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Daniel’s wedding: 1990 Gagnard-Delagrange Montrachet, 1994 Haut Brion, 1970 Margaux, 1987 Mouton-Rothschild,1982 Montrose…

September 27, 2011

Danny boy finally tied the knot in a lavish reception at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore, on 16 Sep 2011. Danny had seated me amongst a group of serious oenophiles whom, hitherto, I’d never met and, as such, we didn’t coordinate the wines. But great minds think alike, for the lineup turned out to be the most astounding that I’d ever encountered at a Chinese wedding dinner. All wines were opened on-site.

First off was a 2002 Paul Bara Brut (courtesy Hsien Min), chilled on site (the Ritz-Carlton staff are marvellous). Pale in color, but this champagne impressed immediately with a deep burnished tone of yeasty characters, malt, rye and some toast amidst an indescribable halo of intense complexity, the minerality completely understated and unobtrusive. As the bubbles faded, it grew even more intense with emerging rose-scented aromas, yet never weighty, remaining perfectly balanced throughout. Fantastic.

Peter then produced a white that was blinded. But from the golden hue, it was obvious that this is a well-aged wine, giving off powerful earthy barnyard aromas right from the first pour. This blew off quickly, allowing the true flavours of vanilla, cream, butter, bittersweet citrus and overtones of apricot to emerge, shrouded with caramel, highly complex with great density in the mid-body, yet lithe on the palate without being weighty, glowing in this manner throughout dinner. Peter made us play a guessing game. Most of us felt it was likely to be one of the Montrachet Grand Crus, but none expected it to be Le Montrachet itself, from Domaine Gagnard-Delagrange, 1990!! Truly outstanding!!

The first of the reds was the 1995 Ch Calon-Segur, a wine of low acidity that was smooth and easy on the palate, highly understated and almost nondescript. It took almost two hours to open up, with eventual notes of dried leaves and tobacco, gaining greater weight with a more savoury character, although the St-Estephe terroir remained elusive. Following on was a 1994 Ch Haut-Brion that I’d promised Danny, one of his favourite wines, which still appeared to be remarkably fresh and lively with fragrances of roses and red berries and notes of orangey citrus, supported by excellent density and depth, framed by understated tannins, the earthy minerality of Pessac-Leognan only appearing much later. This had more character than a bottle I’d brought to Otto in July 2011 (see post).

We drank the next pair together. Kelvin had brought a 1987 Ch Mouton-Rothschild. Compared with a previous tasting during a Bacchus Mouton vertical in January 2011 (see post), the present bottle was even more impressive from this unlikely vintage, exuding a lovely deep rose-scented bouquet of red fruits underpinned by a slightly prominent minerality. Fully mature, of course, yet it is still holding on very well with very good density in the mid-body, the wine totally seamless throughout, only lacking in real opulence and complexity, but it never faded. The 1982 Ch Montrose (courtesy Hiok), seemed like a real First Growth. Still deep in color, very open on the nose, the glorious fruit still retaining all its richness, minerality and concentration, remarkably youthful and very lovely to drink. If blinded, it’d have been difficult to place it as a St-Estephe, for it felt more like a Pauillac. Superb.

And just when we thought we’d completed the lineup, Peter produced another blinded red that still retained very deep color with pleasant overtones of red fruits and some forest floor on the bouquet. However, it was clear that this wine was well over the hill, missing in critical acidity, true complexity and nuance, just a bland monotone of wood and greenness with faint echoes of its past glory. A real pity, for it was a 1970 Ch Margaux, another one of Danny’s favourites. As they say, there are no great old wines, only great bottles. Nevertheless, what a glorious evening it had been, and thanks to all for their generosity.

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