Tuesday 13 December 2016

Beaujolais Closer to Burgundy

Producer: Domaine des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun)

Think that wine has outpaced beer? I was brought down to earth in a recent conversation with a young, bubbly lady who had just entered the wine trade. It occurred to me to enquire what wines her generation were into, and the reply was more humbling than enlightening. “Actually millennials don’t drink wine,” she said. “My friends are more into beer.” Research by Barclays in the USA shows that the 18-29 year old demographic is increasingly favouring wine, but 40% still choose beer as their preferred beverage, versus 23% for wine and 30% for liquor. I suspect that the consumption in Asia is even more skewed towards beer, judging by the sales of Tiger and Heineken, and the growing popularity of craft beer. Now I know what to order when drinking with younger colleagues.

Friday 9 December 2016

A Solaia Vertical

Producer: Antinori

The decline of Chianti, once Italy’s most revered wine, started after World War 2 and reached a critical level in the 1970s. The causes are many – an enlargement of the original viticultural zone which encouraged planting on subpar sites, too many producers capitalising on the Chianti name, and the mandatory inclusion of grapes such as Trebbiano (a profligate but undistinguished variety) to name a few. This situation laid the groundwork for the rise of Italy’s –aia wines; super-premium bottlings that stepped outside Italy’s fossilised wine laws and whose prices were way above those wines classified at the DOCG level, supposedly Italy’s top tier with the strictest regulations. Collectively known as Super Tuscans, the names of these wines (e.g. Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Tassinaia) would be familiar to any serious Italian wine collector.

Monday 21 November 2016

Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection 2014

Region: Gimblett Gravels

“So, how many of you have tried a New Zealand Syrah?” That question, asked by wine journalist Ch’ng Poh Tiong to a group of us gathered for a private tasting, surely made us think. Even though we were all fairly well-versed in wines, we had drunk far more Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from New Zealand than Syrah. My own experience with New Zealand Syrah came when visiting Man O' War Vineyards located on the breezy Waiheke Island, just off the Auckland coast. It was after tasting their Dreadnought Syrah that I came to appreciate why the Kiwis call it so instead of Shiraz like their Australian neighbours do. Stylistically, New Zealand has more in common with Northern Rhone than the Barossa Valley, with more restrained fruit and very often a peppery or gamey note.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Wine of the Month - November 2016

Having a few minutes to kill before dinner I decided to pop by Praelum Wine Bistro for a drink and to see what goodies they had on tap. As usual, General Manager Gerald Lu pulled out an interesting bottle from the cellar, an Italian wine hailing from the Soave zone. Made by one of the oldest families in Soave, this is their top white made from 100% Garganega (other permitted varieties include Chardonnay and Verdicchio). A lot of Soave is bland and uninteresting but I could happily polish off a bottle of this.

Wine: Pieropan "La Rocca" Soave Classico 2013

Tasting note: The vineyard is planted on chalky-clay soils as opposed to the volcanic basalt that is more common in the region, which is supposed to result in a wine with more finesse and floral notes. There is a short maceration with skin contact, and the wine is aged for about a year in barrels between 500 and 2000 litres capacity. Pale gold appearance. Dry and expressive, with notes of nutty almond, white peach and orange peel. Medium body and alcohol with great poise and vibrancy.

Monday 7 November 2016

A Glimpse of the Swan Valley with Pinelli Wines

Producer: Pinelli Wines

Winemaker Daniel Pinelli

The best thing about visiting the Swan Valley has to be the convenience. The journey from downtown Perth to Pinelli Wines took just under twenty-five minutes and thanks to Uber, I didn’t even have to rent a car. As luck would have it, my ride was escorted most of the way by a fleet of police vehicles that waved us right past traffic lights. I noticed a car bearing the license plate 1 whizz past as I got off at Pinelli Wines, and wondered if it contained the Prime Minister or some visiting dignitaries.

Sunday 30 October 2016

A Natural Revolution

A spontaneous get-together with some wine buddies saw us gathering at what must be the most audacious wine bar to open in recent years. Christened Wine RVLT, this bar was the result of one and a half years  planning by Ian Lim and Alvin Gho, both veterans with more than a decade in the food and beverage industry. Wine RVLT specialises in natural wines and bills itself as a “Real Bottle Bar” promising selections that are, in Ian and Alvin’s words, “living, raw, honest and natural”. It’s truly a labour of love, as both of them maintain day jobs and tend to the bar in the evenings.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Wine of the Month - October 2016

It was a great honour to be assisting Ying Hsien, Singapore's first Master of Wine, in the selection of wines for the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix this year. The discussion on what wines to include was intense but on the whole I was pleased by how well they showed on the day itself. One of the considerations which the selection panel paid careful attention to was how the food, catered by Grand Copthorne Hotel, would affect the flavours of the wine. By itself, the Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo 2012 would have been rather tannic, but paired with food it mellowed considerably allowing the fruit to shine through, especially with the roasted Angus beef and selection of aged cheeses. Attendance at the race was down markedly from the year before, which was a pity, as the organisers pulled out all the stops in delivering a great experience. On the flipside, those who did go benefited from shorter queues and easier access to the big-name acts, whose enthusiasm did not seem diminished in the slightest.

Wine: Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo 2012

Tasting note: A single-vineyard wine made from the Nebbiolo grape. The Marcenasco plot has a long history of cultivation and was already producing wine since the 12th century. This interpretation has the full-body and fierce tannins that one would expect from a Barolo, leading with classic aromas of tar, licorice and violets. The palate shows an easy harmony, following on with notes of dried fruits and bitter cherry that add a savoury element to the wine. A very well-balanced effort.

Monday 10 October 2016

A Rosé Fit for Angels

Producer: Château d’Esclans

Is it time for rosés in Singapore to bloom? Statistics from the Vinexpo/IWSR market study this year revealed that sales of rosé wine here grew by 24.2% between 2019 and 2014. However this was from an extremely low base and rosé still represents a drop in the ocean compared with sales of white and red wine (an exception being in the sparkling wine category where rosé champagne is doing quite well). “People in Asia are maybe five to ten years late to rosé,” asserts Alex Diard, Brand Ambassador for Château d’Esclans. “Now in Europe, and even in UK and the US, rosé is everywhere. It’s insane how many people drink rosé now – not only women, everybody is drinking rosé.”

Wednesday 5 October 2016

The Largest Wine Region in Australia is One You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Region: Great Southern

Think of Western Australian wine, and perhaps the region that comes to mind first is Margaret River, a disproportionate source of fine wine (it produces nearly a quarter of the country’s premium wine from about 4% of its total crush), or maybe Swan Valley, the oldest wine region in Western Australia. But there is another region on the up-and-coming, a vast and remote hinterland of vinous possibilities. In recent years those in the wine trade have been whispering about the potential of the Great Southern wine region, located at the southernmost corner of Western Australia. This roughly rectangular region spans 150km north to south and 100km east to west, making it Australia’s largest wine growing region in terms of sheer size. Yet for all its immensity, there are only around 70 producers here (by comparison Margaret River has over double that number).

Friday 16 September 2016

A Taste of Ronda

Region: Ronda

Have you heard the one about a German, an Argentinian and a Swiss? It’s not the beginning of a pub joke, but the story of how an obscure region is attracting winemakers from around the world. Usually when tasting wines from a region new to me, I look for a degree of commonality, whether it is a grape variety or flavour profile. At this tasting though, put together by online retailer Wines of Ronda, the list of grape varieties included Viognier, Lemberger, and Zweigelt. Hardly commonplace grapes, and one would be hard-pressed to identify a region planted with these varieties as being Spanish. “The new taste of Spanish wine” was the tagline of the tasting, and very apt it is. Even though Spain is part of the Old World, it has shown tremendous courage in challenging the status quo (hello Ferran Adrià). Imagine tasting a wine made from French grapes planted in Spanish soil by a German winemaker.

Sunday 28 August 2016

Sub-regionality in Marlborough – Exploring the Southern Valleys with Auntsfield Estate

Producer: Auntsfield Estate

The feeling of déjà vu was strong at a recent tasting with Auntsfield Estate. Sub-regional characteristics in Marlborough – where had I heard that before? It was not until I examined the wine label that realisation dawned on me. The ‘A’ logo of Auntsfield Estate bears an uncanny resemblance to Astrolabe Wines, a winery also producing a range showcasing sub-regions within Marlborough. When I mention this to Auntsfield viticulturist Ben Cowley, he laughed that “Jason [the Managing Director of Astrolabe] stole it from us!”

Sunday 31 July 2016

Stepping Up to the Michelin Standard

Last month was a big month for Singapore on the F&B scene. I’m speaking of course about the launch of the Michelin guide here, the first time a Southeast Asian nation has been included in the guide. Twenty two restaurants bagged a one star rating, a further six received two stars and the coveted three star rating was bestowed upon Joël Robuchon at Resorts World Sentosa. It’s a testament to the cosmopolitan mix of eateries in Singapore, and will undoubtedly boost tourism and fan interest in the dining scene. Already some of the restaurants are reporting increased bookings, and the two hawker stalls that received a one star rating have seen snaking queues. Even restaurants that did not make it into the guide are benefitting from a halo effect, a welcome reversal from the first half of this year where business was rather slow.

Thursday 30 June 2016

Wine of the Month - June 2016

This month's WOTM was taken from a recent tasting. Kaiken Wines is the Argentinian arm of Chilean-based Montes Wines, headed by winemakers Aurelio Montes Jr. and Rogelio Rabino. This was an interesting bottle because it was made entirely from Cabernet Franc, touted as the next big thing from Argentina. Total acreage is still low - according to a report from Decanter earlier this year only about 700 ha of the country's 200,000 ha of vineyards are planted with this variety. Aurelio Montes Jr. says that Cabernet Franc represents the "feminine side of Argentina". Compared to Malbec, it is more "refined and elegant, a little lighter in the mouth but with lots of complexity".

Wine: Kaiken Obertura 2014 

Tasting note: The second vintage of this wine produced by Kaiken. Deep ruby appearance with Mediterranean herbs, tobacco, a floral accent and light gaminess. Flavours on the palate reveal red cranberry and dark fruits, with perfect ripeness. It all adds up to an elegant tapestry of flavours and a very good showing for this variety.

Sustainability and future-proofing – A tasting with Aurelio Montes Jr.

Producer: Montes Wines, Kaiken Wines

When Aurelio Montes Jr. crossed the border from Chile to Argentina to manage Kaiken Wines, he thought that he would throw a barbeque with the aim of getting to know his new neighbours. So he budgeted according to a typical meal in his native country; with some empanadas, side dishes and 250gm of meat per person. Within half an hour of his guests arriving however, all the meat was gone, and that was when he learnt; “If you want to invite someone home, you have to prepare one kilo of meat per person. Doesn’t matter if it’s man, woman, or child. And forget about salad.”

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Wine of the Month - May 2016

The Hospices de Beaune is a hospital established in 1443 to treat the sick and poor funded by an annual wine charity sale that takes place on the third Sunday of each November. The wines are sold in barrel and aged by an appointed négociant. Each wine is dedicated to the benefactor who gifted the vineyard to the Hospices. This particular wine came from a barrel sold as the Pièce du Président, with proceeds going to the Carla  Bruni-Sarkozy Foundation and the idée Foundation which supports literacy and epileptic treatments respectively.

Wine: Hospices de Beaune Corton Grand Cru Charlotte Dumay 2012

Tasting note: Pinot Noir from Burgundy can often reach lofty heights, but this wine takes its place among the stars. Sublimely sleek, soft and perfumed, this wine flows around the palate with rounded acidity and a feather-light texture. The flavours are intense and energetic, showing spice, juicy redcurrants and sumptuous red cherries. Absolutely electrifying. 

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Cocktail Festival at Singapore Changi Airport

From now until 30th June, the DFS Cocktail Festival is taking place at the DFS Wines and Spirits Duplex at Changi Airport Terminal 3. Travellers flying out of that terminal can enjoy mini masterclasses, locally-inspired cocktails and flairing performances for free. Each weekend features a guest bartender from Singapore's vibrant bar scene who will be showcasing a cocktail exclusively created for the festival. These bespoke cocktails will only be available from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm during the two days the guest bartender is at the festival. The lineup is as follows:

Jigger & Pony featuring Christyne Lee: May 27 & 28
Manhattan featuring Philip Bischoff: June 10 & 11
The Library featuring Adam ‘Eddy’ Bursik: June 17 & 18
Smoke & Mirrors featuring Byron Tan: June 24 & 25

In addition, a party hosted by Veuve Clicquot will be held on June 3 & 4 showcasing cocktails made with Veuve Clicquot Rich, a sweeter-style champagne specifically made for mixing.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Proseccos from Villa Sandi

Producer: Villa Sandi

As the train rolled in to the next stop in Singapore, I noticed something peculiar. The electronic route map inside the train was indicating that we had arrived at Paya Lebar, while the station signs read Eunos. Meanwhile the automated announcement was assuring passengers that we had stopped at Tanah Merah. Later during the day, as I spoke with Laura Dassiè, I inwardly wondered if she too wished that she could be at several places at the same time. As the Export Area Manager for Villa Sandi, her travel schedule is physically demanding, and the mental effort required to be promoting wines the entire day no less punishing.

Saturday 30 April 2016

Wine of the Month - April 2016

Hot climate = low acidity. That's one of the truisms of winemaking. Unless you're talking about Assyrtiko from the Greek island of Santorini, where the volcanic soil helps the grape maintain its acidity even as it ripens. Courtesy of a civilisation-wiping volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, the whole island is blanketed with this porous, sandy soil, making the wines a great expression of terroir.

Wine: Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko 2013

Tasting note: Crisp, citrussy and full-bodied, the standout character of this wine is its ability to combine high levels of alcohol with piercing acidity. There's a touch of honey to the crystal clear nectarine and mandarin orange fruit. Considerable undervalued, although getting hold of a bottle is as difficult as completing the twelve labours of Hercules.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Black to Basics

Producer: Black Estate

It’s comforting to know that despite increasing decrepitude I can still muster enough energy to do the things I want before losing the ability to distinguish a Pouilly-Fuissé from a Pouilly-Fumé. While visiting the South Island of New Zealand, the timing was perfect to squeeze in a refreshing morning swim with wild dolphins in Kaikoura before driving one and a half hours to Waipara for an appointment with Black Estate. There was scarce time to admire the coastline but I did manage to get a few shots of the ruggedly beautiful scenery at one of the thoughtfully placed pitstops along the way. Road accidents, many caused by driver fatigue, is taken seriously here.

Friday 11 March 2016

Hennessy X.O. Collection by Tom Dixon

Producer: Hennessy

The reveal of the final Hennessy X.O. Exclusive Collection in Singapore last month marked several milestones in the company’s history. Not only does it commemorate Hennessy’s 250th anniversary, but it also marks a turning point in the company’s fortunes, which had seen a decline since China implemented anti-austerity measures in 2012. The mood at the launch, held at Szechuan restaurant Shisen Hanten at the Mandarin Orchard, was (to use a forced pun) decidedly spirited. Ian McLernon, Director & General Manager of Moët Hennessy Diageo Singapore was all smiles as he reported on the health of the company. “We’ve had an exceptional 2015, and to be very honest with you quite often we’re running out of stock. With these very old eau-de-vies, we can’t produce any more.”

Sunday 6 March 2016

Wine of the Month - March 2016

Has affordable Burgundy become an oxymoron? The past few years have seen auction houses rubbing their hands with glee at the records being broken for cases of grand cru wines. According to Bloomberg, Burgundy vineyards are now the most expensive in France, outdoing even Bordeaux and Champagne. Look a little closer though and there are still pockets of value to be found, and you need not shell out thousands of dollars for a great wine.

The caveat though is that we're talking about white wines, specifically Chablis. Called "the best-value white burgundy of all" by wine expert Jancis Robinson, it is possible to obtain grand cru Chablis for less than SGD100. This month's WOTM is made by négociant Albert Bichot, coming from their own estate of Château Long-Depaquit. The estate was founded in 1791 and managed by winemaker Matthieu Mangenot.

Wine: Maison Albert Bichot Château Long-Depaquit "Les Blanchots" 2014

Tasting note: The Blanchots grand cru is a steep vineyard that receives predominant morning sunlight. This, combined with the Kimmeridgian limestone soils, gives the wine its rare delicacy. The pure aromas of lemon, oyster shell and custard blossom with pinpoint precision on the tongue, filling the palate with generous fruit and a lengthy finish. The slightest hint of vanilla is present - the wine sees vinification in only 15% oak barrels previously used 1-4 times.

Monday 29 February 2016

KOT Selections adds Mosel Rieslings to its portfolio

Producer: Daniel Vollenweider, Weiser-Künstler

(Pictures from Weingut Vollenweider and Weingut Weiser-Künstler)

Fate can have a serendipitous effect. Seventeen years ago, when Ong YiXin was a cellar hand at Dr. Loosen, it would have been a long shot to imagine that the friendship he struck with fellow intern and budding winemaker Daniel Vollenweider would evolve into a business partnership today. In his current role as Managing Partner of wine merchant KOT Selections, YiXin reminisces about those early days. “We both young, crazy and didn’t have girlfriends back then, so all we could talk about was wine and more wine,” quipped YiXin. Subsequently YiXin worked several vintages with Daniel, starting off in a small one room apartment that doubled as a makeshift winery.

Saturday 20 February 2016

Nakata Scores a Hat-trick with “N” Sake

Producer: "N" Sake by Hidetoshi Nakata, Takagi Shuzo

Clad in a dark blue Tom Ford denim jacket with matching jeans, Hidetoshi Nakata cuts a precise figure as he enters the private room at French fine dining venue Les Amis to promote his latest venture. After achieving worldwide fame in the arenas of football and fashion, Nakata’s third big venture focuses on promoting something closer to home and heart – Japanese sake. After a pilgrimage through various Japanese prefectures that saw him visiting over 250 producers, Nakata discovered one that could help him realise his vision of producing a premium sake. The chosen brewery, Takagi Shuzo, has been making sake since 1685 and already produces the much sought-after Juyondai label, one of the few internationally recognised brands. “To me Takagi Shuzo was the best, because of the sake master’s knowledge,” said Nakata.

Monday 15 February 2016

Austria's Wine Specialties

Producers: Wieninger, Loimer

The famous Danube river provides the backdrop to this vineyard in Wachau

In souvenir shops around Austria it is common to find T-shirts light-heartedly proclaiming “No kangaroos in Austria.” It’s a self-deprecating reference to how the small Central European country (pop. 8.5 million) is often overshadowed by the fame of its barbeque loving namesake. But this country, which holds a wealth of Baroque architecture and birthed talents such as Gustav Klimt and Johann Strauss could not be more dissimilar. A recent trip there unearthed further secrets unique to the Austrian wine landscape.

Sunday 31 January 2016

Wine of the Month - January 2016

This month's WOTM is a real curio. It is a white wine made from Rotgipfler, which even in its native country Austria is a rare find. I only had the pleasure of tasting it due to a chance encounter with a fellow sommelier who showed me this wine in a blind tasting. While it was a good bet that the wine was made from an indigenous grape from an Old World country due to its unusual taste profile, pinning down the actual region was a challenge. The density and richness of the fruit led me to believe that it was from a warm climate, a guess that proved wrong when the wine was revealed as having come from Thermenregion, named for its profusion of thermal springs and marked by sunny, dry summers with cool winters. Although the grape can be made into sweeter styles, this is a dry wine. 

Photo credit: WineLeo
Wine: Johanneshof Reinisch Rotgipfler 2012

Tasting note: A beautiful golden hue to this wine that hints at its generosity. The palate lives up to the promise, exhibiting ripe tropical fruits and notes of yellow peach, rock melon, herbal candy and a slight nuttiness. The full, oily texture is counterbalanced by high acidity and a refreshing finish. The unique flavour offers an interesting alternative to common grape varieties and the price is very wallet-friendly.

Distributor: WineLeo