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Singapore Tasting

Monday, 2nd November 2009 by Jo Purcell

It seems that our blog is dominated by our colleagues in London with interesting tastings – but we do get more than our fair share of tastings in Asia you know!

This last weekend I hopped on a plane to Singapore. Thank goodness for iPods! Having boarded the flight I couldn’t wait to be tuned into my favourite tracks and drown out the constant “renao” (so called happy noise in Chinese although not much happiness on my part!) from the chinese mainland tour group that I had managed to be seated amongst.

The flight was soon to be a distant memory……I had very kindly been invited to join a group of friends (and serious wine tasters I might add!) for a 96 Red Bordeaux tasting which was to kick off on Saturday afternoon. All the wines were served blind; whilst the thought of blind wine tastings can sometimes send shivers down the spine in case you make a complete fool of yourself, it does have it’s positives; the wines show for themselves what they really have to offer without any preconceived ideas, and this blind tasting had more than one wine that shocked us.

We kicked off our afternoon session, tasting sheets in hand, with a few white burgundies just to warm up our palates. First served was the 05 Puligny Folatieres Leflaive – the first wine always get the short straw but it showed relatively well with the typical buttery toasty nutty character expected for a white burgundy, although slightly lacking in acidity for me and had a rather alcoholic finish. Our next wine was 95 Meursault Perrieres Leroy which unfortunately was oxidized – however this was our only faulty wine of the tasting, which considering the number of bottles was amazing. Moving swiftly on we served one of the several “ringer” wines which turned out to be 06 Chardonnay Craighall Ata Rangi – and what a “ringer” it was, this was my highest scoring wine of the whites! Beautifully made with a hint of creaminess, citrus flavours, great cleansing acidity and a beautiful long finish. Next came the 02 Meursault Perrieres Bouchard which was rather closed and a little disappointing at the time of tasting but when we came back to it at the end had really developed and opened up, and finally 04 Meursault Perrieres Bouchard which due to slight hiccup was not served blind (we’d left it in the fridge!) which was still very very young.

We then moved on to the important business for the afternoon – 96 Bordeaux. Our first flight of wines was Margaux, Graves & St Julien. We knew in this flight there was a 96 Haut Brion, the only first growth in our tasting, so all were poised to see if this wine would really stand out amongst the rest, we also knew that there would be some other “ringers” to watch out for.

First up Cantermerle – a little short on the finish but showed surprisingly well, then Bahans Haut Brion (a rule abiding ringer) which turned out to be the most disappointing wine of the flight, a Christmas pudding mixture nose, but on the palate very dry tannins and short finish. This was followed by Malescot St Exupery which had slightly jammy fruit, with more earthy and stalky characters; then Lascombes which is a chateau that never really does it for me but was better than I would have thought. Then came one of our stars of the tasting, the beautiful Léoville Poyferré with minerals, classy black fruits and vanilla, still very young and tight but on the palate violets, licorice and black fruits with excellent length of flavour

Our Singaporean friends do indeed know how to do wine tastings in style –la. Whilst the tasting is very serious, our flights are broken up by much needed food – an array of beautiful French cheeses (something which is very hard to find in Asia) and home made Chinese Roast Pork are just some of the delights on offer. Once our palates were refreshed and tummies lined it was back to work.

Next up was Pape Clément, I have only tasted vintages since 1998 so was interested to see what this was like prior to their practice of destemming each grape by hand. It had a rustic style, rather chunky, with strawberry fruit as well as a vegetal character, quite attractive. From one Graves unbeknown we moved to another - Haut Brion; this was a real surprise to learn it was Haut Brion, it just didn’t perform at all well. This was the only wine that had been decanted prior to the tasting and on reflection we thought that it had been over decanted. This was then followed by Pichon Baron – this was gorgeous, lovely black fruits, minerals, slight leather earthy character – wonderful complexity and balance, at 660 pounds per case a real bargain! Unfortunately the Baron over shadowed the Du Tertre that followed.

Another quick break where we the most delicious, perfectly cooked roast beef was served. It was a struggle to get our minds off the beef and move back to the next flight which was Pauillac and St Estephe (not forgetting those “ringers” most of which turned out to be in the upcoming flight!

First up was Sassicaia 96 - the consensus around the table was that this may not be Bordeaux but was a Bordeaux blend; then the next ringer, Hauts de Pontet 96 - this showed superbly! For a second wine you would think that this would be starting to fade, but far from it, it had flint, stoney fruit, cherries and firm tannins (a wine that left us wondering how good the first wine would be). Then came Cos D’Estournel – this was picked out, it’s classic Asian spices shining through, beautiful and again another star of our tasting. Staying in St Estephe Calon Segur was next up, again overshadowed by the Cos but still maintaining the characteristics of the region and very balanced. Yet another ringer then followed which was unanimously spotted as not a Bordeaux but a Northern Rhone - 01 Cote Rotie Jamet. 96 Carruades de Lafite followed – due to it’s totally unrealistic price I really was hoping that this wine would disappoint, sadly it was showing extremely well and because of it’s Pauillac characteristics thought it must have been the Pichon Lalande

Last but not least came the 96 Pichon Lalande, unfortunately this had not had enough time to rest since arriving in Singapore and wasn’t performing to it’s full potential (but there again maybe our palates where rather tired by this stage!).

By this stage the roast pork was completely gone and only a few slices of beef remained – our group reflected over the highlights and surprises of the tasting. The whole afternoon (and by this time early evening) was then topped off by 90 Léoville Poyferré – one of my favourite wines which is just gorgeous to drink now. What a way to end the day!

My thanks to our Singaporean Hosts!

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