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.