Savored…Non Classified Left Bank Bordeaux

The theme for this night’s World Wine Table was pretty good. One that got us to Google, double checked our wine fridge, and second guess our selection. With just 61 Bordeaux Chateau within the 1855 Classification, it should not be too difficult to find Non-Classified Left Bank Bordeaux wine for the dinner.

Non Classified Left Bank Bordeaux

Photo credit: Dr. Jen Shek Wei

This session proved it is more than just classification or expensive branding. The location, vintage and terroir of the wine are important, and these labels proved that they can produce wine just as good. Some may not be as cellar worthy, but one never know. Chateau Haut Marbuzet 1996 drank so well and it was voted the best of the evening.

I took the 1/3 balance of Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion 2005 home with me and it became my favorite about 2 days later.

Les Carmes HB 2005

When I first tasted it, I wrote “blueberry juice with alcohol”. It had the most youthful hue among the selection, and most shy (considering that the bottle was opened 2 hours prior and last to serve that evening). Tight aromas of freshly tanned leather, cedar box filled with new cigar enveloped by notes of dark fruits of blueberries and blackberries, and just a slightest hint of red fruits such as cherry. On the palate, it showed potential friendliness with forward fruit notes, firm sweetness and smokiness of a lighted cigar with hints of tar, and cocoa. 2 days later, all the nuances I noted became more expressive with a gentle elegance that was quite seductive. I actually hesitated to share what was left with my hubz.

This wine is a really affordable introduction to this Pessac Leognan. A little research yield the surprising knowledge that 2005 was made by a woman, Penelope FURT-ROCHE, her first vintage. By the way 2005 showed, and it helped that it was a strong vintage, the cellar worthiness of this wine is very promising.

Savored…99 points and not the same

Two wines, from the same vintage, same country, same regions, received the same rating from the same reviewers, can be completely not the same wine on so many levels. Most collectors will buy and taste base on the reviewers’ palate and the assumption of their personal preference. I do too sometime, but I will take my pinch of salt along with the reviews I read. I may not have the best palate but it has never really let me down.

At a dinner late last year, I tasted two well-known Bordeaux at a dinner.  While we were thrilled, and very appreciative of the opportunity to taste these wine from the same country, region (Bordeaux), vintage and both receiving the same upgraded scores last year, but we quickly noted that’s where the similarity came to a screeching halt.

Chateau Pavie 2003, Saint-Emilion. 99pts
Dark ruby hue with aromas of fleshy red fruits, earth laced with truffle, toasted chestnut, and smoked tar. Quite steely, restrained and not letting. The steel-like character and restraint carried forward to the palate with flavours of black and blue fruits, leather and wet herbaceous notes. It showed firm griping acidity and pronounced tannins. The heat of the alcohol came forward on the mid length finish. I was thinking it is either still young or simply stubborn.  (I had a 1978 last night and the wine behave quite the same, with the exception that it is slight rounder and alcohol heat not pronounced. I will blog about it another day)
99pts and not the same

Chateau Montrose 2003, Saint-Estephe. 99pts
Also dark ruby in hue, but a complete opposite of the Chateau Pavie’s character. This bottle was vibrant and lively in style with aromas of rich red fruit, smoked cherry cream, vanilla sweet spice and the naughtiness of game. The palate followed throughout with the sweetness of red ripened fruit, elegant minerals and tannins, with a slight savoury finish. Love the vibrancy of its character and style , it made its presence known and very memorable.

And so I wonder, what is the basis that these 2 wines received the same scores. But then again, there are so many what if and maybe about the wine to consider, such as handling and storage at every points from Bordeaux to our small little island north of the Equator. So don’t let scores cloud your purchasing process. Reviewers are human too, they may not be all right, their palate will age or over used or not quite there, or the wine might just decide to trick us completely. At the end of the day, take time to get to know your palate and trust it.

Savored…Not all 70s are brown

I don’t remember too much about my younger years except that I had fun base on the memories I have. As I get older, I seems to gravitate towards things that are older. Some of my favourites is a Mercedes 450SL, black and white photography, wedge shoes (mainly because it is a lot friendlier to the feet), and wine of course.

Drinking wines from the 70s can be a very unpredictable experience. Some are going to impress, some will pleasantly surprise, some will stumble the moment it is opened, and some have died silently a while back.

At a recent wine auction, the organiser surprised attendees with small handful of Bordeaux from the 70s. They may not be from well-know chateaus, but a couple stood out.
Ch La Dominque 75This 1975 bottle pleasantly surprised me because it was drinking rather well. There were good notes of fruits and delicate sweetness. Hints of dryness and lingering floral note in the finish.
Ch Brane Cantenac 76This 1976 was hanging by just a few thread, showing some matured stewed like fruit notes. The sweetness was fleeting and it finished just a little short. But I thought drinking quite nicely, on its own. Don’t think it will last very long.
Ch d'Aiguilhe 71_corkedThis 1971 left us quietly in the dark several years back. This bottle from the 70s was definitely brown and notably oxidised with hints of sourness.

Spotted…Fake Wine

Between sneezing, coughing, losing my voice to Barry White’s tone and a weekend of wine events that I am managing, I thought I better put down some words.
So with all the chaos (controlled) and manic madness (well-managed), I thought of an interesting story my good friend G shared with me a few weeks back. It is quite an amazing one.

When the wine market in China became a force that simply cannot be underestimated, a force like a black hole that attracted all sorts wine producers, merchants and traders, both good and bad. Stories of fake wine were heard frequently. My dad tried to order a bottle of Bordeaux in a 5-Stars hotel in Shanghai and asked jokingly if the bottle was real. He was told by the Bar Manager (with a straight face) that he would check in the back (a slap on the forehead moment). Dad quickly stopped the Bar Manager and ordered a bottle of beer instead. Nice save and no damaged done in the wallet.
But G was not so lucky. Take a look at the picture (credit to G) and see if you can spot it.
Fake L'Evangile
What is a cork from a Burgundy bottle doing in a Bordeaux bottle? Initially when G tasted the wine, he was wondering on it’s really youthful notes, forward upfront fruit and spiciness for a Merlot that was more than 20 years old. Not quite the style of Chateau L’Evangile or even the vintage 1990 which he is very familiar with. He took a look at the cork and was ghastly surprised. Ironically, he is also familiar with the Burgundy that the cork came from.

This picture was taken as proof because he was returning the wine to the wine merchant (a reputable one from the US) he bought the wine from. Over the years, I learnt that fake wines are only produced in China. There are many stories about where and how fakes are produced, but the most interesting one is that there are bottling facilities on ships in international water? Amazing right? It really pays to know what you are drinking. One never knows when the next fake will show up.

Savored…Intriguing Unknown

It was an evening of unknown.
Started with the restaurant, I have always thought it to be a well-known unknown because the quality of their interpretation of Thai food is very questionable. Well-known about 10 years ago for serving claypot sharkfin, it has never really appealed to me. At SGD60 per person, I know for sure the dinner will not feature any fins.
To match the unknown, some of my friends brought some unknown wines (at least to me) to share. It didn’t mean that they were really bad, but just unsure about them.
Maucaillou 1985-001
When the foil was removed, several of us commented: what wine is this? Have not heard of it. Hey KS, why bring wine no one heard of (jokingly of course)? A little Google research yield information that this Medoc wine has a history. It came into existence in 1871 right next to a train station for practical logistic reason. Unknowingly, this 1985 aged quite well. This is my first Maucaillou so I can’t figure out how it would be like young. This bottle is still rather fruit forward but it could not follow through,  balanced with some creaminess in texture and ended quite short. I read somewhere that it is getting some positive critic comparison at Grand Cru Classe level. I didn’t mind the wine, but I am more impressed with its ability to age.
Les Songs de Magdelaine 2008-001
The second unknown wine really got us puzzled as well. A little research revealed that this is Chateau Magdelaine’s second wine. I have a soft spot for Saint Emillion, but this wine didn’t made an impression. I suspected that there might be a little storage issue because it was short, flavours were not as pronounced as I expected for its age and vintage, fine tannins of dark fruits and didn’t linger. Basically, rather straight forward and simple wine.

Both wines are fine on its own, but unfortunately, it will remain unknown to me for a while. Lately, some of my wine friends received diagnosis of fatty liver, borderline diabetes, gout and other diet related issues. They are relatively healthy because most exercised. But the bottom-line is that we love our wine, and so as we get older, it is important that we should be more particularly in what we drink and eat. We can’t take wealth with us when we die, so it makes sense to drink the best we can. So If I have to pick one, it will be Maucaillou because basically it showed better for its age, more interesting, and it is an 1985.

Savored…Serangoon Road, Singapore

There are a lot of things I do not want to remember about the 80s.
And there are certainly a lot of things from that decade (except 1989) that I hope will never revive and be fashionable again. Now that I am an adult legally allow to drink and have been for many years, I must say I have not encountered wines from this decade that I do not like, even with these 5th Growth, they are drinking beautifully.
This was an incredible treat, and I thank A for buying dinner (because he striked lottery not once, but twice) and KS for sharing these couple of beauties. We started with the Pauillac. During the first 5 minutes, there was a little bit of bottle funk. Swirling it in the glass helped this funk to evaporate away. With a rusty brick hue, it revealed a cream-like textured aromas with black fruits. Balance and round texture which I was pleaseantly surprised with good fruit notes and a slight hint of mocha. Quite an impressive finish.

The Saint Estephe may not have the broadness of the Pauillac, but it didn’t pale. Same rusty brick hue, the aroma note is leaner with slight hint of stalkiness. The palate has fruit notes, but slightly leaner with straw like texture, and hints of toasted cedar and stewed fruit sweetness. It sat well on the palate, but not as impressive as the Pauillac. But hey, I am not exactly complaining.

Savored…Keong Siak Street, Bukit Timah Road and Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Singapore

I caught up with a property agent friend L this afternoon and he told me that one of his clients shared with him some old old French wine. I asked what label and he said he could not remember. Then I asked how was it, and he said it was too light, not sweet and a little dry. Then he said he remebered he took a picture of it and he It turned out to be 1986 Chateau Lynch Bages. He then asked if I have tasted it and if it is expensive. I replied that I have tasted other 1986 wines and I think the 1986 Chateau Lynch Bages should be about SGD500 to SGD600 (I was not too far off because I checked on with a French wine merchant and it is about Euro 290). He continued to say that he likes dessert wine and tawny port; and that his client opened two bottles of the same wine. When I heard that, the phrase ” Youth is wasted on the young” crossed my mind.

I have had a few 1986 Bordeaux and California, all shared with me by my friends, and I am always so gratefull for it. Like the 1986 Cheval Blanc which a wine collector friend shared with me a few years back in a French restaurant. This bottle turned out to be part of her father’s collection that she inherited when her father passed away. Another fabulous and memorable 1986 is Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour that a California wine collector friend found in his travel and brought it back to share with me and a few CA wine lovers over an Italian meal which was not very memorable.

Another fabulous 1986 was an invitation to a vertical tasting of Chateau Lafon Rochet. In my wine tasting notes, I highlighted that the 1986 presented itself with a sense vibrant liveliness than the 1988.

L is quite a beginner in terms of wine, so I told him that he has missed out the beauty of the 1986 Chateau Lynch Bages. I continued to share with him that there are elements of older wines that will not be found in young wines. And not all wines can be aged as such. I love the balance, delicate nuances of it characteristics, elegant weight and maturity of its flavors that will not be found in young wines unless one wait patiently.
I told L that in time, and with regular tasting and experience, he will come to learn to appreciate older wines one day.

Thank you to all who have shared your 1986 with me.