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With Jacques Thienpont at Les Amis SG: 2005 Le Pin, 2001 DRC La Tache, 2001 VCC, 1988 Lafleur, 2009 Drouhin Montrachet, 2008 Henri Boillot Montrachet, 2009 VCC, 1995 Leroy Vosne-Romanee Aux Brulees, 1998 & 2001 Cte Georges de Vogüé Musigny, 1996 Margaux & 2004 Egon Müller Auslese

November 17, 2019

How often have you received an exclusive invitation from a three Michelin-starred restaurant for dinner with a superlative wine line-up? Les Amis of Singapore did exactly that on 13 November 2019. Started in 1994, this restaurant has consistently maintained its lofty standards of food, wine and service in the most discreet manner, avoiding all distraction and superficiality as it built up a loyal following through hard work and meticulous attention to detail, re-innovation and derring-do in realising its vision. Still located at 1 Scotts Road and helmed by Sebastien Lepinoy since 2013, it was only a matter of time before Les Amis was conferred the ultimate recognition in September 2019. To mark the occasion, a group of us was invited by Timothy Goh (Director of Sales, Vinum Fines Wines) to partake in a celebratory dinner in La Paulée style that would coincide with the visit of Jacques Thienpont and his wife Fiona Morrison, MW, where the couple would be providing wines from their estates Le Pin and Vieux Château Certan. It goes without saying that this sort of opportunity was not to be missed and I think we all did very well to reciprocate in kind by digging deep into our reserves. No wine theme was planned but when we all showed up at the restaurant’s private dining salon that evening, the line-up that unfolded spoke volumes of our deep understanding of Les Amis and the people behind its success. Along with Desmond Lim (Chairman, Les Amis Group), Lindsay Hamilton (Vice-Chairman, Vinum), the Thienponts and Matthew Hemming (also Master of Wine) and, of course, Tim, the wining and dining that evening reached a level that occurs only too rarely, transcending all barriers where there were no airs between everyone and anyone; only true appreciation and enjoyment of great food, immaculate service, outstanding wines and wonderful company, knowing well that such transient experiences, once past, cannot be re-captured again. In particular, Jacques and Fiona are both such cultured party animals there was never any moment that we were reminded of who they are. And when nothing less than a Montrachet Grand Cru was poured to get things going, you knew the evening simply cannot go wrong. We cannot thank you enough Tim and everyone at Les Amis Group for having us in mind, and to Jacques and Fiona for your friendship and generosity. This has been an unforgettable evening. The wines are described in the order served.

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1995 Champagne Bruno Paillard Nec Plus Ultra, courtesy of Tim. Deep dull golden hue, proffering quite a marked oxidative note of gun smoke, mushrooms, marmite and iron filings that is quite firm on the nose whilst the palate is still remarkably fresh and structured, underscored by deep darker tones with a hint of mineral brightness, superbly balanced. Caught at its best. Declared only in exceptional vintages, the 1995 is only the second example of N.P.U. ever released, the first being the 1990 (in 2002), a blend of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir sourced from grand cru vineyards.

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Jacques Thienpont of Le Pin

2008 Domaine Henri Boillot Montrachet Grand Cru, courtesy of Vic and myself. Poured from magnum after having been aired for more than 8 hours. Light golden luminosity. Took its time to unfurl its beauty, yielding at first only gentle tones of white flowers, yellow citrus and chalk, softly rounded with a recessed ethereal elegance. It seemed to turn deeper in colour after three hours in the glass, taking on a distinct phenolic note with a great concentration of creme de la creme on the palate, layered with rich minerally tones in equal measure and laced with sublime acidity that revealed infinite detail with clean definition. Yet one senses that it hadn’t really revealed its full glory, like a beautiful woman who is not in any hurry. Superb, but real patience is required.

1999 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, courtesy of Desmond. Poured from magnum. Lovely golden hue. This wine exudes a cool complexity of very finely detailed chalky notes with mature crème de la crème on the nose trailed by distant notes of diesel. Still amazingly fresh, displaying great suppleness and zest with fleshy seamless acidity and integration, glowing with gentle brilliance on the mid-palate before finishing with a gentle bloom of white flowers. At its absolute peak and will hold. Superb.

2012 L’IF, courtesy of Jacques Thienpont. The name means Yew tree in French, not unlike Le Pin which is a nod towards the lone pine tree situated at the estate. Located in Saint-Emilion near Ch Troplong Mondot, the vines were bought over by Jacques in 2010 and re-planted with 70% merlot and 30% cabernet franc, now expanded to 8 ha. Deep purple, this third vintage proffers a deeply effusive floral fragrance with a lifted complex of pungent earthiness that is simply uniquely gorgeous, leading to a rounded supple presence of ripe cherries and raspberries that traverse the palate with fine linearity, length and controlled intensity. Yet to develop but it holds great promise, considering the vines were still young.

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2001 Vieux Château Certan, courtesy of David Ong. Deep purple with an effusive lifted earthy pungency. Softly structured and fleshy, displaying very good concentration and depth of dark fruits and currants that are seamlessly layered with earthy minerals, finishing with just a bare trace of green undertones that doesn’t detract from its overall elegance and pleasure. Excellent.

2009 Vieux Château Certan, courtesy of Jacques Thienpont. Deep purple with some early evolution at the rim. There is some reticence here compared with a previous tasting just two nights ago (also with Jacques), surprisingly mellow, soft and fleshy with understated structure. Highly seamless with a hint of enamel amid the broad expanse of ripe cherries and raspberries, revealing good inner detail though that trace of green element is, again, discernible. May flesh out better with further aeration.

1988 Château Lafleur, courtesy of Kieron. Still an unbelievably brilliant deep crimson, this wine possesses an open gentle earthiness that went very well with the rather full but relaxed presence of cherries and red currants, still imbued with sleek acidity and fine intensity with a touch of ginger, finishing with remarkable freshness and vigour. Absolutely on song without any sign of flagging. Superb.

1996 Château Margaux, courtesy of Pipin. Deep crimson, this premier cru glows with overtones of violets and dark currants with a hint of warm pebbles, open with great suppleness within a rather slim cleanly-defined profile. Classically structured though it doesn’t quite possess that velvety opulence of 1989 or 1999.

1998 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Grand Cru, courtesy of LF. Poured from magnum. Showing a glorious darker shade of pinot that is usual from this estate, this wine opens with a lovely intensity of enamel, camphor, red fruits and cherries that snapped together with superb focus, wonderfully supple as layers subtle forest characters and delicious dark fruit streaked across the palate with superb acidity and tension. Still remarkably fresh and youthful, even better than a previous tasting also from magnum in February 2016. May not even have peaked. Excellent.

2001 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Grand Cru, courtesy of Kieron. More developed than the 1998 (probably a function of the latter’s large format bottling), this wine displays a lovely fragrance of red fruits and currants with a fine open presence on a delicate ferrous floor, showing good integration and depth but it is upstaged by the preceding 1998, neither quite as opulent nor complex although it would have been thoroughly satisfying on its own. At its best.

1995 Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanée Aux Brulees 1er, courtesy of Sir Robert. Great colour, matched by a superb lift of red fruits and cherries that exude dazzling purity and concentration dotted with traces of capsicum amid darker shades of fruit, softly structured with gentle sweet tannins. Utterly seamless and delicious. Amazing!

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2005 Le Pin, courtesy of Jacques Thienpont. Deep purple with a trace of evolution, this wine glows with a hallowed complex marked by a sharply lifted note of pines – how apt! – whilst the palate is imbued with lovely tension and fabulous intensity of fruit that conferred great freshness and wonderful exuberance, cushioned by soft gentle velvety textures. Absolutely irresistible. Will develop further complexity down the years but this is already such a complete wine. Outstanding!

2001 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tache Grand Cru, courtesy of Desmond. Great colour. This famous monopole is absolutely mesmerising on the nose, generously endowed with gorgeous red fruits and currants that fill the palate with fine density and concentration, imbued with refined acidity and structured presence that may still yield further detail had it been aired longer, holding sway with delicious verve though I thought it began to recede a little towards midnight (yes, we ended really late!). Quite a complete wine. Outstanding.

2009 Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche Grand Cru, courtesy of Kieron. Lovely colour. The distilled essence of Montrachet is present in abundance, displaying a controlled gentle bloom of floral characters, fig, icing, green capsicum and chalk that blossomed with very fine early complexity and detail, wonderfully layered and structured with refined acidity as it finished with further notes of pomelo, white pepper and traces of bitter lemon that produced a trace of sternness. Quite ethereal, as expected, though a little more forward in fruit compared with the preceding Henri Boillot. Quite marvellous but yet to truly develop.

2004 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Auslese, courtesy of Lindsay. Firm distinct tones of diesel petroleum and exhaust, superbly lifted, that I found rather intoxicating and attractive. The palate is richly layered with delicate fruit of great clarity and agility, displaying great freshness, precision and detail, yet so wonderfully balanced without any heaviness, finishing with glowing gentle intensity and persistence. Outstanding.

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Even Fiona can’t resist taking a pot shot

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