A few years ago, I was just an ordinary wine enthusiast, getting excited with any and every chance to taste wines (any wine!).
Since returning to Singapore 2.5 years ago, I’ve had the chance to meet many people in the trade, who went on to introduce me to more… and one of the more recent introductions landed me the (very nice) opportunity to attend the portfolio tasting by Berry Bros & Rudd Singapore, one of their series of launch events for the Singapore office.
The tasting session was held in one of the suites in Raffles Hotel, with plenty of space to move around and go through all the wines. There was a table lined with clean glasses, which is good for swapping a fresh glass halfway through the night.
After being welcomed, we were given a list of wines for tasting – 27 wines & 5 fortifieds – ooooohh yea! Let the fun begin…
We started at the “Whites” table, with a very dry yet enjoyable 2010 entry-level white by Chapel Down (Kent, England). Next, we had a Domaine Gaston Huët 2009 Vouvray ‘Le Haut Lieu Sec’, which was really nice – very fruity both on nose & palate, appealing mouthfeel, and just generally yum! Next, we followed with Berrys’ 2010 Meursault, Benjamin Leroux 2009 Auxey-Duresses blanc, Benjamin Meroux 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet ‘Embrazees’ 1er Cru – nice wines that didn’t interest me too much. I like Chassagne, but this particular wine had a layer of oak that put me off a little. The final white we tasted was Domaine de la Vougeraie 2007 Clos Blanc de Vougeot 1er Cru, quite a rare white Burgundy – it was very nice, silky and pristine; a pleasure and privilege to taste this wine.
After the whites, we zoomed to the table with red Burgundies and Rhones. I really looked forward to this table, as Bourgogne rouges are currently my favourite. The first 3 red Burgundies we tasted did nothing much for me unfortunately: Berrys’ 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin, Benjamin Leroux 2007 Nuits-St-Georges ‘Aux Thorey’ 1er Cru, Collection Bellenum 2000 Chambolle-Musigny ‘Derrière la Grange’ 1er Cru – they were all well-made, but perhaps I was expecting more. 2006 & 2000 were bad vintage years in Burgundy, and we thought that to be the main reason why.
However, the next 2 red Burgundies were stunning: Domaine Christian Sérafin 2002 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes & Olivier Bernstein 2008 Gevrey-Chambertin ‘Les Cazetiers’ 1er Cru. The former has some really alluring aged characteristics, the wine has come together really well and would live on for a while more. The Gevrey 1er Cru was yet another step up – bright, fresh, great fruit aroma, silky smooth, and will surely go for a good distance.
At this stage, we decided to taste the Bordeaux reds before returning for the Rhone reds. There were 3 “house reds” (Berrys’ own labels – Extra Ordinary Claret, Margaux, St Emilion) that we decided to skip, as we had traveled too slowly until then. The first 2 Bordeaux we tasted were: Chateau Petit Figeac 2008 (St Emilion) – good balance of structure and fruit, very “drinkable”; Chateau Cantemerle 2005 (Haut-Medoc) – quite nice too but I rated it below the Figeac. Next up was Chateau Gloria 2000 (St Julien), which I really liked – some aged characteristics showing well, but it was the integration of fruit and wood that stands out. The final Bordeaux was Chateau Montrose 1995 (St Estephe), which was very good, but unfortunately had plenty of sediments swimming in it.
We went back to taste the Rhones, which were: Berrys’ 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (ok nice, but did not do much for me), Domaine R. Usseglio 2008 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (quite nice, what I’d expected a CNdP to be), Domaine Rémi et Robert Niero 2007 Côte-Rôtie (wonderfully fragrant with a beautiful palate, and priced very well). I could stay at the table to taste that Côte-Rôtie for a long while more, but we have “work” to do, so off we went to Spain.
This was the incident of the night: after receiving a pour of the La Rioja Alta 1995 Gran Reserva 890, I took a quick sniff and the smell of cardboard just overwhelmed. I sought Wai Xin’s opinion, and he immediately asked the BBR staff to check. A quick check, and another bottle was opened. The fresh bottle of the La Rioja saved the day – it was fantastic, a truly enjoyable Spanish red that was not shy to show off its fruit, which was well-carried by beautiful tannins. Interestingly, that corked bottle had been poured to just 1 glass left, so I wondered if other guests just thought this wine was no good…
Next in line: Az. Agr. Giovanni Rosso 2006 Barolo DOCG ‘Cru La Serra’, which was a pretty decent wine, but as I have practically no experience with Barolos, I would not say much more. Finally, I have come to the wine I was looking forward to all night: Penfolds 2007 St Henri Shiraz (in magnum format), because this was my favourite red of the Penfolds stable (note: I’ve never tasted a Grange before). It was very nice, big and fruity, rich and poised. It, however, lacked the wow factor for me, which could be due to the vintage.
By this stage, I was well and truly “wined-up”. There was still the ‘Fortifieds’ table to go, which I decided to forego. But, this decision was overturned quick as I just had to try their 20 year old Tawny Port (label: Berrys’ William Pickering), which I really liked. Before the night ended, I tasted a small sample of The King’s Ginger, which can only described as “candied ginger with a huge hit of alcohol” – it’s different, it feels wrong to like it, but I do. Well, a couple of us did.
It was a really enjoyable night of tasting, quite possibly the best tasting event I have attended to date. There was plenty to taste, wide selection with enough bottles of each to not disappoint. The venue was very nice, and allowed comfortable room for all to taste with leisure. Kudos to the BBR Singapore team for staging this wonderful event!
Highlights of the night for me: Vouvray, Clos Blanc de Vougeot 1er Cru, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, Côte-Rôtie, Ch Gloria, La Rioja Alta. The Côte-Rôtie won the best value of the tasting list, for me.
Finally, we left the tasting with 2 important lessons in wine:
1. Vintage variation – it makes wines you think you would like what you don’t really like, and
2. (I will quote a phrase I picked up from a wine forum I often visit:) “there are no good wines, only good bottles of wine”!
[ all photos courtesy of Spice in Wine – do check them out on FaceBook or www.spiceinwine.com ]