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.

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