Monday, January 25, 2010

Another Treasure!

An invitation to join a wee group for dinner turned out to be a treat. We ended up all knowing each other and had connections that on the surface were not obvious. The Timba-Doc had inherited a large cache of bottles and had ended up in my circumstances, with a 'long-lost cellar' that required drinking. Only his was bigger...

The course of the night saw a number of bottles opened, but Timba-Doc had decanted a 1987 Wynns Coonawarra 'Black Label' Cab Sauv. Still quite bright and ruby garnet in colour, this had developed lotsa tertiary characters on bouquet and flavour. Sleek in structure with proportioned tannins and acid, and still with definable berry-cedar varietals. And absolutely clean - no microbiological spoilage! The wine went down a treat. But it could have been kept another 6-8 years. Funny how the drinking plateau seems to extend further, they older they get. Another treasure!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Call-Up

It was set to be a long, wet dark and damp day, but a chance meeting with the Wiry Bush Man meant that a session was on to brighten things up. He was in cruise mode and out of town, so this call-up was a spontaneous affair, which he seemed to relish. The Little Aussie Battler has spent some time in the 'employ' of the Wiry Bush Man, so she got the call-up too, and lo and behold, she came through the door as well.

'Starters for ten' were the whites. Firstly a little favourite style, a 2007 von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett. Typical von Kesselstatt with a oilier texture along with the steel of the Saar. and pleasingly clean of sulphur. We also looked at a modern, complex-sulphided, crisply acid 2007 Petaluma Chardonnay, very much a show-stealer, and a magnificent 2006 Leeuwin 'Art Series' Chardonnay, complete in texture, richness and interest. We all loved this, especially SWMBO.

Such a gathering could not pass without some oldies. Bordeaux was so fashionable 20-30 years ago. But then, we denied the sensual pleasures of our palates which we satisfy with Pinot Noir and Syrah nowadays. Maybe Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot need a call-up? Based on the two St Estephe clarets served, the answer would be 'no'. For the 1982 Ch. Meyney was full, solid plump and chunky, but developed horse notes and dried out with air time. Initially promising. Worse was the 1983 Ch. Lafon-Rochet, somewhat dirty and spoiled with oxidation. Quite acidic and not worth delving into any further.

It was a brave move to serve some N.Z. reds of the same era as the clarets. Much lighter in weight and leaner in richness. But surprisingly balanced, and therefore drinkable. Just barely so was the 1982 (Montana) Wairau Valley Marlb. Cab Sauv. Peas in a pod aromas and flavours and highly acidic. But light and approachable. Best of the four Bordeaux styled wines was the 1981 Te Mata Cab Sauv. Riper, richer, still with a tannin backbone. Actually a pleasing and moreish drop. These showed Hawke's Bay was the place. Both these Kiwi wines were iconic in their day, and it was a treat that they responded to their call up!

Then in honour of the Little Aussie Battler, a 1999 Torbreck 'Run Rig', that the Real Mr Parker left with us. A wow wine. Still dark, the Viognier truly giving elegance, freshness and succulence to the Shiraz. Sheer style, drinking now and over another decade if necessary. In comparison with the Penfolds wines of this era, this was very light on its feet, especially for a Barossa wine.

We then headed out to a wine bar for more wine and food. Little platters did the job. So did a 2006 Francois Chidane Vouvray 'Argiles', not your typical Vouvray, but one that was winemaker-made, with sulphides responsible for its personality. A good drink anyway. And a delightfully modern and fruity 2006 Poderi Colla Nebbiolo d'Alba which retained some reasonable vestiges of its Piedmont origin. There was the dried tar and herb note with some grip that emerged in decanter.

On our own, we tottered off to The 'Bird Bar' and caught up with out 'Just Sip It Seppy' where a 2007 Trinity Hill Noble Viognier got an airing. Beaut how Viognier varietals and botrytis go together, and this had substance along with fresh cut. Then a taxi got a call-up to take us home.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Making An Effort

A road trip meant a lot of miles to be driven. Was it going to be worth it to go the distance?

We spent over six hours on the road to visit the 'V-Man' and 'EV'. On arrival, a bottle of 1998 Perrier-Jouet 'Belle Epoque', wonderfully mature and on its plateau, yet a refreshing and elegant drink, as it always is. Beautiful florals, nuts, yeasty autolysis and toastiness, all in sublime finesse and harmony. The bottle is hand-painted, but its appeal makes it worth the effort! The evening progressed through a number of wines, but features were the 1998 Penfolds 'RWT' Shiraz, seductively smooth and fine-textured, and sexily ripe and sweet. Opulence is the word. The team at Penfolds spent years developing the 'Red Winemaking Trial', and the wine reflects the effort. And we all know the story of Grange and Max Schubert's trials. His efforts resulted in one of the great wines of the world. So we had a backward, tannic and hugely constructed 1996 Penfolds Grange. Everything a Grange should be. The 1998 RWT had another decade ahead of it. This 1996 Grange had two to three decades ahead of it.

Finally a curio, a Casa do Douro Tawny Port 1963 bottled in 2003, at 19.5% and in cask 40 years. Lots of rancio, and lots of raisin, nuts and oxidative hints, plus fine spirit, all adding up to a gorgeous and unusually young tasting port-thing that was different to anything ever tasted before. 'V-Man' made the effort of bringing it back from Iberia, and the Port makers are making an effort to do something different to revitalise their wine industry.

The next day, a quarter day's drive to see Dragon and Te Ha Ha. We were only going to stop for a cuppa. But we were persuaded to stay the night. They were keen to make an effort for us, and we recognised it. A great meal later, we saw it was well worth staying on. Some nice vinos passed our way, including a 2008 Esk Valley Pinot Gris, textbook in every way, and a great aperitif. The lamb and a 2007 Junction Riesling, both from John Ashworth - ex All Black - in Central Hawke's Bay, were delicious. The Riesling just getting toasty, but no hurry. Ending the night was a 1998 Unison red. Fresh, lively and bright, despite some brettanomyces. The structure and style quite classic, but it got tougher to drink as the bottle got lower and lower. All three wines were the result of passion and effort. It pays off in some way, always.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Easy to Please

Many people think we're hard to please. The opposite is true. If a wine is half-way decent, it's got positives. Sure, we go on about little faults that taken holistically mean nothing. But that's our job - to see the good and the bad. So an evening with Niggle and Teacher-Ma'am showed that we're really easy to please.

Whites were the starting order of the day. A 2007 Pra Soave Classico may seem a little innocuous, but with a couple of years of bottle age, it had fattened up nicely. Clean and clear and uncomplicated. It went down quickly. Then a 2007 Bret Bros. Vire-Clesse 'Sous les Plantes'. Tasted last year, it was big with plenty of oak. This night, very New World with the diacetyl from MLF showing prominently, but an easy drink with up-front flavour.

Reds were in the same vein. A 1996 Greenwood Ridge Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon which had 24% Merlot in the blend, was cool, blackcurranty and somewhat bretty. An interesting wine in the U.S. in its day and a fine, elegant drink, but not so much a pleasure now. The two 1982 clarets were a pleasant surprise, especially after the disappointments recently with what we have seen. So two wines without the top pedigree - they looked excellent. The 1982 Ch. Moulin du Cadet St Emilion Grand Cru Classe was refined and elegant with chalky tannins, fresh acidity and real style. A lovely tertiary hint added complexity. Well-liked was the 1982 Ch. Feytit-Clinet Pomerol, bigger, lusher, chunkier and weirdly with herbaceous notes. However, its mouthfeel was a bonus. Best of the Bordeaux we have seen from 1982 for a long time.

Then some stickies. A 2009 Spy Valley Noble Chardonnay, curiously broad and sour, almost ignoble, but not. Rich, sweet and open with delicate botrytis and melon-like Chardonnay fruit on sweet and broadly featured palate. A nice wine, but this did not compare to the Eiswein. A 2002 Grans-Fassian Leiwener Klostergarten Riesling Eiswein had more golden hues, tight nose and searing palate with immensely concentrated sweetness, slately Germanic Mosel notes and striking acidity. Beautiful flavours, great density and line and length. It pleased us all. But then, we're easy to please!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Trying the New

The arrival of Niggle and Teacher-Ma'am was an opportunity to try a few new and old wines. It is easy to keep on consuming what you know is true to form in your eyes, and it can take a little courage to taste beyond your comfort zone.

Our drinking day started with a 2007 Spy Valley 'Echelon' Methode. It was clean and fruity, with a proper austerity, yet a fruit sweetness, enhanced by its pink hue. Up a step to an NV Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne. The real thing always tastes better, with autolysis and depth of character. A very drinkable style. But that's what we've been conditioned to expect and like! The introduction to the night continued with a 2008 Shaky Bridge 'Pioneer' Pinot Gris, gentle, easy, and a commercial pleaser.

Serious reds began with a trio of Escarpment 'Kupe' Pinot Noirs, Larry McKenna's babies. The 2006 is a gorgeous wine. Lovely plump primary fruits, fully-ripened tannins and a perfectly pleasing balance. Young, but ever-so drinkable now. The 2005 was far more structured, and in fact a monster in texture. Cool blackcurrant fruits intermixed with summer fruits, in a frame that needed resolution. The 2003 was more elegant, and now starting to show a little secondary development in flavour. Fresh as a daisy still and with super aromatic lift of florals. A beauty that can age still. We've never tried all three together before - a new and rewarding session.

Then to the Bordeaux oldies, which had damaged labels. The properties we could ascertain, but not the vintages. We knew they were from Margaux. So it was a surprise to see from the corks that we had a 1982 Ch. Prieure-Lichine, plump and full, but packed with brett and tainted with a little TCA. Ouch. Better was the 1979 Ch. Giscours, more true to form with elegant style and some savoury aromatics and freshness from the acidity. A little horsey too, but acceptable for those with higher thresholds to the dreaded yeast.

Then some newbies to test our willingness to try something different. We were given by the Little Aussie Battler and the Drama Queen, a Dumangin Ratafia de la Champagne, a Pineau de la Charentes style sweet wine at 18.0%. Orange, unfiltered, but lovely orange and sherry flavours intermixed with Champagney notes. Quite delicious and it was a good accompaniment to all the sweet things we were eating. Then a high octane Sileni Liqueur Muscat, 10 years in barrel and 22.5%. Beautifully musky and muscatty on nose, but slim line and fiery on palate. It needs riper fruit and longer time in barrel. But then, we are looking at Rutherglen as the model. Should we? It's something new, after all.

Friday, January 1, 2010

More than Meets the Eye

There's always more than meets the eye. People can be most generous with their time and personality, and yet, there is far more than what's on the surface. So too with wines. The New Year's Day (and night) drinks were perfect examples.

Bubbles set the scene. Pedro brought along a Louis Roederer 'Brut Premier' Champagne. Tight, firm, austere, but with finesse and depth. Plenty of Pinot Noir here. The new livery indicated its youth. Be British and give it some bottle age, and it will show that it has plenty built into it. Followed by a Number 1 Family Estate 'No. 1', 100% Chardonnay. Sweeter, fruitier, easier to access. Moderate autolysis, but a delicious drop still. And aromatics make great aperitifs. The 2009 Spy Valley Pinot Gris was a stunner. Rich, rounded, weighty and with pears and spices. That Paul Bourgeois knows how to makes these wines, and his are better than most. Also Gordy's 2009 Esk Valley Verdelho, tightly sprung, but with depth and intensity of steely tropicals and stonefruit flavours. Gordy reckons it should be drunk young, but a couple of years shouldn't hurt it.

Chardonnay means serious white wine. Gordy's 2007 Droin Chablis GC 'Vaudesir' was shy, minerally but with soft oaken presence and beautifully clean expression. SWMBO guessed it where most of us didn't. In a similar tight vein was Grunter's 2007 Sileni 'Lodge' Chardonnay. More obviously fresh and expressive fruit, but also restrained and very elegant. This is exactly what it should be - modern, classy, ageworthy Chardonnay. Then two oldies. Both from Joseph Drouhin, and both 1983. 27 years old.....Both showed signs of oxidation at the door, but remarkably they hadn't tipped over completely. Savoury, nutty and medium bodied for the Beaune 1er 'Clos des Mouches', but richer, more lush and textured for the Laguiche Montrachet. Neither showed glory, but neither were dead. My perception was disappointment - "only mildly offensive", but others, notably Grunter and SWMBO, were reasonably amazed by their condition. Certainly a case of 'more than meets the eye' - in the eye of the beholder!

Reds were the next stage. Two Spanish. A 2007 Manga del Bruja Catatayud wine. Sweet, jammy Garnacha operating here. Modern and juicy. Then a 2003 Bodega Breton 'Lorinon' Rioja Riserva, young and primary enough, but tannic and dry, by way of our friend Brett. Looking underneath, it was a wine that could have delivered more pleasure.

The serious reds were, well, serious. A 1997 Staglin Family Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon was a monster in extraction. Dark, ripe, and still broody. It could handle another two decades in the cellar. This was a Gordy treasure. The 2000 Ch. Talbot St Julien was a supreme example of horsey brett. However, still lush and plump and juicy with blackcurrants, earth, spices, cedar. A Pedro contribution. Then the best red of the night, a 1995 J-L Chave Hermitage, Elegant, pretty, florals and spices. I would have liked more meat and game, with richer fruit, but it was what it was.

To end the night, a couple of 'sweeties'. The 2001 Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese was pale in colour and rather shy on nose, but showed more on palate. Not particularly lush or sweet, it was a wine that rested on its acidity. Delicate toast and kero notes gave away its age. Then finally a 2001 Ch. Suduiraut Sauternes. Golden, with lifted nose of honey, marmalade, Semillon lanolin, oak and botrytis. It became distinctly volatile, but that's Sauternes for you. Absolutely fine stuff, that deserves more than one look.