Thursday, 11 May 2017

Visiting Beaune - Maison Joseph Drouhin

The thing that impressed me most when visiting Maison Joseph Drouhin was their labyrinth pre-war cellar, but it is appropriate to provide some background first. The founder, Joseph Drouhin, established the namesake négociant in 1880 at the young age of 22. It is still a family-run company, now run by the fourth generation and headed by Frédéric Drouhin who plays the role of company president. He is aided by his siblings Véronique Drouhin-Boss (Head Winemaker), Philippe Drouhin (Estates Manager) and Laurent Drouhin (U.S. Director). Philippe was instrumental in converting the domaine over to biodynamics, a practice that came about because he found that conventional agriculture did not address the question of the long term effects of chemical use in the vineyard. Soil specialist Claude Bourguignon once shocked the winemakers of Burgundy by declaring that the soils of the region had less microbial life than the Sahara desert. Today Maison Joseph Drouhin comprises 73 hectares, the majority of which is in Chablis (38 ha), and 32 ha of mostly premier cru and grand cru vineyards in the Côte d’Or.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Visiting Beaune - Maison Louis Jadot

On this trip I was in Beaune for only a day, so selecting the wineries to visit was based on which producers could provide the greatest overview of Burgundy. I was thrilled to be able to visit Louis Jadot, a venerable business that has been operating since 1859. The founder, Louis Henry Denis Jadot initially focused on the Northern Europe market as he was from Belgium and familiar with the area. His grandson, Louis Auguste Jadot, further expanded to the Americas, Great Britain and New Zealand. In 1985, Maison Louis Jadot was purchased by the Kopf family who also own Kobrand Corporation, the sole importers of Jadot Burgundies in the United States. The company is currently run by Pierre-Henry Gagey, whose father André Gagey was Louis Auguste Jadot’s deputy.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Rosé Revolution is Back

The fourth edition of the Rosé Revolution takes place on Sunday, May 14th at Hotel Fort Canning from 2pm to 7pm. Tickets are available through Ticketflap or Peatix. Organised by Eddie McDougall, AKA The Flying Winemaker, highlights of the event include over 20 of the world's finest rosés accompanied by food and entertainment. For those wanting to go the whole hog, there is also a four-course rosé pairing menu on the 11th of May from 7pm to 10pm, and a VIP area with lucky draws and goodie bags. The list of featured wines and dinner menu are at the bottom of this post.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Wine of the Month - April 2017

While Masi makes a very dependable Amarone della Valpolicella Classico called Costasera, this is not that wine. Rather this is a duty-free exclusive made in the same mold but with a greater percentage of the Corvina grape. Corvina is considered the best grape for use in Amarone, contributing sour cherry flavours and a light, elegant structure. Amarone is one of Italy's signature wines, made using grapes that have been dried out, traditionally on straw mats. The drying process softens the tannins and activates flavour compounds, but also results in a loss of water, meaning that it takes a lot more grapes to make Amarone than other types of wine. Well-made Amarone is never cheap.

Wine: Masi "Nectar Costasera" Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2009

Tasting note: Throwing a thick sediment, this wine is drinking beautifully at the moment. It displays rich, concentrated flavours of fruitcake, raisins, chocolate and blackberry jam, cocooned in velvety tannins and a plush mouthfeel. This is a hedonist's dream, and beautifully balanced even at 15% alcohol. The freshness keeps it lively and it is all to easy to finish the whole bottle.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Visiting Beaune - An Introduction

Is there any region that appears more deceptively simple than Burgundy? Along with Bordeaux it is one of the most famous wine regions of the world. The grape varieties are simple – Pinot Noir for the reds and Chardonnay for the whites (not counting the small quantities of Aligoté and Sauvignon Blanc, and the Gamay of Beaujolais). The wines of Burgundy frequently dominate wine auctions and certainly anyone who is even faintly interested in wine would have tried a bottle, if very lucky, perhaps even a grand cru.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Changing Face of DFS

DFS (the travel retail group) really knows how to throw a party. The recently concluded Masters of Wines and Spirits was a free-flow extravaganza of luxury champagne, cru classé wines, smooth single malts and inspired cocktails. The event was held at Tras Street in Tanjong Pagar, an area populated by small startups and dodgy KTV bars a decade ago and in recent years has seen a profusion of hip restaurants and cafes. Musical entertainment was provided by pop-rock string quartet VOX while faux traffic wardens, looking as though they had just stepped out of a modelling catalogue, helped direct the flow of bemused car drivers passing through. Canapés at these events are usually not the main attraction, but I could not help gorging on a couple of the plump baby squids on offer at Sushi Mitsuya.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

All about Gambero Rosso

Now in its 30th edition, the Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia Wine Guide covers 2400 producers and 22000 wines, making it the most comprehensive guide to Italian wines. There is compact and relevant detail for each featured producer, but I found more interest in the preface for the guide. Of the 429 wines awarded the top rating of Tre Bicchieri, 80 hailed from Tuscany, 75 from Piedmont, and 38 from Veneto. Yet the top two still wines in this edition were from neither of these places. The top red is the Gioia del Colle Primitivo Muro Sant’Angelo Contrada Barbatto 2013 from Tenute Chiaromonte, while the top white is the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Misco 2015 from Tenuta di Tavignano. Side note – it boggles me that anyone would think that the longer the name the more impressive the wine. Surely wines such as Sassicaia, Margaux and Opus One have proven that consumers appreciate easy to remember labels? The key point here though is that these wines, from Puglia and Marche respectively, show that there is value to looking outside of the traditionally more famous wine regions of Italy.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Wine of the Month - March 2017

One of the pleasures of attending the Gambero Rosso Top Italian Wines Roadshow this month was the opportunity to taste some unusual grape varieties. Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is a richly scented red wine that bears a striking resemblance to Gewürztraminer. Most recognisable is the note of rose petal, which anyone who has tried bandung would immediately find familiar. It is found in the central-eastern region of Marche which shares a border with Tuscany. The Lacrima grape, which means teardrop in Italian, should not be confused with the Lacryma Christi of Campania, and the town of Morro d'Alba is not the same as the Alba of Piedmont. The winery representative suggests a match of Thai curries for this wine.

Wine: Velenosi Querciantica Lacrima DOC 2015

Tasting note: Macerated on skins for 20 days with daily pump-overs in closed vats to preserve aromas. A heady scent of rose petal issues from the wine, the signature of this unique variety. The palate is medium bodied with ripe tannins and a delicate fruitiness accompanied by juicy freshness. It is a wine likely to find as many detractors as followers due to the strength of its character.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Wine of the Month - February 2017

A growing trend in the wine world is the rise of natural wine. Pushed around by wild-eyed sommeliers and equally wild-haired wine critics, these wines are made with as little intervention as possible. In some cases, they can be good, and surprisingly long-lived. When they're bad, they smell and taste of sweaty socks. Their advocates can be seen insisting that these off flavours show purity and a sense of place. Perhaps, but people do some pretty unnatural things, such as showering with soap, so that their terroir is less noticeable to others.

I have tasted some natural wines that were deliciously clean and impressive. One of the best places to sample some is Wine RVLT, which I wrote about previously here. The wine world is constantly evolving, and now we have sparkling natural wines, pétillant-naturel or pét-nat for short. During the process of fermentation, carbon dioxide is generated as yeast consumes the natural sugar in grapes. Pét-nats are simply wines bottled before the fermentation is complete, thus the carbon dioxide is trapped inside the bottle while the yeast finishes eating the sugar. The cloudy appearance of the wine is due to the dead yeast cells.

For some reason or another, Australia is a large producer of pét-nats. The combination of hipster cafes, vegan and gluten free options seems to be fertile breeding ground for lovers of natural wine. This wine was made by Tim Wildman, a British-born Master of Wine who conducts wine tours in Australia. It is a blend of  50% Vermentino, 25% Nero d’Avola, and 25% Muscat. The source of the fruit is Riverland, a warm wine-growing region in South Australia.

Wine: Astro Bunny 2016

Tasting note: I was informed that the wine should be shaken to stir up the sediment evenly. Wouldn't this cause the wine to fizz upon opening? The sales staff said that it wouldn't, but it did. Consider yourself warned. The pressure is not as high as say, Champagne, more akin to cider. Very distinct grapefruit flavours, with peach and grape on the finish. Dry and light bodied. Not particularly complex but unusual and refreshing. Worth exploring at AUD35.  

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The French Prince of Liger-Belair

Producer: Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair

Thibault Liger-Belair’s introduction to wine began in 1988, where as a teenager he would spend his weekends in Nuits-Saint-Georges helping a family friend in the vineyard. He announced his intention to become a winemaker to his father at the age of 16, but it was not until 2001 that he established Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair and started making his own wine. While blessed with holdings that had been in the family for generations, when Thibault reclaimed control of the vineyards which had previously been leased out he found it necessary to effect wide-ranging changes. “In 2001 when I took over the family vineyard the soil was grey. Grey soil is a sign of dead soil. That is why for the first vintage it was very important to give new life to the soil. Since the beginning I have decided to stop all chemical products and to go organic.” In 2004, Thibault went further and adopted a biodynamic approach to managing his vineyards. “The main thing in Burgundy is the soil, and the problem in the last 30 years, is that we have integrated into the soil what the vine needed, in terms of fertilisation. I have decided to integrate into the soil what the soil needed, [in order to] give to the vine what the vine needed, which is one step more. The vine is just a reflection of the soil.”