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.