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Hugel & Fils in Singapore

February 26, 2014

I had the opportunity to attend a lunch organised by the Alsace Wine & Gastronomy Society, courtesy of its founder Julian Teoh, on 11 Jan 2014 at Bar-Rouge, Amara Hotel, Singapore, featuring the wines of the famous Alsace producer and negociant Hugel et Fils with its proprietor Etienne Hugel, and his lovely Japanese wife, in attendance. Stephan (and his mother!) conjured up a meal that would have been perfect for any table in the south of France and we were set.

To start the afternoon rolling, the 2008 Hugel Pinot Gris Jubilee was served as the aperitif while we waited for everyone to arrive, muted with a faint grassy note though it was much better on the palate, displaying good weight with notes of tropical fruits and burnt sugar although it still came across as somewhat simple.

Once we were seated, Etienne poured an unusual entity in the line-up, a 2008 Hugel Pinot Noir Jubilee that was quite correct in color but otherwise nondescript, with just faint notes of red cherries that was really unremarkable. Stick with real Burgundy. 2005 Hugel Jubilee being servedThis was followed by the 1998 Gewurztraminer Hommage a Jean Hugel that was most promising on the nose with an abundance of lychee and honey though its acidity was beginning to slip, lacking complexity and depth initially although this was soon corrected with food.

The real charge began thereafter with the 2009 Hugel Riesling Vendange Tardive, which was a notable step up in sweetness compared to what had been tasted earlier, delicate in minerality, remarkably balanced and smooth with some lovely complexity at the finish. Excellent. The 2012 Hugel Lentil that followed was considerably lighter in body, grassy with refreshing crisp citrus, becoming weightier after some aeration.

Etienne busy pouring his Jubilee rieslingThe highlight of the afternoon was a quartet of Hugel Riesling Jubilee which provided scope for some fascinating comparison. The 2007 displayed subtle hints of tropical fruits and floral notes, painting the palate with broad bold strokes of great concentration and intensity, already fairly open with a lovely breadth and depth, superb potential but still far from ready. The 2010 was similarly intense but tighter with an abundance of nectarine and a dash of apricot. The 2001, with the advantage of bottle age, was, not surprisingly, the best of the lot, most enticing with lifted aromas of sweet nectar and honey, open with complex minerality and a wonderful mouthfeel, tapering to a long lasting finish. Drinking superbly. Holding its ground alongside the rest was the 2005, again excellent in concentration, smoky with notes of burnt sugar and tropical fruit amidst its  crystalline minerality, growing in intensity over time with a mild steely note towatds the finish.

Ric & EtiennePerhaps the best was left till the end. The 2009 Hugel Riesling Selection de Grains Nobles was lively and deep with primary characters of apricot, burnt caramel, honey and nectarine, rematkably balanced and long and obviously will require considerable cellaring to develop its full potential. And finally, the piece de resistance, in the form of the 1999 Hugel Riesling Selection de Grains Nobles, displaying a deep luscious golden hue, was still laced with just the right degree of subtle acidity in spite of considerable bottle age, multi-dimensional with dominant notes of deep honey and caramel, absolutely superb in its purity, depth and length. Quite sensational, bringing the afternoon to a very satisfying conclusion. Thanks, Julian.

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