Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nerves and Steel

It’s a remarkable occasion when Gordy and Dynamic Jim get together to promote nervy and steely white wines, but they did, and it was by all accounts a popular event. SWMBO and I didn’t attend, but we did catch up for a meal at our favourite Asian eating house, with Nix and Vix, Timbo and Happy Holly.

The Asian cuisine seems to suit white wine more, and we had three pairs to try. Riesling came first, with a 2010 Pratzner ‘Falkenstein’ Sudtirol example. Not many of us had tried Italian Riesling before, but its origins, near the Austrian border made its style felt. 14.5% alc., but not overbearing or hot. Well-defined limes and florals and a little hint of apricotty botryris? Shy at first, but building to a crescendo, with body, depth and all-important cut. Pleasing wine indeed. The 2009 Mount Edward Central Otago Riesling was considerably lighter, and softer, with a hint of honey and toasty secondary development sneaking into the equation. Also pleasing, but overshadowed. The Riesling variety seems to have fine acidity on the best of days, and and today was one of them.

Two Loire wines on the scene next. A 2009 Marc Bredif Vouvray, absolutely pristine and pure with white florals and white stonefruits. A little sweet lusciousness to tempt and tease. Quite a delight, but more than that, some substance. My favourite of the whites, and I guess also Dynamic Jim’s. The wine it was paired with was the least favourite, a 2008 Nicolas Joly ‘Les Vieux Clos’ Savennieres. A surprising 15.0% alc. on the label, and waxy-oxidised. Powerful underneath and a little too much phenolic texture. Maybe it was the wrong day to open this biodynamic wine? This seems to be Joly’s way, and breathing does help, Chenin Blanc is the King of Acidity, yet these were not searingly so.

Then two mis-matched whites, but both workable with the food. First a 2008 Domaine Latour-Giraud Meursault ‘Cuvee Charles Maxime’. Near excellent citrus and mealy flavours with good boldness and balanced barrel work, and surprise, surprise, no ‘complex’ sulphides. But a load of acidity present and in the end dominant. Gordy and I understood its leanness, and I guess he liked it too. The 2009 Albert Mann Alsace Grand Cru Furstentum Pinot Gris was a big softy after all these wines with nervosity. Actually quite quiet, but with a rounded weighty mouthfeel, and ripe stonefruit characters. Not the exotics or spices that this label has shown in previous years.

We headed back home to continue with some aged reds. I found four 1986 New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blended reds to open. Trepidation and nerves required here! These are now over a quarter of a century old, and the viticulture wasn’t what it is now. First of these was a 1986 Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 60% Cabernet from Auckland and 40% Merlot from Kumeu. Dark, deep, edgy with green fruit hidden by spicy oak. But also with a clean, sweetness of flavour, still quite alive and drinkable. The 1986 CJ Pask Cabernet/Merlot was a star wine in the very first Cuisine magazine and one of the first Gimblett Gravels Bordeaux-varietal reds. Softer, plump, and a little diffuse with it, and a hint of something decrepit lurking but not really showing nasties yet. Acceptable stuff, rather past its best, with residual fruit sweetness. Then the classic pairing from Te Mata Estate. The 1986 Te Mata ‘Awatea’ Cabernet/Merlot, real depth and liveliness of dark curranty fruit, and still in good proportion with tannin structure and maybe a tad too much acidity. The oaking coming through too. A real surprise as 1986 was a year where the Te Mata wines showed less concentration than usual, and thus are the most forward and loose, compared with the vintages around it. The 1986 Te Mata ‘Coleraine’ strangely lighter in colour, lighter in aromatics, more red fruits with savoury cedary complexities, and a washed out character on palate. Could be interpreted as ethereal, but against the ‘Awatea’, this bottle was a lesser wine. The good outcome was that all were still sound’ and drinkable. The Te Mata ‘Awatea’ and Villa Maria with attraction. All 1986s here with a nervy edge though, but we got over the nervousness about how bad they could have been.

Two serious reds followed. It was getting late at night and a steely constitution was needed. Chateau Montrose, the Second Growth of St Estephe was a more robust and gutsy wine 30 years ago. But it was then, as it is today, a bona-fide collectable Bordeaux red. The 1981 Ch. Montrose St Estephe, light and herby-stalky blackcurranty and without any undue secondary or tertiary development. Slightly lean, and only medium-bodied, but clean and lively, and a good tannin thread. As Gordy said, it could have sat amongst the 1986 N.Z. reds and not looked too out of place, though the fruit was less mature in expression. The 1982 Ch. Montrose St Estephe was a much bigger, darker, denser wine, with more ripeness and flesh as well as layers of flavour. Superb on the nose with dark earthy fruits and liquorice with complex leather elements, the palate initially showed plenty of brettanomyces. SWMBO was horrified. But as the wine breathed, it became more integrated, the wine flowing with layers and waves of interesting flavours. Liquorice, plum, game and chocolate, with balsamic and cedar. Still plenty of tannin to resolve, but a fleshiness and juiciness to balance the extract. Timbo, Gordy and I were fans, and SWMBO slowly came around.

The last wine was a 2006 Ch. Doisy Daene Sauternes, such stickies a bit of a tradition to signal the end of the session. Thoroughly modern, up-front and modern, with lush and explosive pineapple flavours of fruit and botrytis. Truly a little sticky and not the fine cut and slight drying alcohol, nor the nerve or steel that one sees in the classic examples of Barsan or Sauternes. But this is Denis Dubordieu the modern thinking man of the region. However we all found it delicious, savouring the richness as we totted off home and to our beds.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Maximum Fun

We hadn’t met Max-1-in-a-Million in person before, but we’ve talked and almost got there over the years. He can make good wine too, so it was a pleasure to catch up over a dinner with Natters and friends at the local Asian eatery. The night progressed from a few bottles to a lot of bottles at home base, and we all had maximum fun getting what we could out of them.

Some German Rieslings showed traditional low alcohol and higher residual sugar against some of the new dry styles, the Grosse Gewachs making a good impression. Firstly a 2009 von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett, rather soft and light, and not quite the focus expected, and a touch of reduction detracting. Surprisingly high 10.5% alc. A 2008 Clemens Busch Marienburg Rothenpfad 1GG Riesling Trocken at 12.5% was tight, austere and closed, with huge minerality and purity. Max-1-in-a-Million thought it had shut down since last tasting it. However the 2009 Van Voxlem Altenberg Alte Reben 1GG (a Kanzemer Altenberg) Riesling was stunning. Immense weight and extract, with classy sheen and slippery finesse to balance the size. I’ve thought Van Voxlem’s wines to be a little too firm in the past, but refinement has been incorporated. This was my star of the night.

To finish the drier white scene, Max-1-in-a-Million brought out a 2000 Daniel-Etienne Defaix Chablis 1er Vaillon. Fully mature for sure with rounded, integrated chalk and flint with nutty stonefruit core. Weighty and full, without the crisp zing that makes Chablis poised and knife-edge, but still an enjoyable animal.

Aromatic reds were again so intriguing and good. The 2005 Felton Road ‘Block 3’ Central Otago Pinot Noir was ultra-smooth and sleek, with refined secondary flavours totally immersed in the structure. Many 2005s have turned ugly showing their cool streak. Not this. My only criticism was is smaller scale presentation. SWMBO loved it still. Also refined in texture was a pre-release 2010 Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Pinot Noir from Martinborough. The best I’ve seen it yet, with sumptuousness and depth of fruit to match the mouthfeel. The dried herb cooler vintage was evident, but without any detriment. Almost star of the night was a 2005 Bilancia ‘La Collina’ Syrah. Youthful as a current release wine in colour, primary pepper and black berry fruit, and sweetness of fruit. It’s age belied by the suppleness of the tannins and completeness as a wine. I thought it might show a little more funkiness, but the purity quite mind-boggling.

Old reds began with a New Zealand pair of 26 year old wines from the Auckland/Northland region. The 1986 St Jerome Cabernet/Merlot still dark, with blackcurrant varietal and early viticulture characters. But spoilt by a little grubbiness. Still acid and well-structured and grippy. This was liked by Natters. SWMBO and I enjoyed the 1986 The Antipodean, a Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec from Matakana. A wine with a super marketing story that got $100 a bottle out of me quarter of a century ago. Billed as the Ch. Lafite of N.Z. Tonight, quite beautiful and cedary. Loads too much new oak, but not unripe, well- hidden by the oak? Silky smooth, milk chocolate underneath. Still very drinkable…

The Aussie pair were just as interesting and fun to taste. A 1982 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon was elegant, still blackcurranty and minty, lively and fresh, with tannins, acid and all else in working order. A treat indeed. Unfortunately the 1981 Wynns Coonwarra Cabernet Sauvignon was oxidised, sour and savoury. No vestiges of fruit left, acid poking through, and tannins faded leaving it flat too. Oh well, win some, lose some.

It was getting into the early hours, so a little sweet treat ended the night/morning. A 2005 S.A. Prum Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese, just beginning to show a hint of honey and toast to florals and limes. Lush, but well-cut by the acid. Not quite as stunning as the last bottle, but still most excellent.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


A surprise visit by Pippa and her new canine pal led to a lively afternoon of chatter and catch up, with an accompanying glass of vino which led to a night out at our friendly Asian eatery. The spontaneity of the occasion was such that first bottles of the rack were taken, and these might normally have not been first-choice if given some more time to pick. They turned out to be duckling wines. Some ducklings are indeed ugly, abut turn into swans, and it’s a miracle when that happens. More often than not, they’re just ducklings that turn into ducks. And that’s good too, as ducks can be delicious!

These two were ducklings. First was the 2009 Framingham ‘Classic’ Riesling 2009. I already like this wine, but another few weeks down the track, in the glass, breathing, opening up and with reasonably mild Cantonese food, it was better. Softly luscious with a beautiful counterpoise of lime and honeysuckle and the barest hints of toast, but the highlight the subtle unctuous texture next to slippery acidity. Perfect to sip on its own, but worked with all we ate.

The 2008 Terrace Edge Waipara Pinot Noir is no longer available, but SWMBO had a spare bottle. Always a little charry-oaky, this flavour combined with the sweet fruit a touch on the awkward side for me, but still very interesting and a good drink. Nowadays, the fruit has gained more secondary forest, mushroom and spice notes, and it has become a tad drier. The oak component stands out a little more. This has grown to have a more forceful personality, knowing where it is heading.

Two wines grown up a little more, from duckling stage to duck. And guess what we ordered from the menu? Roast duck of course.