Max Bordeaux / Marina Mendez

 

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Max Bordeaux / Marina Mendez

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theedge singapore november 7 2011 · op9 taking the snobbery out of fine wine the run-up in bordeaux wine prices over the last five years has made fine wine from the region unaffordable for many wine enthusiasts however at a revolutionary wine bar called maxbordeaux 48 top labels from bordeaux can now be appreciated in tasting portions it is user-friendly to those intimidated by the complicated french classification system and all those difficult-to-pronounce french names buy a tasting card which starts at 25 44 wander around the gallery and once you ve found a wine you d like to taste slot your card in and press a button on the enomatic wine dispenser like a kid in a candy store my eyes glazed over at the sight of legendary names of wines i had read about but never tasted under a high ceiling dangling with hundreds of wine glasses i began my drip trip with a small pour of château cheval blanc from st emilion next up was a château latour from pauillac followed by a château lafite rothschild currently the most expensive wine in the world rounding this off was a château palmer from margaux these were all from the 2007 vintage and allowed for a horizontal tasting of different producers in the same year the cheval blanc was a wine of great finesse but a bit of a disappointment as it finished with a slightly green taste the lafite rothschild was more promising but also seemed grassy at the edges the palmer came with a good nose but like the others showed that 2007 had been a difficult vintage for a sweet wine i opted for the château doisy daene instead of the fabled sauternes wine château y quem the doisy daene was beautifully balanced and not too heavy in sweetness which the y quem can be maxbordeaux which is the first wine gallery in the world to carry 48 bordeaux grands crus by the glass was recently rated top wine retailer by wine spectator the brainchild of wine trade professionals henning thoresen from norway and marina ann mendez from singapore it opened its doors in bordeaux city in october 2009 we started maxbordeaux because we wanted to make bordeaux s top wines accessible to everybody says mendez the first singaporean to graduate with a diploma in wine appreciation called the diplome universitaire d aptitude aÌ la deìgustation from universiteì victor segalen bordeaux 2 wines are sourced directly from the château and stored in a climate-controlled warehouse the wines are recently bottled vintages as older vintages would be too pricey however it allows wine enthusiasts the rare opportunity to try these exclusive wines before deciding whether to splash out on them it s like a maserati showroom where you showcase something people dream and aspire to have says hervé berland commercial director at château mouton rothschild maxbordeaux does it nicely positioning grands crus in luxury premises maxbordeaux gets about half its customers from the us and european markets with the balance from asia we have seen a big increase in asian visitors notes mendez adding that people often ask when maxbordeaux will open in their city expansion plans are taking off beginning with east asia in june maxbordeaux opened in taipei and on nov 1 it opened in tokyo similar galleries are being planned for london and singapore by sunita sue leng château margaux s veteran winemaker pontallier barton pouring wine for a tasting me through la lagune s state-ofthe-art vinification station which is so clean there is not a scrap of anything on the floor despite the harvest rolling in we meander on through the exquisite 18th-century mansion next door which is open for meals and short stays in the warm-hued kitchen lined with gleaming copper pots i am thrilled that i can finally swallow some top-notch wine instead of hurling it into a spittoon chef florian has whipped up a starter of delicately scrambled eggs with shellfish it is the exact balance of decadence and lightness that seduces you into forgetting about cholesterol and calories and it merges perfectly with the condrieu les cassines 2009 that moulin has selected this gold-coloured aromatic white wine comes from paul jaboulet aîné a rhone producer owned by the frey family which bought la lagune in 2000 the frey family s eldest daughter the young and beautiful oenologist caroline is la lagune s winemaker she works closely with moulin who has been with the château since 1972 and trained under the late emile peynaud who is credited for having revolutionised winemaking in france moulin explains that la lagune isn t about volumes its 82ha produce just 150,000 bottles a year one of the lowest yields among its peers in the decade since the frey family took over old vines have been replanted and 15 million 26.43 million has been invested in new vinification technology however it will be another 10 years before the young vines start producing and another 20 before volumes reach their annual target of 250,000 bottles this patience and attention to both the old and new ways sug gests that the la lagune brand has yet to achieve the recognition that comparable bordeaux third growths receive the potential is palpable in the moulin de la lagune 2005 the estate s second wine and flagship château la lagune 2007 which we are drinking with our main course of duck breast courgettes carrots and chantarelle mushrooms the latter is full-bodied and packed with tannins and yet leaves a graceful finish 2.30pm château margaux there is no lingering over our divine dessert of blueberry cream cake at la lagune as i have to be at château margaux in 15 minutes i am meeting paul pontallier general director at the revered premier cruestate an agricultural engineer with a doctorate in oenology he has been with the winery since 1983 and is credited with giving the famously perfumed wines of margaux power and structure outside the estate s stately 19th century château a busload of tourists is pouring onto the white gravel of margaux which is one the largest of the top-growth bordeaux estates i am taken to the tasting room via its vast cellars where the air is heavy with the scent of hundreds of new oak barrels for veteran winemaker pontallier the pace of change that the world of wine is undergoing is the fastest he has seen in years new markets are emerging in places such as eastern europe and brazil and there is china which has quickly risen to become margaux s single-largest market in 2010 margaux opened a representative office in hong kong to serve the greater china area making it the first among bordeaux s first growths to do so mouton rothschild s berland with the 2008 label painted by chinese artist xu lei i remember when the japanese first started to be interested in wine about 25 years ago says pontallier first they went for the brand but over time they learnt that wine is more complex and there are factors such as vintage i have no doubts that china will very quickly learn he adds meanwhile i am learning that the 2008 château margaux that we are tasting is going to be beautifully drinkable only in 10 years at the moment it is a bit overpowering on the palate the château s second wine pavillon rouge 2008 is less aggressive and has the lush fruitiness that comes with a higher dose of merlot but it also looks like it will need time to build in style making my way out of the treelined approach to château margaux i took the d2 route back to bordeaux city in the late afternoon sunshine a full day of swirling and spitting has come to an end but my appreciation of why the wines in this patch of france remain the most sought after by wine collectors and how these old world producers are nimbly changing to cater to a surge in demand from the e east is only just beginning sunita sue leng was an associate editor at the edge singapore she is now based in taiwan mendez says maxbordeaux aims to make top labels accessible to everyone

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