Saturday, December 29, 2018

Some Pale in Comparison

Rosé Champagne can be a strange breed.  The diversity of styles is mind-boggling, and often one is left pondering if a bottling or glass in front of you is true and valid.  The more expensive deluxe cuvees can vary considerably, and if anything can be even more difficult to understand.

The Prince very generously brought along for consumption a rosé that baffled him in style.  Immediately he voiced his concerns about the style.  I tend to be quite open and accepting of the varied styles.  Sure I have seen a broad range of them, but I know that if I had “no problem” with it stylistically, we’d all get to drink it sooner, and without the need to analyse it to pieces!  Rather self-serving approach, don’t you say?
The wine in question, the 2006 Taittinger ‘Comtes de Champagne’ Champagne RoséThis style is a relative rarity, the Blanc de Blancs generally more popular, with its fine white floral and citrus fruit flavours, refined acidity and intensity, and stylishness.  The ‘Comtes de Champagne’ Chardonnay could hardly be represented better.  But the ‘Comtes Rosé’ is a different beast again.  It’s more about the Pinot Noir showcasing itself and what pink brings.  On colour, this is deep and positively peach-pink, rather than what appears to be the more fashionable pale and delicate pink.  There’s a touch of age showing too.  The bouquet and palate features fruitiness, with savoury strawberries and an amalgam of ripe red berries.  The fruit is prominent and actually allows sweetness to take over from the savouriness.  The bready-yeasty autolysis is very much in a support role and quite discreet.  The mouthfeel has lusciousness, with the red wine addition extremely harmonious, and the tannins beautifully integrated.  In a way, this is a sparkling wine more as a red than a rosé!  It sits at that end of the spectrum of expression, and is truly delicious.  The more recent rosé Champagnes – SWMBO and I have enjoyed, I must state, have been pale in style in comparison.       

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Chateau d’Yquem 2004 and 1998

It was the most pleasant of surprises when SWMBO and I were contacted through mutual friends by The Nadister if we’d like to share in drinking two bottles of Chateau d’Yquem.  It took a nano-second to think about it and reply ‘Yes!’  It wasn’t going to be a super-serious tasting, but 6 friends getting together, tasting and drinking the wines, with some appropriate food, and at place, because we had a fairly large table.  Even the glassware was supplied –Riedel Sommelier Sauternes stemware!  In these circumstances, a table is an easy one to share.

The Nadister has a collection of Yquems, but he chose two, from either side of the change of ownership from the Lur Saluces family, and LVMH, his theory being that the wines under the previous ownership were richer, weightier and more complex.  My theory was that the newer wines were more refined and elegant, thus better, and that they would develop the richness and complexities as seen in the older wines with some more bottle-age.  Clearly we need to do more research on this…
The two Yquems were from good but not necessarily outstanding vintages.  The 2004 Ch. d’Yquem Sauternes comes from one of my favourite drinking Sauternes vintages.  It’s not the richest or most intense or ageworthy year.  But is fresh, elegant, youthful and delightful, and delicious wines have come from it.  I’ve been lucky to have tasted the 2004 Yquem several times, and this bottle was brilliant, earning my praise as the other bottles that have come my way.  Light golden yellow colour, this was redolent of waxy, lanolin Semillon fruit first and foremost, still with primary notes, though nearly one and a half decades old.  Then a subtle marmalade and honied botrytis layer, with supporting oak.  Elegance and freshness of mouthfeel, but still with opulence and decadence.  You could tell it has plenty of time ahead, and it will develop those more complex flavours.  Everything about this is finesse.  If you want to be critical, it was a smaller-scale wine, but that’s harsh indeed. 

Then the 1998 Ch. d’Yquem Sauternes from a year where the harvest was split into two sessions by a period of rain.  Plenty of botrytis infection resulted.  This was darker in colour, golden yellow with a hint of orange.  Darker aromas and flavours with tropical fruits, crystallised fruits, honey, nectar and orange marmalade with the beginnings of barley sugar, toffee and a touch of caramel.  Lovely concentration and depth, more so than the 2004, and with a degree of power and linearity, and the softening of mouthfeel, but allowing greater opulence and richness show.  My previous experiences with the 1998 haven’t left the best impressions, especially with the 1997 next to it being brilliant, but this bottle was a glorious, altogether wine.  Not magical as one from a great year, but telling you it’s close to it.

The juxtaposition of the two years was instructive indeed.  Both extremely good to drink, and yet so different.  The Nadister is also a thinker.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Michael Begat Michael

The Chairman had made a special trip to visit us, and with him, he brought a number of vinous treasures, from his cellar, not ‘long left’ in our case, but one that has regular withdrawals, so that nothing gets too old.  (Well, that’s the official line.)

A little while ago, we had opened up a bottle of the very first Wynns ‘John Riddoch’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon – from the 1982 vintage, and it was glorious, in great condition, showing both strong varietal character and structure, with the benefits of bottle-age bringing secondary and tertiary expression
So it was a treat for The Chairman to bring and open the first Wynns ‘Michael’ Coonawarra Hemitage – from the 1990 vintage.  This is a wine I remember well on release; from a great vintage with ripeness, and destined for a long life ahead of it.  It was inspired by the then one-off 1955 Michael Shiraz which had extraordinary personality, some of which supposedly came from the barrels that previously housed fortified wine.
On this showing, the 1990 Wynns ‘Michael’ Coonawarra Hermitage was remarkably refined, still with a dark-red colour and some garnet hues, but near impenetrable.  SWMBO and I thought it was going to be a bit of a monster, but no, it had perfume and fragrance, showing black cherry and berry fruit with that classic mint and herb notes that speaks of Coonawarra.  Don’t get me wrong, it was rich and succulently sweet in fruitiness, and tempered with very fine-grained tannin structure.  The acidity was perfect in balance and gave vitality to the wine.  Subtle secondary and tertiary dried herb and earth, maybe a little game too, and just a hint of TCA that came in and out of perception – so that gave a little cause for concern, but in all practicality din nothing to stop us drinking and enjoying it.  It was a beautifully elegant and deliciously sweet-fruited and refined wine.
The Chairman’s name is Michael, who begat this Michael Hermitage for us to share.  Thank you!      

Friday, December 21, 2018

Lafite, Latour and Mouton 1982

These iconic wines have been in the ‘long left cellar’ for nearly three and a half decades, and in that time I’ve wondered about when to broach them and who to share them with.  It has been a nagging problem at the back of my mind all that time, but it has also been a source of delight thinking and planning the possible solutions.

The wines are truly iconic.  Thirty years ago, first-growth Bordeaux reds were the epitome of the wine world.  Sure there was, and still is great Burgundy and Rhone, and the special wines Piedmont and Tuscany; great Californian reds were not quite there yet.  But across the whole world, claret took centre stage.  In this country where we are cooler-climate Pinot Noir-centric, and to a lesser degree enamoured with Syrah, the Bordeaux-variety Blended Reds seem to have taken a knock-back.  But those with a global perspective will know the reality that Bordeaux still rules the roost.  Just go to any true English wine merchant or trader in the U.S., or in any part of Asia.  And look what heads the list at any reputable auction house – anywhere on the planet.

These are the big three – Lafite-Rothschild, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild.  These still command the greatest respect and prices (allowing for bizarre anomalies – does this include Petrus?) They are the first growths of Pauillac.  The other first-growths Haut-Brion in the Graves, and Margaux in Margaux are equally revered, but the tight-knit grouping of the three Pauillacs make them a unique trio.  It wasn’t always this way; it was Lafite and Latour, with Mouton joining them by legal decree only in 1973. 

The wines are all the quintessential left bank Bordeaux reds.  Consistently over decades, the character has been the same, and reflect their geographical and geological position in the appellation, the cepage, and philosophy of winemaking and style, including tradition.  In short, the Lafite-Rothschild is the most elegant.  In blind tastings with the other two, it often is overlooked by those newer to the wines.  But it always develops well in the glass to reveal a complex myriad of flavour detail, with perfect structure to match.  Clearly Cabernet Sauvignon-based, but Merlot has its say.  The Latour can be a stupendous monolithic expression of Cabernet Sauvignon purity and intensity.  The drive and line is really unmatched by others.  Yet it has the most wonderful sense of style and class.  It usually is the longest-lived.  Then Mouton-Rothschild, vigorously promoted to its proper place to first-growth by Baron Philippe.  Mouton is the most opulent and exotic, and also features the richness that Cabernet Sauvignon is capable of.  It has the attributes that draw drinkers to its array of decadence.

And then the vintage.  In the context of years around 1982, 1975 was the last classic year.  Then the hot 1976.  1977 was a disaster – cool and wet.  But 1978 was miracle year, saved by a classic Indian Summer,  Most 1978s are elegant but have been beautiful.  1979 was another excellent year, maybe a bitmore soft and forward than ideal.  1980 was a lean, green year, pretty in its youth only.  1981 was an elegant, correct vintage.  Then 1992, deemed too hot – the wines were sweet and fleshy, and the U’K. experts said they’d develop quickly.  1983 was a hot and very dry year, with ripe fruit and not enough freshness. 1984 a cool year that people tried to talk up.  Then finally, the lovely pairing of 1985, more balanced and proportioned, and 1986, the superb wines with the hard core that would take a long time to show their best.  It took American Robert Parker to recognise the greatness of 1982.  This vintage of claret made his reputation, which stands today.  Begrudgingly, the Brits came around to his perception.  The 1982s remain among the great vintages to date.

So with life at the crossroads, SWMBO  and I decided to open the bottles.  It was at Nessie’s pre-Christmas dinner, and we had a number of special guests, including The Chairman.  Around a dozen of us all up.  The perfect number to share a bottle for a good taste.  There were the usual fears.  Would the corks come out well – they did.  Will there be any wines corked – no.  Would any show brettanomyces – no.  Thank goodness, they were all go.  How did they look and drink.  We took the usual serving order as the way to do it.
On  first impression, all were dark-coloured still.  They all smelt of the same ilk.  The similarities stronger than the differences.  Classical blackcurrants and black fruits, with a touch of secondary and tertiary development.  Concentrated, deep and dense, and clearly complex detailed.  Then they began to separate into their individual identities.  The 1982 Ch. Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac was the most elegant.  Fantastical in its array of aromatics and flavours.  Black fruits with softer redder fruits.  Beautiful nuances of herb and earth with pencilly oak.  Refine and perfectly judged tannins.  It was a complete experience.  Then the 1982 Ch. Latour Pauillac.  The most intense and penetratingly linear wine of the three.  Cassis and blackcurrant heaven.  Bright and sweet fruit with a tad more acid and tannin structure.  Absolutely no coarseness, just class and breed.  Beautifilly handled pencilly oak again.  And followed up by the 1982 Ch. Mouton-Rothchild Pauillac.  For me the most divisive.  This had the most primary expression, still sweetly ripe, yes, opulent, blackcurrant and cassis flavours.  The richness of this wine had it all over the other two.  But the tannin extraction and structure the least refined.  Again, not course, but still needing time to resolve.  Votes for the best were pretty much evenly split, though my choice was for the Lafite.

It was a special moment in time in my tasting and drinking experience, as it was for all the other dinner guests.  We possibly could have made more of the occasion, but this occasion was more than memorable, and made it a stand-out.  Of course we couldn’t add others to the dinner list and share the bottles with more people.  But the line has to be drawn – on when to open them and who is going to be there.  Then don’t look back.  

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Barolo Bingo

The Chairman decided to bring a Barolo to the annual fine dinner, but wondered if it would be the only Piedmont wine, as Burgundy rules at the Nessie’s household.  He needed not to have worried as most Pinot Noir fans are also Nebbiolo fans too.  His wine, a 2011 vintage was match by another 2011 Barolo – bingo!
The two Barolos were a contrast in style.  The Chairman’s 2011 Vietti ‘Castiglione Falletto’ Barolo was a study in the modern style, fruit from a number of vineyards, and the wine aged 24 months in cask, whereas the 2011 Cavallotto ‘Riserva Bricco Bochis’ Barolo was a hark back to tradition, a single vineyard wine, aged 4-5 years in Slavonian oak botti.  The Vietti was about elegance, bright and fresh fruit, and a spring in its step, whereas the Cavallotto had depth and breadth, and a brooding disposition.  Yet in some ways, the wines were more similar than dissimilar.  Surprisingly, the tannins were tame, and both wines were quite accessible and enjoyable now.  Most of us who have tried a selection of Barolo are aware of how fiercely the extraction can be, and such wines need time to mellow.  The fruit characters were in the same camp – dark red and black fruits, a touch of oak in the Vietti, or so it seemed, with the more savoury big format flavours in the Cavallotto, but not worlds apart as modern and traditional could be.  Lovely rich fruit, more savoury and spicy than floral and faded roses.  Both exhibited very fine-grained tannins, and the Vietti a tad more acidity, but then the Cavallotto more density and blacker fruit.

These were both delicious and when a vote was asked for a favourite, it was pretty even, with maybe one or two of the dozen drinkers giving the nod to the Vietti.  My vote went to tradition.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Unfair Advantage

The proceedings for dinner had been concluded.  All the sparkling wines and most of the still whites finished off.  The Nessie invited us to sit down at the dinner table.  JK and his helpers had put the red wines into flights, as you do for a ‘serious’ wine night.  It is a difficult thing to do sometimes, as it all depends on what people bring along to contribute.  Unless there is a degree of co-ordination in the planning, the wines turning up can be pretty diverse.  If you plan too much, you lose spontaneity.  And different wines have different weight of meaning to the owner.  One that might seem ‘ordinary’ to one person could be another’s pride and joy.
So the first pairing were Pinot Noirs.  The 2006 Wooing Tree Central Otago Pinot Noir alongside a 2010 Rousseau Mazy-Chambertin Grand Cru.  “Not fair!” you may cry out, but that’s what was there.  The Wooing Tree was dark hearted and brooding, still, after so much time.  It had a dense core of ripe black fruits, with dark herbs and minerals.  Maybe a touch of thyme too.  Big on the palate, the tannins just beginning to resolve.  It still made a statement.  Maybe it knew what it was up against. The burgundy from a grand cru site, from an impeccably great year, from one of the best produces.  The words here were ‘aromatic finesse’.  This has never been Rousseau’s biggest, boldest, most striking, exotic or greatest appellation, and it’s easy to dismiss its lightness when comparing it to Chambertin. ‘Clos de Beze’ or ‘Clos St Jacques’.  But those with a bit of experience love its cool fragrance and beauty, and refined tannin structure.  So it was with this 2010, great florality, and dear I say it some confectionary lift – from whole, uncrushed berry fermentation.  Then nuances of herbs and an array of red fruits.  Yes, this is Mazy-Chambertin class.  An unfair advantage to the burgundy – yes, but the Kiwi wine was not disgraced.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Blanc Melange

It is always interesting when wine lovers get together and bring bottles to share over dinner.  Somehow the red wines tend to get grouped together into instructive flights.  And of course bubblies tend to get served first – but in no real particular order.  In a way it doesn’t matter with the sparklings, whether one is Chardonnay-based or Pinot Noir based, and even vintages, as long as they’re not decades apart, can be served in any order.  And strangely, the still white table wines tend to get treated that way too, but they really do deserve being put into order and instructive flights.  Sometimes that is difficult, because the divergence between them all is a bit too much to handle.
So it was at the Loch Ness’s house dinner.  Three whites of particular pedigree appeared, and it would have been difficult to group them together.  There was a logical order, nevertheless.  And’d here’s my take on it.  First would be the 2014 Ch. Reynon Bordeaux Blanc.  This is the brainchild of Denis Dubordieu, the vinous whizz of Bordeaux.  16.5 ha of the 21 ha is devoted to Sauvignon Blanc and a little Semillon, the rest to red.  The wine is fruit focussed but sees barrel-aging.  Tasting it, the flavours of green stonefruits and herbs, along with softer fruits come through, along with a layering of oak.  Some people don’t see the oak as a major component, but I tend to.  There’s freshness here, but also richness as though there’s barrel-ferment.  In any circumstances, it’s delightfully refreshing with its richness, and showing an array of fruits.  Delicious!

Then I’d have the 2015 Wittmann Westhofen Morstein GG Riesling Trocken.  A Rheinhessen at 13.0% alc. and a reputation to burn. This delivered in spades, with its rich and weighty palate with a broad spectrum of savoury citrus fruits and minerals.  Very fine nuances of earth, florals and honey just add layers of complexity.  It may have the Rheinhessen softness, but there’s plenty of subtle acidity.  The weight and fruit extract of this really is quite amazing.  After the precision of Clemens Busch, the richness of Wittmann makes this label my second favourite in the dry German stakes.  And no doubt for SWMBO.  There were some startled palates at dinner, who had never tried Wittmann before.  A revelation then, for them.
And to cap off the whites, an oldie, but super-goodie: a 1994 Leasingham Classic Clare Rhine Riesling.  A cool year in the Clare Valley makes the style closer to the Eden Valley for me.  The back label says enjoy over the next 3 years.  Well, this was 24 y.o.,  Bright lemon-gold, this was concentrated and creamy, with gorgeous honied and floral-citrus flavours.  Incredibly, no oxidation.  Being very critical, it could be perceived to be a tad drying out.  I had no problem with that.  Certainly past the tertiary stage and into beauty and lift rather than earthy and decrepit.  A wine from the Bush-Blocker.  How may more treasures like this does he have?

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Medley of Bubbly

‘Tis the season to be jolly.  And what makes the season jollier is sparkling wine.  It started off innocuously, but built up to a crescendo over the early evening before leading into the still whites and reds.  It’s a natural progression.
First port of call was with A-Prentice and a lovely rosé Champagne shared with friends.  A bottle doesn’t last long, especially when the contents are delicious.  The Chairman was responsible for the 2009 Moet & Chandon ‘Grand Vintage’ Rosé Champagne.  A surprisingly strong orange-peach-pink colour, with gorgeously integrated aromas and flavours of red fruits and florals with the most subtle bready autolysis.  Absolutely spotless without any aldehydes which can be complexing, are also a sign of funkiness and development in a degradation way.  Soft and smooth but under it all a thread of freshness that gave a piquant lift to make this beautifully poised.
Then around to the dinner venue.  As soon as we arrived, there was a glass of NV Perrier-Jouet Champagne ‘Grand Brut’.  Best known for its elegance and freshness of house style, this delivered it perfectly.  Bright and pale an colour, with up-front and near-forceful aromas of fresh flotal, apple and citrus fruits, the autolysis was fresh and brioche-like.  The mouthfeel refreshingly zesty and mouth-watering.  The finest phenolics, but all in great balance.  Another bottle that didn’t last long.
The Lazza has as his bottle, one of his favourites, the NV Taittinger Champagne ‘Folies de la Marquetterie’ a Chardonnay-dominant (what else could it be with Taittinger?) single vineyard wine.  Not quite as fresh and zesty on nose and palate, maybe a little more subdued.  But then a greater packed core and density.  This has a concentration and gravitas that took the wine to another level.  Yes a step up.  This wine never fails to deliver the transition from accessible elegance to a depth and detailed complexing hinted wine.  A bridging wine at its best.
Then finally something home-grown from the Big-O, a 2010 Seresin ‘Moana' Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle Rosé.  The Big-O had a hand in the making of this wine. 76% Pinot Noir and 24% Chardonnay, with 3 years on lees, and no dosage.  More faded in colour, but undeniable presence and a rounded and packed core with subtle layers of flavours of yellow stonefruits and red florals.  This tastes richer than ‘no dosage’ showing the fruit quality.  The autolysis quite integrated, and the acidity softened.  A detailed and quite achiever, and one that delivered the goods, making one want to try more wine and more food.
What a lovely progression of wines to start the evening…      

Friday, December 14, 2018

Real Orange Wine

In these contemporary times we are seeing the popularity of ‘orange’ wines, made by skin contact, usually longer than is normal in ‘conventional’ vinification.  One extracts greater colour, usually orange, of course, but also there is increased phenolic extraction, which heads towards the edge of acceptability in hardness and bitterness.  The best winemakers judge this well, and the wines can be fabulous to drink, and they can be better wines with food.  But many can’t get the balance and the wines can be horrible to drink, and sometimes harbour faults from the minimal use of any intervention.  I’m introducing another subject here, altogether, but you get the point of more extreme or ‘natural’ winemaking, I’m making.
We had a treat as delivered for dinner by Mo the Political Gal this evening – a true ‘orange’ wine.  The 2001 Dirler Alsace Riesling ‘Belzbrunnen’ was a fully-aged and mature example.  The colour was deep orange with golden hues.  The bouquet was all about citrus (orange) fruit and mead like honey.  It had gone past the toast and kero tertiary stage and showed complex hints of nuttiness, but no real oxidation.  Then on palate, lusciously off-dry to taste.  The Mentor and SWMBO suggested botrytis, but I didn’t find it musky.  It was fully-developed fruit flavours knife-edge between citrus and nuts.  Beautifully soft, rounded and luscious, with no drying out at all.  The wine got richer with time in the glass.  A conventional wine turned orange, and naturally over the course of time from bottle-age.  Maybe this is the way to do it?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Familiarity and Never Contempt

The saying is that “familiarity breeds contempt” but SWMBO and I can’t understand that when it comes to the gorgeous Mosel wines of Clemens Busch.  We’ve tended to have our favourites, the GG dry Rieslings showing the grey, blue and red slate of the Pundericher Marienberg site, our favourite being the Red Slate ‘Rothenpfad’ bottling, the vines ungrafted, from  only 1 ha, and aged around 85 y.o.  The other favourite is the fruit-sweet Spatlese Gold Kap which is closer to an Auslese.  SWMBO and I could sip on these until the cows came home and went to bed!
We were happy to receive the I-Spy Man, especially as he cooks us a meal.   Tonight it was chicken with a mild curry sauce on a bead of rice with other accompaniments to make it all a ‘complete' meal.  The 2015 Clemens Busch Pundericher Marienberg Riesling GG ‘Rothenpfad’ was duly chilled and served, just ahead of the food, so we could appreciate its finer nuances.  And nuances aplenty it had.  A magical combination of ethereal exotic florals and a full array of richer spicy, earthy flavours.  All the while, clearly Riesling with its finesse and acid structure, but also the soils being laced with iron, giving the spice.  The juxtaposition always flowing one way, then the other.  The wine held your attention, and respect.  How could one find contempt here?  Then as with time in glass, extremely rich and sating, but remaining refreshingly poised.  Glorious wine, with beauty and gravitas. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Asking the Asking Price

When the ever-reliable and premium Hawke’s Bay wine producer Mills Reef (winery based in Tauranga) announced the release of their new super-icon range called ‘Arthur Edmund’, at a retail price of $350.00 per bottle, I was shocked.  Up until now, the super-premium ‘Elspeth’ range of wines were priced at $50.00 per bottle.  I was so surprised that I dialled up the general manager of the company to ask about the asking price for the new wines, which he instantly understood from my tone that I didn’t approve.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been shocked, or even mildly surprised.  SWMBO and I often taste and drink wines that cost far more than this.  And often older wines which you can’t put a value on in reality.  And we have opened these wines willingly, or shared them when opened by others, acknowledging their cost with barely a nod – but then, all parties are aware of the cost of the bottle – but we don’t make too much of a deal about it. 

In explaining Mills Reef’s situation, he pointed out that these were the very best wines they could make.  A project starting in the vineyard a decade ago, identifying the best vines, from the best rows from the best plants in the best sites in the Gimblett Gravels.  Then the once-in-a-lifetime 2013 Hawke’s Bay came along.  It was the right time to make their ultra-Cabernet/Merlot blend and Syrah wines.  Of course, the lowest yields, the most sensitive handling, careful monitoring, minimal movement, but good time in 100% new oak, because the fruity was so rich.

Then came the truth.  The ‘Elspeth’ wines – next tier down now – like many other New Zealand wines of the same standard had proven themselves to sit comfortably among the very best Bordeaux and Rhone wines, and with comparable wines from other countries in many, many ‘blind’ tastings around the world, as judged by the best professionals.  And these wines often were 10-20 times the price!  There are a number of other New Zealand reds that ask the high price, if not more than the $350.00 per bottle here.  The best New Zealand wines are seriously undervalued in a global perspective.  And it takes a few bold producers to remind the consumer this is the case, and set the higher standard.  Of course, in setting the standard, one must not make these wines become luxury goods and commodities.  They are still wines to be drunk and enjoyed.
What did they taste like?  The 2013 Mills Reef ‘Arthur Edmund’ Gimblett Gravels Cabernet/Merlot – was black as black with a beautifully sweet and rich, ripe core of black fruits.  No over-ripeness, but perfectly judged picking.  Superbly refined tannins, and plenty of them, and great acid vitality.  Seamless in other ways, and great sustained finish.  Not a foot out of place, and 15-20 years ahead of it if required, though I’d drink it at 10 years.  And the 2013 Mills Reef ‘Arthur Edmund’ Gimblett Gravels Syrah.  Black-red, and super luscious and layers of sweet, ripe black and dark-red fruits, with exotic spices and florals, and black pepper.  Again, wonderful tannin structure, but the fruit sweetness ameliorating the textures to a lusciousness.  Deceptively easy to drink, say 10-15 years plus.  But I’d start about 6-7 years on.  Both wines unveiling the classical ‘iron-earth’ character in the glass and next day.  These wines show place, time, and the sensitive hand of men.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Not Pinot Noir As We Know It

A few months ago, the Good Doctor showed SWMBO and I a German Pinot Noir from Chat Sauvage in the Rheingau.  A quality focussed, but new producer who has Burgundy as the model, planting Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) in some famous sites.  The wine was the 2012 Lorcher Schlossberg Pinot Noir 2012.  It was a revelation in that it was still youthful and sweetly rich, but showed complexing nuances that fine Burgundy can attain.  We were impressed.
So in our next order, we thought we’d try the 2013 Chat Sauvage Assmannhausen Hollenberg Pinot Noir, from a village and site that’s pretty highly rated and with Chat Sauvage’s oldest plantings sited there.  We had The Grove Men in town visiting, so it seemed the ideal time to open it.  Well, it was a different beast altogether.  Much younger and dis-jointed in componentry, the fruit somewhat raw and yet to settle.  The tannin and acid stood out.  It was not really a pleasant drink on opening.  Suddenly, our impressions of German Pinot Noir were not what they had built up to be.  The goal posts had changed.  But time seems to fix most things, and a couple of hours down the track came the tell-tale red berry fruit and floral aromas and flavours.  Yes Pinot Noir, but different again from the model.  SWMBO and I struggled through the bottle, not really caring for it, But by two days later, it was deep and sweet, the tannins and acid had become part of the whole.  It was impressive wine too.  The Good Doctor knows his vinous medicines.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


One of our favourite Mosel winegrowers is Clemens Busch, who from his holdings in the Pundericher Marienberg vineyard makes a stunning selection of wines that show off the differences between Grey, Red and Blue slate.  SWMBO and I tend to prefer the GG ‘Rothenpfad’ bottling for its richer and more exotic character.

But we are so focussed on these top-end wines that we often forget that Clemens Busch also makes a good number of the more ‘fruit-sweet’ pradikat wines. Our favourite of these is of course the ‘Gold Kap’ Spatlese, which really borders on Auslese in style.  However, the Punk Doctor had available some of the regular Kabinett – which we had not tried before.  So our order included a couple of bottles to see how they fared.
We had a lovely visit with the Grove Men, so that was an occasion to open the 2017 Clemens Busch Pundericher Marienberg Riesling Kabinett.  A lowly and deliciously accessible 7.5% alc., this had a nose that showed a bit too much sulphur – not in a bad way, but in a J.J. Prum way that you know it would blow off or integrate – in this case, a couple of hours would help.  But rich and sweetly luscious on the palate.  Lovely fruitiness with honey and slatey mineral flavours.  Subtle phenolic textures which really combined with the sugar to make it smooth and seamless, plus that piquant acidity.  Sure, the sulphur was there, but it was only a part of the wine.  We all drank it with a smile.  They say familiarity breeds contempt.  Not here.     

Friday, November 23, 2018

Sold into Slavery

Most of us believe that slavery was a problem of the past, but the reality is that there are 25 to over 48 million humans (depending on your sources) trafficked into slavery in these modern times.  That works out about a person become a slave every 27 seconds.  There are agencies that rescue these people, but the survivors need assistance.  They need counselling, education and the teaching of a trade, as well as legal assistance to testify against the perpetrators.

Pete and Alanna Chapman of the family that own the Terrace Edge vineyard in North Canterbury have decided to do something positive about the issue with their own brand of ingenuity and the resources they have – grapes – to make good wine.  So they set up ’27 Seconds’ a wine selection from which 100% of the profits go to the slavery survivors.  In undertaking this project, Pete and Alanna were stunned by the assistance and generosity of the wine industry. The grapes, picking, winemaking, screwcaps, label design and production and marketing was donated or at least heavily discounted.
Most of the fruit came from the Terrace Edge family vineyard and the winemaking was at the Muddy Water facility.  The second release of 27 Seconds wines comprises a dry Rosé 2018 with savoury strawberry and quince flavours on a mouthwatering palate, a taut and slender, but intense passionfruity and gooseberry fruited Sauvignon Blanc 2018, plus a red cherry-berry and nutty-oaked Pinot Noir 2017 with very fine structure.  I rate them all 4-stars, and know they’re a good drink.  You can help the cause by buying them from 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

All that Glitters

One of the most stunning presentations I have come across for a wine is that of the new Number 1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee Adele’ Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle 2013.  The wine was first made with the 2009 vintage and released in 2012 to celebrate Adele Le Brun’s 60th birthday.  The wine bottle was dark, near black-green in colour and encrusted with Swarovski crystals, flowing around a capital letter ‘A’.  The effect was magical, glittering  and classy.

For the 2013 vintage release, the Le Bruns have gone one further.  The bottle with the encrusted crystals ar the same as with the 2009, but the wine comes in a black cardboard-based box.  When you open the box, a set of nine small lights located out of view at the top of the box comes on, illuminating the crystals.  Simply stunning and amazing.
And what is the wine like?  It’s a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, spending 3 years on lees.  As you might guess, it’s very Blanc de Blancs with white stonefruts and florals, and purity of bready-yeasty flavours.  No aldehydic complexities, just finesse and elegance.  Very feminine, of course, and very much like Adele Le Brun.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Homage to Harmony

It’s the most natural thing to say that the biggest, boldest and most flavoursome wine is best.  Power is sought-after, and lightness somewhat frowned upon as being weak and sub-standard.  And there’s some truth to this, as the wines with the most impact have been made from the most flavoursome and ripest grapes, had as much goodness taken out of the berries and turned into wine.  Then these wines may have the most inputs to match the fruit intensity and extract.  Such wines sometimes deserve to be put on a pedestal – and revered.  But also along with it is the fact that these wines are made to be shared among many people, as a small glass will suffice.  A large glass can be a bit of work to finish, and a bottle may need to be consumed over the course of more than one day.

Of course, lighter and lesser wines are easier to drink.  There is less challenge, as the flavours are less forceful and mouthfilling.  The structure is undemanding, and there’s nothing to hinder you drinking it easily.  Hang-on here….it sounds like the latter approach is the way to enjoy drinking a wine?  Mind you, weak wine doesn’t satisfy the palate and senses.  So it must be in the middle.  The best wines have great flavour and structure, are full of character, but smooth and easy enough to enjoy without hindrance.  To get to that point is not easy….it takes a master winegrower to judge that balance to make such a wine.
And the 2016 Trinity ‘Homage’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah is one such wine,  Beautifully easy to sip and drink.  The range of aromas and flavours are perfect expressions of the grape and place – and of vintage.  The wine is satisfying and almost sating, but requiring another glass to check.  A full array of detail to draw you one way, then another, and all this accumulating to make something greater than its parts (that’s my psychology training).  There is beauty and true harmony.  A great wine for the soul indeed.  Wondrous enough to evoke a tear of pleasure!

The wine has a story.  Inspired by Gerard Jaboulet of the Rhone and his ‘La Chapelle’ Hermitage, Trinity Hill’s founding winemaker John Hancock created this wine firstly in 2002 as a tribute to Gerard who passed away at the too-young age of 55 years.  Made from the MS Syrah clone which traces its history back to James Busby, plus vines from cuttings that Gerard gave to John as a gift.  Picked at perfect ripeness to show fruit and elegance.  Enough subtle inputs such as whole bunch and oaking to add layers of interest.  And super judgement of extraction and barrel-aging.  John Handcock, Warren Gibson, Damian Fischer and team have made the most delicious wine.  It isn’t the most powerful or striking ‘Homage’, but it’s the most drinkable and enjoyable.  What could be more perfect than that?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fine and Funky

Tastes change.  And yet they don’t.  Mainstream Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has edged its way from green and grassy – what the Brits adored in the 1980s – to something riper, often with passionfruit, more textured and detailed, with richness and length being desirable, and without the searing acidity.  The lesser examples of the Loire were the benchmarks for the early Marlborough models, and we in New Zealand could achieve it easily, as we hadn’t learned about pushing ripeness, crop loading and balance.

But in the Loire there were those who took Sauvignon Blanc very seriously.  Who can frRget Didier Dageneau with his bottlings with oak and lees inputs, higher concentration and length.  These cost a bomb to buy and try, but they were revelations to sophistication and minerality, as well as expressions of terroir.

In a way, nothing has changed as we have the likes of James Healy and Ivan Sutherland of Dog Point in the Southern Valley district of Marlborough.  What they have done, as exampled by the 2016 Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc may seem novel, ground-breaking and the direction forward for Marlborough to go, if the region is to show that it is more than a one-trick pony.  But what they’ve done is realise the like of Dageneau had the right approach for complexity and expression.  Fruit ripened to the perfect place, barrel-fermentation with solids by indigenous yeasts, and lees contact galore.  To those more used to mainstream, these are firm, taut, funk anf gunflinty.  Nothing like what Sauvignon should be.  To those with a broader palate experience, you have detail, finesse, intricacy, funky layers of complexity adding to the fruit.  Minerality for sure, and who knows, expression of place?      

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Preserving Poise

There’s a clear definition between the higher altitude, cooler Eden Valley hills and the warmer Barossa Valley floor, the former producing more elegant and aromatic wines with intensity and freshness – suited to white varieties, and the latter producing full, rich weighty wines with breadth and depth – suited to red wines especially.  And that’s generally the case with the wines that come from the ‘Barossa’ appellation.

There are a number of producers who accentuated the differences between the two sub-regions, rather than homogenise the two by blending.  Earlier this year, I came across the 2016 Sons of Eden ‘Eurus’ Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon which went the other way and pushed the ripeness limits of the Eden Valley fruit such that it was not showing the classic blackcurrant and cassis fruit, but more the blackberry and boysenberry fruit.  A magnificent wine it was, but atypical.
Thorn-Clarke is one of those grower-producers who celebrate and seek to express the differences of the two sub-regions.  They have a tier called ‘Eden Trail’ which has Eden Valley-fruited wine only with no Barossa Valley fruit involved.  The classic wine representing Eden Valley from Thorn-Clarke would have to be the 2018 Thorn-Clarke ‘Eden Trail’ Eden Valley Riesling.  Beautifully pristine but with an array of fragrances of florals and citrus fruits – quite exotic, but all the while maintaining great acidity.  The acidity is very soft, but clearly low pH with its beautiful textures to get such freshness and electricity.  But they’ve had to work to preserving the poise in their 2017 Thorn-Clarke ‘Eden Trail’ Eden Valley Chardonnay.  From a naturally cooler growing season, the vintage has given an advantage on freshness and slightly elevated acidity.  But the winemaking team fermented part in barrel and part in tank to add to the fresh and steely nature of the wine.  Don’t worry, it’s still full-on Chardonnay, with nutty and toasty oak.  The creamy barrel-ferment is perfectly cut by the acidity.  They’ve preserved the Eden Valley poise here.  A great wine with grilled and roasted seafood, I reckon.  

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Big Bottle Glory

The Real Mr Parker put on an extravaganza from his wine collecting years that number well into three decades.  And SWMBO and I were privileged to be invited.  It was a vertical tasting of Chapoutier’s ‘Le Pavillon’ Ermitage, from 2013 way back to Michel and Marc Chapoutier’s 1989 inaugural release.  I’ve noted about this event elsewhere, and my picks of the range were the   refined and still vital 1991, the rich and poised 2010 and the vigorous 2005.

But there was one bottle that stood out for all the right reasons, but eclipsed by the three vintages mentioned above.  That was the 1990 Chapoutier ‘Le Pavillon’ Ermitage in a 1.5 Litre magnum bottle.  I think I still have one of these tucked away in the depths of the cellar, so it was fascinating to try Mr Parker’s bottle before broaching mine.  The vintage 1990 was one of a great trio in the Northern Rhone, of 1989, 1990 and 1991.  And each year had its advocates.  The fact that Chapoutier bottled the 1990 in magnum suggests they thought that vintage special.
When it came time to tasting this wine, we had had the benefit of trying all the latter years, so we were accustomed to the style and progression.  ‘Le Pavillon’ is not your ‘normal’ Hermitage.  Coming from select parcels of ‘Les Bessards’, it is in the riper, more savoury and structured style.  It isn’t primary floral and peppery, and the aromatics emerge with bottle-age, along with layers of undergrowth and earthy complexity.  Yet behind it all is an opulence that its sibling ‘L’Ermite’ that some rate higher doesn’t have.
This bottle showed full mature garnet colour with brick – but it still had depth.  The bouquet was the glory of the wine.  Voluminous and layered, near ethereal with its detail, but with a depth and heart that just contributed more interest with aeration.  There were lovely tertiary development complexities, and still with fruit to show.  But there were some savoury, decrepit nuances you’d expect, giving a more complete picture.  On palate, still sweet and luscious, and wonderfully integrated, but the fruitiness, secondary and tertiary notes, plus tannin and acid still obvious and with time to come together further.  It’s drinking at its maturity plateau now, but there’s no hurry for another decade.  Than you Mr Parker.  

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Little Ripper

Most of us strive to drink the best we can under our circumstances.  Some wine lovers subscribe to the practice of buying and drinking slightly more that we can really afford to!  Both SWMBO and I are guilty of it.  Sometimes you’ve just got to indulge yourselves.  But occasionally, something just pops up to take that monetary pressure off – a really delicious wine that is very affordable.  We go to our local wine merchants to get such bargains, as it’s their job and joy finding such gems.

One such vinous wonder came in front of us just recently.  The 2018 Yalumba ‘Y Series’’ South Australia Viognier.  Now this was a wonder variety over the past few years, but has lost popularity, maybe because Chardonnay has come back, and there’s a plethora of new and innovative varieties coming on the scene.  The variety nearly became extinct after WW2, but it got revived by a handful of far-sighted growers in Condrieu – gotta love those Guigal people!  The Aussies have picked up on the style of Viognier too, with Yalumba at the fore, and they may have the southern hemisphere’s largest plantings and output.  They make a super pure but complex-aging top cuvee ‘The Virgilius’.  Then they have the ‘Eden Valley’ tier, with a contemporary ‘Organic’ Viognier.  The most accessible one in price is their ‘Y Series’.  In N.Z. it sells at an unbelievable $16.95.
The wine is super fresh, crisp and pure.  Clear-cut varietal expression with exotic stonefruits and florals, and on the palate unusually brisk, refreshing acidity, but also the tell-tale richness and hint of unctuousness.  It isn’t going to be complex or sophisticated by any means, but this is just so delicious drinking.  It’s a little ripper.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Full House

The high profile Craggy Range winery in Hawke’s Bay has its ‘Prestige Collection’ as its flagship.  The wines were first launched with the 2001 vintage at the winery opening, and they were sensational at the time.  The range consisted of the ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’ Chardonnay, ‘Le Sol’ Syrah, ‘Sophia’ Merlot-based blend and ‘The Quarry’ Cabernet Sauvignon predominant wine – all from their Gimblett Gravels vineyards.  If you needed to make a statement of your arrival on the scene, this was the way to do it.  Then later came the ‘Aroha’ Pinot Noir from the company’s vineyards in Te Muna Road in Martinborough, the first being the 2006 vintage.

For several years, this diverse selection of wines was released as a group, and they were looked forward to every year by keen enthusiasts.  But viticulture and vintages being what they are, there’s always a fly in the ointment.  The Chardonnay vines were virussed, necessitating them being pulled up.  So no ’Les Beaux Cailloux’ from 2011.  Also, the growing seasons weren’t hot enough for a number of years, so no The Quarry since 2011.  There was no ‘Aroha’ in 2010.  The ‘Prestige Collection’ looked a bit skimpy’ from then, but true wine lovers knew it was to protect the brand, as well as the consumer.
Come this year, and the 2016 vintages of the ‘Prestige Collection’, and we have a full house!  And the wines are delicious.  The overall style is of greater elegance, something that Craggy Range have wanted to achieve after the blockbusters of the past.  Vintage 2016 had a hand to play too, especially with the Gimblett Gravels wines.  A very cool and wet start to the growing season worried growers – would the fruit get ripe?  Then a super hot autumn meant the ripeness caught up.  I can’t help that think the cooler start have given these wines elegance.  The 2016 ‘Les Beaux Cailloux’ Chardonnay Gimblett Gravels is a concentrated wine, more in thenutty stonefruit spectrum, rather than sweet or gunflinty.  The 2016 ‘Le Sol’ Syrah Gimblett Gravels is a beauty with exotic spices and freshness.  The 2016 ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels is dense and rich plums, classical Merlot, showing oak inputs.  And the 2016 ‘The Quarry’ Gimblett Gravels has clarity of Cabernet Sauvignon fruit with wonderful intensity.

2016 was an outstanding, even growing season in Martinborough, and the 2016 ‘Aroha’ Te Muna Road Martinborough Pinot Noir reflects this with its ripeness, and more importantly its completeness in the way it is constructed and how it flows across the palate. Overall, this is a great release and worthy of the excitement around it.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Going Wild

One of most trusted commercial brands on the shelves is ‘Stoneleigh’ from Marlborough.  Life started out around three decades ago when it was a premium brand for Corbans Wines, Stoneleigh being a special iteration of the Rapaura district, which yielded Sauvignon Blanc with the classic punchy passionfruity thiol character.  The Stoneleigh range grew to incorporate other varieties, of which Riesling was my favourite.  A big change came with the purchase of Corbans by its major competitor Montana in 2000, but the Stoneleigh label was retained due to its strength.  That continues today, with Stoneleigh as a special Marlborough brand, still showcasing the Rapaura style.

Over time, the variations of Stoneleigh wine have grown to fill the niches in the market, with the introduction of Pinot Gris and Rosé, and even Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.  There is a low-alcohol tier, then the more up-market ‘Latitude’ and ‘Rapaura Series’ levels, the latter being the flagship.  One thing that long-time winemaker Jamie Marfell, heading the team since 2002 has done is ensure that the wines are of very high quality and style to guarantee commercial viability.  There is nothing out of place.  Until he introduced Stoneleigh ‘Wild Valley’ – wines made with indigenous yeast fermentation.  In commercial terms, this is risk taking.  In quality and character, one is getting closer to the soil and thus terroir.  This was in 2015 with a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir, followed by a Chardonnay in 2016, the vintage being 2015.  These wines were noted by the critics, but not ‘wildly’ taken up by the consumer.
That should change with the release this year of the 2018 Stoneleigh ‘Wild Valley’ Marlborough Rosé and 2018 Stoneleigh ‘Wild Valley’ Marlborough Pinot Gris.  I think Jamie Marfell decided to step it up a big bit by increasing the depth and richness of fruit character and the weight of the wines.  The Rosé bursts with aromatic fruit but remains mouthwatering.  The Pinot Gris has lovely weight and presence of exotic flavours.  However both have that thread of funkiness and hint of smoke that wild yeasts give.  There’s no corruption, but real detail and interest.  And this from a ‘commercial’ wine!  Here’s a case of risky winemaking coming mainstream!   

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dark Forces

Where does the best Pinot Noir come from?  The wine world would agree that it is the Cote d’Or, or Burgundy in France.  Of course the French don’t talk about the variety.  It’s the place or terroir.  But with a wider interpretation, you could say that Oregon, New Zealand, California and Australia are also contenders.  There is a dark force, recognised by a few that know there is somewhere else, with great potential – Germany.

Spatbugunder, has only been taken seriously as capable of making fine German wine in a few specific locations, notably the Ahr, or Baden, with the Pfalz  or Rheinhessen as the best areas.  But there are around 12,000 ha of Pinot Noir planted in Germany, the third most in the world.  But how things change.  Climate change, and adventurous and serious growers who see the quality of top Burgundy have made for a number of wonderful bottlings that would surprise the most hardened Burgundy-phile.  There can be complex, barrel-aged, Spatburgunders that have the potential to age and show their terroir.  Sounds familiar?
The Good Doctor visited us one night for dinner.  He brought with him a 2012 Chat Sauvage Lorcher Schlossberg Spatburgunder.  He had visited this specialist domaine based in the Rheingau, and came back filled with awe.  The contents of the bottle showed SWMBO and I why.  Some bottle age complexity meant this was not a youthful showcase, and that it had settled into itself.  The range of fruit and savoury flavours was wonderfully broad and complex.  There was mouthfeel, texture and vinosity.  There was a harmony and complete feel to the wine.  We knew it had provenance, but one that we didn’t see the context of yet.  This opened up a totally new dimension to explore.  Who would know what dark forces might reside there?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Tine - No Time

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that I am a fan of the Donnhoff wines from the Nahe in Germany.  Some subscribe to the thought that the Nahe wines are similar to those of the Mosel.  Then there are others who say that they share a lot in common with Rheingau wines.  To tell the truth I’m a fence sitter.  They are their own style, and I’m sure that those who grow and make Nahe wine would say the same, as they would appreciate the subtle differences more so that outsiders.

The Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett has long been a regular staple at our household, SWMBO and I just whipping out a bottle whenever a guest turns up.  Invariably, it’s delicious with its fresh florals and limes, soft acidity and gorgeous balance.  You don’t need to wait for it to come right or settle down.  It’s ready for drinking straight away, but it’ll develop well for several years.  That was just the case with yet another bottle of the 2016 Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett.  All our guests loved this wine.  It needs ‘No Time’ to cellar.
But it’s a different kettle of fish with the Donnhoff Spatlesen and Auslesen wine.  These are somewhat rarer, and definitely more expensive.  Quite a bit more that you might expect.  I’ve had some glorious examples of the Spatlese especially, but with some bottle age.  One can get caught out with the high sulphur levels – which help the tine age – just as at J.J. Prum.  The 2014 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hernannshohle Riesling Spatlese was just that, lots of free sulphur, maybe a touch of bound sulphur too.  The fruit deliciousness was there, with that extra richness – but no, the sulphur got in the way.  A bit of air time helped.  But not enough for me.  The next day SWMBO proclaimed it free, but not for me.  It’s a wine that needs ‘Tiime’ to cellar.  I’ll try not to make the same mistake again. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Expressions of Exoticism

The range of sweet wines is enormous as is their diversity.  From gentle late harvest to full-blown botrytised wines; then there’s the factor of style, from variety, place, balance and other inputs such as maturation with wood or even controlled flor-yeast effects, as in Takay.
SWMBO and I invited The Normal Man and I-Spy Man together, for pre-loading, as we were heading out to a wine and food matched dinner with Ch. d’Yquem (that’s another story).  We had the choice of many different wines, from bubbly to gently sweet.  But we opted for full-on exoticism and decadence.
The 2015 Millton Vineyard ‘Clos Samuel’ Gisborne ‘Special Berry Selection’ Viognier was what we happily settled on.  The wine comes from a section of the Te Arai vineyard, near the river, where the fruit is prone to botrytis infection.   And in 2015, the Viognier, left out there, got infected in a big way.  James Millton instructed the pickers to select berries properly affected and dried.  The wine is thus technically a Trockenbeerenauslese, but in typical deprecating fashion, he’d rather say it’s closer to a Beeerenauslese.
No matter, the wine was gloriouslu decadent and opulent.   Light orange colour, and with the subtle aromas and flavours of apricots and tropical fruits, with an overlay of orange marmalade, unfolding caramel and toffee.  Unctuous on the palate, but with enough acidity for cut – just.  And just enough alcohol for power, drive and line.  Just a glorious exotic wine to sip on.  It flowed easily, and indeed it did gum up our palates a little.  But then the stickiness cleared.  When we looked back at this wine and compared it to the five vintages of Yquem, it wasn’t out of place.

Sunday, August 26, 2018


I always seem to feel a wine ‘shines’ when it is of excellent quality.  Others talk about a wine ‘singing’ and I can understand that too.  But ‘shine’ indicates a lustre in the appearance and a brightness of aromatics, then a sweetness or richness in taste.  It is a descriptor that works well for me.
The latest wine to ‘shine’ for me was the 2014 Paritua ’21.12’ Hawke’s Bay.  This is the flagship red from this producer in Maraekakaho Road, south-west of Hastings in Hawke’s Bay.  It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wine with plenty of Merlot and some Cabernet Franc.  It’s made from the best fruit that the vineyard yields, and then winemaker Jason Stent works through all the ferments, and I suspect does the most rigorous of barrel selections.  Black-red with youthful purple hues, the Cabernet Sauvignon shows, but with gorgeous aromatic ripeness.  There’s no herbs here, but there is definitely cassis.  Than then that lifted exotic and new oak adding to the aromatic decadence.  The palate does the same – expressing rich, perfectly ripened black fruits – no over-ripeness, succulent and sweet, the considerable structure, all fine grained, then the new oak lift.  This is brilliant and truly shines.