Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Country Connections

The Young One had travelled to Barcelona a few months ago, and we are still celebrating a coming of age, even though it has been over a year.  And with the arrival of Stew Pot and Mitty, who divide their time between the Home Land and Spain, it was appropriate to open a bottle from Spain that was put aside for The Young One. 

On release the 2003 Contino ‘Vigna del Olivo; Rioja was a spectacularly tight and brooding wine, black as the night with some unusual funky flavours that was attributable to the 20% Graciano that bolstered the Tempranillo.  A healthy dose of oaking merged it without being intrusive, but showed just to let you know this was a modern way of thinking, incorporating an indigenous variety of quality that had been discarded in the past few decades.  I believed this would take Rioja into another place in the near future, and indeed Graciano is beginning to thrive in the field and in the wine.

Opening this bottle, around half dozen years later, the brooding mantle had dissipated, and the warmth of 2003 had begun to be prominent.  Not in a jammy way, but more in richness, sweetness, smoothness and friendliness.  The Graciano was truly funky, with a near TCA cork-taint disturbing aspect, but the more it was tasted, the sweeter and savoury it became.  A little frightening, but a wine to contemplate and ponder, and in doing so, you come to see the interest it offers.  At the end of the bottle, we pronounced it delicious, and though initially suspicious, we relaxed and enjoyed all the connections we had with Spain in the backdrop.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Seeing Red

We got the invitation by Loch Ness to come around.  She and her man Tall K had a new house, and we hadn’t been in it.  And what a wonderful house it was.  Large and open, the light wonderful.  Spacious and characterful, and when the sun set, it filled with the brilliance of a stunning sunset.

Of course, we has red wines to match the place and occasion.  The contribution from SWMBO and I was a 2011 Schubert ‘Marion’s Block’ Wairarapa Pinot Noir.  Ah, the beauty of delicacy and finesse, just like the lady who the wine is named after, no doubt.  There’s an iron reserve for sure, but it only appears on call.  Otherwise, light coloured, fragrant and ethereal.  Refined in texture, maybe a cool floral note.  And the acidity higher than normal, but you wouldn’t know it, as it is so composed.  A real lady.

Then to follow, a 2008 Juliusspital Wurzburger Pfaffenberg Spatburgunder Trocken.  A soul-mate from Germany, from Franconia, and Pinot Noir too.  A special gift for the Tall K man.  This wine standing tall, like a proud man.  Dark in colour, though showing a little development.  Gusty blood red aromas and dark berry fruits, and a hearty mouthfeel, without losing that suppleness essential in the variety.  A man of a wine, but not a brute, just a little more body and not so refined,  A bloke.  

Summer Brothers

This warm time of year sees the promotion ‘Summer of Riesling’ in a worldwide underground movement promoting the most noble of white varieties – so the blurb goes.  But I’m a fan of it all, as is SWMBO.  As a consequence, we open our fair share of bottles in support.  Fitting in an impromptu get-together with the A-Prentice and the P-Price, we opened a couple of brothers in arms.

The 2011 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett is a most consistent shower.  It’s absolutely dependable, no matter what the vintage.  In hot years it is refined and delicate.  In cooler years it’s refined and delicate.  Spotlessly clean, or so it would seem.  Only in relief does one see the subtle variations due to vintage or whatever.  After a big day in the summer sun, this tasted deliciously refreshing, but posed with sweetness and richness.  A touch of slate and minerals in the background.  How can Riesling get better?

Then the P-Prince opened his 1991 Martinborough Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling.  A relation to the Mosel wine, but made in Martinborough, nearly half-way around the world.  Deep golden colour, but not oxidised r cloudy.  Gorgeous in its decadence, with honey and flowers and toast, all cut by zesty acidity.  No coarseness and not drying out.  A testament to a warm vintage, good winemaker, preserving sugar and a backbone of nobility – Riesling nobility, of course.  Who would think this summer brother would be so good, especially after nearly a quarter of a century?

Going back to the Schaefer, after the Martinborough wine, it was tight and dry – well, drier – and noticeably touched by sulphur.  But it was still very pleasing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


It was a replay of the ‘Stroke of Luck’ get together held just a year ago.  On that occasion it seemed we all pulled out the stops and brought some very special wines along.  There wasn’t the pressure to do the same, but when old friends meet up, you can’t help but try to do well.  The Man None Other and The Souther-Girl were hospitable hosts yet again, and SWMBO and I were joined by The Jelly Bean Girl, The Orbiter and the Even Stander for a night of bottles, cooked meats and amazing cheeses. 

Bubbles can’t be beaten for starting the session, and the NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve showed why it’s on top of the world at present.  Subtle depth and complexity, yet lovely fruit prominence, the interaction with the autolysis just perfect.  Refreshing, yet creamy – what else could anyone ask for in an aperitif?

From the sublime to even more sublime, we moved into the realms of richness with a 2004 Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese #09 Gold Kap.  We’d tried this years ago, on release, and it was locked up and reductive.  On this rematch, this had transformed from ugly duckling  to graceful swan.  Extremely refined, smooth, creamy too, with fine honey, toast and florals.  The acidity just showing great piquancy and poise.  My wine of the night already, but also in retrospect.

The reds were served from oldest to youngest as a precaution if the oldies were going to fade.  The oldest was a 1965 Wynns ‘Black Label’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.  Still alive, with rustic fruit, not totally clean and tertiary and decrepit.  Still drinkable, but why would you.  The Man None Other and The Orbiter took big glassfuls, more out of politeness I believe.  The Orbiter suggest it was a grandmother.  I saw it as a dirty old grubby aunty.  Surprisingly, the cork, of good length, was still pliable and did not break on extraction.

Moving into a more modern age, but with two decades on it still, was the 1993 Penfolds ‘Bin 707’ Cabernet Sauvignon.  Typically bold on bouquet, promising super ripeness, sweet fruit, plums, liquorice and cedary sweet oak.  But surprisingly elegant on palate and not the blockbuster as expected.  Instead, truly varietal, with blackcurranty flavours, and a mix of sweet eucalyptus and vanilla, and savoury secondary earthy notes.  In the glass, it got bigger and more textural.  No shrinking violet, but a menacing big brother, happy to take on the world if need be.  With this, there’s no rematch.  It slugs you down straight away.

Onto another classic, a 1997 Sassicaia.  This ‘super-Tuscan’ wasn’t super on nose, and in fact shy and restrained.  A bit leafy and savoury olive-like, and strangely unimpressive on bouquet.  But once in the mouth, another animal, no make that a beast.  Fulsome, grunty and textural, with raspy, rugged herbaceous hinted blackcurrants and black berry fruited.  Still lots of primary fruits, and that hint of Bolgheri rusticity.  However, there’s a mass of fruit depth, and great amplitude, making it in the final analysis quite magnificent.  I’d like a rematch in another decade or two, when this will still be going strong.

The youngest table red was a 2004 Simi ‘Reserve’ Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Ironically the most harmonious and possibly the wine most like to mature most quickly.  More medium full bodied rather than full, and lovely integration, smooth and mellow fruit-cake and herbs all melded together.  Still some tannin and some acidity, but smooth and becoming smoother.  The wine is a lighter one for sure, but its togetherness made it a complete drink.  Lovely.

Then a 2009 Quinto Do Retiro Vintage Port.  This had won some prestigious gong, and it was a delightfully approachable number.  Sweet and ripe black berry fruits with an intriguing herbal streak.  Supple, but with good structure.  Softer acidity, and mild underlying power.  There’s density, but roundness.  Real port, and modern approachability.  A rematch in the next two decades would yield the same result.  It sounds like a rematch will become a tradition…   

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Passage of Years

It was a year ago that we began celebrating The Young One’s coming of age.  Turning 21 is no mean feat, and aw shucks, SWMBO and I are proud of the fella.  His JoLo aka The Youngette is a good girl too, and we like our time together.  The passing of years has seen him do well, and we’ve sampled and drank a number of bottles from his birth year.  From a qualitative wine perspective, 1992 wasn’t that flash.  We’ve been lucky with the wines we’ve had, though a couple of the really big names have let us down.  Not so the Aussies.  Sandwiched between the great 1990 and 1991, and the rather good 1993, the wines from 1992 were always going to suffer.  But on their own, they still look good.

On this dinner, we had much to ‘muse’ about, on how we had all progressed in the passed year, and how far we’d come.  It’s that passage of years analysis.  The wines exemplified it.  1992 Wynns ‘Black Label’ and the flagship ‘John Riddoch’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignons.  No contest surely?  But then again, it wasn't supposed to be one, but rather, just a comparison.

The 1992 Wynns ‘Black Label’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon was on its plateau, maybe near the end of that phase and just beginning the gradual decline.  Savoury blackcurrants and olives, and a touch of cedar.  No mintiness as a sign of Coonawarra.  Quite open if not loose in structure and mouthfeel.  Exactly as it should be after two decades plus for a ‘commercial’ wine.  Tannins a little grainy, but not coarse, and the acidity a little elevated.  The fruit still well-defined and varietal.  Not a great one, but really drinkable, accessible and food friendly.

Then onto the 1992 Wynns ‘John Riddoch’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.  A big step up in concentration, density and depth.  Very strong extraction to match the fruit depth.  The fruit is still supercharged.  Blackcurrants, herbs and real mint.  But all infused with savoury spices, cedar and new oak galore.  The structure dry and firm, and that 1992 acidity.  A great statement of power and winemaker input to match the best of the vineyard.  It was something to admire from afar, rather than immerse oneself into.  Maybe you could do that in another decade.  Yes, both this and the ‘Black Label’ had seen the passage of years really well.   

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Band of Brothers

The Tree Man and I ended up on the same table.  A coincidence?  Maybe not as we share a liking for many things, including burgundies and how they complement the mainly New Zealand Pinot Noirs we normally taste and drink.  We brought out our French offerings for the night and lined them up.  It’s great that the diversity of Burgundy means that only rarely do bottles get doubled up!  What a nice trio, brothers for sure, and a good band of wines to compare.

Young and lesser first.  The 2010 Henri Boillot Volnay 1er ‘Les Chevrets’ looks young and fresh, but immediately on nosing it, it wasn’t so.  Marred by brettanomyces and stale farmyard aromas.  A strong wine, stronger and more robust than expected for Volnay, so a winemaker’s hand and style in drawing out the sweet fruit and flesh was at work.  The concession to the Volnay was the elevated acidity, the active limestone of the terroir.  A good line of fine tannin may have been another nod to its origins.  But here, brett ruled.  This brother stayed on the farm.

Then onto the real gem, a 2010 Anne Gros Echezeaux Grand Cru.  I’ve saw this last year and was quite amazed at how alive and vital it was, especially against the 2009, which was a bigger and rounder wine.  On this occasion, supremely elegant and pretty, if a grand cru from Echezeaux can be called such.  But lovely layers of florals and perfumes, and gorgeous sweetness and succulence.. Extremely fine-featured and juicy in this company, its primary fruit just standing out.  As one sipped on this, a growing concentration made itself felt.  This brother, a young lad, was clearly destined for a sophisticated if not privileged life.

Finally a 2007 Domaine Arlaud Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru.  Not the greatest of years, and nowshowing asome fading in colour.  Yet on nose with good volume, and complex characters, some dried herbals for sure, and with a core of blood and fur as Gevrey-Chambertin can gve.  This was all together and in harmony.  Beginning to dry a little in the mouth, and certainly layers of interest, and not at all shy.  This had depth and length.  It’ll not make complex old bones, but it gives all it has got and in a friendly way.  An older brother who has seen a bit of life.