Bordeaux comes to Penang for an unforgettable night of wonderful wines

a bordeaux rendez-vous

At Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang’s oenophiles were recently feted to a night comprising 20 chateaux drawn from Bordeaux’s top 300 wines. Organised by wine merchant Milawa’s The Wine Shop and Bordeaux negociant Barriere Freres, the party was underlined by splendid hosting from the resort’s fine dining restaurant Feringgi Grill.

At this sixth edition of Bordeaux Rendezvous, guests enjoyed starters of seafood and sashimi, foie gras-topped appetisers, a bountiful salad bar and a resplendent cheese board that was laid out across the length of the wine cellar. Seared scallops were followed by a main course of roasted lamb cutlets or a beef rib-eye. All of this was specially calculated to match the remarkable range of wines which were presented that evening.

“Our motivation for this event is to connect the wineries of Bordeaux to the places we sell in the world,” says Laurent Ehrmann, the director general of Barriere Freres. “It’s important that we have the representatives – frequently the owners or winemakers from these wineries – to share their experience and heritage with various levels of consumers. By doing so, we show how a historically ‘closed’ wine region is, in fact, cool and open to the world.”

Ehrmann points out that while certain codes exist in winemaking, the challenge is to present a gallery of superstars – akin to staging a concert – where everyone rises to the occasion. “On my end, I try to find wineries that provide the largest palate of music possible and, in an event like this, we ensure that all the wineries offer that same prestigious experience.”

Over the clinking of glasses, many a story was exchanged by representatives of the chateaux and guests. Among them was the story of how the heart came to be the symbol of Chateau Calon Segur. The estate was owned by the 18th-century Nicolas-Alexandre the Marquis de Segur who also owned Bordeaux luminaries such as Latour, Lafite and Mouton. This Prince of the Vines, as was his nickname, declared that while he makes wine in Lafite and Latour, his heart is always at Calon. In the present day, the 2003 Chateau Calon Segur (RM550) reflects its strong gravelly and fine clay terroir tempered by gentle and soft winemaking, for an integrated taste of power and elegance.

Lucas Leclercq of Cheatu Lafon-Rochet, explained how its family owners have managed to preserve an historical terroir – despite the French revolution – which may be traced back five centuries. Its 2012 vintage (RM218) offers freshness and acidity on the palate, made from “grapes so good you want to eat it upon harvest,” says Leclercq. In Margaux, the thousand-year-old estate of Chateau Du Tertre occupies the highest point of elevation in this appellation. Graduating 27m above its contemporaries, the vineyard experiences a hotter soil which adds spice and sensuality to its Cabernet Franc harvest that forms the basis of its wines. Its 2006 vintage (RM238) is made to offer a gentle perfume and structure of red fruit flavours with good ageing potential.

Adding a sweet finish to the night was Chateau Guiraud with its magnificent Sauternes (RM130 for a 375ml bottle of its 2003 vintage). David Ornon, its brand ambassador, recounts the tiny cold river running through the appellation, bringing a fog that makes it favourable for the development of the ‘noble rot’; the botrytis fungus on grapes that concentrates the natural sugars in the grape berry without puncturing the skin. “This brings a unique medley of flavours such as pineapples, grapefruit and mangoes into the wine, something you would never find in regular white wine.” An added feather in the cap for Chateau Guiraud is its successful effort – a process which began in 1996 – to become a fully organic vineyard, with the 2011 vintage being the first certified vintage, the first and only Premier Grand Cru Classe of 1855 to have this recognition.

“To do this, we have had to eliminate pesticides, herbicides and all chemicals – with our vineyard management comprising biological measures,” Ornon says. “To accommodate these friendly predators which keep the harmful insects in check, we planted kilometres of different vegetation to bring food, protection and event keep their leaves for shelter in the winter.”

As the night drew to a close, and with guests nursing the dregs of their delicious wines, Leclerq offers his winemaker insights into the ingredients of good wine. “These are made when you feel something – a winemaker considers the weather, the people around him and listens to his own sensitivities. It takes years to attain this savoir faire to produce a very exact, pure and elegant vintage. In our chateau, we feel a certain magnetism of the people who have poured their soul and art into making great wines, and you will feel good there.”

Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang

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