SI Tasting Panel meets in Borneo by happy coincidence

harshal blog.jpgIt seems good wine and Andrew Steele, GM of Shangri-La’s Tanjung-Aru Resort in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo (former General Manager of the Shangri-La, New Delhi and founder member of the SI Tasting Panel) go hand in hand. And it is hard not to end up drinking great wines when you visit him. Which is exactly what happened over New Year in Borneo, writes Harshal Shah.

Andrew was in as good form as ever and is revelling in his relatively new surroundings away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi. By some coincidental turn, Rajiv Kehr, a part-time panelist on the Sommelier India WINE magazine Tasting Panel, also happened to be in town, and he had brought with him a small stash of wine, including the 1990 Château Mouton Rothschild. He very generously volunteered this wine for dinner one night. Andrew matched his offer with a 1990 Bordeaux of his own: Château Palmer from Margaux. The scene was set for a pretty special evening. In the midst of our planning, a good friend of Andrew’s and an avid collector of fine wine threw in a very different, but equally notable name: the 1990 Hill of Grace from renowned Australian producer, Henschke. The Hill of Grace is undeniably one of Australia’s greatest wines, an icon that fetches just as high a price as Australia’s other icon, Penfolds Grange.
The menu was exquisite (I guess it had to be!) and well-designed by Andrew himself. Black mussel bisque (lots of froth and foam) went very well with Bouchard’s 2002 Premier Cru Meursault from ‘Les Bouchères’. Pan-seared foir gras alongside a duck confit pancake was tantalizingly indulgent but with just the right amount of restraint (we wanted more of it!) and the the Wagyu duet topped off the meal. The highly-marbled fillet next to a juicy piece of braised Wagyu cheek and on some super-scrumptious Pommes Dauphinoises (scalloped potatoes with cheese, layered in a creamy, nutmeg sauce). The pommes were the subject of much discussion and wine-matching.
All the wines were poured in a line of glasses in front of us, so we enjoyed sipping all of them with all the courses. The calibre of the wines was impressive and there was animated debate, discussion and much delight as the wines evolved in the glass throughout the evening. My tasting notes below were taken very early in the evening. The real privilege was being invited to be part of this special event. It’s not every day that we get to try great 20-year old wine.
Besides being a founding member of the Sommelier India WINE magazine Tasting Panel, Andrew Steele was 50% of the Shangri-La Wine Club in Delhi – a club which still flourishes today – and by the looks of things he has carried his passion with him to Kota Kinabalu.
2002 Bouchard Père et Fils Meursault Premier Cru ‘Les Bouchères’
Medium lemon-gold with a pale rim, this wine had a very ‘fresh’ nose of citrus dessert (lemon curd) and fleshy fruit (peaches and custard apples). The palate had some grip with citrus notes and intense creamy (almost butter and hazelnut) flavours. Very good, prominent acidity and a long, refreshing finish. A very youthful wine for its age.
1990 Château Palmer
Bright in the glass with a delightful ruby/garnet robe. A wonderful ‘Margaux’ nose of autumn leaves and winter garden flowers (violets, lavender and peonies). Delicate strawberry aromas with an interesting meaty/bacon undertone. Chocolate/mocha notes on the palate with soft tannins holding a firm structure together. Still some acidity on the palate and delicate red fruit flavours carrying the medium/long finish. A mature wine drinking at its peak and gorgeous with the foie gras!
1990 Château Mouton Rothschild
Ruby/garnet robe with a pale ruby rim. A mineral/granite nose with a suggestion of forest berries. Still somewhat youthful nose. Immediate power on the palate. A typical Pauillac with front, middle and back palate coverage. Good fruit definition along with a gravel/mineral character. Very impressive for a 20-year old wine. Still refreshing and multi-layered. An impressive Mouton with a long finish.

1990 Henschke Hill of Grace

Bright ruby in the glass. This wine had a wonderfully expressive nose with multiple layers of red fruit, brown spice (especially nutmeg) perhaps from the use of new oak, and black pepper and anise. A lot of cassis perfume too. A complex nose. On the palate, this wine was equally complex with a mix of red berries, fruit jam, lavender and tobacco/leather/cigar-box. Perhaps the wine of the night for me and a very pleasantly surprising revelation about just how well good Australian wine can age.

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