Wine Archaeology amongst the Supermarket Shelves

It’s not often that you will find the Wandering Palate lurking around the (Singapore) supermarket wine shelves, but sometimes out of curiosity I have a poke around to see what’s being stocked, invariably 90 percent of it completely pedestrian.

It is mindboggling really, how ordinary the range and selection in supermarkets is here, in comparison to say Hong Kong where the likes of Watson’s and City Super have worked out they have the distinct advantage of real estate and the only ones who can afford to have wine stores and shelf-space, and therefore a captive market and a really dynamic approach to wine.

And here’s all these expats gravitating towards the Singapore supermarkets like ants to a nest, and the wine section is completely and utterly boring, no wonder there is never anyone in the wine section or wine rooms, a total waste of space.

Coudoulet Rouge

Anyway, back to my digging around the shelves at Jason’s Market Place in the basement of Paragon, I came across 2 bottles of Beaucastel Coudoulet Rouge 2003 mixed up with line of 2008.  It’s possible that these two soldiers might have been standing to attention for good number of years and best avoided although my logic deduces that perhaps it’s a warehouse oversight, from the supplier/importer rather than buried on the shelf and the bottles have finally made their way into the system.

Who knows, but I’m willing to take the risk and they were priced the same as the 2008, which is excellent value at S$78 for this pedigree of wine. For those who are not familiar with Beaucastel Coudoulet, this a single vineyard next to their Chateauneuf du Pape holdings but classified Cotes du Rhone and is raised and treated much the same way as their CDP cuvee with biodynamic viticulture and a cepage of grenache 30%, mourvèdre 30%, syrah 20%, and cinsault 20%.

I broached a bottle last night and it was absolutely brilliant if not an outrageously eccentric wine. I can’t imagine the initiated grasping this sort of wine, indeed you will either think it is totally rotten or to the contrary, enraptured by its extremism and odorous complexity.

Wines like these are indeed polarising but for those who love the Southern Rhone reds, this is classic; a hedonistic melange of tobacco, hot earth, with herbal nuances and peppered with the length and breadth of the spice cabinet, smells of leather and woods you encounter in an antique shop, and some smells that you might have to use your imagination – but I recall some of the odorous perfumes coming out of the cow shed on a hot days milking, and a distinct smell I recall from being shown Pheasants hanging for weeks – guts in – and another memory of legs of pigs hanging from a ceiling air-drying and heading for their 2nd birthday. But before all these somewhat abattoir smells completely overcome you, suddenly your are engulfed with sensations of dried figs and dates, like you’ve just Camelled into some Bedouin tent village, and someone has a mutton curry on the go, but you can’t get rid of the Camel smell. And a sweetness of brown sugar also invades and yet these start to look more like bitumen on a very hot day or should I call it liquorice. But then the spice seems to lift the sweetness becoming more intense and concentrated in red berries, then it slaps you in the face or the gills of the mouth with a rush of balsamic and sherry vinegar like piquancy, or in Asian sensory flavours, dried tamarind peel or Assam, essentially sour for want of a better word and wonderfully invigorating and tart all assaulting the palate and senses. All the while, there’s an infusion of herbal, pongy things, impossible to describe – something like campfire with dried horse dung (possibly Camel dung) thrown on the embers along with big branch of wild thyme bush, some tea tree and a flagon of lavender oil thrown on to the fan the flames to a smoky incense of herbs and earthiness. Then there is the ‘animal’ thing coming through again, apparently because of the high percentage of mourvedre in the wine, but this is like a wild hog running towards you… As the wine races around your mouth you can’t decide if it is a big red or an elegant red – or is it big on flavour and ethereal in texture – but then you get a sensory bash behind the ears of mouth-coating tannins and your onboard computer starts bringing up images of wild boar stew or civet of hare.

It occurs to you, this is one hell of a wine and, I got all those sensations out of just two glasses, deciding it was way to good for the wife to drink, and simply too good to drink in one sitting, so I’m putting the cork back in with a good squirt of winesave, so I can broach it again… maybe tomorrow with a slab of grass-fed free-range beef from Cape Grim, Tasmania that I have taken out of the freezer.

It’s an hour later and none of the flavours have gone, and despite my wife’s protests, I refuse to brush my teeth not wanting to disturb these wonderful lingering flavours, like a good cigar and the finest of vintage Oolong teas and earthy tannins staining every crevice of the mouth, these flavours and odours impregnating the palate and mind.

It highlights the point that we in fact drink wine way to young, so predictably primary and fruity, and yet it is all those wonderful secondary complexities that we should be chasing, when a wine has lost its juvenility, and what a difference a year or two makes, or in this case about 6 years in bottle, with 2003 a terribly hot year that was bagged by many wine scribes, and yet I always find that these warmer Rhone years have such strength of character and often a wonderfully hedonistic experience – that not all will appreciate.

Anyway, I’m heading out tomorrow to comb through all the Jason’s and Cold Storage stores to see if I can unearth more 2003 Coudoulet. And you can read all about Beaucastel, one of the world’s great vinous wonders, at www.beaucastel.com

Oh, and there’s no point in you looking for the Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Vouvray Moelleux 1997 that was lingering amongst the 2005 floor stack, my previous supermarket-shelf archaeological find at Jason’s, as I believe I secured the last two bottles – sorry.

And for those in Hong Kong, just so you don’t feel left out, Altaya Wines, the exclusive importer of Beaucastel, have the Coudoulet 2003 for HK$190 bottle – a STEAL – and I would be getting on to them real quick and securing as MUCH as you can – www.altayawines.com

Beaucastel vines



By Curtis Marsh | Buying Wine | Related to: , ,

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