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Oct 2019: 2016 Michel Niellon Clos Maltroie, 2014 Occidental Elizabeth, 2003 Lagrange, 2014 d’Yquem “Y” …

December 3, 2019

20191027_202524.jpg2003 Ch Lagrange, over lunch at Jade Palace, 05 Oct 2019. Dark. Shut at first, though the palate is layered with a minerally earthiness topped with dark fruits and currants, very fine in concentration with a trace of sternness. It opened up over time to reveal some velvety detail along with some lovely succulent intensity of red fruits, subtly structured. Another bottle popped at Ka Soh on 27 Oct 2019 was highly consistent, quite effusive in sweet dark currants, mulberries and raspberries with rounded plummy tones and lively acidity that finished in a slight mentholic lift. Perennially under-rated, but Lagrange is truly excellent value.

2002 Louis Roederer Cristal, courtesy of CJ at Pistacchio, 11 Oct 2019. Deep golden lustre. Exudes some sharp yeasty pungency with lovely glowing depth. Quite brightly lit with a full presence of clear and yellow citrus infused with flinty minerals that produced excellent tension and dry intensity towards the back palate, mellowing a little over time with recessed chalkiness. May not have peaked.

1993 Dom Perignon, courtesy of Vic at Pistacchio, 11 Oct 2019. Deep golden lustre. Distinct note of gunmetal flint, pomelo and traces of bitter lemon on the nose, smoothly layered with fine concentration of glazed aged citrus on a palate that was rather placid and decidedly subdued, finishing in a persistent white floral glow.

2009 Domaine de Montille Pommard Les Pezerolles 1er, courtesy of Sanjay at Pistacchio, 11 Oct 2019. Slightly dark pinot tint. Open with notes of orchard in full blossom, tangerines, plums. Medium-bodied. Settled quite quickly with more dark cherries to the fore, traversing the palate with teasing intensity and sublime acidity amid darker undertones of raspberries, finishing gently. Another bottle at Jumbo Seafood (also from Sanjay) on 22 Oct 2019 was equally consistent, open fleshy and supple, yielding good inner detail. Delicious.

2000 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard, at Pistacchio, 11 Oct 2019. Impenetrable deep garnet red, proffering a fairly dense bouquet that hinted at diesel fumes. Smooth and fleshy. Quite full and concentrated, rather bright and evenly toned with a faintly sweet medicinal quality that may pass as eucalyptus.

2014 Occidental Bodega Headlands Vineyard Cuvée Elizabeth, courtesy of LF at Pistacchio, 11 Oct 2019. Deep purple. This Sonoma Coast pinot noir possesses a lovely concentration and presence, almost velvety, imbued with an open supple intensity of sweet dark cherries amid dusty traces, finishing with mild mentholic tones. Quite excellent.

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2005 Opus One, courtesy of MH at Pistacchio, 11 Oct 2019. Impenetrable deep garnet red. Open, supple and fleshy. Softly rounded with excellent concentration of sweet dark fruits, nicely warm and ripe with a hint of mocha and dark chocolate. Finished with youthful intensity. Not quite ready yet.

2002 Carmes de Rieussec, courtesy of Jimmy at Pistacchio, 11 Oct 2019. Notes of burnt cider, smouldering ember and tropical fruits on the nose along with a gentle dose of nectarine. Possesses good intensity. Satisfying without being cerebral.

2014 Ch d’Yquem ‘Y’ Ygrec, after hours at GEH, 18 Oct 2019. Generous notes of vanillin, cool icing and almonds amid dense aromas of white flowers that permeate all the way onto the palate, still tightly wound with fabulous acidity and concentrated intensity of fruit, deeply layered with exquisite minerally characters with just the right degree of sweetness that culminated in an explosive finish. Brilliant!

2015 Domaine Ponsot Clos des Monts Luisants 1er VV monopole, after hours at GEH, 18 Oct 2019. Rich, highly aromatic bouquet of delectable crème de la crème, white flowers, clear citrus and tropical fruits. Generously layered with great concentration and acidity. Very well balanced, not overtly plump. Excellent.

2016 Domaine Michel Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet Clos de la Maltroie 1er, after hours at GEH, 18 Oct 2019. Good lift of clear citrus and grassy elements. Medium-full, displaying excellent fullness and concentration with a distinct minerally streak. Very well-balanced and integrated with understated verve and subtle acidity, finishing well. Excellent.

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2016 Laurent Ponsot Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes Cuvée du Tilleul, after hours at GEH, 18 Oct 2019. Darkish in tone and colour, imbued with abundant dark berries, blueberries and raspberries that imparted excellent ripeness, acidity and balance. Superbly integrated with a very fine open intensity. Has tremendous vigour. Finished with great linearity. Excellent but still undeveloped.

2017 Château de Chamirey Mercurey Blanc, off the list of Brasserie Gavroche on 18 Oct 2019. Good colour. Effusive aromas of peaches, apples, apricot, fig and honeysuckle. Very lively on the palate with good density and concentration, underscored by a deeper streak of intense tropical fruit that imparted a lovely floral bloom as it finished with great linearity. Hard to believe this is just a village, given the superb ripeness, layering and potential for complexity. Incredibly great value.

Bruno Paillard Reserve Privé Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV, popped and poured at Crab At Bay, 20 Oct 2019. Attractive oxidative nose with some yeasty pungency. Dry with concentrated lime and citrus without much depth nor layering, finishing gently as it became more open over time.

2017 Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir, popped and poured over dinner at Asia Grand, 21 Oct 2019. Slightly intense shade of pinot tint, exuding intense savoury characters of roast and smoked leather with very good concentration of red cherries and rose petals on the palate, imbued with sleek acidity amid overtones of rye, loosening up with more earthiness over time as it gained further rounded suppleness and intensity. Very fine.

2017 Domaine Jean Chartron Saint-Aubin Murgers Des Dents de Chien 1er, popped and poured from magnum at Jumbo Seafood on 22 Oct 2019. Took quite a while for this wine to open up with dense white floral tones on the nose, leading to a full minerally palate layered with racy acidity and lovely density of fruit that produced plenty of zest and exciting mouthfeel, finishing with good linearity. Quite excellent.

2016 Schubert Block B Pinot Noir, courtesy of LF at Jumbo Seafood on 22 Oct 2019. Considerably deeper and darker in tone and colour but highly attractive, filled with an abundance of ripe blueberries and dark currants on the nose and palate. Medium-full, rounded with good levels of ripeness without being overly extracted, laced with understated acidity on a raspberry floor amid overtones of smoked meat. I enjoyed it.

2008 Champagne Dom Perignon, courtesy of Jimmy Lim at Jumbo Seafood on 22 Oct 2019. Lifted bouquet of clear citrus, lime and pomelo tinged with green apples. Well replicated on the palate with fine concentration and sharp definition, very well layered and balanced, its very soft fine bubbles exuding a highly refined gentle intensity as it finished with a hint of bitter lemon. Excellent.

2009 Peter Michael La Carriere, courtesy of LF at Jumbo Seafood on 22 Oct 2019. Pale luminosity, marked by clear citrus that exuded a very clean feel at first. It fleshed out over time with a greater presence of almonds and malt against a backdrop of recessed crème de la crème and general chalkiness underscored by shades of wild grass and darkish tones whilst maintaining understated depth and acidity. Distinctly feminine. Excellent.

2015 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Echezeaux Grand Cru, courtesy of MH at Jumbo Seafood on 22 Oct 2019. Darkish. Very good concentration and intensity of blueberries, raspberries and dark currants, openly supple, showing good sophistication with rounded sweet tannins that hinted at a feminine stance. Yet to develop though.

2017 Grant Burge Benchmark Sauvignon Blanc Semillion, on 23 Oct 2019 at the NUSS Guild House. Faint nose of light grassy elements. Lively with good presence of clear citrus and minerals. Inoffensive. Nondescript finish.

20191028_120830.jpg2015 Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon, on 23 Oct 2019 at the NUSS Guild House. Dark impenetrable purple, proffering a classic cabernet nose of tobacco and dried mushrooms, layered with very good concentration of plumny red fruits and cherries that offer good inner detail. Structured with sweet tannins, adequately supple. Very fine.

2015 Domaine Hudelot-Nöellat Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Murgers 1er, popped and poured at Bedrock Bar & Grill, 28 Oct 2019. Darker shade of pinot, exuding radiant red fruits and cherries with very good concentration, presence and layering underscored by a distinct earthy base, displaying rounded intensity. Structured with pliant understated supple tannins, slightly darkish at first before turning brighter as more of red fruits dominate. Excellent.

FICOFI: Château Lafleur 2007, 2005 & 1995

November 28, 2019

Founded in 1872, Château Lafleur is a tiny 4.5 ha property in Pomerol adjacent to the estates of La Fleur-Pétrus, Vieux Château Certan, Pétrus and Hosanna. Château Lafleur has always been rated very highly by insiders even as far back as the late nineteenth century, but it was only in the 1980s when a certain highly-influential American critic began heaping praise on two sisters there who were making the wines that interest picked up and prices began soaring through the roof. The two sisters were Therese and Marie Robin, whose father Andre Robin had purchased Lafleur from its previous owner in 1915. They cleared away malbec in favour of merlot and cabernet franc in 50:50 proportion. After the last of the sisters passed on in 2001, the estate was re-acquired by the Guinaudeau family, descendants of Henri Greloud who had previously sold the château to Andre Robin. So everything has come full circle. Located quite centrally in Pomerol where the land shapes into a gentle mound of iron-rich deposits, the soils are largely gravel at the top which facilitates excellent drainage, probably the reason why people tend to collect Lafleur of so-called “off” vintages. For this FICOFI event at the one Michelin-starred Iggy’s in Singapore on 15 November 2019, the estate’s winemaker Omri Ram was on hand to provide further insights into the wines made by the Guinaudeau family. The trio of Ch Lafleur that evening certainly lived up to their reputation: the potential for tremendous complexity was clearly evident in the 2005, the 1995 was on track towards greatness while the 2007 proved that Lafleur exceeds all expectations even in weaker vintages.

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Photo by FICOFI

2005 Champagne Henriot Cuvée Hemera. Notes of light toast and yeast along with green apples and fig that impart a distinct feminine fragrance. Very fresh on the medium-bodied palate, possessing great energy and concentration of tangy citrus with a clear crystalline quality tinged with pomelo though it doesn’t reveal much inner detail. Well-balanced with good intensity and acidity, not too dry. Not necessarily better than its workhorse Millésime, I feel. There was considerable bottle variation, the second pour from a freshly popped bottle distinctly more vibrant and fresh.

2015 Les Champs Libres. Made from cuttings of old vines of sauvignon blanc from Sancerre now planted on limestone soils near Château Grand Village. This is the third vintage, fermented and aged in Burgundian barrels. Displaying a light clear golden, this wine proffers an arresting bouquet of mangoes, tropical fruits and dense glycerol whilst the well-balanced medium-bodied palate is imbued with refreshing acidity and fine intensity of fruit that carries plenty of zest and energy, imparting a lengthy tingling persistence even long after it has left the palate. Very enjoyable. All bottlings from 2016 onwards are 100% sauvignon blanc.

2013 Guinaudeau G Acte 5. Made from cuttings of old vines of Château Lafleur now grown on shallow clay over limestone cliffs in Fronsac. This inaugural vintage displays a very deep crimson, generously proportioned with dense dark plums and dark currants laced with attractive acidity that impart excellent open intensity of fruit, very evenly balanced. Not at all overwhelming.

2013 Pensées de Lafleur. Not to be mistaken for a second wine, as it is made from a 0.7 ha plot of merlot grown in a valley of clay soils between two banks of Château Lafleur. Deep red, this wine opens with an attractive glow of warm pebbles and ripe cherries above distant tones of wild berries and subtle grassy elements. Very open on the palate with great suppleness, excellent presence and concentration. Darkly attractive with subtle charm and intensity.

2007 Château Lafleur. Deep garnet red, exuding an attractive earthy pungency with effusive recessed tones of sweet dark currants. The palate is quite amply endowed with wild berries amid traces of green elements, open with a great fleshy suppleness, very well-integrated with well-defined acidity and clean precision, finishing with lovely warmth. Drinking well.

1995 Château Lafleur. Deep crimson. This wine displays a beautiful hallowed glow of complex dark plums, currants and camphor on the nose with a sense of warm pebbles and earth. Highly supple and open with a delicious lift of ripe dark berries, exuding striking acidity and fabulous intensity even though the fruit may seem slightly recessed, subtly structured with exciting tannins. Quite sublime. May still not be ready even as it mellowed further in the glass. Excellent.

2005 Château Lafleur. From the depths of its very impressive impenetrable garnet red arose the distant glow of rich dark plums and soy, the fruit searing the palate with an open flaring intensity, still tight but not closed, developing characters of warm gravel and pencil shavings that are seamlessly integrated with highly detailed but subtle ferrous minerals, maintaining an overall darkish tone as it traversed the palate with excellent linearity. Far from ready but this will eventually morph into a definitive Lafleur. Superb.

1958 Blandy’s Madeira Bual. Fully mature opaque brown, exuding a sharp mentholic lift on the nose though tight and narrow in body, marked by powerful tones of licorice and glycerine. For connoisseurs only.

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1995 Coche-Dury Meursault-Perrieres 1er, 2014 Joseph Drouhin Montrachet

November 24, 2019

Dr Wang, without any reason, offered a Coche-Dury that we could not refuse. With Angie whipping up some truffled capellini topped with generous dollops of caviar plus chunky pieces of aged USDA wagyu, Meng and myself had to measure up with some matching wines as we gathered at the Wang residence on 23 November 2019.

2000 Champagne Krug Brut, courtesy of Dr WKW. Nutty deep toasty notes amid lovely oxidative tones with a full palate of intense clear citrus, displaying excellent concentration, fullness and acidity with a dry minerally depth though not quite possessing the complexity of the best vintages. At its drinking best.

2014 Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits-Saint-Georges La Perriere 1er. Very pale. Shut initially with a light acidity, revealing glimpses of cool white fruits with traces of sweet, slightly tropical in quality. Very good in concentration with quite a refined presence and elegance, layered with a very fine crystalline quality, finishing in an expanse of white pepper. Quite excellent, though I must say the unique pinot blanc tends to elude description.

1992 Denis Mugneret Richebourg Grand Cru, courtesy of Meng. Mature but still darkly coloured, exuding a delicious gentle fragrance of ripe raspberries and dark currants. Still showing good concentration of dark plummy characters with briar and wild berries on a bed of soft tannins, laced with dense ferrous minerals amid some earthiness, still fairly intense, finishing with gentle complexity.

20191123_201435.jpg2006 Nicolas Potel Echezeaux Grand Cru, courtesy of Meng. Good colour, exuding soft aromas of red cherries and rose petals, showing good concentration and purity on the palate, very well-balanced and integrated.

1995 Domaine Coche-Dury Meursault-Perrieres 1er, courtesy of Dr WKW. Displaying an aged golden lustre, this wine exudes perfumed aromas of honeysuckle and fig on the nose along with elements of hazelnuts, almonds and caramel, rather elusive on the whole. Unlike younger vintages of Coche-Dury that explode with a wealth of inner detail, the palate here is gently rounded with relaxed mature charm, well balanced with fine linearity as it fans out with a mild gentle floral warmth, finishing with a gentle peppery glow. At its best and unlikely to improve further.

2014 Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche Grand Cru. Aired for five hours in bottle, this wine is still relatively shy, showing only a delicate floral bouquet with quite an ethereal charm though it has greater impact on the palate, producing a sensual mouthfeel that yielded very fine detail, appropriately full, superbly balanced with a highly refined elegance that merged seamlessly with a quiet glowing minerally finish. Doesn’t call attention to itself. Far from ready but it holds tremendous promise.

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With Jacques Thienpont at Les Amis SG: 2005 Le Pin, 2001 DRC La Tache, 2001 VCC, 1988 Lafleur, 2009 Drouhin Montrachet, 2008 Henri Boillot Montrachet, 2009 VCC, 1995 Leroy Vosne-Romanee Aux Brulees, 1998 & 2001 Cte Georges de Vogüé Musigny, 1996 Margaux & 2004 Egon Müller Auslese

November 17, 2019

How often have you received an exclusive invitation from a three Michelin-starred restaurant for dinner with a superlative wine line-up? Les Amis of Singapore did exactly that on 13 November 2019. Started in 1994, this restaurant has consistently maintained its lofty standards of food, wine and service in the most discreet manner, avoiding all distraction and superficiality as it built up a loyal following through hard work and meticulous attention to detail, re-innovation and derring-do in realising its vision. Still located at 1 Scotts Road and helmed by Sebastien Lepinoy since 2013, it was only a matter of time before Les Amis was conferred the ultimate recognition in September 2019. To mark the occasion, a group of us was invited by Timothy Goh (Director of Sales, Vinum Fines Wines) to partake in a celebratory dinner in La Paulée style that would coincide with the visit of Jacques Thienpont and his wife Fiona Morrison, MW, where the couple would be providing wines from their estates Le Pin and Vieux Château Certan. It goes without saying that this sort of opportunity was not to be missed and I think we all did very well to reciprocate in kind by digging deep into our reserves. No wine theme was planned but when we all showed up at the restaurant’s private dining salon that evening, the line-up that unfolded spoke volumes of our deep understanding of Les Amis and the people behind its success. Along with Desmond Lim (Chairman, Les Amis Group), Lindsay Hamilton (Vice-Chairman, Vinum), the Thienponts and Matthew Hemming (also Master of Wine) and, of course, Tim, the wining and dining that evening reached a level that occurs only too rarely, transcending all barriers where there were no airs between everyone and anyone; only true appreciation and enjoyment of great food, immaculate service, outstanding wines and wonderful company, knowing well that such transient experiences, once past, cannot be re-captured again. In particular, Jacques and Fiona are both such cultured party animals there was never any moment that we were reminded of who they are. And when nothing less than a Montrachet Grand Cru was poured to get things going, you knew the evening simply cannot go wrong. We cannot thank you enough Tim and everyone at Les Amis Group for having us in mind, and to Jacques and Fiona for your friendship and generosity. This has been an unforgettable evening. The wines are described in the order served.

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1995 Champagne Bruno Paillard Nec Plus Ultra, courtesy of Tim. Deep dull golden hue, proffering quite a marked oxidative note of gun smoke, mushrooms, marmite and iron filings that is quite firm on the nose whilst the palate is still remarkably fresh and structured, underscored by deep darker tones with a hint of mineral brightness, superbly balanced. Caught at its best. Declared only in exceptional vintages, the 1995 is only the second example of N.P.U. ever released, the first being the 1990 (in 2002), a blend of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir sourced from grand cru vineyards.

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Jacques Thienpont of Le Pin

2008 Domaine Henri Boillot Montrachet Grand Cru, courtesy of Vic and myself. Poured from magnum after having been aired for more than 8 hours. Light golden luminosity. Took its time to unfurl its beauty, yielding at first only gentle tones of white flowers, yellow citrus and chalk, softly rounded with a recessed ethereal elegance. It seemed to turn deeper in colour after three hours in the glass, taking on a distinct phenolic note with a great concentration of creme de la creme on the palate, layered with rich minerally tones in equal measure and laced with sublime acidity that revealed infinite detail with clean definition. Yet one senses that it hadn’t really revealed its full glory, like a beautiful woman who is not in any hurry. Superb, but real patience is required.

1999 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, courtesy of Desmond. Poured from magnum. Lovely golden hue. This wine exudes a cool complexity of very finely detailed chalky notes with mature crème de la crème on the nose trailed by distant notes of diesel. Still amazingly fresh, displaying great suppleness and zest with fleshy seamless acidity and integration, glowing with gentle brilliance on the mid-palate before finishing with a gentle bloom of white flowers. At its absolute peak and will hold. Superb.

2012 L’IF, courtesy of Jacques Thienpont. The name means Yew tree in French, not unlike Le Pin which is a nod towards the lone pine tree situated at the estate. Located in Saint-Emilion near Ch Troplong Mondot, the vines were bought over by Jacques in 2010 and re-planted with 70% merlot and 30% cabernet franc, now expanded to 8 ha. Deep purple, this third vintage proffers a deeply effusive floral fragrance with a lifted complex of pungent earthiness that is simply uniquely gorgeous, leading to a rounded supple presence of ripe cherries and raspberries that traverse the palate with fine linearity, length and controlled intensity. Yet to develop but it holds great promise, considering the vines were still young.

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2001 Vieux Château Certan, courtesy of David Ong. Deep purple with an effusive lifted earthy pungency. Softly structured and fleshy, displaying very good concentration and depth of dark fruits and currants that are seamlessly layered with earthy minerals, finishing with just a bare trace of green undertones that doesn’t detract from its overall elegance and pleasure. Excellent.

2009 Vieux Château Certan, courtesy of Jacques Thienpont. Deep purple with some early evolution at the rim. There is some reticence here compared with a previous tasting just two nights ago (also with Jacques), surprisingly mellow, soft and fleshy with understated structure. Highly seamless with a hint of enamel amid the broad expanse of ripe cherries and raspberries, revealing good inner detail though that trace of green element is, again, discernible. May flesh out better with further aeration.

1988 Château Lafleur, courtesy of Kieron. Still an unbelievably brilliant deep crimson, this wine possesses an open gentle earthiness that went very well with the rather full but relaxed presence of cherries and red currants, still imbued with sleek acidity and fine intensity with a touch of ginger, finishing with remarkable freshness and vigour. Absolutely on song without any sign of flagging. Superb.

1996 Château Margaux, courtesy of Pipin. Deep crimson, this premier cru glows with overtones of violets and dark currants with a hint of warm pebbles, open with great suppleness within a rather slim cleanly-defined profile. Classically structured though it doesn’t quite possess that velvety opulence of 1989 or 1999.

1998 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Grand Cru, courtesy of LF. Poured from magnum. Showing a glorious darker shade of pinot that is usual from this estate, this wine opens with a lovely intensity of enamel, camphor, red fruits and cherries that snapped together with superb focus, wonderfully supple as layers subtle forest characters and delicious dark fruit streaked across the palate with superb acidity and tension. Still remarkably fresh and youthful, even better than a previous tasting also from magnum in February 2016. May not even have peaked. Excellent.

2001 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Grand Cru, courtesy of Kieron. More developed than the 1998 (probably a function of the latter’s large format bottling), this wine displays a lovely fragrance of red fruits and currants with a fine open presence on a delicate ferrous floor, showing good integration and depth but it is upstaged by the preceding 1998, neither quite as opulent nor complex although it would have been thoroughly satisfying on its own. At its best.

1995 Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanée Aux Brulees 1er, courtesy of Sir Robert. Great colour, matched by a superb lift of red fruits and cherries that exude dazzling purity and concentration dotted with traces of capsicum amid darker shades of fruit, softly structured with gentle sweet tannins. Utterly seamless and delicious. Amazing!

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2005 Le Pin, courtesy of Jacques Thienpont. Deep purple with a trace of evolution, this wine glows with a hallowed complex marked by a sharply lifted note of pines – how apt! – whilst the palate is imbued with lovely tension and fabulous intensity of fruit that conferred great freshness and wonderful exuberance, cushioned by soft gentle velvety textures. Absolutely irresistible. Will develop further complexity down the years but this is already such a complete wine. Outstanding!

2001 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tache Grand Cru, courtesy of Desmond. Great colour. This famous monopole is absolutely mesmerising on the nose, generously endowed with gorgeous red fruits and currants that fill the palate with fine density and concentration, imbued with refined acidity and structured presence that may still yield further detail had it been aired longer, holding sway with delicious verve though I thought it began to recede a little towards midnight (yes, we ended really late!). Quite a complete wine. Outstanding.

2009 Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche Grand Cru, courtesy of Kieron. Lovely colour. The distilled essence of Montrachet is present in abundance, displaying a controlled gentle bloom of floral characters, fig, icing, green capsicum and chalk that blossomed with very fine early complexity and detail, wonderfully layered and structured with refined acidity as it finished with further notes of pomelo, white pepper and traces of bitter lemon that produced a trace of sternness. Quite ethereal, as expected, though a little more forward in fruit compared with the preceding Henri Boillot. Quite marvellous but yet to truly develop.

2004 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Auslese, courtesy of Lindsay. Firm distinct tones of diesel petroleum and exhaust, superbly lifted, that I found rather intoxicating and attractive. The palate is richly layered with delicate fruit of great clarity and agility, displaying great freshness, precision and detail, yet so wonderfully balanced without any heaviness, finishing with glowing gentle intensity and persistence. Outstanding.

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Even Fiona can’t resist taking a pot shot

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My dinner with Fiona Morrison, MW

November 13, 2019

20191111_214427.jpgThanks to an invitation at short notice from Philippe Capdouze, I found myself seated next to Ms Fiona Morrison, Master of Wine, on 11 November 2019 at Summer Pavillon, Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore. No stranger to Singapore, Fiona was back to visit some old friends and to promote her new book: 10 Great Wine Families – A Tour Through Europe. Hers is a name familiar to oenophiles who have browsed through the pages of Decanter or, in the case of FICOFI members, Le Magazine de FICOFI. Disarmingly cheerful and bubbly as she engages everyone in easy banter over anything that matters about wine, Fiona speaks with a natural eloquence that finds its way into her writing. Indeed, throughout the evening, Fiona would introduce each wine with an astonishing depth of knowledge only possible through her personal involvement at every level of winemaking, marketing, research and networking, never failing to include a personal anecdoctal experience here and there. The first thing Fiona talked to me about was not Bordeaux nor Burgundy, but Henschke’s Hill of Grace (!!) for which, to my pleasant surprise, we both share a soft spot. For sure, she is someone who drinks broadly across all price points, not just the big names. She takes discreet notes about each wine every now and then, half a minute of concentrated scribbling into a little black notebook (from Penfolds, if you must know). If only one could peep at her choice of vocabulary. With her husband Jacques Thienpont in tow, naturally there is bound to be Vieux Château Certan and Le Pin in the line-up, courtesy of the couple themselves. The wines were expertly prepared by sommelier par excellence Tan Kok-Hong who earned high praise from none other than Fiona herself. A big thank you, Fiona and Jacques, for your time and generosity and to Philippe as well for a most memorable evening.

2012 Champagne Pascal Agrapart Avizoise Extra Brut. Very pale. Effusive in delicate tones of pomelo and citrus amid light delicious overtones of dry toast and yeast, displaying bright minerally characters on the palate that yield excellent transparency with a certain lightness, layered with a lovely depth of icing, honeysuckle and white fruits that proffer fabulous detail, becoming more concentrated and accentuated with time. Superb.

2013 Gaja Barbaresco. Displaying an almost pinot-like tint with superb clarity, this wine exuded a lovely feminine glow of dark plums and currants with a dash of dark cherries marked by a floral fragrance, while the palate is layered with great acidity and purity of fruit amid traces of earth, revealing good early complexity and length with a gentle intensity. Excellent.

2011 Château de Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin. Poured from magnum. Deep dark impenetrable purple with an arresting bouquet of deep medicinal tones and haw. Equally intense on the palate, marked by a broad even expanse of sweet dark fruits and understated tannins that exuded overtones of new leather, wonderfully warm and ripe, rather full, yet beautifully balanced and layered, finishing with subtle youthful intensity and length. Excellent.

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2009 Vieux Château Certan. Deep purple, proffering a hallowed glow of deep dark currants, mulberries and raspberries, beautifully ripe with a dash of soy amid overtones of smouldering ember. Highly seamless, smooth and agile on the palate, imbued with very fine depth and fabulous sleek acidity that danced with superb deftness, finishing with great linearity in a blaze of open intensity. Still youthful. Will be long lived. Superb.

1997 Le Pin. Still bright crimson at the core with some evolution, this wine exuded a lovely glow of evolved red currants amid faint overtones of dried wood, somewhat earthy with an easy complexity. Medium-full. Utterly seamless and fleshy, carrying great energy and acidity though without quite really possessing inner detail, finishing with good persistence. I hadn’t realised that Le Pin, since its inception in 1979, has always been labelled without the prefix “château”, very much like Tertre Roteboeuf. No 2003 was made. Jacques, who told me that he sold the inaugural 1979 vintage for only 80 French Francs per bottle, opined that Le Pin does especially well in wet vintages, since it is essentially merlot grown on gravel, which drains well.

2017 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Spatlese. Pale. Classic effusive nose of dense diesel tones that led to gentle notes of apricot and recessed nectarine on the light-medium palate, open with good definition and clarity, finishing gently with good length. Very elegantly poised, perhaps a tad too reserved.

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FICOFI: Champagne Masterclass

November 10, 2019

Comprising some 15,800 growers, of which 4,400 are producers and of which 306 are established champagne houses, the cold-climate region of Champagne is one of the most difficult to understand, complicated further by the fact that most bottlings are blends of meunier and pinot noir, with or without chardonnay, and the grapes may come from a myriad of multi-district parcels. For those with the appetite and aptitude to understand all the intricacies, good for you but for simpletons such as moi, I prefer to concentrate on enjoying the wine itself. For starters, may I be allowed to enter a simple plea that it is high time we start drinking champagne with food rather than relegating it as a pre-meal aperitif which is a total waste of the vignerons’ efforts, not to mention already the sheer scarcity of stuff like Salon and Philipponnat Clos des Goisses. The tasting on this occasion was hosted by FICOFI on 19 October 2019 at 11.00 AM at the Four Seasons, Singapore, guided by Michael Hill-Smith, MW. With generous well-thought pairings that included the fabulous vintages of 2002 (allowing a fascinating side-by-side comparison between Delamotte and Salon, no less) and 2008 as well as a couple of far older vintages, coupled with Michael’s insightful commentary, this was an excellent way to spend a Saturday morning. Merci FICOFI.

Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée Brut NV. Pale luminosity. Lovely deep yeasty and oxidative tones on the nose with a suggestion of zesty lime and citrus. Has that classic Krug dryness, dense concentration and intensity of fruit underscored by a distinctive deeper darker streak of meunier buttressed with great acidity. Good potential complexity. An excellent calling card for this cardinal estate which sources its grapes from more than 240 different parcels to supplement those from its own 20 ha in Aÿ, Le Mesnil and Trépail.

Champagne Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition NV. Clear luminosity. Compared with the Krug, this wine has a softer, finer and more detailed bouquet with a lifted light floral tone. Shows excellent open concentration and dryness, imbued with delicate minerality, fine acidity and definition throughout its length, finishing with good persistence. Egly-Ouriet’s holdings are all grand cru: 9.5 ha in Ambonnay (79% pinot noir, the rest chardonnay), 3 ha pinot noir in Verzenay and 2 ha pinot meunier in Vrigny. Francis Egly prefers a practical approach to his winemaking, neither biodynamic nor truly organic. Dosage is low.

2008 Champagne Agrapart & Fils Minéral. Very pale, exuding a delicate but layered bouquet. Good depth of clear citrus and lime with a yeasty oxidative trace. Quite seductive. Lovely intensity, structured with well-defined acidity and very fine bubbles. Good gentle finish. A wine of great elegance and finesse. Excellent. The brothers Pascal and Fabrice Agrapart own 12 ha of grand cru mainly in Avize within the Côte des Blancs, comprising 90% chardonnay, 10% pinot noir.

2008 Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal. Good colour. Smooth rounded bouquet, slightly smoky. Excellent concentration of clear citrus, pomelo and white fruits, rather bright with taut lively acidity, complemented with rounded smooth bubbles. Finished with superb youthful intensity. Phenomenal potential. First fashioned for Tsar Alexander II, Cristal quickly became the emblem for flashy jet-setters. Louis Roederer is the first Champagne maison to move into biodynamic viticulture. It is staggering to note that in spite of owning some 240 ha of vines, it still needs to buy in another one-third of grapes in order to fulfil its annual output.

2002 Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs. Still quite light in colour with a floral bouquet. Gently layered. Very fine concentration of delicate green fruits and citrus, highly harmonious and rounded with a sheer sheen of fine bubbles, never too dry. Excellent refinement. May not have peaked. Easily held its own, and more, next to its sister estate Salon of the same vintage. Unfairly snubbed by snobs who only drink Salon, Delamotte may turn out to be a most astute buy in those vintages where its Salon is not declared, as the latter’s grapes will be poured into Delamotte.

2002 Champagne Salon. Good colour. Lovely bouquet, slightly toasty, displaying beguiling complexity with a very delicate lift. Explosive expanse of pears, green apples and complex citrus seamlessly merged with very fine bubbles that traverse the palate with open transparency on a bed of highly refined subtle creamy chalkiness, revealing excellent precision, inner detail and definition. Has superb poise and power, all wonderfully proportioned and balanced. Truly a Salon for the ages. Outstanding. Making only one single cuvée, the S de Salon, only 42 wines released between 1905-2008.

1996 Dom Perignon Rosé P2. This Second Plenitude seduces the senses with a beautiful soft glow of delicate red fruits that leapt from of the glass, distinctly feminine and rounded with a high-toned dryness. Still has a rather full presence though it doesn’t quite plumb the depths, finishing with good persistence.

1989 Champagne Henriot Rosé Millesime, poured from magnum. Beautiful deep golden lustre, proffering aged red fruits and grapefruit amid recessed chalkiness with an unique savoury trace, showing very good concentration and depth of fruit on a bed of understated ferrous minerals and oxidative characters. Still imbued with great intensity and a high-toned acidity. At its best and will still hold for many more years.

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Old Bordeaux: 1966 Ch Leoville Las-Cases, 1971 Ch Pétrus, 1989 Ch Lynch-Bages…

November 1, 2019

With prices of Burgundy, already such a scarce commodity in most instances, attaining stratospheric proportions, Bordeaux is beginning to look more and more like a distinct bargain. Hence, we hit upon the theme of mature Bordeaux at Jade Palace on 14 October 2019. Thank you, everyone, for your generous contributions.

2006 Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Rosé, courtesy of LF. Beautiful deep luminosity. Faint grapefruit with some toast and yeasty notes on the nose. The palate is characterised by very deep intense core of clear citrus and crystalline tones with some faint floral fragrance, displaying a delicate stony lift underscored by a deep minerally streak that extended all the way to its ferric finish. Quite excellent.

1978 Drappier Carte D’Or Brut, courtesy of Sir Robert. Disgorged 1999. Deep golden lustre, yielding deep attractive yeasty tones with layers of fruit that is still remarkably fresh and intense, showing excellent vigour and acidity across a broad expanse of mature chalkiness. Excellent.

1996 Ch Leoville Las-Cases, courtesy of Vic. Mature deep garnet core. Highly reticent, yielding only a light mentholic nose. Distinctly rounded with a soft feminine suppleness, fully mellowed, still imbued with very good presence and fullness though the lack of tannin structure (having melted long before) robs the wine of some character.

1982 Ch Le Bon Pasteur, courtesy of LF. Mature deep garnet red, exuding gentle aromas of deep currants with a mentholic trace. Medium-bodied. Good presence of dark fruits and raspberries laced with very subtle acidity, rather quiet at the finish, developing a firm medicinal trace just as it turned more musty on the nose over time. Hard to place.

1998 Ch Beausejour Becot. Glowing fragrance of red fruits, red currants and haw on the nose, quite beguiling, though the palate is rather more recessed, distinctly medium-bodied and soft with rounded suppleness and very fine acidity, finishing gently even as it gained further intensity on the nose over time. Drinking very well but unlikely to improve further.

1971 Ch Pétrus, courtesy of Sir Robert. Mature deep garnet core, proffering gentle tones of dark plums and currants on the nose whilst the palate still possesses very good levels of fullness and presence, structured with svelte tannins that still impart fine intensity with further notes of soy coming on late. Proves the point that there is no such thing as an “off year” for Pétrus. Excellent.

1989 Ch Lynch-Bages, courtesy of Kieron. Deep garnet red, glowing with a classic claret tone of dried tea leaves and snuff. Softly rounded with excellent concentration within a supple medium-bodied proposition, imbued with ripe dark fruits, black currants and fine acidity that is still remarkably fresh. At its best, and will probably hold for another couple of decades, at least. Outstanding.

1998 Ch Haut-Brion, courtesy of Pipin. Deep impenetrable red, exuding a youthful bouquet of Bovril, deep dark currants, enamel and varnish. Medium-full. Beautifully warm and ripe, superbly supple, caressing the palate with its cedary richness that imparted some teasing intensity. Excellent.

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