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My dinner with Fiona Morrison, MW

November 13, 2019

20191111_214427.jpgThanks to an invitation at short notice from Philippe Capdouze, I found myself seated next to Ms Fiona Morrison, Master of Wine, on 11 November 2019 at Summer Pavillon, Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore. No stranger to Singapore, Fiona was back to visit some old friends and to promote her new book: 10 Great Wine Families – A Tour Through Europe. Hers is a name familiar to oenophiles who have browsed through the pages of Decanter or, in the case of FICOFI members, Le Magazine de FICOFI. Disarmingly cheerful and bubbly as she engages everyone in easy banter over anything that matters about wine, Fiona speaks with a natural eloquence that finds its way into her writing. Indeed, throughout the evening, Fiona would introduce each wine with an astonishing depth of knowledge only possible through her personal involvement at every level of winemaking, marketing, research and networking, never failing to include a personal anecdoctal experience here and there. The first thing Fiona talked to me about was not Bordeaux nor Burgundy, but Henschke’s Hill of Grace (!!) for which, to my pleasant surprise, we both share a soft spot. For sure, she is someone who drinks broadly across all price points, not just the big names. She takes discreet notes about each wine every now and then, half a minute of concentrated scribbling into a little black notebook (from Penfolds, if you must know). If only one could peep at her choice of vocabulary. With her husband Jacques Thienpont in tow, naturally there is bound to be Vieux Château Certan and Le Pin in the line-up, courtesy of the couple themselves. The wines were expertly prepared by sommelier par excellence Tan Kok-Hong who earned high praise from none other than Fiona herself. A big thank you, Fiona and Jacques, for your time and generosity and to Philippe as well for a most memorable evening.

2012 Champagne Pascal Agrapart Avizoise Extra Brut. Very pale. Effusive in delicate tones of pomelo and citrus amid light delicious overtones of dry toast and yeast, displaying bright minerally characters on the palate that yield excellent transparency with a certain lightness, layered with a lovely depth of icing, honeysuckle and white fruits that proffer fabulous detail, becoming more concentrated and accentuated with time. Superb.

2013 Gaja Barbaresco. Displaying an almost pinot-like tint with superb clarity, this wine exuded a lovely feminine glow of dark plums and currants with a dash of dark cherries marked by a floral fragrance, while the palate is layered with great acidity and purity of fruit amid traces of earth, revealing good early complexity and length with a gentle intensity. Excellent.

2011 Château de Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin. Poured from magnum. Deep dark impenetrable purple with an arresting bouquet of deep medicinal tones and haw. Equally intense on the palate, marked by a broad even expanse of sweet dark fruits and understated tannins that exuded overtones of new leather, wonderfully warm and ripe, rather full, yet beautifully balanced and layered, finishing with subtle youthful intensity and length. Excellent.

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2009 Vieux Château Certan. Deep purple, proffering a hallowed glow of deep dark currants, mulberries and raspberries, beautifully ripe with a dash of soy amid overtones of smouldering ember. Highly seamless, smooth and agile on the palate, imbued with very fine depth and fabulous sleek acidity that danced with superb deftness, finishing with great linearity in a blaze of open intensity. Still youthful. Will be long lived. Superb.

1997 Le Pin. Still bright crimson at the core with some evolution, this wine exuded a lovely glow of evolved red currants amid faint overtones of dried wood, somewhat earthy with an easy complexity. Medium-full. Utterly seamless and fleshy, carrying great energy and acidity though without quite really possessing inner detail, finishing with good persistence. I hadn’t realised that Le Pin, since its inception in 1979, has always been labelled without the prefix “château”, very much like Tertre Roteboeuf. No 2003 was made. Jacques, who told me that he sold the inaugural 1979 vintage for only 80 French Francs per bottle, opined that Le Pin does especially well in wet vintages, since it is essentially merlot grown on gravel, which drains well.

2017 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Spatlese. Pale. Classic effusive nose of dense diesel tones that led to gentle notes of apricot and recessed nectarine on the light-medium palate, open with good definition and clarity, finishing gently with good length. Very elegantly poised, perhaps a tad too reserved.

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