Malaysia’s Most Expensive Wine
Kirsten Durward and Monica Tindall
Tonight I am having my initiation into the wonderful and mysterious world of Asian aphrodisiacs. Jia De Bao Group Malaysia has decided to venture forth with something a little different for the local market. A Chinese artist, Professor Liu Min, wished to apply his interest in Tongkat Ali, a herb known for its aphrodisiac qualities. Infusing an Australian merlot with Tongat Ali might not be something the purists amongst us would leap to try, but I always relish the opportunity to try something new. And you have to admit that it is a unique idea. For sure there is no other Tongkat Ali red wine being produced right now, and at RM2000 for a bottle of Domaine Laurent Merlot, it sounds, in the very least, intriguing!
The challenge was always going to be blending a wine where the herb flavours of the aphrodisiac did not overwhelm the taste of the actual wine. For this challenge, Count John Umberto Salvi, Master of Wine, applied his more than 60 years of industry experience, to melding the bitterness of Tongkat Ali with the fruity flavours of blackberry and plum in the imported merlot.
And here we are, waiting to taste the resulting mélange. As we’re tasting a tipple that is really quite unique we thought it would be beneficial to have some expert opinions on hand and luckily Monica has just the right contacts. It might be hard to believe if you’re a regular reader of the blog, but Jonathan from Wine Zen and David from Wine Talks individually have more tasting experience than both of us put together. Plus of course, they will bring that all-important male perspective as to the effectiveness of the aphrodisiac.
We all know that wine enhances food, but the right food can also bring resonance to the drinking experience. What to pair with an aphrodisiac style wine? A little research suggested that the herby nature of the Tongat Ali infused wine would be best served by the hearty local flavours of Bak Kut Teh. But the European in me can’t quite let go, so we’ve supplemented in the same taste zones with some porky cold cuts, marinated olives and herby cream cheese – everything to ensure that we allow the bottle to perform to its maximum potential.
The heavens have opened and thunder is crashing as our experts arrive. It is a dramatic setting for our tentative first pouring. Jonathan has brought along a superb decanting device, to provide aeration to the wine that will provoke the nose of the wine. We decide to try with aeration and without to note the difference. On first observation, we notice a lot of foam in both pourings. You would definitely want to know that this is expected in what you are drinking. Our experts think the bubbles may be caused by a slight fermentation in the blend, and this is confirmed when we taste, there is a definite fizziness as well as the herby bitterness.
The experts pass the colour of the wine, calling it ‘fine – there is no browning.’ Muted fruit aromas are present, together with the vegetal side of the wine, a little green stalkiness is observed. But as the tastes are quite delicate, we decide it needs to be more chilled in order to bring out more of the acidity.
Which leaves time to prepare and put out the bak kut teh to see how the tastes go together. Pork eating Malaysian readers will be au fait with the delights of this dish, with its various cuts of pork and heady aromatic soup. A carboholic dish with rice in the bowl and tempting savoury beignets that are soaked in the delicious sweet broth. I could wax lyrical about this broth for lines and lines, but suffice to say, if you have not tried this, you must! It’s a true Malaysian delicacy and you won’t find it elsewhere in the world. Don’t miss out.
But back to the focus of the evening, Domaine Laurent. After a further thirty minutes of chilling we are back for a second taste. There is a detectable improvement, but it still comes up short on tannins and wine feel in general, although we do agree that the bitter nature of the herb is somewhat intriguing. We feel it more as a herbed alcoholic drink rather than a fine wine and would advocate tasting it with that thought in mind, hunt for the mystique of the concoction rather than comparing it to wine per se.
The visual branding with the Malaysian tiger and Chinese dragon symbols epitomizes strength, and strength is something that men are looking for from their aphrodisiac. No doubt this will be popular with wealthy mainland Chinese gentlemen out to make a big impression. For us, we can certainly concur that it is unique: nothing else like this on the market for sure.
Reasons to try: A one off – nothing you will have ever tried before.
Domaine Laurent Merlot is available at the Dorsett Grand Subang as well as The Forking Cork, a new wine and whisky entrepreneur bar in Taman OUG, Kuala Lumpur.