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One Or 100

February 6, 2014

I had the privilege of attending a fund-raising dinner at Gardens By The Bay, Singapore, 28 Nov 2013, part of The Giving Tree project organised by NUHS in aid of the less fortunate. Given that the evening’s theme was all about giving generously, and this being a black-tie event, I didn’t think it was too difficult for like-minded members of Bacchus, conveniently placed at the same table, to match the lofty wine theme of “One Or 100”, meaning a Bordeaux First Growth (or its recognised equivalent, non-Bordeaux estates accepted as well) or a wine rated 100 points by Robert Parker Jr. No other planning was done and when I showed up, it was good to find that everyone had matched up perfectly. In fact, wLook it's Iggy himself!!hat a stunning line-up it turned out to be, and it was no surprise that even people like Ignatius Chan (of Iggy’s fame), Timothy Goh (Les Amis) and Angelina Teh (Bordeaux Index)  all gravitated to our table. All wines were aired in bottle between 30-60 minutes prior to tasting.

As Vinum Fine Wines was one of the proud sponsors of this event, it was not surprising to find a free flow of one of their agency brands, Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Brut NV, as the aperitif. This was quite lovely, displaying subdued citrus with measured notes of nutmeg, white roses, vanilla and sweet pomelo, very well-balanced with further notes of toast and yeast appearing much later.

We began south of Bordeaux city with the 1999 Ch Haut Brion (courtesy Vic) which, to our surprise, still appeared primal, utterly rich with a smooth intensity that yielded a superb mouthfeel with traces of vanillin oak still discernible amidst the sophisticated fine supple tannins, already quite open at this stage and becoming accessible now, growing in complexity over time as further notes of bright cherries and raspberries emerged, lifting its aromatics to greater heights. Totally under-rated, and I’d suggest you get a case of this if the price is right. A superb start.

It was a distinct pleasure to taste the next two wines together. I’ve heard and read so much about the 1998 Penfolds Grange (courtesy Danny) ever since I got hooked on wine but this was the first time I’ve had a chance to experience it. Contrary to popular belief, Aussie reds can age really well and this bottle of Grange proves that point. A deep and generous bouquet of menthol, mint and herbs from the wonderfully ripe shiraz led to an expansive canvas of dark plums and tangerine on the palate, utterly rich and opulent, the expert craftsmanship ensuring the wine remained at ease in spite of its hedonistic qualities, tapering to a long and lasting finish. Purists will object to the multi-district blend of shiraz that Penfolds favours for its Grange, but one could easily be persuaded that it works. Truly one of the very best examples of Aussie shiraz that I’ve had, masculine and lithe as opposed to the enticing grace and elegance of its great rival, Henschke’s Hill of Grace. Great stuff. With Tim GohTasted alongside, the 1998 Vega Sicilia Unico was just as effusive on the nose, but distinctly more Old World in character with complex characters of cedar, cinnamon, red plums and kumquat, medium-full and beautifully layered and open. Highly distinctive, leaving a more lasting impression thanks to its ever-evolving complexity over time compared to the Grange. Really excellent.

The next three wines were truly outstanding. The 1995 Ch Mouton Rothschild (courtesy Pipin), exhibited an ample lovely pungency of mushrooms, snuff box and earth, leaping out of the glass along with a powerful glow of tea leaves and dried plums only possible from a Bordeaux breed of distinction.  The palate is saturated with ripe dark berries, black fruits and a dash of red plums, superbly balanced, matched by sophisticated tannins to produce great structure and definition all the way to its lasting finish. A great Mouton, which made it all the more difficult to believe that it could be so different from a similar bottle tasted back in 2011 at a Mouton vertical (see Feb 2011). Paired with this was the 1996 Ch Latour (courtesy Hiok), which had the advantage of having been double-decanted prior to dinner. Well, there isn’t much about this estate that hasn’t been said or written about, safe to say that it outshone the Mouton in breadth and depth. One or 100Whereas the Mouton had seemed exuberant, perhaps even hedonistic in the French manner, the Latour was the perfect study in understatement, layered with glorious black fruits, dark currants and complex minerality of unfathomable depth, yet poised and relaxed on the palate, utterly natural and effortless in establishing its identity whilst further nuances of cinnamon and cedar continued to unfold over time. Truly outstanding.

And, finally, for the piece de resistance, a wine that hit the target for the theme on both counts, the 1986 Ch Mouton Rothschild (courtesy KP), a wine that, thanks to the generosity of fellow Bacchusians, I’ve had the privilege of tasting on several occasions, never failing in its consistency. In spite of its age, the 1986 Mouton tastes only like all of 10 years, complex, big and open, superbly balanced, yielding  gorgeous definition with great depth of redcurrants, dark berries and a touch of tar, remarkably smooth and effortless in expression, its Pauillac signature remaining understated. The perfect wine? Perhaps, but this has been a perfect line-up for a wonderful evening of dining and camaraderie. Thanks, Kieron, and to everyone at Bacchus for their contributions.

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