Sunday, November 28, 2010

Familial Farce

The weekend has been a long one full of family celebrations. The Nippy-Nephew was marrying the Lovely Lisa, and there was plenty of family catch-ups, fun and mirth. Lots of good wines were supped on, of course, but they were not the focus. Rather, it was the nuptials.
As a bit of a joke, we found some old wines that were the birth year of the newly married couple, and some of their friends. They were opened in the spirit of fun, and since the family are all reasonably wine proficient, the exercise was a farce.
It was a vertical line-up of Montana Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon. A farce in itself, and the wines of a family that represented a failed experiment. We all now know that unless Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the most favourable of sites there, it is doomed to fail. The 1978 was dark, browned and somewhat grubby. There was a modicum of ripeness, but not sufficient to make it a decent drink, even though the body and texture was OK. Just a touch of acidity poked out. It was a hot year, and it had the potential to be positive. Then the 1979, light and fading mahogany colour, weedy and sappy, with aged, savoury flavours, quite thin and tart. The acidity was excessive. A lesser year, and it showed. Mildly preferable was the 1980. At the time, a better vintage, but we now can see it was only marginally so. Pepper and mint, with stalks and sap. A little, little more textured and bodied. But again the acidity was searing. 1981 was an average vintage, but this was the best of a baddish bunch. A little more colour and depth. Some fruit noticeable. Coolish Cabernet and bottle age. Actually clean, too. A liitle body and structure. I could drink it, but wouldn't.
The young family members knew not to drink these too. We have moved on a long way since then. 30 years ago, these wine were state-of-art commercial. Oh well.....

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another Go

The party continued the next night. We had another go. The encore never quite lives up to the main production, but it was nevertheless a pleasant event.
A 2008 Terrace Edge Waipara Riesling had a touch of toast to the limes, and a wonderful precision to the palate. It could last another 5 years, but not this bottle. Drinking well now too was the 2004 Craggy Range 'Les Beaux Cailloux' Hawke's Bay Chardonnay. Still steely-fresh, but ripe, intense, tight, with just the right amount of development. I reckon it could last another 4-5 no problem. I missed out on the 2009 Mt Difficulty Pinot Gris, but SWMBO said it was classical in its fruit and very Central Otago with its minerally acidity.
The star of the night was the 1999 Louis Jadot Musigny, brought along by The Real Mr Parker. We share a bottle a couple of months ago, and he couldn't help letting us have another go at it. Well, what a cracker! Big structure from the Louis Jadot house combined with floral elegance and intensity. A working mix of meatiness, undergrowth, ethereal fruitiness and a lithe feel overall, despite the size and projection.
Burgundy beats Bordeaux is the common finding nowadays, 'cos that's what we prefer. It was the case again this night. The 1982 Ch. Siran Margaux was bretty to the point of disgust. It was a big wine in its time, but it was all dried out and tannic now. Also big in its youth was the 1981 Ch. Les Ormes de Pez St Estephe. The greenness of the 1981 vintage now shows clearly. But it was sweet and fresh with acid, fruit liveliness and tannins to burn. Coolness can be a preservative.....
I missed the 1998 Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz. SWMBO said it had TCA tainting it, but the A-Prentice reckoned it was drinkable. We all concured SWMBO has a very keen and discriminating palate.

All Lined Up

It was party mode! The A-Prentices were plenty practiced at entertaining and they had a fabulous evening lined up. All the guests needed to do was contribute in food, wine, entertainment and good company. And so it was. There is a little tradition where all the bottles tasted and consumed are lined up, and often it is an impressive if not awesome sight. Of course, no-one went over the top. We all had little tastes, and over the length of an afternoon and evening, with hearty and substantial food, it was a very civilised affair.
The sparklings served were wide ranging in style. A 2010 Saint Clair 'Vicars Choice' Marlborough Sauv Blanc Bubbles was a delight. Very typical of what this company specialises in, but toned down in flavour, but still overt and refreshing. Much more serious was a 2006 Deutz Marlborough Cuvee Blanc de Blanc. Impressive autolysis now, and finesse with it. This has gotten better and better. Followed by the real thing, a couple of bottles of NV Taittinger 'Brut Reserve', elegant too, but with a textural quality allied to complete palate proportion. Some landed time on cork has always helped 'Tatts'.
Aperitif drinking went with a super selection of cheeses. A pair of trophy winning 2010 Sauv Blancs set the scene. Both from Saint Clair in Marlborough, their 'Pioneer Block' range. The 'Block 3 - 43 Degrees' was punchy, up-front and powerful with steel and pungency, the 'Block 21 - Bell Block' more restrained but with an impressive sumptuous richness and mouthfeel. I voted for the latter, but most voted for the former. I didn't get to try the 2009 Boulders Martinborough 'Prosecco Style' Riesling at 9% alc, but I have seen it before, and it was very pleasing at the time, quite gentle, attractively sweetish and true to vine. Two rose wines came out too. The 2009 Instinct Hawke's Bay Merlot Rose was firm, slightly tight and austere, but very workable. I found the 2010 Framingham 'F-Series' Montepulciano Rosata more serious with real red-berry fruitiness, and a substance for added richness. Good stuff indeed.
There's always some Chardonnay, and a 2009 The Pumphouse Martinborough was ripe with clear grapefruity-oaky aromas and flavours that made it a hit. A big flop was the 2002 Sileni 'Estates' Hawke's Bay Chardonnay in a 1.5 Litre magnum. Oxidation on nose and palate, whilst still fresh and acidic. This didn't make half-way down!
The other whites served during food were mixed up too. A true to style 2010 Heart of Gold Gisborne Gruner Veltliner, peppery and gooseberryish, all so gentle and drinkable. The 2009 Coopers Creek 'SV - Pointer' Marlb. Pinot Gris was off dry, softly sweet and rich, and clean as all Marlborough wines should be. A bit of a star was the 2008 Ostler 'Audrey's' Waitaki Valley Pinot Gris, steely, minerally, yet rich and delish with hints of spice and all things nice. Not so pleasing was a 2008 Grey Sands Tasmanian Pinot Gris. Hot, hard, minerals and earth, without the appealing softness the N.Z. wines had At 14.5%, it was pushing it.
A little line-up of Forrest 'Gibson Creek' Marlborough Cabernet/Franc/Merlot was great fun. The 1991 was light, smooth, mellow and imbued with cedar galore. What a top drop. The 1992 was softer still, and lighter, but it too had a mature beauty. Hints of cool fruit didn't bother any of us. The 1993 was definitely showing the effects of Mt Pinatubo. Lighter weight, a bit skinny and cool/sappy. We thought 1994 might be better, and it was riper and more structured, but not a beauty, more a sister not quite grown into herself. Maybe it never will. There was no 1995, and we assumed that the rainy weather precluded its production? 1996 could have been special, but it was spoiled by microbiology for sure. Yet it was very vigorous. The other N.Z. red was a 1997 Redmetal 'Basket Press' Merlot/Franc. Also a bit herby on nose, but what a lovely silky palate, which filled the mouth with lusciousness. It too came in a 1.5 Litre magnum.
Just to keep us honest came a series of international reds. The 2008 Santa Cantabria 'Seleccion' Rioja was full, bright, ripe and fruity, modern and good for it. A bit flat was the 2005 Frsscobaldi 'Nipozzano' Chianti Riserva. All the right things, such as bitter cherries, tannin and acid, but rather non-expressive. A poor bottle?
The Aussie contingent was sensational. Two vintages of Wynns 'Michael' Coonawarra Shiraz, both great years. They were true to vintage on release and now, two decades later, still the same. The 1990 was bold, round, ripe and full in itself. It shouted its presence. The 1991 was subtle, and sneaked up on you, and beguiled with its layers of nuance. Mint and eucalypt in the nicest way. The night ended on a 2006 Seppelt 'Original' Sparkling Shiraz. Not the gem it used to be, those old vines now long gone, but still exactly what it should be, in a straight forward way. Fresh, but plummy, spicy Shiraz with good effervescence to give cut and zest. But satisfying all the time. What a line up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


A visit by the Aromatic Ace meant a chance to eat out and indulge. The eatery did not perform at our last visit, and it was rather unexpected then.. This time they performed brilliantly, and the meal was as good as it should have been that previous time.
The Aromatic Ace loves Riesling, but his contributions were very different and really unexpected. SWMBO and I had never had anything like these wines. Firstly a 2009 Les Cretes Valle d'Aosta Petite Arvino. 13% alc, but seemingly lighter. A delightful, subtle aromatic, and rather delicate number that was great as an aperitif and match with seafood. Then a 2009 Kuen Hof Sudtirol Eisacktaler Sylvaner, much more substantial at 14.5%. This had weight, presence, a touch of rustic grip, and actually workable with the richer dishes. Who would guess these would be so interesting?
With the red meat dishes, we had the 1982 Ch. Haut-Batailly Pauillac. Our experience with these lower classed growths has not been great lately. Either faded or bretty. Wow, this was unexpectedly stunning. Complex tertiary aromas, but incredibly sweet, lively fleshy and with years ahead. A plump number that just filled the mouth with fruit and open, but proper structure. A treat and wonderful experience!
We finished the evening off with another Bordeaux, a 2004 Ch. Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes. Though the odd numbered years are rated better, I'm a fan of the 2004s for their accessibility and typicity. Low VA, rich Semillon, and excellent noble rot, oak and substance. A treat as always. This property is hot. For those who think the best years are best, try the 2004s. Their quality may be unexpected by you, and you'll be surprised.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

O for Oarsome

It was a night for 'O'. She's awesome. She and her 'A-Man' got a number of pals together for a nice meal at a bit of 'nutty' eatery. Nice food, with a mix of styles. And a number of wines that were a little mixed in style too.
We started off with a 2002 Veuve Clicquot Champagne Rose, lovely fruity number, sweeter in fruit and dosage than I thought it should be, or what I remember the style to be. And not quite the autolysis. Very friendly structure, soft and plumpish. Delicious nevertheless. Then a 2008 Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett, quite substantial, for what I normally see as an ethereally exotic wine. Also delicious. Both lovely aperitif wines as is expected, but these both were more full than just starter wine status; they'd both be food wines too.
Then it was into two Chablis. Firstly a 2002 Raveneau Chablis 1er 'Montee de Tonnerre'. Tight and super minerally, a touch reduced, but classical and traditional. It was paired with a subtle, modern 2005 Moreau-Naudet Chablis GC 'Valmur'. Less flinty and minerally, but it evolved to show more in glass. A nice pair, too.
Two white burgundies to go with the entrees. starting with a 2004 Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er 'Pucelles', classy, refined and another wine that just grew in the glass. It had it all, but if you were critical, it rested on its acidity. This paired with the 2004 Lucien Le Moine Meursault 1er 'Genevrieres', broader and fatter, the same bracing acidity, but showing oxidation, well actually madeirisation. A bad cork? Then our 2001 Craggy Range 'Beaux Cailloux' Chardonnay. Big, clumsy, the others saw oak. We saw reduction. We thought it was over the top. We know recent releases are much more refined. The Craggy Range wines were statement wines at first, and this was their first release.
The refresher white between courses was a 2005 Dagueneau 'Pur Sang' Pouilly-Fume. How did he build so much power with restraint? Great varietal character with boldness and textures, allied to class. A treat, as we know the 'wild man' has now left this mortal coil.
Main course time. The reds were a mixed bag too. Firstly the mandatory burgundy. a 2001 Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er 'Goulots'. Tight and skinnyish, a little hard and not quite the sweetness. Nor the game and 'blood and fur' character it might have had. It was a good match with the duck mains, giving cut through the fattiness. We then moved to our 1982 Ch. Boyd-Cantenac Margaux. Still dark, full with game and leather on nose and quite fleshy on palate. No Margaux perfume or class, but surprisingly fruity, despite the brett notes. Good refreshing acidity too. It's not the first time the 1982 Margaux wines have surprised. But essentially a bit gutsy. A step better was the 1996 Ch. Lynch Bages Pauillac. Black colour, black fruits, and complex game nuanced to the flavour. Still sweet and bold, with flesh and structure to boot. This was a baby that could handle another decade.
An in a way, it signified what 'O' and 'A-Man' had going. They were still babes that will develop over time.


We celebrated Guy Fawkes night in our now-regular way, heading to a great vantage point, Jameski and family connections afforded us the view in comforting surroundings, and we were joined by the Pet Pals, as is becoming the norm.
The two bottles we contributed were possibly promising. But unlike the fireworks provided by the ratepayers, they were slight fizzers rather than explosively exciting. The 2006 Te Mata 'Elston' Chardonnay was properly mature with rich mealy flavours and complex toast notes, but unfortunately somewhat stolid and chunky. Pleasant and more, but just not inspiring. It could have been the bottle? And a 1992 Esk Valley 'Terraces'. A cool year, and it showed in its lighter nature only. Rather delicate, soft, fully developed to mellowness, and really, too even and flattish now. In its favour was no trace of green unripeness. Well-integrated, as it should be. We've had far more disappointing Kiwi wines of this age, so in that context, it was good. It just didn't fire.