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Singapore 2003 Tasting

Thursday, 3rd March 2011 by Jo Purcell

You may recall Stephen’s blog back in October about the 03 Bordeaux tasting (or was it Phillip Schofield’s black teeth that spring to mind?). Since then, there have been a few email correspondences going back with my Singapore friends who were, how can I say, just a little "sceptical", as to how approachable and ready-to-drink the 03's really are. So, we decided to put the matter to rest once and for all, and have our own 03 tasting in Singapore, to let the wines speak for themselves on another continent, on the other side of the world.

Some 25 of us descended on our host’s home – a brave man! Whilst our set up was not as formal as that of the UK tasting, our team flight leaders leapt into action; 25 wines were prepped and standing to attention. We’re off – Flight one, Pauillac.

The Singapore 03 Bordeaux Line Up

Les Forts de Latour was first to be tasted, it showed really very well (brambles, licorice, roasted meats, minerals, firm structured tannins rounded by dark black fruits. Beautiful aftertaste and length). Some tasters were at odds whether to spit, it was just that good – and this was only wine number one!

The next wine moved the room – wow, what is this???? Quietly I smiled, quietly for two reasons, one if I said what I thought it was and I got it wrong I would naturally look an idiot, secondly if it was what I thought it was I wanted to keep it quiet as I knew it would surprise the room. This wine had big, massive, dark, stalky fruit characters. The tannins were big and firm, the palate complex, sweet black fruits, loads of cassis again and a really long finish – a big, big wine – guesses? Pontet Canet (as you know Farr Vintners is a big fan of this wine).

Next was Latour – none of the wines was decanted prior to tasting, so, no surprise it was extremely closed. Even so, you could sense the power, complexity and structure that was lurking underneath and in time this will be another great Latour – so much cassis, cherries, fresh mint. I wish there had been enough left to come back to try it again at the end of the tasting after a couple of hours breathing.

Wine number 4 was Lynch Bages – sweet, almost jammy fruit, slightly oaky with hints of menthol. It is a lighter Lynch Bages compared to the 96 or 00 vintages but is well balanced, red fruits combine with a slight earthy character – a good Lynch Bages but not a great one. Following on was Pichon Baron which had such a classy nose oozing cassis, licorice, minerals, vanilla and smoky meats (or was that the roast pork I could smell which was incidentally tip top!). A full bodied wine which was complex yet still retaining elegance.

Next Sassicaia – yes Sassicaia, I’m not losing it, an Italian was placed in the line up! With my tasting friends in Singapore it seems that it is a sort of tradition to put in “ringers” into the flight to see who can spot the odd one out. Everyone in our knowledgeable tasting circle instantly picked wine no 6 as the decoy – whilst it had the Bordeaux blend taste and smell, it just didn’t have the same kind of finish as the other wines – the palate had more black stewed fruits, smoky with a confectionary, aniseed, hot-ish finish – not a bad drop though.

Finally this flight finished with d’Armailhac, very attractive but clearly not in the same league as the other wines.

No time was spared, we moved straight on to the next flight - St Julien and St Estephe. First up was Cos D’Estournel – as impressive as ever. The consensus of the room was that this was definitely a St Estephe – it had to be either Cos or Montrose, but, without other wines to compare it with, it was difficult to say. The nose was ripe, rich and voluptuous, a full bodied wine with a beautiful minerality, dark, black berry fruits with a sprinkling of exotic spice, a finish with an amazing length.

Calon Segur was up next, which totally stumped us. It was so backward, very austere, big tannins and very tight, so much so that we all thought it had to be the Leoville Barton which we knew was in the flight. Yet, looking back on my tasting notes, there were definite cherries, cedar and camphor.

Then came another ringer, this time by accident rather than by design – all the wines were served blind and somehow Malescot St Exupery was slipped in by accident. In fact, we didn’t even know that there was a mistake until the end of the flight when we had one more bottle to try! No one picked it as Margaux, perfumed nose with violets and cassis fruits. On the palate slightly plummy, stone fruit. Very attractive.

A few of the corks pulled

Wine number 4 was Leoville Poyferre – dark, concentrated colour with deep black fruits laced with fresh mint and cassis. Very balanced and again this has a lovely length. This was followed by Lagrange which had such a creaminess to it that it really reminded me of tinned black cherries with double cream that my grandmother use to give me as a child and which I thought was heavenly. Then came Haut Marbuzet – not surprisingly the weakest in the flight with a kind of coffee and toffee character. This was then overshadowed by Montrose – deep and aromatic, I had spice on this and black pepper, dark ripe black fruits and cedar – again amazing length on the finish.

Finally flight 2 was brought to a close by Leoville Barton, I would love to try another bottle of this, there was nothing wrong with it but to me it just wasn’t quite how LB should be.

Next flight was Graves, which was very small with just 3 wines. Pape Clement, which really smelt of Hoisin sauce, was very round with concentrated flavours. Then, Carmes Haut Brion which had more cigar box character on the nose and lighter bodied. Then, another ringer, just for good measure – the second wine of Sassicaia - which I had never tried before (in fact I didn’t even know there was one). Nothing to get too excited about here.

Still with me? We’re now on the last flight which was the least impressive - the right bank. Here we had Clos Fourtet with lots of forest floor and mushrooms. Pavie really stood out in this flight. So many flavours, layers of complexity, oozing blackberries, brambles with dark chocolate and cocoa – beautiful if a little flashy. This was followed by Canon, which was riper and bigger then I was expecting. Then, Moulin St Georges (made by Alain Vauthier of Ausone) which had a very classic style. Pavie Macquin, Gigault Cuvee Viva – simple yet very attractive and finally Canon La Gaffeliere finished the flight.

The “Ringers

Yes, I think the point has been proven – you can taste the 03s now, yet they do have the structure to last and undoubtedly St Estephe as a commune, and the Northern Medoc in general, have outperformed in this vintage.

With blackened teeth (well maybe not as black as Mr Schofield’s) we reminisced over the most amazing home cooked lemongrass spare ribs (I must get that recipe!) Thanks to our Singaporean friends for putting together wine and food – superb, and you most definitely do it in style. Of course a special thanks to our host. What shall we do next time?

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