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Off-Year Bordeaux…

March 9, 2012

All too infrequently, Bacchus met again, sans Kieron, on 6 February 2012 at Chao Shan, the most renowned Teochew restaurant in Singapore. It’s small, cramped, crowded and noisy – the perfect recipe for great-tasting food. Just remember to bring your own stemware. After several consecutive dinners that succeeded each time in setting record prices for wine and food, we felt an austerity drive was in order without sacrificing food quality, hence the choice of venue and wine theme. All wines were mostly popped on-site and aired in bottle.

We began with a 1988 Ch La Conseillante (courtesy KP) that was dirty red with an evolved rim, exuding a powerful herbal glow, still displaying good density with forward notes of orangey citrus. Well integrated and still very fine. Next up was a 1983 Ch Cos D’Estournel (courtesy Hiok), again dirty red, evolved almost to the point of transluscency. Muted on the nose, the sweet menthol overhang on the palate unable to disguise the flat residual fruit, lacking in definition and terroir. A wine that’s clearly fading, on its last legs.

The next pair of St-Julien wines fared much better. The 1994 Ch Leoville Las-Cases appeared to be at its peak, very well integrated and seamless, displaying remarkable depth and decent layering without any sign of drying out, just lacking in the intensity that this estate is well capable of in great vintages. Of the three or four examples of this wine I’ve had over the past 5 years, the current bottle was clearly the best, a far cry from the mediocre impression I had from a previous bottle last year. Very good. 1998 could hardly be considered weak, but that was all Danny could do to match the theme, but we’re not complaining, not when we’re offered a Ch Ducru Beaucaillou that was every bit as good as one would expect from this estate – dark, deep and considerably heavier than any of the preceding wines although, surprisingly, it was medium-full on the palate, seamless and open, much more mellow and relaxed compared to a previous bottle off the restaurant list of Saint Pierre in 2007, a wine just entering its drinking window, yet to develop any clear secondary nuances. Excellent stuff.

Vic produced an oddity in the form of a 1995 Solaia but, again, no complaints at all about straying off theme when one is greeted by accentuated aromas of perfumed red fruits lined by fine velvety tannins, lifted and grippy, combining power with elegance. This was the perfect prelude to the 1993 Ch Haut Brion (courtesy Uncle Hsu), displaying a lovely clear purplish tint with notes of kumquat and other orangey citrus, utterly seamless and elegant, remarkably decent in depth and layering, reminding me very much of the 1994 Haut Brion, just missing in weight and opulence but it went very well with the food. It goes to show that off-years can be rewarding, and that’s where your smart money should be.

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