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The Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2010 (above left) is a pleasing pinot with very good ripeness of fruit and an accompanying freshness. The Matanzas Creek Chardonnay 2012 (above right) has good fruit but not enough complexity and acidity. It is typical of Napa Chardonnays in its tendency is to be heavy on the wood.

Flying high!

A 12-hour trans-Pacific flight becomes a wine-tasting session, courtesy of SIA's wine list in First Class
Sep 23, 2016 5:50 AM

THE effects on the system when flying have been well-documented and make for very interesting reading. Flying at such heights demands that cabin pressure be kept as close to atmospheric as possible to avoid a hysterical minor-epidemic of dehydration and all the symptoms derived therefrom. Cabin pressure is not kept at sea level, but at 10,000 feet above sea-level, which is well-tolerated without the need for special provisions; this prevents the high-altitude sickness from a cabin pressure equivalent to that at a height of 30,000 feet above sea-level.

Apart from reduced cabin pressure, flying also triggers a diuretic response to cabin temperature being at 18 to 20 deg C. Dehydration and this diuretic response combine to make it imperative to drink more water than at sea-level.

While flying First Class on SIA's Singapore-San Francisco route via Hong Kong last week (with the aid of air miles), I thought it a good idea to alleviate the tedium of the 12-hour, non-stop HK-San Francisco leg by making an entertaining wine-tasting session out of it, tasting my way through the whole First Class wine list.

Corton Grancey Grand Cru 2010, Domaine Louis Latour

A Grand Cru from the great 2010 vintage, by one of the oldest and most esteemed Domaines, a great treat.

Medium density, transparent raspberry red, with a lovely fresh aroma of pinot (strawberries and raspberries). Very good ripeness of fruit with a lovely accompanying freshness, very ripe with light tannic edge. Very good pinot character with good length.

Altogether a very pleasing wine, still youthful, good future. Would be good to drink it in five years - but one rather suspects that SIA's stocks will not last that long!

Matanzas Creek Chardonnay 2012

A brilliant, medium-density golden colour, a woody, citron aroma rather typical of a Napa Chardonnay, good fruit but not enough complexity and acidity. Rather typical of Napa Chardonnays, the tendency to use too much wood. Still youthful at four years, wood effect will lessen with age but from past experience, tends to maintain a noticeable presence.

Matanzas Creek is located in the remote Bennett Valley region of Sonoma county. Established in 1977, the winery built up its reputation on its Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot - two varieties that thrive in Sonoma's temperate climate - but also produces small quantities of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Bordeaux-style reds.

This Chardonnay, which has been matured in 30 per cent new oak, has a reasonably good reputation; it was well received by Wine Advocate, scoring 91.

I found the oak a little too heavy and would worry how long before it really becomes integrated.

This particular bottle I tasted is still relatively young and should continue to mature for a good five to seven years.

Bischofliche Weinguter Trier Piesporter Goldtroffen Riesling Kabinett 2013

Very pale yellow, with an attractive light Riesling aroma, lightly citrusy with a keen lemony hint. Palate correspondingly dominated by a very pleasant lime-y acidity on a light, fruity palate.

A distinctly pleasant Riesling, youthful and will hold for six to seven years, given its good level of acidity.

Chateau Rauzan-Segla 2007

Very dark ruby-red colour, with an attractive light Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated aroma of ripe berry fruit, the cedary tones being quite in evidence.

A medium-density wine with very good ripe fruit, ripe tannins, well concentrated and balanced, with medium-length finish and a refreshing freshness on the palate. A lovely wine to drink, quite ready but will keep for the next six to eight years without any difficulty.

This Deuxieme Cru Bordeaux Château in the Margaux commune was in the doldrums, well under-performing until the early 90s.

I tasted the 1990 Rauzan Segla, the last vintage made under the previous ownership, at the VinExpo Bordeaux in 1993, and found it a weak effort, completely belying the Second-Growth ranking of the Château. With the 1994 sale of the Château to the Wertheimer brothers, owners of Chanel, dramatic changes to the Château began to take place.

The most important one was the appointment of John Kolasa, previously of Château Latour, as its head. He immediately instituted a series of major changes to the Château, the wine-making and the vineyards. The quality of Rauzan Segla in the 2007 vintage, a relatively weak one, reflects well the sea-change he has made and the resultant great improvement in the quality of the wine.

Rauzan Segla today completely justifies its Second Growth classification, John's major achievement. (It may be of interest, as it is in the same vein, to note here that he also achieved the same restoration with Château Canon, Premier Grand Cru Classe Saint Emilion, after being appointed to head the Château following its purchase by the Wertheimer brothers.)

As always, wine and its story is about MAN, as illustrated by this story of Rauzan Segla and Canon.

I was delighted by Rauzan Segla 2007 on board the SIA flight. To be able to produce a wine like Rauzan Segla 2007 is a special achievement. I am especially delighted as I have known John since his time at Château Latour and have a great pleasure in recording here the success he has achieved when given the opportunity. He is now enjoying a well-deserved retirement, but I hope he will get to read this column.