Notes on Burgundy

Glad to be up at 10am for a Burgundy seminar organized by Sopexa Singapore and Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) in conjunction with Wine For Asia. Glasses sponsored by Lucaris which is the premium crystal-made line from Ocean Glass. I admit I’ve never heard of it prior to this but the quality is pretty good and priced very competitively.

The seminar was hosted by Lee Chee Wee and Thomas Ling, both Official Burgundy Wine Instructors accredited by BIVB. Mr Lee has definitely been in the wine scene in Singapore for a while, being in various distributors here while Mr Ling is from Malaysia and is a consultant in the F&B industry.

The speakers knew their stuff and the wines for tasting did, as a whole, express the terroir of Burgundy, not just from Côte d’Or but from Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Chablis as well.

An interesting thought came to me as the speakers were asking the attendees on how we would describe the wines. Usually when I think of tasting notes, I always think of Paul S. A personal friend of mine and someone I respect in the amateur wine circle here (which undoubtedly can be more professional than the trade circle), he is rather well known for his passionate notes posted in CellarTracker (CT).

Incidentally, I was looking through his CT page recently and noticed that he has outdid even himself with one of his latest tasting note on the 2000 Nicolas Potel Romanée St. Vivant. Clocking in at 396 words, it definitely qualifies as one of his magna opera (I just discovered that this is the plural of magnum opus):

“… like a young girl caught in the moment between slightly surly, awkward adolescence and beautiful mature womanhood.” – Paul S

Opened for about 45 minutes before I got to it, this kept evolving in the glass, so that it divided opinions amongst those of us who tasted it at different times. I thought it was excellent though, a wine that was both impressive and interesting – a real Grand Cru experience. It had a very expressive nose for a start. Rather overly woody at first, but this subsided with time and melded into a deep, rich, seductive melange of dark cherry and blackberry aromas, lush undergrowth notes lined with seams of metallic mineral, doses of Vosne wood spice and vine stems and, finally, a lovely perfumy waft of fresh cut flowers. Lovely, conplex stuff. There was just a hit of glycerol in there somewhere, but barely enough to disturb the overall package. After that bouquet, the palate came across as still being very young and slightly awkward on first blush. There was clearly Grand Cru depth and length, and this was wed to surprisingly fresh, almost zippy acidity that caused the wine to almost dance across the mouth with a lovely amount of energy. Very surprising for a 2000 on that count. This was accompanied by some wonderfully delicious, rather pure flavours of dark cherries and strawberries that tumbled out of the glass on the attack and layered the midpalate with a soild show of depth. for all that though, I could not get past the feeling that there was just so much hidden behind that, just waiting for time to draw out. Not to say that this was exceptionally tight or unyielding – there was certainly complexity even now, with little bits of orange peel, smoky wood spice, earth, mineral and flowers floating like a halo around the core of more pirmary fruit, all making for an absolutely pleasurable drink. It was just that there was something a bit gawky and shy behind that, like a young girl caught in the moment between slightly surly, awkward adolescence and beautiful mature womanhood. All in all though, this was a lovely wine, with each sip calling out for another – delicious enough so that I could not keep my hands off the glass. No harm drinking it now I would say, but it was such a nice bottle that it really deserves a lot more time in the cellar – a decade or so before peak maybe.

Even more incidentally, this wine has been tasted by several other luminaries of the international (and local) wine circle including bloggers like Keith Levenberg and Richard Jennings, trade enthusiasts like Grape Juice, and professional reviewers like Allen Meadows and Stephen Tanzer. I find it interesting to compare their styles of writing as they encompass the majority of tasting note styles.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Richard Jennings likes to keep things factual and concise without excess fat. However, it almost impossible to know whether he actually likes the wine, other than from the score itself. The style is rather similar to Jancis Robinson except that she tends to be cryptic at times.

Medium, slightly bricking, cherry red color with clear meniscus; brett, cinnamon, iron and tart red fruit nose; tart red fruit, brett, cinnamon and strawberry palate with green notes; medium finish

Keith Levenberg, meanwhile, tends to be more figurative, though this is an unusually concise one from him:

A beauty. Supple and seamless, the kind of wine that seems to pamper the palate. And very interesting to compare to the DRC since this one actually shows better today.

Grape Juice interestingly ends his notes with a buy (or maybe, or not) recommendation though more recently he seems to have moved to the traditional score based rating:

This is simply stunning and steal the show among all the red wine. 2notches up compare to the Echezeaux. While the nose is not as expressive as the Echezeaux, it show better depth. Broad, wide nose of seductive VR spices- anise, cloves, fragrance with rich dark Pinot fruits core that is creamy, and polished. The refreshing palate show that this is a wine that flirt with finesse and harmony. Super creamy mouth feel with layer and layer of lush, sweet dark Pinot fruits that is so pure and charming along with seductive, refined VR spices and violet that quickly fill up the mouth. The polished structure is buried under the silky fine tannin, fine acid spine and huge dry extract which resulted in very smooth mouth feel, elegance texture that flow on to the persistent long finishing with spices and mineral nuances. A top notch RSV. Buy – Yes.

Allen Meadows’ is a good balance between factual and figurative. He likes to use “zen” or “wow” to describe exceptional wines. The last sentence of his notes is usually a kicker, a summary which kind of makes the decision for you:

“… lacks the requisite density to be great.” – Meadows

Definite new oak notes merge with black, spicy, elegant fruit and wonderfully rich flavors. There is not a lot of structure here however and though this is very complex, rich and seductive, even sexy, I would be inclined to enjoy this for its youthful charms, rather than put it in the cellar and forget about it. There is much to admire about this wine and it’s classy in its own way but ultimately, it lacks the requisite density to be great.

Finally, Stephen Tanzer definitely more towards factual, often with some background information:

Ruby-red. Cool, noble aromas of black raspberry, minerals, violet, bitter chocolate and coffee. Dense and sweet but vibrant, with a penetrating minerality framing and extending the concentrated flavors. Finishes very long and juicy, with fine tannins and a strong note of sweet oak. Like Bonnes-Mares, this is always a complete wine, says Potel, and never really dominated by the character of the vintage. These top crus from the Cote de Nuits show more pristine flavors than most of Potel cuvees from the Cotes de Beaune.

Other than those, there’s also the Droplets of God style where imagery describes the wine. The most famous example being 2001 Château Mont Perat being imagined as a performance by the English rock group Queen. But thus far, I have not seen a full-blown version of such tasting note anywhere else. This is definitely the most entertaining to read, though might not be useful for making a decision.

So which is the style you like most and what is your own style of writing?

For comparison, here are my notes for the event:


  • 2007 La Chablisienne Chablis 1er Cru Vaulorent – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
    Softly perfumed nose reminiscent of a Puligny. The palate meanwhile, was clearly Chablis and surprisingly ripe for the vintage. Good intensity coupled with high acidity and ending with a saline finish. Despite the ripeness this still had precision though the minerality was at the background. Quite enjoyable. (86 pts.)

La Chablisiènne is actually a large cooperative marketing up to 33% of all Chablis production. The Vaulorent lieux-dit is a section of the Fourchaume Premier Cru which directly abuts the Grand Cru climat of Les Preuses, hence it is no surprise that it was rather good. This particular wine was not really a crowd-pleaser at the event due to its rather high acidity, giving the impression of leanness.

One thing that I did pick up from this seminar is that technically there is only one Grand Cru in Chablis as the AOC is just Chablis Grand Cru. This is similar to Corton where there is also a single AOC and multiple climats within it. So just as one can find a wine labelled Corton Grand Cru (made from a blend of different climats within), one can technically also find a Chablis Grand Cru label, rather than Les Clos, Les Preuses, etc., though I’ve never seen it done before. Actually if you follow on with this technical argument, then there’s only one Premier Cru in Gevrey, Vosne, etc.

  • 2008 Eric Forest Pouilly-Fuissé Les Crays – France, Burgundy, Mâconnais, Pouilly-Fuissé
    Oaky nose and rather fruit-forward. Juicy intense lemons on the palate laced liberally with oak. Good freshness but short finish. Made in a crowd-pleasing style. (83 pts.)
  • 2008 Domaine Tupinier-Bautista Mercurey 1er Cru En Sazenay – France, Burgundy, Côte Chalonnaise, Mercurey 1er Cru
    Lemony, peach and vegetal on the nose. Decent intensity on the palate but short finish. A rather simple juice. (83 pts.)

There are both red and white versions of Sazenay chez Tupinier-Bautista.

  • 2008 Bouchard Père et Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Champs-Gain – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru
    Rather restrained at the moment. Vigorous swirling brought out the Puligny aromas coupled with notes of honey. Very mouth-filling on the palate. Medium-bodied with staining intensity. Quite oaky but no doubt will be absorbed by the extract in time. Very good but not particularly distinguished. (86 pts.)

Champs-Gain is located very high up on the slope of Puligny, around the altitude of St. Aubin.


  • 2008 Domaine Theulot Juillot Mercurey 1er Cru Les Combins Côte Chalonnaise – France, Burgundy, Côte Chalonnaise, Mercurey 1er Cru
    Definitely made in an Old World classic style. Smoky, red cherries and some pretty flowers on the nose. Rather simple on the palate but nicely balanced. Quite delicious! (85 pts.)
  • 2009 Jean-Claude Boisset Beaune 1er Cru Les Grèves – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
    Deep earthy nose. Dark fruit dominated. Ripe on the palate but not particularly seductive. Quite flabby giving the impression of little depth. Rather anonymous at the moment. (83 pts.)

Boisset might not be a common name among Burgundy drinkers here but they are one of the largest wine conglomerates in France and even listed on the stock exchange. Domaine de la Vougeraie is the Domaine part of the group and is definitely better known in this part of the world. The Maison part of the business is labelled as Jean-Claude Boisset. Several other traditional Domaines were acquired by them too in recent times such as Antonin Rodet, Jaffelin, Bouchard Ainé, etc.

  • 2008 Domaine Chevalier Père et Fils Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru Les Valozières – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Aloxe-Corton 1er Cru
    Alluring red-fruited nose leads to a pure and balanced palate with fresh acidity and lovely fruits. Not as austere as I expected from an Aloxe. An elegant and perhaps gentle, feminine wine with a decent finish. Lovely and definitely an impressive little wine. A wine of grace. The 2008 vintage at its best. (87 pts.)

Les Valozières lies directly beneath Corton-Bressandes. Not too sure why this Aloxe is as elegant as it is when typically they are austere and a little four-square. Jasper Morris noted that their strength is in the whites though there is only a Corton-Charlemagne, a Ladoix 1er and a Ladoix villages.

  • 2007 René Cacheux et Fils Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
    Deep nose and barest hint of spices. Austere, acidic and very lean. Tastes a bit diluted. Not sure whether this will flesh out with age. Relatively long finish though. Rather disappointing for a Les Suchots. (85 pts.)

A relatively obscure Domaine in the international market. René is the brother of Jacques Cacheux and now both Domaines are run by the next generation.


A Question of Vintage

Had the opportunity to attend a 2007 Bordeaux tasting over the weekend organized by Ch’ng Poh Tiong, one of the respected wine luminaries here in Singapore, known to many elsewhere as a columnist for Decanter magazine. Also in attendance were the various representatives from the Châteaus represented in this tasting (except Château Montrose).

This being Bordeaux, there’re probably tonnes of vintage reviews out there but briefly the 2007 vintage was a relatively “weak” one for reds, meaning the wines are approachable young and probably does not evolve well with extended aging. It’s a different story for the whites though as the vintage produced wines of raciness and finesse, attributes which we look for in white wines.

“The signature of the vintage will mark even the most well-made wines.”

I don’t think I’ve discussed this before but should wines reflect the vintage no matter how bad the conditions are? Let’s take Bordeaux as an example. 2003 was a heatwave vintage, one of the hottest ever growing season in Europe. As to be expected from the weather conditions, the grapes are very ripe and the wines should be jammy and overpowering the acidity. Needless to say such wines are probably not very pleasurable. In certain regions, some winemakers often do not produce a certain cuvee or even an entire collection if the vintage was a disaster (won’t happen in Bordeaux though). This begs the question that if the winemaker manages to produce wines of freshness and finesse in 2003, is he being true to the vintage/terroir? Another example would be the 2010 vintage in Germany which I wrote about in the previous post. Should winemakers de-acidify the wines in this freak vintage?

At the core of the issue is human intervention. Being a terroir-ist, I’m all for being true to the vintage. But I think a certain degree of intervention is still required in order to produce balanced wines. The signature of the vintage will mark even the most well-made wines. The worst thing to do is to over-compensate in the intervention though, often resulting in awkward wines.

For me, I believe in buying across vintages rather than chasing only the ‘great’ years. Each vintage has its character and it is interesting to taste how mother nature shapes the wines.

Anyway back to the tasting. Most of the wines did stay true to the character of the appellation. These are not flashy, structured wines but wines which are rather expressive now and rather enjoyable if you like your Bordeaux young. It was bookended by a set of whites:

  • 2007 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Honeyed nose with some almonds. I get some faintly Sauv Blanc aromas. Rich yet steely on the palate with a decent finish. Medium-bodied. Quite good intensity on the palate yet rather austere. A serious Graves Blanc. Would blossom well with age. (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Domaine de Chevalier – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Ripe flavors envelop the sweet soil and smoke infused nose. Rather ripe on the palate despite the vintage. Lots of Merlot character here. Friendly and immensely enjoyable now at its primary stage. (87 pts.)
  • 2007 Château Petit Village – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Floral aromas and plummy fruit dominates the nose. Plenty of fresh acidity here though arguably the extract was rather lean. Ends with a drying finish. Rather simple at the moment but entirely classic. (85 pts.)
  • 2007 Château Brane-Cantenac – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Distinct peppery and a slight leafy nose. Plummy on the palate with the profile leaning towards red fruits. Good acidity and entirely primary at the moment. Would benefit with some age. A rather masculine Margaux. (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Château Figeac – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    A lot of cassis and spices on the nose. Not as green as most Figeacs I’ve had before. The substantial palate finishes with a zing of citrus freshness. A full-bodied lush wine. (85 pts.)
  • 2007 Château Montrose – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Rather ripe nose. Cab Sauv dominated. Slightly secondary on the palate. Good finish. A robust and serious Montrose. (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Château Léoville Barton – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    A soft, classic and friendly Barton. Not a blockbuster, more like a wine of grace. Very good intensity yet leaves the impression of elegance. Good juice here. Very delicious now. The Volvo of Bordeaux. (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Fresh and energetic. Very true in character with pencil shavings and some leafyness. Not overly concentrated, just nicely balanced. Gravel-like at the finish. It impresses by not being showy. Will be a classic Pauillac with age. (88 pts.)

The duo of Barton and Baron were my favorite of the day. Both exhibit the kind of balance which is sought after in a bottle of great wine, in addition to being true to their terroir. They are not flashy blockbusters and true to the vintage, they are classic examples of young Bordeaux at its best.

  • 2007 Château Suduiraut – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    As per the vintage, the Suduiraut was light-bodied with plenty of finesse without the sheer concentration of some other riper years though not lacking in intensity. Acidity stays firmly in the background. The style definitely veers towards precision and subtlety with clean botrytis notes. Good finish. (85 pts.)

All Roads lead to Burgundy Germany!

It has taken 5 long months for me to regain my mojo and I’m back to report on the wine scene here in Singapore and beyond. New header photo, new blog theme and fresh new content! I’m also tweeting regularly (as much as I hope to). Check out the link on the right.

“Many natural wines are a dismal self-indulgence” – Andrew Jefford

Been reading and drinking a lot of interesting stuff lately, Jura anyone? The theme (or fad, depending how you see it) of the moment is definitely natural wines. Two books on this topic has been published recently. One by Alice Feiring and another by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop, the former being the guy behind Wineanorak. Can’t wait to read them. Whilst on the topic of books, Bill Nanson, the guy behind one of my favorite Burgundy websites, will be coming out with The Finest Wines of Burgundy on 1st Jan 2012 with pre-orders available now on Amazon. It has never been a better time to be a Burg nut with all the literature available recently! Ok, back to natural wines movement. Frankly speaking I’m with Andrew Jefford when he said, “Many natural wines are a dismal self-indulgence“. BUT that’s not to totally dismiss this wave as frivolous. Just as biodynamic viticulture might be wacky, they still require vintners to spend more time working in the vineyards which ultimately leads to more honest wines. So, hopefully this natural wine movement will get many young Turks to shake up the under the radar regions like Beaujolais, Languedoc and Jura.

It has also never been a better time to get into German Rieslings in Singapore nowadays. It is not just the renowned wineries which are available here but increasingly up and coming Weinguts are being represented here. This is another new wave happening in Germany where, again, young Turks are shaking up the industry and producing very exciting wines. This is a time to get into German wines because they are so undervalued! At the turn of the last century top Rheingau Rieslings from Germany stand side by side with Bordeaux First Growths in terms of price, sometimes even eclipsing them. But now, they are merely a fraction of the cost. Production costs have definitely not been reduced as it still takes the same amount of physical labour in the steep slopes of Germany to harvest the various Prädikat wines. The Rheingau region has also fallen by the side as established wineries maintain their quality in Mosel and new wineries shake up the scene in Rheinhessen and Pfalz. I would stick my neck out though, and say Johannes Leitz might be the best thing happening there at the moment. I know many who either love or hate his wines but more importantly he is bringing Rheingau onto the map and hopefully that spurs other wineries there to get their act together.

The latest 2010 German vintage has just arrived at Beautiful Wine and the owner Brad wasted no time in organizing a blind tasting for nine different Riesling Spätlese from his portfolio. There was a prize for the participant who could guess all wines correctly (single-blind) but alas, no one won.

“Acid freaks will love the 2010s …”

This was actually my second try at the 2010 vintage for Germany and from this comprehensive tasting (albeit only Spätlese), the vintage reports are no hyperbole. The wines are REALLY acidic. My tongue was still puckering many hours after the tasting. Acid freaks will love the 2010s while those with sensitive teeth might want to stay away. The key to success in this vintage is BALANCE. There are two ways to achieve this. Either toning down the acid by de-acidifying them or simply producing wines with huge extract to buffer the acidity.

“Good makers make good wines across the range.”

The high acidity plus the general ripeness of the vintage tends to produce fantastic sweet wines, notably from Auslese onwards. Also you are basically getting a free Prädikat upgrade as Spätlese is essentially Auslese and Auslese is essentially Beerenauslese in 2010. This does not mean that you should ignore the dry wines though, as my mantra remains that, “Good makers make good wines across the range.” Personally, I believe in following the winemaker rather than the actual plot, especially in terroir regions like Burgundy and Germany. (On a sidetrack, Bordeaux does have terroir but it’s more of a broad Appellation kind of terroir rather than vineyard specific terroir. Chateau Latour can add a further 1ha of vineyards in Pauillac into their Grand Vin and still call it Grand Vin de Chateau Latour whereas DRC cannot add some Echezeaux into their Richebourg and still call it Richebourg, though they can take any vineyard from Vosne-Romanee and make it into a Vosne-Romanee villages cuvée. Same applies to German wines. An interesting fact to highlight is that some Bordeaux wines come from vineyards which are larger in size than an entire Burgundy village. Go figure.)

Anyway, I digress. For me, a good wine need not necessarily be a wine from a top vineyard. It is how HONEST the wine is in expressing the terroir. And for that the winemaker plays a vital role in taking all the necessary steps to produce a good wine, though most of the crucial steps would be taken in the vineyard itself rather than in the winery. True, you can’t make silk out of cotton and you can’t make a Grand Cru wine out of villages vineyards. BUT, wines are about celebrating diversity! A Mâcon villages will not provide a life-changing experience as a Grand Cru Montrachet but it doesn’t make the villages wine any less of a good wine IF AND ONLY IF it expresses in all honesty the characteristics of the village or vineyard; expressing the character of the vintage however, warrants an entire article by itself.

Ok, on to the wines. They are served blind in the following sequence:

  • 2010 Dr. F. Weins-Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Not too far stretched to guess this as a Riesling from Wehlener Sonnenuhr. From the slatey nose to the characteristic “soft” structure of the vineyard, this is as silky and feminine a Mosel gets. The extract is definitely not sufficient to buffer the searing acidity. A distinct (and distracting) lemon juice acid pokes out at the finish. Not really enjoyable but thumbs up for the distinctiveness. (83 pts.)

Weingut Dr. F. Weins-Prüm originates from a member of the Prüm family and is located right next door to J. J. Prüm. They are pretty small, owning only 4ha of vineyards in Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Wehlener Klosterberg, Graacher Himmelreich, Graacher Domprobst, Waldracher Sonnenberg and the great Erdener Prälat (EP). For an excellent piece on the EP vineyard, check out Mosel Fine Wines newsletter #10 (January 2010).

Wehlener Sonnenuhr (WS), or the Sundial of Wehlen, is a precipitously steep and rocky vineyard with very thin topsoil and the purest blue slate (broken and weathered shards) of any Mosel vineyard. WS is often associated with the Prüm family, notably Weingut J. J. Prüm, despite being owned by several other wineries.

  • 2010 Wagner-Stempel Siefersheimer Heerkretz Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheinhessen
    Yellowish in color. From the tropical fruits profile I should have nailed it as a Rheinhessen. Auslese-like in terms of weight (and ripeness) and extremely primary bordering on fruity grape juice. Again very very acidic but still tolerable as there is sufficient extract to buffer. Would be more enjoyable if it developed more complexity though. (84 pts.)
  • 2010 Reichsrat Von Buhl Forster Jesuitengarten Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Pfalz
    From the nose I guessed it was from the Rheingau. Rather simple but full-bodied bordering on being clunky. The searing acidity did nothing to help the high extract. Ends with a bitter-sweet finish. A bit monolithic and lacking in the grace department. (83 pts.)
  • 2010 St. Urbans-Hof Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Gentle, aromatic nose from the Mosel. Light-weight with the minerality showing more than the fruit. Higher than average acidity but not so much that it detracts. A calm and modest wine but not finding its balance at the moment. (86 pts.)

Goldtröpfchen means little golden drops and it is no surprise that the wines tend to be rich and luscious yet minerally, though this particular example seems rather lean at the moment.. The entire vineyard is huge at 65ha. The vineyard information is adapted from their website:
The Piesporter Goldtröpfchen property is of ancient, unreconstructed origin located close to the slate Mosel Loreley cliffs. These parcels are located in a poorly accessible section of the vineyard which has forced, unlike most of this famous vineyard, an inability to have its orientation altered by modern methods. Only a narrow path allows access. Its ungrafted vines are of unknown age but at least 80 years old. The highly decomposed slate soil has a high water retentive capacity and the large slate cliffs absorb the heat of the sun only to release it in the dark of night like a thermal battery. All the wines grown here provide a natural sweetness necessary to stress this vineyard’s character.

  • 2010 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheingau
    Tropical fruits, clean and juicy. The most balanced of the lot in terms of acidity albeit being a tad simple. Stays firmly as a Spätlese and that in itself is a success in this vintage. (87 pts.)

Quite a few attendees liked the Spreitzer owing to its balanced nature. After the first few bottles of piercing acidity, this was definitely a respite, although further tastings revealed that it was actually quite simple.

  • 2010 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberger Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Definitely an intellectual wine. This was electrifying in terms of acidity and ripeness. Pungent nose. Big, robust and very energetic. A turbo-charged Riesling which no doubt needs some modesty.
    Second day this definitely tamed down tremendously. Nose was more reticent but tastes firmly at the Spätlese level with a hint of botrytis. Very oily textured. The acid is less obvious at the entry and mid-palate but lingers on at the finish. Rather short finish though (if you discount the acidity). (86 pts.)
  • 2010 St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    I get quite a bit of spice/herbs character on the nose which made me think of Ürziger Würzgarten. Acidic as expected but this had spades of precision and pedigree. Ripeness was well-balanced with minerality at the finish. An immensely drinkable one. A very classy effort and probably represents one of the best Spätlese efforts of the vintage. (89 pts.)

The vineyard information is adapted from their website:
The Ockfener Bockstein, a very steep 50° southwest-facing hillside slope, is located in a side valley away from the Saar river where the sun’s rays shine unimpeded by any other hills. Its soils are hard, gravelly gray slate lending a smoky aroma and great minerality to its wines. The extensive forest topping the hill retains water which drains slowly into the vineyard subsoils beneath. Between the forest and vineyard wild animals such as deer may be seen, alluding to the vineyard’s German bock referring to ‘buck’ and the German stein for ‘rock’. The cool winds coming down from the Hunsrück hills influence the grapes’ ripening by forcing the them to produce aromatic potential rather than high sugar levels. The Ockfener Bockstein are the most refined and playful of St. Urbans-Hof’s wines.

  • 2010 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck Riesling Spätlese Goldkapsel – Germany, Nahe
    Ok this definitely has the alluring and seductive nose from Nahe. A gentle, elegant example despite the racy acidity and stunning intensity. However, this seems to get a bit cloying after a while despite the acidity. Perhaps needs some time to integrate better. Nonetheless quite a monumental effort if not a modest one. (88 pts.)

The Spätlese Goldkapsel from Tim Fröhlich was another wine which some liked. I would say it could be due to its flashy and seductive nature. It hails from the steepest section of the Felseneck vineyard, right at the top. Interestingly, as opposed to most other wineries, the majority of the production for 2010 was in dry Rieslings! Also harvesting was later than other wineries, only beginning at the end of October.

  • 2010 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Spätlese 303 – Germany, Rheingau
    This was big and robust yet attractively so in a clean, pure and non-botrytised style (unusual for Rheingau). Thickly textured, this probably would not be for anyone looking for a Spätlese as it definitely an Auslese in disguise (from the weight, not the sweetness). Not overly sweet but with plenty of presence and complexity. An authoritative wine in the making and one which will be long lived. (89 pts.)

The >>303<< (sic) cuvee hails from a lieux-dit in Oestrich called Bremerberg-Eiserberg, from which a TBA with 303° Oechsle was gathered in 1920 by Spreitzer’s great-great grandfather at Weingut Hess, and which was the record must-weight at that time. For what it is worth, the 2011 Egon Muller TBA came in at a record 345° Oechsle. Anyway this Spätlese is essentially a Goldkapsel and is definitely a more serious wine than its younger brother if not as integrated at the moment.

On a Hiatus…

Taking a short break to rejuvenate and to find new perspectives in this beverage we call wine. Leave you guys with a tasting note on a relatively unknown wine I had recently, the best example of back to basics.

  • 1982 Château Matras (France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru)
    Rather translucent with some bricking. Nose was soaring with earth, brown sugar, stewed plums, some leafiness and classic secondary aromas which only aged clarets show. Impressive concentration on the palate with the extract still holding up against the acidity. Drinking amazingly well now and definitely a good example of how a wine can benefit from a great vintage. This is not a blockbuster but a genuinely graceful old-timer. I was offered a glass but requested for one more. That’s how good it was. (89 pts.)

The Beauty of Age

It is always a pleasure to enjoy aged wines. For a newbie, aged could mean 5 years old but once you have started venturing seriously into the world of wine, you would be looking at wines more than 20 years old before calling them aged. Anything more than 30 would be a major treat. Of course, in this respect I am referring to Old World wines which have a longer history.

Aged wines are often magical, both in terms of the experience of popping it and drinking it. Wines are finite products. Once a vintage wine is consumed, there is one less in the world. So aged wines which have a history of ageability are often expensive and difficult to find. But there’s nothing more pleasurable than popping a special bottle or bottles which you have cellared for a reasonable number of years, especially when it is no longer easily available in the market or the price has already skyrocketed beyond affordability.

Drinking aged wines in itself is a magical experience as age changes the primary characteristics of wine. Its often more expressive with an extra complexity which is not found in young wines. The flavor profile shifts from pure fruitiness to things like leather, mushrooms, soil, wood, etc. which frankly doesn’t sound appealing but tastes surprisingly good. However, there’s always the risk of poor provenance. There’s nothing worst than opening a bottle which has gone over the hill or damaged, especially if it’s expensive or one which you have cellared for many years.

Most of my experiences with aged wines have been with aged Bordeauxs and Burgundies. This is no surprise as firstly aged Bordeauxs are relatively easy to find (due to large productions) and secondly my passion is in Burgundy so I do make an extra effort to find them. However, recently I had the chance to taste some aged wines from the Rioja region in Spain and they were indeed a magical experience. Each of the wines below would easily provide maximum satisfaction by itself.

The venue this time is the relatively new Paradise Pavilion at the Marina Bay Financial Centre. Four of us congregated there on a quiet night where the focus, of course, was on the wines. Honorable mention to their Peking duck as it was the best I’ve eaten so far. The smoky taste of the roasted skin was mind-blowing. The shark cartilage soup was equally excellent.

I have to admit I haven’t been tasting much Rioja, so this region and the wines are still relatively new to me. I believe R. López de Heredia is one of the few winemakers in Rioja to be making wines in a traditional style, i.e. with native grapes, long aging in mostly old, American oak barrels, and then further bottle age prior to release.

Tondonia is the name of their flagship vineyard and out of 100ha, only 5-6ha is planted with Viura, the main grape in the Blanco. The Gran Reserva is only made in exceptional years, so you can imagine how rare this wine is. I’ve tasted the 1991 Reserva of the R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco before where I found it to be rather interesting in an intellectual way. After having the 1987 now, I think that this wine needs age, plenty of it, to really come into its own. It must be pointed out that the 1987 below was actually released in 2009!

  • 1987 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
    Golden. Beautiful sweet nose but sherry-like on the palate. We gave it some time and it did not disappoint as the nose and palate started to integrate. It became surprisingly fresher with honeyed and floral nose with a salted caramel palate which was so sappy and reminded me of the ocean. Needless to say the finish was grand with tremendous persistence. The texture and quiet power reminds me of a Montrachet. Mind-blowing stuff. (95 pts.)
  • 1976 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Viña Real Gran Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
    Words can’t really do justice as this wine is really one to enjoy in silent contemplation. Resembling a middle-aged Burgundy, this was still very vibrant and balanced despite the age. The nose was particularly alluring, as pretty aromas of flowers and fresh berries soared above the underlying earth and herbs. Very complex with an intensive clarity and tension on the palate and a mind-blowing persistence on the finish. Tannins were refined and I kept replenishing this delicious wine in my glass. An outstanding wine which will continue to provide extreme pleasure for years to come. (95 pts.)

Pierre Damoy is the largest owner of Chambertin-Clos de Bèze with 5.36ha, and they are the supplier for Bouchard’s version (also Bouchard’s Chapelle-Chambertin). With a relatively large holding, he can afford to make several cuvée, including a Vieille Vignes from a parcel that abuts Chambertin and from 2008 onwards christened as Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Réserve. From 2009, there is also a young vines version which is called Chambertin-Clos de Bèze La Cabane. Cabane in French is a hut, so I reckon that this section must be around his hut (shown below) which abuts Mazis-Chambertin.

Broadbent rated the 1992 vintage for red Burgundy 3 stars (out of 5), coming after the blockbuster years of 1990 and 1991. It was an early harvest as August was hot and sunny which advanced ripening. This was my first taste of the vintage and if this is any representation, I would suggest drinking up sooner rather than later.

  • 1992 Pierre Damoy Chambertin-Clos de Bèze – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
    Nose was a little odd, plenty of saltiness reminiscent of preserved plums. There’s still sufficient extract to just balance out the acidity. An interesting wine to taste now but not so pleasurable to drink. Probably on its last leg now. Drink up (several years ago).
    On the second day, this was still holding up and arguably showing a bit better. The body became more robust and felt like it has finally regained its identity. Notes of mint, animale and plums which are quite focused but still tainted by a slightly musty character. Would have been excellent a few years back. (85 pts.)

A bottle which has been released ex-domaine fairly recently, judging from the pristine condition of the label. I elected to have it decanted briefly after popping to dissipate the stale mustiness which often appears in aged wines. An excellent overview of Remoissenet can be found at Burgundy-Report. They have been bought by a consortium of investors, including Louis Jadot, in recent years so that’s why you might see quite a few re-releases in the market.

Despite the fact that Santenots is one of the top Premier Crus of Volnay, it is actually located within the boundaries of Meursault. Reason being it was difficult to market a red Meursault since the early days. Adding to the confusion, four different climats can be classified as appellation Premier Cru Santenot, i.e. Les Plures, Les Santenots Blancs, Les Santenots Dessous (worst section located downslope) and Les Santenots du Milieu (supposedly the finest section). The last is often labelled by its full name and owners include Comte Lafon and Leroy. Now you know why Burgundy is for geeks!

  • 1978 Remoissenet Père et Fils Volnay 1er Cru Santenots – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay 1er Cru
    It’s telling of the provenance and quality of this wine when initial guesses were 1996 and then 1988 from the Côte de Nuits. No signs of bricking nor any advanced secondary aromas. Instead what is showing is a perfectly balanced Burgundy which is open for business now. A short decanting blew away the musty aromas to reveal sweet primary Pinot fruit with a dash of meatiness on the silky palate and persistent finish. A wine of grace at a delicious phase now but certainly could live for another 10 years at least, for some secondary development. A stunning wine and I wished I had more. (94 pts.)

Chateau Musar Tasting

It was my pleasure to be invited for a Chateau Musar tasting with Serge Hochar and his son Marc. Thanks to Pinnacle Wine & Spirits for the invite. It was good to meet you guys there. I have heard so much of this iconic winery and immediately jumped at the chance to taste some of the older vintages. It was also my first time at DB Bistro where the tasting was held. I was a tad disappointed at the stemware they used though, which had rather thick rims. Nonetheless service was excellent and I look forward to coming back for a meal.

No ratings for the following wines as I do not quite know how to benchmark them with.

I felt the reds were fairly elegant and definitely Old World in style. Most of them showed a good core of red fruit and peppery/earthy notes. Also they tend to have a drying finish at the end and very firm structure. The wines are recommended to be decanted before serving. In terms of similarities, I find them closest to Northern Rhones. For my palate, the 02 and 03 are a little too young and tannic at the moment. I preferred the 98 and 99 for drinking now though it is hard for me to choose one over the other. On the whole, the pricing is rather fair for the standard.

2003 is the latest vintage to be released (7 years after the vintage).

  • 2003 Chateau Musar – Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
    Almost full bodied with lots of spice especially pepper. Quite dry on the finish. Still very tannic.
  • 2002 Chateau Musar – Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
    Fairly big wine and a little alcoholic at the moment. Oriental spice dominates the palate especially on the finish.
  • 1999 Chateau Musar – Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
    Good core of sweet fruits and a bold expression of sappiness. I would say this is entering drinking window but definitely need some decanting before serving.
  • 1998 Chateau Musar – Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
    The 1998 had a distinct liquorish character which is pretty alluring and would be a good tasting wine. Again spices dominate but this was less rustic than the others tasted.
  • 1967 Chateau Musar – Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
    Very aged taste and character bordering on mustiness. Not my taste but perhaps needed a bit more decanting.

The Jeune Red is their 3rd wine and released after 1-2 years. A blend of Syrah, Cabernet and Cinsault.

  • 2009 Chateau Musar Musar Jeune Red – Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
    Very fruity but very tannic. I don’t get much out of this wine at the moment but definitely needs to go with some food.

The whites, however, are really an acquired taste. It will be a challenge to pair them with typical white wine food as they are fairly full bodied and oxidative.

  • 2003 Chateau Musar Blanc – Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
    Very sherry like. A bit too much for me. For oxidative lovers only.
  • 1989 Chateau Musar Blanc – Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
    Golden. This has more sweet floral components compared to the 2003 but also a full bodied white. Well integrated on the palate and actually quite enjoyable. An intellectual wine.

The Spice Garden Part 2

There was supposed to be a noble sweet Riesling tasting down at Beautiful Wines but due to unforeseen circumstances it had to be cancelled. Nonetheless B kindly invited some of us down for some Rieslings and Penne with tuna sauce, plus a fusion dish of otak with cheese, egg and Riesling reduction.

We started out by revisiting the C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Rieslings from the same bottles we tried 2 weeks ago. I must say that I am pretty amazed by the holding power of some of these Rieslings.

The 2009 Kabinett is showing signs of going flat with a distinctive sourness permeating the whole palate. The 2009 Spatlese meanwhile is actually more integrated now with good fleshiness and complexity. This easily merits a 1-2pt upgrade. As for the Auslese, I did not get to try the 1993 as it was probably dead by now. The 1994 showed a distinct lime with petroleum character and an odd aged taste on the palate. The 1997 was showing much better with strong herbal notes (ginseng) on the mid-palate and bitter finish. The 2001 had greater weight and retained its balance. Still primary. Finally, the 2001 BA gained more weight now but still no signs of botrytis at all. Still disappointing.

Next up 2 bottles of Kabinetts:

  • 2006 Schlossgut Diel Dorsheimer Burgberg Riesling Kabinett (Germany, Nahe)
    Quite weighty and sweet for a Kabinett and could be due to the vintage. Very reticent at first but slowly opened up. Sappy yet with some metallic minerality. A pretty decent Kabinett except for some acidity/sourness poking out at the finish which was quite distracting. Perhaps need time to integrate. (86 pts.)

Curiously I could not be sure that this wine is produced by Louis Guntrum as their website has no mention of this Flonheimer Binger Berg at all. The label shows bottled in Flonheim but the website says they are based in Nierstein. Moreover it cannot be found in Cellartracker as well. I have always seen this bottling in DFS (duty-free) and have always been curious to try it.

And now I am glad I never bought it… because this is hands down the worst Riesling I’ve ever tried. Perhaps the blue bottle should have been a warning to potential buyers that this is diluted white grape juice. Sour plums on the nose and mildly sweet alcoholic juice on the palate. I would score it 0 if I could.

*Update: The Louis Guntrum wine is actually made from Bacchus, a cross between Riesling, Silvaner, and Müller-Thurgau.