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Sparkling reds, 1990 Bordeaux & more…

July 17, 2010

Twice a year, I readily play my role as a honorary cardiologist, especially since it involves only eating and drinking. And so when I was called upon at short notice on 15 July 2010, I happily made my way to Kome, where an unusual mix of wines awaited. We started with a couple of German rieslings, specially handed-over (literally) to the cardio boys from Sea Hing, their man in Deutschland, who has been making the rounds of various vineyards in the Mosel region since his arrival two months before. Both the 2008 Muller-Thurgan Qualitatswein halbtrocken and the 2009 Bastian Spatlese Feinherb exhibited pale colors with scents of lemongrass, the latter showing more floral fragrance with more stuffing but, ultimately, both suffered from a lack of complexity, coming across as rather plain and straightforward.

The 2003 E & E Sparkling shiraz (courtesy of Hiok), a dark venous red with a lighter rim, showed great typicity of Barossa shiraz, plenty of ripe fruit with notes of blackcurrants, dark berries, licorice and herbs, rounded at the edges without too much fizz, with very good levels of fruit concentration on the mid-palate. It’s essentially a E & E Black Pepper shiraz with added fizz. As the bubbles died out, the wine took on more complexity with some sweetness emerging. Compared to this, the Rockford Black Shiraz (2003 disgorgement, courtesy of Yew Seong), also showing a similar color, was broader with more transparent textures, a case where the bubbles enhance the expanse on the palate rather than distract attention. The complexity normally associated with this highly-sought after wine wasn’t forthcoming initially, but by the third pour when it’d hit the right level of temperature and aeration, it suddenly fleshed out with intense complexity, the liquered layering that’s the hallmark of the Black Shiraz finally making its appearance, the sweetness subdued throughout, leading to a sophisticated finish not found in the E & E. Quite superb.

Thrown into the fray was a 2006 De Loach pinot noir from Sonoma Coast, displaying a pure pinot tint with a lovely bouquet of rose-scented red fruits, medium-full, broad with very good levels of fruit concentration, suitably intense and rich on the mid-palate, tapering to a gentle finish, developing a sacharine coat after some time. Excellent, just lacking in the minerality of Old World burgundy that’s critical to the expression of terroir. The 2004 Bottega Brunello di Montalcino that followed (courtesy of Jeremy) was bright cherry red with a restrained nose; I could just barely make out some sweet vanilla and preserved fruit. On the palate, the sangiovese fruit was not as intense nor plummy as I’d imagine a young Brunello to be, possessing instead a lovely softness and elegance, showing excellent delineation, leading to a sweet persistent finish. Excellent.

The final three reds were drunk in unison, all having been double-decanted between 1-2 hours before being brought to the restaurant, where it was aired further in bottle. The benefits of double-decanting were readily apparent. The 2004 Ch Pichon Baron Longueville, deep violet, displayed all the attributes of a classic claret – a soft entry gently caressing the palate with ripe black and blueberries, quite plush, open and elegant, although a little short on the finish, but more importantly, the terroir of Pauillac shone through easily. It reminded me very much of the 2004 Grand Puy Lacoste, the Baron being just a tad more masculine (rightly so) with greater fruit concentration without being assertive. On the other hand, the 1990 Ch Pichon Baron Longueville (courtesy of Jeremy), still retaining a deep violet core with a vermillion glow, was fully developed, exuding its classic Pauillac signature of smoke, tobacco, cigar box and dried herbs with much aplomb, the wine considerably mellow but showing superb definition and focus from entry to finish, displaying great purity of fruit and expression of terroir, its masculinity undiminished, its cerebral qualities enhanced, by time. Outstanding!

And the “mystery” wine (courtesy of Hiok), tasted blind? A mature brick-red but still retaining a deeper core, mellow, soft, very harmonious, yet layers of superb quality fruit still emerges from the depths without any sign of dryness. Definitely an aged Bordeaux with all that cassis, leather and earth (from the 1980s perhap?), particularly the hint of clayey minerality that suggested a northerly terroir…St-Estephe? Highly similar in quality to the 1990 Pichon Baron, oozing with class and sophistication. It reminded me very much of a 1985 Cos D’Estournel as well as a 1988 Pichon Lalande. I was dumbstruck when it was revealed…a 1990 Chasse-Spleen from Moulis!! Well, well…it just shows that quality wines are to be found if you know where to look. At only a third of the price of the 1990 Pichon Baron, I’d buy up all remaining stock!!

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