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1990 Cos D’Estournel, 1990 La Conseillante, 1986 Haut-Brion, 1982 Leoville-Las-Cases…

January 18, 2016

Wining and dining in 2016 took off with quite a bang on 12 Jan 2016 where we had the honour and privilege of wishing Dr Ngoi many happy returns at Chef Kang’s. No specific wine theme was set apart from a common understanding that it would be Old World and that the wines would be blinded. Li Fern took great pains to ensure that we would be sampling Chef Kang’s signature creations while Kheng Yu (a.k.a. SKY) went the extra mile to procure crab beehoon and meepok from Sin Huat.

We began the evening with a 2006 Louis Roederer Cristal (unblinded, courtesy of Miah Hiang) that offered lifted aromas of clear zesty citrus, generous in body but rather dry, high-toned and steely on the palate along with characters of smoke and a subtle trace of yeast. This was followed by a magnum bottling of 2011 Domaine Leflaive Batard-Bienvenue-Montrachet Grand Cru (unblinded, courtesy of Vic) that opened with notes of melons, peaches and a dash of tropical fruits with a suggestion of great depth on the nose that was met on the palate, vibrant and lively with fine acidity. We drank half of it and revisited the other half at the end of dinner, where it had become far more relaxed and open, blossoming with subtle buttery characters and crème de la crème.

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The reds got off to an ignominious start with an old bottle of 1986 Domaine Henri Rebourseau Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru (blinded, courtesy of Miah Hiang) that was dark murky brown, producing considerable bottle stink though it was definitely not corked, almost resembling port in character, replete with medicinal overtones. On the palate, the fruit had clearly receded significantly, leaving a shell of prunes and astringent tangerine, awkward and disjointed. Clearly, no one could tell what sort of burgundy it was. We also quickly dispensed with a 2009 Croix de Beaucaillou (unblinded, courtesy of Gleneagles management). Poured from magnum, this wine was dominated by a funky pungency on the nose, marked by a forward balance of plums, dark currants and soy, medium-full, the vanilla note imparting a glossy sheen without any semblance of its Saint Julien origin.

The 1990 Ch Cos D’Estournel (unblinded, courtesy of SKY) displayed distilled aromas of ripe dark berries, distinctly medium-bodied and completely open on the palate, dry with tertiary characters of dried mushrooms and some cedary notes, lacking the concentration and opulence of the best clarets of 1990 and in danger of thinning out. It seemed to be just hanging on and unlikely to improve. On the other hand, this bottle may not be representative and so I’ll reserve judgement.

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Then came an interesting turn of events. Two blinded Bordeaux bottles were tasted side-by-side. Both were deep dark purple, almost black, proffering notes of ash and intense black fruits marked by plummy notes, soy, wonderful ripeness and excellent depth, seemingly youthful and yet to develop further layering. Of the two, one was just slightly lighter in texture while the other was slightly fuller with a bit of biting intensity. Both exhibited velvety supply tannins that hinted at substantial proportions of merlot. There were wild guesses around the table but when the wraps came off, both turned out to be the 1990 Ch La Conseillante (courtesy of LF and Sanjay)!! It is extremely rare in a blinded line-up to feature two identical wines, especially when no theme has been specified. This little surprise also goes to show the extent of bias that open labels conjure up in drinkers’ minds.

The final pair of reds proved to be outstanding. The 1986 Ch Haut-Brion, tasted blind, still displayed an abundance of glorious black fruits and dark currants with a dash of spice, replete with a tinge of tangerines (as always with Haut-Brion), earth and soy, proving to be a wine of great concentration, depth and complexity, brimming with supple intensity. I would say it has yet to peak, given how youthful it still is on the palate but, alas, that was my final bottle. Next to this, the 1982 Ch Leoville-Las-Cases (blinded, courtesy of Hsiang Sui), still possessed great balance and concentration of black fruits and dark berries, complex with tertiary characters of old leather, cedar and cinnamon, highly structured and “correct”, soft at the edges with a touch of austerity, seemingly aloof and somewhat stern.

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A couple of half-bottles of dessert wine, blinded, rounded off the evening of excesses. Both displayed an Old World complex of apricot, nectarine, peaches and melons with restrained acidity, still fresh, one lighter while the other considerably heavier in texture. The whole table was unanimous in deciding that both were Ch D’Yquem and was spot-on as well in pin-pointing the vintages: 1990 (more transparent in texture, courtesy of Hsiang Sui) and 1996 (slightly heavier, courtesy of Sanjay). My sincere thanks to everyone for their generous contributions.

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