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ARCHIVES 2009-2019 Diary-of-Axel-Ritenis Fine Wine Articles/Interviews

Riesling a perfect match for Singapore Kitchen!

Written by Aksel Ritenis

Riesling a perfect match for Singapore Kitchen!

As a veteran observer of Singapore’s economic and social development, (and a wine merchant and wine publisher by vocation),…I have long been observing the development of the wine and gastronomy scene in Singapore (on perhaps my 12th visit to Singapore but who is counting )  I have been constantly amazed at the “explosion of gastronomy and culinary delights” that have occurred here …in this latest developmental wave,..and I amazed by the sheer diversity and quality of food available! If this is not the food capital of the world,..I don’t know what is?

The latest wave has seen the arrival of the French and Italians,…with many many newly opened wine bars and restaurants manned by enthusiastic young chefs and sommeliers,..and other wine and food professionals ,.. intent on carving out a business niche for themselves,..and succeeding in a dynamic Singaporean economy as opposed to the stagnant European market  that many have escaped.

Modern French,. ITALIAN,.,Swiss, Tapas, many new French Bakeries and,..and even numerous new coffee shops and franchises are in evidence. Even coffee is taking off,..although local Koppeeis still available for 95 cents,… not surprising when you consider that many Singaporeans have exposure to coffee culture whilst studying in Australia or traveling.

And wine cultureis exploding as well, .needless to say there are many new Wine Bars and Stores specializing in Fine Wine (see our review of the Swiss-owned Wine Bar/Restaurant Wine Universe in ) in spite of the exorbitant import taxes and duties.

Rhetorical question – What is the best wine for the Singapore or Straits Kitchen?

It was whilst checking some of these wine bars for Connoisseur Magazine’s  forthcoming reviews  in Singapore that I was reflecting on the best wine for the Asian kitchen,…personally, whilst I enjoy French Chablis,..and I am currently drinking Austrian Gruner Veltliner, or Sancerre as my white wine tipple of choice now in preference to overblown NZ Sav Blancs,..I cannot think of a more undervalued yet appropriate wine for Singapore’s national cuisine then Riesling!

Now there are so many places where you can enjoy the Straits Kitchen range of foods,,, one of the first that comes to mind,(even if a little touristy) is Newton Circuwhere your erstwhile correspondent has been going for well over 30 years. A favorite first stop for newly arrived visitors to Singapore, this seemingly endless selection of stands runs the gamut of Singapore Hawker dishes.

Newton Circus happens to be near Orchard Rd. and has many stalls, therefore it became a tourist attraction.

 

The food is great, and the atmosphere is great. The prices, however, maybe  a little higher than in the ‘local’ hawker centers but I would  recommend you to visit this one , as it has become “something of an institution in Singapore.”

You can sample such classic dishes as Char Kway Teow (pan-fried rice noodles in black sauce with cockles and sliced fish cake)Oyster omelet, tasty fresh oysters and savoury omelette with a special vinegary chilli sauce,…,Satay (skewered meat on a stick dipped in peanut gravy) Chilli crab,the Fishball noodles, Chicken rice,all manner of Grilled seafood and prawns.

Don’t forget  “Hokkien Mee” (pictured) Hokkienis an ethnic Chinese group that speaks a dialect called Hokkien. Mee is a type of noodle.

It continues to serve the hawker classic foods that Singapore is famous for,..but generally speaking Tiger or Heineken beeris the accompaniment consumed here rather than wine,.although even this may change in the future as wine culture sweeps the island city!?

 

Grand Hyatt-Straits Kitchen

Aside from the ubiquitous hawker stands even upmarket hotels like the Grand Hyatt in central Singapore seek to showcase the fabulous indigenous Singapore kitchen,.. dishes  like Popiah, (a summer roll filled with braised turnip, prawns, boiled eggs and peanuts (See Photo above)Chilli Crab, BBQ Prawns and Fish, a good selection of Satays, Fried KwayTeow, Mutton curry, Chicken Curry Malay style, Wok-fried vegetables, everyone can enjoy the island nation’s “rich edible heritage.”

“Gluttons who develop an instant and insatiable attraction to the Yam cake with prawns at the sprawling breakfast buffet will be overjoyed to find it back on the generous lunch menu.

There is a fantastic  selection of Roast duck and chicken and many Indian dishes.”

Classic Chinese stir-fry, Malay Ayam Santan, a chicken curry made with fresh coconut milk plus an entire array of Indian bread are among the many ethnic flavors to be found and indulged in amidst the industrial-chic yet inviting space. Straits Kitchen is a Singapore-inspired buffet restaurant presenting the best of local cuisine in a contemporary marketplace setting.

The Halal-certified theatre kitchens serve a wide variety of popular local favorites, such as Satay, Beef Rendang, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Laksa, Tandoori Chicken, and Naan.

From Chilli seafood, Roti john, Murtabak, Popiah, Nasi goreng to Chicken wings and Noodles this is the one place you need to go to if you’re a fan of trying out new food.

For dessert, you can indulge in a lovely selection of local favorites such as Almond Jelly, Banana Fritters, and home-made Durian ice-cream.

” Straits Kitchen and Riesling -The quest for the perfect match “

I won’t hide the fact that I never tire of the local food so of course, we need to clarify the question which wine by region or grape variety or is most suitable to accompany it? 

The question of which wines are most suitable for Singapore foods has been on my mind for some time,..most probably because I have been reworking the German section of my wine book, and recently I received some publicity material from some prominent Rheingau producers.” 

 

So it was that… whilst obsessed with this important question .. I happened on several bottles of Riesling in a small wine retail shop at the far end of Orchard Rd,..(heading towards Tanglin Village),..and “lo and behold”stumbled across the very same Balthasar Ress Riesling from the German Rheingau region about, which I had received some publicity and information.

This was clearly fortuitous for it now provided me with the opportunity to put my  “two thought streams together” and now spruik the merits of a great wine variety and region!!

Needless to say,… I immediately contacted the winery Balthasar Ress and received an introduction to the  local Singapore importer and  organized what can only be described as  a very “pleasant impromptu Riesling tasting experience” at a  very sophisticated  and appealing wine establishment called  “Wine Universe!”

(Located in a corner of Millenia Walk in the business district opposite the Conrad International Hotel)

I rather like the description of the establishment and feel obliged to share it with you!

The restaurants glassy exterior with its sidewalk alfresco lounge invites guests to step into its dynamic space incorporating a restaurant, a wine bar, and retail-cellar. Paired with a menu featuring contemporary Swiss cuisine, the food and wines presented enhance each other, elevating guests’ culinary experience to a new level. Launched in August 2009 in Singapore, the Restaurant & Wine Bar by Wine Universe is a joint venture by fourth-generation Swiss vintner, Dominique Giroud and Swiss owner, Claude Dizerens.”

Dominique is also the man behind Wine Universe, a leading wine retailer, and brokerage in Switzerland.  With partner Claude, this international endeavor, a first for both, is a perfect pairing of passion and food & beverage expertise.”

I was received by Claude Dezirens (pictured with Balthasar Ress Riesling wine ) ,..a charming and consummate wine professional who is not only a “Marchand du vins” but also a vigneron in his native Switzerland in his own right,… and hugely knowledgeable about French, German and especially Swiss wine!

He had organized a comprehensive degustation of the  Balthasar Ress winesand I was not disappointed.

Claude’s  knowledge of each of the wines below was formidable, and  should perhaps be described in the currently popular terminology as “awesome!

The wines that we tasted in the degustation were as follows and I make no apology for using the wineries notes as they are honest and display the characteristic German”workmanlike” attention to detail and flair that we have come to expect!

 

2010 “Von Unserm” Rheingau Rieslingtrocken (dry)

The practice of using “Von Unserm” to denote specially selected wines was started by BalthasarRess,who founded the estate bearing his name in 1870. To this day the brand is still being used to denote the particularly fine wines, sparkling wines, and spirits of the house.“Von Unserm” is a dry wine produced in a traditional manner and designed to meet high expectations – it is the “calling card” of the estate!

The Rieslings for this wine are sourced from the estate’s most important Rheingau sites and carefully blended to complement one another. The grapes are selectively harvested by hand and gently transported to the cellar in containers that can be emptied over the winepress, thus making it possible to completely dispense with crushing and pumping. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks after the musts settle.

Tasting notes

Clearly 100% Riesling A fruity, lean and concentrated Riesling with a harmonious play of acidity and fruit. Smoky on the nose, with racy flavors of flint, white pepper, citrus, and almond. Dry finish.

Food Matching 

Perfect with the Singapore Straits kitchen described above or spicy Chinese foods, spicy Mexican foods or even hot chilli  Thai foods ..and extremely versatile, can also be matched with following foods from the European kitchen:Chicken, white fish, smoked fish (trout, herring),oysters (raw), rabbit, sausage, pasta salad,pasta with vegetables, paté.

2012 Riesling Kabinett Hattenheim Schutzenhaus

 Wine from classified single vineyards is distinctive in character. The influences of soil and microclimate lend these wines an inimitable note. In accordance with VDP-Association guidelines, Balthasar Ress uses single vineyard names exclusively for sites meeting the criteria for classification set forth in 1999.

West of the village Hattenheim, the Schützenhaus site faces south-southwest and rises in altitude from 328 feet above sea level (slightly sloping) to about 492 feet. The site is relatively long and slopes toward the west, thereby protecting it from cold easterly winds. The name probably derives from a vineyard hut (“Haus”) for the vineyard “keepers” who watched over the vineyards prior to the harvest. The vineyard “guards” (“Schützen”) used blank cartridge pistols to ward off starlings from munching on the tasty sweet grapes. The soils consist partly of deep loess and loess-loam, and partly of Tertiary marl mixtures. They are able to store considerable water reserves and ensure the vines’ water and nutrient supplies, producing wines with high extract values.

2012 was a record harvest – at least in terms of length. Never before in the estate’s 140 years did picking continue as long as this year. On 26 September picking started and was finished on 22 November. For the most part, the winery ignored must weights, (long considered a primary measure of ripeness). Instead, they relied on the actual taste and condition of the grapes.

The size of our crop was fairly average. It was simply a joy to monitor the condition of the grapes: healthy to the core, completely ripened – nearly perfect. Stefan Ress (or, as we call him, “our senior”…father figure) said he couldn’t remember having seen such beautiful grapes since 1990!

Tasting notes

Citrus fragrance and flavors of green apple. Light and fruit driven with a touch of natural sweetness. A racy and crisp Riesling Kabinett.

Food matching

Perfect with the Singapore Straits kitchen (described above) or spicy Chinese foods, spicy Mexican foods or even hot chili Thai foods or the following European foodsGrilled Pork Chops, Lettuce wraps, Lemongrass Risotto, or Coq au Riesling. Delicious also with sweet and spicy cuisine, poultry and salads. Serve chilled at 12°-14°C.

Ratings

90/100 Wine Spectator for 2010 vintage!

89/100 Wine Spectator for 2011 vintage

2011 Hattenheim Nussbrunnen Riesling SPÄTLESE

 

“Erste Lage” or “Grand Cru” denotes those wines from classified single vineyards that un-mistakably reflect the influence of their micro-climate and soil structure, and show especially high-quality potential. Wines from these top sites are on a par with the finest international growths.

The Nussbrunnen vineyard in Hattenheim has a south-southeast exposure. The name derives from a “Brunnen,” or spring, that was once surrounded by nut trees. The source of the spring is still visible today. It lies well protected from cold northerly winds on the lower reaches of the slope, adjacent to the site Wisselbrunnen. Among the finest parcels of vines in the Rheingau is the 1. 6-ha/4-acre parcel within Nussbrunnen that is owned by the Balthasar Ress estate. Its special soil conditions, e.g. deep, loam-loess soils that guarantee an excellent water balance, as well as the prevailing micro-climate, are among the reasons that Nussbrun-nen is such a top site. These are the prerequisites that enable grapes to consistently yield top-quality wines.

The grapes are selectively harvested by hand in several stages, then very carefully and gently transported to the cellar in 40-liter boxes that are manually emptied over the wine press, thus making it possible to completely dispense with crushing and pumping. Spontaneous fermentation and aging take place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks with as little exposure to oxygen as possible, in order to preserve fruit aromas.

 

Tasting notes 

Herbal, exotic and mineral aromas of candied stone fruits with a velvety texture. Straight, sweet fruit with smooth acidity, herbal notes, and earthy mineral structure. The fantastic exotic finish on the palate. This wine is rich and concentrated! 

 

Food Matching 

 

Perfect with the Singapore Straits kitchen (described above) or spicy Chinese foods, spicy Mexican foods or even hot chili Thai foods or the following European foods: Foie gras, Almond flan with vanilla sauce and cracknel or (sweet) brittle ice cream. It is a perfect match for spicy cuisine, fruits, aged blue cheeses and desserts with dairy, citrus or nuts. 

 

Wine Universe Singapore Pte Ltd
9 Raffles Boulevard
#01-109 Millenia Walk
Singapore 039596
T   +65 6338-0717
M  +65 9116-0166
geoffrey@wine-universe.com.sg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Aksel Ritenis

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Aksel Ritenis

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