Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Ground Report from Istanbul

The first time I visited Istanbul was in the spring of 2008. It was glorious weather – blue and sunny skies, with a crisp breeze blowing as we cruised down the Bosporus. With a fingerhold in Europe, Istanbul represented the meshing of the best of Middle East and European cultures, acting as a beacon of democracy alongside a respect for Islamic values. Visitors were treated to a rich cultural history spanning Greek, Christian and Ottoman rule, and a bounty of exotic foods; raw honeycomb, sweet baklava, moreish hazelnuts. Security was ever-present, but this felt more like reassurance and the dangers seemed no greater than any other European city. Istanbul was truly a Turkish delight.

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).