Monday, May 23, 2011

Wine 101: A ‘white’ nebbiolo? :) … I mean a white Chiavennasca

The Balgera Chiavennasca Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio IGT Frizzante. Its unique for a white wine I must say.

If you are the type of wine enthusiast who like to explore, discover and sip new wines and varietals rather than seek comfort in drinking a few known ones, then you may wish to check out this white wine.
In the past when I tasted a nebbiolo varietal, it has always been as a red wine. This is the first time I have tasted it as a 'white' wine. This particular bottle contains 70% nebbiolo while the remaining 30% is made up two other local varietals.

I was attending a private wine session at a japanese outlet when I got the chance to try this unique white. It went well as an aperitif and later during dinner paired well with the sashimi dishes served at the table. This ‘nebbiolo’ takes on the name of ‘chiavennasca’ (as it is produced within the Lombardy region).

Pale yellow in colour with a hint of green, it is made to show a slight fizziness in its body (well slightly lesser than that of a prosecco). It reveals light floral and fruity aromas on the nose, shows a light to medium body, a pleasant and refreshing palate, with a hint of sweetness in the finish.

This easy to approach and fizzy sip will work great during a hot afternoon :)

During dinner while the passionate wine hobbyists at the table were discussing on the merits of making a 'white nebbiolo', a lady diner sipped half a glass of this white, then turned to her husband and said: "I want a case of this."

When one's palate is pleased, that's reason enough ain't it ? :p

This wine is presently distributed in Singapore by:
Raymond Tho of Peter & William Co (Pte) Ltd,
3 Shenton Way, #08-05,
Shenton House, S(068805).
Tel: 62206533, Hdph: 96377831.

Wine-bits on nebbiolo: If you have begun exploring italian reds and stepped into the region of Piedmont, two red wines which you will easily come across are Barolo and Barbaresco. Its relatively easy to purchase a good range of barolos and barbarescos in Singapore from various importers.
Both these wines are made from the same red grape varietal called Nebbiolo. The nebbiolo varietal is also used in the red wine produced in Gattinara, Ghemme and Bramaterra (to name a few).

This varietal goes by other names too. In the Gattinara area, it is known as Spanna. In areas like Carema and Donnaz it goes by the name of Picutener. In the wine region of Lombardy it takes on the name of Chiavennasca (after a town by the name of Chiavenna which resides to the west of Valtellina).

In almost all of the above mentioned wine areas, nebbiolo is used to make a ‘red’ wine. I say ‘almost all’ as this time I got the opportunity to taste this red varietal as a Lombardy white wine; a first for me I must admit :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wine 101: the Symphony varietal ( ... an old acquaintance)

It was a pleasant surprise when I came upon the 2006 Ironstone Vineyards ‘Obsession’ (California) at a wine retail outlet in Ho Chi Minh’s Hai Ba Trung street (District 1) during my recent visit there this year. 

In Singapore one can easily find white wines made from varietals like sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling and pinot gris. But what about the varietal called Symphony? Have you come across a white wine made from symphony grapes over here? 

My first taste of symphony wines was back in 2001 when I just started exploring about things wine as a new hobby. There was a wine outlet called Le Wine back then in Heshe building at Tai Seng Road. Every Saturday afternoon saw wine tastings held in this place. One of the popular wines tasted and enjoyed by new wine enthusiasts then was Ironstone Vineyard’s ‘Obsession’, a wine made from the symphony varietal.

I can still recall Obsession’s floral aromas and ripe fruit flavor profile. It was a pleasant, easy and an enjoyable wine to drink; refreshing on the palate with lots of fruit flavours, an off-dry body and a lingering finish. For a newbie like me, this was perfectly enjoyable on a hot afternoon and went well with a good many local dishes which we used to bring along.

For some time since those early years I did not get the opportunity to taste wines made with the symphony varietal. I almost forgot about this varietal till a few years ago when I saw it mentioned in a wine course material. 

Wine-bit: That’s when I learnt that it is a recently created varietal in California, made from a crossing between Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris. (The muscat grapes ... at least one knows where the pleasant aromas of the symphony grapes come from).

Happy to say, I bought the 2006 Obsession and enjoyed it during a hot afternoon in Ho Chi Minh. As was before, it made for a pleasant sip :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Long Lunch at Brawn with St Emilion wines

Lunch yesterday was at Brawn in Marina Bay Link Mall. I was keen on this event as it came with a tasting of 25 St Emilion wines from The Singapore Straits Wine Company.

The event was fully booked and place was packed by 12.30pm. A good aspect about this event for me is the fact that a 3-hour period was set aside to conduct this lunch. It takes awhile to settle down, do the lunch, taste the different wines and talk to some of the representatives of the wineries who are there. These are things you don't want to rush but rather take one's time and go about the event at a leisurely pace.

The wines showcased were pleasant for this lunch. (I've mentioned the list of the wines to be tasted during this lunch on an earlier entry).

A few wines I particularly enjoyed during lunch are:

2006 Ch Bellefont Belcier
2004 Ch Dassault
2000 Ch Destieux
2005 Ch Fonroque
2007 Ch Corbin Michotte
2007 Ch Franc Mayne
2007 Ch Villemaurine

These showed the fruit flavours, suppleness and structure which I personally enjoyed. It was certainly a pleasant session catching up with friends, exchanging views and taking a few hours at a leisurely pace on a friday afternoon. I am certainly looking forward to the next one :)

Le Benaton at Marina Bay Link Mall

I was heading to Marina Bay for lunch yesterday when I came by Le Benaton's new wine outlet. Its located at:

8A Marina Boulevard
#B2-67 Marina Bay Link Mall
(Marina Bay Financial Centre)
Singapore 018984
Tel: 66349822

One way to get to this place is to alight at Raffles Place mrt station and take the underpass via Entrance/Exit J. Its takes a little walking to get there but it beats walking on the roads above (especially with the hot weather these last few days).

I've visited its other outlet at Bukit Timah before to purchase wines from Burgundy; only thing with that outlet is that its not exactly near an mrt station. I prefer this latest location. Apart from wines and wine accessories, this outlet also carries a variety of cheese.

Check it out if you are around the corner :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wine tasting: Wines from Portugal at Geylang Serai CC

Last Saturday I went to Geylang Serai Community Club for a seated tasting of wines from Portugal. This CC has a newly setup wine club which organized this tasting.

We tasted 7 wines during this afternoon session. They are from Viva Vino (address: 214 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207747, Tel: 62917866,, a wine company which specializes in importing wines from Portugal. Mr Nuno Miguel Covas, the marketing and sales consultant of this firm, introduced the wines to us.

We tasted 3 whites, 3 reds and a port. They are:

2010 Aveleda Casal Garcia Branco, Vinho Verde. A 'green wine' (wine known for its freshness and made to be drunk preferably within a year); is light, clean, refreshing and an easy one to sip.  It shows a little fizziness in the palate (due to the presence of carbon dioxide) within its body, which lends a hand to this wine's freshness. It is light bodied, almost like having chilled water with a little alcohol in it :) It will be great for a hot afternoon, as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to starters. A participant remarked that it reminds her of soda :)

2009 Quinta d'Aveleda Vinho Verde. Another 'green wine' but with a more expressive body than the earlier white, this too reveals lightness, freshness, delicate fruit aromas and flavours. It can be enjoyed on its own or with some light bodied food. This too reveals a little fizziness when sipped.

2009 Esporao Reserva. A white from Alentejo, it reveals aromatic notes of tangerine, peach, lime and a hint of oak. The aging in oak has given it a firmer structure than the above 2 whites, which balances with the fruit flavours in the body and the refreshing acidity in holds. A well balanced wine with a lingering finish. One can enjoy this on its own, though I will prefer some food with this.

2007 Quinta do Casal Branco. An easy, entry level red from the Ribatejo region. Shows a light to medium body, reveals aromas and flavours of red and black fruits, and spicy notes though without much depth to its body. Alcohol 'heat' and spice shows in the finish; and I think slightly chilling this red will create a better balance in palate. Some light food will help in making the sips pleasurable.
2004 Alves de Sousa Caldas Reserva. This is a good red from the Douro region. The floral notes give way to reveal aromatic notes of dark cherry, tobacco and spice. The supple body reveals a good measure of fruit flavours, spice, soft and integrated tannins, and ample acidity to create a well balanced wine with lingering finish.

2007 JP Ramos Vila Santa. A red from the Alentejano region. This is a which at this moment shows harmony. Aromas of black fruits and spice balances well with the dark cherry flavours and spice revealed in the body. The texture is velvety and smooth with soft and integrated tannins lending it support. It will go great with meat dishes, though I am tempted to enjoy this with just bread and cheese (so that i can fully enjoy the wine without its harmony being affected by some strong flavoured food dish).

1998 Niepoort Colheita port. A single vintage port, the years of aging has gone to reveal a drink with pleasant dried fruits aromas and flavours. Medium bodied, smooth and with a lingering finish, one can enjoy sipping this on its own, or with some cheese, chicken or goose liver and biscuits as accompaniments.

The affable Nuno made this session an enjoyable one. All in all, it was a well spent session catching up on wines from Portugal :)