Updated: 12th January 2004

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WineTasters event - Tasting Reports on recent Wine events - active "Wine Mart"

presented by
INDOGUNA & BLU RESTAURANT (Shangri-La Hotel Singapore)
hosted by

KEVIN O'BRIEN, owner & winemaker
Sunday, 04th January 2004

Kevin O'Brien realised his dream when a choice patch of established vineyards were offered in the cool climate region of McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide, Australia. He grabbed the opportunity & established KANGARILLA ROAD, with a view to produce excellent wines at reasonable prices. This aim is being realised when major wine critics from both sides of the Atlantic, Robert Parker & Decanter magazine, awarded high ratings for his wines.

As part of a worldwind tour, he stopped over in Singapore to host this dinner at Shangri-La's fine dining restaurant. Diane Tan, one of Singapore's upcoming sommeliers, took charge at this dinner at BLU. With a commanding view of Singapore's prime districts at 6pm, we sampled the wines, on their own, before proceeding to match them with a specially prepared menu by the resident chef.

A burst of vibrantly fresh aromas of green apples & pear greeted every guest as the 2002 Viognier ($32) was poured as the welcome drink. Viognier is the current hot favourite white wine in Australia but have always been the Rhone Valley's best kept secret. Grown mainly in the Northern Rhone Valley, this varietal have always added white fruit flavours & a certain elegance to top Syrahs. This left precious little to be made into white wine, which were quickly consumed by the locals, leaving little for export, if at all, at high, high prices.

A small quantity of Viognier have long been planted in Australia. Due to the small quantity, little marketing was done to promote this varietal. Where they were produced as a white wine, local demand absorbed all.

Similarly unawares is the blending of Viognier into Shiraz wines. The rush to produce blockbuster Shiraz meant leaving out the softening effects of Viognier, although those seeking elegance in their Shirazes found them among a handful of producers, who have always blended Viognier into their Shiraz. Kangarilla Road could be leading the trend to produce elegant cool climate Shiraz using this white varietal in the blend.

To this end, Mr. O'Brien lovingly hand-carried bottles of his recently bottled 2002 Shiraz Viognier ($??) to the benefit of those attending this dinner event. Tasting this wine side-by-side with his regular Australian-styled 2001 Shiraz showed the secret of Viognier in the blend. The Shiraz Viognier had lifted vibrancy & enticing aromatic flavours of pear intermingling easily with the heavier red fruit flavours of Shiraz. The Viognier brought this Shiraz to a more complex level, dancing merrily on your palate rather than sit heavily on it. The winemaking technique for this wine is also quite special. With a tiny window of opportunity, when the Viognier reaches optimum maturity, both grapes are harvested at the same time and co-blended 92%-8% & fermented together. This technique that requires passionate timing but the resulting wine fully justifies the higher price.

The 2001 Shiraz ($33) was also not a heavy Shiraz being sourced from a cool climate region. It offered restrained expression of ripe fruit & very soft tannins making this wine ready to drink now.

However, before the reds, we were treated to a well-made elegant 2003 Chardonnay ($32). Light on the oak to express the completely ripe fruit flavours of quince with balanced acidity. This is a drinking Chardonnay that is very fine on its own.

The final wine, 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($33), was overshadowed by the earlier wines. I feel that McLaren Vale does not have the right microclimate to produce distinctive Cabernets. These Cabernet wines are well-made & quite drinkable but lack the ability to shine with terrior distinctiveness or a backbone to handle heavy meats or strong cheeses.

After sunset, we settled down to dinner.

Gascon Foie Gras with Sauternes, dried apricot & lavender brioche was a terrine-like portion of goose liver that started off the dinner to match the 2002 Viognier. In a terrine, the foie gras was less rich, thus did not really require a sweet wine with high acidity. Thus, the Viognier did nicely to complement this dish.

Next, came a very fragrantly fresh Maine lobster risotto that match easily with the Chardonnay. Neither enhanced the other but both went along pleasantly. I tried the Viognier with this dish, which was similarly pleasant but chewing the mint-leaf with it, caused a hightened refreshing sensation of a morning's toothbrushing session.

The 2001 Shiraz was matched with Virginia Lamb Loin that was overpowered with cumin. Being a cool-climate Shiraz, it lacked the power to subdue to spice.

The second meat dish of roasted squab breast with bitter chocolate jus was more invitingly matched with a 2001 Shiraz Viognier ($42). I would have preferred the fresher 2002 which should lift this dish but unfortunately, the sampling demand was so high that there were none left for dinner.

A triple cream blue brie was served with the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon and excellent toasted brown bread. Another easy-going match that wasn't notable or exceptional.

Tea or Coffee was served with a palate-cleansing French passionfruit mousse & jelly with Greek yoghurt cake and Sicilian pistachio ice cream.

HappyVines.com hope to secure a small allocation of these wines for our ONLINE offering. Otherwise, please contact BACCHUS (basement of Paragon) to purchase these most interesting wines.