Hubert Burda Media

A Saint-Émilion sensory journey

A white wine lover recounts his experience flirting with the dark side.

An interesting encounter with Old World wine took place at The Point, Damansara Heights last week when I joined a wine-tasting session. Perhaps the word ‘interesting’ doesn’t quite capture the essence of the intimate affair. A better choice of word may be educational or even exploratory.

Here is one person who swears by white, who would pace up and down the aisle to look for a bottle that he hasn’t tried previously, who has tasted anything from a cheap Fat Bastard to a rare award-winning House of Arras, yet he is a complete novice when it comes to red. So why was I here? To learn of course, just like everybody sat next to me.

When it comes to French wine, it would be a cardinal sin to overlook Bordeaux – it’s the largest production region and home to many top-class château. The element that plays a pivotal role when it comes to producing wine here is terroir, which means the soil, climate, topography and what grows around the plot of vineyard. The quality and composition of the soil have a profound effect on what ultimately goes into the bottle, as well as the condition when the berries mature – sunshine, humidity and wind all influence the berries’ sugar level. It is said that a wine contains over 1,000 chemical compounds, which is why you can often smell and taste various herbs, fruits, foods and more.

Gabriel Glass

To amplify these sensory effects, a wine glass is of an equal importance. A glass is both art and science. A decanter-shaped glass such as a Gabriel Glass allows aromas to develop gently in the glass’ belly, while a narrower tapered rim limits the contact between the surface of the wine and the air outside the glass, preserving the wine’s full flavours.

Currently in Bordeaux, there are 54 appellations. One geographically blessed commune in the area is known as Saint-Émilion, which lies on the banks of the Dordogne River. Besides its credential as a fine wine region, the village is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The wines produced here owe their greatness to the land. Saint-Émilion boasts a diverse geological make-ups – the soil is a mix of sand, clay and limestone. On top of that, the river provides a micro-climate that is favoured by winemakers.

Saint-Émilion (picture by www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk)

According to The Wine Cellar Insider, there are four levels of classification in Saint-Émilion – Premier Cru Classe A, Premier Grand Cru Classe B, Grand Cru Classe and Grand Cru. The Premier Grand Cru Classe A, is used by only four châteaux, while 15 estates are entitled to label their bottles with Premier Grand Cru Classe B. The next level of Grand Cru Classe has a total of 63 estates, whereas the level of quality and consistency varies widely in the Grand Cru Classe level.

For the night, personally I enjoyed the Sanctus 2000 the best out of a dozen I sampled. Although it sounds oxymoron, the bottle itself is almost a definitive reason why I always skip the red. It contains high amount of tannin; it’s very rich and dominant in aromas of blackberry, cherry, vanilla and coffee; it’s full bodied; it packs a powerful punch to then a few more jabs with its long finish. But putting subjectivity aside, this is one such wine that red lovers will adore. It’s composed of 70% merlot and 30% cabernet franc and it finely exhibits characteristics of both grapes, especially the pros.

As for the wine that received most approvals for the night? The Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Gracia 2011. This red is also predominantly merlot (80%), with the rest of the contribution coming from cabernet franc (15%) and cabernet sauvignon (5%). In order to produce this exquisite opaque blue and purple shade of this wine, there is a maceration period of 28 to 30 days. Adding to the preciousness is the low-yield nature – about 350 cases of wine are produced per vintage, not to mention that they are aged in new French oak barrels.

Upon contact with olfactory organs, there are complex mix of aromas, ranging from graphite, blackcurrant, blueberry and a fragrant hint of truffle. Emanate throughout the roof of the mouth is a full-bodied richness – one that led to fellow wine aficionado raising their hands in unison when asked who liked the wine.

Gabriel Glas is available in Machine-Made (150g) and Mouth-Blown Gold Edition (90g), and exclusively distributed by The Point Restaurant & Bar. For more information, please call us at +603-2011 8008 or visit us at No. 122, Jalan Kasah, Damansara Heights, 50490 Kuala Lumpur