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A tasting week

May 24, 2009

The flurry of tastings continued this past week after barely having recovered from the SMA Dinner. Wine Culture delivered some stuff on Monday, in time for me to try the half-bottle of 2004 Les Carmes Haut Brion over a medium tenderloin steak at Foo House. In case you didn’t know, the latter is one of the best-kept secrets of old Bedok. Where else can you get a thick (really thick), juicy steak (served with choice of either glorious chips, buttered rice, or mash potato) prepared by the ex-sous chef of Hyatt’s Mezza9 for less than SGD20?? And corkage is non-existent. The wine revealed an enticing nose of rich primary fruit, but after having settled down, I realised it’s nowhere near ready – the classic  gravelly scorched earth of Graves’ being dominated by a huge tannic backbone. Almost New World. Of all the communes of Bordeaux, I find that the wines of Pessac-Leognan (with, perhaps, the exception of Smith Haut Lafitte) hold truest to the character of each vintage. This one needs more sleep. I’ll withhold judgement.

A friend celebrated his birthday the next day, and we trooped down to Imperial Treasure T3 for lunch. This restaurant has been an instant hit right from the start. The service is prompt, attentive and unobtrusive, the stemware excellent, the food never fails to impress with its imagination and refinement, and best of all, prices are reasonable and it’s corkage-free, always an important criterion in deciding our group’s patronage anywhere. Another point worthy of note is the low mark-ups on the restaurant’s small but excellent wine list, which contains the 2004 Flor de Pingus, a wine that’s available only upon allocation in tiny quantities, at only SGD168. Beautiful clear purple, the (mainly) tempranillo fruit throwing off a nose hinting at a luxuriant, elegant and balanced wine, an impression confirmed on the palate, the only criticism being it lacked a little soul and fullness on the finish. I’m infinitely grateful to the birthday boy for buying us lunch and wine (the customised menu by Shirley certainly wasn’t cheap…I was glad I instructed them to omit the fish). There are plenty of excellent wine choices at SGD168, and I must confess that, if left to my own devices, I’d have gone for a traditional claret.

Our schedules, again, favoured us the next day and we decided to do a quick tour of Carrefour’s wine fair, which is becoming less and less of a bargain (but I grabbed a couple of the superb 2005 Malartic-Lagraviere at only SGD83), before adjourning to Golden Peony at the Conrad Centennial. I’d never tasted dimsum with such clarity of texture and flavour. Golden Poeny dimsumAgain, thanks to the generosity of others, I had the benefit of a free lunch, and was glad I brought along the 2002 Tim Adams “Aberfeldy”, the winery’s top shiraz, to share. Clare Valley shiraz is noted for its balance and finely-knit tannins, in contrast to the unctuous quality of the Barossa’s old vines and the rustic charm of McLaren Vale shiraz. However, although this wine started off well, the longer it sat in the glass, the more the alcohol and tannins seem to rise above the fruit.  It needs more time in bottle, but I made up my mind that my allegiance to shiraz still lies with Barossa Valley.

All week I’d been looking forward to the Crystal Wines Megasale. I’ve always felt that Crystal tends to price its wines significantly above market value, but they really do cut prices during their mid-year sales, which is when it’s really worth buying. Moreover, Crystal goes one up by offering free tastings across a wide range of wines during the sale. For some time now, I’d been trying to secure some 2005 Chateau La Lagune whenever discounts appear, but without success, the most recent being Grand Vin’s offer at SGD95. So when I saw Crystal offering it at SGD109, I immediately placed an advance order for a half-dozen. But after tasting it at the sale, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand why Parker rated it as the finest La Lagune of all time (95 points), while Neal Martin, whose palate I normally trust more, was also quite enthusiastic (91-93). Crystal Wines Megasale 2009The wine exhibited a fairly deep purple, with notes of ripe cabernet on the nose. However, it failed to live up on the palate, the greeness being all too evident, the fruit lacking in class and richness. A very ordinary Medoc. I was told the wine had been opened for 3 hours. Perhaps it’s going through an awkward phase, but even at a sale price of SGD109 (normal retail price about SGD150), I say it’s poor value. For me, the ultimate QPR for 2005 Bordeaux is Chateau D’Aiguilhe at SGD63, a wine that oozes loads of richness, intensity and weight, yet firmly rooted in the Old World, accessible now, but clearly meant for the long haul. I canceled my order of La Lagune.

Other wines tasted, in brief, were 2006 Kerlann Macon Uchizy (very attractive nose suggesting medium-weight fruit and minerality, but falls short on the palate, lacking depth and weight), 2002 Ch Ducru Beaucaillou (one-dimensional, bland, touch of greeness all over, lacking in quality fruit), 2004 Ch Clinet (medium-full, good balance, agreeable but undistinguished), and 2004 Ch Du Tertre (ripe Left Bank cabernet with classic poise, elegance and balance of Margaux, very good by any standard).

I rounded off a relaxed Saturday with a simple dinner yet again at Imperial Treasure T3: crispy roast chicken, broccoli with crab roe, and sweet/sour pork paired with a half-bottle of 2004 Leoville Poyferre. It was consistent with the sample tasted at last month’s vertical – the unmistakable graphite note of St-Julien, luxuriant ripe fruit with a touch of sweetness, attaining perfect balance after 30 minutes, expanding in weight and intensity, long savoury finish. A wonderful wine…I’ll be looking to buy more.

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