It’s Saturday evening and the invitation is 6.30pm for a 7.00pm start.
We have been invited to a wine tasting party hosted by our friends KC and Molly at their home. Among those invited are KC’s friends from medical school at the National University of Singapore.
They have remained long-time friends and through a common passion for good food and wine, a tasting is organised every so often to perpetuate their love for a good drop and to celebrate friendship that has spanned many decades.
I feel somewhat privileged because neither am I a medical doctor nor a wine connoisseur.
It is rather exciting to think of the prospect of a blind tasting where each bottle’s identity is kept in confidence until each and every participant has had a chance to scrutinize, sniff, twirl, taste and decide to their hearts’ content on the type of wine and the region of the world which it hails from.
The scene is set where each participant brings a bottle of wine and is seated with a set of tasting glasses and tasting notes.
This is serious business because the tasting would last a couple of hours and to avoid hunger pangs or any clashes of tastes and flavours to the taste buds, a loaf of relatively neutral tasting bread that is freshly baked is the only accompaniment to seven bottles of wines on the tasting menu this evening.
The theme of these wine tasting parties will vary to keep things exciting and to introduce new elements with each wine tasting.
KC is the host on this occasion and he explains the theme for the evening is “Wines from the old world”, meaning each participant brings a bottle from the traditional wine-growing regions in Europe such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain among many other countries.
As the clock ticks towards seven, KC uncorks each bottle of wine and pours them into the assigned glass for each wine.
The beautiful setting on the dining table appears inviting and fun yet the serious side of this tasting is ringing loudly with the sheer number of glasses on the table. A quick count tells me there are at least 63 glasses in total on the table.
A simple and ingenious bottle lip is attached to each bottle and those annoying little drips become a non-issue.
Para is the president of this club of wine lovers and being a pediatrician, a joke is passed that he never gets any complains from his “customers” as they are obviously too young to object should they be dissatisfied with his work.
He keeps us eagerly waiting with a couple of jokes of his own to start proceedings.
As soon as the word go is signalled, each of us begin the fun and delightful process of sniffing, twirling, more sniffing and finally tasting these beautiful wines.
The real fun begins when each participant is asked by Para to describe the nose, aroma or bouquet of the wine and the subjectivity of wine is such that adjectives as wide ranging as “smelly cheese”, “sweaty armpits”, “cassis”, “cigar box”, “pineapple”, “just loads of black berries”, “forest floor” and “kerosene” are used. I find myself laughing at the vivid image of someone sniffing on the grounds of a forest.
The friendly banter becomes even more heated and most of us have yet to taste the wine.
The colour of each wine also brings up differing views and Para’s opinion of a ruby colour being definitive of a wine from Bordeaux is jokingly chided upon whilst some of us are even undecided on aromas.
“Musky is an aroma rather a colour” someone correctly points out.
The first of two white wines for the evening turn out to be a rather dry and spectacular 2010 Heilder Gruner Veltliner that Patrick lugged all the way home from Austria.
Guessing the correct varietal also proves contentious with suggestions of pinot gris and riesling.
KC’s handbook becomes a handy tool to try resolve whether cabernet sauvignon is dominant on the left or right bank of the Gironde estuary.
Throughout the evening, we taste a bold and earthy 2005 Rioja Bodegas Palacio Especial from Spain.
For the record, cabernet sauvignon being the second-most planted grape varietal in Bordeaux, is the dominant red wine from the Medoc and left bank region of France.
A 2005 Mischief and Mayhem Pinot Noir has aromas and flavours that are rather different and more subtle from the Australian pinot noir. Personally, my favourite are the mildly aged unfiltered pinot noir from the Tamar valley in Tasmania.
Mysaucepan and I both agree on a personal favourite for the evening being a 2005 Chateau Gazin L’Hospitalet de Gazin, Pomerol. With a hint of rusty red, I detect faint hints of berries on the nose and a very smooth lingering finish.
As the wine tasting draws to a close, it is almost 9pm and we are being enticed by other aromas, those that are now whafting from the kitchen.
True to form, Molly being the great home cook has made another beautiful raw fish salad or yee sang that can only be topped by her yee sang from the Chinese new year dinner a few weeks ago.
The fact that Chinese new year is already over is irrelevant because I truly believe yee sang is a delicious and refreshing salad that is good for any happy occasion.
Everyone tucks into two giant plates of this raw fish salad with extra long chopsticks to toss a delightful mix of finely julienne carrots, white radish, pomelo, roasted peanuts, prawn crackers, fresh raw salmon and a tangy plum sauce.
No sooner has the heady aromas of king prawns with chilli and curry leaves tossed in a hot wok fill the kitchen, the smoky flavours of a chai tow kway or stir fried rice cakes have us salivating about how good these dishes will go with the wines we have just tasted.
A Malaysian style pickled vegetables is tangy and served chilled with its crunchy carrots, beans and cauliflower.
Cuttlefish with hoisin sauce and chilli oil is my perennial favourite of Molly’s cooking. I love the firm texture of cuttlefish with the kick of the spicy chilli oil.
Lena’s vegetable curry with snake beans, cabbage, eggplant and tofu puffs in a piquant curry sauce is the perfect accompaniment for some steamed white rice.
Shredded chicken and cucumber with slivers of jelly fish are tossed with light soy sauce and sesame oil. This cold salad is both refreshing and delicious with the crunch of the jelly fish and cucumber.
Everyone is heaving into a huge plate of Chinese roast pork with the crispy and unmistakable crunch of beautiful crackling.
We are thankful for so much good food but it’s not over before some beautiful desserts.
A gula melaka agar agar has smoky sweet flavours of palm sugar to accompany the sweetness of strawberries, cherries and grapes.
Molly has prepared a spread of sweet corn, red bean paste and black jelly for her signature ice kachang.
Ice kachang is a beautiful Malaysian dessert because one can choose from all the different fillings of sweet red bean paste, sweet corn, gula melaka and red syrup.
Drizzling varying amounts of gula melaka, red syrup and condense milk will alter the sweet complexity of this cold and refreshing dessert.
And it appears that everyone will have their own preference and combination of all the different accompaniment to the ice kachang.
There is so much food and great wines this evening.
Thanks again to our friends Molly and KC for being such gracious hosts. It has been a wonderful and memorable evening with equally wonderful company.
So dear readers, how do you like to celebrate friendship with your friends?
Related post by ChopinandMysaucepan: