Wineweek 151: The Opening Weekend

The leaves are starting to fall. There is only two weeks left of September. The winter is coming. In a week, we will escape the cold weather to Barcelona. Unless the cold weather is waiting for us there. I have heard concerning weather reports from past weeks. There is also another reason for concern, which is the Catalonian referendum. The closer to the date we come, the more unrest is to be expected. I’m trying not to think too much of that, and this weekends events have been the perfect escape: Wine at the cellar, making cocktails at home and opening party of the new Johan & Nyström concept store in the center. Continue reading “Wineweek 151: The Opening Weekend”

Coffee bar review: The New Black, Singapore

The New Black are trying to further develop the Third Wave of Coffee in doing something a bit different from all the other coffee places that are around. Design-wise they are at least succeding, it is refreshing to see a place that has a very different feel to it. To say that the place is colorful is somewhat of an understatement. The walls are covered in colorful photos of the roasters they are using, despite the colors being bright it does not feel tacky or too much. The staff also have very colorful but neatly designed clothes and there is a lot of blue, yellow and orange everywhere, but as it is combined with a lot of metal it does fit nicely together. The concept is designed by Phoa Kia Boon and from what the Director of Coffee Will Frith is saying this is the first outlet but many more are to come (and from what I understood they are not only looking at Singapore or even Asia so fingers crossed it will be somewhere close to me). The modern idea is also included in the payment, no cash accepted so only possible to pay by card. Not an issue for me but still good to keep in mind as Singapore still seem to be a country where in many places only cash (or the local crappy bank cards) is accepted.

The carefully considered design is also displayed in the coffee and tea cups. The same cups are used irresepctive of having coffee there or taking it with you. The cups for coffee are nicely designed with the lid being possible to also use as a coaster. The tea cups are in bright plastic and possible to reuse. The little carry bag for take out is just awesome. The New Black is not huge and seem more gesred towards taking a cup with you but it is possible to sit there, not that many seats but possible to squeeze in around 10-15 people. There is also free wifi so while it is not the most comfortable place it is still fine to hang out for a while.

The main thing here is however the coffee, the New Black does not roast any of their own, but they are rather celebrating some of the top roasters from around the world. I was impressed by their selection as they have a line-up with Tim Wendelboe (Oslo, Norway), Verve (Santa Cruz, US), Small Batch Roasters (Melbourne, Australia), Workshop (London, UK), Olympia (Washington, US), Sweet Bloom (Colorado, US), George Howell (Massachusetts, US) as well as local Nylon Roasters. The tea selection is also good with teas from Rodrick Marcus of Chicago and Japan’s Hojo. They also have cascara (coffee cherry tea) from Has Bean from the UK.

The coffees are really nicely prepared, they are made on the expensive Alpha Dominche Steampunk 2.1 (this little baby will set you back around $15k, I have still not convinced S that it is essential for our kitchen but I am workin on it). The beauty of this machine is that it actually makes you less dependent on the skills of the individual barista as, if it is set properly, most people should be able to produce a great cup on it (with the right instructions). I am not sure it always produces the absolutely best result posdible but it is very consistent and it does look pretty cool. From a cafe perspective it is also good that it can actually have a significantly higher output than someone just making pour-overs by hand. With the Steampunk it is possible to make between 60-80 cups per hour (the latest version can make four different coffees (with different beans, settings etc. at the same time) so it is basically an half-automated single serve coffee maker that produces a great cup. It is able to make everything from French Press to Syphon so the only thing it does not make is Espresso.

The fact that basically anyone can make coffee on the Steampunk does not stop the New Black from training their staff, they are all knowledegable about coffee, happy to chat about it and in general very friendly and attentive. I was often disappointed by service in Singapore but the New Black together with a few other places stood out with excellent staff.

The quality of coffee is in general high, I sampled all of their coffees and have only occasionally been disappointed and that was the decaf so my own mistake. Who in their right mind orders a decaf. They did however see that I did not like it and offered another coffee as replacement. The quality is consistent and high but it does not reach the level to be mind-blowing. Instead this is a solid choice for good coffee, one of the best in Singapore in my view. The location was also convenient for us, so we popped by many times. What I have not really addressed is the price level, in general I do not icnlude it in my ratings but just want to mention that the average cup of coffee here is more expensive (count in at least 7-10 SGD) than in most places but to me still worth it.

Food selection is very limited, usually croissants and perhaps some more bread/pastries but not the place to come for food (what they have is however tasty). What I have not mentioned in much detail is the tea selection. I am not at all as knowledgeable about tea as about coffee but on one of the visits here S decided she wanted tea. As she did not know what to order we chatted a bit with the staff and they offered small tasters of all the teas (3 of them). To me the quality was impressive. that said I am not an expert, but I do drink my fair share of tea as well and this was really good. So the New Black is not only a place for coffee lovers.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 4
Food: 2 (quality is good but selection lacking)
Vs local competition: 5

Aussie Inspiration at Philglas & Swiggot

After five and a half weeks of travelling in Asia, we returned to a grey and cold Sweden yesterday. Regardless of the weather, it is great to be home – there is nothing like your own wine fridge. Before going back to business and some Singapore memories, I have a few reviews on London wine shops to share with you.

A few blocks off Oxford Street it feels very tranquil stepping into this small wine shop. Philglas & Swiggot used to have a clear focus on Australian wine (and to some extent also New Zealand) but the past years strengthening of the AUD has made it more tricky to sell Aussie wine (and other stuff from down-under) in the UK. So the selection has extended to other parts of the world as well, for example Italy, France and South Africa. The shop in Marble Arch is one of three outlets and I am yet to check out the others.

Service was really friendly and extremely knowledgeable and helpful (great recommendations for other wine shops to visit, this is how we found out about the German wine shop The Winery). The current selection of wine did however to some extent fail to excite me, probably because I am not very knowledgeable on Aussie wines. I only found a few things that really got me in to the buying mood: a German Riesling names Einz, zwei, dry (what a great name) and a Louis Barthelemy Champagne.  I also saw some Taltarni sparkling wine from Tasmania. It’s one of my old favorites, and although I did not see a good reason to drag a bottle all the way to Stockholm (as I have tasted plenty of samples), I am happy to recommend it to anyone who wants a good Aussie bubbly.

After visiting Philglas & Swiggot and spending some time in Asia (due to the proximity, a lions portion of the wine selection in shops was from Australia), I realized how poor my knowledge on Down-under wines really is. There are many interesting areas, like Yarra Valley making some good Pinot Noir and Barossa Valley with its Shiraz and not to mention Tasmania with some great Method champenoise bubblies.  I am still on my way learning about old world wines, but something about Australia tickles my fancy (maybe it’s the weather). A few days before we were due to fly back to Sweden we started discussing next years holiday plans (as one needs holiday plans), and Australia is climbing quite high on the list.

Wine Review: 2010 Miette Grenache Shiraz Mataro, Barossa Valley, Australia

While hanging at one of our new favorite spots, Verre, in Singapore we explored the wine list a bit and came across an interesting red from Barossa Valley in Australia. Miette Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro from 2010. This red wine is from the winery Spinifex in Barossa. They were established in 2001 so compared to many other wineries in Barossa they are still just getting started.

The man behind the project is Peter Scheel, New Zealander who has spent considerable time working in France before establishing Spinifex. He runs this together with his wife Magali Gely. The influences of France can be seen in the selection of the grapes, so a lot of focus on Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro (for those not familiar with Mataro it is also called Mourvèdre or Monastrell). They do also use other traditional French or Mediterranean grape varities such as Cinsault, Carignan, Ugni Blanc, Grenache Gris.

This specific wine has 100% Barossa valley fruit. It has been sourced from a variety of vineyards, the Mataro from one old (90 year old bush vine vineyard) in Koonunga Hill region of the valley and the other Mataro competent from the far south of the Barossa valley. The Shiraz part also from Koonunga Hill as well as the far west of Barossa valley. The Grenache part came from three different old vine (30, 50 and 90 years old) vineyards in the east and north. All wines are made in small open fermenters, using indigenous yeast, and are basket pressed. The 2010 Miette Grenache Shiraz Mataro has been matured in French oak.

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The color of this wine is deep red. The nose is a pleasant mix of red fruits (strawberries and raspberries), dark plums and spice. The flavor is full of red cherries, plum but also leather and tobacco notes mixed with hints of something herbal. The relatively high alcohol level (14.5%) is not at all apparent on the palate and it also relatively refreshing and avoiding the sweetness that may come with a lot of the high alcohol and fruit driven reds.

We had this wine by the glass at Verre and since it was happy hour it was very decently priced at 18 SGD for two glasses (when not happy hour it is 18 for one glass). Prices for a full bottle in Australia appear to be around 22 AUD (approximately €15) and while it is difficult to get hold of in Europe it is sold in the Netherlands and Belgium for €17. I think this is a very pleasant wine and while I would not necessarily run out to snap up several bottles of it, I would happily have it again. So I give it a quality rating of 3.5. Price wise this makes this wine pretty decent value for money but for reds one can often find similar or better value with other wines so it is a solid 3 in rating for value for money. It is a nice and approachable wine to enjoy now and for the coming year or years but not anything for long term storage.

Wine review: Chandon Brut (Australia)

As promised in a previous post, the review of @494, the wine at the Grand Hyatt in Bangkok we are following with a review of the Chandon Brut from Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley of Australia. As I may have mentioned before I am often not a fan of Moët Chandon but they should be given credit for what they have done to develop the Australian sparkling wine industry. The Chandon Brut is part of their basic assortment from Australia. I would not characterize it as a bad wine, just not a very memorable one. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made with the méthode traditionnelle (champagne method). The grapes are from various cool climate vineyards in the southern wine regions of Australia (according to Chandon from the Yarra Valley, Strathbogie, the King and Buffalo Valleys (Victoria) and Coonawarra (South Australia). I have been trying to find out what the mix between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is in the specific one I had but not been successful yet. In general the mix is around 60% Chardonnay and the remaining 40% Pinot Noir. The wine is aged on the yeast lees for 15 to 18 months and there is a small amount of dosage added. After an additional 3 months of bottle aging the wine is released. The color is perhaps best described as straw yellowish. The bouquet (nose) is influenced by the Chardonnay and is somewhat fruit driven with citrusy notes and hint of pear and nectarine. I could also sense a slight whiff of yeast but very faint. It is a dry wine but not overly so and retains a fairly nice balance with a creamy character and zest to the finish. Lacks complexity and the finish is a bit short. Nice to drink properly chilled but not at all a remarkable wine. It is however nice to enjoy cool on a hot day. While not at all a poor choice, I would not actively seek this out. However, here in Thailand this seems to be one of the better options at a reasonable price level. We had it the @494 wine bar for 349 THB (roughly €9-10). A bottle in a store would set you back around 800 THB. From what I can see online it is otherwise mainly available in Australia and Hong Kong at prices starting from €17 and up to around €25. In that price range I would rather have some very nice cava but as that is not really an option at my current destination this is a decent option. Quality wise I would give it a rating of 3 as it lacks some of the complexity I like in a sparkling wine. Looking at value for money it is a 2.5 but it is of course relative as I find it excellent value for money in Thailand (more a 4 or even a 5 compared to what else is available, see for example our most recent Wine warning ) while the rating of 2.5 is how i view it if in Finland, Sweden or the UK.