Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sparkling at The Shaker's

Every year bottles of bubbles get a bit of the treatment at The Shaker’s, and he calls in reinforcements to enjoy them and to ensure they don’t get wasted.  The timing is such that it’s really the first of the festive season parties, and because it involves good sparklers, it’s a good and popular call by The Shaker.  SWMBO and I always make sure we get there early, so as to try all the wines we can.  We actually don’t pour too much, as you don’t need a lot to taste, and the numbers build up too.  That way, there’s plenty left over for the other guests.  Some guests are not quite aware of such tasting protocols and etiquett, and their glasses get filled up without any regard to other guests.  At least it’s drunk and not wasted.  Due the masses of attendees, it wasn’t the best situation to look closely at the wines, but between SWMBO and Le Martinet, we usually arrive at the 'right' conclusions.

A group of NV Champagnes to set the scene.  The NV Mumm ‘Cordon Rouge’ rather easy and light without the greatest interest, but nice and fresh.  Maybe lesser than what it is capable of.  With a little more drive the NV Perrier-Jouet had more going for it, and a bit more autolysis and decent Champagne character.  I’ve never been taken by the label, but here it went up a step.  Having recently tried the NV Laurent-Perrier ‘Brut L-P’, I was wowed again by the tightness of structure and greater purity and class of the newest shipment.  This bottle confirmed my thoughts.  The NV Lanson ‘Black Label’ kept up to its bigger, more Pinot Noir and aldehydic expression, some more complexity for sure.  The experts are saying the wine has become less interesting with vineyards stripped, but not here.  But the perfect all-rounder could be seen in the NV Pol Roger, medium bodied, with a balance between freshness and finesse, and depth of autolytic interest.  Always the subtly serious one.

A bracket of N.Z. Bubbles next.  These were lesser than the Champagnes, noticeably so, but not embarrassingly so.  The NV Deutz ‘Marlborough Cuvee’ soft and sweeter, the dosage evident.  Pleasant and moreish.  More lifted with white florals and stonefruits, the NV Pelorus showing more freshness and character.  It’s greater liveliness was its drawcard.  Again, another level up was the 2007 Pelorus.  Definite body line and autolytic interest, and quite a statement wine.  ‘Will it get to the heights of the 2006?’ was the question, ”Or is it destined to be more elegant?’  Back a step to the ultra-refined 2007 Quartz Reef Vintage, shyer in autolysis, but with cut and crispness.  Lighter but with lovely finesse and a sense of minerals.  The latest release of NV Nautilus Methode is another stunner, with genuine Champagne characters.  This is Lot 801, and worth seeking out as another one that does it all.  Also in top form is the 2007 Palliser Methode.  The take on this is that is their approximation to the great Bollinger style.  It has developed that way.  We were given the nod that the 2007 No. Family Estate ‘Cuvee Remy’ was the one, and indeed it’s very distinctive.  There’s a fresh mouthfeel with masses of autolytic complexities.  Brooding, but showing what it has got, and it looks good for the future as it grows.

A mixed bag of Champagne and Kiwi Sparklers was a bridge to the big names.  Two wines from the No. 1 Family Estate again, as Daniel Le Brun must be the most characterful of the bubbly makers in New Zealand.  His signature NV No.1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee No. 1’ is creamy and classical Chardonnay in citrus and florals, but crowd-pleasing with a noticeable dosage.  Did I say populist?  Not me!  The 2006 No. 1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee Virginie’ was again more complete as the’Cuvee Remy’, but more expressive and it has come together well.  It needs a glass with a larger tulip bowl to open out, but its depth was evident.  In ascending order of impressiveness were the NV Nicolas Feuillatte, soft and a little plain, though thoroughly vinous.  The NV Lanvin showed more weight, mouthfilling presence and some autolytic interest.  Usually this impresses the heck, but maybe the esteemed company put it in its place.  The big eye-opener was the NV Beaumet, broader for sure, but with palate satisfaction and ticking all the necessary boxes as it flowed.

Onto the big names, and one can’t get bigger than Moet & Chandon.  An all-pleasing and non-disappointing NV Moet ‘Brut Imperial’.  We are all happy to see good form here, but also it was easy to move on to the 2004 Moet Vintage.  A lot more in body, texture, and personality in a sinewy line. Better of course, and one you could stay with all night if the case need be.  Then back to a less attention-grabbing 2003 ‘Dom Perignon’, treated as a separate brand by Moet, but we all know it’s Moet.  A complete and seamless wine, without any distracting negatives, but also missing that vitality and extra ‘X-Factor’.  We moved on.  Bollinger next, the bigger Pinot Noir, autyloysis, aldehydic and oxidative house style.  The NV Bollinger ‘Special Cuvee’ a touch sweeter and fresher, and the combination of old style and new fruitiness hit the mark.  Also good was the 2002 Bollinger ‘Grande Annee’, with its singularity of the house style.  Delicious, but you wonder if there’s more possible?  The most complete showing at The Shaker’s as agreed by Le Martinet, SWMBO and I was that of Veuve Clicquot.  A fulsome, fruity NV VCP ‘Yellow Label’.  This bottle could benefit with a little bottle age, and then it might be spectacular and greater value.  The NV VCP Rose also good, even finer in teture and presentation.  A complete 2004 VCP Vintage, maybe a little too grunty for its own good, but there’s no denying plenty of substance.  The top was their top, the 2004 VCP ‘La Grande Dame’, a mouthful but possessing finesse of style and layers unfolding revealing detail plus.  This kept your interest.  It had the feel of needing time too, but it sang.
I'm sure there was a lot singing at The Shaker's as the evening went on.  It's a sparkling occasion.     

Sunday, November 25, 2012

De Loach Pinot Noirs Poached

The Aid-Man has access to all manner of wines and this time he shared a trio of Pinot Noirs made by the Russian River Pinot Noir pioneer De Loach.  Of course the label and the wines were so successful that the company got poached by the burgeoning Burgundy giant Boisset coming up to a decade ago, who have instigated biodynamic grapegowing, as well as growing the brand.  I don’t see too many North American Pinot Noirs, so they were fascinating.

The 2011 De Loach ‘Heritage Reserve’ California Pinot Noir is the basic level, despite the lofty sounding name.  Upfront and straightforward, correct raspberry fruit, but featuring a smooth and near-unctuous texture.  There’s not much nuance or detail, but it slipped down well.  Up a level to the 2011 De Loach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  And a better wine to.  Quite lush and succulent, with florals and herbal interest, and again with a smooth, flowing texture and mouthfeel.  The third was the 2010 De Loach ‘OFS’ Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  ‘OFS’ means ‘Our Finest Selection’ and is a selection from different vineyards, somewhat disregarding the concept of site expression and terroir that is hot with Pinot Noir, and more in showing the region.  Deeper, more savoury and more layers of interest here, maybe a little worked with oak resins peeking through.  But again, that trademark smooth, slipperiness, this time in a plumper style and rounder mouthfeel.  Quite delicious.

The New Zealand Pinot Noir wines I see more of are certainly more lively, acid-expressive and sharper in outlook.  I see more detail and complexity, but these Californians worth worthy of tasting and drinking.  The Aid-Man has wide-ranging interests and a wide reach to get such interesting wines.  Thank you!    

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Line-Up at Albergo Prentice

Our visits to the ever-hospitable A-Prentices frequently involve many bottles being opened.  Not that we drink a lot, but more due to the number of people also in attendance.  Excessive consumption is never tolerated, and everyone joins in the spirit of a little taste of each wine.  There is usually a personal comment on each wine, sometimes surprise is expressed, and we all agree to disagree.  The number of bottles may appear frightening, and it has become a tradition to present them in a line-up which gets photographed to show how the evening was spent.  On this occasion we had plenty to ‘toast’.

A pretty rosé to start the proceedings, as the sun was shining.  The 2012 Bridge Pa ‘Drama Queen’, undisclosed to variety on the label, with sweetness and peaches and cream and an underlay of raspberries.  One for the masses, and with plenty of up-front appeal. 

The aromatics were quite a delight.  The gentle sweetness and subtle flavours of the 2012 Coopers Creek ‘SV – Bell Ringer’ Gisborne Albarino show there is potential for the variety in New Zealand.  A step up in richness, but still retaining a stylish restraint was the 2011 Greystone Waipara Pinot Gris.  Then a wild card in the form of a 2012 Alta Vista ‘Premium’ Torrontes, the most complete bottling of this Argentinian variety I’ve seen for some time.  Quite fine in aromatic penetration, and with a hint of unctuousness.  It looked very smart indeed.  Also a surprise was a 2010 Gustave Lorentz Alsace Muscat d’Alsace, again with intensity, depth and penetration, almost with a spritz, and clear-cut grapey varietal flavours and a smooth flow of flavours. 

Two older wines were possibly the surprise of the night, a deliciously honied and rounded 1989 Montana Marlborough Riesling.  Toast and kero hardly perceptible, so young still for a two decade plus wine.  The 1990 Montana Marlborough Riesling not quite as rich and weighty, a little drier, and more kero and toast development.  The 1989 made the 1990 look ordinary, but the latter had done well to last this long.

Only two Chardonnays!  Firstly a 2011 Montechez Chardonnay from Argentina.  From a family vineyard brought along by a family member.  Refreshing and clean with apple and citrus, the oaking very much a minor component.  In a magnum was a 2006 Te Mata ‘Elston’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay.  The magnum size obviously a factor in enhancing longevity.  Drinking beautifully with waves of grapefruit, oatmeal, nuts and oak.  Lovely barrel-ferment textures of creaminess.  No hurry, especially if you have it in magnum format.

The evening was approaching.  Pinot Noir next, before the transition to heavier and sweeter things.  A bracket of new wines.  The 2011 Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir.  Good dark and ripe-enough fruit, but with grainy texture that was prominent over the fruit.  Much sweeter and balanced, with bold ripe flavours of black cherries and plums, a classical 2011 Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir.  This was a crowd favourite.  Great to compare these with a 2011 Ata Rangi ‘Crimson’ Martinborough Pinot Noir.  Lighter in colour, but just as big in flavour, though with a different fruit and sweetness profile.  A little more complex with savoury, brown herb and game hints over the juicy, or fruit-powered Central Otago numbers.  This ‘Crimson’ grew to be a great all-round Pinot Noir to drink.  Coming in a 1.5 Litre magnum format was a bonus.

Older Pinot Noirs next.  The 2009 Judge Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir, right down the middle of the line in style, and beginning to soften and plump out.  Good drinking now.  Then a concentrated, medium-bodied 2008 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, decidedly delicious and with excellent fruit richness and nuance that unfolded in the glass, with growing structure.  2004s for Pinot Noir around the world seem to be weaker, less ripe and forward.  Such was the 2004 Epis Macedon Pinot Noir.  Yest this Aussie example exuded Pinot Noir class and true form, that would not be disgraced by many a 2004 red burgundy.  The least Pinot Noir wine was the 2002 Daniel Le Brun Marlborough Pinot Noir.  An amorphous wine without the structure or fruit to make it of interest.  Some undergrowth notes, and while not grubby, it wasn’t squeaky clean.

Non classical reds, well, that’s non-classical to the Bordeaux-lover.  A just released 2011 Ata Rangi ‘Celebre’, a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Youthfully dark, plenty of Syrah spices and black pepper, and youthful structure filling the mouth.  Not insubstantial, and plenty to see it grow well.  Then a hedonistic 2010 Alta Vista ‘Premium’ Malbec from Argentina.  Masses of black fruits with juiciness and plumminess.  The 15.0% alc. well-absorbed by the decadent fruit.  A crowd favourite.  Continuing the Spanish theme, a 2010 Protocolo VdT Castilla Tempranillo, a modern take of this Spanish red varietal for the world to accept.  It could be readily slurped by anyone, anywhere, and it still spoke, gently, of Tempranillo with ir sweet and savoury red fruits.  Expecting something stern, I was pleasantly surprised by the 2008 Ch. Laffitte Teston ‘Joru Laffitte’ Madiran.  Not the tannic monster that Tannat can be, with a modicum of elegance, but still that firm black-earth core underneath.  

Is Cabernet Franc a classical Bordeaux red.  It sure is, as could be seen in the 2007 Finca La Celia ‘Heritage’ Cabernet Franc.  Another Argentine beauty.   Firm, dense, packed with dark berry fruits and graphite with minerals and black earth, this is a long-term ager, just a claret from a good year should be.  Oaking very discreet.   Two older Kiwi clarets brought up the rear-guard.  The 1986 Babich Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot quite a mouthful, formerly robust, but now showing its bones a little.  Green and acidic too, showing how far viticultural advances have made a difference.  I’m not sure if the 1986 Corbans ‘Private Bin’ Cabernet/Merlot was any better.  I liked it more as it wasn’t green and herbaceous.  It was just devoid of fruit.  But the new oak the wine was aged in (for around 450 days), was still there.  Nice oak it was too.

Late at night now, and sticky treats to wrap up the night.  Afterall, we were all working the next day!  A stunner came in the form of the 2011 Seifried ‘Sweet Agnes’ Riesling.  Sensationally clear Riesling fruit with searing acid cut for the super-sticky sugar, all coming together with style.  A striking wine that works superbly for all its strong components.  The Chambers Rutherglen Muscat, much browner in colour, though with red hues to the colour, the flavour of nuts and raisins, in a soft, slightly textural, drying framework.  Still a wine with decadence but not quite voluptuousness.  Not really old with age interest, but also not fresh and lively.  A man (or is that muscat?) in the middle.  The finale was a Gonzales Byass ‘Nectar’ Pedro Ximinez.  Dense, sticky sultanas.  Truly nectar with a green tinge.  Rancio notes underneath.  Quite complex if one looked.  Silky smooth and lush.  Very good, rather than great if one was super-critical, but at that time of night it was perfect to end the line-up.          

Friday, November 16, 2012


Sometimes you’ve got to treat yourself.  And that’s what we did.  Young Jimmy brought Pitchfork Paul up for a quick visit, and as often can happen, a short appointment can lead to an all nighter.  Well, not quite this time, but it was a decent effort.  After going through assorted wines that our guests brought along for work, and samples that SWMBO and I had opened, and a bit of a bite to eat, it was time for a little indulgence.

Some wines and some labels have always done it for me.  SWMBO has learnt that these are my favourites and she has come to love them too.  First up was a 2010 Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett.  While it hasn’t got the richness of Pralat, nor the spicy interest of Urziger Wurzgarten, the Treppchen site manages to have that blend of ethereal and exotic.  It’ll never get to the pradikat levels of Pralat, but Kabinett’s exactly where we love it.  It’s a small step to heaven, but a significant one.  The 2010 was unformed and unenjoyable six months ago, but it’s a joy now, with a little spitzig tingle, it was the perfect refreshing introduction wine.  It’s the ultimate for SWMBO anytime.

I started my vinous love affair on Gewurztraminer, seduced by its brazen opulence and heady rush.  It must be addictive, because even after weaning myself off, all it takes is a sip, and I’m suckered in again.  There are many ‘GWT’s I like from these shores, though the Alsace models are my all-time highs.  The 2010 Dry River ‘Lovat’ Martinborough Gewurztraminer has been an irresistible one for both of us, and the case we got has now whittled down to just one bottle.  Sensationally seamless, but with the honied roses that seems so bold.  And far too young, I know these can go a decade if you leave them alone.  But who can do that?

And then onto the burgundy wine that pulls my heart-strings.  It’s not a grand cru – only a little Beaune 1er Cru.  I was brought up on Drouhin wines, and they taught me about the region, and how to appreciate elegance, delicacy, sensuality and gentleness.  ‘Feminine burgundy is beautiful’ is what I discovered after a diet of stern and intellectual claret.  And the ‘Clos des Mouches’ does all that with enough oomph to connect with the New World drinker.  Also, I love the funky label with the bees buzzing around.  The 2009 Drouhin Beaune 1er ‘Clos des Mouches’ came out toasty-oaky, but silky and slippery.  As it sat in glass, the oak melded in, and the serious tannins came out to play.  There’s enough cherry and berry sweetness to lush it all up, but again, infanticide.

You’ve just got to go with the flow when you get indulged…       

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reining in the Richness

We had The Master grace us with his presence, and we always learn from his experience and deep thought.  His approach is never rushed, and thus his judgements sound and sensitive.  Of course there’s always the occasion to open some wines, and two very different bottles had a similarity in that their inherent richness was reined in, so that a greater sense of stylishness and elegance was achieved.

After a long day at work, a sugar hit can hit the spot, and a 2003 Bourillon Dorleans ‘La Coulee d’Or’ Vouvray was the start-up wine.  Though not having tried this example of botrytised Chenin Blanc for a few years, I knew we could expect some richness and decadence here.  2003 a heat-wave year too, could possibly add some power and weight.  In the glass, a little golden colour, and strangely quite restrained, without masses of ripe fruit nor overly honied.  Clean stonefruit and a soft waxy, lanolin core, with the honey nuanced.  Sweet, but not based on sugar on palate, with the density that this label exhibits, and only a slow building in unctuousness and flavour.  The accumulation of unctuousness really quite slow, and the cut of acid from the variety most subtle.  It was as though the wine may have been scalped by barely detectable cork taint.  The overall feel was one of sleekness, rather than richness.

In a polar opposite, The Master directed me to broach his 1997 Penfolds ‘RWT’ Barossa Shiraz.  The first vintage of what is deemed a modern classic from the very traditional Penfolds,  Opulence in a bottle with a hefty dose of sweet new French oak over shiny, ripe, oozy chocolate, pepper and spice.  Always luscious in youth, its finesse isn’t enough to hide its sweetness of fruit.  It’s a combination of ‘over-the-top’ with class.  A little maturity in the garnet-brick colour, but smelling of savoury brown spices and ripe plums left in the sun, and liquorice with black pepper.  The fruit could be seen as a little fade, and to the wine’s benefit.  The extract drying a little, but this too a redeeming feature.  The dryness countering the fruit, now dropping.  Indeed, balanced and developed perfectly for drinking, and with the meaty meal.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Consistency and Differentiation

The 19th century Zante currant vineyard had its new plantings over the footstep of the old, so that growing conditions and experience were similar for consistency.  Strangely enough, the same phenomenon struck me as I had the opportunity of looking at a range of hearty modern reds made by the larger than life B. Riggs in the McLaren Vale under the ‘Zonte’s Footstep’ label that recalls the currant growing.

The wines all carried different names, all funky, as is the rage right now.  Three Shirazes first, a 2010 ‘Chocolate Factory’ McLaren Vale Shiraz, ripe and chocolatey with hints of eucalypt and cedar.  Good depth anD concentrated too.  Then a 2010 ‘Baron von Nemesis’ Barossa Shiraz, very similar again, maybe a little more accessible, but a bit bitter and reductive.  And moving to a 2010 ‘Lake Doctor’ Langhorne Creek Shiraz, touched by a little Viognier, and consequently a little lighter and more mellow in mouthfeel, but brighter in aromatic nature.  All with hints of chocolate, plums, cedar spice and eucalypt.  Surely this consistency must be winemaker signature, as the origins were differet?

Putting the issue further to the test, a 2010 ‘Avalon Tree’ Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.  Clearly blackcurranty and leafy even, but in the glass, the tell-tale spicy, cedary oaky and eucalypt signature came out.  Then to an extreme, a 2010 ‘Violet Beauregard; Clare Valley Malbec.  All the Christmas cake spices and dark plums taken to another far-away, exotic place.  Bigger, blacker but there again, eucalypt, liquorice, cedar and spices.  Same story.  And finally, a 2011 ‘Canto di Lago’ Langhorne Creek Sangiovese/Barbera.  Much lighter and less ripe – a function of the vintage?  Certainly red cherries and softer red fruits.  In a reduced expression, the same old story with spices, cedar, liquorice etc, etc, etc.

I concluded it must be winemaker after all these different factors not changing the picture too much.  There’s a place for consistency and also for differentiation.  I like the consistent good quality.  But I could have drunk any of them for the same effect and taste.   

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Annual Test

November is the month that I conduct a wine options game for the ‘Beepers’ who mix it with a group who are ‘Simply Gruesome’.  SWMBO is my right-hand person, and we enjoy our annual chance of testing these fine people about wine.  They are special people, as they get into the spirit of things, and everything is so well-organised.  And on top of that, there’s a healthy budget allowing the opportunity of showing some really nice wines.

It’s a confidence thing to serve something easily recognisable to start with, and the first wine was the double gold-medal winning 2012 Starborough ‘Family Estate’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.  Pretty fleshy and juicy stuff, with mineral, gooseberry and passionfruit flavours plus a marvellous esters-aromatic lift.  An equal blend of Wairau and Awatere fruit, and showing both.  Then onto a 2009 Domaine Servin Chablis.  Unsurprisingly forward and round now, fuller, with softness.  Still the underlying flintiness that makes Chablis what it is, but the acid sear gone.  The weight of this could have made it a premier cru, if I was guessing.  The streamlined flow and fineness pointing to Chablis than the Cote d’Or.  The final white was a 2010 von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett.  Marred by a little reduction, this had the steely, gooseberry slate characters of Mosel, and this too was a little more weighty and substantial than expected for a wine from this exalted site in the Saar.  A touch of honeysuckle underneath and sugar adding to the mouthfeel, made this a delight, regardless of the sulphide notes.

Onto ‘The Last Man Standing’ to find the best palate in the room.  The wine for this was the 2011 Terrace Edge Waipara Valley Pinot Gris.  We managed to whittle the numbers to a quarter with one question.  And the wine’s not that hard to pick!  Lovely, decadent ripe pears and honied stonefuits.  A touch of spice, and a near unctuousness.  Classic quality Pinot Gris in the modern Alsace style.  Ahh, that’s what they thought it was…

The reds sort out the serious thinkers and drinkers from the light weighters.  Straight into the top-end stuff with a 2010 Te Mata ‘Coleraine’ Hawke’s Bay Cab/Merlot blend.  I haven’t tried this for over 7 months.  I liked it on release then, clearly ahead of its stablemate ‘Awatea’, but felt it showed the cooler, slow-to-ripen vintage.  Boy, has this come together well and put on richness and texture.  It will always be an elegant wine in the scheme of things, but great class now showing.  This was followed by the 2007 Antinori ‘Marchesi’ Chianti Classico Riserva.  Ironic that a 1981 had come our way just last week.  This quite fulsome, soft and matty in texture, maybe a little muddied in outlook, partly from distinct oakiness coming through.  A thoroughly modernist and crowd-pleasing style, and a bit disconcerting if one were a purist.  But from a drinker’s view, very satisfying in a broad way.  The final wine was the 2006 Saltram ‘No. 1’ Barossa Shiraz.  ‘No. 1’ as it’s the best they do.  Ultra-ripe and sweet, with chocolate and liquorice, smooth and lush, but underlined by plenty of fine tannin.  Brilliant ‘out-there; fruit and integrated oaking, and no ‘dead’ dullness at all.  There’s a place for these hedonistic wines.  Maybe not at the dinner table with fine and fancy fare.  But as a wine to sip and admire, while letting a testy world pass by.     

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Growing in Brightness

It was the night of the popular pyrotechnics display, and in a typical show of generosity, The Capital Man invited us to view the fireworks from his residence which has a commanding presence over the harbour. The Capital Man has been collecting wine for a very long time and has had the means to amass a wondrous cellar, but as in many such cases, has not had the time to drink the bottles in a timely fashion, resulting in many wines moving past their best.  For him, it was an opportunity to share a few with visitors.  Among those taking advantage of the vantage point was His Eminence and his family, he being a South American man who self-effacingly professes to know little about vinous matters, but in reality knew plenty.  There was plenty to talk and laugh about, and there was a growing realisation of how much ground we could cover.  The night got brighter as we all got to know each other, and the fireworks built to a crescendo.

A vertical of old Palliser Estate Riesling from Martinborough was extremely interesting.  The 1992 was certainly on the way downhill.  Oxidised, with very soft textures, but still attractively honied.  Curiously very drinkable, though knowing the bruised apple flavours indicated its true state.  The 1995 was much less aged, even though only 3 years younger.  A trace of oxidation, but still with citrus fruit residue.  Tertiary toast and earth aromas and flavours and searing acidity.  Despite good aromatics of lime and toast, with petrolly hints, this was rather astringent and dried on palate.  Then onto a 2005.  A beautiful wine, clearly packed with fruitiness, exuding limes along with bright energy and wonderful balance of sweetness, fruitiness and acidity.  A thread of toastiness intermixed with honey made it beguilingly succulent.

A pair of Felton Road Central Otago wines were highlights.  The 1999 Dry Riesling clearly aged with a combination of lime and toast, but the slippery acidity and lush mouthfeel gave it a semblance of sweetness, even though the wine was dry.  SWMBO was taken by this wine.  The Capital Man followed this by opening a 2000 ‘Block 5’ Pinot Noir.  Muscular and mushroomy, with sweet and savoury red fruits merging with earth, truffle, meat and game nuances.  Lovely acidity, and plenty of structure and mouthfeel.  His Eminence was a fan of this one too.

Two older reds made for real curiosities.  I don’t see too many older Italian wines, so a Chianti over three decades of age was anticipated highly.  The 1981 Antinori ‘Marchesi’ Chianti Classico Riserva was fairy gutsy and robust, with a mass of savoury, gamey, sour cherry fruit in its tertiary state.  More earthy and a touch dirty, rather than full-on grubby.  Good acid raciness, and fine tannins in the background, and drying out a little.  Interesting, but not one to stay on.

Then a blast from my past, a 1969 Lindemans Hunter River Burgundy Bin 3803.  I’ve had many a bottle of these Hunter Valley Shiraz wines in my formative years.  Still with dark garnet red heart to the colour, this featured a distinctive charry, reductive, spice, resiny and animal character that I hadn’t seen before.  Still with fruit sweetness, but heading down the dry path.  Soft, but with a solid residual core.  I doubt this will ever move to the beautiful ethereal and layered expression, but it was still a wonder to taste.

As the night got darker, we all became a little more enlightened.    

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hanging Out with The Happy Hipsters

Moving into a new home and new ‘hood' for the Happy Hipsters was not been an easy decision.  There are always pros and cons, but move they did, and it came time for a housewarming.  It was a cool affair on a cool evening, but the atmosphere was warm, and with happiness the Hipsters had overflowed to all the partygoers.  Some nice, gentle music and an eclectic mix of wines from those of the hosts, to some BYO bottles, added to the hang-out time being a cruisy affair.

Our contributions were a couple of ten year old Hawke’s Bay reds.  SWMBO had inherited a 2002 C.J. Pask ‘Declaration’ Cab/Malbec/Merlot and this was an ideal time to broach it, so it seemed.  Well, it could have been left another decade easily, as it had dark colour, masses of dark berry and plum fruits along powerful spices and oak.  And lively as a new release wine with its acidity and energy.  The Italians would probably call this a meditation wine rather than a food wine. 

Following its success, out came the cork on the 2002 Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ Syrah, a bottle I put my hand up for as a rare, exciting new style.  The 2002 was the second release of this label, and again, like the Pask ‘Declaration’, still amazingly youthful.  Even more so, with its very dark, saturated colour, refined, but lush black fruits, black pepper and Asian spices.  Tightly held together, and smooth as velvet, this seemed quite primary, and again, with a decade ahead of it.  My recollection of it in youth was that it was a statement wine, and a decade later, it had the sheen of such a style, but had settled with class.

We were very pleased to see the Real Mr Parker, for his warm smile and a long overdue catch-up.  His wine generosity hasn’t faltered one bit.  His lead-in wine was a 1988 Olivier Leflaive Meursault 1er ‘Genevrieres’.  The Meursault smoothness and richness was evident immediately.  Nutty for sure, and a lovely creamy texture from bottle-age and barrel-ferment, and the faintest notes of oxidation.  Do negociant wines suffer in comparison with domaine wines?  That was my nagging doubt over its elegance.  I suppose there could have been more intensity and layers.  But a moot point, as it went down a treat.

Mr Parker, both ‘The Real’ one we know, and the widely published one love Chapoutier wines.  The 2001 Chapoutier ‘Croix de Bois’ Chateauneuf-du-Pape was a treat.  Very Grenache with dark raspberry fruit with complexing layers of savoury and herb nuance.  Rich and sweet, but not overly so.  Softened tannins, but with good linear grip and a long, long finish. And a great delight to see no brettanomyces.  The 2001s were good, much better than the forward 2002s, and the cellaring for a decade plus has confirmed it.

A couple of older wines were good to calibrate the senses.  A 1994 Infernetto Barolo, bricked colour, fading to a leanness, faint dried roses, no tar, but earth and leather.  Heading towards dried out, but drinkable and with interest, as any Barolo deserves.  More alive and archetype was the 1998 Penfolds ‘Bin 138’ Barossa Old Vine SGM.  Secondary and even tertiary hints, but very Barossa Valley with liquorice and plums, sweetness and warmth, now allowing the structure to show.  Great to compare with the Chapoutier, and both wines showing their provenance and ‘terroir’.

Back to the Kiwi wines to finish.  From the Happy Hipsters cellar was a 2007 Craggy Range ‘Block 14’ Syrah, again a wonderful echo of the ‘Le Sol’ tasted earlier.  Indeed, it was an echo, being lighter and less rich.  Still very varietal in every way, but with the sense it was beginning to show some maturity characters.  And this being five years younger than the ‘Le Sol’. 

However, the grand finale, the 2003 Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir was still a wine with a future.  A tiny crop year, and with the ripeness that has seen it carry on better than the 2005s, which are now showing secondary dried herbs.  Power, structure and fruit all here, with the Pinot Noir magical elegance.  Fragrance with subtle savoury complexities.  This has 7-10 years ahead. 

With the taste of this making us warm and mellow people with big smiles on our faces, we departed The Happy Hipsters new house and headed off home after several hours of hanging out.