IMAGINE OPENING A DOOR AND LOOKING OUT to a barren landscape, with the odd insect flying drowsily about. Or picture being caught in the crossfire of soldiers shooting at each other during combat.
Story-telling is a large part of the experience at Ma Cuisine. Run by co-owners Anthony Charmetant and Mathieu Escoffier, the gastro wine bar is an industrial chic space where the focus is on the wine, instead of food. The menu comes as a leather-bound tome that details a selection of over 600 wines from around the world.
But some of their best stories are kept in a cosy room at the back of the bar. Walk past the champagne bubbles-inspired Remus mirror by French artist Hubert Le Gall, and you’ll find a cellar filled from floor-to-ceiling with the pair’s extensive port collection.
This is where the imaginations of both owners come to life. They spin intriguing tales of war or barren lands, depending on the year of the bottle they are introducing to guests.
“We bring people inside (our port cellar), and we can explain this magical world. The cellar becomes a time machine,” says Charmetant. “People are just laughing and having so much fun. I need to learn more about each vintage to tell more stories.”
Ma Cuisine currently has one of the most impressive port collections in Singapore. Their cellar is home to vintages that are rarely found in bars here. Take the Port White Colheita 1989 Barão de Vilar, made by respected winemaker Álvaro van Zeller. The amber-hued wine is complex and elegant, made from a single harvest and a blend of Duoro region grape varieties.
The pair are also bringing back an old-world tradition of using heated tongs to open their bottles of vintage wines. Invented in Portugal, this method is an alternative to opening very old bottles with corks that tend to crumble from age.
The ceremony is as entertaining as the port wine is delicious. It’s an elaborate show: Escoffier heats up a pair of tongs over a strong blow torch flame, while Charmetant brushes the bottle neck with ice-cold water. The red-hot metal that clasps the bottle neck allows Charmetant to make a clean break at the end, leaving the cork intact.
“The first time we opened a 77’ vintage with the tongs, the guy (who ordered the wine) looked at us and said, ‘I drink a lot, but I’ve never seen this in my life’.”
“With this method, we can open ports from 1963, or even 1850. For port, there is over 1,000 years of history,” says Charmetant. The two young owners can count on having stories to tell for a long time.