Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sexy O-Six

Across the bay Spiffen and Sandra, and SWMBO and I went to have a meal at the Bar&Co.  It’s a beautiful location and in the daytime the sun streams in the large glass frontage and sides.  At night I’m told it still feels airy but quite intimate in the dining room.  Bar&Co. serve excellent contemporary food and the wine list is full of interest.  The list isn’t huge, but it’s chosen carefully.  The Cellar List has some older gems – not too old, so they’re not outrageously expensive.  The setting is so inviting that one must have Champagne to celebrate being on the right side of the ground!  An NV Laurent-Perrier with its new label, a little like Moet & Chandon’s, typically elegant with florals, citrus and delicate bready notes.  With the oysters, it got sweeter, and became even more delightful.

However the wines selected to go with the butterfish were two sexy Chardonnays from 2006.  That’s a few years down the track for many of this variety, but for wines with any degree of aspiration, they’re just coming into their own.  The 2006 Kumeu River ‘Mates Vineyard’ Chardonnay with some golden hues, and that distinctive struck-match, flinty complexity and great weight and depth of stonefruits and nuts, but all with style and class.  More a dry, minerally mouthfeel, and it worked well with the sea flavours of the oysters, more so than with the fish, but no issues there either.  The great pairing was the 2006 Sacred Hill ‘Riflemans’ Chardonnay.  Pale yellow, with ripe citrus fruits dominating, backed by oak nuttiness, and just the perfect degree of complexing flintiness.  More to this wine in volume and presence. This has a lusciousness and sweetness to the fruit and this element met the sweetness of the fish.  They say the sum is greater than the parts.  True here.

Two really sexy O-Six Chardonnays, both with plenty of life and future ahead.        

Thursday, April 26, 2012

You Little Sweeties

After a delightful meal out near the film HQ, we had the AC Electric Man and Mr Spiffen at home to enjoy a few more wine tastes.  As the evening was coming to an end, what better than a couple of little sweet wines.  One we expected great things from, the other, the older, we didn’t expect too much, but both were superb.  In our minds, we punched the sky, shouting “you little sweeties!”

We’d acquired a little stock of the 2008 Craggy Range ‘Rapaura Road Vineyard’ Noble Riesling on release.  It came out the same time as the ‘Fletcher Vineyard’ version, and the two seemed very similar, but AB the winemaker knew which was the standout and he bet his boss a Ch. d’Yquem which was the better.  AB won the bet.  It’s been irresistible, and this last bottle of ours was still young.  White florals and tight honied limes with concentrated botrytis, this oozed weight and unctuous textures.  Brilliant richness and quite complete, the 10.0% alc. perfect and beautifully cutting lacy acidity keeping it all in balance.  Fabulous decadence for a wine still with another decade plus to go.

We followed it with a sweet wine over a quarter of a century old, and regarded similarly at the time.  The 1986 Te Wahare Ra ‘Botrytis Berry Selection’ Muller-Thurgau.  9.8% alc., so similar in that way to the Craggy Range.  Allen Hogan knew how to make these little beauties, and consistently too.  The dark green glass of the bottle made the colour unappetising, and on pouring it was mahogany, but clear, not brown.  Flytox degrading to lozenges and caramel with barley sugar.  A hint of decrepit corruption hinted on nose.  Ultra sticky in the mouth, and very broad.  But still in remarkable condition, offering waves of hedonistic flavours.

I’m not pleased with how most N.Z. botrytised wines age, but this was a lesson in how they can go the distance.  Never give up!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Firm and Fine from 2009

We had Easy-Going Erin as our guest and she was indeed the perfect person to host.  Not only is she elegant and a wonderful conversationalist, but she has impeccable taste in wine, sharing our love of Rieslings from Germany and red burgundies.  Though thoroughly sated from an evening of many wondrous older vintaged wines and delicious food, we still managed to entertain the idea of eating yum cha at our local Asian eatery.  We were delighted to have some younger wines from our favourite styles.  2009 has delivered some very user-friendly wines, but we found from this session they can still be firm with plenty of time to evolve. 

A 2009 Von Kesselstatt Graacher Josephshofer Riesling Kabinett has a distinctive ‘flagship’ label, the estate’s monopole holding of this vineyard considered rather special.  A little touched by sulphur, this had a intriguing combination of delicacy with weighty concentration, ethereal flavour and soft textures.  Ripe citrus and floral fruit notes, on the dry side, and promising much.  Even with time in the glass, one could see the sulphur dissipate and the wine become richer.  A wine for a decade for sure.  11.0.% alc.

A wonderful comparison was the 2009 S.A. Pum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett.  Much sweeter and with a correspondingly lower 7.5% alc.  Somewhat clouded by sulphur too, this blew off quickly to reveal the slate and sleekness of the site, with floral, citrus lime and honey intermixed with the sugar.  A more up-front wine without the weight and depth of the Von Kesselstatt, this is still an appealing Riesling that delivers satisfaction.  It too will evolve to show toast and cream, maybe in the medium term, as there’s plenty of substance.

The 2009 Drouhin Beaune 1er Greves was looking even than last tasted six months ago.  The fruit lift and vibrancy has grown, but also its extraction and richness as well.  While very drinkable, the primacy of the fruit, the altogether componentry and the firmness of the fine tannins meant there’s plenty to unfold and plenty in reserve.  Not quite ‘New World’ in fruitiness, but certainly ripe and sweet.  Drouhin wines always retain a sense of class and style, very much like the family members.  This will be delicious even in 10 years time for sure.     

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Century Apart

It was Brucie’s big 5-0 and he and the Bassinet Babe put on one of those momentous bashes. SWMBO and I had an inkling that it was going to be a special night, but the span of vintages snuck up on us and surprised us. Seldom do people have wines that span a century in terms of decades all in one sitting. We joined Easy-Going Erin, Fay and Fee, The Tiller, The Let-Us Man and The Green Man in the celebrations, and settled down to a long night of sipping, laughing and eating. The wines were served in an eclectic order that was designed to allow each wine the opportunity to shine, match the food, or just keep us guessing!

On welcome, a trio of Champagnes were poured in quick succession. The 1999 Perrier-Jouet ‘Belle Epoque’ was beautifully delicate and refined, with subtle autolysis and gentle toasty complexities. Gorgeous to drink as a starter. It was somewhat overwhelmed by the 1990 Louis Roederer ‘Cristal’, much darker, richer and sweeter as ‘Cristal’ is. This is now showing full development characters with plenty of autolysis, nutty notes, toast and oxidative layers. The concentration on this is something to behold. A little nagging suggestion of decline was its only question mark, but all present were very pleased with it. Then one to upstage them all, surprisingly so, the 2002 Bollinger ‘Grande Annee’, still very fresh, but with beautiful bready-yeasty interest, great finesse, yet so well structured. Though not as rich or as complex as the ‘Cristal’, the potential to grow was more than obvious. This is a great vintage and it shows with its clarity. The bridge between the Champagne and the next set of wines was a cheese board with pate, ideal for both.

Two sweet wines in 375 ml bottle came next, so as to not be lost in the proceedings. ‘Only the best’ must be Brucie’s motto. On initial pouring, a 2004 Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein was spectacularly zesty and racy, the acidity searing, yet countered by great weight and richness. This grew in honey, toast and custard-cream flavours and textures in the glass, and in more than one-dimension as lesser eiswein can be. The paired wine was 1990 Ch. d’Yquem Sauternes. Dumb and dense at first, showing more VA than desirable. Sure this had the weight and completeness that makes Yquem a level above every other Sauternes, but it lacked life and spark. However, in the glass, the richness, weight and intensity emerged, the wine blossoming to show its greatness. In the final analysis, probably better than the eiswein, which in itself was a super-star. The Yquem was the wine of the night for some of the guests. Prawns and risotto carried the day in the food department, and the delicacy and cut of the dish a good foil for the sweetness of these two wines.

To carry on the dessert wine theme, two wines served blind. Most of us failed miserably in the guessing game, though The Let-Us Man and The Green Man were onto the identities quicker than the rest of us. Firstly a 1937 Massandra Collection Madeira, amazingly youthful for its age with a light golden colour and aromas and flavours similar to amontillado sherry, the wine possessing an appealing sweetness and richness. This was a wine with finesse and stylish cut. The ‘Madeira’ name a misnomer, as there was no baked character. Some tasters thought it Muscat based, and possibly so. A remarkable wine by all accounts. Then a 1944 Seppelts ‘Para’ Liqueur Port, much darker in colour, more mahogany to tawny, packed with rancio and waves of brown-spices, a little grippy and with some coarseness of texture, bur wonderfully lively with bracing acidity, the alcohol presence felt.

Two red burgundies were the next up for appraisal and enjoyment. In typical modern style, the 2005 Vincent Girardin Echezeaux was full of ripe dark berried fruits and distinctive oak char. A layer of brettanomyces hid in the background, merging with the oak and a little reduction bitterness. Yet a lovely sweetness with firm structure still, and it will be interesting to see if the fruit can maintain its edge over the development of funkiness. The comparison wine, a 2005 Faiveley Corton ‘Clos des Corton’ was badly corked. The fruit flavours stripped and beaten and a tight, lean residual mouthfeel remaining. The saying “F U Cork” was in people’s minds, no doubt!

In the fragrant red varietal theme was one of my top wines of the night, a 1958 Borgogno Barolo Riserva, pale and possessing the faded rose perfumes that only refined Nebbiolo or Pinot Noir can have. This showing the faintest hint of complexing corruption, but still very alive with excellent acid nervosity and fine-grained tannins forming a slender and svelte-like mouthful. What else but duck could be served with these wines.

Then onto a pairing of old Bordeaux-varietal wines to ease us back into the land of the present? Well not yet! A wine of Brucie’s birth year, a 1962 Ch. Beychevelle St-Julien. Very much alive with aromas and flavours of dark herbs and cedar. Very Cabernet Sauvignon in the cooler spectrum. Being critical, one would say a little lean, crisp and acidic, and positively with very fine tannins and silky smooth textures. Fully mature, with a suggestion of irreverent corruption. Some people would say very much like the man! A New Zealand wine of similar regard came next. A 1972 McWilliams Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon, made a big impression on nose, with robustness and volume. Not the cleanest and pure in varietal expression with a slightly grubby air, the palate was somewhat attenuated and showing herbaceous stalky characters and acid bite. The light flavours faded into obscurity. There was talk on some of the more concentrated and substantial wines that Tom McDonald and the McWilliams team made in earlier years, and by this stage in the 1970s, demand was no doubt exceeding supply – a reason for dilution?

The two Rhone reds served next were seen by many as the best of that colour on the night. A legendary 1989 Jaboulet ‘La Chapelle’ Hermitage, dark coloured, but shy and brooding still on nose and in flavour. Masses of black fruit richness rather than spices and pepper, with density and underlying structure, and still fresh with primary feel. But also nuances of earth complexities just showing with time in the glass. This could be one of those immortal wines? Certainly the best was yet to come, and far less evolved than a 1988 I had tasted a few years ago. Showing flamboyantly was a 1998 Brunel Les Cailloux ‘Cuvee Centenaire’ Chateauneuf du Pape, wonderfully Grenache, with ripe dark raspberries and black fruit compote, beautifully vibrant and lively, with balanced rich fruit and firm structure. A complete wine to drink over the next 10+ years.

Lamb shanks with a concentrated reduction was the perfect course here. This following the Rhone wines and onto a series of clarets. All were marked by brettanomyces to some degree, but all were drinkable if not very enjoyable. Leading was the 1990 Ch. Pichon Lalande Pauillac. Very elegant in size, quite small-scale, and showing the tell-tale tobacco and dried herb characters of Merlot at a secondary phase. Some underlying horse notes, but the lusciousness still there. One to celebrate for its light composure and its calm, cool and collected nature. Next was the bright fruited 2000 Ch Lagrange St-Julien. Outlandishly aromatic and brilliant fruit in a medium-weighted and structured palate. The brett there, but acceptable, and easy to sweep under the carpet considering the energy of this wine. Then a 1998 Ch. Clinet Pomerol, typically plump and disarmingly charming on initial impressions, but with a core of iron and tannin still to unfold. Maybe a tad dry? Certainly the brett thread there, but interwoven well to be gamey and savoury.

The final food course was the comforting sticky date pudding with sauce, cream and ice-cream. What better match than a 1927 Alvear Pedro Ximinez at 16.0%. Clearly a 1927 solera, as this had plenty of freshness that enlivened and ameliorated the stickiness of the wine. Raisins, sultanas, figs galore, but with a breath of fresh air. Whenever such a decadent wine is served at the end of proceedings, most tasters proclaim it ‘Wine of the Night’, and we all did that, as well as nominate others, of course.

The last wine served brought up the ten decades. A palate freshener, as it was no doubt designed to be at, to see us on our way back home and beddies! A 2010 Dr Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett. More dry than medium, especially after the PX, with very soft acid freshness, a near oily roundness, which was not expected, and lifted spice notes, which were expected. An aromatic and exotic Riesling, still unformed and yet to show its steely line. Serving this style at this time as a shock to the system did indeed refresh our palates and our minds!

In a lifted state of consciousness, we said our goodbyes and thanked Bruce and the Bassinet Babe for such overwhelming hospitality. We thought of their generosity in sharing wines from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s 2000s and 2010s – stretching a century apart as measured by decades. Happy Birthday Bruce!