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


Chris Gan said...

Hi Lionel & Chris!

It's great to see your blog! I'm just curious about your choice of pairing theCDP with cod fillet and cauliflower - I find it a strange pairing would've expected it to suck considering that CDP is a strongly flavored full bodied wine which will overpower such dishes (notwithstanding the presence of red wine sauce in the dish). Perhaps the Beaujolais, the Pinot, a Tempranillo Rosado and sparkling Shiraz may work? :)

Lionel Lau + Chris Low said...

Hi Chris Gan, thanks for your comment. Lionel was invited as a guest at this event and the wines was paired by someone else.that's why lionel left a comment
:"Definitely overpowered the baked red wine marinated cod fillet and did not go down well at all with the cauliflower couscous"

And i agree that Pinot will work well with it.