Monday, 6 June 2016

Susana Balbo Wines

Jakarta, 19 May 2016

A selection of wines from Susana Balbo Wines presented by Cecile Terrien, Brand Manager.
Susana Balbo Wines (previously known as Dominio del Plata) is based in Mendoza, Argentina with wines made by Ben Marcos and the acclaimed, pioneering winemaker Susana Balbo; their labels include Crios, Nostros, Ben Marco and Susana Balbo ranges. Wines are distributed in Indonesia by PT Dimatique International.

2015 Crios Torrontes

A really fragrant and lifted nose of orange blossoms and acacia there; followed by citrus notes too. On the palate, bags of lemony freshness, with fruity acidity. Clean, runs through easily, with no harshness. Touch of spice at the end. Balanced, expressive and well executed: an excellent summer / picnic wine. Shows textbook Torrontes characters.

2014 Crios Malbec

Initially, red fruits and spice on the nose, definite whiff of white pepper, a lick of sweet vanilla oak too, progresses to violets, a touch alcoholic though. Good flavours, red fruits dominate with gentle acidity. Stylistically a lighter Malbec, not extracted, more towards an easy drinking style.

2014 Crios Cabernet Sauvignon

On the nose, more blueberries and darker fruits, slightly more depth than the Malbec. Hints of sweet oak and alcoholic notes too. On the palate, darker fruit compote with fruity acidity, clean flavours that runs through on the palate. Again, a lighter extraction and cooler style Cabernet.

2013 Ben Marco Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark fruit on the nose, quite jammy and forward, with some oak and vanilla notes. Palate carries through with the darker fruit flavours, with some sweet spice. Well balanced but definite step up in power and extraction. Good mid palate weight, beginning to see tannins. An elegant food wine.

2013 Ben Marco Expresivo
A blend of 65% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14 months in 100% new French Oak.

Darker fruit dominates the nose, its quite jammy and hot, with sweet spice flavours of anise and blackpepper; hints of sweet dark plums and violets too. On the palate, dark jammy compote and sweet spice flavours carries through, decent acidity keeps it from being cumbersome; textured with midpalate heft, good concentration of flavours and lingering ripe tannins. A big, more complex wine no doubt, but retains a decent punch too. The style may be a tad flashy for my liking, but theres plenty of quality fruit backing it up, drink 2020-2030+.

2014 Susana Balboa Signature Cabernet Sauvignon
13 months in oak with 80% new and 20% second-fill. Fermentation in concrete egg-shaped amphorae as well as barrels.

Aromas of dark fruit and cassis, but with green leaf and mint notes too, also sweet licorice and woody notes (in a good way). On the palate the fruit is fleshy, round and smooth, notes of dark plums and blackberries, there is fresh acidity running through and light tannic notes on the finish. This wine is the anti-thesis of flashy, even in its youth, everything feels balanced and integrated, all components singing harmoniously together, not shouting in different directions. Its not the most complex or concentrated wine, but I doubt it is trying to be. A wine to enjoy now through 2020+.

2013 Susana Balboa Brioso Single Vineyard
A blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. 15 months in new French oak.

Bordeaux on steroids: aromas of cassis, dark plums and blackberries with secondary notes of cinnamon, clove and cigar box. Definite oak treatment shows, in the sweet, polished wood notes. Great to just sniff, smells like Christmas. Plenty of dark fruit on the palate, its almost heady in concentration of flavours; sweet dark jammy compote, ripe blackberries and spice, supported by sufficient acidity. Generous and rich on the palate, with elegant ripe tannins just gripping towards the long, complex finish. To call this a Bordeaux look alike would be an injustice, it is a classy effort by a vigneron at the top of her game. Properly built and framed, should age gracefully, drink 2020-2030+.

A notable theme running through all these wines is the ease with which they carry themselves. From the entry-level Crios to the single-vineyard Brioso, all showed elegance, balance and poise. These are not your jammy over-extracted Malbec fruit bombs from the Mendoza that is still trying to make a point. These are wines made with respect and sensitivity towards the grape and the terroir they come from, assured in showcasing the skill and style of the vigneron. Wonderful effort and a joy to taste. Bravo.  

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Babich Wines

04 September 2015

Babich Wines at Por Que No, Jakarta

A selection of wines from Babich Wines of New Zealand presented by James Cutfield, their Export Manager for South East Asia. The wines were served as a wine tasting with tapas generously hosted by Por Que No, a new chic Spanish Tapas restaurant in Jakarta. In Indonesia, the Babich wines are exclusively imported and distributed by PT Dwimitra Sukses Perkasa.

A short introduction to Babich. Still a family-owned winery whose production volume places them in the top 10 in New Zealand. Given the domination of massive wine estates owned by huge drinks conglomerates, this makes it a particularly laudable accomplishment. In 2016 they are to be a century old, and long may it continue too. A peek through their website reveals the enormous range of wines they produce (and across various regions), based on two wineries in Auckland and Marlborough. Most of their grapes are sourced from their own vineyards, with some bought in on long term (mostly handshake) contracts. The wines are written in the order they were presented.

2014 Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Straight out of the glass, gooseberry on the nose with bags of lemon peel coming through, hints of greenness too with lime and green bell pepper notes, followed by some under-ripe guava: a classic if not expected nose. Lemony and juicy on the palate with lip-smacking fruity acidity, the flavors just cleanly races through; light, refreshing and very drinkable, makes you reach for another glass. Well executed and shows typicity of origin.

2014 Babich Marlborough Pinot Gris

Higher notes on the nose; high citrus notes, spritz and almost air-freshener like (in a good way); bit of green apple peel hidden behind the citrus. Lemon on the palate again with soft acidity; tastes dry, with pithy hints of ripe stone fruits (without the sweetness) and a mid palate that tries to be bigger and more rounded, perhaps at the expense of definition. Definitely Alsace Pinot Gris and not new world Pinot Grigio in style; easy-drinking and well made but maybe a bit unsure for my liking.

2014 Babich Hawke's Bay Chardonnay

Citrus on the nose with some tropical notes, feels generous. Palate is lemony and rounded; simple, clean stone fruit flavours showing with no oak influence. There some width in the mouthfeel and the acidity doesn’t just race through, it lingers slightly. An approachable, food friendly wine. Textbook New World unoaked Chardonnay.

2013 Babich Marlborough Pinot Noir

Sweet red currants and cranberry on the nose, some violets and damsons too, with red plums; a whiff of volatiles and initially feels a bit hot.  Light extraction, shimmeringly pale and see through in the glass; flavours are of slightly unripe red cherry and currants laced with fresh, fruity acidity. Light and nimble, a cheerful (can I say gluggable?) Pinot; stylistically reminds me of a young Chorey les Beaune.
Top tip: enjoy this wine slightly chilled (which we did), the volatiles are dampened and the bright fruit really shines through.             

Overall, all of the wines felt correct and well executed if perhaps unexciting. All of them show typicity of origin, lightness of touch and a desire to let the fruit speak unhindered . Honestly, you dont get that enough these days. However, fact remains that these are entry-level wines and understandably so. Babich are new to the Indonesian market and these entry-level wines are the forerunners, I’m sure in due course they will ship their mid-level and premium labels here too. And from what I have seen, one can wait with anticipation and excitement.   

Thursday, 3 September 2015


General, 04 July 2015

2008 Clonakilla Viognier, Canberra District, Australia
sourced in 2013 from Wine Exchange Asia, Singapore

Classic Viognier on the nose: sweet stone fruits of peaches and nectarines, honeyed floral notes; its almost textbook Viognier, sweet, voluptuous and fragrant on the nose, all very inviting. On tasting, it is somewhat flat on the mid palate, a bit of drying pith too; fruit is muted and hidden, mouthfeel disappointingly thin. Age has not been kind to this wine, its dried out and past its best. Such a shame, the nose promised so much.

2005 d'Arenberg 'The Laughing Magpie' Shiraz Viognier, McLaren Vale, Australia
bought on release in UK, stored in professional wine fridge since release

Sweet jam, red berry / currants compote on the nose; initially smells quite hot / cooked and some high alcoholic notes (which thankfully blows away after a while). Secondary aromas of oily smoked bacon, violets and whiffs of pepper come through towards the end. Palate still plump and fruity, mostly red fruits now with gentle rolling acidity; in all, it feels rounded, fresh and almost light. A cheerful wine.
Quite the anti-thesis of the Clonakilla above, a decade on and this wine has aged gracefully: I remember the times when this very wine was all about the jammy dark berries and plums (previous blog entries might even attest to this), but those times have changed. Like meeting a cherished old friend, always glad to catch up and see what things have changed.  

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

FHI 2015 Part 1 - Cullen Wines

A pleasant surprise at the Food and Hotel Indonesia 2015 trade fair (Jakarta, 15-18 April 2015). To be honest, I wasn't expecting much by way of quality wine at this trade fair, so imagine my delight at seeing these trio of Cullen wines of Margaret River, Western Australia presented by Trevor Kent, winemaker at Cullen wines. Apologies if my tasting notes seem less detailed than is frankly expected at Vinoremus - I was after all, tasting out of small plastic cups (heresy, I know). The wines are written in the order they were tasted.

2012 Cullen 'Mangan Vineyard' Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

54% Sauvignon Blanc, 43% Semillon and 3% Verdelho. Very small percentage spent some time in oak.
Tangy and zingy on the nose, with fresh grapefruit, unripe lemon and green lime showing to the fore. If there was some oak treatment, it doesnt really show on the nose. On the palate, fresh and taut, with confident but not overpowering acidity as the backbone; plenty of fruit to flesh out the mid palate, good lick of minerality too. At the moment still rather tightly-knit, some hint of width from the Semillon begining to show. Well-structured, very together and drinking beautifully now, but I would expect it to be more exciting with time in bottle (now through to 2025). Great expression of Western Australia Sem/Sauv Bl blend.

2010 Cullen 'Mangan' Malbec Petit Verdot Merlot

38% Malbec, 32% Petit Verdot and 30% Merlot. Wild yeasts, vinified in tank, no oak.
Red fruits dominant on the nose: red plums and red cherries, with some secondary aromas of violets and sweet spice beginning to show. Theres a generous amount of plush fruit on the palate, still vibrant and primary; good acidity and yielding tannins. Such is the balance that everything feels in place like it belongs, nothing out of joint, and mercifully only 13% abv. Drinking well now, but will keep to 2020+.

2010 Cullen 'Diana Madeline'

A 77/10/6/4/3% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Fully biodynamic. Vinified  in oak, some new.
Primary fruits on the nose: plums, blackberry and blackcurrant. Theres a sense of brooding depth to this (even through the damned small plastic cups), with cocoa, sweet spice and some graphite thrown in the mix. Plenty of fruit on the palate too. Its not powerful (in the knock-you-out-of-the-park-for-six kind of way) but it has weight, texture and persistence on the palate (more like a confident, elegant cover drive seemingly effortlessly reaching the ropes, if you get the comparison). Again, great balance of acidity and fine-grained tannins, framed for the long haul. Utterly compelling, such harmonious elegance and poise. Approach from 2020 and comfortably through 2040.  

Whilst the flagship Diana Madeline needs little introduction, it does carry with it a certain degree of expectation - I am delighted to report that this stupendous 2010 effort cleared them with room to spare. The two Mangans were impressive in their own right and certainly worth a shout-out; particularly for me, both felt well-integrated and showed such balance. Seems to be a thing about these Cullen wines: the sum speaks louder than its parts, yet all in tuneful harmony.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

WSA 2014 Part 2 - Bodega Toro Albala

My second blog entry from the wines I tasted at the 13th International Exhibition of Wines & Spirits Asia (WSA) 2014 held in Singapore, 8-11 April 2014. We'll focus on Bodega Toro Albala and their wonderful range of sherries. The tasting notes appear in the order the wines were tasted.

Bodega Toro Albala

Fino del Lagar 'Electrico'

100% Pedro Ximenez grapes, unfortified (contains only natural fermentation alcohol), wine is on average 10 years old.
Green olives, raw almonds and a touch of iodine on the nose; the initial nose is very much how you would expect Fino to smell - acetaldehyde and 'flor' aromas, with some yeasty / baked bread notes too. Notably, the PX grapes does bring a slight fruity aroma on the nose, in addition to the flor. On the palate, its slightly saline and nutty (like salted raw almonds); feels as nimble as your average Jerez Fino yet this shows a wider, more rounded, altogether softer mid palate. Mouthfeel is thin and refreshing, not in a bad way, but in a way that encourages you to keep sipping. It may not be as sharp and focused as your average Jerez Fino, but serve this chilled and you could drink it by the bucket load.


Average age of 35 years; 10 years under flor followed by 25 years of oxidative aging. No fortification, shows an alcohol level of 21%.
Plenty going on the nose: initial impact is very nutty, think roasted almonds and hazelnuts, with polished wood and lacquer tones, hints of cloves and nutmeg too, some rancio. Oxidative wood aging clearly shows and done very well, to me it smells of Christmas without the dried fruits. On the palate, its heavier and generous; nutty and spicy (cinnamon, cloves, or thereabouts) flavours persist; hints of dried figs too, touch of salinity on the finish. Very well balanced.


At least 15 years of age, also unfortified.
Sweeter than the Amontillado on the nose; dried figs / quince and maybe caramel, with some clove, cinnamon and wood polish thrown into the mix. If the Amontillado was roasted (slightly salted) almonds, then the Oloroso would be honey coated roasted almonds. The sweetness lends more heft and mouthfeel on the palate and I feel the bit of sugar left in makes it a more versatile food match. Slightly chilled, this would make a fine accompaniment to cured meats, dried fruits, nuts and mature cheeses - a perfect Tapas wine.

Cream Pedro Ximenez

At least 10 years aging, a blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez.
Overtly sweet on the nose, with caramel and toffee, raisins and prunes, even chocolate and coffee coming through; not so much oxidative notes. On the palate, theres raisiny sweetness with some hints of nutty flavour too; sweet and lingering without being cloying, enough acidity to keep things going. Its not the most complex sweet sherry, but its balanced and very easy to enjoy. Serve chilled and it can be its own dessert, otherwise pair with creme brulee or chocolate and fruit combinations (thinking in particular of Sachertorte here) ...

Don PX 2010, Vino Dulce Natural

PX grapes are sun-dried after harvest to concentrate the sugars; the resultant raisins are lightly pressed. Fermentation is halted by the addition of neutral grape brandy. The resultant wine decants for at least one year in stainless steel tanks, then bottled without filtration. No oxidative aging.
Lots of raisin, prune and all kinds of dried fruits showing, with caramel and treacle - smells like Christmas Cake (brandy butter and all). Its so youthful it hardly shows any oxidative character, it smells like what it is - fortified raisin juice. The sweetness, all 464g/l residual sugar of it, shows quite powerfully and overwhelmingly on the palate. Its syrupy and heavy on the palate with just enough fruity acidity. Not the most complex, but this is unmistakably PX. A dessert on its own, drink chilled and wait for the sugar rush.

Don PX Gran Reserva 1983 

Single vintage PX, oxidatively aged in barrels until bottled for release.
Dark brown with golden hues, this is properly opaque. Aromas of coffee and dark chocolate dominates, with hints of sweet woody notes (sandalwood and mahogany) and touches of rancio, some raisins hiding behind all that. Palate still fruity with raisins and prunes, again evocative of Christmas Cake but this time doused in mocha, with notable treacle & burnt caramel notes, along with coffee and sweet licorice. Still very lively, generous mouthfeel and exceeding length - great effort indeed.

Don PX Seleccion 1962

Jet black in appearance with a dark amber rim, this is now the colour of espresso. The aromas of coffee and bitter chocolate are the dominant notes, with sweet wood and licorice too. These aromas follow though to the palate, strangely more reminiscent to me of sweet turkish coffee than sherry, its still fresh and persistent but lacks power; you might find some raisin characters if you try hard enough. Age has softened all the edges, everything is integrated and exudes a stately presence. A wine to savour and linger over.

A note on Toro Albala

Having been schooled in the ways of sherry mostly by producers from Jerez and Sanlucar de Barrameda, it was a delight in being able to taste a range of sherries from Montilla, and from no less an illustrious name as Toro Albala. The one previous encounter I've had with them is the Don PX Gran Reserva 1982, at the Taste of Gold tasting of the 2011 International Wine Challenge in London - I was impressed then, as I am impressed (perhaps even more so) now. These are very high quality and versatile wines, and given the guide prices I've been given, will be great value too. In fact, if aged PX is your thing, then might I suggest you look in envy at my old wine pal Tom Lewis aka Cambridge Wine Blogger who recently tasted a centuries' worth (almost anyway) of Toro Albala's PX, his blog post can be found here.

I have no idea where Toro Albala's sherries can be found in Singapore / Jakarta, but I'm sure their very friendly Asia Regional Manager, Sofia, can help you.

Bodega Toro Albala
Sofia Guindo Morales
Asia Regional Manager
+886 9 75479395

Sunday, 27 April 2014

WSA 2014 Part 1 - Cognac Audry

The 13th International Exhibition of Wines & Spirits Asia (WSA) 2014 trade fair was held in Singapore on the 8-11 April 2014. I spent two days at the trade-only fair and over the next few weeks will be writing up some of the wines (and spirits) which were particularly memorable. They appear on this blog in no particular order, except perhaps the order in which I fished out the tasting notes from my filing system.

First up is Cognac Audry, imported into Singapore by Wine Selection (contact details can be found at the bottom of this post) - pricing indicated is retail from Wine Selection, for a 70cl bottle, correct at time of writing.

Cognac Audry

Audry XO
40% abv | SGD$ 150

On the nose, sweet vanilla, wood varnish/lacquer and toffee apple, with honey too - smells fragrant, its on the sweeter side of things, wonderful volatiles too. Palate is mouthfilling with sweet notes of vanilla and dried fruits (apricots and peaches come to mind); smooth throughout the palate, nothing out of joint. Its rather lively for an XO, it has bags of flavour and character, which is more than you can say for your average insert-brand-name-here XO cognac. What is most unexpected to me is the length and persistence on the finish, we're talking minutes here - obvious high quality.

Audry Reserve Speciale
40% abv | SGD$ 172

Similar to the XO in the nose, except perhaps it has a tad more oakiness / wood varnish notes coming through; deeper notes of caramel, burnt sugar and mocha, just feels a bit heavier on the nose. Palate is similarly profiled, less fruity and tending instead to burnt sugar and sweet oak. Mouthfeel is wider and more generous than the XO, perhaps less exuberant but more width and heft. Long finish too.

Audry Memorial
42% | SGD$ 255

Lots more interesting volatile notes here, with wood polish and lacquer showing, along with vanilla and all kinds of spicy notes; quite heady aromas here - the intriguing kind that beckons you in for another sniff. Spicy notes come through on the palate along with a caramel sweetness; mouthfeel is settled but with a more pronounced grip. Long and very classy.

Audry Exception
43% | SGD$ 407

Prominent spice of wood polish/lacquer, sweet vanilla on the nose, along with roasted / toasted hazelnuts - its quite obvious that this Cognac has spent a rather long time in wood; if you try hard enough, maybe some dried fruits too but definitely in the dried figs/plum range than the earlier peaches/apricots. Audry's own tasting notes indicate 'hints of rancio' which I am very much in agreement, adds a another dimension to the aroma profile. Spicy with a decent grip (note the slightly higher abv) with some wood tannins showing. Such poise and panache on the palate, generous and rich with caramel and spice coming through; persistently lingering (and surprisingly fruity) finish, just goes on and on and on. Exceptional, worthy of its name.  

A word on the house itself - admittedly, I'd never heard of Cognac Audry prior to this, but a quick google search seems to suggest that among the Cognac world, they are generally held in high regard. Based on the four Cognacs I tasted, it is a reputation well-deserved. Both the XO and Reserve Speciale are blended from spirit between 18-22 years old, the Memorial and Exception between 40-50 years old which is simply staggering. Its certainly a far cry from the financially-driven big name brand Cognacs commonly found in the market. 'Proper' and 'aristocratic' are two words I'd use to describe Audry, which granted is a rather strange descriptor for a beverage, but it conveys a certain sense of presence these Cognacs have.

Make no mistake, these are serious Cognacs and from the retail prices I've been given, rather excellent value for money too. These past weeks has seen the release of the 2013 Bordeaux en-primeur prices, an annual spectacle sure to arouse strong opinions from wine professionals - lets put it this way, per bottle, the Audry Exception costs less than most First Growth Bordeaux (and unlike its Bordelais friends, the Audrys are ready to enjoy now). That said, personally for me, the XO is the one that I'd spend my money on. Dont all rush in at once ...

Wine Selection
Sales Manager: Ghislain Moret (sales[at]
Tel: +65 83323069
Citimac Building, 605A MacPherson Road #08-03G, Singapore 368240
Facebook page:

For the record, Wine Selection also has an interesting selection of what seems like exclusively French wines, with particular emphasis on the stalwarts of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone. Their selection of Bordeaux below the SGD$50 mark focuses on lesser known, smaller producers are certainly worth a punt.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Johnnie Walker Spice Road

Johnnie Walker Spice Road
March 2013

Launched in late 2012, the Spice Road is the first of three blends in Johnnie Walker's new Trade Routes Series of whiskies. Part of their Explorers' Club Collection, these three whiskies are supposedly only available exclusively on Global Travel Retail (thats duty free shopping in airports, to you and me). I picked up my bottle in March 2012 in Singapore Changi International Airport.

Johnnie Walker Explorers' Club Collection 'The Spice Road'
SGD$52.50 (1 litre) | A-

40% abv. Deep golden amber in colour, its visibly darker than your average JW. Off the bat, sweet oak vanilla aromas coming through; caramel, treacle and fudge also to the fore, then followed by sweet spices (mostly cinnamon and nutmeg); smells quite volatile for its abv (or that could be the rather hot 'room temperature' here in Singapore). Sweetness carries through to the palate, with a satisfying fruity hit in the beginning; the cinnamon/clove-like spice along with slightly woody barbecued but sweet smokiness really kicks in on the mid palate, and is the dominating flavour on the finish. Smooth, very clean on the palate, doesnt have the lingering power or depth but is surprisingly long on the finish. Yes, the name is slightly gimicky but I think its still very well-made, attractive, and relatively good value - I'll be buying another ...  

Note to Johnnie Walker: Whats with the screwtop closures with in-built steady pourers? It doesnt give me the characteristic and very warming 'pop' sound that the cork closures do ... We taste with all our senses, no?