By Lim Hwee Peng, CSW, FWS
30th Apr 2012
From a general assessment standpoint, quality may make the difference between a fine wine and a mediocre one. However, a brilliant wine is one that has a remarkable personality or narrative behind it.
One such wine, in my opinion, is Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay.
This is a fine white wine that is named after the first alphabet of three individuals, who had a hand in crafting this pristine cool-climate style Chardonnay – brothers Michael and Matthew Hill Smith, as well as cousin Mark Shaw.
I have, however, a playful and fun interpretation of ‘M3’ that is more relevant to local culture – ‘Makan, Minum, and Main’.
Although I am not suggesting that the wine promotes ?, ?, ?, ? (i.e. eat, drink and be merry), it is just a much pleasurable way for consumers to keep this wine in mind.
Despite labeling the wine after three makers, the market is probably more familiar with Michael Hill Smith, Master of Wine (MW).
You see, Michael is a globetrotter and also a notable ambassador for Shaw & Smith (S+S), as well as Australian wines.
To the locals, however, Michael is a Singaporean, and an Asian at heart.
Smith, graduated as the first Australian MW in 1988, has been visiting Singapore as part of the Singapore Airlines (SIA) Wine Consultant team since the late-1980s.
Where to eat, have fun and enjoyed oneself in the sunny island? Michael would know them by his finger tips.
His annual get-together, with trade and media professionals in Singapore, to share the new releases of S+S wines, is always fully attended.
In fact, it was chock-a-block in last year’s session that was generously hosted by Monopole, the young and passionate wine merchant that represents his S+S’ wines in Singapore.
Based on the increasing popularity of both the Aussie MW and his wines, it is not far-fetch to predict that future S+S launch event may have to organize over two days, instead of presenting it over a lunch.
Such is how well-regarded Michael is in this part of the world.
Unknowingly, such feat (for both Michael and his wines) does not come easily.
First released in 2000, M3 Vineyard Chardonnay has since been hailed as one of Australia’s finest Chardonnay.
Through subsequent vintages, accolades for this wine gain momentum; it has garnered favoured review and praises from celebrated wine reviewers such as Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, Stephen Tanzer, James Halliday and Jeremy Oliver, as well as renowned wine publications such as Decanter, and Wine Spectator.
Those who are familiar with that roll call of wine personalities will know that not many fine wines get unequivocal commend from those ‘A-listers’.
Each critic, innately, has their favoured wine style as well as quirkiness in assessing vino in the wine world; some also appeared not to see eye to eye in their opinion of certain wines.
Therefore, it is an achievement for M3 Vineyard Chardonnay to have such across-the-board endorsement.
I am, however, not surprised by such unanimous approval of the wine.
Personally, besides the obvious quality and exceptional finesse that impress many connoisseurs, Michael Hill Smith MW is, in my view, the basis for the wide support of M3 Vineyard Chardonnay.
An intellectual with a keen sense of passion for the industry, supported by an all-rounded macro-view of the wine world dynamics, Michael’s globetrotting schedule also helps to shape his outlook and linkages with international market.
With a unique Aussie sense of humour, it adds interest to his comments and sharing with people he interacts with.
More importantly, Michael’s generousity and sensitivity distinguish him.
Many, like me, were motivated by his magnanimous personality.
Since young, my parents have always instilled a traditional Asian way of behaviour, such as ‘ponder before speaking’; but I have come to realize that in certain environment, speed in expression is important.
In the inaugural Australia Landmark Tutorial (in 2009), participants were expressing their views in quick succession, if Michael did not put a pause to it, and quickly single out the Asian participants for their opinions, we may not have the opportunity to share our observations.
With his ability to empathize with participants from different culture, he was a hit with many of the Landmark Tutorial participants, especially the Asians.
When I was enjoying the M3 Vineyard Chardonnay and subtly singing praises of its quality, Michael took notice.
Several visits to Singapore and much discussions later, he initiated a purposeful back-vintages Masterclass of M3 Vineyards Chardonnay in Singapore, allowing the market to learn, not only how M3 Vineyard Chardonnay can evolve, we also had an enlightening lesson on almost all things Chardonnay!
Such was Michael’s generousity in sharing his knowhow (as well as his fine wines), and his instinct to feel for wine professionals and prod them along their learning journey.
Professionally, Michael Hill Smith MW is a kind soul who regularly offers only positive comments for fellow peers, and constantly encouraging.
Although he is already an established international wine celebrity, I am certain when Michael do get to see this article, he will probably laugh it off; I like that a true professional take their profession seriously, but not oneself.
The next time you pick up a bottle of M3 Vineyard Chardonnay, be sure to enjoy not only its fine nuances, but also the unique personality behind the bottle of wine.
This will ensure that you get a full enjoyment of S+S wines, whether in a makan, minum or main setting.
Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay 2010
Crafted from fruits at the Adelaide Hill vineyards that were planted since 1995, M3 Vineyards Chardonnay continues to charm its fans with its cool-climate nuances, refreshing notes with a pleasing note of oak.
If you could personify this wine, it is probably an Asian (and some will proffer that it is likely an intellectual one).
Subtlety, with underlying richness and a quiet charm seem to be the strength and attractiveness of this wine.
Enjoy this wine as you would imbibe a Montrachet, with a big bowl glass, be conscious of the serving temperature, and appreciate the nuances; much like sipping a pu-erh tea.
This wine is suitable for:
French Fine Dining
Fine Cantonese Cuisine
Fine Teochew Cuisine
Wine Bar’s Fine Wine list
Business Luncheon or Dinner
Price: SGD59 per bottle
Availability: Monopole (www.monopole.com.sg)
NOTE: Michael Hill Smith MW will be in town this week, if you have the opportunity, do meet up with him and be enlightened in the enjoyment of fine wines.