Wineweek 13: Singapore Edition

Happy Sunday everybody! I am enjoying a lazy weekend, typing away with a perfect view of the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore. This will be the last Wineweek I write a summary from this trip and it will cover almost two weeks of wine-action in the famous business-hub and city-state of Singapore. Travelling has been great as always, but I must admit I miss our home and our wonderful wine fridges. At least we have had much more drinks on our last leg. It has not always been value for money, but my oh my have I missed a glass of cold Cava or Champagne. What has also contributed to the expense-level of this trip is the declining Swedish Krona against a strong Singapore dollar. Anyway, everyone has a different perspective on value for money, and my point of reference dates to our days of living in London and enjoying a glass of good bubbly for £5.

I can categorize the last 10 days to three categories: wine, coffee and cocktails. That’s all we have done. Why did I not mention food? Well, because we have had food with all of them. We have first chosen our drink of preference and then had some matching food with that. Our days have consisted mostly of visiting cafes and restaurants with a marathon of walking in between. I find it is a great way to get to know a city, so we have soldiered on despite the scorching heat. Around here, most coffees are also served as cold-brews which is a good way to cool down after too much sun.

Wine has perhaps been the category with the lowest overall quality, but that was to be expected. Duties to import wine are high, and I think there is not a big enough market here. So prices for bottles can end up being 30-50% more expensive than what we would pay in the UK or Sweden. Don’t get me wrong, Singapore is like Disneyland for the wine-enthusiasts compared to the other destinations we have visited. Also, we have found a few exceptions to the wallet draining traps that I am happy to recommend for anybody living or travelling to Singapore:

1. Verre Wine Bar. Located in Robertson Que, a wine bar serving a wonderful Guy Charlemagne Brut by the glass. You can get two glasses for the price of one during happy hour, which makes the price per glass very tempting (9 SGD). We also tried some interesting red from Barossa-valley that will be up for a review soon.

2. Bar – A – Vin. Located in the Central Business District (CBD). Serves a good Gardet Brut Tradition by the glass, and I also recall them having some nice Australian Pinots.

3. Sabio. Located on Duxton Hill, Sabio has some nice Agusti Torello Cava and DelaMotte Champagne by the glass (16-24 SGD). The ambiance is nice and they have live music in the evenings to brighten the mood.

Cocktails have been a real treat! We have found some amazing places with real drink-talent. I think Singapore gives London a run for their money when it comes to good cocktail-bars and I cannot name many places in Stockholm that can compare. We accidentally picked up a local life-style magazine at a cafe that listed some interesting places and did two nights of cocktail-hopping to check them out. None of the mentioned bars disappointed, on the contrary we were very impressed. Here are our top three picks, and we will make a separate post on the rest in due time.

1. LongPlay is a new addition to the cocktail scene located on Haji Lane. We ran into this place by accident and were so impressed that we posted a review immediately (click here).

2. Bar Stories is also locted on Haji Lane. The entrance is very discreet, but clearly visible if one is looking for it. There is no specific cocktail-list but the bartenders think up something based on what you describe you want. This results to a set of very innovative and beautiful drinks that are as good in taste as they are in looks.

3. Operation Dagger, located on a side street to the famous Club Street is a speakeasy/ secret bar. Its too known to be a real secret, but you need to do your homework to find in. They do a set of very creative coctails with a bit of a “molecule” twist. It reminds me of Pharmarium in Stockholm.

Coffee-wise, we already knew Singapore was great. Not the best in class, but a city with a lot of potential. What is wonderful here is how good the food is at the cafes. I think I have overdosed on french toast, Eggs Benedict and good cakes. I hate the thought of a diet, but I may have to start one after this trip, I am way too used to having my daily sugar-high. Warm meals at cafes is not a common in Scandinavia or the UK. Yes there are cakes and sandwiches, but no foody dishes. Here in Singapore the cafe is the new bistro (and the bistro is the new casual fine dining), so our lunches were accompanied by a decent cup. Our top cafe pics are the following (in order of best coffee, not best food):

1. The New Black is a new coffee bar close to Clarke Que. They have an impressive collection of beans from around the world and use a new-ish technique similar to a coffee syphon to make a reliable good cup.

2. Common Man Coffee Roaster located on Martins Lane is a coffee bar with a good selection of hand-brews and also great food. You should remember to ask for their back-room selection for the more special beans.

3. Nylon Roasters are a real contribution to the coffee scene in Singapore. their beans can be found in many other places and they have a shop in Everton Park that you can visit. It used to be a small hole in the wall type cafe, but has now grown into post-hipster paradise. Of course more visitors means more variation in quality, but coffee-wise it is still one of the most interesting places to visit in Singapore.

Not to completely forget the food part, we have also been having some great meals. More about the restaurants will follow later, but just to mention a few interesting places: Jaan, Moosehead and Esquina.

That was a lot of lists! It is not that often that Wineweek is this comprehensive. On Wednesday we will be hopping on the plane back to Sweden and the snow. We have our wine-business waiting with just one more set of papers to return for being able to start business fully from Denmark. We also have some other interesting things coming up. We will be traveling to Portugal to visit some new and interesting producers, like Vieira de Sousa and Almeida Garrett, and later in March we will be visiting the “mothership” of cava, Sant Sadurni (and Penedes). So I expect it will be busy time for us and the blog and we will have many exciting things to share with you.

Wine Review: Cuvée Charlemagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2008

Guy Charlemagne is one of the more underestimated champagnes I have encountered. A grower champagne house situated in the village of Mesnil sur Oger. It is basically next door to the much more well-known Salon and Delamotte house and while it cannot brag with being in business for as long, they still do have a respectable history of having been in business since 1892. One of my favorite grower champagnes and looking at their current production ofapproximately 130 000 bottles per year they seem popular among others as well.

Their motto is ‘Quality is my truth’ and to me it often comes through in their wines. We had the pleasure of picking up seven bottles of the Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs from the lovely vintage 2008. This specific cuvée is not made every year so only the best vintages will have it and it only uses grapes from Mesnil sur Oger and Oger with its limestone soil.

It is a 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay. It is vinified in thermo regulated stainless steel and it has a small dosage of 6 grams per liter. Aging between 3 and 4 years in the chalk cellars of Guy Charlemagne.

The color is golden yellow and it has very fine and persistent bubbles. The nose of this wine just blew me away and it was, at least to me, very different from many other Blanc de Blancs I have tried. It has clear tones of candied fruits with notes of apple, oranges, pineapple as well as dried raisins and toastiness. The taste is full and creamy with brioche, bread, candied ginger and the finish is long with fresh acidity and mineral.

Lovely to drink now but should be even better if saved for some years. Not sure what the recommendation of the producer is but I would expect it to age very well for at least 7-10 more years. Enjoy it with some Jamón Ibérico or foie gras or just on its own.

I would rate it as a 4.5 in quality. It is truly a great Champagne and looking at value for money it is fantastic. I managed to secure these for 400 SEK (~€43) per bottle but these days you would end up paying at least €50 but to me that still means it deserves a 5 in value for money rating. So if you find this make sure to buy it and then decide whether to save it or drink now.

Wineweek 8

The time has finally come, our trip to Asia is just one day away. This trip was booked a long time ago, so it feels a bit surreal that in 48 hours we will be in +30 degrees (Celsius). It will be a five week journey staring from Bangkok and ending in Singapore. As I mentioned earlier, it will perhaps not be the most wine-rich month of our lives; but food-wise I have high expectations. The ambition is to find a lot of good street food, but we have also been reading a lot about a rising coffee scene both in Thailand and Singapore. So the blog will probably be filled with reviews and pictures of food-stalls, bars and cafes; and the occasional annoying picture of the sun and beach of course.

Some other exciting news to share with you: the blog will be getting a new voice to share experiences on wine and food with you. M, my lovely husband, has also raised an interest in writing and will be publishing some of his reviews in The Winecurious. An active Yelper, M has been the initial inspiration for all this public sharing. We spend hours surfing online for bars, restaurants and other interesting places in our home city and whenever we travel. That’s how we find most of the great places, so it is a pleasure to share onward.  M will be writing his own introduction, so I will not get too much into this. But the addition of a new writer means that we will be able to include more content and also another point of view. Perhaps impossible to imagine, but we don’t always agree (wink wink).

Wineweek is also about recapping the activities of the past week, so here is a quick glimpse to the past. As it was a busy week preparing for the upcoming trip, we did not have the appetite to cook much at home. We had some great value for money burgers at Rhino, two for the price of one in January (using a FB offer). Egg, bacon and truffle mayo burger, there is no way that can taste bad, and it didn’t. On Friday we opened one of the Cuvée Guy Charlemagne Vintage 2008s that I got (a box of) as a Christmas present. It was really wonderful, and I can’t wait to share a review with you. Many of the 2008 vintage Champagnes that have been released, have been already now very drinkable. A friend of mine, Iisa, who is a Sommelier, calls 2008 the fruit-year, and I can only agree. She also mentioned that some of her renowned wine-contacts say it might even be a better year than 2002. So stock up now, when the price for 2008 is still reasonable. I know, it’s a gamble, all wine does not mature as expected. But that is perhaps the fun of it. Some people play poker to get their kicks, I buy wine.

On Saturday, we went browsing around in the Monopoly. The branch on Regeringsgatan in the center of Stockholm is a real treat to visit. Sometimes I just go in and browse. This time we did find something interesting to buy though. There was something on the shelf that caught M’s eye. And now I am not talking about the Gramona that is in the picture above (that’s also a great new addition to the selection). We found two bottles of Jaques Selosse Brut Initial, this is not always in the assortment so we just had to go for it. This is a producer that divides a lot of opinions, also among critics.  Some say it is wonderful, and some say it is really not worth the money. When we lived in London a bottle of a basic non vintage Selosse cost closer to 120 pounds (cheapest I have seen was £108 but norm is more so for example Berry Bros & Rudd charge £126). That’s as much as a Krug Grande Cuvée; but now it was available at the Monopoly for under 900 SEK (with the current exchange rate ~70£). It is not like I buy a wine this expensive every week, but I am curious to try it – to see what the fuss is all about. So we quickly picked up the two last bottles and made our way to the counter. We tried the wine last night, and yes it was something else. I will write a proper review about it later; but I must say it stood out in a nice way. Whether I think it’s value for money, well that is another question. But purely from quality perspective – Yes, I get what all the fuss is about now.

Saturday evening we had a wonderful early dinner at Matkonsulatet (you can read an older review here). As we were trying some Champagne later that night, we decided to go easy on the drinks. The Estrella Inedit was a wonderful choice. I like the 0.75l bottle that you can share with friends. The beer is very light but still flavorful, with a subtle fizz. Perfect with food or on hot summer nights. Kind-of reminds me of some of the Asian beers, but this one has more flavor in it and no bitterness what so ever. For food we got to try some wonderful new things: Beef tartar with oyster ice cream, another tartar with foie gras flakes and black truffle, and pork burger pinchos. They were all wonderful! Especially the burger, but it was so greasy (just the way I like it) that it was actually good that we only got half burgers. I was stuffed after the meal.

That was it for Wineweek no 8. Next time I will be writing this post, it will be from Bangkok. Meanwhile enjoy the reviews and random rambling I have scheduled for the coming week.