Friday, April 18, 2008

2008 Bordeaux Field Trip Series: 2007 Sauternes Tasting

In the south of Bordeaux region and on both sides of the Garonne River lies a collection of liquoreux appellations. They are known for producing sweet wine wines from noble rotten grapes. The unique climate here is assisted by the cold waters from a smaller river, the Ciron. In autumn, cold water from the Ciron River will meet with the warm waters from the Garonne River, creating foggy mornings followed by sunny afternoons. Such an environment encourages the growth of a mold called Botrytis Cinerea which depletes the water content in the grapes and concentrates the natural sugar levels. The resultant juice of noble-rot grapes is syrupy with high sugar content with a matching high level of acidity, allowing it to age for than 50 years in some of the best vintages. Not all the grapes will be affected by noble-rot evenly, sometimes different from vine to vine and even from one grape to another. Harvesting is time consuming and often low yield. It is common for vineyards to perform multiple picking (called ‘trie’ in French). To give an idea of how small the yield can be, it is about a glass of wine per vine. The picture on the left showed a bunch of grapes that are affected by noble rot.

Chateau Suduirant
Built around 1670, Chateau Suduiraut is located on the southern end of Pregnac, just next to Chateau d’Yquem. The vineyard is about 40-50m above sea level, planting mostly Semillon (92%) and Sauvignon Blanc (8%). Fermentation is done in stainless steel tank and aged in oak barrels. For the Semillon, aging is done in new oak barrels whereas the Sauvignon Blanc is aged in used barrels so as to preserve the freshness of the fruits. Cryoextraction is sometimes used to freeze the grapes upon harvest, especially when the weather condition (e.g imminent rain) is unfavourable during harvesting.
2007 Vintage
This wine has a blend of 90% Semillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle. Alcohol level 13.8% and residual sugar of 130g/L. In Suduiraut, 5 pickings were performed during harvesting (usually 3 in the past years). The wine has a nice amber color, concentrated nose of ripe apricot. Upon tasting, it has layers of peach and mango flavours balanced by the fruit acidity. Fresh and clean palate, very expressive of the fruits. This young vintage has a huge aging potential, perhaps in excess of 20 years.

Chateau La Tour Blanche
Believed to be established in the 18th century, the estate was named after Jean de Latourblance, Louis XVI’s treasurer. The vineyard sits on the hill overlooking the Ciron River, planted primarily white grapes and a small quantity (~38 ha) of red grapes. Fermentation is done in wooden vats and aged in 100% new oak barrels for 16-18 months prior bottling. The almost unheard of red wine from this vineyard is called Cru de Cinquet. There is also the dry white called Les Jardins de Thinoy. This Chateau has probably the most interesting portfolio of wines among the Premier Crus Classes in Sauternes. We have the honour of having our lunch in this Chateau with a carefully designed menu of food and wine pairing, ranging from dry white to dessert wines for each dish. There is however no specific tasting of the 2007 vintage but the 2002 gives us an idea of what the style of wine from this Chateau.
2002 Vintage
Made with 80% Semillon, 18% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle, this wine has an attractive ripe pineapple and honey nose, orange flavour on the palate with medium length finish. Very refreshing indeed, with an aging potential of perhaps another 5-8 years.

Chateau d’Yquem
The best known and probably the most expensive vineyard in Bordeaux, its origins was dated back 1593 and it was acquired by LVMH in 1996. Quality control is strict and not every vintage wine is available. An aged d’Yquem wine has a lovely burnished gold color, sweet and unctuous and still astonishingly fresh. The vineyard is about 100 ha, planted with 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. During harvest, the vineyard may use as many as 200 pickers to select the grapes for vinification. Its 2003 vintage is believed to be one of the best in its record as the climate conditions are almost perfect for the Botrytis.
2004 Vintage
An intense honey nose with subtle layers of citrus fruits. This is further accentuated with the flavours of lemon and pear. A velvet palate balanced with fruit acidity, long lasting finish. An elegant wine with great finesses and longevity.

Chateau Guiraud
Just like many vineyards in Bordeaux, this estate has gone through several ownerships. It was during the 1980s that Guiraud grew from strength to strength under the stewardship of the Narpy family, producing very fine vintages. The estate has about 100 ha of vines, 85% is dedicated to producing the premier crus sweet wines and the remaining 15% is for the making of the dry white, named G de Chateau Guiraud (Sauvignon Blanc).
2007 Vintage
Amber yellow in color. Intense aroma of apricot fruits and notes of honey. Sweet and smooth in the mouth balanced by the refreshing fruit acidity. Youthful and refreshing with a lingering finish. Great aging potential of at least 15 years.

The 2007 vintage is blessed with a good climatic condition, giving the vineyards both quality and quantity. Noble rot set onto the grapes with no complication and the wines are in general, deliciously juicy and honey like, yet balanced with a refreshing fruit acidity. The latter is greatly assisted by the Sauvignon Blanc which adds to the mineral character of wines. A year to be celebrated for its finesse and longevity.

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

2008 Bordeaux Field Trip Series: 2007 Single Variety Tasting

I have just returned from a one week field trip with Institute Master Wine at Bordeaux. This time, we visited a total of 13 classified growth Chateaux, attended a morning session with the world renowned Oenologist Professeur Denis Dubourdieu, tasted multiple vintages in each Chateau and of course assessing 2007 as well! I was told that the first weeks of April belong to the world famous wine writers who will be assessing the wines in Bordeaux and negociants will be eager to work out the price of the en primers with the Chateaux owners for the consumers. I decided to put together a report for some of the highlights in the trip, especially those that will help us determine our future purchasing. The first in this series is the 2007 Single Variety Tasting conducted by Professeur Dubourdieu at the Universite de Bordeaux.

First, the 2007 climate is very different from that of 2005 which was lauded as the most successful year in Bordeaux for decades. Indeed, 2007 is more like the usual Bordeaux climate where rainfall can be excessive at times. While in other parts of the world where draught posed a threat to viticulture, Bordeaux has perhaps a little too much water. For 2007, there is abundant water in the grapes growing season, encourages more vegetative growth. Although this is mediated by crop management tactics, the excessive water can only be drained away (for gravel) or blocked 'away' (by clayey soil), depending on the soil type. In the Medoc region, red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are grown best on gravel soils where water drainage is most effective while Merlot is best on clayey soils where water stress is minimum. In order to discover how each grape variety reacts to the 2007 climate, we have the honour to taste the above single variety wines made by Prof Denis Dubourdieu and to acquire an educated opinion of the general 2007 Bordeaux in the Medoc region:

2007 Merlot
Deep purple color with a nose of berries laced with youthful leafy nuances. Medium-full bodied with a jammy flavor, liquorice and velvet tannins. Will provide finesse and flavour to the blend.
2007 Cabernet Franc
Purple ruby color with a green leafy nose. Pronounced acidity that is refreshing but feel little tannins in the palate. Rather single dimensional and will probably KIV in deciding its role in the final blending.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Attractively deep purple color with intense red and black fruits laced with a leafy nose. There are traces of smokiness and jam in the flavour. Velvety tannins and a firm finishing. Structured and delightfully approachable.
2007 Petit Verdot
Very deep purple color. A nose of fresh fruits and spices that is attractively unique. High tannins with firm acidity. This is a multi-dimension profile which will add complexity to the final blend.

2007 Bordeaux Blend (Red)
Having tasted the individual variety, it is not difficult to imagine that Cabernet Franc will play a much smaller role in the final blending. It is therefore not surprising to see the blending ratio: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 18% Petit Verdot. This is probably by far the highest percentage of Petit Verdot used in a Bordeaux wine! The final wine has a complex nose of berries and spices, flavours of liquorice and smokiness, balanced with fruit acidity and a firm finish that will help the wine to mature over the next 5-10 years. An early maturity wine that has a good structure and finesse.

2007 Semillon
Pale yellow with a delicate aroma of fresh apricot and white peach. Sweet smooth entry balanced with fresh acidity and a long finish. Delicate and yet refreshing. This wine exuberates finesse and power. The grapes are planted on limestones which give the acidity by saturating calcium with the clay.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc
Pale yellow with aroma of passion fruit laced with green leafy notes. Probably higher acidity than the Semillon. It has a mineral finish that gives a “kick” to the palate. The grapes are also planted on limestones which are famous for contributing to the acidity and mineral flavours in wines.

2007 Bordeaux Blend (White)
The final blend is a beauty indeed. Pale yellow in color, it has a beautiful nose of peaches and apricot, nice refreshing minty flavours. Smooth in the mouth and has a long mineral finish. I was told that the wine was on lees for 10 months, individual grape variety wines were aged in 1-year old barrel separately before blending. There is definitely more proportion of Semillon in this blend.
The 2007 Red Bordeaux is quite similar to the 2004 vintage, more of a classical expression of the Bordeaux climate. If the winemakers of other Chateaux also have a similar experience on the Petit Verdot, 2007 may mark the year where this variety has a major influence in the final wine character. The 2007 White Bordeaux is by far an outstanding beauty, especially with the more attractive Semillon in the blend. Juicy and yet refreshing, it could outshine its Red counterparts! With these results, I will also watch out for the delicious sweet wines at Sauternes and Barsac :)

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd


Monday, December 24, 2007

Ways of opening a bottle of Champagne

Broadly speaking, there are two methods of opening a Champagne bottle: the messy way and the proper way. The messy way is to shake the bottle to build up the bubbles within the neck space of the bottle and make a splash when the cork is removed. The other way is to do it like a craftsman and uncork the Champagne in style with safety in mind. The pressure that shot the cork out of the bottle is almost 3X your tyre pressure. It can blind one’s eye if the cork is shot directly into the eye.

So, let me describe the most common methods of safely opening a Champagne bottle. Of course, before opening the Champagne, it must be chilled and is at its serving temperature (10C-12C).

Without splashing
This traditional and least exciting method is to ensure that the cork is being removed in the most controlled condition.
1) Remove the paper seal from the bottle opening and the neck. You can peel it off rather easily using the extended edge of the seal designed for this purpose.
2) After removing the paper seal, it is time to remove the wire cage. From this point onward, your left palm should be over the cork as a precaution and the bottle should be pointed to a safe direction even though the cork is not loosened yet.
3) After removing the wire cage, hold the bottle bottom with your right hand and cover the cork and bottle opening with your left palm (if you are right-handed). Make sure that both your hands are firmly held onto the bottle. Now, you can use your right hand to gently rotate the bottle clockwise to loosen the cork.

The cork should be released from the bottle with a whoof sound and will not fly off to hit any objects. All this while, your left palm is firmly covering the bottle opening and the cork will now sit safely in your left palm.

With a sabre - Sabre à Champagne
This method is ceremonial and fun. You should only do this when there is an open space, preferably in a garden party or a ballroom with high ceiling. The equipment you need is a sword and a bottle of chilled Champagne. If the Champagne is not chilled (above 13C), le sabrage can be dangerous. This art of opening builds on the fact that carbon dioxide gas is most stable at temperature between -56C and 20C. If the Champagne bottle has been left in room temperature (in Singapore context, it will be 28C -35C), some carbon dioxide may be in liquid form and sabrage will leave behind undesired glass debris. Therefore, chill the Champagne to 10C before preparing for sabrage.

Once the Champagne is taken out from its cool storage, use a piece of clean cloth to wipe away the condensation so that you will have a firm grip of the bottle. Next, remove the paper seal and wire cage at the cork as described above. Now, locate the crease along the side of the bottle. This is where two halves of the bottle meets. Notice that the crease goes all the way to the lips of the bottle opening. This part of the lips is the weakest and we will be striking at this point later.

Next, hold the bottle firmly with your left hand (if you are right handed) and hold the sword with your right hand. Point the bottle to a safe position (@45C elevation from ground) and position the sword with the blunt side of the blade against the crease of the lips. Practice a few strokes with the sword gliding down the seam towards the lips of the bottle with applying force. Once you feel confident, slide down the sword along the crease towards the lips with a firm strike. As long as the bottle is chilled and you are applying the appropriate amount of force upon strike, the neck of the bottle will break easily with a gush of Champagne flowing out from the bottle, clearing away any glass debris.

You will pour the first glass into a clear Champagne flute and check to make sure that there is no floating glass pieces. Once this is confirmed, normal serving can proceed.

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

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Friday, December 21, 2007

How to tell a wine is spoiled? – Part 2

With increased interest in wine spoilage, I thought it is timely to give a brief overview on how to determine if the wine is of good quality and if it is spoiled. The basic steps in assessing a wine are as follows: Appearance, Nose and Palate. This is generally applied to a wine that has been poured into a glass and the drinker will focus on these three aspects of the wine. However, when you are in a restaurant or at your own home hosting a dinner party for instance, it may be a little late to figure out if the wine is spoiled after pouring it into the glass. After all, you do not want to be seen serving bad wines. So, there are some simple observations prior the standard 3-step assessment technique.

First, before removing the bottle seal, observe the general appearance of the bottle. If there are wine stains originating from the opening of the bottle, especially if the seal is damp, we can almost be sure that the wine has been exposed to oxygen either due to poor storage condition or the use of poor quality cork. In the case of screw-cap, it may be rare to see this but if there is slippages of wine through the cap, it means either the bottling machine or the glass bottle is not made to specification.

Second, check the level of the cork at the bottle opening. If the cork has been lifted a little, i.e if it is not sitting flat in the bottle opening, it strongly suggest bad storage condition e.g the wine may have been stored in a warm room over an extended period of time. The result could be an oxidized wine and you can pick up the wet cardboard smell upon nosing.

Third, look for the condition of the label on the wine bottle. If the label is crumbled and is not pasted onto the surface properly, it again suggests that the bottle has gone through some temperature swing from warm to cold and vice versa. This alone does not suggest that the wine is spoiled, just that the wine has not been treated with proper care during its shelf life.

Once you are satisfied that the exterior is looking good, we can at least be confident that the wine has been handled properly thus far. The next step is of course to open the bottle and pour a small portion into the appropriate wine glass. The first thing is to study the color and the clarity of the wine. If a wine is too light in color (for a young Red wine) or if it is excessively brown (for a young white wine), it may suggest an inappropriate application of sulfur dioxide. However, the appearance is not conclusive and is only a data point to be considered in subsequent tasting. Clarity is important. If the wine is murky, it is generally not a promising start, especially in white wine. There are some winemakers who opt not to filter their wine (especially Red wine) but the wine should not look murky.

To nose for any spoilage, you will be looking out for odd odors such as rotten eggs or garlic (H2S), bandaid (Brettanomyces), wet cardboard (oxidation), corn chips or metallic bitter finish (high pH wines), moldy or musty (cork taint), nail polish or vinegar (high volatile acidity). Most of these are a result of poor winemaking techniques or barrel storage conditions. However, oxidation may be a result of poor transportation or storage conditions especially when loads of wines are being transported in un-refrigerated container by sea over summer. The heat in the ship storage area over an extended period of time may have the corks expanded and not sit properly in the bottle opening.

As for the palate, a spoiled wine normally gives a SHARP attack to our taste buds or leave behind a trail of very unpleasant finishing. Wines with high volatile acidity will attack our throat like we have just had a mouthful of vinegar. Unusual bitterness is also an indication of spoiled wine, suggesting the presence of spoilage micro-organisms when the wine pH is too high.
In general, a wine is safe-guarded by observing an acceptable range of pH, acidity, alcohol and sulfur dioxide. Unfortunately, during the winemaking process, infections can occur if equipments are not sanitized carefully, storage conditions are not proper. Even if the wine is of good quality upon bottling, transportation and cellaring conditions can also affect the final quality.

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By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chilling white wines with salt?

Last weekend, I was hosting a party at home and some of my guests decided to arrive earlier to help me in my preparation. I suddenly realized that I am racing against time to cool down the white wines. Then, I remembered my college Physics about how salt will lower the freezing point of water (don’t ask why I thought of Physics in the middle of cooking), I quickly emptied half a packet of salt (the small packet that you can find from Cold Storage) into three wine buckets filled with ice cubes and some water. I left the 4th bucket with just ice cubes and water. With two digital thermometers that are always there to ensure that the wines are served at the ideal temperatures, I asked my guest take readings of the temperature of the two buckets – with and without salt. The results seem to prove that this theory has a direct application in this occasion. Here’s how it works:

First, we must all agree that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees C). So, those ice cubes we have in the bucket are supposed to be at the water freezing point. When salt is sprinkled onto the ice cube and water mixture, it lowers the freezing point of the mixture to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. So, ice cubes will begin to melt. As the salt water is diluted in the process, the freezing point start to rise and the water will refreeze but this time, the equilibrium temperature is lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Theoretically, the more salt we add, the lower the equilibrium temperature.

Now, back to our ice bucket experiment. I asked my guest to take temperature readings of the two different buckets in an interval of 1 minute for 10 minutes to get a statistical representation. The salted water bucket has an overall lower temperature than the unsalted water bucket. The delta is about 2 degrees C, and what impact does it have on the wine bottles? I suppose the ‘salt water bucketed’ white wine will be cooler than the ‘unsalt water bucketed’ white wine. Well, my guests seem to agree and we used up all the salt in my kitchen throughout the night!

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By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd


Pairing wine with Cantonese Cuisine

I have enjoyed thoroughly speaking in my recent wine event in Hong Kong. I have a wonderfully inquisitive audience and great companionship. We tasted altogether 8 wine labels, each with its own unique palate. The wines were selected to match with the food and its cooking style. As we know that Asian cuisine uses a large variety of herbs and spices, in addition to sauces made from dried plants or preserved meat, it is sometimes difficult to tell apart the quality of meat from the sauces used. With this in mind, I specially requested the chef to modify two of his dishes to accommodate a ‘minimum interference’ cooking style that I miss so much in restaurants these days.

It is a 10 course seafood dinner, cooked in the traditional Cantonese style that uses a fair bit of reduced meat soup to enhance the umami of the dishes. The rule of pairing utilizes two basic principles – a) to complement and b) to contrast.

Chinese culture is all about achieving a harmonious balance and it is most decorated in the use of ingredients in many Chinese cuisines. Wine can be considered an ingredient or a dish companion. In both cases, the objective is to achieve a balance in the palate. While most of the food and wine pairing focuses on using wines from different regions to be paired with a selection of dishes, I decided to introduce my favourite wine into both the food and as a pairing companion. Below is the highlights of the pairing given the limited space in this blog.

Sherry and Pan-fried Scallops
Sherry is my all time favourite aperitif and apart from drinking, Sherry is also versatile enough to be included in cooking. There are many recipes involving Sherry but the one I like best is to use a dry Sherry in pan-fried fresh scallops, sautéed with butter, salt and pepper. This is a simple and yet delicious dish that never fails to impress. The complementary wine is none other than the Fino Sherry which is dry with balanced acidity. The yeasty nose blends well with the flavour of the food.

Chablis and Braised Shark Fins Soup
A well aged Chablis Grand Cru has a complex aroma, sometimes smoky and has a long, mouth-watering finish. However, young Chablis may express the mineral and acidic aromas more explicitly and this is reflected in the Chablis we drink during the dinner - Grand Cru "Bougros" from William Fevre 2004, The wine has a very pleasant pale, green-tinged hue that immediately suggests vitality. The nose is mineral and clean, flavour is fresh, sappy with balanced acidity and a great savoury feel in the month. The finishing is of medium length and is very pleasant. The level of acidity is just perfect for the Shark Fins soup, giving the palate a refresh taste by cutting through the texture of the shark fins and its braised sauce. This is a good example of a contrast pairing.

Sauvignon Blanc and Steamed Fish
Cloudy Bay has put New Zealand onto the wine map with its Sauvignon Blanc. The Hong Kong style steamed fish uses soya sauce (diluted with some sugar), ginger and spring onions. There is sufficient umami in the dish and I am willing to use this fruity Sauvignon Blanc to match with it. Voila! The combination is magical as the tropical, less acidic wine brings out the freshness of the fish in a complementary manner.

Bordeaux and Braised Abalone
The emergence of second growths and second labels in Bordeaux are capable of challenging the First Growths in quality. Chateau Lascombes is a good example of a great Second Growth in the Margaux region. Although Lascombes is on the left bank, it deviates from the usual Bordeaux blend in terms of the grape variety apportionment. It uses a blend of 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. The higher proportion of Merlot soften the palate of this wine, giving it a smooth texture. The nose is the usual black berries and cassis but the tannin is smooth and almost sweet. It is a medium bodied wine that is easy to match with almost any food. The braised abalone is very well prepared, soft on the inside and smooth on the outside. The wine simply integrates into the food seamlessly, bringing out the sweetness of the abalone.

Auslese and Birds Nest
I have chosen an Auslese wine to pair with the Chilled sago cream and Birds Nest egg tart to ensure that the wine is just slightly sweeter than the desserts but not overpowering it. Selbach-Oster Riesling Auslese Zetling Schlossberg 2005 was selected for its youthfulness, a tribute to the daughter of our host. It has abundant fruit aromas, probably apple and citrus fruits. The palate is lightly oily, reminds me of honey and caramel. There is a tiny hint of bittersweet at the back palate which makes it a complex wine. The finishing is long and elegant. Traditional Chinese desserts are medium sweet and it is important that the wines we select will do justice to the combined palate. I was a little hesitant when I first know that we will have chilled sago with mango and pomelo as the latter contributes a bitter taste to the combination and if the wine is of lesser quality, the bitterness in the dessert will bring out the flatness in the dessert wine. Fortunately, the wine stands the test with its complex palate and has been a perfect companion thus far.

Overall, the food and wine pairing revolves around the theme of complementary principles mirroring the works of great Chinese philosophers. It is with complementary strengths that the result turns out to be better than consuming the food and wine separately. As with most episodes in life, this is a good chapter in our long journey of gourmet exploration.

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By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Effects of Global Warming on Champagne

There has been much talk about global warming and its effects on our environment. It manifests in the form of climate change with rising temperature in many parts of the world, occurrence of draughts and unpredicted rainfall patterns. Food and beverages that we consumed will be amongst the first to experience this change as the health of agriculture and crops are the timely thermometers. Indeed, in agriculture science, vines are found to be most sensitive to climate change. So, for those of us who enjoy the fabulous fermented grape juice, we will be first to know how global warming is affecting even the little pleasure in life.

Amongst all the grape varieties, pinot noir is the most delicate and temperamental, although once the winemaker gets it right, the wine can be unforgettable. This grape is an important contributor to Champagne, in addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Pinot Noir gives the wine an additional degree of complexity with an enhanced fruit character and when blended with Chardonnay, the heady aroma of baked apple and yeast can be a mouth watering experience.

So, what will happen when global warming sets in and will we still have the same style of champagne that we are so in loved with? While I am still researching on the viticulture impacts and possible solutions to champagne makers, I would like to ask the readers a few questions about your ideal champagne style and hopefully, using some of these feedback to mitigate the impact of climate change on our future champagne:

a. Based on your memory and tasting experience, what qualities are you looking for when drinking champagne?
b. What is the ideal style of champagne for you?
c. One of the possible effects of global warming on champagne production is that the wine may have a higher alcohol level. Is this something that you can accept?
d. If one day, Champagne decides to certify another region (Europe or Asia) to be its extended champagne production region, will you be willing to try the new wine (assuming the price offered is within 20% of the original champagne label of your choice)?

Please feel free to reply to this article via or you can simply reply to this blog.

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By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte (Singapore) Ltd


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wine @ Cambodge

When I was invited to attend a spa opening in Cambodge (Cambodia written in French), I thought it is a great opportunity to practice my limited French after 15 weeks of elementary lessons. We (my husband too!) went onto the plane with my everyday French handbook and an intense curiosity since it is our first trip to this ex-French colony.

Our stop is Phnom Penh which is the capital city of Cambodge with about 2 million people. It is known for its French influenced architecture. Indeed, we saw a number of French styled buildings along the way from the airport to the hotel. It is a busy city - the traffic is heavy, populated by MPVs intertwined with motorcyclists carrying 3 to 4 piller riders. People are busy going about their everyday business. The preferred currency is US dollars for all forms of transactions, including buying food from the wet market.

We have a great host who filled our schedule with various site seeing and lots of great food. There are a number of French eateries in Phnom Penh but they are not exactly in authentic French style. I think it is due to the lack of suitable ingredients and the need to make it affordable. Service is great and unpretentious. We had almost non-stop dining throughout the 2 days of stay. As most of the guests in this trip do not drink wine, I have to settle with the wine-by-glass menu available.

Since I wanted to practice French, I decided to speak to a waitress with my ‘elementary’ accent to order my meal. It is probably my most interesting experience because she made it a point to correct my pronunciation and grammar! I did get my food right and she took the order with due diligence. Finally, when I wanted to ask for the label of the wine-by-glass menu, I realized I have run out of vocabulary. So, I just settled for a glass of white wine without knowing where it comes from.

To my relief, the wine turns out to be of reasonable quality. It is a blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, probably from South Africa. The chardonnay adds body to the wine which is rather short in length. However, it is a nice aperitif, especially after much hard work in getting my order pronounced properly. The dinner concluded with much laughter and joy.

C’est des vacances fantastiques!

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By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd


Why are there rose bushes in vineyards?

We just came back from a vacation in Margaret River and as usual, there are so many locations to visit with great food & wine awaiting us.

A friend of mine commented on the beautiful rose bushes that appeared at the end of vineyard rows while looking through my photographs. They are planted not just for aesthetic reason though. Both roses and grape vines are susceptible to the same diseases. Indeed, roses act as early warning of mildew which is a fungal disease. There are two main kinds of mildews: Powdery mildew (Oidium) which develops on all green parts of the vine. We can see white powdery growth of spores on the surfaces. If this mildew sets on the grapes, the fruit will not grow properly and will eventually split and rot. This fungus likes warm and shady environment and does not need a damp condition to survive.

The second deadly mildew is called Downy mildew which was brought over from American to Europe in the 19th century. It attacks all the green parts of the vine and leave behind patches of oily stains on the surface. Once attacked, the leaves will drop and photosynthesis inhibited. This fungus likes damp condition unlike that of Oidium.

Both fungus diseases can be treated by sprays of sulphur (for powdery mildew) and copper sulphate + lime solution (for downy mildew) once detected. Rose bushes help the vineyard team to catch sights of the fungus disease in its early stage to apply the proper treatment. Systemic application of fungicides is quite commonly used these days to keep the vines from such diseases. Rose bushes in such cases serve a greater aesthetic function.

Also on the photo, the nesting over the vines is used to protect the plants from birds and other animal attacks. Birds like to eat ripe grapes and they have learned to ignore bird-scarers. Animals like deer, boar also like ripe grapes. Young vines are very attractive food for them too. Therefore, the nesting is used often as a form of protection.

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By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd