[This is a syndicated post, courtesy of Chek Wong, who first posted this on his own blog.]
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A sommelier, blogger and winemaker walk into a bar. Sounds like the setup for a punchline, but we were really at Praelum Wine Bistro for a #SgWine gathering. It seems that every get-together has a guest star, and that evening we were joined by Tai-Ran Niew, a former investment banker who has traded in his spreadsheets for pruning shears. His evolution to winemaker has been swift – after taking part in harvests in Sonoma and the Barossa Valley, he decided to make his own wine in Bordeaux through VINIV (you may remember it by its previous incarnation Crushpad). Did I mention that Tai-Ran is also a WSET Diploma student and a contributor to Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages wine website?
The lure of putting your own identity and label on a bottle of wine is sure to tempt many wine lovers, but it does involve significant decision-making along the way. While VINIV allows you to make wine without buying land and investing in winemaking equipment, the vineyard sources, fermentation techniques, blending and label design are entirely up to you. Tai-Ran was extremely hands-on with this project, flying to Bordeaux several times to survey the vineyards and oversee the harvest.
This being Bordeaux, it would be foolish to make a wine in the Californian or Australian style, but there are significant variations to how you want the wine to express itself. Tai-Ran comments that “If there is ever proof that it is the fruit that matters (in winemaking), this is it, because I have no idea what I’m doing.” I think that he is being a little too modest, because as I tasted the wine, it seemed to be to be having the structure of a Pauillac with the roundness of a right-bank Bordeaux, and I was elated when he said that fruit for the wine came from Pauillac and Saint-Émilion. A lucky guess, or terroir showing through? In any case, the result was very much in line with what Tai-Ran was aiming for.
VINIV warns that winemaking can be “addictive” and it must be true, because Tai-Ran is already setting his sights on producing another wine, this time from his own vineyard in Oregon. The vines have just been planted and he plans to farm biodynamically, to “make the plant as healthy as possible so that it will deal with diseases by itself”. It will be a few years before the vine reaches sufficient maturity to produce grapes that can make wine, but if Tai-Ran’s Vigne de Niew is any indicator of his talent as a winemaker, then I am serenely confident that it will be worth the wait.
Tasting notes of the #SgWine gathering are as follows:
William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos” 2005 – Lean and incisive acidity with a satiny texture. Notes of pomelo, light vanilla spice, and honey lead to a long finish. Possesses elegance in spades.
Tenutae Lageder “Porer” Pinot Grigio 2012 – Sourced from the biodynamically farmed “Porer” vineyard in Alto Adige at an elevation of 230-240m. Shows good fruit concentration with distinct pear notes and some floral hints. Medium length.
Napa Cellars Carneros Dyer Vineyard Syrah 2004 – Served blind, this wine had us all guessing. I had the grape variety right, but went with Barossa Valley rather than USA. Showing some age in the garnet rim, the wine displayed a barbequed, toasty nose, with whiffs of caramel. Lots of black fruit on the palate, with medium acidity and a dense, chewy body. High alcohol and very warm, but with balancing acidity.
Vigne de Niew 2010 – Very deep purple. An intense and aromatic nose, showing evolving notes of violet, incense and blackcurrant. Exceptional power and sleekness on the palate, with sticky tannins and a core of rich black fruit and cigar box. Tai-Ran states that he wanted to make a wine that needed more time before it was ready to drink; a leaner style with a longer finish.
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2010 – Also served blind, and this time it was Lady J who correctly spotted the Shiraz element in the wine. A structured wine with black fruit and savoury, meaty notes, this full-bodied wine delivers exhilarating pleasure and is definitely one for aging.
Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 – Intense blackcurrant pastille mixed with an odd burnt rubber note. Lacking in complexity and rather artificial.
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