Monday, 8 January 2018

The Douro Boys Part 1 – The Harmony of Technology and Tradition

Producer: Quinta do Crasto


The Douro Valley is just a two hour drive away from the coastal city of Porto, but worlds apart in terms of scenery and climate. As my car emerges from under the Serra do Marão mountain range via a tunnel on the A4 motorway, I am momentarily dazzled by the bright sunlight. Waves of unrelenting heat bathe the area, a marked difference from the refreshing crispness of the Atlantic breeze in Porto. I begin to understand why some wines are referred to as having the “Douro bake” character. With the mountains blocking the cool ocean air, the Douro Valley resembles a hot oven during the day.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Site Specific Pinot

Producer: Dalrymple Vineyards


An unspoilt landscape in the Southern Hemisphere. Waters teeming with whales and dolphins. And of course, lots of sheep. If you’re picturing New Zealand, then my little misdirection has worked. I’m actually referring to Tasmania, a place on the receiving end of much attention recently, not least because of the unique opportunity to view the panoramic lightshow known as the Southern Lights. The other thing it has in common with New Zealand, and of primary interest to wine lovers, is that Tasmania is also a source of very fine Pinot Noir, arguably the best to come out of Australia.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

This Duck Prefers Wine to Water

Producer: Luis Pato


If there is one Portuguese trait I am most grateful for, it is their tolerant approach to punctuality. Even by that measure, only one of saintly patience could have welcomed us so warmly when we arrived three hours late due to a mix-up at the car rental company. I shudder to think what the reaction would have been had this happened in Bordeaux – when I visited two years back, a delay of five minutes had my phone ringing furiously and a quiet word of advice that le châteaux expect better timeliness from their visitors.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Wine of the Month - October 2017

After a dalliance with French grape varieties which resulted in the Super-Tuscans and their many imitators, Italy has returned to focusing on her native varieties. The current vogue for indigenous grapes can be seen in the demand for fashionable Etna wines, top Brunellos and rich Amarones. This has been aided by improvements in winemaking and the reduction of yields, meaning that Italian grapes are producing wines of increasing interest and attractive individuality. I was at a gathering of wine lovers when the Sartarelli Verdicchio "Balciana" caught my eye (and tastebuds). The estate has dedicated itself to the Verdicchio grape variety in the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC zone of Marche, the native home of the grape. This particular wine is made from late harvested grapes and according to Italian Wine Ambassador Chan Wai Xin includes a proportion of botrytised-affected grapes in the blend.

Wine: Sartarelli Balciana Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Classico Superiore 2014

Tasting note: The wine reveals a medium gold colour with a honeyed nose. The palate is dry and full-bodied, with notes of white pepper, honey, oranges and fennel underlined by bracing acidity. Lovely lush texture with a pleasing complexity.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Dirt-y Talk with Don Melchor Winemaker Enrique Tirado

Producer: Concha y Toro Don Melchor


Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts? A masterclass with Enrique Tirado, Chief Winemaker of Don Melchor aimed to show how different vineyard plots contribute to the final blend. Don Melchor is one of Chile’s signature wines, on the same level with wines such as Montes Alpha M, Errazuriz’s Don Maximiano and Almaviva, the latter a joint venture between Concha y Toro and the Rothschild family of Bordeaux. Don Melchor is also made by Concha y Toro and is named after the founder. The Chilean wine producer has had a good year, with sales increasing 23% in Asia according to trade newsletter The Drinks Business. It was ranked as the second biggest selling wine brand in 2017, behind Gallo’s Barefoot label.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Wine of the Month - August 2017

Sauvignon Blanc is a tricky grape. It's prized for its acidity, but keep it for too long and its attractive flavours of grass and passionfruit deteriorate into cooked vegetal notes. So at the recent Margaret River 50th Anniversary Tasting, when I tasted the Umamu Sauvignon Blanc Semillon and found it so fresh and vibrant, I expected that it was from a recent vintage. To my surprise it was a 2010 bottling, making it a wine that is seven years old and looking far younger than many other Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blends at the tasting.

Umamu is the brainchild of Penang-born Charmaine Saw, an overachiever who studied chemistry in the United Kingdom and trained as a chef with Le Cordon Bleu before pursuing a career in management consulting. She sought the assistance of one of Western Australia's most renowned winemakers to craft the wines, but the marketing and direction bears her stamp. Balance and contentment are the keywords, imparting a very zen approach to what is quintessentially a western beverage.

Wine: Umamu Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010

Tasting note: Fresh and surging with vitality, as though it was just bottled. There is prominent lime and citrus fruit on the palate, with just a murmur of oak providing the backdrop. I wouldn't normally recommend a Sauvignon Blanc to age, but there are some Asian genes to this particular wine.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Margaret River Wine 50th Anniversary Tasting


The Margaret River wine region celebrates 50 years of commercial wine-making this year. The first planting was in 1967 at Vasse Felix by Dr Tom Cullity who was heavily influenced by a research paper by Dr John Gladstones showing the suitability of the region for wine.

Singapore being a hop, skip and jump away will also be joining in the festivities with a tasting featuring some of the top estates from Margaret River. Details as follows:

Date/Time: 
Thursday, 31 August 2017, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Venue:
 Equinox
69th Floor
Swissotel The Stamford
2 Stamford Road, 178882

Tickets cost SGD52.50 and are available at this link.

Separately, there will also be a dinner featuring 11 iconic wines paired with a 5 course degustation menu at Salt Grill & Sky Bar on Wednesday 30th August at 7:00 pm. Tickets available for SGD250 per person from Salt Grill & Sky Bar at +65 9769 9050 or email charmaine_a@pj-partners.com.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Small, Medium and Large in Napa Valley


Look no further than the Napa Valley if you want to see an example of wine tourism at its finest. This corner of California is a well-oiled machine of tasting rooms, tourist accommodation and world-class restaurants. The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s temple of fine dining, is located here, as are cult wineries Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle. But you should discard any notion you may have of an intimate tête-à-tête with folksy winemakers. Throngs of people pack the tasting rooms, and even though I was there on a weekday there was still a fair bit of traffic along the main thoroughfare, Highway 29. The Silverado Trail, a smaller road that runs parallel to Highway 29, was similarly congested, if not more so. The winery tours are well-managed however, with generous pourings and a relaxed vibe.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Wine of the Month - July 2017

If you're looking for a crisp, flavoursome white at an affordable price point, then this is the wine for you. Grüner Veltliner is Austria's vinous gift to the world, a grape that takes to the unique loess soil like a fish to water. Usually unoaked, Grüner is capable of aging well when yields are restricted. The producer Gruber Röschitz is based in the Weinvertel region and is run by three siblings. A combination of warm days and cool nights produce wines of finesse and balance.

Wine: Gruber Röschitz Reipersberg Grüner Veltliner 2015

Tasting note: This wine comes from a single, south-facing terraced vineyard and is matured in stainless steel. It opens clean as a whistle, with unadulterated flavours of pear, grilled nuts and the signature white pepper so typical of Grüner Veltliner. The palate is fresh and vivacious while showing a lovely rounded texture. A clear sense of place to this groovy bottle.

Distributor: Ampelia Fine Wines

Friday, 7 July 2017

Languedoc Greatness

Producer: Mas de Daumas Gassac


This week I tasted a Cabernet blend from the 1982 vintage that was in perfect condition and showing all of the weathered complexity that only age can deliver. It’s like looking into a careworn face and appreciating every crease the years have bestowed. From that statement you may be tempted to guess that it was a great Bordeaux, perhaps even a first growth, but this wine was in fact made in the humble Languedoc region in the south of France. Narrowing down the producer is an easier task. There is only one that makes such long-lived Cabernet – Mas de Daumas Gassac, sometimes referred to as the Grand Cru of the Languedoc.