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FICOFI: 2005 Clerc Milon, 2005 d’Yquem, 2009 Bouchard Chevalier-Montrachet…

October 29, 2017

The renowned wine writer Eric Riewer, formerly Director of Wine at Gault & Millot, concluded his visit to Singapore with an insightful lecture on wine fraud at the Intercontinental Hotel, Singapore, on 23 Oct 2017. Emphasising that these confidence tricksters never served any bad wine even if they were fake, Eric proceeded to conduct a blinded tasting over dinner at the hotel’s renowned restaurant Man Fu Yuan, where the wines declared were three Burgundy Grand Cru whites (all from the same producer), four Pauillac reds and two Sauternes. We had to identify each vintage and, if possible, each wine itself. Before we began, we helped ourselves to a liberal flow of the 2006 Comtes de Champagne Taittinger Blanc de Blancs, rather shy on the nose, offering just faint traces of white flowers and crème, though there is a superb presence of crystalline minerals and clear crisp citrus on the palate with an after note of pomelo and bitter lemon, somewhat feminine in demeanour. An excellent start. The blinded wines were revealed only at the end of dinner, but I will detail each of them in the order served.

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The first white displayed attractive floral aromas with superb creme de la crème on the nose that grew in exuberance over time, rather minerally on the palate but beautifully layered with great opulence and subtle acidity at the sides, producing some lovely intensity and superb mouthfeel though undoubtedly youthful, yet to develop secondary characteristics. Only a Puligny-Montrachet is capable of such sublimity in its youth and it must be Bouchard, judging from the general delicacy in color and feel. I guessed 2010 Bouchard Batard-Montrachet. Close, for it turned out to be the 2009 Bouchard Pere et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru.

The second white displayed a slightly heavier tint of color and hue, appropriately more evolved on the nose and sweeter with more floral characters, deeper as well on the palate where it was rather minerally, smooth and vibrant with plenty of verve but very well behaved, displaying excellent purity though its finish was a bit short. I thought it was a Chevalier but it was the 2005 Bouchard Pere et Fils Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru and, in fact, some people got it correct.

The third white proffered highly enticing floral aromas, displaying great seamless integration between fruit and minerals, superbly balanced and harmonious, almost ethereal, bright and lively but poised with absolute control, still youthful. We took a vote whilst still blinded and almost everyone was unanimous in declaring this third white to have the greatest potential. Coming after the first two wines, this surely must be Montrachet itself, I thought. But no….a 2009 Bouchard Pere et Fils Meursault Les Perrieres 1er!!! This was when Eric doubled up as wine fraudster. Remember they are, first and foremost, confidence tricksters? Having served up two genuine superb whites, no one would have doubted if the label on the third wine had read Montrachet Grand Cru and one could have easily unloaded cases of this. A real lesson learnt here and a real revelation.

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From there, we moved on to the flight of Pauillac, the first of which was deep in colour with lifted aromas of dark currants and abundant dark berries and black fruits, open and rounded on the palate with good definition, developing more body with time, just a tad feminine in its suppleness with traces of green. I thought a 2000 Pichon Lalande, though it was a 2006 Ch Pontet Canet. Really very fine.

The second Pauillac showed some early evolution in colour, proffering dark plummy fruit on the nose with lifted tobacco notes and mushrooms, yielding excellent definition on the open palate with good intensity and presence though still seemingly youthful, on the verge of secondary development. I thought a 1996 Lynch Bages, but it was the 2005 Ch Clerc Milon, truly an estate that has emerged from the shadow of its godfather Mouton Rothschild.

The third Pauillac was clearly a much older wine, well evolved in colour with an attractive earthy pungency, open and utterly seamless with overtones of Chinese tea leaves, infinitely charming, almost feminine, just a tad short in its autumnal quality. Beautiful. A 1985 Mouton Rothschild? Well, it wasn’t even a Pauillac, but a 1966 Saint Julien! This goes to prove the power of suggestion: once implanted in one’s mind, it can influence and distort one’s perception and even sense of logic without one even realising it.

The last red was also clearly well evolved with a trace of richness in colour, delicious with a bit of minty port-like character on the palate, finishing well with sweet melted tannins. Most intriguing. I was totally flummoxed. So was everyone. It turned out to be the same 1966 Saint Julien adulterated with a dash of Quinta do Noval vintage port! Like an old man propped up with anabolic steroids. Again, this exercise serves to demonstrate how easy it is to make a fake wine and to gain the confidence of others. Another lesson learnt is really how good the so-called lesser estates can be especially in good vintages without busting the wallet.

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Finally, the Sauternes. The first yielded great concentration of nectarine, peaches and apricot, fabulous in intensity with superb acidity that combined to produce a stellar wine of great freshness, undoubtedly still primal. Definitely a d’Yquem…the 2005 Ch d’Yquem, no less. The last wine was deep golden, indicating significant bottle age, proffering luscious nectarine, honeysuckle and marmalade with a distinct aged quality, the fruit set somewhat backward though there was more complexity than the preceding d’Yquem. I had drunk too much that night to think properly. A Tokay? It was the 1996 Ch de Farques, an inexpensive Sauternes (but also made by Lur Saluces of dÝquem at that time) that can easily pass off for something far more costly, proving that top quality lurks everywhere if only one knows where to look. This had been a most outstanding and educational evening. More of these please, FICOFI.

 

 

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