Thursday, December 28, 2017

Fresh is Good

I’ve followed the Veuve Clicquot style over four decades and have been fascinated by its continuing evolution.  For much of the time, it was very individual, with richness and strong, positive autolysis and just the perfect amount of aldehydes to give it serious complexity.  But with it becoming part of the LVMH group, there was a fairly rapid change, which I seemed to notice.  This coincided with the growth of the brand at the time.  Clever people at LVMH, in spotting something that was going to grow gang-busters, and capitalise on it.  For a short time, I’m sure production could not keep up with demand, and wine must have been purchased ‘sur latte’.  You could tell, as suddenly, a number of bottles consumed just didn’t satisfy.
But surely and steadily, the label has clawed its way back to being near brilliant.  But with changes in being fresher, cleaner, more fruit oriented.  The wine I’m sure is more elegant nowadays, trading complexity for freshness, and it’s a good thing, and certainly not all bad.  A bottle of 2008 Veuve Clicquot Champagne Vintage chanced our way.  It was actually a gift from The Chairman, but we consumed it with Lazza.  The deliciousness could not be denied.  Detailed and poised, with mouthwatering piquancy.  A fine thread of autolysis only.  For fans of old, maybe a let-down.  But for nowadays drinkers, perfect and beautifully enjoyable. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

All About Fruit

One of my mentors in judging had a catchphrase “fruit is the hero”.  And that is still my creed for most wines, and indeed for New World wines.  Then I learnt about ‘terroir’ and how the expression of such was paramount in the best Old World wines.  So I now have multiple value systems that many wine aficionados will find difficult to accept.  I believe the two approaches do work for me and there is an area of grey which encompasses both, creating a mixed perspective.  Sometimes this philosophy catches me out.

So it was when The Roader presented, as he does, a bottle of red, served blind, and we had to go through the process of trying to identify it.  It was definitely Pinot Noir with its savoury red berry fruits and gentle structure, all presented with the elegance that Pinot Noir has over the other noble varieties.  But the fruitiness was intriguing in that there was a lovely sweetness to it.  This suggested New World, and I kept on thinking out New Zealand, rather than Australia or North America.  But a gamey complexity led me to think Old World and Burgundy.  This had bottle age on it for sure.  Then the structure was in the middle ground.  It was refined but quite positive.  It could have gone either way, but as fruit was the hero here, I plumped for New Zealand Pinot Noir 2010-2012, from Central Otago, Waipara or Wairarapa.  And I was wrong on all accounts.  SWMBO who was on form, was pretty much on form, picking one of the firmer Cotes de Nuits appellations, and at least premier cru level.
It all became so obvious when The Roader unveiled the wine – 2005 Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny.  A producer that punches way above the appellation in all his wines.  Maybe I should have guessed, but I didn’t.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Under a Cloud

There is a trend to undermine the quality and style of ‘conventional’ Champagne, from the established houses.  The growth of grower Champagne bottlings and now a move to more ‘natural’ expressions is gaining popularity and market share around the world.  Don’t get me wrong; I think these new developments are indeed exciting, and suddenly the Champagne category has got a lot more exciting.  What I don’t like is the chipping away at the credence and goodness of the houses who have developed a style and way of doing things that work well and have given consistent pleasure to wine drinkers around the world for decades.  I have enormous respect for the likes of Moet & Chandon at the ‘bigger’ end to the fanaticism of small house Bollinger.  And they have their more limited cuvees that are individual, if not idiosyncratic.  But the present trends tend to put these producers under a cloud.
Tasting some of the wines from the new wave of releases is interesting, and there are brilliant wines to be found, but one such wine from The Roader reminded me of the bigger picture,  The NV Pasqual Douquet ‘Anthocyanes’ Champagne 1er Cru Rosé is from Vertus, and a blend of 66% Chardonnay and 34% Pinot Noir, a blend of 20% 2012 vintage, 46% 2011 and 34% 2010 fruit, indigenous yeast fermented with 5 g/L dosage, on lees from April 2013 to disgorgement end of January 2015.  This has a strong pink-red colour living up to its ‘Anthocyanes’ name, but clearly cloudy, if you’ll excuse the pun.  On nose red berry and floral fruit with yeasty more than bready autolysis.  The palate very interesting with layers of flavour, a touch on the savoury side of fruity, and also a little textural.  Not quite finished off, compared to ‘conventional’ Champagne, but more flavoursome with funky ‘pros;’ that will entertain the winemaker, but also slightly coarse ‘cons’ that will not suit those looking for class. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Not Merely a Meursault

Surely one of the classic white burgundies – that’s Meursault.  In this day of going for the best, Meursault can get a little lost when one is expected to go for grand cru Chablis, Corton-Charlemagne or Puligny-Montrachet.  Meursault with no grand cru vineyards tends to get grouped with the second level.  This is wrong, as the wines of Meursault can be pretty spectacular.  At their most typical, they are broader, richer and more accessible than those of Puligny-Montrachet, and thus more consumer-friendly.  The best have layers of richness and complexity, and can age as long as most any other white burgundy.
The Orbiter brought along a Meursault to share.  It was not merely a Meursault, but something bordering spectacular and utterly delicious.  The 2009 Bouchard Pere ‘Domaine’ Meursault 1er ‘Genevrieres’ is from estate fruit and from one of the top vineyards in the appellation, a candidate for promotion to grand cru, surely?  And Bouchard Pere can get it right as it is a top producer as well as a negociant.  Surprisingly pale in colour, this was redolent of ripe yellow stonefruits with a creamy texture showing luxurious barrel-ferment.  Some complexing flintiness allied to the nutty lees and oak, and now a little hint of oxidation.  The wine is afterall, 8 years old, and now in its prime.  There’s no hurry, and I’m sure it will keep on going for another 8 years.  But why wait?  The Orbiter had waited long enough, and he chose to share it at a good time.  All of us in attendance nodded happily.  All the Orbiter said was “it’s a good one – no premox”, and this was a classic understatement.    

Saturday, December 16, 2017


Memories can be beautiful.  The memory of a wonderful experience can live for years, and maybe forever.  There’s joy to be had in reliving a special experience, but one should be aware that memories can be altered and that perceptions can change from what was reality.  One of the more common things for the wine lover is to keep a bottle of wine from a special time, not only as a momento, but as a practical recall of the great time.  However, as we know, wines do change in time.  And tasting a wine from many years ago will not represent what was consumed originally.
The Prophet-Man brought out one of his special bottles to share.  He helped make the wine, and the winemaking there has influenced how he has made wine since.  The wine was a Keuntz-Bas ‘Collection’ Alsace Riesling 2001.  However over 15 years later, this had begun to fade well-beyond the lovely freshness it would have had.  A little light golden, this was still redolent of citrus fruit and white flowers, but the thin end of the edge of oxidation was showing on nose and palate.  Interestingly, the wine was still fresh and lively on the palate, as acidity per se doesn’t change, just the perception of it with time, as the other componentry becomes different in expression.   However the mouthfeel was quite integrated, and the textures hardly standing out.  Phenolics and fruit extract here had become one with the rest of the wine. 
It was a drink-up proposition.  I’m sure it was more attractive in its youth.  But the Prophet-Man still had a smile on his face as he reminisced

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dry and Lean

The trend to dry wine in Germany is not really that new, as the style was prevalent years ago, before the fad of ‘fruit-sweet’ wines came to represent the more modern face of that country.  It is interesting to see producers who have excelled in the pradikat-labelled wines move towards the trocken bottlings.  It comes with transitional pains, to me.

The Kerpen famillyin Bernkastel have been very adept at making wines that are deliciously ‘fruit-sweet’.  In fact, I would daresay the wines may show their residual sugar more prominently than other comparable producers, but in the final analysis, their wines are classical, and high quality Mosel expressions.  Their Kabinetts and Spatlesen wines are their calling cards to me.  They’ve resisted the Grosse Gewachs classifications, even though they own vines in sites rated as such.  The style of them just isn’t the Kerpen style, I reckon.  But there are changes, showing Martin Kerpen’s open mind.  There are the ‘feinherb’ bottlings, a sort of stepping stone in style and recognition of wines outside the pradikat square.  And trocken bottlings are made more visibly. 
A taste of a 2013 Kerpen Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Trocken, at 11.5% alc. wasn’t convincing to me.  The Knotters brought out the wine on a warm and balmy evening.  The conditions were perfect for the style of wine opened.  It had slatey, lime and florals, with minerals.  It was thirst-quenchingly dry.  It had fruit extract and presence.  But there was just something missing that meant it was rather lean.  A bit of residual sugar would have rounded the wine off perfectly.  Other Mosel trocken wines have astounded us.  I’m sure Kerpen will get there.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

We'll Go For Elegance

Is the taste of wine influenced by your surroundings?  Of course it is.  If you are in a beautiful place, with good company and there is delicious food around, the wine you’re sipping on must be predisposed to be good.  However, most people will also know in their heart of hearts that a wine isn’t great.
When we opened the 2014 Robert Weil Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Trocken, it wouldn’t dare be anything but stunning.  There we were, in a sumptuously fitted-out house, amidst a hillside vineyard on a crackingly clear and serene evening, after a fun-filled day, chilling out with the Prophet-Man, who was humourously espousing his views on life, with the promise of a home-cooked meal in sight – life could hardly be better.

The wine opened beautifully, with a pale colour, and then a wonderfully balanced bouquet.  Lime fruit, white florals, a suggestion of honeysuckle, and refined minerality.  On palate, sheer elegance, dry to taste, but rich in fruitiness.  Who would guess it is 13.0% alc.?  The mouthfeel with beautiful poise, mouth-wateringly fresh, but in such a stylish way.  This classical Rheingau trocken at its best.

Robert Weil is a younger estate in the region, but has a considerable 90 ha of vines.  But the Turmberg site is steep and has mature vines from 30-50 years old.  And it’s a monopole, owned by the Weils, now in their fourth generation of winegrowing.  Weill be happy to drink this wine, in any situation. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Big Bubbles

A big bottle can be quite intimidating.  One has to think of a suitable occasion to broach these wines in magnum or larger.  However, it’s never an issue when we get together for our regular gatherings at the A-Prentice residence.  She manages to have many good people turn up, and most are keen on good wine.
So SWMBO and I rocked up with an NV Champagne Gardet Brut Premier Cru.  The bottle was a generous gift from a significant wine retailer, The Pooler, who has been influential in the marketplace, but who felt that we had done the wine industry good, for being supportive of it.  The reality is, that like him, we just love good wine, and any service we offer stems from that love.
It was the start of the evening, on a balmy day, and as guests turned up, a cold and frothy Champagne was an ideal start.  Everything about the Gardet is pretty much classical.  Dry, but not austere.  Refreshing but with an ethereal richness.  Fruit character to burn, but stylish in presentation, and balanced by just the right amount of bready-yeasty autolysis.  And none of the savoury aldehydes that can put people off, or say “it needs food”.
The Gardet family have been growing Champagne from the late 19th century but moved to their base in Chigny-les-Roses village in the 1930s.  The ‘Brut Premier Cru’ is one of their ‘traditional’ wines, with 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from Hautvillers, so has the gravitas to make it a wine with good presence.  And so it was.

Strangely enough, we magnum bottle drained quickly, and we wished we had another…

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Big Grunter

It’s a bit irreverent, but SWMBO and I have called Grant Edmonds ‘Grunt’.  It’s also rather unfair, because he’s actually very articulate.  He is though, sparing with his words and his tone is very quiet.  However his winemaking is rather clever and articulate.  His and his wife Sue’s first own label ‘Redmetal Vineyards’ release was with the 1996 vintage.  Never one to mince words, it was all about Merlot, with anything else quite secondary.  I reckon he still has that tenet, but of course, time has mellowed him.  He’s accepting of Cabernet Franc and Syrah.  They are Hawke’s Bay classical varieties for sure.  Put forward Cabernet Sauvignon and Grant will grunt.  It just doesn’t ripen consistently to make it worthwhile having in the ground.  But he does use it, when it suits.
He gave me a pressie, way back when.  It was a magnum of his then flagship.  And at the A-Prentis party, we opened it – a 1996 Redmetal Vineyards ‘Basket Press’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5 L.  At 21 y.o., it was still on its maturity plateau.  Lovely ripe black plum and berried fruits, with just the right amount of savoury dried herb and earthy secondary development to give it a complex layering.  The fruit was still sweet, and the tannins sufficient in structure to give it the bones to keep on aging.  There was an underlying freshness, that indicated another decade of life was well within its capability – in magnum of course.  The Redmetal brand has had its ups and downs, due to the degree of attention lavished upon it, but it is returning to its former glory.  Grant will not be grunting much more.    

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Modern Grunt

Our winemaking styles undergo a gradual creep as they evolve in this modern world.  It’s too easy not to go with changing goalposts, and be stuck in our rut.  But one must also be cautious not to whole-heartedly adopt new fashions and fads, as they fade away quickly, leaving you in an embarrassing place.
SWMBO and I were recently impressed with a 2012 Thierry Violot-Guillemard Pommard 1er Epenots.  Brought to dinner by the French Terry, this was a surprisingly modern interpretation of Pommard, an appellation best known for its sturdy, four-square wines.  The best Pommards have a richness which match the structure, so that they are not burly, but in essence, they still have an inelegant style to them.  They are among the bigger Cote de Beaune red wines, save those from Corton.  This modern Pommard had sweetly ripe fruit, and enough depth and fine concentration.  There was a degree of suppleness too.  Maybe a little difficult to see as the Pommard as we’ve come to expect, but better for it.  It was a more fresh and easier wine than the grunt of the past, and all the better for it.  Bring it on, I say. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Back to the Future

There was a time that German wines were predominantly dry.  Then developed the sweeter tastes of the world and the pradikat system to categorise the richer wines based on sugar levels at picking.  And as things cycle, we are seeing a trend towards the drier styles again.  As a baby boomer, I regard the sweeter-fruity-acid wines as my norm, but I admit I’m becoming increasingly enamoured by the Grosses Gewachs wines which not only espouse dryness, but also site.  13.0% alcohol is quite manageable and seems to be in balance with the greater textures seen in these wines.  But in my heart, I still love to drink wines with Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese on the labels.  Maybe I’ve been seduced by sugar, but the acidity in these wines provide balance, and the fruitiness is a delight.  You can drink these wines anytime.
One of SWMBO and my favourite producers is Clemens Busch in the Moselle.  His dry style bottlings are fabulous expressions of site, and the grey, blue and red slate soils are demonstrated clearly in his top wines.  But I’ve gone back to the future with Clemens Busch as well, as he has the old modern style wines made too.  My latest favourite sipper is the 2014 Clemens Busch Pundericher Marienburg Riesling Spatlese.  Like many of the 2014s, the wine has a firmness to it.  It still needs time to open up.  But as earlier vintages we’ve tasted, it surely will.  It already has gorgeous floral and citrus fruits, with distinct slatey minerality.  There’s great fruit extract, but crisp and tight acid to balance.  It just needs to show a little more honied richness, and then it will be gorgeous.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mature and Spicy

We love having the I-Spy Man around for dinner.  Sometimes he brings his young daughters.  I must admit we have an admiration for young people brought up well, as we are proud of our The Young One.  At a certain age, they have the maturity and confidence of an adult.  They have the subtlety of good humour, the gravitas of understanding the serious things in life, and often show a sense of spice at the right moment.  So it is with Hex-Bex, daughter of the I-Spy Man.  She has a lovely maturity, and is not yet in the prime of her life – but try telling her that!
It was a pleasure to share a bottle of Hex-Bex’s birth year.  The 1996 Martinborough Vineyard Martinborough Late Harvest Gewurztraminer was certainly fully mature.  But it was past its prime of life time, unlike Hex-Bex, but certainly still very enjoyable.  Deep golden orange colour.  Aromas and flavours of burnt honey, orange marmalade, barley sugar, caramel and toffee.  Lovely unctuousness, and now just beginning to dry a tad on the finish.  Did anyone detect any spice?  Maybe some ginger.  A decadent dessert wine, made from botrytised fruit, picked at 33.5 Brix, fermented to 11.0% alc. and 160 g/L RS.  Beerenauslese standard, and the last Gewurztraminer from this producer.  We were treated. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Flower for You

One of the best drinks to come our way was the Gonzalez Byass ‘Tio Pepe’ Fino En Rama Sherry.  SWMBO and I don’t drink a lot of Sherry, but when we do, we love it.  Sherry is the world’s forgotten great wine, and it’s a shame, because it offers so much diversity, interest, and pleasure, and truly is multi-faceted.  So when Gordy and Pia brought out this bottle, it brought a smile to our faces; it was like giving a bunch of flowers (which they did do, as well).
Essentially the ‘En Rama’ is Fino Sherry at its freshest and most pungent,  It’s bottled unfiltered and unclarified, and done so at the time when the flor is thickest.  It is Sherry at its most raw state, and strangely most delicate according to the makers, and they say it’s like drinking it directly from the cask.  For us, it was as they suggested the wine would be, but there was a density and good core to it.  Not really delicate, but with substance.  However, it retained stylishness, rather than elegance of finesse.  The pungent flor had a strong say, and yes, really pure in its expression.  At 15.0%  it’s a fine style of Sherry, but this is special with its depth of flavour and classiness.  This bottle from the eighth release, in 2017.       

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Taste of Terroir

I know few people who are as keen to taste something different and new all the time as Gordy.  What makes him special is that he approaches each such wine with an open mind and a ‘glass half full’ attitude.  Too often, we come to see wines with preconceptions, and when wine doesn’t match up, it’s so easy to denigrate the new and unusual wine.  Not so Gordy, but it’s terrible playing wine options with him.  The wines are often so way out that variety and place are hard to pick.
So it was with his bottle of 2012 Terroir al Limit ‘Pedro de Guix Priorat.  Whio could pick it was from a blend of Pedro Ximinez, Macabeo and Garnacha Blanc, from clay, alluvial and schist soil respectively.  I’m sure Priorat has all those soil types, but it’s not what it is best known for, as one thinks of volcanic black slate, also known as ‘llicorella’.  On top of that, it’s indigenous yeast fermented and aged in neutral oak.  The old vine character of plants 50-80 y.o. must come through.

SWMBO and I were totally bamboozled by it.  It had the taste of old world.  It was soft and amorphous , and lacked acid freshness.  But it had weight, mouthfeel and presence.  No identifiable fruit character came through, so I said Garnacha Blanc, and lo-and-behold, I was one-third correct! 

What both SWMBO and I picked up was oxidation.  Researching the wine, winemaker Dominik Huber says this wine is “oxidative”, so we were on the right track.  But after these points we had no inkling at all.  We were somewhat glad when the identity was revealed and its make-up discussed.  It is a wine of terroir, but one of many facets.  The oxidation receded as it received more aeration and our attention.  I think Gordy was a little pleased and hopefully impressed with the wine and our limited, but perceptive performance.     

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Here’s Something Honey

If pressed, SWMBO and I will admit our love in wine is for Riesling, especially German Riesling.  It’s that special balance of fruitiness with acidity and sugar.  Few other wine varieties come close.  Albarino is similar, but usually has more drive, and not quite the finesse and poise.  The other variety than springs to mind is Chenin Blanc; the fruitiness isn’t quite the same, and the acidity is more in charge.  However we have had examples as delicious as any Riesling in our experience.
So when Gordy and Pia were in town, we went to a lovely eatery with a specially curated wine list by a resident MW.  Gordy and Pia knew exactly what they wanted, and knew it would tickle our fancy,  It was the 2016 Mullineux ‘Kloof Street’ Chenin Blanc from Swartland in South Africa.  It’s not the Mullineux’s top tier by any means, but the wines are very accessible as this was.  Simply, it was deliciously honied, as Riesling can be, but had that white stonefruit and floral edge in flavour that Chenin Blanc has.  The acidity was poised but not cutting.  A treat to drink, and surprisingly dry technically at 3.4 g/L, but the fruit richness makes it exotic and rich.  It’s not Riesling, but close in many ways.  I must admit that it’s pushed my image of Chenin Blanc up a notch, especially at this affordable level.  I’ve always had respect for the sweeter Loire Chenins that are called ‘honey monsters’.  This Mullineux is a ‘honey child’.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Something to Crow About

Every once in a while you come across some spectacular wine.  In this case, I was totally bowled over by three 2013 Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay reds that come from Squawking Magpie.  Gavin Yortt’s the proprietor, and he was a pioneering grapegrower in the Gravels, o knows the properties of the district and the soils.  He has Jenny Dobson as his winemaker, who is one of the great winemakers and consultants in Hawke’s Bay, operating out of the Sacred Hill facilities.
A little while ago, I came across the Squawking Magpie ‘SQM’ reds from 2013.  They were very special, and quite spectacular in their own right.  I mistakenly though these were the best from Gavin in what he describes as a perfect vintage.  But I was wrong, as he has the Squawking Magpie ‘Platinum’ series of 2013 Gimblett Gravels Reds up his sleeve, and he’s just announced they are available.  There are only 300 bottles of each of a ‘Merlot’ with some Cabernet in the blend, a ‘Cabernets’ with some Malbec in the blend, and a 100% Syrah.
These are simply stunning.  On opening, all three were taut and brooding, or like coiled springs, just waiting to come out.  Even drinking them straight away, the pleasure is great, but the potential even greater.  If you leave the bottles, opened, with some of the wine taken out (SWMBO and drank it), they unfold and develop incredibly.  The Merlot becomes immensely earthy and tobacco flavoured with plums.  Great structure that means the wine will see out a decade with the complexity it already shows.  The Cabernets is my star.  Unrivalled linearity and wonderful varietal clarity, with enormous structure and potential.  Very refined, of course.  This has a couple of decades ahead of it.  Then the explosive Syrah with volume and layers of black fruits, spices and minerals.  Again wonderfully structured and 10-15 years easily.  We shared these, that 24 hour period later, with the Bassinet Babes, and they too were astounded.  The wines are not cheap, at $100.00 per bottle, but worth every bit of it.  These Magpies are something to Crow about.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sparkling Future

With the Sparkling Wine category expanding, we are seeing deluxe Champagne soar to new heights in pricing and designer packaging.  The backlash, of course is that wine consumers will pay what they can afford to pay, and the rise of local method wines to fill the gap is one of the outcomes.  The big winner around the world is Prosecco from Veneto in Italy.  And maybe Cava will join the ranks of increasing popularity if they can get their unique flavours to become more accepted.

However it’s Prosecco’s turn to take the limelight now.  Made from the Glera grape, which seems to thrive and produce the best balance and character around Treviso, the wine is made economically by the Charmat method with secondary fermentation in vat rather than in bottle, and the input of autolysis is not particularly desired.  The wine sits at 11.0% alc. and with the same figure on average for residual sugar.  I haven’t seen any vintage Prosecco here and the non-vintage concept makes it appear more uniform.  The wine is easy, affordable and not challenging.  Perfect for most occasions.  The future for Prosecco continues to be bright and sparkling.

But one must not be lulled into a false sense of security that all is good and even, for like all wines, they can vary, and distinctly so.  Some are drier, other sweeter.  Some have greater character and balance.  In essence, some are better than others.  This came through in a small tasting of four wines.  The NV Casa Bianca Prosecco Brut was soft, up-front with simple fruit flavours and a bit short.  But still pleasant.  The NV Divici Prosecco  was more taut and elegant, quite mouthwatering due to its phenolics.  A finer wine and a bit more classy by a slender margin.  I did like the NV Masottina Prosecco Brut which was more sweet-fruited with freshness, and lovely elegance and length.  The NV Sacchetto Prosecco Extra Dry was another good one for me, with more purity and lovely mouthwatering vibrancy.  All different and all offering something for all people.  You’ve just got to choose what works for you.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Little Gem

It’s ironic that being of Chinese descent, I have tried very few Chinese wines.  Sure there’s been enough liqueurs and spirits that have not been quite that clean or somewhat coarse, and then the flavours are as if they are from another planet.  Well, to be correct, they are from another country.
So with my background and history, it was a surprise to find the 2015 Gem Winery ‘2nd Ningxia Winemaker’s Challenge’ Cabernet Sauvignon a really delightful wine.  The wine is the result of a challenge, sponsored by the government.  60 winemakers from 23 countries were invited to make a Cabernet Sauvignon from a 3 ha block of fruit from a larger vineyard, situated in Ningxia, in the foothills of the Helan mountains between inner and outer Mongolia.  It’s Gobi Desert country.  The aim was to promote the region and exchange ideas and experience between all parties. 
This wine, from the 2015 Gem Winery was made by Leo Ricardez.  The owner of Gem Winery actually hadn’t built her winery yet, so she rented space at another.  10,000 bottles were made, 5,000 going to the winery, 3,000 to the organisers of the competition and 2,000 to the winemaker.  This wine is distinctly Cabernet Sauvignon with blackcurrants, cassis and a touch of leaf.  Plenty of body, rounded and accessible with softer tannins and integrated acidity.  As I said, a really nice drink.  A wee gem, actually.  
With the investment in wine in China by all sorts of groups and businesses, I will keep an open mind to what I see.  I know winemakers who spend time there, and report exciting things.  The global wine press is enthusiastic, positive and supportive.  There will be many more gems come to light in the future.        

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Left Hand-Right Hand, Left Brain-Right Brain

Paddy Borthwick, winemaker at Gladstone in the Wairarapa has created an interesting experiment.  He has a ‘left Hand’ and a ‘Right Hand’ Pinot Noir, the LH made by his (former) assistant winemaker, and the RH made by him.  Essentially the two wines come from the same stock, but personal selections of barrels, based on their personal differences.  Paddy considers Braden to have a logical and precise approach to life and winemaking, whereas he is more intuitive and impulsive.  The wines over several vintages have shown some consistencies.  The LH wines are indeed precise and tight, quite firm and linear.  The RH wines more flowing, ethereal, and perfumed.  There’s a more orderly nature to the LH wine, whereas the RH wine can be wider ranging.  Having just tasted the 2014 Paddy Borthwick ‘Left Hand’ and ‘Right Hand’ Wairarapa Pinot Noirs, there are conclusions to be made.  If there’s one thing to take from this, it is that winemaker signature is an important factor in wine.
Interestingly, the LH and RH wine styles and their reasons behind them are a little at odds to what is known or believed in.  LH people are deemed more artistic and emotive, whereas RH are more structured and orderly.  There is also the matter of the handedness and brain hemisphere swapped around, the Right brain working on emotions and the Left brain on cognitive process.  It’s all so confusing!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Above Ones Weight

There is a natural order in wine.  Some are better than others.  Most wine producers work to this, so that the best fruit and greatest care goes into the top label.  Those not quite to style or without the best qualities go into a second, or even third label.  If it can’t make the grade at all, it is sold off, or just dumped. 
However some wines just don’t behave, and often a second wine can punch above its weight.  We see this in wine judging competitions, where a secondary label gets the gold medal, and the premium wine is rated lower.  These good-performing wines just get the balance right and can be truly delicious.  They can be so pleasing, though not necessarily the most complex, so they must get a good medal and be recognised for its quality and style.
One such wine did it for SWMBO and I recently.  It was the 2016 Pencarrow Martinborough Pinot Noir.  Of course its bigger sibling, the Palliser Estate wine is bigger, richer, more structured, more complex and more ageworthy.  But the sweet fruitiness, richness, perfect extraction and freshness made the Pencarrow just simply adorable and irresistible to drink.  So we drank it!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pretty Pink and Pale

There is a current fad around the world to see the pretty and pale, but dry and thirst-quenching rosé wine of Provence and Southern France as the ultimate in the style.  If your rosé has a deeper or darker colour, and shows aromas and flavours of real fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate and quince, and they have a little lifted confectionary character, then the wine doesn’t fit in with what is trendy.  And that’s a shame, as for most consumer, myself included, I like a bit of diversity.  There are times and foods that work better with a rosé with more flavour and/or structure.  The key thing is that the wines are mouth-watering and thirst-quenching in the final analysis.  However, the current predisposition for pale and pink is strong, and one must be aware of what they entail and offer.  They do have  a range of personalities and quality, so one must still be careful in choosing the right one.

It was a treat to have four southern French rosé wine come my way.  They were authentic, but were not the most famous or esteemed.  But they delivered exactly as they should have.  Some a little more than other, and others a little less.  The 2016 Chemin des Sables Mediterranee Rosé was light in flavour, vibrant and fresh, but a little too phenolic and grippy for great balance.  But still, it did the job.  I was taken more by the 2016 Plaisir’osé Var Rosé, more fragrant and fruity, and with very good acidity and textural balance.  Maybe it’s my New World palate, but this modern style appealed to me the most.  Then can what I’d regard as the most ‘authentic’, showing the character and interest that Provencale rosé can deliver.  The 2016 Henri Gaillard Cotes de Provence Rosé had elegance and concentration, lovely freshness and fruit, but also with a touch of non-perfect complexity in flavour. This had interest.  Again, it might be my New World stereotyping playing its part.  And finally the 2016 J. L. Quinson Cotes de Provence Rosé, harmonious and delicate, maybe a little light in character, but in no way offering any offence.

These were all true-to-style, but quite amazingly so different – in a subtle way of course.  Diversity and variety is the spice of life, and our perspectives of rosé should encompass that too, beyond just pale, pretty and pink.   

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Natural Sweetie

If SWMBO and I were pushed to name our favourite wine style, it would be German Riesling.  We’ve been to the Mosel, and the wines from that region just hit the magic spot.  But since then, and over the years, we have come to realise and accept the many styles of German Riesling, and in particular the ‘return’ to the trocken style that is so good with food.  The Grosses Gewaches, the dry style from the greatest ‘nominated’ vineyards are indeed special, and they have become part of our love of the variety and its many expressions.
However, there’s a part of me and no doubt SWMBO that will always see the ‘fruit-sweet’ wines as the best.  Our memories of superlative Kabinett, Spatlesen, Auslesen and beyond will be indelible.  Yet it is incredible how even these wines can vary so much.  The wines of Martin Kerpen have delighted people around the world, and we can be counted among them.  I must admit, I see their sugar sweetness a little more prominent than the terroir.  But this is no bad thing, as there are times for some natural sweetness to shine.  Often these times are when Asian cuisine, with a little spice or heat come into play.  So we haven’t just been ‘seduced by the sugar’.  The 2015 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett is one such wine that makes an instant rapport.  Much of the initial impression is of sweetness and sugar.  But it all seems so natural, and is in total balance with the 9% alc. and the acidity.  Given a bit of time in the glass, the vineyard slate comes through.  Just enough to know that there’s something classical and serious there.  It’s bottle age that brings out terroir.  And that happens with the Kerpen wines.      

Saturday, July 29, 2017


It’s done all around the world where wine is grown and made, Vignerons make and bottle their different varieties and clones separately to see how they turn out and decide if blending and in what proportion to make a better wine.  The Bordelaise have done it as do growers of the Bordeaux varietals.  That’s how we know Cabernet Sauvignon is firmer, more acid and definitely blackcurrant when compared to the lighter, softer sweeter and rounder Merlot.  And Pinot Noir producers love to talk clones.  In New Zealand it’s the older 10/5 and Pommard 5 or more modern Dijon clones.  They all have their differences and are well-discussed.  It’s happening with Syrah here too.
But I don’t think there have been separate bottlings of Syrah clones made to be sold to the consumer to compare yet.  Until now.  Lauren Swift, the young and passionate winemaker at Ash Ridge in the Bridge Pa Triangle district of Hawke’s Bay was so keen to retain and show the individuality of the MS (Mass Select) or ‘Limmer’ or ‘Heritage’ clone of the variety to that of the ‘Chave’ clone they have growing at Ash Ridge.  Owner Chris Wilcock agreed to bottling a barrel each of the different clones for the comparison process and commercialise it.
Thus was born the 2014 Doppio MS Hawke’s Bay Syrah and Doppio Chave Hawke’s Bay Syrah.  Almost identically treated.  The MS more red fruits, fragrant, floral finer and more supple.  A deliciously approachable drop.  Then the Chave, darker, blacker colour and fruits, more firm and tannic.  One could say feminine to masculine.  The only little problem was the MS was in a new barrel, the Chave wine was in a one y.o. barrel, to make both more on par in accessibility together.  The scientist in me says the oaking should have been the same – say both in one y.o. barrels, for a true comparison.  On the surface, they are dopplegangers.  But in reality fraternal twins.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Power and Glory

Most Burgundy and Pinot Noir aficionados agree that the old and now un-PC description of ‘feminine’ is apt for the wines, especially when comparing them to the firmer and more powerful Bordeaux-variety wines.  Pinot Noir and Burgundy wines can indeed be beautifully ethereal and aromatic with their florality, and the palates delicate and velvety.  This is their sensuality that appeals to the soul rather than the mind.  Clarets can be majestic and of course appeal to the intellect.
However, the distinctions do get blurred.  Powerful Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanee and Pommard verge on the masculine side, and the wines of Margaux in Bordeaux can be hauntingly fragrant and perfumed.  In the New World, the overlap can be greater, and of course, much more acceptable.  Many of us thoroughly enjoy an elegant Merlot with finesse and suppleness, along with beautiful aromatics.  And likewise, there are Pinot Noirs which are bold, firm, structured and ageworthy.  These styles are in many instances decided by man, but site and vintage can also have a significant hand in how a wine will turn out.
A wine that could polarise wine folk would be the 2006 Martinborough Vineyard ‘Marie Zelie’ Martinborough Pinot Noir.  Most of the wines from 2003 to 2013 when released have certainly showed the elegant and beautiful side of Pinot Noir.  Old and mature vines from the Martinborough Terrace lend a firmness and core, with savoury complexity.  But the wines are always refined, and capture the beauty of variety and location.  The 2006 vintage is rather special to vignerons.  The wines that have resulted show richness, ripeness, opulence and structure.  A purist might say they have gone beyond the normal parameter of Pinot Noir expression.  But no, they retain the essence of what Pinot Noir is.  Finesse of floral detail at the heart.  The finest of tannins, that may have been quite firm at the outset.  But there’s no denying its power and glory.  A true product of vintage, variety and location.  Sumptuous and opulent, but big and accessible.  And the taste of maturing Pinot Noir, rather than any other variety.  What a great wine.     

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Real Dirt

The Mosel wines of Clemens Busch have become firm favourites in our household.  They are getting more expensive as other wine lovers cotton on to how good they are.  But SWMBO retains a little in the budget to purchase a few bottles when the time arises to replenish the cellar.

What’s so special about Clemens Busch is that while his more conventional ‘fruit-sweet’ wines are excellent, and often outstanding (we just love the Marienburg Spatlese Goldkapsel), the dry Trocken wines are even better.  At the top level are the GG wines which are expressive of either Grey, Red or Blue slate on which the vines are planted in the Pundericher Marienburg vineyard.  We enjoy all three expressions for their individuality, the red slate standing out a bit more for its richness.  But the blue and grey slate retail floraity and finesse.  And they shoe the real character of the dirt in which the vines have their roots.
We had the occasion to open the 2012 Clemens Busch Pundericher Marienburg Riesling GG ‘Fahrlay-Terrassen with Pedro, the most laid-back host in the world.  He hadn’t had much trocken Riesling or Clemens Busch for that it was a treat to treat him.  This is from 100 y.o. vines on blue slate terraces.  The 2012s are just starting to show their full potential now.  A beautifully clean, rich earthy-rich wine that just oozes liquid terroir.  Minerals galore, with Riesling florals and Mosel raciness.  But overall, this had depth and refined textures.  Stylish and fine, but so powerful and complete.  Honied richness with the sucking of wet-stones.  Each sip inviting one to sip even more.  Fantastic!

Friday, June 9, 2017


I make no secret of it that I think Craggy Range is one of New Zealand’s best wine producers.  Starting from scratch in the late 1990s, planting vines then making wines, Steve Smith MW was the driving force behind the incredible progress the wines and brand made both domestically and overseas.  The first releases were ‘statement’ wines, about as big and bold as you could make them.  They were almost Californian in showiness.  But they were balanced and tasty, and you knew they would last. 

The production of Craggy Range is geared towards the Merlot-based ‘Sophia’ first and foremost, though there are proponents for ‘Le Sol’ Syrah and maybe ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’ Chardonnay as the best wine.  The latter wine is in a hiatus, as the original vines, affected by virus, were grubbed up.  Make no mistake about it, the majority of the production of the ‘Prestige Collection’ wines is ‘Sophia’.  Remarkably it isn’t as expensive as the other reds in the ‘Collection’.

Nowadays, the style of ‘Sophia’ is much more refined.  It isn’t a little wine by any means, and it is still very serious, very structured, and built to last, while developing great layers of flavours and indeed complexities.  The 2015 has just been released, so I can’t speak to it as I haven’t tasted it.  There’s a bottle in my ‘wait box’ though.  But the 2014 and 2013 were stunningly refined and rich, but in no way showed excesses.  Just how far the style has been adjusted and refined can be seen if one tastes the earlier wines.  It just so happens that I’ve drunk the 2009 and the 2001 recently.
The 2009 Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ ‘Gimblett Gravels Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet came from a very warm and dry growing season.  The wines have generally turned out big, black, sweetly ripe and structured.  The wines had brightness and energy, and quite masculine.  The ‘Sophia’, though with a feminine name was exactly that on release.  It was a stunningly gorgeous and decadent wine, with great potential.  On this opening, it was still black-red in colour, near impenetrable, though the purple flush of youth had faded.  On nose and palate, the fruit was rich and sweetly ripe with dark plums, hints of liquorice, maybe a touch of currant and cassis, but in no way showing coolness.  What it did show surprisingly, was style and a sense of restraint.  Not quite refinement, but a composure and a nod toward possible elegance.  The tannins were considerable, but very ripe and fine-grained, and the acidity totally integrated.  Only the merest hint of some development emerged in the glass.  It was a glorious bottle to drink, and should have been decanted.  It you didn’t take a step back to appreciate it, you could have missed how it had become so stylish.
Then the 2001 Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ ‘Gimblett Gravels Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet.  This was the first release.  It was a true showpiece wine.  It was as bold and gutsy, and marked by as much new oak smells and tastes as the Syrah and Cabernet-based wine.  Steve Smith and his winemaking team held nothing back to make it impenetrable and black-purple in colour, totally nostril and mouthfilling, coasting all the senses with decadence and opulence.  It is a giant among giants.  On opening 15 years down the track, it was still impenetrable in colour.  Only on the edge or when the glass got lower could you see garnet and brick to the black.  Again, massively ripe-fruited with black plums, now going down the Dutch liquorice path.  Layers of black fruits unfolding earth and undergrowth, laced with cedary oak.  The palate just simply overwhelming in flavour, yet so drinkable.  Still plenty of tannin extraction and grip, but this too was ripe and fine, beginning to resolve.  This was sipping and meditation material, not gulping and gusto wine.  It was a monster then.  It still is a monster, but a loveable one.  We were truly monstered.   

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cool Dude

Our friend Cool Pete is a cool dude.  He looks the part and plays it so well too.  You’d think that such folk with a bit of pretension might lack the sensitivities to appreciate life to the full, but we know he is far more complicated than that, thinking about the finer things in life and supporting those in need when push comes to shove.  Cool Pete was a lunch and he dug out a wine that reflected his personality perfectly.
It was a 1995 Te Mata ‘Coleraine’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot.  Who knows how long he had had it in his cellar, but there it was, in pristine condition.  Immaculate label and unmarked in any significant way.  Pretty much as Cool Pete was this day.  On opening the colour was good garnet red, and the aromas everything you expected of an aged, but ripe enough Bordeaux blend.  Lovely soft blackcurrants and dried herbs, a touch of undergrowth and cedar, some oak too.  Then on palate, incredibly elegant and light on its feet, like Cool Pete.  The flavours showed the cooler climate, but without and herbaceous stalky or leafy notes.  Bottle-aged for sure, the secondary and tertiary flavours prominent.  Cool Pete is like that too.  He’s moving along, but never moved out!  The wine still fresh, though not quite vigorous, but lively and reasonably animated.  The tannins were still there, but essentially well on the path of resolution.  Cool Pete has mellowed too, over the years   
If there could be any criticism, it came from Cool Peter: it was a bit lacking in concentration – but heck, SWMBO and I own up to that all the time!  For those vinously minded, it was a lovely growing seasoned marred by rain at the end resulting in dilution.  Hawke’s Bay got away lightly.  Other parts of the country got washed out.  We ended up drinking the bottle easily.  It was one of those easy to get-on with bottles, with plenty to talk about.  Sounds a bit like Cool Pete.   

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Original

Your first friends are often your best and most enduring.  SWMBO and I arranged a lunch with one of our original friends, with others who figured in our wine lives at an early stage.  There’s always lots to talk about – times long gone and times to come.  The endearing part of getting together is that they all seem ageless.  It’s probably our image of these people at their peak, and that’s how we want to remember them, always.
We took along for the lunch the 1982 Wynns ‘John Riddoch’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.  This too was an original.  Although Wynns is steeped in history making the iconic ‘Black Label’ since the mid-1950s.  But it was timely they introduced the super premium ‘John Riddoch’ in 1982, made from the severest of selections.  The fruit showed much greater richness, concentration and depth, as well as lovely layers, including a whole heap more of new oak.  Many critics felt that the Coonawarra-ness was lost to winemaking artefact.  But those with faith could imagine what would happen with time.

Roll on 35 years, and we opened our bottle.  It was sensationally good.  It was very varietal with super ripe blackcurrants and cassis, without going into the blue fruit or raisiny spectrum.  And classical mintiness, the Coonawarra signature.  Lovely acid freshness, and just perfect tannin and structural balance keeping it all in line.  The oaking stood out a bit, but who doesn’t like a lick of expensive and exotic new oak?  All of the group, including some geeky winemakers enjoyed it.  The wine will continue to hold and maybe develop more detail and interest over the next 10+ years easily.  It’s always good to have the original than a copy.  You enjoy them just a whole lot more.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


Lovers of the zany will know of “Mini-Me” from Austin Powers.  He was a clone of Dr Evil, but one-eighth the size.  We often see similarities in our children, of course, and in positive and not so positive ways.  When it comes to wine, for most drinkers, it’s a matter of ‘the bigger the better’, and that smaller is certainly less.  But those with more experience will appreciate the toned-down nature and elegance that a smaller wine can bring. 
Corton-Charlemagne is one of the great white burgundies, grand cru no less.  It has majesty with its steeliness that is reminiscent of Chablis Grand Cru on a course of steroids.  Of course, a lesser version of Corton-Charlemagne will have deficiencies.  But the Egg-Man poured for us a 2009 Deux Montille Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru ‘Sous Fretille’.  This is from the sister and brother negociant firm and offshoot of the famous Domaine de Montille estate.  Pernand-Vergelesse is the village on the western foot of Corton-Charlemagne.  So it wasn’t a surprise this was a rather classy wine.  Softer, broader but lighter and more gentle than a Corton-Charlemagne, and clearly without the same nobility, it had a delicious accessibility.  The first sip to the last teased with its fruit and inputs, never putting a foot out of place.  A benign “Mini-Me”!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Aged and Sturdy

As people, we tend to grow more frail with age.  The same with most wines.  They mellow out and become smoother.  Sometimes their character intensifies, but generally, they are lighter and more background wines that beg to be approached and investigated.  Occasionally they get a bit decrepit and show some nasty or ‘off’ habits.  The way wines do this with extended bottle maturation invariably intrigues most drinkers.
Scotty put on his special annual dinner, and pulled out a few oldies.  One was a ‘1950s’ McDonald Tara-dale Hawke’s Bay Cabernet.  Made by the legendary Tom McDonald, considered to be the father of modern red wine in Hawke’s Bay and indeed New Zealand.  Without a vintage date on the bottle, it was conjecture as to the actual vintage, but Scotty’s experience and collection of older wines indicated that this was the correct period.  On pouring, it had lost much of its colour, now quite pale.  On bouquet, green and leafy notes, along with berryfruit and a whack of aldehydes.  But no oxidation or grubbiness.  The alcohol behind the aromas came through with some force.  On palate a dry wine, the alcohol the driving force and structure behind it.  Some green curranty fruit still there, but faded in the glass.  Fortified wine-like notes remained, with the alcohol bite, and aldehyde plus rancio hints.  Though the varietal character had faded, the wine remained sturdy.  They built the wines like that on them old days.  Plenty of maceration and extraction, and not being afraid of a bit of alcohol to bolster it all up.  What an interesting wine to taste indeed. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Blowing it Better

Oxygen is touted the enemy of wine, its prolonged contact leading to oxidation and ruination.  But as with all things, a modicum of moderation has a better result.  This is no better illustrated by freshly released and youthful wines, especially aromatic whites.  A healthy dose of sulphur does all the protecting, and sure enough, with a bit of time, it disappears, getting blown away, or absorbed into the character and complexity of the wine.  The technocrats will tell you about free sulphur and bound sulphur, the latter never going, and only getting worse.
We has The Young One and Jo-Lo for dinner, and decided to serve the 2015 Ansgar Clusserath Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Spatlese.  Sure enough, on opening, it was a bit hard to appreciate the goodness, with an overlay of sulphur hiding the fruit.  I suppose some would call it minerality to a degree, but that’s being fanciful.  But as with many young German Rieslings, they tend to get better as the sulphur blows off with aeration.  In the glass, the poise and precision of cool site Mosel came through, and lovely notes of white florals, with true slate and minerals.  The palate softened up a degree, leaving zesty, pin-point acidity to counter the growing sweetness and richness.  By the time it all came together, shock-horror, the bottle was finished.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Triple Martinborough Pinot Noir Treat

The Martinborough Vineyard label is one of the oldest and most respected in the Wairarapa.  In our young industry, the Pinot Noir vines planted by the founders in 1980 count as being old.  And as these vines have matured, now well into their third decade, they give increasingly better fruit, partly because the yields will never be excessive, and the balance and health of the vines with the vineyard.  However, the brand suffered with declining market share exacerbated by the GFC.  It’s a common story to many producers around the world.  However, Foley Family Wines came charging in and took over the operation in 2014.  Bill Foley is a shrewd business man, knowing when to pick something good up, and here, he got a gem.  Martinborough Vineyards is smaller for sure, but better for it.
It was a treat to try the three latest Pinot Noirs from Martinborough Vineyard, the three at different tiers, aimed for different markets.  All three were from excellent vintages.  The first, the 2015 Martinborough Vineyard ‘Te Tera’ Martinborough Pinot Noir was dark with ripe, fleshy, succulently sweet fruit, showing dark berries and plums.  The flavours very up-front and backed by fine, supple tannins.  This was instantly mouthfilling and gave immediate pleasure.  The wine had no gaps in its presentation.  I could see this as a crowd-pleaser, and a wine show winner.  Made from vines up to 20 y.o.  Then came the 2014 Martinborough Vineyard ‘Home Block’ Martinborough Pinot Noir.  Less obviously fruity and more restrained in expression, but then with more layers of interest and savoury complexities.  Some dried herb, earth, maybe some cluster.  Seemingly light initially, the flavours grew in richness and depth.  And then very fine-grained tannins which also grew in presence.  Not a solid wine, but certainly more feminine.  And a classic expression of Martinborough with its savouriness and grip.  The third was the rare 2013 Martinborough Vineyard ‘Marie Zelie’ ‘Reserve’ Martinborough Pinot Noir.  About 100 dozen made.  A selection of five best barrels.  Noticeably lighter and a tad more garnet hued in colour.  This had the most beguiling and ethereal bouquet of a combination of savoury red fruits, lifted florals and complexing dried herb, undergrowth, game and cedar.  All the wine, the tannins extremely refined and providing that line of support.  Beautifully balanced acidity.  I made a mental note: “Musigny-like”.  This wine isn’t cheap, with a nominal retail price of $225.00.  So it’s a collectors’ item, or one for wine club members to band together to buy to taste.  Anyone buying any of these three is in for a treat.   

Friday, April 28, 2017

Turbo Chick Wine

The Turbo Chicks are really supercharged.  Everything they do id high powered, but in the nicest way.  They are gorgeous girls who once are your friends, they are so for life.  It was at a dinner at the Knotters that they yet again demonstrated their generosity.  We all contributed very smart wines, but theirs was something special; something they’d held onto to share with their dearest friends.
The wine too was turbo-charged, just as the girls are.  They’d had the 1997 Penfolds ‘Grange’ in their cellar for some time.  It was a gift from one of the girl’s brothers, who had now passed away, making the bottle even more dear to their hearts.  Out it poured – black-red, impenetrable, but with some garnet showing to prove it’s age.  It was no pup.  Then a voluminous and densely packed nose.  Loads of ripe blackberry fruits with game and earth, with savoury secondary layers.  Still plenty of vigour and no sign of being anywhere near maturity let alone past it.  On palate, the same masses of ripe flavours of sweet blackberries, plums liquorice, earth, game then a whack of oak, but also a rusticity to show it had character as was not all polish.  This was a down-to-earth wine, like the Turbo Chicks.  It could only be Grange, with the size and robustness.  The 1998 Grange we had recently, though slightly corked, had a sense of refinement and class.  A great bottle of the 1998 would have taken one to new heady, sensorial heights.  But this 1997 was one for the soul and the guts.  And because it was so, it was very honest.  Like the Turbo Chicks.