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.