Friday, December 31, 2010

Arriving with the New

Seeing the New Year in with Gordy and Perfect P was a rather civilised affair; no outrageous antics, thank goodness, as the day has been action-packed with adventurous exercise and fun (?) household type work. Gordy and Perfect P had travelled some distance after finishing work, so it really was ideal.

SWMBO & I thought we might begin proceedings with a 2005 Paulinshof Bruneberger Juffer Riesling Spatlese on our own. A new producer for both of us, but with the Fritz Haag there doing great things there it was worth a try. Unfortunately this bottle was oxidised, so we thought it best if we waited til the arrival of our guests for thew new bottles. So we sipped on a rather delicious 2007 Mt Edward Riesling, full-bodied, off-dryish, a touch of secondary toast, but with a long way to go.

Then they arrived. 1996 Duval-Leroy Champagne was golden, scarily so, as it too looked oxidised. But instead it was oxidative, and rather heavily so. Rather gutsy and almost brutally so, and not the elegance of Chardonnay-influence I expected. Forward too, as the 1996s are reported to be. Then the most exciting new wine I'd seen in a while. 2009 FX Pichler 'Loibner Berg' Gruner Veltliner 'Smargd' was more like a gentle Gewurztraminer with refined unctuous textures and beautiful rose-petal spices. Gordy served it blind, and we all went Gewurz.... Amazing stuff! To see how good it was, out came a 2001 Rolly Gassmann Gewurztraminer 'Brandhurst' VT. This definitely was Gewurz with sugar and a touch of botrytis, all superbly melded together. Even more unctuous, and drinking on a plateau now. Lots of florals, honey and ginger here. This bottling was new to us, though Rolly Gassmann is well-known.

To see the New Year arrive, we finished off a wee bottle of Esk Valley Liqueur Muscat. 20 years in the making, and now showing the expression and complexity desired. Gorgeously lush with ripe/baked fruits and rancio-barrel complexity. Excellent cutting spirit. The acidity is high. This has been it's bugbear in the earlier showings, but it wall worked. And on top of it, it was packaged par-excellence in a clear 375 ml flute, capped with red wax and carrying a Jane Gray label. This rare wine has arrived, and with the arrival of 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Following On

The impetus had been gathering for a gathering. One had a devastating loss just a short while ago, and the many friends and acquaintances happened to realise that today was a time that we could all meet, eat, drink and see light in our lives, following on from tougher times. And even though there were a few of us who had not met properly before, in true fashion, there were only one or two degrees of separation...

The wines that turned up were many and varied, but I worked my way through the following. Firstly whites, a 2007 S.A. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, deliciously sweet and minerally, loved by all there, but resting on sugar in the final analysis. Then came a 2009 Starborough Marlborough Pinot Gris, subtly exotic, and easy to miss, following on from the Mosel wine. And a surprisingly structured and lolly-fruited 2009 Vynfields Pinot Rose. Still quite thirst-quenching, though a year after the latest release.

A couple of new reds followed on. A 2004 Conde de Valdemar Rioja Reserva, fresh, berried, up-front and thoroughly modern. Most people at the gathering loved it. To me, it started well, but did not finish. Nothing wrong with it, but just not the satisfaction the traditional Rioja can provide. Next was a 2005 Sacred Hill 'Brokenstone' Merlot. Just starting to see some game notes. Brett? I don't know or think so, though SWMBO believed it there. But sweet and clean, with no drying out. Just all there in great proportion, juiciness and ripeness. A star for me.

The serious reds followed on. History for many of us. 1983 Coopers Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. Grunty, herbaceous and grubby. Microbiological spoilage, or maybe rodent spoilage? The size of the wine was a residue of how this might have been impressive two decades plus ago. Then a 1984 Abel & Co Cabernet Sauvignon. Leafy and stalky, but with fruit sweetness and a silky texture. Drinkable really. Final in this triple trio treat was a 1985 Cooks Private Bin Cabernet Sauvignon. Light, ripe, but insubstantial. Easy to drink a not-much-there wine. But is that really pleasant? Well, this was not unpleasant.

Then The Angel brought out her specially saved Villa Maria Reserve Noble Riesling 1998. Golden, caramelised barley-sugar with a touch of oxidation. Rich, but acidic. Not ugly, but a former shadow of the beauty it once had. Some residue of grace was detectable. It would have been delectable a decade ago. There was nothing to follow on, but then again, there was no need.

Come Right

It's interesting how one's perspective can change on a wine with time. More often than not, for the better, when emotions and strong ideas have settled down. The holistic viewpoint is seen to be the best, and focussing on parts and aspects can be negative.

The 2005 Man O' War 'Valhalla' Chardonnay was all out of sorts on release. Ungainly and four-square. The oak was too prominent. But then just opened now, it was all together and complete. A bit of an old-fashioned, solid number, but actually really satisfying. Sure it was solid and stolid, and too oaky, but it worked, having come right!

Larry McKenna will admit in a weak moment that his 2006 Escarpment 'Hinemoa' LH Riesling is not as good as he would have liked. Rain at end of harvest diluted the wine in his opinion. He might even be a little embarrassed if it was served on the dinner table if he was there. But I've always liked it. It had elegance and all the right flavours. Lightness of feet. But on opening now, it has just put on the little bit more to tip it over the edge of elegance into decadence. If it wasn't right before, it has come right now...

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Decade

A couple of wines at around a decade of age showed how good or bad wines can develop, after a decade, which can be a bit of a magical number to do this sort of thing. Of course, we had it with Jube's special lamb dish, to allow the wines show their best.

A 2001 Daniel Schuster 'Selection - Omihi Vineyard' Pinot Noir was a bit of a stunner. Danny, whose Canterbury operation has now folded, was erratic with his output. Sometimes the wines were disappointing, other times brilliant. A bit like burgundy really. This 2001 was special from the start. An now, a decade down the track, it still is. Garnet hues to colour, this was distinctly secondary with tertiary notes too. Fungal, game and savouries. But ultra-smooth and velvety, yet with substance and fruit extract. New Zealand Pinot Noir can age...

To go with the lamb also was a 2000 Crossroads 'Talisman', the enigmatic creation of Malcolm Reeves. The varietal mix has never been made public, but no doubt there was Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, with Syrah, Malbec and two others, possibly including the likes of Tannat? The 2008 is gorgeous. But this 2000 was plagued by brett. Smelled like concentrated sweaty horses, the palate was all dried up. It was black as the Ace of Spades and dense as pitch, but the fruit and sweetness had gone. If only it was clean, it would have been a marvel.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gestalt Drinking

The day's activities of relaxing and socialising meant a number of wines were opened, tasted or consumed. With all of the bottles opened, the psychological principle of gestalt came to mind. 'Sum of parts' and 'the whole' were phrases that were appropriate.
Two half bottles of NV Laurent-Perrier Champagne were opened. They've been sitting in the cellar a couple of years. Usually they get consumed quickly, as the 375 ml size is ideal for spontaneous opening. As we all know, 1.5 Litre magnums are ideal for keeping any length of time. These two were excellent. Quite dry and surprisingly so, but with the core of complex toastiness that comes from time on cork. They would be appreciated by those with 'English' tastes, which included SWMBO and me on this occasion. Here two half bottles gave better than one whole.

Then a stunning 2010 Saint Clair 'Wairau Reserve' Sauvignon Blanc. The different 'Pioneer Block' wines are all the constituent bits, it seems. The 'Wairau Reserve' one could imagine being the best bits put together. Sometimes that could be the case, other times it is the best performing block wine. We don't know. Whatever the case, this was incredibly refined, yet had the benchmark pungent passionfruit aromas and depth. With sheer class. You normally don't say this about wines from this variety.

We moved onto a 2008 Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett. This bottle a little out of sorts - or was it us? We usually drink Erni's wines in the context of his whole range. On its own, it was difficult to get the full perspective. I love the way this vineyard delivers exotic and ethereal florals. Here it was limes and minerals in a staid fashion. We opened this because of the Brazillette's new man of German origin being here.

With the meal, we paired 2006 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir with the single vineyard 2006 Ata Rangi 'McCrone Vineyard' Pinot Noir. The former made up of a blend of the best fruit from all the vineyards, the latter a special bottling of one special site. 2006 was a brilliant year in the region and it showed with both wines. Youthful, fresh, tight, vibrant and with tension. The healthy, ripe fruit was startling. The richness and depth of interest in fruit expression with textured palate weight made them international standard. The 'regular' wine was quite complete. Accessible now, with ultimate balance. It will keep a decade yet. The 'McCrone' still raw and primary. The componentry was in your face. Dark fruit depth, acidity, tannin structure and even the alcohol. Needing knitting together. Quite singular. It will come together, and maybe live 15 years easily. But tonight harmony and balance, completeness and togetherness won the day - or should I say night.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


It's wonderful how consistency is so reassuring. Our neighbours, the Triple Irish Connection, have always been excellent people to have next-door. They are friendly and helpful, and never intrusive. They are always fun, and if the need arises, alway dependable. Wines endear us with their consistent behaviour, and sharing a few bottles wine with the neighbours brought this point home.
We started with a few newbie whites. In the short history these have been around, they have been dependable. A 2010 Framingham Marlborough Sauv Blanc showed how Dr Andrew H. has stepped up with this variety. It's even better than the acclaimed 2009 vintage, richer, but more vibrant. Then a 2010 Starborough Marlborough Pinot Gris. Second release is as good as the first. Penetrating aromatics and a sleekness made this a goodie. Thirdly a 2009 Vynfields Martinborough Dry Riesling. It wasn't dry, but who cares when it is full of fruit breadth and depth, whilst retaining elegance. This will live 6-8 years plus. It follows a long line of good Rieslings from this excellent producer.
A 2009 Mt Beautiful Cheviot Pinot Noir set the scene with the reds. It's as good as the 2007 inaugural release and better than the early-maturing 2008. Good soft red fruits with racy acids. And then to a 2006 Man o' War Waiheke Island Merlot/Cab. In Magnum. Good job it was, 'cos it was a cracker. Nice dark berry and plum fruits spiced up with a bit of new oak. I hear this label is consistently on the up. We left about half of the bottle for the Triple Irish Connection to enjoy the next day.
On to the ridiculous. Another vertical tasting of Montana Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh dear? But surprisingly interesting, as with last month's effort, only better. The way they display the vintage character is consistent with their simplistic varietal nature allowing it come through. Most experimental wines do so, to minimise winemaker signature. 1982 was acid and highly seasoned with oak. It had depth and weight, but the relative unripeness still came through. And out goes my assertion about winemaker input. I suppose wineries must buy new oak at sometime, and I'm sure this is when Montana did it. 1983 was riper, and very even in the way it came across on nose and palate. Lighter, plainish, but no acid sting. 1984 had the greens come through on the nose. We all expected an acid attack on palate, but no, it was a non-event and non-entity. This was the birth year of one of the Irish Triple Connection, but he's no non-event, to be sure! 1985 had a sulphidic nose, but everything else about it was decent. If you held your breath, it was a good drink. Amazingly, none of these were dying, and happily alive to show what they had, and how far we have gone in a quarter of a century. Interestingly, they had price stickers of $10.95 on them. Not cheap in those days.
We had to finish on a super-star. 1997 Penfolds Grange. The most consistently great red wine of the southern hemisphere. It was a treat. Plump, deep, ripe and youthful. Still tight, this was an infant with 20-30 years ahead of it easily. Maybe not the intense finesse and nuance of 1996 or 1998, but possibly more enjoyable now. Grange consistently delivers, as do our excellent neighbours.