Thursday, December 31, 2009


New Year's Eve is an ending and a wish for better things in the coming year. It certainly applies to us. A number of wines to see the change in were significant. The arrival of Gordy and his lovely wife Papua NG Pia also brought expertise to the dinner and some extravagant wines.

We started conventionally, with a couple of Champagnes. Lanson 'Black Label' NV was gentle, balanced and with everything there. The Veuve Clicquot 'Yellow Label' was bolder, bigger and with more intensity, though a little youthful, raw and robust. Nevertheless, they did the job.

Two mystery whites got us going. A 2007 Keller Westhofen Kirchspiel Trocken Riesling from the Rheinhessen was a revelation. Full-bodied at 13.5%, dryish, but full, musky and textured, both SWMBO and I thought it a Viognier. Super wine. Then a 2008 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, herbal on nose, delicate, fresh, cutting, How could this come from the Southern Rhone, yet retain such a cool approach? These were tough to pick. There is no end to the surprise of these different-from-the-norm wines. Then to end the whites, no mystery, the 2006 Church Road 'Tom' Chardonnay. Big, rich, flavoursome with gorgeous fruit richness and matching oak. A benchmark for us and Gordy too. Grunter saw a lot of oak, all good oak however.

Then, served to winemakers among us who think Pinot Noirs are wussy, the three 2008 'Calvert' Pinot Noirs from Central Otago. The style of each of the winemakers is consistent, and the acceptance of each wine dependant on the audience. Overall, they were good, but reflected the bigger crop of 2008 with their accessibility. This showing revealed a lighter weight, soft Craggy Range. Probably least preferred. Then the soft, broad and fleshy Felton Road. Very drinkable. Top on this night was the Pyramid Valley, with great aromatics, intensity, tightness and potential to go further. These were a lovely gentle ending to the wines and the decade, and saw the new year in without great drama.

Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lunchtime Blues

We said farewell to The Man-None-Other and Souther-girl and welcomed Grunter and Super Sue with a lunch of cheese souffle and salad. Sad to see the former two go.

Of course, a couple of wines. Firstly an odd-ball 2006 Rotier 'Renaissance' Gaillac made from Loin de l'oeil, an ancient white variety given less than a year aging in 15% new barriques. Somewhat linear and lacking satisfaction, but clean and clear. Then a pairing of Ch. Palmer from Margaux. The 1983s was always touted to be better in Margaux than the 1982s - against the general Bordeaux claret trend. And so it would have been with the Palmers. The '83 bigger, fresher, richer and sweeter. But our bottle was plagued by brettanomyces. The '82 was in the same vein as many of the other wines of this vintage we have tasted lately. Faded, dried, dead leaves, with structure and grip remaining. But at least it was clean.

It was a case of the blues with the wine at lunch.

Ties that Bind

It was a wonderful time to catch up with only The Man-and None-Other with the Souther-girl together for a quiet get together. We've known them for years and this was a kind of reunion and old times and things we shared came up constantly in discussion. As can be expected, bottles were opened, and they were all significant.

The evening started with a 100% Pinot Noir wine, the new Number 1 Family Estate Rose Methode Traditionnelle. The Beer Goddess turned Wine Goddess and Cycle Saviour Chrissie are there now, and this bottle was a gift. Florals galore on opening giving way to complex Pinot berries and autolysis. Gutsy, yet classy and very approachable. Each of these people have had turmoil, but life has come good. We love 'em to death.

Two U.S.A. wines next. They were a pair to work together, though from different sources. Firstly a 2000 Jayson Napa Chardonnay, by Pahlmeyer. Golden, rich, lush, mealy and broad. A touch of oxidation that was easily forgiven. Given to me by Graceful Cousin. It needed drinking, and who better with than Souther-girl, who gave us the 2005 Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. She worked for the Constellation people and we toasted Robert Mondavi again. He was the subject of my first blog. Dark, classic blackcurrants, mint and a little eucalypt, all on a plumpish and firmish palate. An international style.

Then onto to a 1982 Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere St Emilion Grand Cru Classe. An emerging superstar then, now a real superstar. Again, all the credentials for something special. We were all expecting so. This is what we are all on the same wavelength over, in wine. And all in agreement that it was light, dry, austere, green and resiny. Oh dear. That's life.

Finally, a 1989 J.J. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese. We all know to have faith in this label. Always dogged by sulphide in youth, Prums come together after a decade. Glorious gold, honey, minerals toast and limes. Still tight and acidic, yet with a core of flavour and vinous depth. I thought it could go more time - 5+ years. The others felt it was for now.

It was truly a night that reminded us of our friendship, and through the medium of enjoying wine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Always Searching

Being inquisitive and looking for perfection are noble traits. That's what makes good people what they are. It's similar to finding the best drinking wine you can. Most of the time, you can't stop opening bottles to find that elusive wine that suits you and occasion. So it was with the arrival of The Dragon and Ha ha, and The Man-None-Other with Souther-girl, all good people, looking for a good wine.

We started off with the special Villa Maria Methode Traditionnelle NV, a robust Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the result of a project under Corey Ryan. Good bubbles with real character. Then onto a couple of classy Rieslings. A 2009 Coopers Creek Marlborough 'SV-Mr Phebus' coming across dry and very limey, with beautiful textures. This will improve. Then a 2007 Spy Valley 'Envoy' Riesling, medium in sweetness and with some toastiness developing, to me, curious in its balance, but The Dragon liked this.

Then onto a flight of 1986 N.Z. Chardonnays. Not expecting anything with these now, being too old, but in their time they were top quality. The Delegats Proprietors Reserve was on the edge of falling over. Big, broad and flat with no personality left. The Vidals Reserve was unripe with acid and oak still remaining. The surprise was the Villa Maria Reserve, from Gisborne fruit. Rich, toasty oak, some past matured fruit, drinkable if you had to. Then the super-duper Villa Maria Reserve Gisborne Barrique Fermented - unfortunately now too oxidised on nose and palate.

Some interesting reds were presented. Rather austere, dry and tertiary was the 1995 Jean Boillot Nuits-St-Georges 1er 'Cailles', along with the 1982 Ch. L'Evangile Pomerol, full of expectations for this, and starting off with rich, savoury plums but getting leaner and drier in glass. Nothing special in the end to me, but Ha Ha liked this. I liked the 1991 Wynns 'Centenary' Coonawarra Shiraz/Cabernet, still lively and with spicy dark fruits, mint and a touch of eucalyptus. It should live for ages.

The Man-None-Other knew that Ski-Man Sandy was in town alone, so he joined us. It was time to look at his wines. The 1999 Felsina 'Verardenga' Chianti Classico was elegant and extremely well-proportioned. Not quite the complexities of the top cuvees, but delicious. It was the favourite for SWMBO. And an unusual one, a 1994 Ch. Montus 'Cuvee Prestige' Madiran, dark and invitingly sweet, almost a lolly note, dense, then the Tannat tannins kicked in. Quite fine-grained in the end. Ski-Man Sandy was a welcome addition indeed!

Seemingly nearing the end of the evening, a pair of 1983 Alsace Vendange Tardives from Leon Beyer. The Tokay Pinot Gris slightly grubby and oxidised, without any varietal character or richness. Minerals and acid, with some weight did not deliver enough. The Gewurztraminer was slightly corked, but you could see the spices and florals still. Underneath, some richness and enlivening acidity. But again, not worth drinking up, leaving us searching for something drinkable.

Last chance....out came a 2005 Aime Stentz Alsace Pinot Blanc 'Rosenberg', a bottle given to us by The Lancer. Delicious with its clean and clear stonefruits and touch of honey and spice, plus a little residual sugar. Clever wine! It was a clear winner for most of us. The Man None-Other brought out a 2003 Abtei Muri Sudtirol Lagrein Riserva. Dark, sweet jammy nose and lush, dense, but supple palate. A surprise and another hit for all the drinkers. Our search for good drinking wine was over at that point.

And just in case, a 2004 Seresin Noble Riesling for those with a sweet tooth. Oddly sweet and sour on the nose, but lush and savoury-sweet on palate in a workable way. The botrytis not totally noble, but passable. Most of us stuck with the Pinot Blanc and Lagrein...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing On

The Christmas festivities always continue, and our growing tradition is to see the real Mr Parker and Lovin' Lorna on Boxing Day, who made the effort of visiting us for a change. As could be expected, a number of wines presented themselves for consumption, and it was a tough choice the make. We followed my heart, rather than Mr Parker's, so I trust he wasn't upset with that happening. Even with the number of bottles being opened held back a little, we tried to box on through the wine flood, but needed to call in the Neighbouring S.O.S. Group, to assist with the proceedings.

The day started with a 2005 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Spatlese. Still young, and a little reticent on nose and taste. As SWMBO and the real Mr Parker love the Jerries, they could see more than I could. It was nevertheless delicious. Still a baby, tight and with the famed Brauneberg concentration and fruit weight. Primary flavours, the Spatlese designation fulfilled superbly with its richness. Honey, florals, herbs and slate - in that order. We thought we'd go for a walk to get some credits, but they were quickly used up by an outstanding 1996 Pol Roger 'Winston Churchill' Champers. Complete in every way, with complex toastiness and autolysis. How does Pol Roger build in class and style with astounding power? It's their hallmark, for sure. My wine of the session, and one that Lovin' Lorna could sip on till the cows come home.

Rhone was the next region to come up on the radar. The session surprise for me was the 1999 Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc 'L'Oree'. Golden in appearance, I was expecting this to show the classic, and rather ugly oxidation that traditional Marsanne often has. But no. Wonderful poise and interest. More savoury, earthy acacia and florals allied to nuts. A nuance of oxidation, but it melded in with the character. Thoroughly modern and sleek for what can be a broad and flabby white. And stunningly versatile in how it matched all the different food from cheeses to crayfish! Then came the wine that improved all night. A 1990 Chapoutier Ermitage 'Pavillon' Black as, even after nearly 20 years. Tight and bound together. A touch of reduction peeking though the black fruits. Fine and firm tannins. Silky smooth and elegant for Hermitage. Over the course of the evening, it blossomed to show Hermitage terroir. Sweet and savoury, with spices and pepper with liquorice. One of the classiest Hermitage wines I've seen. The real Mr Parker loves Pavillon, as do I, and we are glad we still have some more. It needs another decade, and could handle another 30 years easily. Especially in magnum.

Then a brace of 1983 clarets, served with SWMBO's special chicken recipe. We suspected there would be no match, but what the heck. The Ch. Petit-Village Pomerol was a petit wine really. Still very alive, but its 10% Cabernet Sauvignon showing a profound influence - giving a cool leafiness and crisp acidity. The property has had its flashes of glory, but not in 1983. Then a magical Ch. Canon St Emilion 1er Grand Cru Classe (B, of course). Sumptuous and sweet black fruits, lush and plump for what is normally good old austere Bordeaux. 75% Merlot and a decadent expression for the variety here. A fine cut of meat would have been perfect. Canon has gone through a tough time since its period of glory in the late 70s and early 80s.

Then as a finale, a 1983 Hugel Alsace Gewurz Vendange Tardive. Corroded capsule giving way to a sound cork. Brilliantly bright and clear, light straw-gold. Pronounced aromatics of herbal spices, almost muscat in some ways. Savoury and bitter notes yet not decrepit in any way. Only marginally sweet in mouth, yet with luscious textures. The acidity was fabulous, and the wine was lively and spritely for its age. Quite wondrous I suppose. But the bitterness lent an ugly nuance which flawed the wine overall. I can't wait to try the 1976 Hugel Gewurz SGN I got from Harrods in another life.

Life boxes on, and meeting up with friends, both old and new, makes it all fun and interesting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New & Old

It's great to try new and old together. Not only does it provide a sense of continuity, but freshness is revitalising and old gives a sense of permanence. So it was with a meal with The Planning Man and his charming lady, the Planning Partner.

The new was a 2009 Millton 'Muskats@Dawn' , fresh bright, light and with plenty of the grapey fruit that makes these low alcohol (10.0%) versions so delightful as an aparitif. Very slurpable.

Then onto comparisons: Chardonnay. First was the magnificent 2006 Church Road 'Tom' Chardonnay, concentrated and dense, with amazing fruit definition of tropicals, citrus and mealiness. This was to go alongside a 1999 Moreau-Naudet Chablis GC 'Valmur', but this was oxidised. DNPIM material and a shame.

The Planners are Pinot Noir people, and they are working on a project with a difference, so watch this space - in about 4 years time, so Pinot Noir was a must. First was a 2005 Grivot Vosne-Romanee 1er 'Rouges'. Backward and tight, without the usual Vosne opulence. But then these 2005s will live a long time and cellaring is mandatory. Maybe the 2005s are entering a dumb phase? Anyway the Planning Man liked it very much, and he's no Burgundy slouch. Alongside it was a great bottle of 1998 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir. Some bottles are not as good, but this was rich and sweet in fruit, with lovely tertiary characters and decent structure still. A hot year, but this wine is remarkably fresh.

We were a civilised lot, so not too many bottles this night. But a 1982 Ch. Climens Barsac Sauternes continued the civility. Pale gold colour, with an intially reticent nose and hard palate, unfolding its richness with air time. The 'cutting' Basrsac nature dominating in the end. Lovely oily Semillon, almost with a Germanic 'cream and custard' note, rather than the open barley-sugar of Bordeaux. Not a great botrytis year, but a nice finish. This was the old, and it maintained our faith in longevity.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tall Order

Through the year, Mobsta and Kobsta have shown us much kindness. It's a tall order when you think that such kindnesses are difficult to repay, so we loaded up the wine bag to put some interesting drinks for an evening together. Over the night, some tall stories were the order of the evening. Our wines were only partly used, as our hosts had bottles lined up as well.

A special bottle had been kept for this occasion, a 1996 Deutz Blanc de Blancs Champers. A gift to Mobsta and Kobsta on their wedding. This was magnificent in its depth and developed complex autolysis. As Blanc de blancs do, this retained an elegance that kept it light on its feet. And yes, the 1996s are developing well. They don't seem to be immortal as initially thought.

Then a gorgeous 2005 Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett. This site can produce some lean, stony wines, but the wines come together, given a chance. Honey richness, toast and limes. Succulent and round juicy textures. The sweetness finishing it off superbly.

Mobsta and Kobsta tied the knot with Vouvray, so it was appropriate to have a 2005 Champalou Vouvray 'Les Fondraux', which turned out to be an extention of the Mosel wine in style. It was drier, and weighter, but essentially a sleek, sweetish goddess. Not austere, flinty and riddled with sulphide, but a wine of cleanliness and purity.

By then I was fading. SWMBO has the uncanny ability to be the last to leave a party, but she was sympathetic. We tucked into a 2006 Brown Brothers 'Patricia' Noble Riesling to go with a sweet strawberry dessert. This is a pretty drop. Complete, yet young. It has a feel of quality, and now having sampled this a few times reckon its a keeper. Loads of botrytis, yet with elegance and style.

We headed off, leaving a red or two behind, in a gesture of repaying kindnesses, which we still have not done properly. It seems a tall order to repay, but we'll do it with pleasure sometime in the future.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Girls Night Out

It was a pleasure to have Granny Annie and The Cafe Gal call in for a catch up. It's that time if year of course, and you pull ot the stops and try to fit it all in, if you excuse the double mixed metaphors. SWMBO was in her element and it was laughs all-round.

Cold, smoked meats, olives and cheeses first. We polished off a part bottle of Lustau 'Single Cask' Dry Oloroso, deepish coloured, powerful and very dry, but with good acidity. Complexity plus with nuts and rancio. A real mouthful of flavour. A touch of alcohol burn on attack, but it was 20% after all. Then a fully mature 2001 Te Mata 'Elston' Chardonnay. Lovely, brilliant limpid golden hued yellow signalled its glory. Full, integrated stonefruit and mealy aromas and only the merest drying on palate. Remarkable freshness and acidity still showing. At the end of its plateau, and a superb drop of wine.

Then a favourite chicken dish, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes and mustard in creme fraiche on pasta. You could drink anything with it. We had two 2004 burgundies. Burgundies are girls, of course, being feminine. The L'Arlot Vosne-Romanee 'Suchots' was faded in colour, but fantastically aromatic and sweet in fruit. Opulent as the terroir provides. And not showing the cool, wet, unripe vintage notes. Gorgeous now. However, the Dujac Clos de la Roche, darker, tied up with sulphides, but still firm with black fruits, was backward and needing more time. In the glass, it shed the stinkiness, and revealed its greater structure and fruit density. It will always be imperfect, but it will be interesting, always.

Then a pairing of 1998 Hawke's Bay Right Bank style wines. The Sileni 'EV' Merlot/Cabernet was impenetrably dark black red and chock full of savoury, earthy berry aromas and flavours spoilt somewhat by the presence of brett. Not as bad as the last bottle we had tasted, and this bottle drinkable by way of its massive fruit hanging in. But starting to dry. In comparison, an Esk Valley 'Terraces' blend of one third each of Malbec, Merlot and Cab Franc was tight, shy, fresh and berryish. Clean as could be, and this opened up with air time. No hurry for this beauty.

A dish of summer fruits was the food finale. Wonderfully piquant and fresh. Out came an old girl, a 1982 Ch. Rieussec Sauternes. Golden in colour, and a beautifully elegant surprise. These 82s weren't as highly rated as the reds, but time has seen it put on flesh and harmonise. Barley sugar heaven. Lovely Semillon notes. Botrytis there, and oak way in the backround.

Must go out with the girls more often.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Visits Long Overdue

It was a time to catch up with many people and wine. So a dinner with the Little Aussie Battler and the Drama Queen was on order, to hear the goss and discuss what the coming year might bring. It was all very exciting and fun. The shared passion for good and interesting wines took the same path.
We all love the Rieslings from the Mosel, and this was a second look at a von Kesselstatt Piesporter Goldtropfchen. A few weeks ago, it was a 2001 Auslese. Tonight it was a 2007 Kabinett as our starter. Von Kesselstatt is under the radar here, even though it remains one of the great traditional producers. And Piesport with its Goldtropfchen site a little forgotten nowadays. SWMBO and I were there in 2005. A timeless place, and this was a classic Kabinett and representative of site - full-bodied for a Mittel Mosel, but still retaining freshness and class. A touch of sulphur that will pass. A great glass of wine.
Then onto Rene Engel. A burgundy producer I was introduced to in the early 90s, but not kept up with. The property was sold off a couple of years ago, so a bit of a farewell catch-up drink, overdue, and now a little too late. The 2003 Engel Clos de Vougeot was big, ripe and dark. Plenty of wine here, and still vigorous and very burgundy indeed. A great bottle and one to keep your faith in the 2003s, deemed to be atypical, and wines that may fall over quickly. We didn't see it that way. Glad we visited!
The LAB & DQ brought along a 1993 Domaine Tempier Bandol, the most famous wine of Provence. I haven't seen a Bandol for donkeys' years, and this was a welcome eye-opener. Talk about a trip down memory lane! This was a red wine of long ago. Still black red, dense on nose and palate, with what the DQ said had "waves of flavour sweeping over the tongue". Black fruits and secondary funkiness. Brett for sure, but in a robust wine like this, it all worked. Mourvedre is a beast, but Tempier make it look half-way noble.
Then in honour of the LAB, an oldie that was full of nostalgic memories, a 1977 Brown Brothers 'Koombalah' Cabernet Sauvignon. In its time, Brown Brothers and the cool-climate Koombalah' vineyard were revolutionary. They still are, but everyone's a revolutionary nowadays. Quite elegant and distinctly minty and herbaceous, tending green cedar, with pronounced acidity. It had come together and moved on some. Fruit faded, but not quite dried out. An interesting integrated character however.
We thought we'd continue the visit to Brown Bros. with a wee modern sticky. A 2006 Brown Brothers 'Patricia' Noble Riesling was rich and voluptuous, yet retained an elegance. On its own, it would be seen as a drink now. Those who visit the sticky domaine regularly would be able to suggest this wine probably had another decade ahead of it. We served this as a back-up to something we thought should have been visited a long, long time ago - a 1985 Petaluma Botrytis Riesling Essence in 375 ml. Only 9.0% alc., and an Aussie Trockenbeerenauslese. Bottled in brown glass, we had no idea of how it would be. Maybe we should have opened its door a decade ago? But no worries mate, it was glorious - the wine of the night. Dark mahogany hued gold. Dense, rich and concentrated on nose and palate. Unctuous and decadently sweet. No trace of oxidation, and in fact superb toast and kero intermingling with barley sugar, figs and creme brulee. Air time saw it come together with the slightlest nutty-resin note. But quite sensational.
Lesson learnt: Don't wait too long before visits. You miss out on delights and pleasures you surely deserve.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Comparative Surprise

Some events and actions often come up and surprise you. In ways you don't expect. All the research, forethought and planning makes no difference. So it was with an organised get together with O&E. Firstly, Big John said he was in town, so he was invited for a drink. We were going to have the Pet Pals call in anyway, but the addition of Big John added to the occasion more than expected. There were connections all round. Quite a pleasant surprise.
On arrival, we got stuck into a comparison of two bubbles. The Deutz Marlborough Cuvee 'Blanc de Blancs' 2006 and hot off the press 'Prestige' 2005. It was a comparison between the sheer elegance of the former and the sheer class and depth of the latter. The Blanc de Blanc is a multi-gold and trophy winner. But it was surpassed by the Prestige wine. A nice little surprise from this comparison.
Then on to the new Church Road 'Tom' Chardonnay 2006. Nothing to compare with directly; only our past experiences and records. It compared well. Everyone, all Chardonnay lovers, thought it deep and rich, yet not overbearing in any way. It's a wine that goes straight to the top of the class.
Then two 2007 Central Otago Pinot Noirs. The Pet Pals' Wooing Tree was everything a Central Otago Pinot Noir should bee. Purple red, forceful dark cherries, real sweetness of fruit. Everything in front of you. Then the Peregrine 'Pinnacle', at four times the price and more. Savoury, earthy and dusty. Tight and taut, and promising to deliver in the future, Huge in extract. Not exactly pleasant now, but an admirable Richebourg style that will live a decade. Surprisingly, the Wooing Tree was by far the more
Then Big John's quirky indigenous red, a Quinta dos Mattos Douro Tinta Franca Reserva 2003. Nice table wine at 13.5% alc (yeah, right), black and liquoricy in smell and taste. Sweetly ripe, with tannin hit on attack, fading to fruitiness on the rest of the palate. Big John wanted to compare it with developments in The Bay, where the variety might do well. This was a pleasant surprise to us all.
Finishing this initial foray with comparing 1983 and 1982 Chx Chasse Spleen from Moulis in the Medoc. Cru Bourgeois, but showing typical vintage characters each. The 1983 somewhat leafy and acidic, the 1982 richer and riper, with texture and body in comparison. No surprise really, considering the reputation of the 1982s. Both a little old-fashioned, and interest-only now. But not gone.

Then O&E, SWMBO and me (that rhymes) 'ambled' down to the eatery, to continue the planned part of the evening. On arrival and moving to entree, two Italian whites. A 2005 Pra Soave 'Monte Grande', soft, sweetly nutty and a gentle start, followed by a 2007 Bruno Giacosa Arneis Roero, lovely freshness and crisp mineral/stonefruits to match our entrees. Comparing NE and NW Italian whites is not something we do often. 'Bless you', eatery owner for these. These were a pleasant surprise.
Then onto the main course in wine as well as food. 1983 and 1982 Chx Gruaud-Larose St Julien 2nd growths. Similar to the Chasse-Spleen in vintage characters, but up a notch in fruit retention and drinking character, as they should have been. The '82 was a Parker rave-wine at the time. Both had waves of funky brett coming and going, as they breathed in the glasses. In the end, the freshness and liveliness of the more elegant '83 won out. The '82 was bigger in all ways, and the loser here. A surprising comparison.
Finishing up the night was the 2001 von Kesselstatt Piesporter Goldtropfchen Auslese. Didn't need any comparison, as at this stage, comparisons would be invidious. Top notch year, with some bottle age now. Petrolly nose interlaced with honey. Gorgeous palate with lovely acidity. Flashes of custard and creaming soda in the palate. Luscious, yet a wine that would be an ideal aperitif.....maybe we could start all over again?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Real Reds

Fads and fashion rule with red wine varieties and styles. The current trend is for Pinot Noir and Burgundy, Syrah (with a splash of Viognier) and the more esoteric Rhone Ranger grapes, plus indigenous or long-planted varieties that make styles that are not in favour, but make table wine of real character, such as Zinfandel, which was popular for rose as well as Touriga for Port.
It was a real reds weekend, where a couple of old favourites did the job, and reminded you of how good the tried and true classics can be. Good old Aussie Shiraz from a warm climate. Now how unfashionable is that? A 2006 Saltram 'Mamre Brook' Shiraz was lush, ripe, sweet, slightly euc'y, and silky smooth. Sheer satin to drink. Then an old-timer dependable name in a 2006 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz. Still reserved, but complex in aroma and flavour. Fully ripe. And with structure to burn. This could last another two decades.

To just make sure we weren't on the wrong track, a couple of the 'hot' Shiraz/Viognier wines, but from stalwart South Australian producers. Both 2007 - the d'Arenberg 'Laughing Magpie' Shiraz Viognier from the McLaren Vale. Tight, crisp, steel and acid, with minerals too. This will age a decade. Lovely aromatics emerged with air time. And a Yalumba 'Hand-Picked' Shiraz+Viognier from the Eden Valley , a big, broad and softer number, but also with terrific bouquet and perfumes. These combined the new whizz-bang style with the traditional 'terroir'? of South Australia. As the new styles should be. The wines should reflect their origin, and not some supposed inspirational homeland in France too much.

But the wine of the weekend was a 2001 CVNE Rioja Reserva. Still a baby as it approaches its 10 year mark. Garnet red, but a wow bouquet of cedar and vanilla from the oak. Great concentration, and a wine crying out for a flavoursome, hearty meaty dish. If it was older, you'd want some finer meat expression then. Needs another 10 years. Classical Rioja, full of character that has been consistent with the Rioja style for decades. Absolutely trustworthy and heart warming to see an old-style wine look so characterful, against these 'mod' wines.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


It was 'out of the blue' that we got invited by the finance wizard and his wife to view the fireworks. Their house has the most amazing, blue-chip view of the harbour, and there would not have been a better vantage point to see how the city council spent $100,000 in pyrotechnics. The show was spectacular, and an estimated 150,000 people enjoyed it. I call it good value.

A number of good wines could be expected to be served, and the night lived up to this expectation. Firstly, a round of quizzing. A rare Domaine Epis Chardonnay, 2000 vintage I think, came first. SWMBO went Australian, probably Semillon. I went old-world Chardonnay. We were both right and wrong. This Macedon Ranges, Victorian Chardonnay is made with white burgundy in mind, and is not your typical Aussie fruity number. The wizard fired this Catherine Wheel, we were not quite fizzing. Then a gorgeous Dry River Gewurztraminer 1999. Fully mature, golden, lush an honeyed. Decadent, off dry, harmonious and oily, flowing with flavour. Like a lava flow from a Mt Vesuvius! The wizard has experienced bottle variation with this label.

Then our neighbour's wine. The Pet Pals had visited Central Otago recently and brought along a cracker in their Bannock Brae Barrel Selection Pinot Noir 2007. Two gold medals for a wine from a great vintage. Deep, supple, beautifully ripened fruit, yet tight with structure. Classic Bannockburn stuff with the thyme herb complexities. If you got it wrong in Bannockburn in 2007, then shame on you! And then the 'Big Bang'. A Penfolds Grange 1999. A vintage gaining in repute all the time. Black as. Huge extraction and huge richness. Beautifully ripe and packed with goodies. A touch of VA, adding to the lift. Massive. 10 years old and it needs another 20. Power packed stuff to finish an evening of fireworks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Little Sweetener

We're well into spring, and there's plenty of sweetness in the air. Funnily enough, there's still snow on the mountain, and SWMBO can still get on the white powdery stuff. How sweet is that?

I stayed in town to look after our good friends from up north. After a hard week and weekend of work, we all enjoyed a little sweetener. Life needs it sometimes, and there's nothing like a couple of half bottles of sticky. We went for the doctor. He prescribed a bit of sugar.....

The 2004 Ch. Suduiraut Sauternes was everything it should be. I reckon the 2004s are classic and somewhat underated. Pale golden, still youthful, it has classic lanolin and honey with a little beeswax and oil thrown in. Still fresh and lively, this hit the spot. No hurry, a decade ahead possible. What could beat it? How about a 2002 Ch. d'Yquem Sauternes? Deeper golden. Full and rich on bouquet. A touch subdued, but brooding. A step up considerably in richness and weight. Yet more elegant too. Massively unctuous, and just enough acidity to prevent cloying. Power and length. Drawing the palate out on the line has created class. Robert Parker would say it had a finish of over 90 seconds. An Aussie wine judge would say it's got VA, but could drink it. We just sat back and sipped. Quietly. Satisfied. Sweet.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air

Getting out and about and into a normal routine has been very beneficial. A good dose of work and some time to smell the roses can be so invigorating and has promoted progress. So when Blewy and Abe, two of the three Calverteers were in town, a number of good bottles were opened.
At the local Chinese eatery, a 2007 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett was classical Mosel and typical Brauneberg with its hint of blackcurrants. A touch of reduction that will be swallowed up in time, but a wine with potential to come together well, not necessarily in a grand way. We also paired a 2007 Cristom Mt Jefferson Pinot Noir from Oregon with a 2007 Drouhin Beaune 'Clos des Mouches. Difficult year for both regions. The Cristom flat and hard, trying to be plump, but missing the mark, and ending up a dull drink. But the rather light Drouhin turned out to be a delight. Fresh, lively, a little light and acidic, but really appealing. Both wines indicated from the start what their personalities were, and air time substantiated the first impressions.
Back home for after dinner drinks. The big guns came out. A 2003 Rousseau Chambertin. Big, broad and complex, with rounded edges, and developing greater richness with breathing. Quite magnificent. These 2003s from the hot, dry year are a bit of an enigma. They looked really sweet and fresh a couple of years ago. But now, this was getting soft, developed, and secondary. Following was a 2001 Drouhin Musigny. A bit sharp and acidic at first, straight from the inside cellar. Breathing brought it all out. Not so much ethereal and perfumed, but fine and elegant, developing great concentrated richness, and now with secondary forest floor notes appearing. Truly a great bottle that opened up with air. Finishing with the German Riesling theme, a 2001 Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese Goldcap. Classic year. Fruit drying a touch. Getting those custard and cream secondary notes. Botrytis there. Richness too, but in a ugly in-between stage. SWMBO, Blewy and Abe happier than me on it.
Maybe it was time to get a breath of fresh air....

Friday, September 25, 2009

No News is Good News?

Sorry I haven't posted much lately. Getting back into work is time consuming. I should be consuming some more 'treasures', especially now that I've been given much of my palate back.

Most of the wines I've been tasting are new season releases, and the older wines have taken a back seat. At this stage, anyway. These new wines are also good for training the palate. They are more up-front, primary and raw. These can be tough to see where they go in the long term.
But it takes a long-time sipper to appreciate the aged wines, and we all need more practice in this area!

A couple of new beauties have come my way recently. 2008 Mount Edward Pinot Blanc from Central Otago. The cuttings came from Larry Mckenna at The Escarpment Vineyard in Martinborough. Weighty, yet clean and crisp. Something a Pinot Gris maker could aspire to. Absolutely excellent in proportion and none of the rustic earthiness that can spoil the variety. And then a 2007 Wirra Wirra 'RSW' Shiraz from those good people in the McLaren Vale. Rich, concentrated, ripe, and stylishly restrained. Treasures in their own way.

Next news will include a couple of oldies....

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tough Stuff

Surely one of the most difficult of wine styles to appreciate is that of traditional Barbaresco and Barolo. Tar, leather, dried roses, huge drying extraction and searing acidity are the hallmarks of this long-lived style. It truly can be tough stuff to work through.

I put myself through the excercise of looking at ten of the brutes from the highly regarded Produttori del Barbaresco co-operative. The nose was the best way to appreciate and differentiate the wines. Palate textures and fruit sweetness on the palate backed up the nose.
My pick was the 2004 Rabaja, followed by the Montefico, then Montestefano.

I was rather pleased with myself, as it is a sign of the taste buds still working. Even on this tough stuff. But I know I have a long way to go.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sponteneity and Serendipity

We went out with the Chairman out for a spontaneous, quiet dinner. In some ways, a first public outing at a noted eating house, and it turned out to be one of those delightful serendipitous evenings where we met old friends and made new, and some remarkable bottles tasted.

First a catch up with the new Lady Chairman, sharing a Veuve Clicquot Rose NV, clean, fresh and with a subtle floral beauty like the Lady Chairman (and SWMBO, of course), but not overstated. It got us in the mood with fun and laughter. The Lady Chairman had a catch a flight, so missed the rest of the night with us.

At the restaurant, waiting to decide what to eat, a Lustau 'Papirusa' Manzanilla got the saliva glands into life, quite a task after two months of radiation zapping. But it was cold, crisp, salty and tangy, but not quite long on the palate to make it a star in its own right. But a successful start. We brought a couple of old bottles, which the young sommelier thought he'd tell some other diners who had brought a couple of old and interesting bottles along too. So began a swap fest.

Rumble Tumble Alex was celebrating his birthday and his 1986 Ch. Margaux was the wine of the night. Fresh, youthful, tight, elegant, dark fruited with archetype perfumes, but masses of depth and length. This could live decades, with its fresh outlook. It knocked the spots off our 1989 Ch. Cos d'Estournel St Estephe, which if served on its own would have been a silky smooth lush star, that developed funky nuances throughout the evening. Thank goodness our 1988 Jaboulet Hermitage 'La Chapelle' was the second best wine of the night. Still sweet with juicy fruit. More meaty, savoury and complex than varietal purity - exactly what Hermitage is all about. It was good with the Chicken, Duck and Steak dishes we ordered. Amazingly versatile.

Then came an odd assortment of reds that were a tier down in delivery. A 1997 Borgogno Barolo was drying and savoury. Interesting complex flavours, but the grip was a bit too much. The 2003 Faively Nuits-St-Georges 1er Porets was over-extractive. Some can handle this style of Burgundy, probably needing time - decades maybe, but too hard to enjoy for us. And then a modernist 2003 Isole e Olena Syrah, pepper and florals, international and non-individual, though pleasant.

To cap the night off, we had five Framingham sweet wines, all 2008 vintage. Riesling Auslese #1, huge botrytis on nose, with elegant weight. Then Auslese #2 dumb and flat on the nose, but with good weight. It may have been opened a bit long and seen too much air. Auslese #3, gloriously rich with botrytis and exotic sweetness and complexing positive volatility. It was my third wine of the night. The Botrytised Viognier surprisingly varietal, but a round, full number that could have done with a little more zest, and finally the SGN Gewurztraminer, again with varietal character, but flatter on palate. A fantastic comparison of what Dr Andrew Hedley, the winemaker has a passion for.

For me, the arrival of the Chairman was a starter signal to begin tasting and drinking again. The two days were a true palate workout, quite unexpected - spontaneous and serendipitous. I think I'm on the road to recovery, and will regain much of my palate. And what was pleasing was that all of us were pretty much in agreement. Long live the Chairman!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Judging Chair

It was a milestone to have a Chairman of Judges visit. His last visit was a year ago, so it called for a few wines to see if he was worthy of his title, and if he could assess if I was still capable of discriminating differences in wines. To be honest, he is more than worthy, and it was great to hear his concise and accurate descriptions, not too different from what SWMBO and I thought.

The 2007 Mosel vintage has been hailed as superb, so a trio to start with. Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett was fine, delicate and subtle, and a touch of reduction which blew off. Classical Schaefer detail. J.J. Prum's Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett was very reduced, the sulphide dominating, but underneath a sheath of steel and acid. Prums are always like this and a decade of bottle age brings balance and beauty. But it takes a few bottles of Prum and time to believe it can happen. Meanwhile, an ugly duckling. Then Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett. Weighty, spicy, textured, rich. Some sulphide that blew off to become the most satisfying of the trio.

After a Chinese meal, back to Germany with a Deinhard Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Eiswein 1983. Burnished golden in colour. Toffee, caramel and burnt barley sugar on the nose. Fruit drying on the palate and typical eiswein searing acidity. This is where old dessert wines go in flavour, but if we'd drunk it a decade earlier, it would have been sweeter. This was a treasure in its day. The Rheingau was a much more highly regarded place a quarter of a century ago.

Then in honour of our Aussie Chairman of Judges, a Lauriston Show Muscat. Multiple trophies and golds. Very dark chocolate colour and green hued edge. Massive raisins and rancio. However the spirit poked out a bit. Decadent but a component out of place and not quite integrated. But still something wonderful.

Having the Chairman of Judges marked today as one where I reckon I could make the judges chair again with a bit more training. Cheers, or should that be Chairs?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oh 'La La'

As part of the palate retraining programme, I had the chance to taste the Guigal 'La Las' from 2005 - all 100 pointers by Robert Parker. Oh La La! They were good, even to my palate that's a little sensitive to alcohol and acidity. They say that the nose can give you 80% of a wine's character. I'd better believe it. I could certainly see the terroir in the three labels.

La Mouline from the Cote Blonde, surprisingly open and broad, but lighter in weight. La Turque , a Cote Brune, but ironically with its exotic perfumes and tight concentration and backward nature. La Landonne, from the Cote Brune, full of black fruits, size and majesty. Up there with them was the 2005 Cote-Rotie 'Chateau d'Ampuis', an assemblage of fruit from selected plots, wascomplete and spicy with juiciness. Even the 'Cote Brune et Blonde', which has disappointed recently had taken a step up.

Again, all I can say is 'Oh La La'

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spinning from Spain

Another step forward as I attended a tasting of 'new wave' Spanish wines. A fellow, Telmo Rodriguez, who uses almost extinct or very old bush vines in special sites, but applying modern winemaking to make wines that are innovative and international in outlook. It was a test of the nose and the palate again, and the good news is they both work, though the palate needs fine tuning.

On the the wines. A Rueda Blanc 'Basa' 2008 was a lean Marlborough Sauvignon look-alike, and in fact included 5% Sauvignon. Yet an Alicante ' Al Muvedere' 2007 was everything you expected from a hot-climate, dead-fruited, old-fashioned red. In the end, while there were some that showed terrific value, it was the high-end wines that did it for me. You get what you pay for. Particularly head-spinning was a Toro 'Pago La Jara' 2006, a toasty oaky Rioja 'Altos de Lanzaga' 2005 and a Ribera del Duero 'Matallana' 2004 - all Tempranillo based, all over the $100.00 mark, all thoroughly modern and international in style, spinning around the notion that Spanish wine is all old fashioned, traditional or rustic.

The tasting certainly put me spinning too - into the right direction - forward. I might start trying some of those 'old treasures' soon....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Not Lost

After a long break for medical reasons, where I haven't touched a drop of alcohol (intentionally), I had my first foray back into the world of tasting wine. They say that radiotherapy and chemotherapy can cause a loss of ability to taste, but it can come back.

Over dinner last week, SWMBO served a basic Chardonnay and pretty decent Pinot Gris (names to remain anonymous). Easy to smell the difference, but on the palate alcohol and acidity were the over-riding sensations rather than taste. We knew it was only a start, but it had us a little worried.

Then this week, a full-blown wine tasting of a range of wines from Mission Estate Winery from Hawke's Bay. The latest and new releases looked good and particularly significant for me was that the nose was sensitive to the nuances and the palate was distinguishing most components, though not to the discernment I'm normally used to.

Anyway, to report on the two relatively older wines, the 2000 Mission Reserve Syrah had not aged well, sour and gamey, and somewhat unattractively secondary, though it had some fans among those tasting it. However, the 2001 Misssion 'Jewelstone' Syrah had developed majestically, retaining varietal florals, pepper and spices with dark berries, while showing some lovely cedar and game evolution. This bodes well for Mission, especially their current 2007 'Jewelstone' Syrah. There's more being released if you look hard, so if you ain't got any, you're not lost.

Im' glad my sense of taste is not lost. A bit of practice over the future will help for sure.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One at a Time

Going through some procedures and treatments at present. It's really one day at a time. Radiotherapy may affect my taste, but it should be temporary. There's lots of good wines I'm tasting, but nothing much from the cellar as such.

A great visit from the Southern Belle brought forward a 1988 Penfolds 'St Henri' Claret - 21 y.o. Gorgeously supple and integrated, yet fresh and lively with classic ripe dark prune and berry fruits, ultra smooth and silky. As good as St Henri can get! I've got to admit, I do like Penfolds with their slight excessive use of those American hogsheads, but this has won me over to the St Henri style.

I can only take a bottle at a time, but each one can be significant!
Hoping I'll add the occasional post through til the time I more active.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On a Path

Your life always follows a path. Hurdles often appear. It can take a concerted effort to overcome them, and often with help and understanding, it happens a little more easily. Wines also follow their own path. A couple of individual wines showed this to be the case last night. The Planning Man and passionate guests from a Pointed Place were the reason for opening a few:

First up was a 2000 Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Le Clos, initially seeming very forward, fully integrated with chalk and minerals and a soft, textured palate, though an underlying leanness, as can be expected from Chablis. The path of this bottle was nearing its end journey, disappointingly for the Pointed Place Man, whose last bottle of this wine was very youthful. Then the TCA emerged. SWMBO was instantly struck by it. Strange how cork taint can lie low, them at a certain temperature or time in glass, it announces itself.

As a wine starting is path, the 2005 Grivot Vosene-Romanee 1er Cru Beaux Monts was primary as could be. A degree of blood and iron to the richness and density. A mouthful that will follow a long and possibly glorious path over the next two decades.

Then a wine that followed a path and never deviating and will go nowhere. A 1983 Deinhard Bernkasteler Graben Riesling Auslese. Light golden, and searingly acidic. Hints of blue cheese and decrepit notes plus a little oxidation, but still discernably old Riesling from the Mosel and eye-opening for it. It must have been a tart and sharp number at the start of its path. It still is. It will not go anywhere different now. Except down.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Life Ahead

As we face our challenges, we must approach them knowing there is more life ahead. As part of facing a particular tough time ahead, there came the chance to open two bottles, one new, one old, with the Planning Man and The Boss.

First up was the 2006 Cloudy Bay 'Te Koko' Sauvignon, just released. Subtle, wonderfully harmonious and integrated, yet with layers of flavours that gave the barest hint of its Sauvignon heritage, but more of what the smart team of winemakers that shaped it did. The news that Head Man at Cloudy, Kevin Judd, is to leave, and that his right hand winemaking WOman has left is sign of trouble at mill. These big corporates have no feeling for people. That's for true. The big machine behind Cloudy Bay will make sure they get plenty more life ahead out of the brand, and no doubt make very good wine. The exiting humans will find freedom and their lives ahead become more meaningful, as they do, overcoming any challenge.

Then a Deinhard 1983 Kaseler Nie'schen Riesling Auslese. Deinhard was a big name over a quarter of a century ago. Landowners as well as brand-owners - Deinhard 'Green Label' Mosel Riesling. This introductory wine seemingly died, but has seen more life again in the likes of Loosen's 'Dr L'. You can't keep a good thing down. The oldie was good golden, and refined with subtle custard and toast aromas and flavours. The barest lean crispness and a hint of drying out. Drink up, but if you pushed it, there was more life ahead. These old Ruwer wines had plenty of sulphur and tart acidity, even in 1983, to ensure it would see it through to times of old. But their true nature and glory come out to be admired eventually.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

30 Years

It's the 30 year anniversary of Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc this weekend. N.Z.'s most important grape variety and arguably the most important producer in terms of size and consistency. Lots has happened since then.....but the wine is still being made, and proudly. We had our own celebration, with some of the earlier vintages. To tell the truth, some of the wines were not inspiring, but some were still O.K. Here's a run down of what we looked at:

First made in 1979, that wine didn't last well. 1980 was a cracker, but we didn't look at either of those. 1981 was our first, found in the old cellar. Still varietal, some soft asparagus, greener acidity, but faded. Our 1982 was thoroughly oxidised. Did Not Put In Mouth. 1983 was actually pretty good. Riper asparagus fruit expression, some rounded weight and textures, drinkable. This was a super year for N.Z. and some of the Rieslings could also be alive.

1984 was a wine that still showed well in the early 1990s. The fresh acids were preservatives. Here it was well oxidised and green simultaneously. 1985 caused some wonderment with its freshness and liveliness. Dipped in mid-palate, a little light, but with length. Unfortunately, our 1986 was corked and had gone decrepit and rotten. It was a high yield year, so this did not surprise us.

The deep golden colour of the 1987 told us it was too late. Steely aromatics along with oxidation. DNPIM. 1988 was thin and oxidised. Cyclone Bola gave a wine with little fruit. So an oxidised dilute wine gave only oxidation! 1989 was the pleasant surprise. Sweet lemon-grass notes, soft and broad, a little dried, but with fruit lushness.

We did not expect much from the 1989 'Show Reserve', fermented and matured in French barriques. Oxidation and a hint of oak spice? The power of suggestion! 1990 was not the best vintage, but here the wine was just alive. Light, faded, but just there. We expected 1991 to be better. Other 1991 Sauv Blancs, such as Hunters, have lasted. Earthy, steely and again decrepit stuff.

I suppose the conclusion is - don't keep these type of wines this long. But the early wines were generally better. There is a case for the simplest and most reductive winemaking being suitable for ageworthiness with this style. In my books, you should be drunk in the first 5 years or so.

To reward ourselves, we had 1983 and 1982 Ch. Langoa Barton from St Julien, a third growth. As usual the 1982 had it all over the 1983. Richer, more seriously together, the 1983 faded in comparison. Leaner, drier and tougher. Overall, they showed the Langoa pedigree. Or slight lack of it. Just a little too firm and slightly coarse, when compared to its more highly rated sibling Leoville Barton. I know which one I'd drink at 30 Years of age.

Friday, March 6, 2009

In a Groove

Tough to get out to do extra-curricular stuff sometimes. Real life can intrude. So it's good to get out of that groove or rut. So it was a spur of the moment to catch up with our Pet Pals. Something new and something old to try over a quick put-together dinner.

Gruner Veltliner may be the new buzz. Those Austrians have a point of difference. So we tried N.Z.'s first commercial release, the 2008 Coopers Creek GisborneGruner Veltliner 'The Groover'. Lighter than many Austrian benchmarks, a little softer than expected, but with the ginger and pepper you want. Very easy to drink. If Coopers Creek keep this up, it'll be a groovy drink.

Then onto two groovy wines at the time. 1990 and 1991 Te Mata Estate Cabernet/Merlots. Bordeaux blends were the rage then, not Pinot Noir, no mention of Syrah either in those days. Very pleasant drops they were, so many years later. Not as good as their bigger brothers 'Awatea' and 'Coleraine', which were top of their game, especially the 1991s. But they showed ther respective vintage personalities. The 1990 a smaller scale job with acidity and a touch of the greens. The 1991 richer, sweeter, fleshier, and a touch of cedar and tobacco development. A groovy wee surprise, this pair were.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Having Faith

It's difficult sometimes to believe in yourself. People and situations around you can rock your faith in what you have found to be the best and true.

So SWMBO and I thought it was a time to share some bottles with the Jelly-Bean girl. At brunch, we had the option of two Champers to start with. We have always loved Louis Roederer, but last time at this eaterie, we enjoyed Pol Roger. So it was with a slight reluctance we took the Louis Roederer. It was everything it should have been. Rich and Pinot-y, but fresh, with elegance.

After, we thought a good claret should be explored. Coming to hand was a 1982 Ch. Talbot St Julien. Previous vintages around this year of Talbot have been badly bretty. But then again, some of the latest sampled1982s have been great. I was worried about how it would show. This was good wine indeed. Full, solid, almost chunky. Ripe meats and savoury ceday and a touch of mint. Sweet fruit too. That's Cabernet for you. And it's fuller structure came through with air time. I've always enjoyed Talbot, even more so than Gruaud-Larose, it's upper-market Cordier stablemate at the time. I should have had faith.

I've always trusted and had faith in Climens as a good Sauternes. The 1996 Ch. Climens Barsac, opened as a sweet end delivered everything. Restrained richness, a dry cut, classic lanolin and botrytis. Oak andsome VA lift. Good to know that having faith works out.

Thanks, Jelly-Bean girl, for making it a day to believe in yourself.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Do the Best

There's no point holding back. In life, you often only get one chance at things. After a few disappointments with the Kiwi wines, it was time to go back to the benchmarks. And with Kitty Kate and Pedro in town at different times, it was a chance to put up a few vinos, to do the best I could, considering the spur of the moment.

It was claret time, served in pairs. With Kitty Kate and her off-sider Trace, we looked at a 1982 Ch. Rouget Pomerol. A bit lean, not totally clean, but an OK drop. I was disappointed, but SWMBO was happier. So out came a 1982 Ch. La Fleur Petrus Pomerol. Much more alive and sweet in fruit. Head and shoulders above. Both with the dried tobacco and earth that only good Merlot from a decent terroir can give. As air time worked its magic, both wines became better - the Rouget a little richer, the La Fleur Petrus developing an iron core and concentration. Even 8 hours later, the better showing persisted.

Then Pedro got a pair of Pichons. One of my favourite properties, which Pedro inspired me on, so I had to do my best. 1981 and 1982 Chx Pichon Comtesse de Lalande Pauillacs. Both better than good wines, the 1981 showing its 'ordinary' pedigree of an average vintage. however. A touch on the leafy side, but intense, acidic and lively, though a leaner/lighter aspect. Real Cabernet Sauvignon here. But the 1982 was another star for the vintage. Magic how these to 1982s look so sweet and alive. Cabernet for sure, but ripe. Superb freshness and acidity. A solid and serious core and flow through the palate. These two structured wines made the Pomerols look a bit amorphous really.

To help the food go down, we had the newly arrived 2001 Trimbach Frederic Emile Riesling 375 Anniversary wine. A touch of development, bone dry, but sheer depth and classy richness. Oily and crisp simultaneously. This had to be good as an anniversary wine. The Trimbachs would have done their best on this one.

As an aside, we had a good look at some old N.Z. Sauvignons today. Te Mata 'Cape Crest'. 1996 and 1997 rather excellent, the former more broad and lantana, the latter absolutely delightful with its finesse and lifted fruit. Te Mata were doing the best at the time, no doubt, but it paid dividents with these two beauties, well-beyond their use-by date. With these two, it all came out superbly.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Little Line-Up

Wouldn't call this an opportunity, but it was a situation to look at a little line-up of old N.Z. Cabernet Sauvignons. A slice of history, I suppose. Montana Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon 1979 to 1986 (excluding 1985). Everything was stacked up against anything good coming out of it. But my philosophy is if you don't try the bad stuff, you won't appreciate the good stuff. Montana, our biggest winemaker at the time was making this commercial label. Up-market commercial, but still commercial. Cabernet Sauvignon from Marlborough. We can laugh now. And viticulture back then. Practically pre-historic! But you just never know. The Froggies and the Ockers have wines that last the distance.....

The 1979 Montana Marlb. Cab Sauv, 11.5% - volatile as hell. DNPIM (Do Not Put In Mouth). It reminded me of "Don't say Boo Hoo, say UHU" - an old glue advertisement. 1979 was not a great year. Rains spoiled the harvest.
1980, 11.5% - light, herby, some acid, dried out. A better vintage than 1979 for sure, then. Te Mata did a great Cab Sauv which won Trophy at the NWC.
1981. 12.0% - Darker, deep, intense wine, herbal, but real blackcurrants with fruit sweetness and depth. A surprise. Again, Te Mata did a good 1981 too.
1982, 12.0% - Gentle, soft, slightly milky lactic note, acidic. Barely passable, but alive, just. The benchmark - Te Mata 'Coleraine' was first made that year. It's still alive too, but in better condition.
1983, 12.5% - a hot year. Lively, riper, sweeter, low acid, some semblance of balance. Kumeu River did a great Merlot that year. Te Mata's 'Coleraine' was a cracker.
1984, 12.5% - a wet and cool year. Brown, oxidised, very green. Everbody made a weak one.
No 1985 in this line-up.
1986, 11.5% - green peas, acidic and dried out. We've seen some 1986s that were OK.

Obviously reds fare much better than whiles, if you read the last post on old Gewurztraminers.
These little line-ups throw some curve-balls sometimes.

Don't Do This

Found a number of old Kiwi Gewurztraminers. They looked very unpromising on label at this time. But not a long time ago. Here's how they lined up:

1980 Montana Marlborough Gewurz, 11.5% - the second release under the Marlborough varietal designation. Deep golden, oxidised, a trace of cool spice.
1984 Montana 'Brookby Ridge' Marlborough Gewurz, 10.5% - won a gold medal at the 1986 National Wine Competition. Very dark golden. Oxidised. Volatile?
1985 Villa Maria Reserve Gisb. Gewurz, 12.2% - I'm sure it won gold in its day. Deep golden. Oxidised. Some botrytis.
1989 Mission 'Aged in Oak' Hawke's Bay Gewurz, 12.0% - paler colour, little varietal, dried out, a touch of oxidation. Nothing here.
1990 Mission Reserve 'Aged in Oak' Hawke's Bay Gewurz 'Rich Botrytis Sweetness', 13.0% - Oxidised, botrytis, no fruit,
1990 Chard Farm Central Gewurz, 10.5% - Very heavily oxidised. Nothing else there.

Lesson: If you have some old N.Z. Gewurztraminers. I mean 15 y.o. or more. They're probably stuffed. Even nowadays, don't do this. The only N.Z. Gewurz wine I'd contemplate trying this would be the 2004 Vinoptima Gisborne Gewurz. It has Alsace-like qualities. It might do it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

One To Love

One bottle. A label we love. Brought around by the Luscious Caterer, one we all love. One from her cellar. Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 1991. I probably had a hand in her purchasing it. Spur of the moment stuff.
Fading colour, a little hazy. Not filtered obviously. Secondary and tertiary nose. Forest floor, mushrooms etc. A little coolish and light, and not quite the fruit. Acidity accentuated. Fruit became attenuated as it sat in the glass.
It was a bottle we wanted to love. Not quite this bottle, this night. You forgive the ones you love.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It can be tough waiting sometimes. You have in your mind when a wine is going to be at its prime to drink. Against this is when an occasion arises and you can't wait to open a bottle. The advantage of not waiting is that it can be better to have a wine too young, than too old. But then you may miss out on the full 'glory' of what a wine could be. It's a tough one.

Such was the case last night. Good friends, one from the deep south, the other from town. Both worthy of something special. The 2008 Seresin Gewurztraminer was in reality too young. Dry, concentrated and fine textured. We could have waited, but it was very pleasurable. The 2001 Von Kesselstatt Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett was perfection. Wonderful honey, custard and toast, all in a subtle, stylish framework. SWMBO loved it. Our town friend had waited to catch up with us to share it. We're glad he waited. And also for the fact that waited to let it develop well. A good example of how a great year has matured so well.

Then we pulled out two reds to go with the simple, but flavoursome dinner that SWMBO prepared. It seemed right to have the 2003 Trapiche Malbec 'Tributo - Filipe Villefane'. I was going to wait another few years for this one. But it was sublime. Rich and ripe, with classy silkiness. But wait....we're talking about Malbec, the weed vine that can only make coarse, broad wines! Those critics are wrong. It was a sumptuous, almost decadent number. Good job we didn't wait to open this one. Following was the acclaimed 2002 Henschke 'Mt Edelstone' Shiraz. Powerful, tight, dense, concentrated. Some VA lift and shiny oak in spades. All that stuff that suggests long-term cellaring possible. While drinkable, we should have waited - another decade. Damn.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The last couple of weeks have allowed us to set up some contacts and gatherings with people we value. To make contact with them after some time is indeed special.

Firstly, we made a journey down the river to meet up with JJ. To mark the contact, we started off with a gorgeous Bollinger Rose Champagne NV. Few have really got into this newbie label, but it's a delight. Bolly in style for sure - depth, power, subtle aldehyde, but fresh and red fruit sweetness showing to the fore. We followed this with the 2007 Spy Valley 'Envoy' Riesling. 9% alc, but with a depth of fruit weight on a medium palate and toasty notes. Strangely sweet and sour, but it worked. And then the piece de resistance, 2002 Craggy Range 'Dijon Clones' Chard. Full, developed, integrated. SWMBO said too oaky, but it touched and made contact with me.

God, how Tim & Judy Finn make stunning wine in the Upper Moutere. With different ski friends, we had the 2007 Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay and the 2007 Neudorf 'Toms Block' Pinot Noir. We've always liked these 'affordable' wines over the years, and the new 2007s have looked as smart as ever. But in good company, they come out to meet you. Maybe it's a few extra months bottle age. But these touched the 'fine wine' parts of our palates. Contact!

And then a big dinner with ex-neighbours we are still in regular contact with. A tank sample 2008 Stonecroft Sauvignon Blanc was flat. Possiby not stabilised sufficiently? But a 2007 Seresin Reserve Sauvignon Blanc made up for it. Yes, it was lively and very fine in feel. As the meal was Moroccan in theme, a perfumed and lush 2007 Stonecroft 'Old Vine' Gewurz hit the spot. It more than compensated for the Sauvvie that disappointed. Served alongside a plesasant and commercial 2007 Yalumba 'Y Series' Shiraz/Viognier. Jammy and not as good as the super 2006. The centrepiece was the comparison of 1987 Te Mata 'Awatea' with 'Coleraine'. Both single-vineyard wines at the time and both purportedly equal in status, though we all knew the latter was the 'special' one. 'Awatea' started a little herby and acidic, but elegant and classic cassis still. Fresh, and certainly no secondary decay. It picked up cedar/cigar notes as the night went on. 'Coleraine' was all it should have been. Riper, sweeter, even more elegant. And it stayed that way, and in front of the 'Awatea'. SWMBO was surprised at how well the 'Awatea' grew. In the final analysis, it was a close call. The two wines came back into contact with each other.

A sweet finish was called for. Andrew Hedley has excelled at Framingham in 2008. He's managed that botrytis well, but the wines are botrytis dominant over fruit expresssion. The 2008 Framingham Auslese #1 was beautifully fresh and acidic, giving cut to the botrytis. Andrew says Beerenauslese standard. We agreed. The Auslese #2 was more botrytis than fruit. Less fresh, more solid. Gold Kap Auslese standard to Andrew. OK on that too, but not quite as good as #1. So why is this #2? The #3 was richer and more acidic and lifted, with a volatile touch. A TBA standard for sure, and a well-deserved #3 - if increasing numbers mean 'better' wine. The last was the 2008 Framingham Noble Riesling. A blend of #1, #2 and #3. Gestalt Psychology applies. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Varietal expression came through. Incredibly. It does not come through to any similar extent in the other three. That Andrew. He's got it sussed. I'll make sure I make contact with him about them.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Little Aussie Battler & The Drama Queen

A kindness from The Little Aussie Battler & The Drama Queen brought us together for a couple of bottles. An introductory, elegant and 'nice' Laurent-Perrier 'Brut L-P is a good start. It never steals the scene, but is a decent drop. This lead seamlessly to a 2005 Haut-Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett. A little shy, as Whehleners can be, but I would have wanted a little more from this great year. Possible some TCA hint? But still, this slid down a treat.

Two 1982 wines were a feature. Great years for N.Z. and Bordeaux, if you made claret styles. Elegant in N.Z., but ripe and rich if you're a Bordelais. The 1982 Te Mata 'Awatea' was the first under this label. Still dark, definably Cab Sauv, a touch of stalk. But hey, who can complain for a 26 y.o. Kiwi wine. Fruit in good form. As good as 'Coleraine', bigger, even, but possibly without the nuances. Followed by a silky, sumptuous, wonderfully balanced 1982 Ch. Haut-Batailly Pauillac. On its plateau. It grew a little bretty in the glass, but it all worked. Even SWMBO loved it. And she's a brett-Nazi!

Then a modern treat to send the two gal guests on their way home - a 2008 Framingham Gewurztraminer SGN. Rich and lush, and lots of botrytis. Not much Gewurz character, except the lower acidity, adding to the rounded textures. Andrew Hedley can made super aromatic wines and this latest 2008 sweet wine range he has made seem pretty good and uniform in botrytis handling. The year was a toughie, and he has captured the best of it.


Aftermath. Counting the costs of the blow-out - or is it blow-up? Usually it's a bit quieter. And so it was, the next day. A couple of well-aged Champagnes came out first. A green stamped capsule French duty paid bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier from the Grunter. Lovely bottle development, and rich, as Roederer can be. The English love this style. Then a 1998 Veuve Clicquot Rose Reserve, gutsy, textured, a little aldehydic. Not that classy really, but a full and flavoursome one.

A series of odd-ball whites with pluses and minuses followed. The 2007 Salomon Unhof Gruner Veltliner Hochterrassen was not really 'Groo-Vee', but green and hard - 'solidsy', said Pedro. Then a refreshing, up-front and really drinkable 2008 Redmetal Chardonnay. Simple and good for it. A 1983 Drouhin Meursault Charmes was just drinkable and had an intriguing oak toastiness dominating the nuttiness. On the verge of falling over. As Pedro asked: "Did you intend to age it this long?" It was found in the depths of the long-lost treasure trove in the clean-up. $65.95 at the time. And not domaine fruit. Then an excellent, but hard-to-drink 2000 McWilliams Mt Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon. Steely, austere, herbs and lantana. Maybe another decade and a half will transform it to a sipping curio of great wonder?

Two 2003 Chateauneufs were controversial. The Chapoutier 'Bernadine' had sulphide, but was elegant, sweet, perfumed in Grenache fruit still, and quite supple. Grunter couldn't get past the stinkiness. He liked the Marchand 'Clos de Pontifes', which tasted like an unsulphured barrel sample. Admittedly blacker, riper and more fruity. SWMBO and I didn't like it, even though it was gifted by the proprietor after a chance meeting in an eaterie in Orange.

Then two sweeties, like the ladies present! The ANZWA Trophy winning 2008 Forrest 'Doctors' Noble Chenin Blanc was pure refined botrytis talc and wild honey. Super stuff. Also very enjoyable, but more a liqueur style was the 2008 Framingham Botrytised Viognier. Not much varietal character, but viscous stuff.

A nice and easy aftermath, afterall.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Challenging New Year

News on the health and job fronts will mean a challenging new year for us. But we had an immediate challenge on New Year's Day. Another of the Hawke's Bay Have-a-Lifers, Pedro, arrived, plus we had Niggle from Huapai, and their respective spouses, partners and families. We had to put up some vinos to challenge these newbies, as well as the arrivals from the day before.

To set the ball rolling, we opened a Methuselah (6.0 Litre) of Veuve Clicquot Champagne Brut NV that SWMBO won as a work performance prize way back in 2003. With around 15 drinkers on hand, it meant just over half a bottle per person equivalent. Sitting in the afternoon sun, on holiday, it took less than an hour to polish off! Nice gentle complex development, a little less effervescence, it was a good bottle indeed. The big cork came out nicely. The Dragon ended up taking cork and bottle home to Hawke's Bay. Ah, this will make memories.

Then a storm was cooked up, and with dinner, we had several flights of wines to look at. Rieslings first. The 2007 Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Kabinett showed it's high vintage rating with ripe, full fruitiness. Screw cap too. 2008 Pegasus Bay 'Bel Canto' Dry Riesling even fuller and richer with tropical notes. This will be a good drinker all its life. But the star for many of us was the 2004 Richmond Grove Watervale with its super refinement and fine toasty complexities. When the Aussies do it well, they do it well. Grunter brought another doozy. A 2007 Domain Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet Languedoc. Dry, crisp and surprisingly fruity for a little-recognised Rhone white varietal. A Nick Nobilo made 2007 Ashwood Estate Pinot Gris was super rich and full with all the winemaker additions melding in now. Looks good. And a 2005 Bilancia Pinot Grigio, subtle, some complexity, but a little less out there.

The Pinot Noirs were a strong group. From Canada, Niggle's 2006 Mission Hill Reserve Okanagan Valley was medium weight and all the things you expect a New World Pinot Noir to be. 2007 Craggy Range Zebra Vineyard, from Bendigo in Central Otago was full, sweet, dense and dark fruited. Grunter's 2005 Sileni 'EV' was also a full and dense wine, showing plenty of structure for aging. Two Church Road Reserve Syrahs should have been a fascinating comparison. The Champion Trophy winner, the 2007 was elegant, perfumed and spicy. The 2006 was fuller, meatier and more solid. But our bottle corked. So really hard to make a proper comparison. Medium weight, 'austere' reds would be easily overlooked, but here, people found favourites. The 2007 Redmetal 'Erinview' Merlot/Franc was elegant and everything it should be. It will never be a show winner, but a great drink. SWMBO found the 2006 Villa Caffagio Chianti Classico to her taste, tight and dry and fine featured. Whereas I loved the 2005 Torres 'Celeste' Ribera del Duero with its rich deep, dark and sweet Tempranillo fruit.

The Rhone bracket was the brettanomyces bracket. A 1998 Belle 'Louis Belle' Crozes-Hermitage was rich, robust and aggressive, the brett gone wild on a coarser structure. Then two 1989 wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The Beaucastel regular was fragrant and complex, lighter and sweeter. A touch of brett in the background, acceptable for quite some time in glass. The bigger, more broody Beaucastel 'Hommage' blacker, more dense and richer, with the brett more in your face. It worked, though and both the Beaucastels were good drinks. Gordy took the latter wine away with him and reported no brett! Strange how we see this affliction. Then a pair of old kiwi Cabernets, from the good 1985 vintage. Cooks 'Premium' was stalky, thin, dried-out and dilute. The gold medal winning 'Cooks 'Private Bin' from Fernhill only a notion better. Better left alone was the general consensus.

Sticky ends. The 1991 Egon Muller Wiltingener braune Kuppe Auslese was 'glory be!' with its freshness, fruit, kero complexity and general all-round balance. It was consumed quickly. Thanks to a swap with Bottle Bob! More gutsy and compenentry was the 1995 Ch. Lafaurie Peyraguey Sauternes. Waxy, brulee, oak, VA. Some saw oxidation. It was a little disjointed. I could handle it. Pedro, who brought it couldn't. For the strong-of-stomach, there was a Lustau Single Cask Dry Oloroso. Dark, dry, complex nutty/aldehyde and raisined fruit. The best wine there, but no-one in a state to enjoy it. Easier, but more commercial was the Grahams 'The Tawny', all there, but not enough to make a big impact. Still a nice one though.

Many took up the challenge. Some fell by the wayside. But it was a fun day.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

End of an Era

Work kept on getting in the way of adding to the blog, especially at Christmas time! So this is a catch up on the drinkies we had on New Year's Eve, with the Have-a-Life Hawke's Bay lot. We had The Dragon, Grunter and Gordy, plus their gorgeous spouses in attendance, and that in itself was an occasion. SWMBO and I had a great time sharing many bottles. To mark the end of an era:

Bubbles is the way to go. Five o'clock is wine o'clock and we started with a quartet of sparklings. Absolutely delicious and unpretentious was the Miotto Valdebbiadene Prosecco Extra Dry. Fizzy, fine and fun. Then onto something more serious, the Villa Maria Methode Traditionelle NV. Made under Corey, now in Oz. PN and Chard, 3 years on lees. Broad, but with classic flavours. The real thing was led by a 1997 Bollinger R.D. Fabulous autolysis on the nose, but tight and acidic on the palate. The big one was the Laurent-Perrier 'Grand Siecle'. Totally complex, but still restrained and yet to open up. Stunner.

Then starter whites with the new 2008 Pegasus Bay Sauv/Semillon, upfront and full of good herb flavours. Plus a sweetness. Paired with the 2007 Pyramid Valley 'Hille' Semillon. A real wine too. And real winemaker input. Got cloudy in the sun, the next day..... But showing style and class was 2004 William Fevre's Chablis GC Les Clos. Modern, clean, subtle minerals, unostentatious indeed, and easy to under-estimate if you were a babe in the woods. We were not that. Starter reds were more contentious. Who's ever heard of a 2006 Vino Z Koyli Svatovarinecke, supposedly a Muller-Thurgau and Traminer cross? Yeah right. Steer clear..... Highly recommended was the 2000 Zapata 'Angelica' Malbec, a bit reduced, but powerful and rich. Not very pleasant was the 1998 Te Awa Farm 'Boundary'. Reduction, brett, sour and really out of sorts. Even worse was a very corked 1995 Domaine Roquette Chateauneuf. It was a gift, so we can't complain!

The serious stuff began with a pair of 1982 Pomerols. The Lafleur-Gazin was dilute, stringy and faded, but the Gazin was in better balance and with some fruit sweetness alongside secondary notes. OK, but not worth shouting about. The two 1996 Aussie Shiraz should have been and were worth shouting about. At least I did. Those Hawke's Bay Half-Lifers just can't see past their own expressions. They kept on talking about 'oak soup'. I can eat it! The 1996 Henschke 'Hill of Grace' was elegant, sweet, fine and had an attractive lift, some of it from VA. Fine tannins and acidity. Ethereal even. A polar opposite was the 1996 Penfolds Grange. Huge, tannic, dense and tough. This will live decades. Great as Grange can be. The Hawke's Bay Have-a-Lifers' have got it all wrong on these traditional Ockers. But they did like the 1998 Torbeck 'Run Rig' Shiraz. It was sweeter and more primary. I thought it simpler. Funny lot, those Hawke's Bay people.

We tested this group all, again on New Years Day. The start of a new era. The next instalment isn't too far away.

Lull Before the Storm

A note on a few bottles that came before the end of last year. You always have a few drinks with good catch-up friends, and sometimes, the wines are so good, they shouldn't be forgotten:

Led in by a non-intrusive, pleasant 2007 Sileni 'Cellar Seln.' Pinot Gris, we had a wonderfully luscious 2007 Framingham Select Riesling which had that perfect German balance and just a hint of toast. Yummy stuff. Followed by a 2006 Sacred Hill 'Wine Thief' Syrah, a really drinkable archetype expression of the grape. A nice evening with the ski fiends (oops, friends).

The next night with the ski fiends again saw a rich 2008 Montana 'B' Brancott Sauvignon, sensational 2007 Craggy Range '7 Poplars' Chardonnay, elegant and tobacco-y developing 2004 Redmetal 'Mt Erin' Merlot/Franc followed by something different: a 1978 Ch La Lagune Haut-Medoc. Still fresh, a little acidic and coolish, showing how the vintage was saved by the miracle Indian Summer. Now three decades later, its true, less than great character shows. But, no brett, and nice secondary and tertiary flavours. It will hold another decade easily, at this modest expression level.

The next day and night, in order of style, there was also a well-weighted, varietal, sufficiently ripe 2008 Framingham Viognier, decent-bodied 2008 Redmetal Rose, a modern, juicy and fine 2006 Cazes Cotes du Rousillon Villages 'Hospices Catalans', made from Grenache and Syrah, a superb 2007 Redmetal 'Resolution' Merlot that just grew in the glass, and a 2003 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir that also grew in the glass. Tight and a bit funky at first, this filled up the glasses with its complexities - a sign of how good 2003 was in Martinborough. Our guests, the Doctor Duo, were impressed.

This was the lull before the storm.