Monday, January 23, 2012

Summer Fading

There’s a bit of a craze going on at present, called ‘Summer of Riesling’, and it’s a noble one espousing the glories if the superlative Riesling variety. SWMBO and I met the Overlord a few days ago, and he was inspired and inspirational.

An older Riesling came our way, and it was good but now just about to head down the slippery slope. There’s a point when a wine is glorious in hinting at being decrepit, a bit like humans? This was a bottle of 1999 Forrest ‘Vineyard Selection’ Marlborough Riesling, made dry and sitting at 13.0% on the label. OK, I’ve had much older Rieslings and they’ve been eye-opening, but they don’t always do that well. This is a good 13 years on now, and venerable in New Zealand terms. Lemony golden, a little shy and wilted on nose, but nice toast, mineral and kero. Dry to taste, this had that highly-prized exotic custard texture that I love in older Rieslings. Along with it refined toast and kero with mineral infused honey. But also a trace of bitterness from drying out and a little note of oxidation. Knife-edge stuff, fading as the summer will, but well worth a look and one to enjoy now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cool Change

The summer weather has been superb and indeed a little too warm for full-bodied red wines, so we took our time to cool down. Dinner with the Rhythmic Couple as the sun went down with a corresponding drop in temperature meant we could consider the hearty reds.

The mandatory starter white was a 2002 Schlumberger ‘Princes Abbes’ Alsace Riesling. On the verge of falling over with the tell-tale signs of oxidation hinting, but with a delicious honied character which saved the day. Very good for really what is the base-level wine, but the quality of the variety came through.

Main courses ordered and about to arrive, a sirloin steak was headed my way. The Rhythmic Couple had brought back from Italy a wine that appealed to them, a 2009 Marino ‘Proclamo’ Cilento Aglianico Riserva 2009. Nearly black as black, aromas of fennel, aniseed and liquorice abounded on a fulsome and structured palate. Sweet fruit countered by dry structure, and a real mouthful. I picked up a little TCA cork taint, but it was pretty faint, and some funky game notes gave me suspicions of brett. But no-one else saw these, including SWMBO, who is strong on such matters. A surprising 15.0% alc. on the label, but totally unobtrusive.

The final wine was a 2006 Prunotto Barolo. A lovely elegant wine that especially appealed to SWMBO. But tight and reserved for me. This had all the classic dried roses and tarry notes, with sweet herbs, all cut by good acid. Tannins were a feature, but not fearsome, as can be the case, but then Prunotto are modern at being traditionalists.

The Rhythmic Couple are always treating us, so it was a cool change to cover the cost of their meals. And we shared some interesting and satisfying wines on the way.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Montana Marlborough Rhine Riesling 1981 – 1994

Here are my brief comments of a tasting of some of the earliest Montana Marlborough Rhine Rieslings, the last bottles of these from my old cellar. Most of these wines have been tasted and noted here before, and all are in reality well past their best now, but surprises are always in store. The wines were tasted oldest to youngest and in groups of three:

1981: Deep golden orange colour, this is shy, but with a solid and densely presented nose of slightly spoilt beeswax, not quite clean. Medium-dry, this is rather light in flavour, over-ripe citrus fruits, lozenges, soft in mouthfeel, but still with acidity. Honied notes on the aftertaste. This has residual honey characters showing some integrity. 10.5% alc. 13.0/20
1982: Deep golden orange with a little yellow. This shows sharp oxidation on bouquet, some caramel coming through. Medium-sweet to taste, a honey and oxidative amalgam remains on palate along with crisp acidity. There is good mouthfeel, but unfortunately the oxidation is too prominent. Front label deteriorated, alcohol % unreadable. 12.0+/20
1983: Deep golden orange colour. Some TCA and soft oxidation to the fore, but with nuances of toastiness and a little kero. Medium-dry, this has an elegant proportion and fine textured mouthfeel and core. Toasty elements with oxidation, but still with acid vitality. This bottle faded and probably tainted. Past low shoulder ullage equivalence. 11.5% alc. 10.5/20

1984: Deep golden orange colour, the nose has an unusual mix of herbaceous, sappy and herbal aromatics alongside lozenge and caramel, and a nuance of oxidation. Off-dry, this is light-bodied, thin, herbaceous in flavour with harsh acidity. Weak and watery in the wine department, and reflecting the cool vintage, but curiously not dead. Unpleasant. 11.5% alc. 9.5+/20
1985: Bright golden-yellow with lemon hues. This has a soft, gentle and integrated nose with wild honey and toast notes, building in depth. Medium-dry, this features succulent honey and sherbet flavours with toast, underlined by clean, soft acid. Quite complete and without overly broad, this is extremely developed, but still very attractive. This became dry with air time. 12.0% alc. 18.5-/20
1986: Deep golden orange in colour, not bright. The bouquet is marked by sherryish oxidation, quite firm and hard. Medium on palate, oxidation rules, but there is a lively sweetness and succulence from an esters lift that provides a modicum of appeal. 12.0% alc. 12.0/20

1987: Light golden yellow colour, this has freshness and an elegance on bouquet, honey, toast and some dried flowers. Medium in sweetness, there is some weight and a core to the palate line, with flavours of honey, sherbet and esters, the acidity quite soft. A touch drying on the finish, but in remarkable condition, showing no oxidation. 12.0% alc., 13 g/L rs, TA 7.5 g/L, pH 3.38. 17.5-/20
1988: Deep, orange gold in colour, the nose is sharp and oxidised, and quite light in expression. Medium-dry, this is very light in weight, but showing honey and lozenge flavours and burnt honey, the oxidation present, but not rampant. Good acidity carries the finish with length. Cyclone Bola vintage, with a little effect in Marlborough only. 12.0% alc., 12 g/L rs, TA 7.5 g/L, pH 3.4. 11.0-/20
1989: Deep, golden orange colour, this has a full, broad and open nose of caramel and toffee, with over-ripe tropical fruits, suggesting botrytis. Medium in sweetness, the palate is soft and gently presented, showing light and attractive flavours of toffee and burnt honey, a little flabby, but with residual acidity. No noticeable oxidation, but the fruit has pretty much faded. 12.5% alc., 14 g/L rs, TA 7.5 g/L, pH 3.4. 15.5/20

1990: Light golden-orange colour with yellow hues. This has a light honied nose with notes of caramel and an element of oxidation. Medium-dry and light weighted, honey and toast flavours feature, and attractive caramel notes emerge. The palate verges on thinness and the acidity is somewhat flat, but the softness and delicacy are positives. 11.5% alc., 13 g/L rs, TA 7.1 g/L, pH 3.2. 12.5/20
1991: Bright, light golden yellow colour. The nose is composed of yellow florals with honey, alongside notes of toast with fresh herbs. Medium-dry to taste, this is an elegantly proportioned wine with subtle and ethereal flavours of flowers, lime fruit and honey. The toasty characters are restrained. Fresh, lively acids are present, but in the final analysis somewhat on the thin side. 12.0% alc. 15.5/20

1993: Deep, light golden colour, the nose is marred by TCA cork taint which results in a herbal grubbiness to the aromatics of ripe citrus fruit. Off-dry to taste, this is light and even in expression, with gentle honey and toast notes to the citrus fruit. The TCA intrudes and builds in dirtiness and flattens the palate. 12.0% alc. 11.5/20
1994: Bright, even, light golden yellow colour, this has a fine and tightly bound bouquet, somewhat shy. Limes, honey and subtle toasty aromas are melded together. Medium-dry, this is gentle and easy, light in body, and quite subtle in flavour expression. Yellow florals, hints of honey, some lusciousness, and gentle nuances carry through on a good finish. There is balanced acidity contributing to the harmony, but in essence uncomplicated. Pleasant and textbook stuff, but in good condition for its age. 11.5% alc. 16.0+/20

There you are. They've all gone now. Phew! But wait.....there's other treasure to come...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Charged with Chardonnays

What a great set of people the Neighbouring S.O.S. Group are. They help us out with excess wine, but often they are the reason to open some bottles and celebrate. An extended session involved a close look at three of our favourite Chardonnays.

The scene setter and near scene stealer was a 2009 Charles Wiffen Marlborough Chardonnay. A gold medal winner, and incredibly good value around the $25.00 mark. A little golden in colour, this filled the nose and palate with citrus fruit characters, toasty, nutty oak and a good whack of creamy, buttery MLF. The acidity was there, but this is now developing nicely and coming together with a seamlessness of texture. Beautiful and flavoursome to drink now and over the next couple of years. This was definably Marlborough, and more than excellent with it, and it hit the spot with the Neighbouring S.O.S. Group and SWMBO.

Next was the multi-Champion Wine of the Show winner, the 2010 Villa Maria ‘Single Vineyard – Keltern’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay. Now, surely, all those judges who have seen this wine over so many shows must know what they’re on about? Well, it surely is a cracker, but in the modern show-winning mould with plenty of the complexing sulphides. Nutty and flinty, bordering on OTT for me. The fruit restrained, more stonefruit and nuts. However, this had superlative concentration, drive and tension, the acidity perfectly judge, as is the oaking. Toast and char nuances just add another layer of interest to something that is jam-packed with it. But, curiously, it was not preferred over the Charles Wiffen. I myself found myself waiting for the reduction to subside with breathing, as I have seen it do so with other bottles opened, and it did, but for here and now, the earlier wine got the thumbs up. We all knew the Villa Maria was special, but today it seemed it will be one that will come into its own later. At around $35.00 a bottle, it’s a steal. So SWMBO & I have some stored away…

The final in the trio was the 2009 Ata Rangi ‘Craighall’ Martinborough Chardonnay. The most expensive at around $40.00. This was the ‘wow wine’ Back to a darker colour, but voluminous and mouthfilling with ripe stonefruit and exotic tropical fruit flavours interwoven with spicy, nutty oak and all wrapped up in a creamy, decadent structure. This had extra layers of flavour and nuances that immediately unfolded and revealed complexity. This is truly a great wine from a great vineyard site, and we all agreed it was the one to put first on style alone. It isn’t your modern affair, and it isn’t varietal or regional. Just great terroir, making great wine under the auspices of sensitive hands. It’s lovely now, but will keep another few years for sure.

The gathering could see all three wines were superb. We all agreed to disagree on our preferences when considering style and price. The discussion could have gone on for some time. So, we all took a step back, charged our Chardonnay glasses and toasted all three wines!

Out There Reds

A clan gathering is always an ‘out there’ experience, with lots of tales being told with stories and laughter galore. It’s always a good time to open some ‘out there’ wines, as the clan enjoy all sorts, as long as they are good sorts. There’s always been a bit of talk of how the 1998 vintage being a hot and dry one has made Californian-style reds in Hawke’s Bay. Many critics reckoned the wines would fall over quickly because of over-ripeness, insufficient acidity and the like, but this has not proved to be the case generally. In fact, full ripeness and ripe acidity are regarded as precursors for a successful, ageworthy vintage if the acidity, and overall balance works. The 1998s I’ve seen are still going strong as they near one and a half decades of age. To test the life of 1998s, a couple of rather ‘out there’ wines were broached…

Firstly a 1998 Ata Rangi Martinborough Syrah. Not quite Hawke’s Bay, but for all intents and purposes close enough. This was a rare bottling of the variety, tiny amounts of something special. Still dark, with a rich, fulsome bouquet and palate of savoury, spicy dark plum and berry fruits. Very Syrah in the secondary phase. Great mouthfeel and presence, the tannins beginning to resolve, yet with significant structure. And acidity to burn, too. This was certainly well-ripened, but not over-done, as varietal spice, pepper and game were there and unmistakably so. It just unfolded layers of ethereal complexity with air-time. Funky, but pleasingly clean. This could manage another 5+ years cellaring.

Encouraged by the success of the Ata Rangi, then came out a 1998 Redmetal Hawke’s Bay ‘The Merlot. This was the best Merlot fruit from the Master of Merlot himself, Grant Edmonds, the fruit given the full-on treatment, but without pushing it too far. Some of the 1998s have shown the dreaded brett as the wines he made that year were not sterile-filtered, but this bottle thankfully very clean. Ripe and concentrated, densely packed dark red berry and plums, with black earth and a touch of tar. Showing shiny oak and lively acidity, this is still remarkably fresh. Time in glass just revealed more density and packed flavours, the wine showing how seriously constructed it was, and the quality of the fruit on which this was based. The power stood out, but this was an extremely balanced wine. Grant can be proud of this one. It will continue to develop over another decade, yet it can be enjoyed now.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fizzy at Least

A number of sparkling wines have come our way over the holiday period so far, and they were quite diverse in make-up and style. If one were to look critically at what was presented, you might not expect too much, but each delivered more than the minimal expectation that they’d be ‘fizzy at least’!

A couple of bottles kept in the wine racks for around three years at least, so given bottle-age, which might not be the best if you prefer freshness. The ‘English’ like of wine with toastiness is something SWMBO and I don’t mind. The NV Grant Burge Pinot Noir-Chardonnay Methode Traditionnelle Brut was indeed developed with toasty, nutty flavours, but certainly not OTT, still with decent effervescence and some breadth, providing some substance and body. This was certainly interesting to drink, with character, and not too tiresome at all. The labels says ‘Australian’ so was the fruit sourced outside the home base of Barossa? Similar in positive development was an NV Simonnet-Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne. I’ve always been in two minds about this when a shipment arrives. It’s refreshing for sure, but the sulphur levels can be disturbing. This bottle, with some bottle age had become far more sturdy, but also harmonious and rounded. The bubbles were still lively, and the suphide certainly present, but nicely integrated into the wine rather than jarring the nose and palate. The Cremant appellation doesn't get me going, and when the producer is from Chablis, the expectations aren't great. This was a nice surprise.

Two bottles from recent shipments looked great too. The Neighbouring S.O.S Group shared the NV Spagnol ‘Col del Sas’ Valdobbiadene Prosecco Extra Dry and it was truly impressive. Very fine bead and texture, with beautifully fresh and delicately succulent stonefruit flavours. It was a joy to drink, and we could only think of a visit by Marco from the estate and his cousin Andrea who visited us, both these young Italian men recently married. And to complete the set, an NV Maxim’s Champagne Brut Reserve, gifted to us. An old and venerable label for sure, but Wine Imported regularly. Fresh, fullish, easy, with good Pinot body and fruitiness. Not a great deal of autolytic complexity, but it didn’t need it to be satisfying. The dosage judged very well, this just slipped down effortlessly. A nice Champers.

We like the good and expensive stuff too, and there’s occasion aplenty to open them. But we enjoyed not being too finicky with these. They were more than just fizzy.