How To: Discerning Premium Wines

Updated: 22 Oct 2013

There are good wines, and then there are premium or ultra-premium wines. The question here is, what makes one wine good and the other better than good? Kitty Kaye sips three premium Bordeaux wines while she deliberates on the answer.

Chateau d’Armailhac 2008
Coming from one of the famed Rothschild family winery in France’s Bordeaux region, this one is made out of predominantly cabernet sauvignon grape, 29 per cent merlot grape, 15 per cent cabernet franc and 2 per cent of the highly concentrated petit verdot that adds a touch of dark purple hue and spiciness to the wine. The 2008, a year considered as an Indian summer, is instantly brewed coffee and toast on the nose. Its deep ruby hue gives the impression of a full body. Whereas, the wine is actually light, contemporary, undoubtedly refined and fresh with hints of ripe berries on the palate. It also holds smooth tannins as opposed to the big, dry, gum-sticking kind.

Chateau Clerc Milon 2008
Another one from the Rothschild family winery in Bordeaux, it is again made out of predominantly cabernet sauvignon grape, 40 per cent merlot grape, 16 per cent cabernet franc and 2 per cent of the dense petit verdot grape. Dark crimson in colour, this is not as aromatic as the d’Armailhac but it still has whiffs of baked bread. On the palate, there’s obvious chocolate and butter from, we suspect, the merlot. Smooth, elegant tannins, a mild complexity and a long finish help make it even more memorable.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2007
Often, the name of this winery is spoken in hushed, reverent tones. Since time immemorial, their wines – made out of grapes grown in Bordeaux – are revered by the elite. In fact, they still are. It’s just that today, their usually (approximately)RM2,500 per bottle wine is more accessible and is enjoyed by a wider market. The 2007’s bottle label is designed by French sculptor Bernard Venet - the chateau has a tradition where its bottle’s label is designed by a different world famous sculptor or painter each year and the line-up includes Jeff Koons, Dali and Chagall. The 2007’s intense ruby hue carries the trademark of a Rothschild’s French red. It has nice legs too (judging how it lazily hugs the sides of the glass) and traditionally oaky on the nose. Made out of mainly cabernet sauvignon and 19 per cent merlot, it’s full bodied, complex, fruity and roast beef with a long finish on the palate. In other words, it embodies the characters of old fashioned, premium wine.

Uncorking a Timeless Truth
Wines that cost a lot such as these are designed to age well even after they’re bottled – provided, they’re kept in the right conditions. More often than not, they become investments. On the safe side, these three are good to age for another five to seven years for much smoother and subtle tannins, refined complexity and richer flavours.

Tags: Features