Monday, December 31, 2012

Sweet End and Sticky Finale

The last day and night of the year had been and was always going to be a busy one, especially as SWMBO and the group saw in the new year.  Good wines started to flow as the proceedings and dinner leading to the countdown began.  First the obligatory bubbles, then whites and reds.  Plenty of water too, of course.  New bottles appearing and being broached, as we looked back at the year in retrospect, and thought about the coming year.  It was a lovely end, sweet in our minds, and that called for dessert wines.  Two oldies appeared, from the ‘long lost cellar’. Over a quarter of a century old, and deemed to be well-past their best, but caution to the wind, they were poured into people’s glassware. 

Firstly, a 1987 Penfolds ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ Late Pick Rhine Riesling in 375 ml bottle.  Made from Marlborough fruit, picked at 31° Brix, given 24 hours skin contact and fermented to 11.9% alc.  ‘Thus far and no further” is the translation, and the wine was regarded as pretty avant garde at the time for a big producer , the label owned by Montana.  I’m sure there was a portion of botrytis involved and it was a decadent and luscious wine.  This night, dark mahogany with burnished orange-red colour.  A powerful nose redolent of toffee and caramel, with a savoury, musky and musty note.  Brown rot? Taint?  Hard to tell with so much tertiary character.  On palate, very sweet, again toffee and caramel, with raisins, dried fruits, good sugar and acidity.  Plenty of richness, and only just beginning to show a little texture, dryness and slight coarseness on the finish.  Still a bold and out-there wine, not beautiful and  it hasn’t aged gracefully as a star would have, but not disgracefully either.

Then a 375 ml bottle of 1986 Delegat’s ‘Proprietors Reserve Auslese 1986, which followed on from some award winning numbers under the same label, made from Muller-Thurgau.  This was made from Rhine Riesling grown in Tekaraka, Gisborne, picked at 26° Brix, and a rarer, more expensive number, quite a specialist wine at the time. It too was in the richer, quality-focussed style.  Tonight, this was darkish mahogany colour too, and upon nosing, a scaled-down expression of the Penfolds NPU, a little cleaner, but exuding aromas of raisins, dried fruits, toffee and caramel.  Clearly sweet on palate, the flavours echoing the bouquet, but softer in texture, but carrying some phenolics.  Just beginning to dry out.  It was difficult to decide which was better, and there were votes for each.  My pick was the Penfolds – just.  The overriding thoughts were they were in remarkable condition.  We’d expect world classical dessert wines to last 25+ years, but New Zealand wines don’t seem to manage it normally.  We were a happy group.   

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Source for the World

We all know that France is The Source of all of the world’s best wines, don’t we?  Well that’ll be disputed by a great many people!  Two wines connected with the sentiment in different ways.

Firstly a 2007 ‘La Source’ Bordeaux Blanc from Chateau de Sours.  This is the very top white wine from Martin Krajewski who set up a modern top-flight winery in the Entre-Deux-Mers region.  This is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and given the Rolls-Royce barrel-ferment treatment.  No doubt showing the world how to make complex, barrel-influenced dry whites, and giving the Graves and Pessac-Leognan people a run for their money. As SWMBO said, it ain’t Loire, but it is deep and textural, quite rich and exotic in an austere way.  Not one for drinking on its own as with many Kiwi Savvys.  Named after a stream near or water source for the property, I wonder.  Good wine in any case.

Then a 2008 Maison de Grand Espirit Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru ‘La Belle Voisine’, made by Frederic Magnien.  Sealed in screwcap.  A bit of digging found this the be a joint venture wine between the French and the Aussies – Treasury Wine Estates/Fosters to be a little more exact.  Here’ they’re sourcing classic and elite appellations in France, having the wine made by honest French folk, and sending it around the world, especially to Australia.  How clever is that?  Unfortunately this particular bottling a little light, cool and acidic.  True to type for the vintage, but maybe too accessible, a concession for the modern and international palate?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Running From Old to New

On our travels we ran into the Cho-sen One and his extended family, who extended an invitation for us to join in for dinner.  With the Engineers and the Cookies also going to be present, we knew it would be a lot of fun, and no doubt a lot of wine was going to be opened.  And there was.  It was a feast of bottles running from oldies to newbies, all with interest, and I note some of them.

An initial trio of Trinity Hill Wairarapa Riesling was indeed interesting.  The fruit coming from the ‘Petrie’ vineyard near Masterton, better known for its contribution to the ‘Petrie’ Chardonnay that Ata Rangi make.  The 2003, sealed in screwcap, was in full bloom.  A big wine in mouthfeel, wiyh plenty of vigour, showing lovely toasty notes to the fore, but with limey fruit underneath.  This has energy to go, and was perfect to appreciate how the variety can last a decade.  The 2001, sealed in cork, was unfortunately marred by oxidation.  Fruit faded now, and soft textured.  Not really offensive, but you knew it had gone past the point of no return.  The 1999 was a surprise, still in good condition.  Soft too, and broad, with honey and toast, and the beginnings of losing the plot, but still a good drink. 

We contributed three older Kiwi wines as another group of interest.  All from the 1986 vintage, one that was more forward than the preceding and following years.  The 1986 Robard & Butler Cabernet/Merlot never said where its fruit came from, as it was a negociant label at that time.  It offered value, and flavoursome drinking.  Now, it was still big in the mouth with ripe fruity nuances, but a hint of grubbiness making it a suspicious drink.  Rounded mouthfeel, and fully resolved tannins, but not really pleasant.  The 1986 de Redcliffe Cabernet/Merlot, from near Thames was a cultish wine in its day, made by the enthusiastic Chris Canning.  The fruit wasn’t as ripe as we like it nowadays, and this was seen in the greener flavours and sleek acid streak.  But it had a degree of finesse in a slender way.  Then a 1986 Abel & Co Cabernet/Merlot, from Pomona Road, Kumeu.  The most satisfying of the trio in fruitiness and structure.  Still with life ahead, if it wasn’t for a noticeable dose of volatile acidity.

The in-between wine was brought by the Cookies.  A 1990 Wynns ‘Michael’ Coonawarra Shiraz.  Dark, deep, ripe and chock-full of black fruits, earth and pepper, and sufficient structure to handle the meatiest of steaks and see off another decade of cellaring.  A strong plum and liquorice finish was a feature.

Back to Kiwi land with the reds.  The future of the Gimblett Gravels Matariki label is uncertain now, after being placed into the hands of receivers.  Some current and yet to be released wine made a showing.  The 2009 Matariki ‘Reserve’ Syrah was a worthy match to the Wynns ‘Michael’ tasted earlier.  Sweet, dark spices and ripe plum flavours plus a heap of oak, but magically retained in check so as not to overwhelm.  Delicious stuff.  A 2009 Matariki ‘Reserve’ Merlot/Cabernet showing a little more restraint and style.  Classy strength with ripeness and a lovely flow.  Even better was a 2009 Matariki ‘Quintology’.  Very robust and fulsome, with a mass of ripe black fruits and a full array of flavours.  It’s a bit of a super-star.  The benchmarker served by the Cho-sen One was the 2008 Te Mata ‘Awatea’ Cabernet/Merlot.  A beautiful wine too, which appeared seamless, with harmony and balance.  Classical blackcurrant and leaf, definitely a cooler vintage, and the acidity noticeable, but exuding a sense of finesse.  Not the ripeness of the 2009 Matariki wines, and thus suffering a little by comparison.  But taking a step back, you could see it was a wine with style.  


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Namesake Wine

Most of us enjoy our names.  I first tried a number of Raymond Vineyards wines nearly 25 years ago.  They were pleasant and better than commercial, but not by much.  Mind you, I wasn’t earning a lot, so I couldn’t spend a lot, and the wines we tried were modest in their pricing.  I knew there were wines in higher tiers.  Although I was somewhat disappointed, I felt my namesake wines could be better.  Fast-forward a couple of decades plus, and The Aid Man provided me with the chance to try some more Raymond Vineyards wines.  The company has changed in the meantime, and was bought by the Boisset Burgundy-based family empire in 2009.

There’s the base-level ‘R Collection’.  I wonder what ‘R’ stands for?  I think I’d like it.  The wines were quite correct but slightly uninspiring. The 2011 R Collection ‘Lot 3’ California Chardonnay the best with attractive tropical and citrus fruits showing some lusciousness.  Smart for a primarily unoaked example.  The 2011 R Collection ‘Lot 7’ California Field Blend with all-sorts, as these ‘Field Blends’ are was a fruity, plummy, jammy, easy drink.  A soft anytime number.  Better was the 2011 R Collection ‘Lot 3’ California Merlot, elegant and slender, somewhat in the cooler spectrum, but well-balanced, well-made and attractively modern.  The 2010 R Collection ‘Lot 3’ California Cabernet Sauvignon was surprisingly softer, more mellow and less structured, but pleasant.  Is Merlot the better variety over Cabernet Sauvignon? 

I was happier with the ‘Reserve Selection wines.  The 2011 Raymond ‘Reserve Selection’ Napa Chardonnay fuller, riper, with lush citrusy fruit and the contemporary reductive flinty complexities.  Pretty decent wine that put a smile on my face.  Onto the reds, and the 2009 Raymond ‘Reserve Selection’ Napa Cabernet Sauvignon did enough with its mellow ripeness and integrated harmony to make it a pretty pleasant number.  But why is this so forward and accessible?  Much more ageworthy was the 2008 Raymond ‘Reserve Selection’ Napa Merlot.  Concentrated black fruits, plenty of fine, firm structure and a real wallop of spicy new oak.  A modern Napa rendition that will keep a decade.  It confirmed how good Merlot can be.

It took the flagship 2008 Raymond ‘Generations’ Napa Cabernet to restore my belief in what California Cabernet can be like.  Powerful, but refined, complete and harmonious, with exotic oak spicing on superbly ripened fruit.  Waves of flavour.  A bit of a statement in luxury rather than varietal character for sure.  Worth keeping a decade.  I was proud to be a Raymond.         

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hatching a Plot

Earlier this year we had the Affectionately Known As (AKA) Man and Lovely booked in to stay with us, but we were called away and missed them.  There was no escape this time – no escape for them, as we hatched a plan to share some hospitality with them.  The AKA Man and Lovely have been very kind to us in the past, so it was a pleasure to reciprocate.  We know that the cleanest, purest dry whites are their favourites, with good bubbles, Chardonnay-based wines and the occasional Pinot Noir seem to hit the spot, so that’s what we poured their way.

Two of the latest NV Champers that SWMBO and I like at the moment were the starters.  SWMBO is enamoured by NV Laurent-Perrier ‘Brut L-P’.  Fresh, light, florals and citrus fruits, the dosage a little noticeable, and invitingly accessible and soft, this is looking as clean and fruity as ever.  It appears lighter than it really is, and there’s plenty of satisfaction.  I’m a fan of the more complex and drier style, and in recent tastings NV Charles Heidsieck ‘Brut Reserve’ has done it for me.  And the bottle serve did it again.  Tighter, drier, with intense flavours of yellow stonefruit Pinot Noir, definite autolysis and aldehyde notes, clearly with plenty of Reserve wine.  A restraine and fruiter Bollinger-esque style in some respects.  The AKA Man and Lovely concurred with their quality and style.

Two N.Z. Chardonnays at the top of their game next as we moved along the plan.  Firstly the newly-released 2011 Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay.  Beautifully vibrant but concentrated citrus and mealy fruit with fine acidity, and the perfect touch of flinty complexities.  It’s youthful, but already a star.  Then the multi-trophy champion 2010 Villa Maria ‘Keltern’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay, softer, richer, sweeter, a year down the track and beginning to come together in harmony.  Masses of complexity with sulphide reduction and flint, but sucked in by the fruit.  It all worked superbly.  The surprising aspect was how quickly this is coming to maturity.  The Neudorf was the winner here.  Both SWMBO and I enjoyed the Villa Maria, but to the refined palates of Lovely and the AKA Man, it was too sweet, and lighter!

Onto the French wines, the highlight of the story.  The white, a 2006 Raveneau Chablis 1er ‘Montee de Tonnerre’.  I feel Chablis of late shows the advances in ripening, and the rapier, cutting acidity of the past is truly gone.  The flintiness is also more mellow, and dare I say it, they can have an unctuous aspect.  This did, but it had a rainwater purity and a delicious delicacy.  Dry as it it could be, it was an all round star, but for the AKA Man, the ultimate.  Then the final act in the plot revealed, an Armand 2001 Rousseau Chambertin.  Faded colour, and initially undemonstrative, but seriously brooding.  A strange, but enormously pleaasing combination of power and elegance.  Complex brown fruits and undergrowth, and the classical ‘blood and fur’ of Gevrey-Chambertin.  Growing in power and density in the glass.  Almost glorious, but not quite.  A wine we all mulled over quietly in our own minds, probably all too fearful of saying it didn’t quite sing at its best, but also that we may not be quite sophisticated to appreciate it fully?

Then a little something to sweeten us on our way.  A 2010 Loosen Erdener Trpppchen Kabinett.  Youthful and sherbetty, with exotic florals.  The sweetness looking more than reality, due to the contrast with the savoury, firmer structured red.  Absolutely decadent in its subtle sweetness and fruitiness.  It wasn’t a wine for Lovely, but the three of us enjoyed its sweet finish to the plot.    

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pressed to be Trendy

It was a big party at The Grunter’s place.  Flossie’s birthday, and the house was open to a mass of young persons.  A lovely lunch moving on to a lovely night with singing and dancing.  The dichotomy between generations became very evident in the choice of songs and dancing music.  The oldies more tempered and with melody and easy to understand lyrics, and a flowing story.  The modern with understandable rhythm and uncomplicated phrases, in a way lighter and less layered.  Two vintages of the same labelled wine seemed to typify the difference in generations.  One could ask: Is winemaking under pressure to make trendy wines for the times?

The 1998 Redmetal ‘Basket Press’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Franc, a monster, dark and still brooding with impenetrable black-garnet colour, dense and concentrated with savoury earth and black fruits.  Sure, lots of oak, but now a secondary beast.  Rounded and supple in impression, but a firm heart. SWMBO was afraid it might be bretty as heck, but no, still sweet in fruitiness.  Great wine in a heroic style, and tough to drink without a slab of red meat, but nevertheless impressive.

The 2010 Redmetal ‘Basket Press’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Franc I’ve tried before.  In the scheme of things today, it looks a rich and satisfying, near old-fashioned wine, full and broad and soft with density.  A crowd-pleaser in a sense, but alongside the 1998, much lighter and elegant, quite a lot more trendy.  Distinctly fruity in a primary way, and fresh with good acidity.  Simpler and far more accessible, representing the now-style.

I’m sure there’s an element of vintage expression.  The 1998s were super-ripe blockbusters, and the 2010 was from a lighter, cooler year.  But the house style is changing, to be more with it.  Such is the pressure to be contemporary.     

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sparkling at The Shaker's

Every year bottles of bubbles get a bit of the treatment at The Shaker’s, and he calls in reinforcements to enjoy them and to ensure they don’t get wasted.  The timing is such that it’s really the first of the festive season parties, and because it involves good sparklers, it’s a good and popular call by The Shaker.  SWMBO and I always make sure we get there early, so as to try all the wines we can.  We actually don’t pour too much, as you don’t need a lot to taste, and the numbers build up too.  That way, there’s plenty left over for the other guests.  Some guests are not quite aware of such tasting protocols and etiquett, and their glasses get filled up without any regard to other guests.  At least it’s drunk and not wasted.  Due the masses of attendees, it wasn’t the best situation to look closely at the wines, but between SWMBO and Le Martinet, we usually arrive at the 'right' conclusions.

A group of NV Champagnes to set the scene.  The NV Mumm ‘Cordon Rouge’ rather easy and light without the greatest interest, but nice and fresh.  Maybe lesser than what it is capable of.  With a little more drive the NV Perrier-Jouet had more going for it, and a bit more autolysis and decent Champagne character.  I’ve never been taken by the label, but here it went up a step.  Having recently tried the NV Laurent-Perrier ‘Brut L-P’, I was wowed again by the tightness of structure and greater purity and class of the newest shipment.  This bottle confirmed my thoughts.  The NV Lanson ‘Black Label’ kept up to its bigger, more Pinot Noir and aldehydic expression, some more complexity for sure.  The experts are saying the wine has become less interesting with vineyards stripped, but not here.  But the perfect all-rounder could be seen in the NV Pol Roger, medium bodied, with a balance between freshness and finesse, and depth of autolytic interest.  Always the subtly serious one.

A bracket of N.Z. Bubbles next.  These were lesser than the Champagnes, noticeably so, but not embarrassingly so.  The NV Deutz ‘Marlborough Cuvee’ soft and sweeter, the dosage evident.  Pleasant and moreish.  More lifted with white florals and stonefruits, the NV Pelorus showing more freshness and character.  It’s greater liveliness was its drawcard.  Again, another level up was the 2007 Pelorus.  Definite body line and autolytic interest, and quite a statement wine.  ‘Will it get to the heights of the 2006?’ was the question, ”Or is it destined to be more elegant?’  Back a step to the ultra-refined 2007 Quartz Reef Vintage, shyer in autolysis, but with cut and crispness.  Lighter but with lovely finesse and a sense of minerals.  The latest release of NV Nautilus Methode is another stunner, with genuine Champagne characters.  This is Lot 801, and worth seeking out as another one that does it all.  Also in top form is the 2007 Palliser Methode.  The take on this is that is their approximation to the great Bollinger style.  It has developed that way.  We were given the nod that the 2007 No. Family Estate ‘Cuvee Remy’ was the one, and indeed it’s very distinctive.  There’s a fresh mouthfeel with masses of autolytic complexities.  Brooding, but showing what it has got, and it looks good for the future as it grows.

A mixed bag of Champagne and Kiwi Sparklers was a bridge to the big names.  Two wines from the No. 1 Family Estate again, as Daniel Le Brun must be the most characterful of the bubbly makers in New Zealand.  His signature NV No.1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee No. 1’ is creamy and classical Chardonnay in citrus and florals, but crowd-pleasing with a noticeable dosage.  Did I say populist?  Not me!  The 2006 No. 1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee Virginie’ was again more complete as the’Cuvee Remy’, but more expressive and it has come together well.  It needs a glass with a larger tulip bowl to open out, but its depth was evident.  In ascending order of impressiveness were the NV Nicolas Feuillatte, soft and a little plain, though thoroughly vinous.  The NV Lanvin showed more weight, mouthfilling presence and some autolytic interest.  Usually this impresses the heck, but maybe the esteemed company put it in its place.  The big eye-opener was the NV Beaumet, broader for sure, but with palate satisfaction and ticking all the necessary boxes as it flowed.

Onto the big names, and one can’t get bigger than Moet & Chandon.  An all-pleasing and non-disappointing NV Moet ‘Brut Imperial’.  We are all happy to see good form here, but also it was easy to move on to the 2004 Moet Vintage.  A lot more in body, texture, and personality in a sinewy line. Better of course, and one you could stay with all night if the case need be.  Then back to a less attention-grabbing 2003 ‘Dom Perignon’, treated as a separate brand by Moet, but we all know it’s Moet.  A complete and seamless wine, without any distracting negatives, but also missing that vitality and extra ‘X-Factor’.  We moved on.  Bollinger next, the bigger Pinot Noir, autyloysis, aldehydic and oxidative house style.  The NV Bollinger ‘Special Cuvee’ a touch sweeter and fresher, and the combination of old style and new fruitiness hit the mark.  Also good was the 2002 Bollinger ‘Grande Annee’, with its singularity of the house style.  Delicious, but you wonder if there’s more possible?  The most complete showing at The Shaker’s as agreed by Le Martinet, SWMBO and I was that of Veuve Clicquot.  A fulsome, fruity NV VCP ‘Yellow Label’.  This bottle could benefit with a little bottle age, and then it might be spectacular and greater value.  The NV VCP Rose also good, even finer in teture and presentation.  A complete 2004 VCP Vintage, maybe a little too grunty for its own good, but there’s no denying plenty of substance.  The top was their top, the 2004 VCP ‘La Grande Dame’, a mouthful but possessing finesse of style and layers unfolding revealing detail plus.  This kept your interest.  It had the feel of needing time too, but it sang.
I'm sure there was a lot singing at The Shaker's as the evening went on.  It's a sparkling occasion.     

Sunday, November 25, 2012

De Loach Pinot Noirs Poached

The Aid-Man has access to all manner of wines and this time he shared a trio of Pinot Noirs made by the Russian River Pinot Noir pioneer De Loach.  Of course the label and the wines were so successful that the company got poached by the burgeoning Burgundy giant Boisset coming up to a decade ago, who have instigated biodynamic grapegowing, as well as growing the brand.  I don’t see too many North American Pinot Noirs, so they were fascinating.

The 2011 De Loach ‘Heritage Reserve’ California Pinot Noir is the basic level, despite the lofty sounding name.  Upfront and straightforward, correct raspberry fruit, but featuring a smooth and near-unctuous texture.  There’s not much nuance or detail, but it slipped down well.  Up a level to the 2011 De Loach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  And a better wine to.  Quite lush and succulent, with florals and herbal interest, and again with a smooth, flowing texture and mouthfeel.  The third was the 2010 De Loach ‘OFS’ Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  ‘OFS’ means ‘Our Finest Selection’ and is a selection from different vineyards, somewhat disregarding the concept of site expression and terroir that is hot with Pinot Noir, and more in showing the region.  Deeper, more savoury and more layers of interest here, maybe a little worked with oak resins peeking through.  But again, that trademark smooth, slipperiness, this time in a plumper style and rounder mouthfeel.  Quite delicious.

The New Zealand Pinot Noir wines I see more of are certainly more lively, acid-expressive and sharper in outlook.  I see more detail and complexity, but these Californians worth worthy of tasting and drinking.  The Aid-Man has wide-ranging interests and a wide reach to get such interesting wines.  Thank you!    

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Line-Up at Albergo Prentice

Our visits to the ever-hospitable A-Prentices frequently involve many bottles being opened.  Not that we drink a lot, but more due to the number of people also in attendance.  Excessive consumption is never tolerated, and everyone joins in the spirit of a little taste of each wine.  There is usually a personal comment on each wine, sometimes surprise is expressed, and we all agree to disagree.  The number of bottles may appear frightening, and it has become a tradition to present them in a line-up which gets photographed to show how the evening was spent.  On this occasion we had plenty to ‘toast’.

A pretty rosé to start the proceedings, as the sun was shining.  The 2012 Bridge Pa ‘Drama Queen’, undisclosed to variety on the label, with sweetness and peaches and cream and an underlay of raspberries.  One for the masses, and with plenty of up-front appeal. 

The aromatics were quite a delight.  The gentle sweetness and subtle flavours of the 2012 Coopers Creek ‘SV – Bell Ringer’ Gisborne Albarino show there is potential for the variety in New Zealand.  A step up in richness, but still retaining a stylish restraint was the 2011 Greystone Waipara Pinot Gris.  Then a wild card in the form of a 2012 Alta Vista ‘Premium’ Torrontes, the most complete bottling of this Argentinian variety I’ve seen for some time.  Quite fine in aromatic penetration, and with a hint of unctuousness.  It looked very smart indeed.  Also a surprise was a 2010 Gustave Lorentz Alsace Muscat d’Alsace, again with intensity, depth and penetration, almost with a spritz, and clear-cut grapey varietal flavours and a smooth flow of flavours. 

Two older wines were possibly the surprise of the night, a deliciously honied and rounded 1989 Montana Marlborough Riesling.  Toast and kero hardly perceptible, so young still for a two decade plus wine.  The 1990 Montana Marlborough Riesling not quite as rich and weighty, a little drier, and more kero and toast development.  The 1989 made the 1990 look ordinary, but the latter had done well to last this long.

Only two Chardonnays!  Firstly a 2011 Montechez Chardonnay from Argentina.  From a family vineyard brought along by a family member.  Refreshing and clean with apple and citrus, the oaking very much a minor component.  In a magnum was a 2006 Te Mata ‘Elston’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay.  The magnum size obviously a factor in enhancing longevity.  Drinking beautifully with waves of grapefruit, oatmeal, nuts and oak.  Lovely barrel-ferment textures of creaminess.  No hurry, especially if you have it in magnum format.

The evening was approaching.  Pinot Noir next, before the transition to heavier and sweeter things.  A bracket of new wines.  The 2011 Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir.  Good dark and ripe-enough fruit, but with grainy texture that was prominent over the fruit.  Much sweeter and balanced, with bold ripe flavours of black cherries and plums, a classical 2011 Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir.  This was a crowd favourite.  Great to compare these with a 2011 Ata Rangi ‘Crimson’ Martinborough Pinot Noir.  Lighter in colour, but just as big in flavour, though with a different fruit and sweetness profile.  A little more complex with savoury, brown herb and game hints over the juicy, or fruit-powered Central Otago numbers.  This ‘Crimson’ grew to be a great all-round Pinot Noir to drink.  Coming in a 1.5 Litre magnum format was a bonus.

Older Pinot Noirs next.  The 2009 Judge Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir, right down the middle of the line in style, and beginning to soften and plump out.  Good drinking now.  Then a concentrated, medium-bodied 2008 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, decidedly delicious and with excellent fruit richness and nuance that unfolded in the glass, with growing structure.  2004s for Pinot Noir around the world seem to be weaker, less ripe and forward.  Such was the 2004 Epis Macedon Pinot Noir.  Yest this Aussie example exuded Pinot Noir class and true form, that would not be disgraced by many a 2004 red burgundy.  The least Pinot Noir wine was the 2002 Daniel Le Brun Marlborough Pinot Noir.  An amorphous wine without the structure or fruit to make it of interest.  Some undergrowth notes, and while not grubby, it wasn’t squeaky clean.

Non classical reds, well, that’s non-classical to the Bordeaux-lover.  A just released 2011 Ata Rangi ‘Celebre’, a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Youthfully dark, plenty of Syrah spices and black pepper, and youthful structure filling the mouth.  Not insubstantial, and plenty to see it grow well.  Then a hedonistic 2010 Alta Vista ‘Premium’ Malbec from Argentina.  Masses of black fruits with juiciness and plumminess.  The 15.0% alc. well-absorbed by the decadent fruit.  A crowd favourite.  Continuing the Spanish theme, a 2010 Protocolo VdT Castilla Tempranillo, a modern take of this Spanish red varietal for the world to accept.  It could be readily slurped by anyone, anywhere, and it still spoke, gently, of Tempranillo with ir sweet and savoury red fruits.  Expecting something stern, I was pleasantly surprised by the 2008 Ch. Laffitte Teston ‘Joru Laffitte’ Madiran.  Not the tannic monster that Tannat can be, with a modicum of elegance, but still that firm black-earth core underneath.  

Is Cabernet Franc a classical Bordeaux red.  It sure is, as could be seen in the 2007 Finca La Celia ‘Heritage’ Cabernet Franc.  Another Argentine beauty.   Firm, dense, packed with dark berry fruits and graphite with minerals and black earth, this is a long-term ager, just a claret from a good year should be.  Oaking very discreet.   Two older Kiwi clarets brought up the rear-guard.  The 1986 Babich Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot quite a mouthful, formerly robust, but now showing its bones a little.  Green and acidic too, showing how far viticultural advances have made a difference.  I’m not sure if the 1986 Corbans ‘Private Bin’ Cabernet/Merlot was any better.  I liked it more as it wasn’t green and herbaceous.  It was just devoid of fruit.  But the new oak the wine was aged in (for around 450 days), was still there.  Nice oak it was too.

Late at night now, and sticky treats to wrap up the night.  Afterall, we were all working the next day!  A stunner came in the form of the 2011 Seifried ‘Sweet Agnes’ Riesling.  Sensationally clear Riesling fruit with searing acid cut for the super-sticky sugar, all coming together with style.  A striking wine that works superbly for all its strong components.  The Chambers Rutherglen Muscat, much browner in colour, though with red hues to the colour, the flavour of nuts and raisins, in a soft, slightly textural, drying framework.  Still a wine with decadence but not quite voluptuousness.  Not really old with age interest, but also not fresh and lively.  A man (or is that muscat?) in the middle.  The finale was a Gonzales Byass ‘Nectar’ Pedro Ximinez.  Dense, sticky sultanas.  Truly nectar with a green tinge.  Rancio notes underneath.  Quite complex if one looked.  Silky smooth and lush.  Very good, rather than great if one was super-critical, but at that time of night it was perfect to end the line-up.          

Friday, November 16, 2012


Sometimes you’ve got to treat yourself.  And that’s what we did.  Young Jimmy brought Pitchfork Paul up for a quick visit, and as often can happen, a short appointment can lead to an all nighter.  Well, not quite this time, but it was a decent effort.  After going through assorted wines that our guests brought along for work, and samples that SWMBO and I had opened, and a bit of a bite to eat, it was time for a little indulgence.

Some wines and some labels have always done it for me.  SWMBO has learnt that these are my favourites and she has come to love them too.  First up was a 2010 Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett.  While it hasn’t got the richness of Pralat, nor the spicy interest of Urziger Wurzgarten, the Treppchen site manages to have that blend of ethereal and exotic.  It’ll never get to the pradikat levels of Pralat, but Kabinett’s exactly where we love it.  It’s a small step to heaven, but a significant one.  The 2010 was unformed and unenjoyable six months ago, but it’s a joy now, with a little spitzig tingle, it was the perfect refreshing introduction wine.  It’s the ultimate for SWMBO anytime.

I started my vinous love affair on Gewurztraminer, seduced by its brazen opulence and heady rush.  It must be addictive, because even after weaning myself off, all it takes is a sip, and I’m suckered in again.  There are many ‘GWT’s I like from these shores, though the Alsace models are my all-time highs.  The 2010 Dry River ‘Lovat’ Martinborough Gewurztraminer has been an irresistible one for both of us, and the case we got has now whittled down to just one bottle.  Sensationally seamless, but with the honied roses that seems so bold.  And far too young, I know these can go a decade if you leave them alone.  But who can do that?

And then onto the burgundy wine that pulls my heart-strings.  It’s not a grand cru – only a little Beaune 1er Cru.  I was brought up on Drouhin wines, and they taught me about the region, and how to appreciate elegance, delicacy, sensuality and gentleness.  ‘Feminine burgundy is beautiful’ is what I discovered after a diet of stern and intellectual claret.  And the ‘Clos des Mouches’ does all that with enough oomph to connect with the New World drinker.  Also, I love the funky label with the bees buzzing around.  The 2009 Drouhin Beaune 1er ‘Clos des Mouches’ came out toasty-oaky, but silky and slippery.  As it sat in glass, the oak melded in, and the serious tannins came out to play.  There’s enough cherry and berry sweetness to lush it all up, but again, infanticide.

You’ve just got to go with the flow when you get indulged…       

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reining in the Richness

We had The Master grace us with his presence, and we always learn from his experience and deep thought.  His approach is never rushed, and thus his judgements sound and sensitive.  Of course there’s always the occasion to open some wines, and two very different bottles had a similarity in that their inherent richness was reined in, so that a greater sense of stylishness and elegance was achieved.

After a long day at work, a sugar hit can hit the spot, and a 2003 Bourillon Dorleans ‘La Coulee d’Or’ Vouvray was the start-up wine.  Though not having tried this example of botrytised Chenin Blanc for a few years, I knew we could expect some richness and decadence here.  2003 a heat-wave year too, could possibly add some power and weight.  In the glass, a little golden colour, and strangely quite restrained, without masses of ripe fruit nor overly honied.  Clean stonefruit and a soft waxy, lanolin core, with the honey nuanced.  Sweet, but not based on sugar on palate, with the density that this label exhibits, and only a slow building in unctuousness and flavour.  The accumulation of unctuousness really quite slow, and the cut of acid from the variety most subtle.  It was as though the wine may have been scalped by barely detectable cork taint.  The overall feel was one of sleekness, rather than richness.

In a polar opposite, The Master directed me to broach his 1997 Penfolds ‘RWT’ Barossa Shiraz.  The first vintage of what is deemed a modern classic from the very traditional Penfolds,  Opulence in a bottle with a hefty dose of sweet new French oak over shiny, ripe, oozy chocolate, pepper and spice.  Always luscious in youth, its finesse isn’t enough to hide its sweetness of fruit.  It’s a combination of ‘over-the-top’ with class.  A little maturity in the garnet-brick colour, but smelling of savoury brown spices and ripe plums left in the sun, and liquorice with black pepper.  The fruit could be seen as a little fade, and to the wine’s benefit.  The extract drying a little, but this too a redeeming feature.  The dryness countering the fruit, now dropping.  Indeed, balanced and developed perfectly for drinking, and with the meaty meal.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Consistency and Differentiation

The 19th century Zante currant vineyard had its new plantings over the footstep of the old, so that growing conditions and experience were similar for consistency.  Strangely enough, the same phenomenon struck me as I had the opportunity of looking at a range of hearty modern reds made by the larger than life B. Riggs in the McLaren Vale under the ‘Zonte’s Footstep’ label that recalls the currant growing.

The wines all carried different names, all funky, as is the rage right now.  Three Shirazes first, a 2010 ‘Chocolate Factory’ McLaren Vale Shiraz, ripe and chocolatey with hints of eucalypt and cedar.  Good depth anD concentrated too.  Then a 2010 ‘Baron von Nemesis’ Barossa Shiraz, very similar again, maybe a little more accessible, but a bit bitter and reductive.  And moving to a 2010 ‘Lake Doctor’ Langhorne Creek Shiraz, touched by a little Viognier, and consequently a little lighter and more mellow in mouthfeel, but brighter in aromatic nature.  All with hints of chocolate, plums, cedar spice and eucalypt.  Surely this consistency must be winemaker signature, as the origins were differet?

Putting the issue further to the test, a 2010 ‘Avalon Tree’ Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.  Clearly blackcurranty and leafy even, but in the glass, the tell-tale spicy, cedary oaky and eucalypt signature came out.  Then to an extreme, a 2010 ‘Violet Beauregard; Clare Valley Malbec.  All the Christmas cake spices and dark plums taken to another far-away, exotic place.  Bigger, blacker but there again, eucalypt, liquorice, cedar and spices.  Same story.  And finally, a 2011 ‘Canto di Lago’ Langhorne Creek Sangiovese/Barbera.  Much lighter and less ripe – a function of the vintage?  Certainly red cherries and softer red fruits.  In a reduced expression, the same old story with spices, cedar, liquorice etc, etc, etc.

I concluded it must be winemaker after all these different factors not changing the picture too much.  There’s a place for consistency and also for differentiation.  I like the consistent good quality.  But I could have drunk any of them for the same effect and taste.   

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Annual Test

November is the month that I conduct a wine options game for the ‘Beepers’ who mix it with a group who are ‘Simply Gruesome’.  SWMBO is my right-hand person, and we enjoy our annual chance of testing these fine people about wine.  They are special people, as they get into the spirit of things, and everything is so well-organised.  And on top of that, there’s a healthy budget allowing the opportunity of showing some really nice wines.

It’s a confidence thing to serve something easily recognisable to start with, and the first wine was the double gold-medal winning 2012 Starborough ‘Family Estate’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.  Pretty fleshy and juicy stuff, with mineral, gooseberry and passionfruit flavours plus a marvellous esters-aromatic lift.  An equal blend of Wairau and Awatere fruit, and showing both.  Then onto a 2009 Domaine Servin Chablis.  Unsurprisingly forward and round now, fuller, with softness.  Still the underlying flintiness that makes Chablis what it is, but the acid sear gone.  The weight of this could have made it a premier cru, if I was guessing.  The streamlined flow and fineness pointing to Chablis than the Cote d’Or.  The final white was a 2010 von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett.  Marred by a little reduction, this had the steely, gooseberry slate characters of Mosel, and this too was a little more weighty and substantial than expected for a wine from this exalted site in the Saar.  A touch of honeysuckle underneath and sugar adding to the mouthfeel, made this a delight, regardless of the sulphide notes.

Onto ‘The Last Man Standing’ to find the best palate in the room.  The wine for this was the 2011 Terrace Edge Waipara Valley Pinot Gris.  We managed to whittle the numbers to a quarter with one question.  And the wine’s not that hard to pick!  Lovely, decadent ripe pears and honied stonefuits.  A touch of spice, and a near unctuousness.  Classic quality Pinot Gris in the modern Alsace style.  Ahh, that’s what they thought it was…

The reds sort out the serious thinkers and drinkers from the light weighters.  Straight into the top-end stuff with a 2010 Te Mata ‘Coleraine’ Hawke’s Bay Cab/Merlot blend.  I haven’t tried this for over 7 months.  I liked it on release then, clearly ahead of its stablemate ‘Awatea’, but felt it showed the cooler, slow-to-ripen vintage.  Boy, has this come together well and put on richness and texture.  It will always be an elegant wine in the scheme of things, but great class now showing.  This was followed by the 2007 Antinori ‘Marchesi’ Chianti Classico Riserva.  Ironic that a 1981 had come our way just last week.  This quite fulsome, soft and matty in texture, maybe a little muddied in outlook, partly from distinct oakiness coming through.  A thoroughly modernist and crowd-pleasing style, and a bit disconcerting if one were a purist.  But from a drinker’s view, very satisfying in a broad way.  The final wine was the 2006 Saltram ‘No. 1’ Barossa Shiraz.  ‘No. 1’ as it’s the best they do.  Ultra-ripe and sweet, with chocolate and liquorice, smooth and lush, but underlined by plenty of fine tannin.  Brilliant ‘out-there; fruit and integrated oaking, and no ‘dead’ dullness at all.  There’s a place for these hedonistic wines.  Maybe not at the dinner table with fine and fancy fare.  But as a wine to sip and admire, while letting a testy world pass by.     

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Growing in Brightness

It was the night of the popular pyrotechnics display, and in a typical show of generosity, The Capital Man invited us to view the fireworks from his residence which has a commanding presence over the harbour. The Capital Man has been collecting wine for a very long time and has had the means to amass a wondrous cellar, but as in many such cases, has not had the time to drink the bottles in a timely fashion, resulting in many wines moving past their best.  For him, it was an opportunity to share a few with visitors.  Among those taking advantage of the vantage point was His Eminence and his family, he being a South American man who self-effacingly professes to know little about vinous matters, but in reality knew plenty.  There was plenty to talk and laugh about, and there was a growing realisation of how much ground we could cover.  The night got brighter as we all got to know each other, and the fireworks built to a crescendo.

A vertical of old Palliser Estate Riesling from Martinborough was extremely interesting.  The 1992 was certainly on the way downhill.  Oxidised, with very soft textures, but still attractively honied.  Curiously very drinkable, though knowing the bruised apple flavours indicated its true state.  The 1995 was much less aged, even though only 3 years younger.  A trace of oxidation, but still with citrus fruit residue.  Tertiary toast and earth aromas and flavours and searing acidity.  Despite good aromatics of lime and toast, with petrolly hints, this was rather astringent and dried on palate.  Then onto a 2005.  A beautiful wine, clearly packed with fruitiness, exuding limes along with bright energy and wonderful balance of sweetness, fruitiness and acidity.  A thread of toastiness intermixed with honey made it beguilingly succulent.

A pair of Felton Road Central Otago wines were highlights.  The 1999 Dry Riesling clearly aged with a combination of lime and toast, but the slippery acidity and lush mouthfeel gave it a semblance of sweetness, even though the wine was dry.  SWMBO was taken by this wine.  The Capital Man followed this by opening a 2000 ‘Block 5’ Pinot Noir.  Muscular and mushroomy, with sweet and savoury red fruits merging with earth, truffle, meat and game nuances.  Lovely acidity, and plenty of structure and mouthfeel.  His Eminence was a fan of this one too.

Two older reds made for real curiosities.  I don’t see too many older Italian wines, so a Chianti over three decades of age was anticipated highly.  The 1981 Antinori ‘Marchesi’ Chianti Classico Riserva was fairy gutsy and robust, with a mass of savoury, gamey, sour cherry fruit in its tertiary state.  More earthy and a touch dirty, rather than full-on grubby.  Good acid raciness, and fine tannins in the background, and drying out a little.  Interesting, but not one to stay on.

Then a blast from my past, a 1969 Lindemans Hunter River Burgundy Bin 3803.  I’ve had many a bottle of these Hunter Valley Shiraz wines in my formative years.  Still with dark garnet red heart to the colour, this featured a distinctive charry, reductive, spice, resiny and animal character that I hadn’t seen before.  Still with fruit sweetness, but heading down the dry path.  Soft, but with a solid residual core.  I doubt this will ever move to the beautiful ethereal and layered expression, but it was still a wonder to taste.

As the night got darker, we all became a little more enlightened.    

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hanging Out with The Happy Hipsters

Moving into a new home and new ‘hood' for the Happy Hipsters was not been an easy decision.  There are always pros and cons, but move they did, and it came time for a housewarming.  It was a cool affair on a cool evening, but the atmosphere was warm, and with happiness the Hipsters had overflowed to all the partygoers.  Some nice, gentle music and an eclectic mix of wines from those of the hosts, to some BYO bottles, added to the hang-out time being a cruisy affair.

Our contributions were a couple of ten year old Hawke’s Bay reds.  SWMBO had inherited a 2002 C.J. Pask ‘Declaration’ Cab/Malbec/Merlot and this was an ideal time to broach it, so it seemed.  Well, it could have been left another decade easily, as it had dark colour, masses of dark berry and plum fruits along powerful spices and oak.  And lively as a new release wine with its acidity and energy.  The Italians would probably call this a meditation wine rather than a food wine. 

Following its success, out came the cork on the 2002 Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ Syrah, a bottle I put my hand up for as a rare, exciting new style.  The 2002 was the second release of this label, and again, like the Pask ‘Declaration’, still amazingly youthful.  Even more so, with its very dark, saturated colour, refined, but lush black fruits, black pepper and Asian spices.  Tightly held together, and smooth as velvet, this seemed quite primary, and again, with a decade ahead of it.  My recollection of it in youth was that it was a statement wine, and a decade later, it had the sheen of such a style, but had settled with class.

We were very pleased to see the Real Mr Parker, for his warm smile and a long overdue catch-up.  His wine generosity hasn’t faltered one bit.  His lead-in wine was a 1988 Olivier Leflaive Meursault 1er ‘Genevrieres’.  The Meursault smoothness and richness was evident immediately.  Nutty for sure, and a lovely creamy texture from bottle-age and barrel-ferment, and the faintest notes of oxidation.  Do negociant wines suffer in comparison with domaine wines?  That was my nagging doubt over its elegance.  I suppose there could have been more intensity and layers.  But a moot point, as it went down a treat.

Mr Parker, both ‘The Real’ one we know, and the widely published one love Chapoutier wines.  The 2001 Chapoutier ‘Croix de Bois’ Chateauneuf-du-Pape was a treat.  Very Grenache with dark raspberry fruit with complexing layers of savoury and herb nuance.  Rich and sweet, but not overly so.  Softened tannins, but with good linear grip and a long, long finish. And a great delight to see no brettanomyces.  The 2001s were good, much better than the forward 2002s, and the cellaring for a decade plus has confirmed it.

A couple of older wines were good to calibrate the senses.  A 1994 Infernetto Barolo, bricked colour, fading to a leanness, faint dried roses, no tar, but earth and leather.  Heading towards dried out, but drinkable and with interest, as any Barolo deserves.  More alive and archetype was the 1998 Penfolds ‘Bin 138’ Barossa Old Vine SGM.  Secondary and even tertiary hints, but very Barossa Valley with liquorice and plums, sweetness and warmth, now allowing the structure to show.  Great to compare with the Chapoutier, and both wines showing their provenance and ‘terroir’.

Back to the Kiwi wines to finish.  From the Happy Hipsters cellar was a 2007 Craggy Range ‘Block 14’ Syrah, again a wonderful echo of the ‘Le Sol’ tasted earlier.  Indeed, it was an echo, being lighter and less rich.  Still very varietal in every way, but with the sense it was beginning to show some maturity characters.  And this being five years younger than the ‘Le Sol’. 

However, the grand finale, the 2003 Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir was still a wine with a future.  A tiny crop year, and with the ripeness that has seen it carry on better than the 2005s, which are now showing secondary dried herbs.  Power, structure and fruit all here, with the Pinot Noir magical elegance.  Fragrance with subtle savoury complexities.  This has 7-10 years ahead. 

With the taste of this making us warm and mellow people with big smiles on our faces, we departed The Happy Hipsters new house and headed off home after several hours of hanging out. 


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Succession of Chardonnay

There’s been plenty of wine to taste and note, but they haven’t made it into Winenoter for a little while, so a succession of Chardonnay wines came together unexpectedly, and became worth noting.  Out for the day with Kim Kong and The Princess, and we drunk wine with gusto and plenty of laughter. 

For starters, and somewhat reluctantly, as a big day lay ahead, they accepted a serve of NV Taittinger Champagne, clearly Chardonnay-influenced, with lighter fruit expression, but this was in no way light and lacking.  Instead, there was richness and substance, allied to a pristine cut and definition.  Excellent restrained autolysis, true to form, but in place and not overstepping the mark.  One of the most delicious bottles of Tatts we’ve had for a while, and it’s usually good anyway.

Onto the birthday celebration, and numerous good wines were being poured.  I had more bubbles, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier, and then we thought we’d better try the Chardonnay on offer, a 2007 Villa Maria ‘SV – Taylors Pass’ Marlborough Chardonnay.  Sometimes this house gets the complex sulphides past the optimum for my personal taste, but on this showing, quite simply superb.  Classical white stonefruits and citrus fruits of Marlborough with acid and minerally cut, and pristine in flow through the palate.  Lacy flinty notes lined the wine, totally integral with the other componentry, and oaking just right.  A stunner of a wine.

The after-match wind-down time took us to Al’s Eatinghouse for more morsels with Maa who joined us after work.  On the wine agenda was a 2008 Kumeu River Chardonnay.  Slim-line but wonderfully constituted.  Sure, this is marked by flinty notes, but very much in the style of good white burgundy.  The sronefruit  flavour seem dry and minerally-nutty.  Never austere, but certainly not fleshy or sweet.  Wonderful with all sorts of food fro shellfish to firm-flesh fish.  Kim Kong, SWMBO and I loved it

Then a 2009 Stonecroft ‘Old Vine’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay was called for.  A bit cold on presentation, but a little warming saw its weight come through.  And has this got weight.  Quite a contraste to the Kumeu River.  Full-bodied, rich and creamy-textured, with alcoholic power, absorbed by the citrus and tropical fruit density.  Good acid freshness too, but a slightly savoury funkiness, possibly oak derived proved a distraction.  Something a little extraneous, which Maa enjoyed, but not quite the same for SWMBO and I.

Topping it off was a 2010 Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay.  A perennial favourite, as it has everything you want, consistently, and never breaking the bank.  Sweet, ripe stonefruits that more than hint at fleshiness and richness of texture.  Yet never overdoing it.  Complex reduction too, but again judged to perfection and just fitting in.  Almost big and powerful, but stylish and quite right for drinking now.  Very contemporary, but a wine to satisfy any Chardonnay lover’s check list.  As Chardonnay lovers, it did the job, and arguably the best, at least for me, of a succession of Chardonnay.    



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Jamming with JimJim

JimJim is the loveliest man.  His stories can be hairy, ‘cos he’s a hairy sort of guy.  There’s a solid exterior, but inside, there’s a sensitive new age guy who has deep thoughts, a whole lot of modesty and definitely a sense of humour.  JimJim was in town, had finished his work and was at a loose end.  I reckon he was a bit shy in making contact with us to catch up, but he gathered up his courage to give us a call.  We were delighted to get together, as he’s a lot of fun to be in company with, and it doesn’t take long to discuss any matter, very much as in a musical jam session, each of us having input and heading wherever we go.  After the mandatory pre-dinner drinks of comparing a half dozen Sauvignon Blancs and the same number of Pinot Noirs, off we headed to our local Asian eatery to enjoy some food.

The first wine a style regular that appears regularly on our table, this being a 2007 S.A. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese.  Lots of sulphur on the nose, and decidedly sugary on the palate, but it has that magical combination of sugar, alcohol and acidity that always seems to work regardless.  Being technical we pooh-poohed it but still drank it, especially SWMBO who has a fascination for Mosel Riesling.

Then it was JimJim’s offering, a 2007 Barham Mendelsohn Russian River Pinot Noir.  Dark and concentrated with linear, savoury, black-red fruitiness.  Sleek tannins with all the trimmings, all held together to make it a serious Burgundy-styled drink.  But somehow, on the night, it lacked all the detailed extras of nuance.  We missed the florals.  The finesse and ethereals were not there.  You could sense the makers were trying.  Sure there are big and firm, fully structured Richebourg look-alikes, but even they have that magical spark that hints at the ‘Holy Grail.’  This wine just missed the mark in that department.  The next night much better with evolved secondary mushroom notes.

And finally a 2006 Foradori ‘Granato’ Dolomiti Rosso, made from that recognised quality Teroldego variety of north eastern Italy.  Black berry fruits with a touch of graphite and minerals, and very fine, classy tannins.  Proportional acidity and a style to make it a classic, and a contender for noble red variety if one was looking to add to the list.  Our bottle had a bit of a horsey touch, which I enquired about later.  Some people see it as part of the varietal character, but I have my doubts.  Anyway, SWMBO left it.  I played with it.  JimJim drank it.

We dropped JimJim off at his digs.  We look forward to another jamming session with him.   


Friday, September 28, 2012

Calling all Caillou

The 2010 vintage in the Rhone is being lauded as a great one and the First-Aid Man put on a range from Le Clos du Caillou to taste.  It was a calling that couldn’t be turned down.    Sylvie Pouizin runs this domaine based at Courthezon at Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and she does it well.  I had the chance to sit down with them and take my time, trying to identify the differences.  And they were all very different.

Four Cotes du Rhone wines were on the agenda first.  A very good warm-up to some more serious wines possibly?  The first wine up was a 2001 Clos du Caillou CDR, from a vintage that was affected by rain.  Good all the same, with ripe Grenache raspberries and plums and really quite accessible now.  Of course, a step up was the 2010 Clos du Caillou ‘Bouquet des Garrigues’ CDR.  Riper and sweeter, showing the vintage, darker fruit flavours, but a hint of horsey brett sneaking in an appearance.  A hot year, high sugars and all that jazz makes it more likely that it’ll rear its head.  Another step up, and considerably so was the 2010 Clos du Caillou ‘Les Quartz’ CDR.  Rich and juicy, bolder in exotic fruit sweetness, and loads of fine textures and grip.  The label is out there too, matching the wine.  This is from a Chateauneuf vineyard, I believe.  The top of the line for the estate is the 2010 Le Clos du Caillou ‘Reserve’ CDR.  Tight, refined and classy in structure and proportion, but with the extract to go the distance that any top Chateauneuf might go.  This called to me, and I came along for the ride.

With the brilliant showing by the top two Cotes du Rhone, what could the real thing, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, offer?  For starters, fuller fruit, ripe fruit, more layers of interest.  Then greater extract and structure.  Yes, a step up in providing the complete experience.  The 2010 Le Clos du Caillou ‘Les Safres’ CNP is a traditional number, with a robustness and savoury, earthy complexity, making it a complete wine in its own right.  Like the CDR, the 2010 Domaine du Caillou ‘Les Quartz’ CNP is exotic, fleshy, modern and a statement in bold, sweet, ripe fruit.  Over-ripe maybe, and a little too alcoholic, but sheer decadence needing no justification.  Then the 2010 Le Clos du Caillou ‘Reserve’ CNP, with great extraction allied to super refinement.  This has the style to go a couple of decades if necessary.  It’s only concession to the world would be noticeable oak spicing.  The New World influence creeping in?  I’d like to think it’ll dissipate with time. 

These are all worthy modern Rhones from a great year.  Better than the softer, broader 2009s, rather like the situation in Burgundy?  My take is that it’ll be great to compare 2009 and 2010 together.  It’s your call, but you can’t go wrong.  Thanks First Aid Man!    

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Italians on Steroids

With all the hassle that our Kiwi Gal Val had at the five ring circus, steroids are not a popular topic.  But some supercharged Italian wines that came my way can be deemed to be wines on steroids.  The venerable Soave-based firm of Bolla is better known for their easy-drinking, correct wines.  But they’ve been pioneers at pushing Valpolicella beyond the norm. 

The 2010 Bolla ‘La Poiane’ Valpolicella Ripasso is indeed a powerful, inky, black beast, packed with intense black fruits, black herbs and black vegetables.  It’s still table wine, even at over 15.0% alc., and an approachable, if gutsy number.  While it’s big, there's a fine-tannin feel about it, and it all works well.  Fermented on the skins of Amarone, it has picked up the character. 
Then a 2007 Bolla Amarone della Valpolicella.  Intriguingly quite elegant and ethereal, even.  Waves of spices and cedar, with red fruits, game and some volatility.  Most of the Amarone wines I’ve tasted are bigger in size and flavour, almost ‘out-there’, and often quite soupy from their concentration from drying the grapes.  This is more the classy and subtle style which is a valid expression, and far more friendly for the dinner table. 
They say these are meditation wines, and thinking about them, I’ve give them both gold medals, well deserved, just like Val.    

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


To celebrate Pop things, The Chairman opened a bottle of NV Veuve Clicquot ‘Cuvee Saint Petersbourg’ Champagne, he acquired Duty Free.  Sold from Australia, I understand this to be a private cuvee for  the Russian market, given an extra year of age.  Whether it’s on lees or on cork, I don’t know, but I suspect from the way it tasted it was the latter.  A little more toasty-earthiness to the bready autolysis and a little more breadth than usual.  The cork had compressed a tad, but out it went – Pop!

 It was my shout next and with The Young One and The Youngette One, it was Pop’s shout, a 2007 von Kesselstatt Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Spatlese.  Still young and floral with honeysuckle notes, this was carried a little by the sugar.  It had the sweetness of a spatlese for sure, and also the weight, and it too was a treat.

The P-Prince popped out a couple of interesting wines too.  Pinot Noir with a connection and a difference.  A 2009 Cristom ‘Mount Jefferson Cuvee’ Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Oregon, in the red fruit spectrum with red floral fragrances developing a little secondary undergrowth touch, and not totally clean.  This has over 30% whole bunch, but you wouldn’t know it, as it was supple and aromatic rather than into the complexing layers of herb, stalk and structure.  The last one I had was more pure and fine.  

Its comparison stablemate was a 2010 Farrside by Gary Farr Geelong Pinot Noir.  At least 50% whole bunch and it was clear.  Plenty of grip and substance, but still with sweetness of fruit.  Better and more finesse than a 2009 I had a little while ago.  There’s some serious stuff going on here and it worked well, with primary fruit a joy.

These latter two ines are made by those who are regarded as the more serious Pinot Noir producers in their respective countries by many, the fathers or Pops of the style.    

Friday, August 31, 2012

I Meant Mencia

After my very positive experience with a Mencia from Bierzo wine last weekend with the A-Prentices, I thought it would be good to explore more, especially as we were catching up with The Chairman and P-Prince over the next few days and nights.  So off I went to the GG bottle store and picked up a couple at the more affordable end.  First up was the 2009 Decendientes Palacios ‘Petalos’ Bierzo from the masters of the region.  This is at the base end, and it was a pleasant Mediterranean red with fruit and savoury flavours.  It could have come from anywhere in the region, not showing fragrance nor fine elegance and acidity.  A nice drink nevertheless.  Then the 2005 Dominio de Tares ‘Cepas Viejas’ Bierzo.  Expecting plenty after the lovely 2006, as 2005 would be a better year.  But no, the galloping brett horses took charge, and the wine, though gutsy, had no varietal delicacy, but plenty of farmyard.  SWMBO was not amused!  I meant to show Mencia, and went away disappointed.

Thank goodness for the classics.  The start of the evening was marked by a 2010 Yves Cuilleron ‘La Petite Cote’ Condrieu.  Sure it’s not the big label, but very true to style, a faint touch of herbs to the exoticism, and lovely near-unctuous weight and texture.  Gorgeous, rich and weighty Viognier.  Everything it should have been.  Then served by The Gallopers, a 2006 Yalumba ‘Signature’ Cabernet/Shiraz from the Barossa.  A little more developed since last time, showing the soft savoury notes, and now the firm curranty Cabernet Sauvignon dominating over the peppery, spicy Shiraz.  Nice oaking too, allowing the fruit to speak, but enough there to let you know there’s plenty of it.  Delicious stuff, and a treat.  Then the big-one, a 2001 Penfolds Grange.  "Infanticide" cried ‘P-Prince’ and ‘The Chairman’.  Ripe, but not over the top.  Huge weight, but with elegance.  Density, but fluid and very drinkable.  Sure this was firm, primary and new American oaky, but it ticked all the boxes and was the first to be emptied.  And it was great with the hearty, meaty fare.  That’s what such wines are for, and not to be put on a pedestal.