Sunday, February 27, 2011

Take a Step Back

Often, one enjoys life better if you take a step back and relax, seeing a bigger picture. And so too with wine, as it is all to easy to be over analytical and over critical of something design to give pleasure. First impressions can prevent you giving things a chance...
A new 2010 Sileni Estates 'The Priestess' Hawke's Bay Pinot Gris seemed a little too delicate on initial impressions, but with air time and some warming up from fridge-cold, the subtle flavours of fruit and barrel-ferment came out. It just needed patience and an open attitude on our part.
Then a reductive 2009 Spade Oak Reserve Gisborne Viognier, sealed in screw-cap rather than the usual Vino-Lok. It just seemed ugly and hard. I didn't want to sip it. But with breathing and warming up, as well as some nice cheeses and nibbles that SWMBO put on the table, the wine showed its exotic personality, weight and oily texture. A gorgeous drop indeed.
Final sip on this occasion was a 1999 Ata Rangi 'Arapoff' Syrah in half-bottle. Drawing the cork, the horsey smells signalled red-alert - Brettanomyces! The colour was browning, the nose dense with stale horses. We were a little worried what our JanSki our guest would think. But pouring it out, the spices, warm brown earth and pepper featured above the brett. The palate sweet, and with good acid. Fine tannins, just hinting at dryness. We caught this in time. And a great easy drop with the food again. Glad to have taken a step back anf drink and enjoy these wines, seeing what they really were.

Monday, February 21, 2011


When you gather around three dozen people together, it's not easy making a bottle get around everyone, so SWMBO and I bring a 1.5 Litre magnum each. Our contributions seemed to garner a bit of interest. The 2007 Ch. Larrivet-Haut-Brion Blanc Pessac-Leognan made a few realise that spicy oak and exotic herbal, gooseberry fruit can worth together. Bordeaux is one of those places where it can come into harmony and interest, and this bottle had a subtle nature, yet real depth and concentration in a soft way. The 2006 Ridge 'Lytton Springs' was plummy, blueberry, with jam and compote, but in a classy expression. The Zinfandel variety isn't one for classical elegance, but Ridge could be a contender for doing it that way. Warm, soft tannins and a youthfulness all made it a 'nice' drink.

Lots of 750 ml bottles were brought to the gathering, and we only got to see a few of them. The 2003 Jaboulet Saint-Peray 'Sauvageres' was a bit stolid in a pure way. This was, after all Marsanne from a hot region in a hot and dry year. This taken on board, it was a miracle that it was still young and 'tight'. The other Rhone was an oldie. 1995 Delas Hermitage 'Tourette'. A clunky wine full of bottle-stunk black red fruits. However, this began to show some of its Syrah earth, game and fruit in the glass. Plenty of structure around it all still, in a rounded way.

An interesting pair were the 1993 Wynns 'Black Label' and 1993 'John Riddoch' Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignons. The first still dark coloured, a little herbaceous, plenty acidic, and tannins resolving. The latter marked by a truck load of new wood, and much more extract. But the hard acid making its mark.

An even better twosome was the traditional Burgundy vs Burgundy comparison. The 2002 J.F. Mugnier Bonnes Mares very pale, with a mass of powdery tannin and restrained forest-floor and red-dark fruits somewhere in it. For a great year, this was all locked up and not showing any sweetness. However, we've learned that Mugnier had been working on the vineyard, becoming happy with it from 2005. More attractive was the 2002 Ch. Pichon Baron. Darker, of course, deeper, concentrated, but now mellowed out. Cassis and cedar, with firm grip. Now showing how light 2002 was. Why do we always go for the so-called 'best years', when these lighter years are really delish?

A couple of modern Aussies passed our way. A 2005 Briarose Margaret River Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. Dark fruited, plenty of life, though some brett hinted. Not so good was a 2005 Lowe Reserve Shiraz from the Mudgee. Fruit gone west, and a muddled, muddy wine. We were told it was organic/biodynamic, but the wine has to be go further!

We had a mini-gathering in the Chairman's room later with the Show Queen and Lady Chairman. A delightful 2002 Mumm Vintage Champagne flowed, teased and refreshed us while the conversation ranged. Finishing the big day with a 2005 Nicolas Potel Pommard 'Vignots', full and rounded with dark fruits, no inkiness, tar or chocolate. Just pure fruit. It was fabulous how accessible this was too, considering the commune and vintage provenance.


The Library Man showed two pages from rare New Zealand's wine history books. Two and a half dozen prominent wine people were there to be reminded of how the country made its tentative steps towards modern winegrowing and winemaking. I considered myself honoured and treated.
Firstly, a 1980 Matawhero Gisborne Chardonnay. Golden, of course, with ripe, plump and juicy apricotty characters, still good acidity and remarkably drinkable. The technocrats would have decried it in today's perspectives, but this was made over three decades ago. Eminently better now than how the Cooks Chardonnays from 1982 to 1985 that were tasted a few weeks ago. Those wines had lost their fruit and just oak remained.
The Library Man went on to show one of Tom McDonald's reds, a McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon. But an extra vintage turned up. The 1973 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon was low from ullage. It was pale mahogany red in colour and somewhat tainted with mould from cork and microbes, but still with cedar and acidity, with the faintest structural grip. It was alive but not really pleasant. But it was a good lead-in to the 1966 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon. The one following the magnificent 1965. The 1966 was darker and deeper. Obviously the greater colour and extract gave greater survivability with true evolved fruit characters, definably currants gone down the cedar and mushroom hinted past-fully developed state. But in no way negative. Still fresh with acid and sweet with fruit. A decent core from where the tannin structure used to be. A taste of our heritage.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Significant Celebrations

In the course of one day SWMBO and I caught up with a number of friends, each celebrating our common interests and happenings.
The Jelly Bean Girl was looking better than ever, enjoying here freedom. Over a spectacular, subtle, and superbly flavoured Vietnamese luncheon, the 2010 Johanneshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer did its job. A powerful, almost spirit number, the decadent spiciness and slightly sweeter nature harmonised with and highlighted components of all the dishes.
We then met up with the Show Queen, discussing future plans in the wine arena. She put on a NV Daniel Le Brun Methode. Big, gutsy, very Pinot Noir and some of those old-fashioned aldehydes apparent. This bottle with traces of oxidation actually adding complexity, but also a touch of TCA which detracted.
The main event was with the Scribe Man and the Acute Analyst, who incidentally were celebrating a decade anniversary. The stops were pulled out. The starter was a 2002 Veuve Clicquot Champagne, super-refined and sheer class. The textures were silken, the fruit and autolysis integrated, yet with great nuance, and still so youthful on top of it. Then onto a just maturing 2002 Fevre Chablis Vaudesir Grand Cru. The weight and depth, plus concentration made it a Puligny-Montrachet look-alike. Flinty and minerally for sure, with nuts and lees and some oak barely detectable. The main course casserole was matched to a 1998 Redmetal ‘Basket Press’ Merlot/Franc, from magnum. An anniversary pressie a decade ago. Dark, vibrantly sweet-fruited, very ripe red and black plums with earth cake and tobacco, all on a firmly structured wine. No trace of the animal and horses that have plagued some wines of this ‘Californian’ vintage. A star wine indeed. Then finishing with a 2004 Ch. Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes. Elegant, beautifully harmonised with waxy fruit, marmalade and honey, soft, clear-cut. Gorgeous. We love these 2004s for their elegance, pretty much like the celebrating couple. That’s why they are our significant friends.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sharp End

We had been trying hard to catch up with The Barbed One and Astute Andy, and we finally managed it after weeks of being on different planets. They had prepared a pretty sharp Spanish themed dinner and had a couple of Spanish wines to go with it.
The 2008 Valminor Rias Baixas Albarino was more golden than expected and all thought of oxidation appeared. But on tasting, it was not the case. While it did not have the tight and minerally crispness expected, it did have body, breadth and weight. Something these wines strive to achieve a little of. Maybe a bit of botrytis took that sharp edge away?
The Lustau 'Almacenista' Manzanilla Amontillado 'Jurado' 1/21was a sensational, complex wine. Mahogany colour, masses of nutty, aldehyde flavour with the mandatory saltiness, and an incredibly complex rancio finish. Truly great, overwhelming even the chorizo sausage rolls.
Paella was on the menu next, and it was gloriously filling and seafoody, with prawns featuring. We had an oldie, not necessarily to match the food. 1988 Wynns 'John Riddoch' Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. Amazingly youthful, with purple red colour and a clear-cut varietal blackcurrant nose and flavour. Only hints of secondaries appearing, the wine still firm, tannic, fresh and sharp from the acidity. This would go another 15-20 years. But it was a great vintage.
Our summer fruits and custard flan came out the same time as the 2009 Spade Oak Noble Viognier. Unctuous apricots, citrus fruits, honey and again, something ultra decadent to behold.
Such sharp food and wine, right to the finish.