Sunday, September 7, 2008

From Penang to the Rhone Valley

Lionel: Now the geographical location of the Malacca Straits where Nyonya food originated and the Rhone Valley in Southern France is as far as you can imagine. But through the wonders of modern transportation and hence international trade that I find myself pairing an amazing wine by the name of Domaine La Soumade Rasteau Cote du Rhone Village with the lovely cuisine of Peony Garden in Kota Damansara. My friend Robyn invited us for dinner last night and what a find this little gem of a restaurant is! Now, this is Penang Nyonya. Not the more common Malacca Nyonya that is more commonly found in Kuala Lumpur. For the uninitiated, there is a difference.

Now Robyn is allergic to alcolhol so there wasn’t a huge debate on the matching ability of a classic Rhone wine with all its vanilla, blackcurrant and pepper on the nose, medium to full bodied for this particular vintage(1999) with a distinct hint of spiciness on the palate. Lovely long lingering finish with enough strength to handle all the different flavours from the Chun Piah, Lobak, Tau Yu Bak, Kiam Chai aik, nasi kerabu and even the perut ikan! Great stuff!



There is a nice story about this little winery that could and has confounded the conventions and produce great wine even if its is technically a humble Cote du Rhone Village.


The Southern Rhone valley is one of the most beautiful places on earth, with picturesque villages dotting craggy hillsides and vines for as far as the eye can see. Rasteau is located just to the west of the “Dentelles de Montmirail”, a craggy, “lacy” hill that is surrounded by Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and Beaumes-de-Venise(all the more famous names hence higher pricing). The vines of the area can be over 100 years old in the better parcels.

The Romero family has owned vines in the region for over 200 years. During the early 1900’s, the region became primarily a vegetable and wheat growing zone, but many families still kept their best parcels, and this was the case with the Romero’s. With the passing of Andre Romero to the helm of the property, the estate quickly became the winery to watch in the village, and is now considered one of the most quality-driven estates of the Southern Rhone.

 The village of Rasteau is home to some of the oldest vines of Grenache in the whole of the Rhone Valley. Many parcels are over 80 years old, with some just over 100. As many of the vines are over 90 years old, the property of Domaine La Soumade doesn’t have to do a lot of coaxing of the wines to release the amazing power of these old vines. Even though the village is just minutes from Gigondas and Vacqueyras, it is still considered a Cotes du Rhone Villages. However, as a result of the work of Andre Romero and other quality-driven vignerons, Rasteau is said to be very close to receiving the full AOC.


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