July 28, 2008

Anniversary dinner

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Tonight I attended a dinner to celebrate the fifth anniversary of a wine shop I frequent. Although I am by no means a big client, I do know the staff quite well and they were kind enough to invite me for this celebration. The dinner was held at the Kiangsu and Chekiang Residents Association (蘇浙同鄉會), a popular local members' club well-known for its Shanghainese cuisine. With 7 tables and mikes hooked up to the broadcast system, it got to be a bit loud, especially when you factor in the fact that alcohol was being consumed...

The food for the evening was OK, not spectacular. In fact, it was interesting because some of the dishes weren't Shanghainese, but more Cantonese. The things that stood out in my mind were the deep fried eel, whose acidity from vinegar was perfect; shark's fin in chicken soup, since the chicken soup was absolutely delicious; and tiger prawn with sweet and sour salsa.

Of course there was plenty of wine supplied by the shop, but a few of the regulars had talked about bringing our own bottles to dinner to supplement the standard offering. This made for a more interesting evening.

I didn't taste the Charles Heidsieck Mis en Cave 2003, since I didn't want to get buzzed on an empty stomach. I am sure that it would have been a pretty decent drink.

Instead I grabbed a glass of 2003 Barratt Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, which was ripe and oaky - very New World but not so interesting. No refills on this one...

A friend brought along the 1996 Billecart-Salmon Grande Cuvee, which had a very yeasty nose and reminded me of - would you believe - Kellogg's cornflakes... The wine was sweet on the palate but had a decidedly sharp finish. I normally go for either the NV or the NV Rose, so having the Grande Cuvee was certainly a treat.

I brought along a bottle of 2005 Vincent Girardin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Abbaye de Morgeot, which really showed its colors about 1 1/2 hours after popping the cork. While others finished their glasses early, I left my glass untouched until the eastern star garoupa steamed in soy sauce was served. The wine tasted a little "hot" on the palate at first, with nose of toasted oak, minerals, buttery corn. There was good balance of acidity and sweetness, and the wine was so round and smooth on the tongue, with a very long finish. Yummy! I don't think you can go wrong with any 2005 white Burgundies right now. 

The 2003 Haut-Brisson was on offer, and despite having heard so much about the wine in the Greater China wine world, I had never had this wine before. The proprietor is Elaine Kwok, daughter of Peter Kwok. Peter is a senior figure in the Greater China finance world, having made the rounds at my old shop Bankers Trust and later at CITIC Ka Wah Bank as well as CITIC Resources. The wine has a large following in the region thanks to Peter. The wine was pleasant to drink, with lots of minerals - almost reminding me of blood - and a good amount of sweet fruit.

I also brought along a bottle of 1990 Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru les Saint Georges. As the domaine is relatively new, this bottling is actually a negociant wine. I was a little worried since my last experience with this wine, the 1999 vintage, was quite disappointing. At first I was unable to detect much from the nose, but as the wine opened up I noted mint and sweet fruit, and eventually a hint of wet chalk. There was good balance between the tannins and acidity. Quite enjoyable and better than my initial expectations.

To finish off the evening, a very old bottle of Hennessey Cognac XO emerged. This bottle is reputed to be more than 30 years old, judging by the import label on the back of the bottle. While I do not normally drink Cognac, I was blown away by the brown liquid sitting in my glass. There was lots of salty preserved plums (話梅), salty preserved orange rind (陳皮), and caramel. There was no more burning of the throat than a single malt whisky would have delivered, and the spirit had aged and oxidized beautifully. Now if only I could find a case of this stuff...

Finding myself very stuffed and having had quite enough to drink, I bade farewell to the shop staff and friends, making plans to get together in the very near future for an evening together.

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