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Notes in brief (December 2009)…

December 23, 2009

1999 Ch Leoville Barton, which turned out to be my last wine of 2009, at New Year’s Eve dinner at Moomba. What a lovely choice…deep dark red, exuding a fairly intense nose of rich dark fruits, chocolate, smoke, and that elusive graphite note of St Julien. Medium-full on the palate, showing well the secondary flavours of a maturing claret – cedar, sweet liquorice, raisins. Great depth and concentration, finishing with sophisticated velvety tannins. After 90 minutes in the decanter, it morphed into a medium-bodied smooth seamless wine, without any rough edges. Who’d have guessed a ’99? This is entering its peak drinking window and will probably hold for several years more. Definitely much better than a Pichon Baron, and more accessible than a Leoville Las-Cases, of the same vintage. Excellent stuff. I remembered buying this from Carrefour for SGD133. Grab if you spot any for around SGD150.

2003 Ch Branaire-Ducru, at a New Year’s Eve happy hour in the office, with some finger food. Dark red. Quite a lovely nose of rich dark fruits and blackcurrants, with a discernible trace of alcoholic heat. Full-bodied, good concentration, slightly toasty, rather austere and tannic finish, consistent with an early St Julien, although the wine softened considerably after 90 minutes of decanting. Quite unlike a ’03 Lagrange which is more toasty but has a smoother finish. Leave this for another 5 years.

1995 Ch Haut Bailly, decanted for 4 hours at the Dept dinner at Kome (see below), which unwittingly turned out to be a Graves theme. Deep red. Attractive bouquet of rich, dark fruits, with a gradual lift hinting at raspberries and cherries . Medium-full, the scorched earth quality producing good weight and intensity. Some complexity on the mid-palate, but it’s not terribly deep. Slightly rustic. The Bahans has a more sophisticated feel, but the Haut Bailly is drinking better. Good, but not memorable.

2000 Bahans Haut Brion, at Kome. Deep but bright red. Definitely sweet on the nose, of glycerin, cherries and red berries. Earthy. There’s more fruit to the fore now compared to a previous tasting in 2005, where it was rather dry. Good transparency. It lacked weight and power initially, coming across as  a bit lean. However, it snapped into focus after 4 hours, becoming more well-integrated and richer, but never attaining power nor depth. F kept raving about it (even though he didn’t bring this wine), sounding like a broken record but I don’t think I’ll miss this wine.

2004 Domaine de Chevalier (courtesy F), at Kome. Deep red with a bright purplish rim. Oaky nose. Primarily fruit-driven at this stage – loads of blackcurrants and redcurrants, some earthy notes so typical of Graves, with a touch of undergrowth. Yet to integrate; rather wood-dominated. Best to leave untouched for another 3 years, at least.

2007 Dr Loosen Wehlenur-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese (courtesy PS), at Kome. Straw colored, exuding citrus, lime, mandarin orange and apricot. Great acidity, imparting a wonderful freshness. Initially seemed to lack weight and intensity, but this corrected after some time, although the finish probably bordered almost on being cloyingly sweet. Very good.

2006 Domaines Leflaive Macon-Verze, at the Dept dinner at Kome. Light golden, very muted on the nose, barely a hint of minerality. Coming after a Hunter’s Marlborough sauvignon blanc (I can’t recall the vintage), this was disappointingly lacking in weight and body. Rather weedy. Didn’t improve even after sitting in the glass at the correct temperature.

2005 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spatlese, a gift from a German elective student some months ago, drunk at Long Beach Seafood. Mix of nectarine, apricot and peach, with a bit of green apples. Good body and acidity, imparting zesty feel, finishing with understated sweetness. Not as rich or concentrated as a Muller-Catoir or a JJ Christoffel Erben, but sometimes you can do without the over-the-top character of some of these German rieslings. I enjoyed it.

1996 Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot Volnay 1er Cru “Carelle Sous La Chapelle”, bought for only SGD21 at Auric Pacific’s megasale, where even the maitre’d of Gunther’s was also grabbing some for himself. Dark murky brown (urghh…), rather heavy on the nose and palate, notes of soy and liquorice with a medicinal edge without any real depth or complexity, the fruit drying out even though it was quite even and smooth. A rather poor wine.

2004 The Moorooduc Chardonnay, half a bottle over a Christmas dim sum lunch at Imperial Treasure ION. Straw yellow, with citrus and some butter and cream on the nose, fair amount of minerality, but somewhat grassy if served too cold. Not as chunky as a previous tasting at Ming Kee a few months back. The second half of the bottle tasted the next day was better, immediately more complex with more intense citrus and a bit of caramel surfacing on the nose, finishing with a faint yeasty note, living up to its back label which read “Wild Yeast” (not sure whether that’s a nickname or it refers to the type of yeast used for fermentation). However, it still cannot match up to a Giaconda or Leeuwin. I’d rather drink up.

1989 Ch Clerc Milon, also at the X’mas Eve happy hour. I decided to share this with AW after he had managed to procure a dozen Rockford Black Shiraz for me. The cork partially disintegrated at the top, and I feared the worse as the initial note (after decanting) wasn’t encouraging: dull red with a tawny rim, a restraint nose of cassis, saddle, old leather and dried leaves that didn’t quite live up on the palate, the wine seemingly lacking in body, the fruit drying out. However, after two hours of aeration, it gradually fleshed out, gaining weight with more fruit coming to the fore, all the time remaining soft and rounded, finally at its best after 3 hours. This is much better than the first time I had tasted it at a charity dinner two years back (Hiok), where it had seemed angular and disjointed, refusing to budge. Clerc Milon has a reputation for requiring plenty of bottle time, and my experience with it seems to bear testimony. The 1989 is clearly a wine that has hit the plateau well within its drinking window. Will probably hold on for a few more years. Very good.

2005 Le Fleur de Bouard (courtesy LW), from Hubert de Bouard de la Forest, owner of Ch Angelus, drunk alongside the Dog Point below. Deep red, predominant dark fruits and blackcurrants. Full-bodied, good depth and concentration (but not quite as huge as D’Aiguilhe), just the right level of extraction with very well-managed tannins, smooth and even on the palate. Will be even more rewarding with careful cellaring. Excellent.

2006 Dog Point Section 94, a Marlborough sauvignon blanc supposedly made by the former winemaker of Cloudy Bay, drunk on a Christmas Eve happy hour over cheese and crackers. First tasted just two months back at Ming Kee (see October). Straw colored, rich in pear, green apples, lime, a faint hint of durian (or perhaps the proverbial pungent “sweaty armpit” masquerading as durian) with a lovely floral  lift. Good concentration and minerality, ending on a dry but persistent note. Not as chunky as before. Very good.

2006 Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Les Vaillons, a half bottle drunk just before the Potel below at Jaan. Light straw colored. Lovely floral bouquet, delicate citrus notes. Good body and minerality, with the right level of acidity. Not terribly complex at this stage, but will be immensely rewarding down the road.

2002 Domaine Nicolas Potel Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Pruliers, over an impromptu but excellent lunch at Jaan, perched 70 floors up at the Swissotel. From the evolved dull red arose a most gorgeous bouquet of flavoursome red fruits and berries, cinnamon, chives, and a bit of toast, hinting at a wine that would be rich and deep. Indeed, the fruit and acidity and wood were superbly integrated and balanced, soft and open, without the quasi-New World density that sometimes dominates a Potel, revealing excellent depth and concentration, very rounded without any edginess. Highly sophisticated stuff. A half-bottle, from the restaurant list. Superb!

1998 Turkey Flat shiraz, over lunch at Imperial T3. My last bottle, and my third tasting. Dark red with an early tawny rim. Powerful bouquet of dark fruits, rich, deep, some soy and liquorice. Excellent concentration, full bodied but not unctuous, laced with peppery tannins, meaty and savoury, opening up after 30 minutes, becoming softer and rounder, showing early signs of the wine mellowing, ending on a slight medicinal note. This is better than a bottle tasted in July at TL’s wedding, and definitely drinking much better than a sample tasted some 4 years ago at Romanee’s.

2002 Penley Estate Reserve cabernet sauvignon, over lunch at Imperial T3. Popped and poured. Very dark purplish-red. Dominant notes of graphite, loads of soy and a bit of plum. Initially very tight, intense and tannic. Softened after 30-45 min, revealing deeper flavours of dark berries, ripe fruit, more velvety tannins although on the whole, it still had a great deal of intensity. Well crafted. Yet to develop secondary flavours after 7 years. Pity we didn’t give it enough time.

2007 Grosset Polish Hill riesling, drank a glass over simple wraps for lunch at home, then the remainder 6 hours later at the in-laws. Pale straw color, loads of citrus and lime with cutting acidity, minerality very much in the background, very crisp, fresh, hint of lemongrass, a bit of the “kerosene” quality, yet to develop real depth and complexity, finishing on a dry, musty, austere note.

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