Sunday, October 30, 2011

When at Wine Fiesta 2011 (at Customs House)

Early part of Saturday afternoon I swung by Wine Fiesta. This wine event was organized by The Straits Wine Company at the Customs House. My timing was thankfully good, I escaped the soon-to-come drizzle. Other guests were just trickling in, providing an opportunity to do some tasting at a leisurely pace and talk to the winemakers present.

Despite the afternoon rain, the crowd began gathering in earnest by 5pm. Evening saw the place 'packed, swinging and alife’. The atmosphere was certainly different from the quiet, contemplative and serious group of wine enthusiasts I get to encounter at other tastings :p

The guests were intent to relax, enjoy, taste, drink and have a good time with their friends during this weekend; and this they certainly did with great exuberance.

Sips offered for tasting came from Australia, New Zealand, S. Africa, Chile, Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, India, Spain, Italy and France. Observing the folks, there seem to be a general preference among the younger crowd to taste sparkling wines and wines with are off-dry or sweet (Villa M's bianco moscato and rosso brachetto, the late harvest german wines and Tokaji seem to hold a particular appeal for revisits).

For me personally, I like the excitement of a new or unique find. There were a handful of such wines in this event:

a. Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf Du Pape Rouge 2006. This is unique for its use of all 13 permitted grape varietals in the making of this wine.

b. Provins Valais from Switzerland offered wines from varietals not usually seen in Singapore; 2010 Fendant Swiss Valley, 2007 Petite Arvine Maitre De Chais, 2010 Heida Maitre De Chais and 2009 Cornalin Maitre De Chais.

c. Burgundy's aligote varietal tend to get scant attention and make only the occasional presence at burgundy tastings in Singapore. Domaine Jean Marc Brocard offered a 2010 Aligote for tasting during this event.

d. Champagne Henri Giraud's Ratafia De Champagne N.V. (a vin de liqueur) stood out as a fine example of an 'unsparkling wine' from the Champagne region :p

I must say the staff and crew did a good job. There was an adequate supply of bottled water and plain crackers at each table for those who needed these, the spittoons were regularly cleared and the crew certainly carried themselves in a friendly and an approachable manner. These little things made for a pleasant experience during this event, which was well managed and ran smoothly; a no easy task looking at the strong number of participants in the evening.

All in all it was an event worth attending (and at a decent price too I must add).

Below are a few pictures taken during this event.

.. the crew at work

Rocca delle Macie, Italy

Oddfellows Wines

Bouldevines, NZ

Golding Wines, Australia

K1 by Geoff Hardy, Australia

Dombeya winery, S. Africa

Boekenhoutskloof, S. Africa

Speri, Italy

Cave de Tain, France

La Forge Estate, France

.. as evening draws near

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gambero Rosso wine event at St Regis Singapore on 27 Oct 2011

It was an all too brief visit to the Gambero Rosso ‘Top Italian Wines’ road show held at St Regis (Singapore) today. I visited another wine trade event (Wine for Asia 2011) the early part of the afternoon and ended up spending too much time there; leaving for myself an hour and a half when I stepped into St Regis.

The place was crowded and buzzing with activity when I reached this event. There were more than 50 wineries showcasing their wares. I was able to meet a handful of representatives and taste their wines. Luckily, a few merchants are attending the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair 2011 next week; giving me the opportunity to catch up with them over there.

There was quite a good spread of wines from regions like Piedmont, Tuscany, Abruzzo and Puglia.

Two interesting finds I chanced upon today are:
a. the Cantina Gallura vermentino whites, a 'DOCG' vermentino from Sardinia. Their flavour profile seem to be richer when compared with their Tuscan cousins; and
b. Cantina Tollo's white wine made from the Pecorino varietal (first time I am getting the opportunity to taste this varietal).

I am sure that given more time, this event would have thrown up other unique sips; I'll just have to wait for the Hong Kong wine fair I guess.

Below are a few pictures taken during this wine event. More pictures are at

Gambero Rosso road show

Argiolas wines from the island of Sardinia, represented by AntonioArgiolas

Ceci wines representative with good sparklies and local admirers.

Ruggeri wines from Veneto in the hands of Ms Rachelle Cruz (Taste of Tradition)

Rufino wines in the hands of Kevin Tan (Culina Pte Ltd)

Mother and daughter team of Masciarelli wines from Abruzzo (Water and Wines Pte Ltd)
Cantina Gallura wines from Sardinia; Ms Anna Napoli. Locally represented by Cellarmaster Wines.
Apollonio Wines from Puglia
Cecchi Wines (represented by The Italian Wine List)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wine dinners at Cafe Amigo

Café Amigo ceased operation end of September. A few of us took the opportunity to visit this cafe for wine dinners before its closure.

Diners would have previously patronized this café for its affordable food, decent range of wines and friday jazz performances. The prime ribs platter, apple strudel and the signature 'ice cream with PX' were popular dishes prompting revisits. I myself recall a couple of late night wine dinners here with friends, what with its attractive BYO wine policy.

Others would have visited this café to attend one of Tommy’s wine appreciation classes, or wine programs like WSET and CSW.

Dinner on Monday
It was the last monday of September. I dropped by for a wine dinner with members of the wine interest group, Wine Unplugged. The prime ribs platter was unfortunately not available that night. We settled for some of the other dishes and for desserts ordered the apple strudel and ice cream with PX.

apple strudel
ice cream with PX :p
Dinner on Friday
As luck would have it, another opportunity presented itself to attend a wine dinner here on the last day of the café’s operation with a group of ex-WSET classmates. We pre-ordered the prime ribs platter, just to ensure we get the opportunity to taste it again :)

This time round, the café was packed with diners who came to show their support and to listen to the jazz performance one last time. The food for the evening came a little slowly but surely (it was a very busy evening for the crew); and was worth the wait … the prime ribs platter finally :p

prime ribs platter
As usual, we had quite a range of wines to distract our palate for the night ahead. Among these, for the meat platter, I preferred 3 reds found at the table. The prime ribs completed the 2002 Balgera Valtellina Superiore Sassella (Lombardy), made the 2001 Ch La Tour Haut Brion (Pessac Leognan) more approachable and co-existed very well with the rich 2001 Summerfield Shiraz (Victoria).

We were the last guests to leave that night, bringing back with us memories of past evenings spent at this cafe to keep.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Assembling a value for money decanting kit at $20

Decanters aren’t exactly cheap nowadays. Next time when you are in town, do go visit a store’s glassware section and you will notice most decanters retailing between $80 to $400.

Here’s how a friend of mine who runs the wine interest group called The Wine Unplugged assembled a wine decanting kit for $20. If you are not particular about brands and will live a happy existence as long as the wine at hand gets decanted, you may adopt his approach and assemble a value for money decanting kit for home use.

The following were the purchases he made:
a. a decanter from the wine glassware section of Ikea, costing around $15.
b. a funnel and a fine mesh skimmer from DAISO at Plaza Singapura, for $2 each item.
(Round the figures off and he got everything for within $20.)

As for the metal handle of the mesh skimmer, he wrapped it backwards and around the bottom end of the funnel (see pictures below). Alternatively, you can always just snip the handle off if you have a pair of pliers at home and let the mesh rest within the funnel.

Recently during a late night session a few of us got the opportunity to witness the effectiveness of this kit. We had a 1974 Cantina Terre del Barolo Riserva from Castiglione Falletto which due its age warranted decanting. The mesh successfully separated the sediments from the wine and gave us a sediment-free wine.

Of course its not a must that the purchases are made at Ikea or Daiso. You can always purchase other containers of preferred size and shape; and likewise you can get funnels and mesh skimmers from neighbourhood stores selling cookware items, as long as you are comfortable with the quality and price.

( picture with permission from

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Food and wine pairing session at Big Eater

It was a late afternoon food and wine pairing session among a few wine enthusiasts who found ourselves free during that time of the day :p

Since French wines of older vintages were the preferred sip for discovery among the few who gathered, most of the wines came from the cool crypt of AA French Wine located at 24 Jalan Pari Burong (a wine retail outlet which specializes in back vintages of French wines).

The place for dinner was at Big Eater, a restaurant conveniently located at the end of the row of shophouses in Jln Pari Burong itself. Apart from the good food served here, one other reason I prefer this eating house is its policy of waiving corkage for BYO wines.

The wines at the table were:
1. Champagne Gruet Brut Selection NV, France
2. 1986 Domaine P. Dubreuil-Fontaine Corton Perrieres Pernand Vergelesses, Burgundy
3. 1986 Joseph Drouhin Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, Cotes de Nuits, Burgundy
4. 1996 Chateau Angelus, St Emilion, Bordeaux
5. (and we threw in a Napa white) 2005 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Napa Valley.

The dishes for pairing were:
. stir-fried lala clams with dried shrimps and red chili bits
. crispy prawn rolls
. sauteed asparagus and scallop dish
. steamed cod fish
. steamed lobster
. hotplate deer meat.

stir-fried lala clams
crispy prawn rolls
 The non-vintage Gruet with its fine bubbles, crisp acidity and well structured body stood well when paired with most dishes at the table. Though the lala clams tasted ‘hot’ (due to the red chilli bits used in the dish), the Gruet champagne managed to lift and refresh one’s palate. The Gruet with its refreshing acidity likewise paired well with the fried crispy outer layer of the prawn rolls dish, and showed well with the steamed cod fish and lobster dishes.

steamed cod fish

steamed lobster
The Napa chardonnay displayed a medium plus body filled with fruits (pineapple, pear and citrus flavours showed) and a fair amount of oak to give the body structure and balance. It did not do too well when paired with the lala clams (the red chilli affected the chardonnay). However the chardonnay’s body weight and flavours paired well with the other dishes like the prawn rolls, sautéed asparagus and scallop, steamed cod fish and steamed lobster.

asparagus and scallop

hotplate deer meat
The 3 reds were paired with the hotplate deer dish. The 1986 Domaine P. Dubreuil-Fontaine was slightly past its plateau, subdued in body and flavours, and it did not hold up against the deer meat. (It tasted weak if one goes back to the wine after trying some deer meat).

The 1986 Joseph Drouhin revealed aromas and flavours of earth and spice, was slightly austere in palate, medium bodied, had refined tannins, good acidity and structure, and it paired well with the deer meat.

However if one tries the meat together with the hot, peppery sauce found in the hotplate, the flavours of this dish increases in strength, and renders a challenge to the Drouhin red. Here the 1996 Ch Angelus with its aromas of leather, earth and pepper, and flavours of earth, dried herbs, leather and a medium body backed by coarse tannins seem to make a 'robust' pairing.

Its interesting to see how a wine in palate gets affected when food is introduced. At times a wine can pair well with a dish, other times it gets humbled by the strong flavours and overwhelming body found in a dish.

At the end of the day, what’s important is to seek the match which your palate enjoys and go with it :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Food and Wine pairing workshop with Stephanie Rigoud at Hilton Singapore

It was a call to explore food and wine after a few days of quiet respite. I received an invite to attend a food and wine pairing workshop conducted by Hilton’s sommelier, Ms Stephanie Rigourd.

Ms Stephanie has quite an affiliation with things wine. She has studied at the reputed Tain L' Hermitage wine school under Maitre Sommelier Pascal Bouchet. She holds 2 diplomas related to wine, has worked in Chateau Smith Haut Laffite's hospitality complex in Bordeaux for a year and also as Chef Sommelier for Chef Laurent Peugeot in Burgundy for 18 months. She has visited over a 100 domaines in the pursuit of wine knowledge and even made her own wine, 'Bourgogne Rully, Cuvee de la petite sommeliere' (partnering wine maker Ludovic Belin in 2008). All these achievements at a young age, I must add!

Stephanie started the workshop by sharing a key piece of advice with the 16 participants for the evening: “Pairing is the exercise of bringing food and wine together in such a way which makes people happy”. I think that about sums up the quest in any food and wine pairing pursuit.

Striped off any deemed rules, guidelines and jargons, the practice of pairing is simply an act to enjoy food and wine together. It's not necessarily about getting the pairing ‘technically correct’; but more about you the diner being personally ‘happy’ having a particular dish with a particular wine.

Our palates differ. Whether we like or dislike a particular dish or specific wine is a matter for personal preference. Even the ‘reasons’ for liking a dish or a wine differs between 2 individuals. It’s only fair then to expect each diner to have his or her personal preference (which makes them ‘happy’) during pairing exercises.

Gladly, this diversity in individual preference was adequately witnessed when the 3 tables of wine enthusiasts were served with 6 courses (each course coming with at least 2 wines to be paired with) for the evening. Diners voiced differing preferences and different reasons for a particular preference as well.

Some made their choices by taking note of how a wine affects a particular food and opted for a wine which 'showed the food best'. They preferred a wine which did not subdue or negatively affect the flavours in a dish. Other participants on the other hand, looked at how the food affects the nature of a wine and opted for the wine which holds and shows itself better when paired with a dish.

For example, take the response from fellow diners when served with the first course.

1st course

Cold oysters and hot clams with 2010 Neudorf Chardonnay, NZ and 2009 Domaine Jaboulet ‘45eme parallele’, Cote du Rhone.

At my table, for the raw oyster served cold, most preferred Jaboulet’s crisp, lean white as it allowed them to enjoy the freshness and subtle flavours of the oysters. They found Neudorf’s chardonnay great on its own (with strong flavours, and a bigger, rounder body); but when paired with oysters, they felt that this wine overwhelmed the lighter flavours and freshness of the oyster.

But 2 diners at my table however preferred the Neudorf’s white over Jaboulet’s. They felt that the oysters tend to subdue the flavours and mid-body depth of the Jaboulet and make the wine show itself weak on the palate. The Neudorf white however showed depth of body, appealing flavours and a pleasant finish despite being tampered by the oysters.

Same table of diners with different approaches and different pairing preferences :)

Likewise when these 2 wines were paired with the hot clams; most preferred Neudorf’s chardonnay this time round, yet one went with Jaboulet’s white. 

2nd course

Mushrooms risotto scented with truffle served with 2010 Fattoria Le Pupille (Traminer,SB) and 2010 Ch Senailhac, Bordeaux Superieur.

The risotto showed strong aromas but its body however revealed a low intensity of flavours. Most diners preferred the risotto with the traminer and sauvignon blanc blend as the wine pleasantly held itself against the risotto. Quite a few diners did not prefer the interaction between the firm tannins of the young Bordeaux red and the flavours of the risotto.

However I must say that the risotto helps to soften and ‘open up’ the body of the red. After sampling the risotto if one goes back to the young red, this wine now displays a smoother, rounder more approachable body. This is one pairing where the food helps to make the wine ‘taste better’ than when having the wine on its own.

A quick and brief snapshot of diners' preferences for the rest of the evening’s courses:
3rd course

Herbed crusted salmon with Beurre blanc and avruga. Pan seared sea-bass with saffron salad sauce on spinach. Served with 2007 Domaine de Montille, St Romain and 2008 Ch Pierrefitte “cuvee de malte”, Lalande de Pomerol.

For the seabass, the majority of the diners voiced a preference for the 2007 white burgundy. The salmon received a mixed response; most going for the white wine while a few preferred the 2008 bordeaux red with the chunky meaty salmon.

4th course

Roasted rack of lamb with chianti mustard on polenta. Beef tagliata balsamic reduction. Duck breast with orange ginger. Served with 2007 Domaine Paul Jaboulet “Les Cedres” Rouge, Chateauneuf du Pape and 2006 Ch St-Pierre, St Emilion. 

Most diners swayed towards the 2007 Rhone red for the lamb, beef and duck servings. Without going into too much detail, one can say that this Rhone offered a pleasant compliment to the 3 types of meat on the plate. A few though voiced support for the 2006 bordeaux red and the beef pairing.

5th course

Platter of blue cheese, goat cheese and creamy soft cheese served with 2007 Domaine de Montille, St Romain; 2008 Domaine Paul Jaboulet “Les Jalets” Rouge, Crozes Hermitage and 2009 Tenuta dell Ornellaia Le Volte, Tuscany. 

This course got a mixed response from the diners. The 2008 white was preferred by quite a few diners for the creamy soft cheese and the goat cheese. The blue cheese offered a challenge though for the 3 wines.

6th course

Raspberry chocolate cake and Lemon meringue pie. Served with 2006 Domaine de La Place, Maydie and 2007 Domaine Paul Jaboulet “Le Chant des Griolles”, Muscat de Beaume de Venise.

This course brought out some clear preferences. Most diners favoured pairing the 2006 Domaine de La Place with the raspberry chocolate cake and the 2007 Muscat de Beaumes from Jaboulet was favoured for the lemon meringue pie.

All in all it was an interesting exercise which pleased the mind, delighted the heart and thrilled one's taste buds :)

Any good book on wine will clearly state that the only rule in food and wine pairing is to go by your personal preference, that which makes the diner 'happy'. Pairing 'guidelines' are out there, but these are merely to assist you in avoiding food and wine 'clashes' rather than restrict your choices :)

So go forth, explore and discover that which pleases you!