Monday, October 20, 2014

The 267 Crus Bourgeois du Médoc of the 2012 Vintage Announced, France

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Didier Cuvalier, Owner of Chateau Le Crock (and of Chateau Leoville Poyferre) in Medoc. The 2012 Chateau Le Crock qualified for the Cru Bourgeois Label. In the (Annulled) 2003 Classification, it was a Cru Bourgeois Superieur

More Médoc chateaux have been awarded the Cru Bourgeois label for the 2012 vintage than for any year since the classification was relaunched in 2010.

Cru Bourgeois

On September 19, 2014, the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Medoc announced that 267 chateaux had made it into the official selection for the 2012 vintage. That is up from 256 estates in 2013 and is the most since the classification was relaunched in 2010. New entrants in the 2012 list include Chateau Haut Beyzac, which has 26 hectares in Vertheuil in Haut-Medoc, and Chateau Amour, an AOC Medoc estate with 53 hectares.

Picture: The Cru Bourgeois Label

Around 29 million bottles of wine are expected to carry the Cru Bourgeois label, accounting for approximately 30% of the Medoc's production, representing 4,100 hectares of vines. Most estates selected are AOC Medoc and Haut-Medoc properties, but there are also several properties from Pauillac, Margaux and St Estephe, as well as Listrac-Medoc and Moulis.

See here for a complete listing of the 267 Crus Bourgeois du Médoc for the 2012 vintage.

The Cru Bourgeois Classification of 1932

From 1932 to the end of the 1900s, the Cru Bourgeois du Medoc system was a classification system set in stone. The first Cru Bourgeois list was drawn up by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Agriculture in 1932, selecting 444 estates from the Medoc for the classification. These were wines that were not included in the 1855 Classification of Crus Classes, but still of high quality.

Cru Bourgeois du Médoc Today: A Label Awarded Annually

Today, the Cru Bourgeois du Medoc is a wine label that is awarded annually, on the basis of an assessment of both production methods and the wine. Production methods are periodically inspected and the wines are submitted to an independent panel for annual tasting. Any property in the Médoc may apply.

The first vintage that came under the current system, is the 2008 vintage, announced in 2010.

Note that some very highly regarded wines outside the 1855 classification such as Château Gloria and Château Sociando-Mallet do not submit their wines for the Cru Bourgeois du Medoc classification. Thus, there is a sizable number of top producers in the Medoc today that are neither in the 1855 classification nor in the Cru Bourgeois du Medoc classification.

Picture: Annette Schiller, ombiasy PR and WineTours, with a 2012 Chateau Le Crock, Cru Bourgeois, and a 2012 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, a Classified Growth, both owned by the Cuvelier Family

For the 2014 Wine Tours by ombiasy, including to Bordeaux, see:
3 Wine Tours by ombiasy Coming up in 2014: Germany-North, Germany-South and Bordeaux

The Cru Bourgeois Classification of 2003 (Annulled)

In between the current annual classification system and the 1932 classification system set in stone, there was a new classification introduced in 2003 that was subject to a lot of controversy and later annulled. Of the 490 châteaux that applied to be included in the classification of 2003, only 247 were included, a significant contraction of the original listing made in 1932 (444 estates).

The 2003 Cru Bourgeois classification classified the 247 properties in three tiers: Exceptionnel (9 properties), Supérieurs (87 properties) and straight Bourgeois (151 properties).

In February 2007, the 2003 was annulled. At this point, the 1932 classification was briefly reinstated, with its single tier and 444 estates.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

High Tea at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore

Picture: Annette Schiller, ombiasy PR and WineTours, and Christian G.E. Schiller Taking High Tea at the Fullerton in Singapore

Afternoon Tea is a British food tradition - an afternoon treat of tea, sandwiches, scones and cake, served around 4.00pm. Afternoon Tea originated amongst the wealthy classes in England in the mid-1800s. Historically, Afternoon Tea was considered to be a ladies' social occasion, and it is more often enjoyed by women than men to this day.

High Tea traditionally was a heavy meal of meat dishes, such as steak and kidney pie, and fish dishes. It was a working class meal served at the end of the workday.

Pictures: High Tea at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore

While Afternoon Tea is typically served on low, comfortable chairs, the worker’s High Tea was served at the table on high back dining chairs.

Importantly, outside of the United Kingdom, including in Singapore, people generally refer to tea in the afternon as High Tea.

Picture: Viatrix Tremann and her Proud Parents having her first High Tea

There are a number of basic types of Afternoon Tea - High Tea:

The simplest form of Afternoon Tea is Cream Tea -- a meal of tea, scones and cream.

Add fresh strawberries to Cream Tea and you have Strawberry Tea.

Alternately, if you add more sweets to Cream Tea, you get Light Tea.

Add savory foods, like finger sandwiches to Light Tea and you get Full Tea. We had Full Tea at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore.

Some hotels and tea rooms also offer other variations on Afternoon Tea, such as Champagne Tea: Afternoon Tea served with a glass of champagne.

The Fullerton Hotel 

The Fullerton Hotel Singapore: Transformed from The Fullerton Building – a magnificent neoclassical landmark built in 1928, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore is an iconic 400-room heritage hotel. It was once home to the nation’s General Post Office, The Exchange and the prestigious Singapore Club – all of which played a pivotal role in the history of Singapore.

Picture: The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore

From the 1970s to 1995, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore used the building as its headquarters. The General Post Office, under Singapore Post, vacated the building in 1996.

In 1997, a Hong Kong investor acquired the Fullerton Building from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). It spent close to another S$300 million converting the Fullerton Building into a hotel and building the two-storey commercial complex One Fullerton opposite Fullerton Road.

Leaving the Fullerton Hotel

After High Tea at the Fullerton Hotel, we walked along Marina Bay, with Marina Bay Sands Hotel on the other side of the bay. We stopped at Gluttons Bay Hawker Center.

Pictures: After High Tea Walk along Marina Bay, with Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Gluttons Bay Hawker Center

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Best Oyster Bars in the US

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Oyster Guru Jon Rowley in Seattle tasting oysters and oyster wines: West Coast Oysters and Wine with Jon Rowley in Seattle, USA

In my home country Germany, oysters are very high on the list of any food aficionado, but you do not see them often on menus in restaurants nor is there a significant number of oyster bars in Germany. By contrast, in France, oysters are almost a daily staple, at least during the season. Similarly, at both coasts of the US, oysters are part of daily life. In Washington DC, supermarkets tend to have a nice seafood selection, including oysters and there are many oyster bars and restaurants that serve oysters at their bar.

America's Best Oyster Bars

Travel and Leisure issued a nice list of America's top oyster bars. It is a good list, as far as I can see.

Here is the list, including the Travel and Leisure comments. I added my photos.

For a similar listing see:
America's Best Oyster Bars (2013)

Hog Island Oyster Company: San Francisco, California

Located inside the Ferry Building, this airy, recently expanded oyster bar provides sweeping waterfront views of the Bay Bridge along with the company's fresh shellfish pulled from nearby Tomales Bay. Chef Christopher Laramie's menu features sustainably raised seafood like steamed Manila clams or semolina-dusted crispy smelts. Much of the produce is grown near the oyster farm.

Picture: Hog Island Oyster Company: San Francisco, California

The Ordinary: Charleston, South Carolina

Chef Mike Lata focuses on East Coast oysters with a sprinkling of choices from the West Coast at this former bank building turned sleek seafood hall. "We have several oysters that we can get locally and two within an arm's reach," he explains, "and I like to serve them side by side to highlight their differences." Wild Caper's Blades oysters from South Carolina are available at the white tiled raw bar; pickled shrimp or poached razor clams, served cold with an apple cilantro and jalapeño sauce, are another menu favorite.

Gilhooley's Raw Bar: San Leon, Texas

This cash-only dive's specialty is Oysters Gilhooley, and it makes a persuasive case that the best oyster cookery comes from the Gulf region. Shucked oysters on the half shell are dotted with butter and hot sauce, dusted with Parmesan cheese, and then wood-roasted until browned. While the dish is a year-round hit, the raw shellfish pulled from Texas waters are best enjoyed in season during the colder months.

Matunuck Oyster Bar: South Kingstown, Rhode Island

As an extension of Matunuck Oyster Farm, this seafood restaurant overlooks the estuary where the shellfish grow. After studying aquaculture at nearby University of Rhode Island, owner Perry Raso started farming oysters, eventually opening a place for diners to enjoy them. "We pride ourselves on doing clam shack fare, as well as more refined options," explains Raso. While Matunuck's own steely oysters served raw on the half shell are the focus, the bar also serves a few other varieties from the smallest state, side by side to highlight their subtle variations in flavor.

Taylor Shellfish Samish Farm Store: Bow, Washington

Family-owned Taylor Shellfish Farms already operates three oyster bar locations in Seattle, but the best ambience is found at its farm store 90 minutes north of the city. A day trip to this bay-side shack, tucked into the tall pine trees and rocky terrain, is ideal during the warmer months of the year. It provides little more than picnic tables and grills. Eaters are encouraged to shuck their own Shigokus and Kumamotos, but the store's employees will do it for a small fee.

Picture: Taylor Shellfish on Melrose Market,  1521 Melrose Ave. Seattle (Capitol Hill)

Island Creek Oyster Bar: Boston, Massachusetts

Are oysters aphrodisiacs? This is the place to find out, as Island Creek happens to be one of America's most romantic restaurants. The muted color palette and massive wall of cages filled with oyster shells were inspired by the sunset over nearby Duxbury Bay—the location of owner Skip Bennett's oyster farm. He and chef Jeremy Sewall highlight its bounty, along with shellfish from several nearby sources, and work closely with fishermen and farmers to secure local ingredients. The menu credits fellow oyster farmers like Don Wilkinson of Plymouth, Scott and Tina Laurie of Barnstable, and other purveyors by name.

Grand Central Oyster Bar: New York City

This institution within Grand Central Terminal serves about 2 million oysters annually to suited businessmen and tourists beneath its vaulted tiled ceilings. Open since 1913, the swanky bar has featured bivalves from all over the Western Hemisphere; a sign above the long wooden bar lists the day's particular varieties. Its famed oyster pan roast, with gently cooked Blue Points floating in a cream sauce with chile and paprika, is one of the longest-running menu items in New York City.

Pictures: Grand Central Oyster Bar: New York City

Merroir: Topping, Virginia

It's worth the hour-long drive from Richmond just to soak up this restaurant's view of the Rappahannock River flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. Merroir is linked to Travis and Ryan Croxton's Rappahannock Oyster Company, a pioneer in reviving the region's oyster industry after years of environmental degradation. The menu is built around the company's three different oyster varieties—all grown in different parts of the Chesapeake. They vary in salinity and sweetness depending on where they're grown in relation to the mouth of the bay and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Owner Travis Croxton and Farm Manager Patrick Oliver

Pictures: At the merroir with Owner Travis Croxton

Eventide Oyster Co.: Portland, Maine

Turquoise walls make a fitting backdrop for this overflowing oyster bar, where stakes in the ice categorize the bivalves as "from Maine" or "away." The Old Port area restaurant does New England classics like lobster rolls and chowder along with creative offerings like Kim Chee Ice or cucumber ginger. Eventide's Chinese-style steamed bun, filled with crispy fried oysters, tomato, and tart pickled daikon, red onion, and jalapeño, is a standout.

The Original Oyster House: Mobile, Alabama

For more than 30 years, this family-friendly restaurant on raised pillars over Mobile Bay has served seafood with a southern accent. Gulf oysters arrive at your table on the half shell, either raw or chargrilled. And there's plenty of the fried goodness you'd expect: fried pickles, fried crawfish tails, and fried grouper with grits. Turn up at dinnertime to savor a coastal sunset complete with egrets and salty sea breezes.

The Walrus and the Carpenter: Seattle, Washington

An ornate spiny chandelier hovers above chef Renee Erickson's zinc oyster bar in the hip Ballard neighborhood. About a dozen oyster varieties representing the West Coast, from California to Alaska, are piled into wire baskets, topped with ice, and labeled with chalkboard signs. Diners also dig in to comforting seafood dishes like grilled sardines and scallop tartare with cucumber and dill mousseline.

For the original article in Travel and Leisure, see here.

4 Types of Oysters

I distinguish 4 types of oysters:

The Pacific

Originally from Japan, the Pacific or Japanese oyster is the most widely cultured oyster in the world. It accounts for 75% of world production. In France, it has crowded out the Belon and now accounts for 99% of oyster production there. Gone are the days of the Belon in Paris. The Pacific oysters are marketed under a variety of names, often denoting their growing area. The Kumamoto is one of the most famous Pacific oysters. I tend to think of a Pacific oyster as a creamy oyster, with a mineral note.

The Kumamoto is one of the most famous Pacific oysters. I tend to think of a Pacific oyster as a creamy oyster, with a mineral note.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Raphael Doerfler (Earl Ostrea Chanca, Cabane 22, 54 allee du Grand piquey, 33950 Lege Cap-Ferret), an Oyster Farmer at Arcachon Bay, Bordeaux, France

See also:
Visiting an Oyster Farm at Arcachon Bay, Bordeaux: Raphael Doerfler at Earl Ostrea Chanca, France

The Olympia

The Olympia is a very small oyster seldom exceeding 2 inches. For comparison, in Massachusetts, oysters must be a minimum of 3 inches to be sold. Olympia is a native American oyster, which once flourished on the West Coast, before the Pacific took over. Olympias are hard to find today as they grow very slowly and are difficult to transport. They hold very little liquid and dry out quickly. The Olympia has a very full flavor with a distinct aftertaste.

The Atlantic

Another American native, there are many varieties of Atlantic oysters, such as the Malpeque from Prince Edward Island in Canada and the Blue Point from Long Island in New York State. Bluepoints were originally named for Blue Point, Long Island but now the term is generally applied to any Atlantic oyster two four inches long. These two are now the most common restaurant oysters in the US. Also called Eastern oyster, the Atlantic has a thick, elongated shell that ranges from 2 to 5 inches across. It's found along the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico in the US.

The Belon

The Belon, or European Flat, is Europe’s native oyster. The Belons are round and shallow. That’s why they are called Flats. They are also not very liquid and dry out fast. They have a long history. They used to grow in Brittany, Normandy, England, Spain, Holland, Greece and the Black See. But a disease is wiping them out worldwide. The Flats from the Belon river in Brittany were at some point the connoisseur’s top choice and the name was soon adopted by all oyster growers, a bit like the Blue Points from Long Island. The Belon oyster grows in limited quantity in Maine on the rocks of the Damariscotta river bed.

For more on the different kinds of oysters, see:
Oysters and Wine

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Bass River Winemaker Dinner at Merchants Wine Cellar in Singapore

Pictures: Bass River Winemaker Dinner at Merchants Wine Cellar in Singapore with Ainslie Kenny, Frank Butera, Christian G.E. Schiller and Annette Schiller from Ombiasy WineTours

Helmed by the Australian team Ainslie Kenny and David Elliott, Merchants Wine Cellar is a wine bar and wine store on Duxton Road that exclusively carries wines from Australia and New Zealand in its portfolio, focusing on talented, small, top-class wine producers. While I was in Singapore in October 2014, Merchants organized a winemaker dinner with Frank Butera, owner of and winemaker at Bass River Winery in Australia, which I was happy to attend. Exchange rate at the time of my visit: S$1 = US$0.8.

Wine in Singapore

Singapore - known as The Little Red Dot - covers just 700 square km and has a population of a bit more than 5 million people. It is a very expensive city (and became the most expensive city in 2014 according to the Economist) and also a popular tourist destination; on average every day, there are 36,000 additional people on the island.

The restaurant, bar and club scene is amazing, ranging from inexpensive hawker centers to premium restaurants serving both eastern and western cuisine.

Axel Ritenis: I have been constantly amazed at the explosion of gastronomy and culinary delights that has occured here this latest developmental wave,.. and I amazed by the sheer diversity and quality of food available! If this is not the food capital of the world,.. I don't know what is? The latest wave has seen the arrival of the French and Italians,... with many newly opened wine bars and restaurants manned by enthusiastic young chefs and sommeliers,.. and other wine and food professionals,.. intent on carving out a business niche for themselves,.. and succeeding in a dynamic Singaporean economy as opposed to the stagnant European market that many have escaped. And wine culture is exploding as well, needless to say there are many new Wine Bars and Stores specializing in Fine Wine in spite of the exorbitant import taxes and duties.

Traditionally, Singapore’s wine market has been dominated by French wine. The selection of Bordeaux and Bourgogne wines, including older vintages, in the large number of wine bars and restaurants in Singapore is amazing. Today, the interest is shifting to other red wine regions. “But more importantly white wines are increasingly popular and after the Sauvignon Blanc boom, finally fine Rieslings or Grüner Veltliners are offered by the glass in some of the top restaurants” says Michael Thurner, who founded Austria’s Fine Brands in Singapore.

Pictures: Singapore

According to the International Enterprise Singapore, a government agency, six countries account for more than 80% of import volume into Singapore. Australia and France are at the top with 31% and 26% of volume share, respectively, followed by Chile (9%), Italy (7%), US (6%) and New Zealand (6%). Spain, South Africa, Argentina and Germany each have approximately 3%.

Who’s buying? With US 55.000, Singapore has a higher per capita income than Germany and the US, for example.

On the supply side, the number of importers has mushroomed in recent years. Berry Brothers and Rudd moved into Asia in 1998, establishing offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Japan, is now also present in Singapore. Berry Brothers and Rudd predicts that its Asia businesses will account for half its global sales in five years’ time, up from 15% currently.

“People have always looked at Singapore as a small market rather overshadowed by China, Hong Kong and Japan. But people are realising that it's not just an interesting market by itself, it’s a hub for Southeast Asia too,” said Simon Berry, chairman of Berry Bros.


Merchants: Merchants is a boutique wine cooperative of almost 40 independent winemakers from 26 regions in Australia and New Zealand. We have set up ‘Cellar Door’ stores for the winemakers to visit Singapore and pour their wines for tasting, and share their knowledge, experiences and stories with the wine lovers of Singapore in a relaxed and friendly setting. We offer brunch/lunch/dinner at Duxton and we welcome BYO Food at Pasarbella. We also host convivial wine dinners and events at Duxton Road.

Pictures: Getting Ready

Frank Butera and Bass River Winery

Frank Butera is a second-generation Australian. His father came 40 years ago from Calabria in Italy to Australia and established the estate. The first vines were planted in the late 1980s. Today, 12 acres of the total of 110 acres are under vine.

Pictures: Frank Butera

Frank Butera: Bass River wines are made exclusively from grapes grown on our property, hence the labeling “Estate grown and produced”. Bass River Winery is a tiny winery that resembles a small domaine in South Gippsland – in size, approach, passion and very often in the glass. Bordered by the Bass River and southern end of the Strzelecki Ranges the vineyard is ideally located experiencing maritime conditions. The emphasis is being placed on producing small quantities of premium wines grown only from the estate vineyard, expressing terroir. Our philosophy is: the grapes make the wine and not the winemaker. In the wine cellar, there is very little intervention. We just accompany the process of fermentation and aging.


Merchants: Bass River Winery, a tiny and award-winning boutique winery in Gippsland, Victoria, will be our special host at Merchants Wine Cellar’s next wine dinner. Frank Butera, owner/vigneron of Bass River Winery, is hand-carrying estate grown fine foods all the way from Gippsland, Victoria to pair with his highly rated wines. Olives, olive oil and limencello are just some of the products that will star alongside his superb wines. All of which are are entirely estate grown and produced at the Butera family property.

Pictures: Bass River Winemaker Dinner at Merchants Wine Cellar in Singapore

This five course dinner will feature an array of beautiful dishes: plump and juicy crab cakes, salmon Nicoise with Estate grown olives, a stunning roast rack of pork, a fabulous homemade Tiramisu with the Butera family’s Limoncello, and the finale – Gippsland cheese platters to share. All dishes will be paired with Bass River Wines.

James Halliday, Australia’s eminent wine critic rated the newly released Bass River Chardonnay at 92 points and Pinot Noir at 95 points. The Pinot Noir was also recently recommended as Wine of the Week by Halliday.

Price: S$98

Pictures: Bass River Winemaker Dinner at Merchants Wine Cellar in Singapore


Crabcake + Sauce Remoulade

Bass River Vintage Brut 2011

This sparkling wine was developed using the methode traditionelle. Secondary fermentation occurred in bottle and the wine remained on lees for 6 months. The wine was disgorged in December 2012.

A classically elegant aperitif sparkling style delivers a clean, fresh and crisp plate. This Pinot Gris sparkling shows notes of apple and nashi pear before a touch of grapefruit citrus acid delivers a mouth tingling finish with a slight sweetness.

Salmon Nicoise + Bass River Estate Olives

Bass River Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013

James Halliday Wine Companion 2015 - 92/100

Patrick Eckel Wine Reviewer 93/100

The two Burgundian varieties produced by Bass River in 2013 received similar treatment with minimal intervention winemaking through the use of wild ferments, extended time on solids, minimal fining and filtration. The resultant wines are textural and have plenty of character.

The Chardonnay is a blend of I10V1 & I10V5 clones from the River and House Block’s. In terms of color the wine is a light yellow with some flecks of green in the glass, the nose shows the extended time on lees with lifted stone fruits, subtle vanillin oak and a touch of almond meal.

The palate has great texture and depth, starting with peach skins and nectarine, the time on solids gives a full mouth feel, the acidity in this wine is precise and along with gentle oak induced spices frames the finish. Drinking well now and will reward short to medium term cellaring.

Roasted Pork Rack

Bass River Pinot Noir 2013

James Halliday - Wine Companion 95/100

Estate-grown clones 114, 777, G5v15 and MV6, hand-picked, destemmed whole berries, extended cold soak and wild yeast-fermented; pressed into French barriques (30% new), until Feb ’14; 150 dozen made. Very deep colour; it has amazing depth of black cherry fruit on the bouquet and palate, but no question about its varietal expression; the palate is well-balanced and particularly long, and the wine will continuously reveal more and more over the next 5 years before entering into an indefinite plateau.

Bass River Estate Limoncello Tiramisu

Bass River Iced Riesling 2011

This dessert-style wine is light to medium straw in color with lemon and orange zest scents, a touch of dried grass and a slight marzipan edge. The palate is bright and citrusy with moderate acid. It is well balanced with the sweetness and has good length.

Cheese of the Grippsland Region, Bass River Estate Olive Oil + Fresh Baked Bread

Bass River Merlot 2010

Deeply flavored and intensely varietal Merlot with firm tannins and rich tones of black cherry and plum.

Bass River Limoncello

Bass River Limoncello liqueur has been crafted from estate grown lemons and is a sweet, rich lemon-flavoured liqueur. The highest quality lemons were traditionally used to produce a sweet and lateral lemon flavour.

Bass River Grappa

Bass River fermented chardonnay grapes distilled in the true Italian Grappa style to preserve full flavour and aroma. Our Grappa describes the true spirit of the grape and region.


Thanks Ainsley and Frank for a great evening!

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