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Notes in brief…(May 2010)

May 16, 2010

2006 Ch Le Conseiller, a Bordeaux Superieur from Jean-Philippe Janoueix, picked up for only SGD36 at Crystal Wines.  Decanted for 30 minutes. Dull dark red. Not an insipid wine – there’s quite a bit of fruit, but it is overwhelmed by the oak – lending it a smoky, woody character with dusty tannins and an austere dryness. It’s cabernet sauvignon predominantly (even though the label doesn’t say anything), but rather nondescript. Could easily pass off as a New World straight cabernet varietal.

2000 Domaine Nicolas Potel Maxis-Chambertin Grand Cru, decanted for 90 minutes at Jade Palace. Slightly restrained initially, the fragrance of red cherries and strawberries keeping its distance, resulting in a wine that’s elegant rather than an intense Grand Cru one expects from this producer. Then, like a woman shedding her loose clothing to reveal her lovely figure, it began developing in the glass, gaining a saccharine coat on the nose and a distinctive oily texture on the mid-palate, infinitely deeper although missing the layering and colors that come from top producers. Perhaps it’s a vintage issue, but this Grand Cru is great value at SGD125.

2001 Ch Bernadotte, decanted for an hour at Jade Palace (courtesy Jessica s-a). Dusty red, with some evolution at the rim. I’d expected some toughness of a typical Haut Medoc, but this wine was surprisingly all charm – blueberries, a touch of sweetness, quite gentle on the entry, medium-bodied, rounded, revealing excellent fruit concentration and reasonable depth without any hint of smoky greeness, finishing with very smooth tannins. Elegant and more developed than the La Chapelle de Lafon Rochet (below). I think this confirms previous impressions that the 2001 clarets are absolute steals. In fact, it seems there’s a growing consensus, even amongst the Bordelais, that the 2001s are better wines than the over-hyped and over-priced 2000s. If a Haut Medoc is performing so well, what about a grand cru classe? Better start stocking up.

2005 La Chapelle de Lafon Rochet, decanted for an hour at Jade Palace (courtesy Jessica s-a). Deep purplish red. Somewhat fruit-forward, but it’s lovely – ripe, cool, principally of dark berries. But it is most striking for the prominent minerality on the mid-palate, relating to the predominance of clay in the soils of the St Estephe terroir. Very well balanced. Reminds me to some extent of 2005 Les Hauts de Smith. Very good, but the latter is cheaper, provided you can find it.

2004 Ch La Conseillante, at Infuzi (below). Having tasted some 2004 wines from the Left Bank that were drinking surprisingly well, I was keen to know how those from the Right Bank, with their higher percentage of earlier-maturing merlot, would perform. It turned out to be an astute choice. Aired in bottle for 40 minutes, the wine inspired confidence right from the initial pour with abundant fragrance of raspberries and bluberries at just the right level of ripeness emerging from the purplish-red abyss. This held up well on the mid-palate, where the wine was surprisingly very soft and accessible, absolutely poised and elegant, revealing a level of sur-maturite normally encountered only in wines greater than 10 years from vintage. Feminine and alluring, making you long for sip after sip. Yet to develop true secondary aromatics, of course, but this is so lovely that it confirms my observation that the 2004 clarets, classic in the traditional manner, are drinking best now amongst the vintages of the current millenium (discounting the washed-out 2002). I’d definitely buy more to drink and to lay down.

2006 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis 1er Cru “Montee de Tonnerre”, over a leisurely lunch at Infuzi at Biopolis (courtesy K). Luminous marble with loads and loads of chalky minerality and background vanilla on the nose and mid-palate, really testing the threshold. But it all held together and, with time, some of the dense flintiness dissipated, resulting in greater depth and transparency, eventually holding steady with more crispy citrus notes emerging. A Chablis of considerable power and body. Excellent.

Crystal Wines MEGASALE, 15 May. Highly popular with its customers for the excellent sale pricing as well as the range of wines available for free tasting. 1999 Bahans Haut Brion: An evolving dusty red. Red fruits and violets, but lacking in depth and development, slightly hollow towards the finish. 2006 Napa Angel cabernet sauvignon: Deep red. Fruit-forward. Loads of blackcurrants, dark chocolate. Sufficiently weighty but nothing to shout about. 2004 Ch Montrose: Dark red. Excellent fruit density and depth, unmistakably Haut Medoc in origin, smooth and seamless but lacking the typicity of a young St Estephe.

2002 Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, at a party for Residents on 12 May where we booked out the entire Moomba restaurant for a chef’s menu (we began with Domaine Chandon Brut NV, followed by 2008 Grosset Polish Hill riesling). Decanted more than 2 hours. Deep red. Nose of blackberries and dark fruits, deep enough but not distinctive, missing the usual tobacco/ash/pencil shavings. Soft and extremely smooth on the palate, elegant with fairly good body but again lacking the opulence and supple velvety tannins one has come to expect from Lalande’s merlot component, ending in a finish that’s decidedly hollow. A soulless Lalande. Trounced on this occasion by a second wine, the 2005 Les Hauts de Smith (I’d brought 3 bottles as housepour), which offered much better fruit quality, richness and depth as well as the unmistakable earthiness (resembling bitter chocolate) of Pessac-Leognan, culminating in alluring sexy tannins dancing across the palate.

1998 Parker Estate Terra Rossa First Growth, over lunch at Golden Peony. Decanted for an hour. The quality of this Coonawarra estate can be highly variable from vintage to vintage (a recent tasting of its 2000 was off-putting – a huge unctuous monster of a wine). However, I was confident that the outstanding vintage of 1998 would produce an excellent wine, and I wasn’t disappointed. Showing an evolving vermillion, this cabernet sauvignon offered loads of plummy red fruits (a distinctive Coonawarra character) with a fair level of creosote, dried Chinese herbs and mocha, underlined by a deep vein of minerality from the terroir of the famous limestone coast. Slightly disjointed initially, but it gelled together after 45 minutes into a softer wine, quite harmonious, medium-full on the attack with excellent grip, rounded at the edges, structured without being tannic with a persistent finish. Quite excellent indeed, and I felt would have been even better had we given it more time. A wine that’s just beginning to evolve, with a long life ahead. I shall refrain from opening another for the next 5 years. Three more remaining.

2004 Taranga Oliver HJ Reserve shiraz, during happy hour with my Residents. Decanted for 3 whole hours. Still huge, overflowing with abundant licorice, plum, exotic spices. Minty medicinal finish. Full on the attack, almost unctuous, resinous, very ripe fruit fully extracted to the hilt with a trace of alcohol on the nose and finish. All brawn. Well crafted, undoubtedly, but it’s too big at this stage for the various components to come together. I’m reminded of an Amon-Ra, but that has greater sophistication and integration right from the beginning, and that’s the distinction between a Barossa and McLaren Vale shiraz.

Bollinger Special Cuvee NV, Mother’s Day dinner at Ming Kee. Clear golden. Initially exuding loads of zesty citrus, but this quickly settled down to be taken over by deeper nutty flavours with plenty of malt, yeast and background minerality. Very good body, with an expensive feel. Excellent.

1998 Wynns Michael shiraz, at an impromptu happy hour on 5th May. Decanted for an hour. Deep ruby. Full-bodied with loads of licorice, plum, dried herbs, leather, hint of spice (not overtly pepperish), though the wood is still quite discernible. Developed further complexity and layering with time, with flavours of mocha, chocolate and sweet vanilla emerging, its contours fairly smooth and tannins very well managed. Much more cohesive and integrated than the 1994. This is an excellent example of a cool-climate Coonawarra shiraz (as opposed to cabernet, which that region is renowned for), proving the age-worthiness of Australian shiraz. Only one bottle remaining.

2006 Ch Smith Haut Lafitte, a half bottle (the other half quickly poured into an empty half-bottle and kept in the fridge) over a simple dinner at Imperial Treasure ION on Labour Day. Rich aromas of dark berries, blackcurrant, and sweet vanilla, slightly oaky but never intrusive. Quite high in extraction, but it softened and mellowed very quickly within 30 minutes, surprisingly becoming very accessible, its tannins remaining very much in the background. A very well-crafted wine, no doubt, that prefers to impress immediately rather than presenting the traditional terroir of Pessac-Leognan, a style not unexpected from this estate. At SGD90 (during a promotion at Carrefour; usual SGD106), I’d buy this but I fancy a Domaine de Chevalier will provide higher cerebral satisfaction.

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