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SMA 50th Anniversary Dinner

May 17, 2009

Every May for the past few years, I’d receive an invitation from Fatty for the SMA Dinner. I guess it’s his way of asking us not to forget him. Anyway, how can one say no, especially since, from past experience, I’m well aware that the SMA Dinner is one of the major legitimate alcoholic congregations under one roof. It’s also one of the best opportunities to taste a wide variety of excellent wines in one single evening. This year, on 16th May at The Fullerton where the Prime Minister (as guest-of-honour) drank Torres wines (probably arranged by someone keen on committing political suicide), we drank the following……

Kieron started us off with a 2001 Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc. This had a lighter shade of straw, with floral, lime and citrus notes. Somewhat uneven at the beginning, but it soon opened up after a few minutes, gaining weight and complexity and, finally, taking on a creamy note. Quite excellent. Although Graves is known for its limited production of whites, I’d never felt compelled to buy, much preferring to spend on Burgundy whites instead. This may just change my mind.

We moved on to a pair of 2002 Aussie reds: Brokenwood Graveyard (me) and Veritas Hanish (Kieron). The former was deep red with a nose of sweet plums, raisins and cinnamon. Medium-full, somewhat dense and 4-square, refusing to open up, unlike the 2001 which I brought at last year’s dinner. Still a very good wine. The Veritas, on the other hand, shows up the Graveyard’s deficiencies: it was much deeper red, exhibited notes of liquorice, spice and rich dark fruits, full-bodied, with much finer tannins. Gained more weight and intensity after sitting in the glass, yet was never out of control. Unmistakably Barossa, in the most positive manner. 

Someone then passed over a 2004 Faiveley Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Fuees, a medium-full effort which, after the above opening heavyweights, was refreshing for its notes of fresh cherries and raspberries.

Hiok then conveniently pinched a 2002 Pichon Lalande from the neighbouring table. I was eager to try this as I had purchased 2 bottles cheaply from BDXV back in early 2005. It was clear purple, and smelt of  blackberries and chocolate. Medium weight, smooth and straightforward but lacking complexity, symptomatic of the vintage. I’d say the 2002 Leoville Poyferre is better. Nevertheless, this was drinking well, but I wouldn’t pay today’s prices for this wine.

Next, Fatty came over with a bottle of 1986 Rauzan-Segla, asking us whether it’s corked. We always knew his olfactory function was never reliable (perhaps due to his persistent digging, or vice-versa) and this confirms it. This aged wine showed some bricking at the rim, but it was well and alive: light-medium, supple, mellow, and delicate. Perfect example of an aged Margaux. Somewhat short, though. Fatty conveniently left his lipaemic-stained wine glass on our table, much to Brenda’s disgust.

The Professor then ambled over to our table, holding a glass of white. He didn’t know what it was, kept saying “Kiss-something”. We pricked our ears. It’s a Kistler Chardonnay (from McCrea vineyard)!! We duly got him to smuggle a glass over: from 2006, clear light-yellow, gorgeous nose of smoke, some excellent oak and pineapple. Lush and rich. Lovely.

The formalities with the PM were almost over but we’d barely started on our own wines. I felt the 1998 Grand Puy Lacoste (me) that followed was still somewhat disjointed: quite a promising nose of fresh dark fruits and cigar, but it came across on the palate as still being rather green without much depth, with noticeable alcoholic trace all over. Rather short as well, although it all came together after about an hour. I’m quite sure some of this negative perception is due to the preceding tasting order (how can one move back after a beautiful aged Bordeaux and a Californian white?). I’d still buy this stuff if it goes on sale below SGD100.

In contrast, the 1996 Grand Puy Lacoste (Hiok-GPP) was, predictably, brilliant and beautiful, already revealing layers of rich flavours, yet still too young to drink. Superb.

We pressed on to the 1995 Cos D’Estournel (Hiok): clear deep purple, low acid (characteristic of that vintage) medium-full, good body, totally harmonious but somewhat short on the finish.

The 1996 Monbousquet (Selina), displaying an evolved color, was lovely, rich, with excellent depth. Entirely consistent with the allure of St Emilion. Long. Showing far better than the last time I had it 3 years ago at Hiok’s Bar.

All pissed

By now dinner was over, the PM had left, and naturally, all the alcoholics gravitated towards the table with the most bottles: ours (see picture). Fatty proferred a 1982 Leoville Barton, which, surprisingly, was already over the hill, an opinion shared by Kieron. Although fully mature and tasting every bit like an aged Bordeaux, it was short and lacked the power and precision one expects from a 1982 (the Leoville Poyferre example we had last month is testimony to that).

Someone planted a 1996 M Chapoutier La Sizeranne Hermitage on our table: clear red, nose of sweet saccharine mint, but curiously, the palate was dominated by a persistent salty note.

Someone else found a 2005 Armand Rousseau (was it Gevrey-Chambertin?…I was beginning to lose focus) that showed intense notes of cherries and red fruits, yet was beautifully contoured and refined. Hasn’t developed further complexity, but for sure it’s headed for greatness.

A pair of Sauternes rounded off the evening. The 1989 Rieussec had taken on a heavy golden color. Having had this at Saint-Pierre last year, I can’t help but feel that it’s already past its peak: honeyed nectar, almost coying but beginning to lose its acidity and freshness. No wonder Carrefour has been desperately trying to get rid of it at SGD150. In contrast, the 2002 Rieussec, which was light-golden, showed better balance and poise, a real bargain.

Surprisingly, in spite of all the above, I didn’t feel drunk at all (thanks to disciplined tasting), such that I was well aware that someone was passing an unopened bottle of 2006 Kistler “McCrea” Chardonnay (same as above; originally meant for the VIPs) around the table. It came to me and I ensured that it never moved further, dropping it out of sight, oblivious to all except the sharp-eyed Hiok. Rest assured, a full tasting note of that will appear late 25th May.

We were kicked out at 2345h when the weary Fullerton staff had already completed laying the tables for next day’s event. Well, 16 tasting notes in one evening was good fun, but next year, the SMA should hold the dinner back at The Regent, where the stemware is far better than what was offered at The Fullerton.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kieron Lim permalink
    May 20, 2009 21:19

    Congratulations on your great wine blog! It truly is a joy to read.

    Of the wines tasted at the SMA dinner I personally feel that the wine that drank best was the GPL 96. It was more complete than the cos 95. Both were uncorked at the same time. The GPL had a deeper and more expansive mid palate; probably reflecting the superior quality of the Cabernet in that vintage. It is a stunning and still underrated and under-valued wine. The cos was a little less balanced with more noticable acid that didn’t quite give the wine the voluptuousness that cos normally has, espcially in great vintages. Perhaps we just caught it at an ackward stage.

    The biggest disappointment was the Barton 82. It was medium with a frighteningly hollow finish for this traditionally structured and long-to-come-around super-second. Almost unrecognizable from when I tasted this from magnum 2 years ago. The nose was classical but the finish was short. We expected more. Bottle variation perhaps?

    The biggest suprise was the kistler. It brought back great memories of the 1st time I tasted this wine… At the legendry vineyard at stockcross in Berkshire in UK. The place where the wine list of its 2 Michelin starred restaurant comes in 2 volumes!! This wine must be tasted by anyone who thinks that California Chardonnay is just about oak and melons. This has the class, minerality, balance and restrained power of a top premier cru from leflaive with and added kick of ripeness. Persistent finish. A beauty.


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