Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Damned from the Outset

The 2002 Central Otago Pinot Noir vintage was a great success at the time.  Big, bold, well-ripened fruit and forward, pleasing natures.  These wines would and did give immediate pleasure.  The very knowledgeable felt they were up-front wonders and that they would fade quickly as the acidities were not high enough.  Interestingly, as time has gone on, many commentators have had to eat their words.  The fruit character has stayed remarkably fresh.  The structures only softening a little, and certainly no fading of acidity.  They are in essence as big and bold, and as sweet as they’ve ever been. 

The Wine Bunny brought along her special bottle.  It was the 2002 Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir from Bannockburn fruit.  The wine won some good awards, Champion at ANZWA and No. 1 in Cuisine.  She thought it would be a keeper, so she put away a good supply.  But I believe it keeps on surprising her each time she broaches a bottle from her not inconsequential stocks.  This bottle still dark ruby-red.  On nose classical ripe Pinot Noir, with dark red berries and plums.  Even a touch of florality too.  Who mentioned violets?  And of course those thyme herbs.  On palate rich, sweet, bold and vigorous, but still in pretty good shape and proportion.  Good underlying tannins, the softer, but true acidity of the vintage, and only the beginnings of secondary development.  We reckoned it was not even half-way in its life.  Sometimes these riper vintages are the best?  

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sailing into a Northern or Southern Port?

It has always been an interesting comparison: the style and preferences for genuine Port wine from the Duoro in Portugal, or the imposter that imitates but doesn’t quite replicate the real thing from Australia.  There are a number of technical reasons why the styles are the same but taste different, though both have been labelled ‘Port’ in the past.  Nowadays, the name ‘Port’ is protected.  In Australia, the new name for ‘Sherry’ is ‘Apera’ and for ‘Tokay’ it’s ‘Topaque’, and for ‘Port’ it is Vintage, Ruby or Tawny ‘Fortified’.  In simple terms, the Portuguese wines are drier and more textured with the taste of the earth, whereas the Australians are sweeter and stickier, softer and taste of fruit.  Both have the ability to age extremely well and develop considerable complexities, even at pretty basic levels.
As a finale to the A’Prentice’s party, out came the classical port comparison, one from Portugal and one from Australia, both of approximately the same age.  The 1975 Rebello Valente Vintage Port (bottled in 1977 by Robertsons) was indeed amber orange in colour, but with faded roses.  On the nose that curious blend of faded roses, warm nutty fruits and a suggestion of toffee, all tied up with a flourish of earth and minerals.  Savoury to a degree, but balance by lovely sweetness.  Very little tannin to resolve, a hint of corruption, but with fruit and earth to burn.  And the spirit clean with a touch of burn and cut.  A lighter wine for sure in comparison with the big names, and not quite the complexities, but thoroughly balanced and still a delightful fortified wine.

Then the 1975 Seppeltsfield ‘GR104’ Vintage Port, made mainly from Malbec, probably South Australian fruit.  Darker colour with mahogany and orange, with the aromas of raisins, ripe grapes caramel and toffee.  Much sweeter on palate, more unctuous and rounded.  Complexing dried wood and nutty notes, but no rancio.  A touch decrepit and beginning to dry somewhat.  The spirit soaked up by the sweetness and a decidedly more consumer friendly wine for sure.  But for the aficionados it was not in as good condition.  However, with both bottles around four decades old, there were no complaints.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I Felt It Was Fading

Not every bottle you broach is going to be what you expect.  A long time ago, The Roaders gifted me with a special bottle to mark getting through some tough stuff.  It was a Pinot Noir from a good vineyard and from a good year.  Also in its favour was that it was a big bottle, being a 1.5 L magnum.  We were invited to the A-Prentice’s party with around 30 people attending, so it was an ideal time to share it with some good folk.
The 2006 Felton Road ‘Calvert Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 1.5 L opened up easily and the cork was in good condition.  In the glass you could see it was showing its decade of development, the colour more garnet with a hint of orange, if not brick.  And from thereon in, it spoke of secondary development.  While there’s nothing wrong with that, and indeed such complexity is delicious and delightful, I expected some more vestiges of primary fruit.  The sweetness of soft red and darker red fruits intermingled with dried herbs and game, as well as mushrooms and earth.  The tannins were beginning to resolve, but still there was sufficient structure.  There was enough acidity and life, but liveliness was a little lacking.  People loved the wine, and big glasses were being poured and consumed.  SWMBO and I had a decent sip too.  But I felt it was fading a bit, maybe a little before its time?  The wine was stored well, so it could have been a cork issue?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Big Grunters

Our country is preoccupied with Pinot Noir, but with a global view, it’s the Bordeaux varieties that are in flavour.  Merlot, remains the friendliest and fleshiest, and most accessible of these, but as we know it can attain great heights, in the like of Ch. Petrus in Pomerol.  Now that’s one wine I don’t get to taste and drink regularly...  Twenty years ago, Merlot was the big thing in New Zealand.  And Grant Edmonds was, and still is one of the star makers of the variety.  His own little project Redmetal Vineyards started with a flourish, but as his duties as chief winemaker at Sileni Estates grew, the Redmetal label took a step back.  Just recently, we’ve seen some good signs of revitalisation of Redmetal, so I’m sure things will see a return to prominence.

Grant’s top label at Redmetal was ‘The Merlot’.  Super-duper with ripeness and extract, sweetness and oak, but retaining a degree of elegance.  Well, the first release of 1998 wasn’t like that.  It was truly a big, bold grunter.  Then a surprise in style with the 2000, partly a result of the vintage, but also a conscious decision to tone things down a bit.  With the A-Prentice’s celebration, SWMBO and I dug out two magnums of The Merlot, one from each vintage.
The 1998 Redmetal ‘The Merlot’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot (1.5 L) is a classic and faithful representation of that hot, hot and dry vintage.  The wine still black in colour with great depth, but showing a little garnet and brick on the rim.  Packed with powerful aromas of ripe black berry and black plum aromas, with layers of secondary dried herb-game notes, more the game than herbs, actually.  Dense and solid on palate with masses of sweet fruit, and plenty of funky, game-like and cedar-stalk and black herbal notes.  This appears a touch bretty, but all the other flavours more than compensate.  Structured and grainy, but with the ripeness and sweetness to all work.  Those with sensitive noses and palate found it too much.  Those forgiving enough were wowed by its sheer size and presence. 
Then the 2000 Redmetal ‘The Merlot’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot (1.5 L).  Interestingly in a different shaped bottle, tapered to the bottom, and shorter than the 1998.  Dark red colour with garnet.  Far more elegant and restrained on nose, stylish even, but a trace of the herbaceous greens peeking through.  There’s depth and freshness, and liveliness, and no real secondary character dominating.  Just a touch of earth.  Grant knew about brettanomyces by now.  Then remarkably refined on palate.  Silky and seamless with very fine tannins.  More redcurrants than plums, and fresh acidity.   The wine has wonderful linearity.  Most people found this an easier wine to enjoy.  Grant knew he was on the right track with a more stylish style.  The 2000s have shown this finesse with other labels, so a cooler year, it’s turned out to be another classical one.     

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sweet and Innocent to Outrageously Decadent

It never ceases to amaze me how with one style of wine you can approach perfection going in opposite directions.  Perfection is not something to narrow in on, but to go forth and seek out.  It is both objective and subjective…  Whoa, don’t go to philosophical discussions where you know too little….  Two sweet wines served on one night came close to perfection.  Yet they were so very different.  They both just missed out on being seen as good as they could be by the slimmest of margins in the least of details.  Mr Magic and Mags, along with SWMBO and I were enjoying a lovely afternoon and early evening tasting and drinking all manner of wines, when it was time to move into the dessert styles. 

The first was the 2013 Esk Valley Hawke’s Bay Late Harvest Chenin Blanc.  A beautiful, even light golden colour, the aromas and flavours of honey and flowers were enriched by stonefruits and ripe citrus fruit marmalade.  A touch of botrytis maybe?  Maybe not as 2013 was super dry. Very harmoniously integrated, with flashes of raisins and oak.  The acidity is seamless and perfectly balanced.  Spotlessly clean and pure.  Innocence personified, without any corruption.  This was the best New World interpretation of a Sauternes I reckoned I’d seen for yonks.  The figures aren’t Sauternes territory, with 10% alc. and 204 g/L RS, and winemaker Gordon Russell would prefer to drink it earlier, I know, but it’ll keep.  It only it had a little botrytis complexity to make it street-wise, then it would foot it with great Sauternes.  Then it’d be closer to perfect.

We had to match it with something as good.  So it was a long-kept bottle, given to us as a gift.  The 1998 Fromm ‘La Strada’ Marlborough Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese.  This was a special wine for Hatsch to make, in cahoots with guest vigneron Daniel Vollenweider.  If there was any wine seeping on the barrel, Hatsch’s finger would wipe it up to be licked and savoured.  It poured a dark mahogany colour into the glass.  Oozed would be a better description.  Dense and savoury with dark toffee, caramel and even some molasses.  Even more decadent and thick, more than unctuous.  But under it all, a remnant of finesse that Riesling gives, and that acid cut.  It took 4 years to ferment to 5.5% alc., leaving 360 g/L RS, but balanced by TA 12.4 g/L and a pH of  2.83, but it seemed like 3.83.  Like the 2013 Esk Valley, botrytis-free, as it was such a dry year too.  But shrivel and raisins galore.  This is immortal liquid toffee, and I’d say Hatsch would agree.  Only 75 L were made, giving 185 x 375 ml bottles.  If only there was botrytis, and it was less outrageous, maybe a tad cleaner, it’d be perfection in my books.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Kupe a Keeper

Few wines have the presence of greatness from the start.  But there are such wines.  These are usually from carefully chosen sites, from well-set vines, by a person with experience, forethought and vision.  For me, one such wine is the Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Pinot Noir.  The site on Te Muna Road, where the soils structure is a continuation of the famed and proven Martinborough Terrace.  Abel clone vines, purportedly propagated from cuttings from Romanee-Conti itself.  High density planting, and low, low, low to the ground.  And the dream of Larry McKenna, in the Martinborough vignoble since 1986.  The plants in the ground in 2000, the first crop was 2003, which SWMBO, the Young One and I participated in its harvesting.  Super wine that 2003.

The 2006 Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Pinot Noir is the result of an outstanding year.  Everything was perfect, and the region has produced some very special wines in this vintage.  This wine was one of them.  From its birth it had all the predetermining factors of site and clone, then combined with the growing conditions.  Then the stamp of winemaker input.  This wine had size and structure, with significant whole cluster.  On release, it looked great and it was easy to see it was going to be a keeper.  Ten plus years on, the 2006 ‘Kupe’ has proven this so.  Still very dark, black-red with garnet hues.  Full and rounded on nose and palate.  Loads of sweet black and dark-red fruits.  Obvious stalky perfumes of whole bunches, and the beginnings of savoury secondary development.  The tannins beginning to resolve and soften, but there is plenty of structure.  Though 10 years old, it could go another 10.  It’s only just beginning to drink on its plateau.  And boy, there’s some similarly outstanding releases after.  The 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015.  These ‘Kupe’ wines will be keepers too.