Saturday, May 19, 2012

Faith in the Familiar Not Shaken

A weekend in the Shaken City of the Shaky Isles was a sobering experience.  Our resident hosts, The Engineer and his HOT babe are pragmatic, stoical and resolute people and it took a lot to shake their world.  But the past year did that.  Familiarity and its restoration helps the situation, so we shared some wines that we are close to and that we know always deliver the goods.  The sobriety became a sense of acceptance.  Life carries on…

There’s something so comforting about the colour ‘orange’ – well, actually ‘yellow’ when talking about NV Veuve Clicquot Champagne Brut.  So recognisable is it that they’ve registered it to protect its use.  As soon as the ‘Yellow Label’ appears, it signifies an occasion.  Here, it did too.  This bottle on this occasion was absolutely correct, but a little less autolytic and somewhat softer than what SWMBO and I are familiar with.  Maybe uner the LVMH banner, it has grown too much and bottles acquired ‘sur lattes’ not quite there?  But that’s looking pretty hard at it.  The bubbles went down well and set the mood for the night. 

Even though Van Volxem is ‘out there’, one comes to expect Roman Niewodniscanski’s bold Saar style to deliver quality, and he has done so with greater consistency.  SWMBO particularly enjoyed the base-line 2010 Van Volxem Saar Riesling, 12.0% alc., in wonderful proportion and style.  A touch reduced at first, but clearing up to show purity and growing sweetness with poise.  Ah, Riesling heaven, and one that shows why this vintage is getting rave press.

Oakiness in Chardonnay is generally expected.  What’s the saying: “No wood – no good”?  You shouldn’t say that to the producers of Chablis, but with Saint Clair, they’d lap it up.  In fact, the 2011 Saint Clair ‘Omaka Reserve’ Chardonnay has U.S. oak used.  As if French oak wasn’t strong enough one might wonder?  The American oak they use for this wine is high quality and tight-grained.  It certainly adds richness and sweet nuttiness, certainly the vanilla, but tell-tale coconut.  Not on this showing, and with such a young wine too.  This clearly had much to unfold, but that depth of ripe tropical fruits and sweet oak brought smiles to our faces.

Te Mata is one of New Zealand’s true stalwarts.  While their three decade plus history doesn’t match the century and more of Mission or near-century of Babich, their name is just as well-known.  The ‘Coleraine’ is the star, but joining that status are ‘Elston’, and now ‘Bullnose’ Syrah, the oldest vines around two decades of age.  It’s a leader of its variety, even though it’s not from the Gimblett Gravels.  The 2006 Te Mata ‘Bullnose’ Syrah was intensely striking with its savoury and spicy gamey black fruits and pepper, lifted with violets and bacon.  Smooth, but luscious, making it a wine of notice.  “Look at me!” it said, and you knew you were drinking cool-climate Syrah, modern New World style, and then seeing Te Mata, it all fits in.  You can’t go wrong.      

Yalumba never puts a foot wrong and the 2008 Yalumba FDR1A Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz fits in perfectly, bridging the gap between ‘The Scribbler’ and ‘The Signature’.  More seriously rich than the former, but more accessible than the latter.  And a silky smoothness and texture that builds in weight, depth and power.  The traditional Ocker Cab/Shiraz blend is about as friendly and warming as can be, and this beauty slipped down a treat.  Yalumba has never let us down, and we always think of the congenial, sophisticated and very intelligent Robert Hill Smith, and his team and agents throughout the world, whenever and wherever we drink a Yalumba wine – this time in the Shaken City.

Our faith in these familiar labels has never let us down, as with these wines.       

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