February 13, 2009

The wines of Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier

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Tonight I had the pleasure of being seated next to Frédéric Mugnier at a dinner showcasing his wines. The venue chosen by my friend Paulo of Altaya Wines was the China Club, since this is the first time that Frédéric has travelled to Hong Kong.

The menu was as follows:
Assorted appetisers Roasted suckling pig (大紅乳豬件) - this was OK

Smoked vegetarian bean curd skin roll (燻腐皮素卷) - the smoky flavor was pretty prominent

Smoked duck breast (蒜泥煙熏鴨胸) - OK but almost Western in style

Barbecued pork (金牌叉燒) - this is succulent and sweet, and one of the best char siu in town

Sautéed prawn and vegetable in mild spicy sauce (翡翠和味鮮蝦球) - the prawn was pretty decent

Whole Coral Leopard Trout sautéed and deep-fried (鴛鴦東星斑) - not terribly impressed, but I did like the roasted walnuts with caramelized coating.

Sautéed dices of beef fillet with fresh lily bulbs in black bean sauce (豉汁鮮百合炒牛柳粒) - ho hum.

Deep-fried crispy chicken (當紅炸子雞) - this was OK.

Braised seasonal green with bamboo fungus and Chinese mushroom (竹笙鮮菇扒時蔬) - the Chinese cabbage was pretty good.

Fried rice with barbecued pork and ginger (薑米叉燒炒飯) - the fragrance from the ginger was pretty strong, and actually distracted from the wine tasting. But this was pretty good, since the char siu was wonderful.

Mango pudding (香芒布丁)

The lineup of wines were mostly from the 2006 vintage, which Frédéric likes very much and thinks is much more "classically Burgundian" than 2005.

1999 Pol Roger Brut - a bit sharper and more acidic than I'd like.

2006 Chambolle-Musigny - nose was acidic at first and the wine smelled like vinegar. Some fruit emerged with a bit of smoke, and he nose was delicate and fragrant. It almost smelled like soy-marinated meats...

2006 Nuits-St.-Georges Clos de Fourches - made from grapes grown in Clos d la Marechale, this is the "declassified" wine made in vintages where not all the grapes were top-notch - hence it was not made in 2005. The name Clos de Fourches was the old name for the plot before it was changed into the current name. The bottle was definitely off, as the chalky nose dominated. The wine was still pretty tannic.

2006 Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale - the name Marechale means "marshall's wife", although Frédéric claims that he could find no historical connection of the vineyard with any marshall. Nose was muted at first, with sweet fruit and then crème brûlée. The wine was fairly concentrated, a little alcoholic with a spicy finish.

2005 Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale - wow! What a wine! Lots of power and intensity here. Nose of strawberries, animals, sweet fruits and caramel. Finishes with a heavy kick. Clearly a wine that still needs years of aging to reach its peak. I guess I'm not going to open the bottles in my cellar for a long time to come.

2004 Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale - the nose was much more elegant here. Sweet, open and fruity. I actually thought that this wine was drinking better than the 2005. A bit acidic on the palate at the end.

2006 Bonnes Mares - I thought this bottle was a little "off", but others did not share my opinion. The nose was dominated by chalky, wet moss and earthy notes. There was a fruit core here but it was well-masked. You needed to do some serious swirling to get rid of the chalk and get to the fruit. It was simply too tight.

2006 Musigny - this is so different from the Bonnes Mares. A beautiful, open wine with nose of sweet caramel, floral, red fruits and coffee. Still somewhat tannic. The production is so small - and so was Paulo's allocation - that this wine was sold out before this dinner started.

Frédéric tirelessly answered the many questions posed to him by the crowd, and he shared a number of interesting stories - as well as a secret which I shall not repeat here... I truly appreciate the fact that Frédéric made the trip here to show us his wines. He is one of the top winemakers in Burgundy, and his wines are in such high demand there is no shortage of willing buyers around the world. I hope I'll get to see him again in the future.


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