doubtless the Rioja was much younger, but at nearly ten years it was no baby and considerably gentler on the wallet. The producer, R. Lopez de Heredia, is a top supplier of traditional Riojas with long aging in American oak. The wine is made primarily from Tempranillo with small additions of Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano, aged for five years in American oak barrels, well above the legislated minimum requirements.

Wine: R. López de Heredia Vina Bosconia Reserva 2006

Tasting note: Age has given this wine a patina of dried fruit and licorice overlaying the coconut and dark fruit flavours, but left its energy and grip intact. It is drinking beautifully now and shows no sign of slowing down.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Make Your Way to the Cellar, on the Kellerweg

This post was contributed by Lucia Santoso, an avid wine lover, musician and traveller currently based in Germany.

What would you do on a German Summer's eve? Why, go to a Weinfest, natürlich! How else would you celebrate summer by the Rhein?

Every single weekend from June to September is jam-packed with wine festivals, duly advertised by the public transport networks (read: no driving! :) ). This very one comes well recommended by my friend Sonja John, a native of Hessen and the owner of her own wine shop.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

The One and Only Biondi Santi

Producer: Biondi Santi

It’s not often that the opportunity arises to taste with an estate that is responsible for developing one of Italy’s pre-eminent fine wines. There are hundreds of producers bottling Brunello di Montalcino today, but original credit goes to one Ferruccio Biondi Santi from Tenuta Il Greppo, who crafted a wine meant for long aging from a particular clone of Sangiovese known locally as Brunello. The first vintage of this wine, of which some bottles can still be found in the winery’s cellars, dates back to 1888 (how’s that for a lucky number?).

Monday 10 August 2015

Great Southern Wine Tasting 22nd August

Mark your calendar! The Great Southern Wine Tasting comes to Singapore on the 22nd of August at the Conrad Centennial Hotel, featuring 48 regional wines. Registration is via email to

The Great Southern wine region is located at the southern tip of Western Australia, a large and remote area producing outstanding Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. The white grape varieties you are likely to find are Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Overshadowed at times by its more famous neighbour, the Margaret River wine region, the merits of this cool-climate region are starting to be appreciated, led by quality-minded producers such as Plantagenet, Frankland Estate, and Alkoomi.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Wine of the Month - July 2015

This year I've realised that Singapore does in fact have two seasons - hot and hotter. The past two months, continuing into July, my air-conditioning has been running nearly non-stop to provide some respite from the heat. Just how hot is it? It's so hot that Seng Choon eggs now only come hard-boiled. It's so hot that I saw a tree in Bishan Park chasing a dog. It's so hot that the Merlion jumped into the Singapore River.

In this weather, what we need are cool, refreshing wines, which is why for this month I have selected a Pinot Noir as the WOTM. Hailing from the small village of Aloxe-Corton, the wine is made from grapes that have been farmed as organically as possible, without the aid of herbicides or chemical fertilisers. Each parcel is hand-harvested, sorted and fermented in its own vat. Enjoy a glass of this chilled to around 16°C.

Wine: Domaine Follin-Arbelet Aloxe Corton 2012

Tasting note: Pale smudgy ruby. Fresh, intense and vibrant with a svelte body and attractively pure fruit marked by raspberry, cherry and herbal notes. Already approachable and deliciously thirst-quenching.

Distributor: Caveau

Sunday 19 July 2015

A New Entrant to Singapore’s Burgeoning Wine Scene

Company: wanderwine

The wine events in Singapore tend to fall into two broad groups. The first are the trade and consumer tastings organised by various producers or promotional bodies. These have an educational slant and are attended by sommeliers, wine writers and wine aficionados. Then there are the new product or service launches, commonly executed with the assistance of a PR agency. The crowd at these events are highly diverse, counting among their number models, media professionals and CEOs united by their love of wine and a good party.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Tasting the Noughties with Château Pichon Baron

Producers: Château Pichon Baron, Château Petit-Village

What does the insurance business have to do with wine? Quite a bit, if you’re talking about AXA Millésimes, the subsidiary of French insurance giant AXA. For a risk-averse company to invest in wine with its unpredictable and cyclical nature would seem to be a pretty big gamble. However, the strategy of purchasing run-down, historic vineyards with established credentials and then turning them around has paid handsome dividends.

Monday 22 June 2015

Wine of the Month - June 2015

When I enthused about this bottle to wine expert Suzanne Brocklehurst (who blogs over at The Wine Narrative), she immediately recalled writing about the producer in an piece on art in wine. Every year Fattoria Nittardi engages an artist to design not just the label but also the wrapping paper for their Casanuova di Nittardi Chianti Classico. This month's WOTM is their IGT-level wine from the region of Maremma located 8 km from the sea. Despite the fact that it is an IGT wine, that should not be taken to mean that the wine is inferior in any way, as in Italy the DOC/DOCG regulations are not a reliable indicator of quality. The wine is a blend of  40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 15 Petit Verdot and 5% of other, 'secret', varieties.

Wine: Fattoria Nittardi Nectar Dei 2008

Tasting note: Deep ruby colour. The nose exudes ripe, plush fruit with notes of toast, vanilla, black fruit, spice and licorice. Elegant, well-balanced and modern palate with integrated oak, vanillin sweetness and notes of sour cherry and earth. The finish is long and intense. Top drawer.

Distributor: Wine Exchange Asia

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Through Rosé Tinted Glasses

Looking through the articles on this blog, I see that coverage on rosé wines has been rather sparse.  This is due to two reasons, the first being that rosé wines are not that popular in Singapore, and also because I have not come across many particularly exciting wines of this ilk. Wine connoisseurs tend not to take rosé very seriously, regarding it as a simple thirst-quencher for the summer months. Considering that Singapore is perpetually swathed in hot and humid conditions, it is a head scratcher why we don’t drink more rosé locally. Too wimpy a drink to be seen with perhaps? The rosé-themed parties I have been to were well-attended, but the gender skew towards women was plain. Yet when opening a bottle rosé at private dinners, both sexes are up for a glass. It seems that men like drinking rosé too, they are just loathe to openly admit it.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Wine of the Month - May 2015

This month's WOTM is a rosé from champagne house Dom Pérignon. It comes with a hefty price tag, but is one of the greatest examples of sparkling rosé that you can get. The vintage was noted for its extreme conditions in France resulting in some unique, and in some cases uncharacteristic wines.

Wine: Dom Pérignon Rosé 2003

Tasting note: Made from south-facing vineyards in Hautvillers, Ay and Bouzy. The wine was aged for 10 years on its lees. Winemaker Richard Geoffroy has walked a tightrope with this difficult vintage, coaxing the Pinot Noir component of this wine to yield ripe, dazzling fruit without sacrificing poise and thrilling tension. Juicy Amaou strawberry, sweet pomegranate and a savoury line of just-popped toast linger on the palate, combining complexity with a welcoming accessibility. 

Distributors: Crystal Wines, Berry Bros. & Rudd

Dom Pérignon Unveils 2005 Vintage

Producer: Dom Pérignon

It was all glitz and glamour at the F1 Pit Building last month during the unveiling of Dom Pérignon’s latest vintage. Titled “The Three Faces of Dom Pérignon”, the event featured Dom Pérignon Vintage 2005, Dom Pérignon Vintage Rosé 2003 and Dom Pérignon P2 Vintage 1998. As usual with anything involving a brand under the Louis Vuitton conglomerate, it was a smoothly run operation with a twist designed to surprise and awe. The wines were initially concealed behind curtains that were pulled back to reveal three art installations purposefully designed around highlighting the main theme of each wine. I paused for a while to admire the evocative series of photos entitled “Fly for Me” by Yian Huang. Depicting dancers from Studio Harmonic in Paris in various jumps and poses, the exhibition was meant to convey the impression of Intensity associated with the Dom Pérignon P2 Vintage 1998.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Winemaking Hangs in the Balance in Mesmerising Cinque Terre

Region: Cinque Terre People: Luciano Capellini

There is a chill briskness in the air as I wander around the sleepy town of Monterosso in early March. At this time in the morning few people are about, mainly tradesmen in paint-splattered overalls heading off to work.  I tail one into a small shop above which hangs the sign Panificio Cerere and am rewarded with a freshly baked slice of focaccia. Simply made, with a crunchy bite that fills the mouth with flavours of salt and olive oil, it is so good I have to turn back for seconds.

Monday 13 April 2015

Wine of the Month - April 2015

There are occasions where I come across wines which I feel either deliver immense pleasure, or represent something off the beaten track that is worth trying out. As a new service to readers of this blog, I have decided to add a section to Éclaircissage that will highlight a different wine each month, along with my own tasting note. Where possible, I will also list the Singapore distributor for this wine. If you feel that this is useful to you, or if you have suggestions on how this section can be improved, please feel free to leave a comment or use the "Contact Me" form.

Wine: Lucien Le Moine Corton Blanc 2008

Tasting note: Medium gold with a saline intensity and pronounced lemon, custard apple and yoghurt notes. Grippy acids balance the rich, exceptionally layered fruit flavours. At seven years this wine is still going strong and has the stuffing to gloriously evolve further. For wine lovers who have been disappointed by the inconsistency of white Burgundy, this wine serves as a reminder of the heights that region can attain.

Distributor: Wine Culture

Friday 3 April 2015

Revealing Another Side of Bordeaux

Hubert de Boüard (left) sharing his opinions at a dinner organised by Crystal Wines

Mention Bordeaux, and what may come to mind is the image of grand châteaux presided over by aristocratic French millionaires who sell their wares to even richer collectors. For the latter group, who accumulate liquid treasures much as a dragon might hoard gold, the words Latour, Lafite, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton may be the only vocabulary they need in the language of wine. But what about less exalted estates, those who did not have the fortune of being founded in appellations such as Pauillac or Margaux? Similarly, not everyone has the means to afford a cru classé, yet this should not be a barrier to enjoying what Bordeaux can offer.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Reviewing Bordeaux 2012

Two years back during the Bordeaux 2012 en primeur campaign a friend asked if I thought that it was worth buying into the futures, noting that the pricing seemed reasonable. My reply was that there was better value to be found elsewhere, and that prices only looked reasonable because they went up so high for the 2009 and 2010 vintages. Since then, prices for most wines from this vintage have either been stable or drifted lower. A notable exception is Château Angélus, and this can be explained by its promotion to Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” in September 2012, a perch on which only three other St-Émilion châteaux roost.

Friday 6 March 2015

Do Second Wines Merit a Second Look?

At a recent dinner, I overheard two friends having a discussion. The first was lamenting that a product made by the company where friend #2 worked had continued to rise in price even though the raw material cost had been dropping. To which the second friend replied that the first law of economics was that supply and demand determine the price of a product, not its production cost.