In many ways Singapore is the opposite to my beloved Hong Kong; clean, quiet and orderly with a much more ‘gentlemanly’ pace about life. I wouldn’t have spent the best part of a decade with BI if I didn’t enjoy a little chaos, but HK in the depths of summer is enough to test any man. Armed with 6 bottles of Montrachet and 2 linen shirts, I decided to get the hell out of dodge for a couple of days and catch up with my Singaporean colleagues, eat chicken rice and enjoy one of the best wine dinners this year.
One of the most recognised and valuable pieces of agricultural land in the world – ‘Montrachet’ –, is a symbol of prestige and quality. The vineyard, all 8 hectares of it, is situated pretty much evenly between the two villages of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. The wines from the Chassagne side of the vineyard are often referred to as ‘Le Montrachet’, the wines from the Puligny side as ‘Montrachet’. All in there are around 36 different producers bottling a Montrachet, making (roughly) a combined 3500 cases per year between them. The Chassagne side is divided up between some of the region’s biggest names; DRC, Lafon, Leflaive, Prieur to name but a few. The Puligny side, while home to both Ramonet and Bouchard is pretty much dominated by the Marquis de Laguiche, who owns around 2.06 hectares of vines. It is the largest, continuously owned plot in Montrachet. The family has owned land in the vineyard since the 18th century and since 1947 they have worked exclusively with Domaine Joseph Drouhin, who harvest, make and market the wines for them. The quality has been in the ascendancy for the last 25 years to the point that recent vintages genuinely compete with the greatest names from the vineyard; Ramonet, Lafon, Leflaive even the mighty DRC.
“Ange, I have a mini-vertical of Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche I could bring to Singapore with me. Reckon your clients will be up for it?”
2007 – Wow! I was not expecting that. Just half an hour or so in the decanter and already this is firing on all cylinders. Pure and perfumed on the nose with crisp, fresh minerality on the palate. Still a way to go but this is irresistible stuff already. It’s the weight that often distinguishes a Grand Cru from a 1er Cru, this is one of those wines that manages to be both powerful and intense as well as ethereal and effortless. Top notch stuff.
2003 – An absolute floozy. A lot more developed in all departments (no pun intended), the baked apple aromas just roll out of the glass. Plump and juicy on the palate, it’s no small wonder that this wine is all gone before dessert.
1998 – Now this is a lot more reserved; pretty much closed on the nose at first but it eventually opened up. Perhaps it’s going through an awkward phase; perhaps being stuffed in a bag and rattled down to Singapore from HK didn’t agree with it. After an hour or so it showed glimpses of perhaps what might have been. Or maybe it’s just not as good as some of the other stars on show. Tough company.
1996 – Premature oxidation is becoming a real nuisance for white Burgundy lovers – or ‘a fiasco’ according to Allen Meadows, especially the ’96 vintage. If there’s a chance that this bottle could be as good as it should be it’s worth rolling the dice. Bingo! It’s a good bottle. Bloody excellent in fact. In contrast to the ’98 this is expressive from the get go and just gets better and better. Nutty, creamy, intense but still so fresh. One of the best white Burgs I’ve had in ages. What was I so worried about? WOTN
1989 – Elegance is the first thing that strikes you. An older sibling to the ’07 perhaps? Fully mature where I’m sure it will hold for a good while. Considering ’89 is pre-purple patch for this wine it makes me wonder just how good the ’05 through to ’10 (and beyond) will be. Served between the ’96 and ’88 perhaps doesn’t do it justice; on any other night in any other company this would be the star.
1988 – Fully matured and absolutely delicious. An ever-so faint whiff of oxidation on the nose is quickly swallowed by waves of nutty, buttery notes. Beautifully round on the palate, the length is insane. Doesn’t quite match the ’96 in terms of balance and complexity but it’s up there with the ’03 in terms of sheer hedonistic pleasure. A great way to finish to the dinner.
A wise man once said that the mythology of a famous vineyard can often be greater than the wine it actually produces. In the case of Drouhin’s Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche and on the evidence of the 6 vintages, spanning three decades that we drank, this is one wine that does not disappoint.
Hats off to Chef Francois Mermilliod and his team at Bar A Thym for a simple yet sublime menu (his restaurant is well worth a visit) and a big thank you to my colleagues Angelina and Suki. We set up BI Singapore a little over 5 years ago to the day. In that time it has become one of our greatest successes; like London, Hong Kong or LA it would be nothing without our loyal customers and the hard work and dedication of our staff. Here’s to you!