THE Thomas Barton Reserve range of French Bordeaux was officially launched in Singapore on Tuesday by Diageo, which also counts affiliated brand Barton & Gustier under its umbrella.
Named after Irishman Thomas Barton, pioneering wine maker and founder of Barton & Gustier, the range comprises five red wines and two whites. The generic 05 Bordeaux retails for $35, the 06 Graves and 05 Medoc go for $41, the 05 Saint Emilion goes for $46, the 05 Sauternes and 04 Margaux go for $65, and a limited edition 04 privee Medoc retails for $106.
The wines were launched at One Rochester's second-floor Library section together with a paired multi-course dinner. Personally, the standout wines were the Sauternes and the Saint Emilion. The Sauternes is honey sweet but has enough of a citrus edge to make it drinkable by itself, though it really comes into its own when paired with a dessert, like the orange creme brulee that finished off the launch dinner.
Diageo commercial director for wine development, Frantz Dumey, commented that global warming has affected Bordeaux vineyards to the extent that Sauternes may no longer be produced in future. 'You may even be drinking the last of the Sauternes,' he went so far to say. The Singapore price of the Thomas Barton Reserve Sauternes is already fairly reasonable, taking into account the full-sized 750 ml bottle, but is even more palatable in the light of Mr Dumey's dire prognostication.
The Saint Emilion had a distinctly oakey nose, which stays all the way till the finish, accompanied by notes of chocolate and a hint of tobacco.
Both the standard and privee Medocs had the expected amount of spice, but the flavours were notably more controlled in the privee, which is to be expected. Only 12,000 bottles of this vintage of privee Medoc were made. Mr Dumey explained how brand-new French oak barrels were used for the privee, whereas second-hand barrels were used for the other wines. The used barrels probably account for the muted tannins that make all the reds surprisingly easy to drink right now, despite their youth.
Diageo plans to follow up to the Singapore launch by taking Thomas Barton Reserve to the rest of Asia, except China where Mr Dumey says the market might not be quite ready for it yet. 'Asia has been embracing the wine culture with great gusto for several years now,' he affirms.
The range's total production so far is 70,000 bottles, made by a carefully selected group of wine growers. 'We have five rounds of hand-picking to achieve consistent quality, to the extent of choosing individual grapes,' Mr Dumey says.
Thomas Barton Reserve wines have already won several accolades, with the generic Bordeaux winning the gold and the Margaux winning the silver at this year's Concours Mondial Bruxelles in Belgium. The privee Medoc won a silver medal during last year's London International Wine Challenge.
Diageo markets the range as the modern equivalent of 18th-century wines, and while I'm not sure if they're indeed that since it's impossible to know what exactly wine from the 18th century tasted like, they are worth checking out.