Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Rhone Ranger

Lionel: Every time I drink wines from the Rhone Valley, I get caught in a quandry as to whether I should tell everyone I know how good the wines are or should I just keep it a secret( so that prices stay reasonable). Now, of course I don't think my voice is that powerful that it would influence the entire wine market, but if there was anything that the results of the March 8th elections teaches us, is that every vote counts!

So, my vote definitely goes to the Rhone Valley and its wines as some of the most sublime, exhilarating and compelling wines in the world. Yes, only a handfull of them have the prestige and cachet of France's more hallowed regions. Certainly, there have been fewer articles and books written about Rhone even though it's history dates back over 2000 years and coincides with the Roman conquest of what was then known as Gaul and hence introduce grape cultivation in France.

But many of its vineyards that have been ignored, misunderstood and underappreciated for centuries have finally arrived. They produced some of the most undervalued and underrated great wines of France and the world, from the sublime wines of the Cote Rotie, Hermitage and Condrieu to the Chateauneuf du Papes(personal favourite) that have no rivals anywhere in the world.

I was recently invited to a dinner at Frangipani featuring the wines of E.Guigal. Marcel Guigal is credited by many as the man that single handedly dragging Rhone from its malaise to its current standing in the wine world. The firm was started by his father Etienne in 1946, but due to an ailment, Marcel was forced to takeover in 1961 at a very tender age and that was when their fortunes changed making Guigal one of the most succesful wine companies in the world.

Cote Du Rhone rouge paired with warm tea smoked salmon with wasabi tobikko cream. the dish was lovely on its own and so was the wine, as expected, not a very good match due to warness in the wine and its distinct lack of acidity, would have been better paired with a Cote du Rhone Blanc.
Croze-Hermitage 2005 with Pan seared foie gras with apple rendang served as strudel. intriguing  dish, lovely used of caramalized grated coconut and apple cubes which was a nice balance to the richness of the foie gras. However, it was again a miss on the pairing as it made the wine slightly tart. On its own, the wine lacked a mid palate and had a short finish.
Now, we come to what I considered the star of the evening, the Chateuneuf du Pape 2003. This was a unusually warm year and it needed the talents of Guigal to produce arguably one of the best CDPs they have ever made. It had power, richness and intensity to spare. Revealing a big dose of  Asian herbs,spices, Blackcurrants and pepper. Full bodied and loads of alcohol.
Definitely overpowered the baked red wine marinated cod fillet and did not go down well at all with the cauliflower couscous.
The best and pairing for the evening was the Hermitage Rouge 2002 with a Grilled Wagyu Beef Cheek with braised red cabbage and mole sauce. The wine had some premature ageing but otherwise shown beautifully with bright Blackberry, white pepper, irodine, licorice and leather on the nose. Pretty dry with a medium body and hints of fruit compote sweetness on the front palate.

Guigal wines are widely available in Cold Storage and Jusco stores I believe, otherwise email the distributor Mui Hua at

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More to Portugal than Port

Lionel: Chris and I attended a Portugese wine tasting recently organized by a new wine importer that was set up specifically to promote Portugese wines. Now when one mentions wine from Portugal, it is normally associated with port. Unknown to many, inspite of its size as a country, Portugal ranks sixth in the world as a wine producing country. 

While many wine critics actually rate Portugal as one of the most tradional wine countries, it is also in the forefront of some of the most imaginative and innovative wine making today. Though, it may still take awhile before they find their footing on the international stage especially in the Asian market, you could taste the potential in their wines and with almost 200 indigenous variety of grapes, there are some surprises!

The pictures below are but some of the reds and the best we had that evening was the Quinta das Baceladas 2004, a blend of Cab Sauv and Merlot. If you would like to try some of these wines, contact Templars Malaysia S/B at 03 62777005.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Us on Nanyang

Lionel: We have been writting about wine and wine investments in Nanyang Siang Pau. The articles appear every Saturday. Check out the Chinese and English versions here

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Balance Meal at Brickfields.

Steam Prompet Fish.

Taiwan style 3 flavors Chicken

4 Heavenly King

Killer Curry Fish Head

Champagne Daniel Robert 1er Cru NV

Chris Low: Of many versions of curry fish head in K.L.(if you like curry fish head using grouper and with a hint a sourness) My family loved this family own Chinese restaurant in Brickfields near YMCA-LOK FATT. The owners is long known friend of my father Uncle Lok-and now run by his son.

One recent creations from the local Chinese-Cantonese food scene"the 4-heavenly king" which is a combinations eggs plant, bottle beans, petai, long bean and wok-fried with sambal+dried shrimp but uncle Lok give it a lift with crispy fried anchovy and extra dose of chili padi. And it's consider a mild version as my nephew Zhe-Xi also enjoyed it. (But mind that he is quite well train with hot and spicy although is only 4 years old...this is how we are brought up!)

Try this restaurant Taiwanese 3 flavors chicken, delicious and juicy...a rice killer.

Oh the prompet, it's rare to have such fresh one in a local restaurant. Thanks to mum, she always hunt for good fishes in Pasar Borong K.L...

A trade secret, you go there weekdays say 3 AM. And this whooper prompet is 3KG.
And once again, we proved that champagne is very versatile with food pairing and this Daniel Robert 1er Cru is yummy!

Hush! The new management is here

Lionel: Last Thursday I was invited by my old friend Angie of Flamenco fame to try out some tapas at her latest join, Hush in Bangsar. She has taken over management of this bar more than a month ago as she renovates Flamenco. For some of you that think La Bodega started the Spanish trend in town, think again. Some of us will remember the first Flamenco outlet in U Thant area where it really started although, she called it Mediterranean cuisine, the Spanish influence was always there.

Anyway, she had brought in a young chef from Valencia on a visit and this night was to also showcase the new dining concept at Hush. It will all be small plates of tapas only and full dining would only be available for pre ordered functions in the 3 private rooms available. Whilst the wine list is still being put together, the drink list is substantial. Now what she needs is some really fine dry sherrys to match the lovely food.

I brought along a bottle of champagne, Drappier as I didn't have any sherrys on hand and guess what, it worked too; champagne just works with everything;

Second best dish of the evening was the lamb, braised for 2 days, shredded on a bed of onion jam with red wine sauce  on one side and mushroom sauce on the other
This must be the winning dish of the night, when it came out I was thinking WTF? toast on mash potatoes? and the mash is cold? Actually its cod and potato mash and man, its the best damn mash I 've had.
Yummy cod and potato croquettes
I know, they look like ordinary potato wedges, but ordinary they are not. The sauce at the top of the plate is garlic cream based and works amazingly well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Artisan Cellar, Palais Renaissance

Dujac Morey Saint Denis 2002

Pegau CDP 2005(Artisan Cellar)

Happy Chris Low with Robin

State of Art Cellar.

Wine quotes in Artisan Cellar.

Chris Low: One of the main objective my recent visit to Singapore is to attend grand opening of Artisan Cellar in Singapore. A project by Aman, Henri, Robin etc. A chic, bright, state of the art wine cellar with very stylo and comfortable interior. Brovo Guys!!!

Leroy Bourgogne blanc 2003, Comte George de vogue chambolle musgny 2004, Diebolt Vallois Blanc de Blanc NV, Hubert Lamy Saint Aubin clos de meix 2006, Diebolt Vallois Cuvee Prestige Magnum are the few wines serve for the grand opening.
I got a bottles of Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape 2005 from Robin and headed for round two of dinner in Imperial Chinese Restaurant in Ngee Ann City.
We had a Bottle of Dujac Morey Saint Denis 2002 for a start with Roast Goose, Crispy roast pork and Century Eggs from Hong Kong(Yong Kee) It was sad that we don't have champagne with us because century egg and Champagne is a perfect marriage.
After one hour of breathing, the 2005 Pegau CDP open up evey nice. Layers, endless layers of stewed fruits, soir bois, leather and blacks fruits and pack with long and powerful aftertase. What a wine! Immediately called Robin and ordered 12 bottles for the near futures...
Looking forward my next visit! Viva Singapore.

Artisan Cellars
390 Orchard Road
#B1-01 Palais Renaissance
Singapore 238871
O +65 6838 0373 F +65 6836 0036

A Few Great Tasting recently at Wine For Asia(Singapore)

Rare Treats: Hill Of Grace 2004

Stephen Henschke: Winemaker of Henschke

Various 2004 Bordeaux: Canon La Gaffeliere my favourite right bank.

A regular popular booth: Wine Review Great Bordeaux tasting.

Chris Low: I was down in Singapore for the 6Th edition Wine for Asia(WFA) 2008. Several highlights is the Henschke Master Class, The Lanson Champagne tasting and The Great Bordeaux 2004 tasting at Poh Tiong's Wine Review booth.

6 wines are tasted in the Henschke Master Class which include 2004 Hill of Grace, 100% Shiraz grapes from pre-phylloxera material brought from Europe by the early German settlers in the mid 1800s and grown in the Eden Valley wine region. Crimson Purple, powerful but have graceful balance and a lovely, long aftertaste. Yin How and me is just about to steal an unfinished glass of this wonderful nectar from a photographer seat just next to us.

2005 Mount Edelstone Shiraz, 100% 90-year-old-vine Shiraz grown in the Eden Valley wine region. It works like a second wine for the Hill of Grace(at least for me?). Softer and more accessible, sexy red wine with sweet plum and ripe tannin.

A white wine worth mention is The 2007 Julius Eden Valley Riesling, it may not take away my love (Stein Garden Riesling) but has lovely freshness, perfume and surprisingly good acidity, depth and crisp finish.

Was also spoil by Mr. Anton Hobb, export director of Lanson Champagne. I found my love with the Lanson Pink Label NV Rose Champagne. Lively fine mousse, splash of raspberries, lemon lime and a hint of flint and biscutti, I will recommend this lovely bubbly with local food! Also tasted was The Gold Label Vintage 1996, delicate, fine and lovely finish.

Champagne and Oz wine, Cheers!
My apologies for lesser quality photo taken from my camera phone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cool, Cool Wines

Villa Vinea Amarone Della Valpolicella( Cave & Cellar) 

Guigal Cotes-du Rhone ( Mui Hua Sdn Bhd, Cold Storage)

Morande Reserva Pinot Noir ( Cave & Cellar)
Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel (Wine Cellar, Jln Bangkung Bangsar)

Lionel: Everyone knows that you chill white wine. But red? I know , I know the idea seems a bit off. But belief you me,  most red wines are served far too warm in Asia and some are ideal candidates for the refrigerator, and best of all, these can be good complements to all kinds of slightly spicier and or light food. Yes, some people might tell you that red wine cannot be chilled and should be drunk at room temperature no matter what. These people who give you these rules, they never tell you what room temperature is nor do they realize that room temperature is ever changing, depending on whether the room is in hot tropical Malaysia in July or in a stone cellar in Scotland in November, right? Of course they do not.

But even stone cellar temperature is sometimes not cold enough. Sometimes we want right-out-of-the-refrigerator cold, and yes, my friends, we can enjoy a red wine like that and I did just to prove my point.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to overdo it. Unlike a lambrusco, which you can drink straight out of the fridge, you want to take most reds out and let it sit for half an hour or, if you’re starting from the beginning, just put it in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes before drinking. If chilled but not ice cold, you’ve got yourself one refreshing drink, yum, yum.

All wines taste best when served reasonably cool (not ice cold). The ideal for a fine red wine is 18 to 25 degrees. A few red wines, however, are best at an even cooler temperature—around 14 degrees; they're the ones to seek when hot weather hits. 

The best red wines for chilling are usually relatively straightforward, with a concentrated fruitiness and low levels of oak, tannin and alcohol. Beaujolais is pretty much the ultimate example of this style, although there are plenty of others, such as young and lighter Zinfandels and Pinot Noirs. And if you have tried any others that work, do drop us a line and we would gladly put them to the test!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cathy's Bak Kut Teh Adventure

Lionel: As we all know the true home of Bak Kut Teh is Klang and of course after having been told of Cathy's wonderful experience in Kota Kinabalu with bak Kut Teh and Laurent perrier champagne, we had to set the record straight.

So, where did we take her but to Klang, Teluk Pulai for some Bak Kut Teh last Saturday. We also decided that test the teory of matching BKT with a red wine, yes, yes I have said when in doubt champagne just goes with everything, but red wine with BKT?

We decided a young new world Merlot with lots of fruit and the distinct aromas of Tong Quai( chines herbs) which seems to be evident in both tha BKt and new world Merlots should work well together.

Well we are glad to report that the De Martino reserva Merlot 2005 which was purchased from Auric Pacific wines was just superb, it just worked wonderfully, perfectly harmonized and matched seemlessly with the thick unctous broth of the BKT, and Cathy our friendly MW(master of wine) agreed wholeheartedly.

Ok, ok I know there is still the old style traditional BKT which has slightly heavier broth with a more herbacious flavour to match but that will be for another day!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Perold in Malaysia

Wai Lun from Bottles & Bottles with Cathy

Cathy: I’ve arrived in Sydney ahead of judging in the Sydney International Wine Challenge, and am thinking back of fond memories of my brief stay in KL. Highlights for me in my final 48 hours in the city included several South African wines, one of them the premium-priced Op Die Berg perold, made from syrah by the KWV for distribution mainly in its export markets.

Cathy & John with Perold

My encounter with a 2001 vintage of this wine took place at superb dinner the Cork Brothers threw for a handful of prospective investment clients last night. One of the guests who has visited South Africa before, John Chong, brought a bottle and served it blind, blaming Chris for the ‘deception’ played on me! It was dark, with intense nose of black fruit and some spice, and a salty but supple palate. I said it was Australian shiraz given the intensity and saltiness … and then turned to Lionel and uttered ‘but it’s so like a South African’. It was such a delight to share the wine with everyone there and, you know what, it tasted just fine.

Happy Cathy, Lionel & Stephanie

A few Humble wines that we drunk

Other wines we enjoyed that evening were selected by Chris for drinking, not for investment. They included a 2002 Cuvée Carl, a 1999 Camensac from the Haut-Medoc and a 2000 La Vielle-Cure from Fronsac as well as a 2005 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinette from Schloss Lieser in the Mosel. The food and wine matches were very good, but I did find myself mulling over the liquid portion of my meal quite often. The German wine was light but pleasant, without the piercing acidity and nervosity I’ve come across from those ‘higher up’ the QmP quality (or sweetness) pyramid. All three Bordeaux wines seemed to be at their peak – perhaps they’ll hold a few years more but why keep them when they are so delicious now? – showing typical black cassis, some earthiness and forest floor, and lovely firm tannins.

Happy Cathy at The Amex Platinum Dinner

The following evening at an Amex dinner, we sipped on wines provided by Bottles & Bottles. The South African chardonnay – 2007 Excelsior from Robertson – was sedate and seductive with gentle vanilla oak tones, as opposed to being bold and oaky. The Pencarrow Sauvignon Blanc – the 2nd tier wine from Palliser on New Zealand’s North Island – was also very commendable, with pure fruit nose and palate, zesty acidity and decent finish. My favourite wine of the evening was the Rustenberg John X Merriman Bordeaux-blend from Stellenbosch. A 2005 vintage, it was incredibly young and a shame really to open it now but it had the intensity and balance of a wine promising to improve with a further 10 or more years in bottle. Many of the other guests, however, reserved their highest praise for the special late harvest (a non-botrytised sweet wine) made from gewürztraminer by Van Loveren, fairly close to the farm that grew the grapes for the chardonnay. It was – as is the special late harvest style – gently sweet and light-textured, not unctuous or silky.

The evening drew to a close after an impromptu appearance on the stage by one of Amex’s guests singing solo, and very well too. We all had great fun, and I hope learnt a little bit more about South African wines. If you drink more of my country’s wines, I’ll have a reason to return again and again. Now that would be a reason to celebrate!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Guest Blogger: Cathy Can Zyl, Masters of Wine

Remy Law

Hello everyone, I’m Cathy van Zyl, travelling in Malaysia for the first time and enjoying it immensely. I’m in KL as a guest of Lionel Lau and Chris Low, better known to you as ‘The Cork Brothers’.

To tell the truth, it was a bit of a rush – arriving at my home in Somerset West, South Africa, after from walking the five-day Whale Trail with my husband, Philip, and a group of friends at around 17h00 on the Wednesday and getting to the airport at 08h00 on the Thursday – but I made it. And with 24 hours I was in KK at the instigation of Remi Law, a wine friend who has moved here from Singapore, and who arranged for me to present a master class and wine dinner at the Hyatt Regency using wines selected by Meng Tan of winecellars, a wine distribution company in the city.

Champagne in Heineken Bucket

Remi and another friend, Angela (yes, it seems I have so many friends – you do in the world of wine!) who came over for the weekend and to attend the two events, were very concerned that I eat well so we went to a fish market-cum-restaurant, the docks to watch the catch being offloaded, a morning market in Remi’s new home village and a private home to join about 60 other people in a non-stop feast all within 18 hours of my plane touching down!

After that we had the class and the dinner, which was a very special meal itself. I suspect Remi had forgotten how much I talk or he would have suggested an hour-long presentation instead of two; but the faces of my audiences didn’t slump in despair, or their eyes glaze over, so I’ll notch this one up as a success.

The wines we enjoyed (and contrasted in style and origin) were Bollinger Special Cuvee NV and Bolla Torralta Prosecco NV; Maison Kerlann Chablis 2006, William Fevre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2006 and Taylors Clare Valley Chardonnay 2007; and Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 2003, Saltram Mamre Brook Shiraz 2004 and Fontana Le Selezioni Barolo Serralunga 2003.
Those in the sparkling and white flights did their jobs admirably, as did the Australian shiraz from South Australia (a blend of Barossa Valley and Eden Valley grapes) but unfortunately neither the La Chapelle or Barolo showed well. The former was just too ripe and lacked depth on the mid-palate while the latter was firstly too young to broach now but also appeared a bit ‘grubby’. Never mind, just gives us all there the opportunity to seek out other bottles and give the wines another go. Their reputations say they deserve it

The G8 with Cathy

The following day, we set off to Kinabalu National Park and here I had my very own ‘Sideways Moment’. Now, I don’t recall ever watching the scene from the movie Sideways in which the neurotic central character, Miles, consumes his beloved 1961 Cheval Blanc from a paper cup in a McDonalds outlet – I tried watching it on a crowed aeroplane, a challenge – but I’ve heard enough about it to know that my experience, while similar, were far happier than his. Miles is a divorced, failed author who takes a bachelor trip with his soon-to-be-married friend to wine-tasting country; a bitter-sweet experience for him, a far less cerebral and more carnal one for the friend.

Mine took place at the dinner Remi and Angela and I shared in a nondescript roadside motel. Here, courtesy of Agnela, we enjoyed a 2000 Réserve de la Comtesse, the second wine of Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande from decent glasses but a rather unusual decanter – a mid-sized beer jug! The meal was fresh and fantastic, the wine rich and dark-fruited, powerful but supple, and spicy. Angela, whose ambition it seems is to convince me that Bordeaux goes with everything (in Singapore last year, the meal was salmon sashimi), decided that the best match on the table was mushrooms stir-fried in garlic. After I said they had a porcini texture and flavour, she ordered another batch, this time stir-fried in a local sauce called ‘PX’. Bordeaux goes quite nicely with that, too, thank you.

Back in Kota Kinabalu the next evening, we set out to try Bah Kut The and, this time, the wine was a Laurent-Perrier given to me by Meng, because she’d run out of the Bollinger Special Cuvee I wanted to buy. We’d chilled the bubbles in a Heineken-branded ice bucket we’d borrowed from the hotel bar. Once again, the meal was superb and the wine spot-on. I had a smile on my face during my Sideways, I don’t think Miles did.

The trouble cork brothers

Here in KL a day later, I reunited with Lionel and met Chris and have spent several very happy days meeting their wine friends and eating, eating, eating. The Cork Brothers have taken me to some very special restaurants – like one serving Nyonya food in Kota Damansara, Malay food in Rebung at Bangsar, banana leaf indian food at TTDI; another the best roast duck and geese in the city (beforehand, we collected the best roast pork in the city and took it along with us to complement our meal). Let me tell you, wine goes exceptionally well with these dishes – an Australian riesling with the pork and an Amarone (from Italy) with the goose. I’d tell you more but I suspect Chris is already blogging the tale. And also to the oldest Chinese restaurant in KL for a quick but delicious lunch … with Chinese tea, a novel experience for this wine lover!

But, one of my best moments so far, was when The Cork Brothers arrived at the wine tasting dinner without a cork screw. I had to laugh … and so you can laugh along with me, took this snap of them phoning around to fellow tasters who hadn’t arrived yet to ask them to bring along a cork screw.

Till next time.

* ‘Cheers’ in Afrikaans

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Best Damn Food Standing Room Only

Lionel: The Cape Kontrei Cuisine event is held as a prelude to the Cape Wine Show. It is a celebration of the Cape's finest cuisine and paired with regional wines from all over South Africa.

This year’s event was held at Groot Constancia estate. This is the oldest wine estate in South Africa, dating back to 1685. And today, this National Heritage Site remains a true reflection of Cape Dutch Architecture.


The Constancia valley was the cradle of winemaking in South Africa and its sweet dessert wines became famous throughout the royal courts of Europe during the 18th century. Groot Constancia is recognized as ‘the mother’ of the wine industry and today it is run by the Groot Constancia Trust, with its objective being ‘to promote and preserve the estate as a cultural historic monument, as an educational asset and as a financially independent wine producing estate’.


So it was a fantastic venue for what promised to be an interesting event. To be honest, I have never been a fan of eating fine food standing with nothing more than plastic plates, thank goodness we had metal forks and real wine glasses! So it was indeed with trepidation that I approached the giant marquee which was set up to house all the wines and the food.


There was a total of 18tables/stands of which 17 had food paired with wines and the last one having a selection of Brandy on its own. Now whilst I am never shy when it comes to food, I decided some initial planning where by a certain order with which dishes and wines to start with and proceed to was in order. The plan worked like a charm with the majority of the crowd starting alphabetically whilst we zig zagged our way round the marquee with good effect.


The stars of the night was surely the Crispy Pig’s Ear Cotechino and lentil flan and the Springbok Frikadelle with chunky tomato smoor. That has to be the best meal I have ever had standing up and on plastic plates!

Parts of the lovely Groot Constancia estate with the evening sky and lone star as a backdrop to the event.

The best damn Semillon from South Africa..........

Some of the Sauvignon Blancs paired with the Buffalo Bocconcini, Cured Salmon and Prosciutto chips. It's not Proscuiutto flavoured chips but rather sliced prosciutto which has been lightly fried....Mmmmmmm heavenly!

Medallion of Beef fillet rolled in Cep dust with Veal Jus was perfect with Cabernet Blends

Saute of Sweet Breads garden Peas and pancetta...yum..yum with the lovely Pinot Noirs
Lamb Loin Sous Vide style with Morel Cream paired with Merlot
Neil Jewell with his Crispy pig's ear cotechino and lentil flan! Don't u just love the shirt? paired really well with Pinotage!
(left) best damn pigs ears I have ever eaten!!!
Chef George Jardine of Jardine. The best fine dining restaurant in Cape Town. This man use to helm the kitchens at our very own Lafite at Shangrila KL.
Wild Mushroom and Foie Gras Dumpling, port reduction and truffle Jus paired with Diemersfontein Pinotage(above)
(Below) One of the better brandys produced in South Africa, aged 10years Uitkyk pronounced 8k!! 

Chef Christophe Dehosse with his Springbok Frikadelle & Chunky Tomato Smoor, lovely with the Fairview Shiraz from Paarl.