Featuring a great line up of Soldera in Hong Kong. We will miss you Gianfranco.Read More
I have been wanting to go for a while, since it is so close to my office. However after a milquetoast review by a trusted colleague of mine, I thought it was worth the trouble of going until suddenly one of my top clients asked to go try it.
Of course I agree and we went for a rather relaxing dinner. Tate Dining Room is run by Vicky Lau, who was named as Best Female Chef in Asia at Asia's Top 50 in 2015. Tate Dining Room has also since been awarded one Michelin-star. The interior to the cuisine has a very strong twee touch however it is not overly saccharine.
For the first time ever I tried the Egon Müller Schwarzhofberger Kabinett 2015. Haven't drank any sweet wines in possibly over a year, the wine was surprisingly palatable – and I don't have a sweet tooth in my body! Though young, it was bright, mineral and rich with a super zesty acidity that made it easy to drink over and over again. Neither my client nor I were at all sick of drinking this bottle the whole evening. Coincidentally it went well with quite a few courses even though in hindsight it was poor planning.
The food here has clear Asian influence but it is modernised by chef Vicky. Speaking with another colleague who went to the restaurant late last year with a different menu, it seems that the menu varies greatly in quality (she didn't enjoy hers). I would suggest checking the menu on their website before you make your reservation just to be safe. I haven't been to VEA yet however it would be interesting to compare the two together in the similarity of focus in "modern" Chinese cuisine.
I have been in want of a full blown Clos Rougeard dinner ever since I had to try a glass last year in March – a wine that I have never forgotten since. This domaine was sold in 2017 to telecom billionaire brothers Martin and Oliver Bouygeus, who also own Chateau Montrose, but I am very happy to learn that the new owners are hands off and aware of the good work that is already carried out. The future is also secure as Nady Foucault (current winemaker) has found a local Loire apprentice to succeed him should he pass as well.
The estate originally started in 1969 by the father of Charlie and Nady Foucault (Charlie passed in 2015). They are the 8th generation to farm the 10ha in Chacé, an area within the Saumur-Champigny appellation. In the 1960s and 70s, they were the few ones still continuing with organic practices with biodynamic remedies and low yields. Therefore their parcels have held up exceptionally well over the years, particularly those of the 70 year old Le Bourg vineyard. Though they plant 90% Cabernet Franc and only 10% Chenin Blanc, their whites are also superb. Le Clos wines are aged in Château Angelus barrels, Les Poyeux and Le Bourg in new oak barrels, then released after around 4 years in the cellar, which is why we have only 2011s and 2012s in stock now with the 2013s to be released very soon.
Our dinner in Michelin-starred Beefbar included a flight of Le Clos from 2005-2012, a Les Poyeux 2011 and the Le Bourg 2011. As we went through the different vintages of Le Clos, 2005 was the only wine that showed any signs of age. Clearly this is an "entry level" wine that can age at least 10 years or more. The wines all showcased beautiful dense red fruit with a hint of signature grassiness, which is typical of cabernet franc, but still exceptionally pure on the nose and finish. The wine of the night was a toss up between Les Poyeux 2011 and Le Bourg 2011 were each compelling in their own way. The nose of the Le Bourg was striking: intense charred toasty flavours mixed with tones of earthy barnyard and a touch of minerality yet the oak influence on the palate remained subtle and fresh. Les Poyeux 2011 was another favourite of many simply due to its approachability and expressiveness; there was clearly greater complexity and depth than the Le Clos here. Where Le Clos had more herbaceous notes, there was more straw in the Les Poyeux, making it an immense joy to drink and ponder. Both still needed much more time to age but we were left without a doubt of their potential.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2012: Super sharp acidity due to its youth. Very intense fruit and grassy notes however I get why the estate doesn't release its wines until at least 4 years in their cellar as I would not recommend drinking it this young (even though there is 6 years on this wine already). Huge ageing potential.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2010: Gorgeous note and palate now - acidity has started to mellow out but remains strong and taut. Fruit intensity, varietal characteristics are fully on show. Still has many years to go in terms of ageing.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2009: Feels much more approachable now, comparatively speaking to the 2012 and 2010. With at least 9 years of bottle ageing, the grassy varietal characters seems to mellow and blend well with the fruit. The ripeness is quite clearly higher here but it is perhaps due to the vintage more than wine making.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2008: Possibly my favourite Le Clos vintage of the night along with of course, the 2005. The wine is drinking exceptional well and everything feels balanced. There is not enough complexity showing compared to Burgundies of the same age but as oppose to a fault of the winemaking, it is telling me that Cabernet Franc needs just more time to develop the similar aged characters. I love this.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2006: Quite similar to 2008 in my opinion but lacks a bit of a punch. The 2008 was clearly a heavier hitter but a lot of guests enjoyed this.
Clos Rougeard Le Clos 2005: Crazy thing is that only the 2005 is showing some aged characteristics after 13 freakin' years. Usually your average Burgundy pinot starts showing their age at around 4-5 year mark, depending highly of course on producer, vintage and appellation. For Clos Rougeard you need to be patient although they will reward you immensely for your time.
Clos Rougeard Les Poyeux 2011: Gorgeous wine that is displaying immense complexity and depth that is not found in Le Clos. The grassiness that is quite prominent in the younger Le Clos is tasting more hay here, showing extra touch of toast from increased oak influence in an extremely pleasant way.
Clos Rougeard Le Bourg 2011: It is clear that this the top wine offered by Clos Rougeard and will easily spar with any Burgundy grand cru (and not just Clos de Vougeot or Echezeaux!). It shares a few similar notes with Les Poyeux – layered red fruit and hay – yet this has more hints of smokiness and minerality, maybe due to use of newer oak barrels and old vines. To state the obvious, this was WOTN but evidently Le Clos and Les Poyeux both have things to offer and should not be overlooked.
Arnaud Mortet came to Hong Kong to launch his domaine but before he did, he also arranged a wine dinner with wines from his family domaine Denis Mortet.
Arnaud's story of how he became a winemaker is tragic. His father Denis, founded the domaine in 1990s and single handedly made it a highly sought after “cult” domaine in a span of a decade, which is nothing considering many appellations were first created by monks in the Middle Ages. The family domaine has great holdings in Gevrey Chambertin, including the prized grand cru Chambertin along with other great parcels of Clos de Vougeot, along with many fantastic Gevrey 1er crus such as La Champonnet, Les Champeaux and Lavaux St. Jacques. Most famously Denis Mortet created the cuvée “Mes Cinq Terroirs”, a blend of 5 different Gevrey village parcels. Many of the appellations are made up of old vines. Despite his success, Denis suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2006. Arnaud, who has been shadowing his father since the 2000 vintage, took over promptly after his father's passing.
Arnaud clearly has managed the family domaine well, building on the success of his father but not resting on his own laurels. He has been careful to preserve Denis's established domaine style however he has continually improved the quality of the wines year after year.
The wines were carefully selected with all them coming from him ex-domaine: Fixin and Marsannay 2015, Gevrey Chambertin Mes Cinq Terroirs 2014, Gevrey Chambertin VV 2012, Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru 2011, Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Champeaux 2010, Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques 2009 and Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2006.
The dinner was exceptionally moving even though it wasn't meant to be sentimental. However I suppose being drunk on good wine does that to you. When he explained how he brought back Gevrey Chambertin “Mes Cinq Terroirs” in 2013 due to popular demand after stopping production with his father's last vintage of 2005, you wonder if it was also because he had finally came to terms with his father's passing and legacy. The Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2006 tasted lacklustre and unsteady, of a young winemaker deep in grief and mourning, which made sense when he explained it was his first solo vintage.
Personally I didn't think there wasn't a singularly outstanding wine of the night, since many of them from even the start of Fixin 2015 to the Lavaux St. Jacques 2009 were beautiful wines in their own right. People took that to mean that I didn't find any of them particularly good but that is unfair. Many thought Lavaux St. Jacques 2009 was the WOTN as it had a gorgeous palate and a fantastic finish, however due to the powerful vintage it hadn't open up at all to its full potential.
That evening, after stumbling into a taxi and trying to call my father without avail (the man sleeps religiously at 10pm), I left a drunken voicemail: “I love you Dad”.
Last Thursday I had the privilege of hosting a wine dinner at Épure featuring wines from Domaine Sylvain Cathiard et Fils, arguably one of the most in demand guys right in all of Burgundy.
The theme this time we chose to focus on the different wine making techniques from vintages created by the father Sylvain (pre-2011) and the son Sebastien (2012 onwards). The transition was rather smooth, with Sebastien joining the domaine for a few years prior to taking full control in 2011. The changes are subtle - Sebastien has kept up with the meticulous care of the old vines to standards started by his grandfather however he varies greatly in the use of oak. Choosing to use less new oak than his predecessor, the wines become more pure in fruit with greater focus on terroir. At the same time, he is much more ambitious in using the best oak possible, often bidding top dollar in auctions for wood from the best forests in France and one of the very few who blind tastes samples from different barrels of various producers. The results are evident and the domaine has since been regarded as one of the best producers in Vosne-Romanée now.
The wines tasted included:
- Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Murgers 2008, 2012
- Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Les Suchots 2008, 2012
- Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts 2006, 2012
- Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2007, 2012
All of the wines were generally very good. The NSG 1er Cru Murgers was a delightful opener - bright yet lush at the same time and a good wine to ease into the evening with. Suchots was also quite beautiful as well, as it opened up most majestically. There is weight, oomph and pizzazz from a lieu-dit that can be disappointing with its variance due to its size (largest 1er cru in Vosne-Romanee). His parcels are located closer to Echezeaux to the edge and in the middle where there is a dip. The Malconsorts is considered the flagship wine of the domaine, located in a prime steep slope sandwiched between Hudelot-Noellat and De Montille, slightly higher and diagonally opposite DRC's La Tache. I expected a lot from the Malconsorts and indeed most people were quite excited by it, I still thought it left something to be desired from such a great region. I suspect it's the age of the wines and time it need to open so I have my own personal conclusion still open and hope to revisit in due time. The RSV was a complete stunner in both vintage but the 2007 just had all the time it need to bloom and grow in your mouth. On the nose you expected something more but it was complex, juicy, elegant all at the same time and quite possibly one of the best juice I've tasted this year.
The winning wines of the night as we took a vote, a tie between RSV 2007 (made by the father) and Malconsorts 2012 (by the son). So there is no final verdict in which whether Sebastien was truly better than Sylvain, even though it was unfair competition.
This more for fun than anything else, ultimately there are so many variables at stake here regardless of the producer himself - the age of the wine in the bottle, the vintage itself, the condition of the bottles - there is no real way to hold these things equal ceteris paribus. Still an amazing learning and tasting experience that I will truly treasure and yes I finally GET why Cathiard is so hyped right now. May his star continue to shine brightly going forward.