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…on the 3rd day of the Goat

Now that the Lunar New Year of 2015 festivities are done. I have started to settle down and CATCH UP.

You see, Lunar New Year celebration is observed for 15 days. Traditionally, Chinese businesses are supposed to close for that duration of time, but realistically speaking, these day it is impossible to do so. If I didn’t resume business on the fifth day, my clients will have me for a feast!! Nonetheless the feasting didn’t stop and never will. On the 3rd day, my brother got the family and a close friend together to eat drink, and to give this close friend a hard time about his growing belly…the whole night.

On this day, there was a request for me to roast some pork belly, and so I did. Sio Bak (roasted pork belly)”mark 4″ was done just right and I nailed the crackling. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know what I mean. Although this batch was a little salty, but my young nephews gave me a perfect 10. Dad was requested to whip up a batch of wok-fried mustard beef, one of his famous signature dishes. And my two nephews made (with help of course) pizza from scratch. So what did we drink you wonder? Well, not too shabby.

Silex and Seta

The interpretations of Semillon and/or Sauvignon Blanc from these two labels couldn’t be more different. The Silex was a 2006 showed lots of mineral, floral, nut and flint. There was crispiness that was lips smacking, and elegant wood was cashmere-like. Love the depth and evolving characters of the tropical fruits notes that kept me sipping. Still youthful. On the other side of the Atlantic and continent, the SETA 2008 was silky, broad, spice-ridden, with fruity notes of melon and peaches. Notable vanilla creaminess lingered fleetingly on finish. No faults but not sure if it will age further.

3rd day of Goat

The reds matched my Dad’s mustard beef brilliantly. I was amazed that RSV Los Carneros Pinot Noir held up nicely. Definitely not a power house by now, but it didn’t give way. It was definitely that the later stage of its lifespan, but lets see because I have a couple more bottles. Sawyer (this winery doesn’t exist anymore) was exactly what California Cabernet Blend should be. Fruit driven but not overwhelming and balanced, quite elegant with supple tannins and held its structure brilliantly. It will age gracefully and I am more than happy to wait. The surprised bottle of the night was La Chapelle 1988. An absolute pleasure to drink and drink and drink. It was not powerhouse but not shabby. The flavours were of dark fruits with just hints of dried cherry, notes of baking spice and rusty minerals. Not too sure if it will age gracefully further.

Savored…A Corton Charlemagne

Despite having the opportunities to taste and drink Burgundy quite often, it is still a wine that confuses the hell out of me. Just when I thought I am getting it, I will be tricked, and find myself wondering if I really got it.

This Corton got me good. Tasted blind and I kept insisting that was an aged Pommard. It showed itself to be rather full-bodied, but really gentle around the edge, balanced and elegant without losing structure.
Louis Latour CC

This is so much I can remember about the wine, and how I was absolutely fooled. It was an evening of dinner meeting, and I forgot to take notes. This year, I will try harder. But I know this will not be the last time I will be blind sided by Burgundy.

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.

Savoured…The $30 Challenge

Where I live, prices of wine can be high. In fact prices of wine are even higher in some of the neighbouring countries with duty on tax as high as 500% on value, alcohol level and so on. The only exception is Hong Kong which has now become a haven for wine purchasing due to the exemption of duty and tax.

Our tax and duty on wine is about $9.50 to $11 per bottle, depending on the alcohol level. The higher the alcohol content, the higher the tax and duty. I think you get the idea how much we pay for a bottle of good whisky or vodka. *.*

So most of the time, we (most of my wine collector friends) do not really give any thoughts to purchase and taste $30 or less wine, well maybe a few sips at weddings or cocktail functions. So when I was invited to join a group of wine connoisseurs and collectors for a $30 challenge, I could not say no, In fact I was thrilled. When we (especially the different groups I am with) do not think twice to drop serious dollars for wines we love to drink, it is easy to forget to consider that there might be good wines, diamonds-in-the-rough types. Maybe not every wine, but most must have started at that price level, maybe not quite be $30, but humbly I am sure.

It was not simply to go to a supermarket and pick up the first $30 on the shelves. As we are a bunch of curious, critical and possible cruel group of people, we looked for wines that were made from unusual grape varietals, unexpected blend, or unexpected wine growing region for the usual grape varietals. All were served blind and we had to guess grape varietals, vintage, and wine producing regions over local zichar cuisine.
$30 challenge_white
This first pair of white was quite intriguing. The one that got us stumped was made from an unfamiliar grape: Jacquere. I thought it was oxidised and the colour was quite dense. We guessed every possible grape varietals we thought might be close, but just not Jacquere. I thought it was a Spanish white that might have been oxidised. It seemed that this wine needed to be drunk very young and vintage 2009 was considered over the hill. So now we are hunting down another bottle to taste again so that we can decide if it was indeed oxidised.
$30 Challenge_Red 1
The next pair was reds. I brought a NZ red of unusual blend from this part of the world. When I last visited NZ, I was amazed by how grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon are tasting. It maybe due to global warming or the vines are maturing, but they have come around with more complexity and maturity in flavours instead of being green and stalky which I encountered more than a decade ago. So when I found a Malbec/Merlot blend, I felt that this would be a good blind. In terms of character, it was quite Grenache-like, soft, fruit forward, smoky and lip-smacking yumminess. And guess what, it was priced at $26.50.
The Valpolicella was a big wine, too big in my opinion. Although it was opened for quite a while it didn’t soften till we were almost done with dinner. The size and sweetness will definitely appeal to novice drinkers and a good intro to getting to know wine further.
$30 Challenge_Red 2
I was glad that there was a California wine in our selection. Entwine Merlot was made by the Wente Family and it really showed its country of origin. Soft, fruit forward sweetness and flavours smoky notes, and big in style without being too overwhelming.
The Australian Shiraz was the most un-shiraz-like for its nationality. We thought we can spot a young Australian Shiraz from a mile, but this little black bottle stumped us. It didn’t have the green pepper, black pepper, candied-like upfront sweetness, and in your face style that it is known for. I am not a fan of Australian Shiraz, but I must say, this was not a bad one.
The final bottle may be the only bottle I not sure about. It was rather one-dimensional, short to mid length and fell quite quickly. It had fruit such as plum and cherry, and the tannin was quite soft laced with characteristic of dried leaves, wood chips and dried flowers. It may have been too dry for me.

We agreed that we had the most fun sourcing for potential bottle to surprise each other. But I still believe that life is too short. I try to drink as well as I can.

Savored…Jin Long Restaurant, Singapore and Quintessa, Oakville

On the left is French (Didier Dagueneau, 2007 Silex Blanc Fume de Pouilly) and on the right is Californian (Quintessa 2010 Illumination). On the left is the best Sauvignon Blanc can be and will ever be because Didier Dagueneau past away in 2008 and this 2007 Grand Cru is his very last vintage. I was told that since his passing, this wine is now worth about SGD250. I noted it really crispy acidity and mineral characteristics complimented with flavors of fresh melon and citrus, subtle nuttiness and spiciness, and fresh cut flowers. There is a sense of stylishness in texture and the finish is persistent.

When I visited Quintessa during my recent trip to Napa, I was brought to the very top of a hill that over looked the eastern slope of it vineyards with a beautiful man-made lake in the middle. M brought out the Illumination and opened for us to taste. I was attracted to it aromas of slightly underripened citrus notes, white flowers and a touch of spiciness. There were flavros of lemon, pomelo-like and delicate sweetness, firm but fine acidity and a touch of bitterness but not offensive in the finish. M proceed to tell us that the inspiration for Illumination was Didier Dagueneau’s Silex. They were inspired to nuture California Sauvignon Blanc and to bring it to a benchmark that will be worthy of world class appreciation. They were even inspired by the choice of bottling as well.

I do like both very much. It is not everyday that I can afford a Silex. But I look forward to savoring Illumination on a more regular basis once I get a few cases.

Savored…Holland Drive, Singapore

I have tasted Malbec from different countries and the most well-made ones are from South America. But in March, I tasted one from France which was absolutely beautiful, I will comment the French version another day. I have not been able to find the pictures I took.

The label doesn’t reveal too much about the quality and style of the Malbec. Initially I thought it will be a super big with coying youthful fruits. But upon tasting it, I was pleasantly surprised by its smooth, elegant and round texture. The balance was quite impeccable and the finish was enduringly attactive. Marvelous Malbec from Mendoza.

Wine & Style…Anshan, Shenyang

Nov 2011
I really appreciate DRC when I get the opportunity to explore it, and I can appreciate and understand the incredible price that this label commands. To sort of celebrate my maiden trip to China last year to visit my client, he decided to open this bottle. It is a brandy made by Domaine de la Romanee Conti. An interesting spirits made from the skin, pulp, and seeds of the grapes that have been processed into wine. It is then distilled and aged in oak barrel. I drink vodka when I am not drinking wine, so I was a little apprehensive when he wanted to open the bottle. Not because of the cost (actually more affordable than DRC wine) but because I thought it will be lost on me because I thought I didn’t know how to appreciate it. Nonetheless, it was opened and I was offered a glass.

Guess what…it had me at first whif.