Sunday, December 30, 2007

Working too much and drinking too little

Or is that the other way around?

No, unfortunately despite the festive season being upon us and all and sundry throwing their credit cards to the wind and drinking up a storm I've had too little time away from work to really join in. There have been a couple of celebratory days where there was certainly drinking, but nothing distinguished.

I've managed to fit in some slurps of various lovely wines along thge way and I've read a great book called "the perfect glass of wine" by Ben Canaider. But all of this has somehow left very little time time for supposing anything of my own on the matter.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Aged reds from the Hawkes Bay

The rant on Malborough Sauvignon Blanc is going to have to wait as, with Christmas creeping up, our guests have started peering into the higher reaches of our wine list giving me a chance to taste some interesting aged wines from New Zealand's preeminent region for Bordeaux style reds.

Esk Valley The Terraces 1995
This wine was quite inky and thick in the glass with a hint of purple to the hue, very gradually lightening at the rim. The colour can probably be attributed to the high percentage of Malbec in the blend, which was 35% in 1995 (with 45% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc making up the rest). It had a lovely rich nose of plum and prune (but not in a bad, oxidised way but rather the unctuous softness of prunes) with an underlying sense of something floral. There was a sensation of sweetness at the front of the palate, perhaps cinnamon, and all those lovely soft fruit flavours from the nose, fine tannins and a warm earthiness. This is a sexy, supple wine and the softness belies a good strucure. A lovely vinatge still with so much to offer.

Te Awa Boundary 1998
This was a disappointment even from the colour in the glass which was showing obvious signs of oxidation in a pinkish brown brick, badly thinning at the rim. The nose was exhibiting "prune but in a bad way" that is the polar opposite of the richness of The Terraces. There was still a little fruit on the nose but what was detactable underneath the prune was very light, tending towards redcurrants and a suggestion of citrus and clove. After a sip the wine seemed to re-group itself and presented its best side with a little chocolate and cedar at the front as the Cabernet came through but after this it fell away ending with slightly bitter red fruits. Unfortunately this was a great example of a good wine past its best. Tired.

The next wine made me wince. There was a touch of the Vidal Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 left in the decanter giving us the chance to try another wine from the hugely applauded 1998 vintage from the Hawke's Bay. But even from the nose it was obviously corked. Overpoweringly musty wet blanket and dank with no discernable fruit flavour showing through. I wasn't brave enough to try it although Rich did (and immediately spat it out). The horror (and the desire to find something redeeming in the wine) stemmed from the fact that a table of four Americans had 'enjoyed it' over dinner and there is definite cringe factor in the Sommelier not picking up the musty smell as he decanted it. A real shame also the guests who were unfamiliar with New Zealand wine were given such a bad experience.

On a slightly different note but touching on the 1998 vintage from the Hawke's Bay again. I've had a couple of opportunities to try the Te Mata Coleraine 1998 recently and just wanted to throw my two cents in the ring. I've no doubt that New Zealand Bordeaux style blends have the ability to age (not all NZ wines are drink-me-now fruit bombs), and the 1995 Terraces is ample proof of this, but on last tasting the Coleraine 1998 I was struck at how disjointed the wine still appears. It presents quite grippy tannins and somehow there is a hole in the middle of the Cabernet that the Merlot is failing to fill up. It's possible that the wine is still closed and we are still waiting for it to blossom, it's certainly dense enough. Ah well, just a thought.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A rant (perhaps) on Sauvignon Blanc

I'm in a quandry about Sauvignon Blanc. In New Zealand we'll try growing almost anything but we're most famous for Marlborough "cat's pee on a gooseberry bush" Sauvignon Blanc. It's a style that polarises international critics and writers and it's not a syle that I can consistently love. I've fallen for NZ sav again though. It's hard not to despite it's awkward, brash swaggering fruit rubbing me up the wrong way when I profess to love elegance and austerity.....

One of my wine hero's is Hugh Johnson and I've been slightly tainted by his dislike of NZ Sauvignon and it's too obvious charms. Too much like a tart in a boudoir, displaying her charms and practically leaping out of the glass for attention. But then it's hard to feel that this is all NZ has to offer on the international stage despite its predominance in wine media literature.

This idea needs more work and more mulling time and I've got to go earna crust so more on this later

Friday, December 21, 2007

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Six Fingers Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is a new label from Babich and apart from that I know little of its provenance. It's good. Fresh and flinty on the nose with a little bit of wildflower thrown in somewhere and a garden-fesh, steely palate. It puts me in mind of having a little soap box about New Zealand Sauvignon as a style. And I think I shall.... After dinner

After dinner came and went and rants will have to wait till tomorrow

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Affable wine

I realise that there has been a rather frantic surge of postings here at the outset but it's new and fun so understandable I guess.

We went shoping today for a case of interesting cheapies. Mostly to stave off repeats of last nights debarcle but also as we were feeling the pinch resulting from a lack of free wine. Usually in the hospitality game there are enough reps flogging their wares to ensure and almost constant supply of "tasting" bottles but the new job here in (almost) rural NZ has diminished that flow to less than a trickle.

We were limiting ourselves to sub-$20 bottles with the proviso that they be interesting or fun or both. First out of the case tonight was the Ti Point Viognier 2007. It's Hawkes Bay fruit despite the winery being in Matakana. Whilst Rich was declaring pears as it's primary aspect I was getting an almost creme fraiche and orange blassom nose and picking up the partial barrel ferment in a smoky mineral character. The palate unfolds with apricot and creamy yoghurt bearing out the nose and although the concentration isn't huge it's pleasant and eminantly drinkable (what wine do I not find drinkable is the problem/question). Only criticism is that the wine presents slightly hot with the lack of concentration not supporting the 13.5% alcohol.

I love the story behind this vineyard. Having three generations of women involved in making wines seems right somehow and a feminine aspect is really apparent in their red wines. I've been seduced by the backstory but I definitely like what's in the bottle too.....

In the end just had to write an adendum for this wine. Despite purporting to be food friendly the lack of concentration had it struggling with pumpkin and onion mash and roasted carrots. I've usually felt pretty safe matching viognier with root veg and was surpised that the Ti Point couldn't handle their roasty, oily sweetness... Ah well... good quaffer

A re-think on "bog standard" wine

I feel like I've been unduely unfair to Villa Maria's "bog standard" wine. The Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2007 whilst being inexpensive is still offering up some classic Sauvignon traits of steely green capsicum and kalamansi lime. It's not lolly water with only 3 grams residual sugar, infact it's somewhat austere (but in a good way). That's an official apology. I like Villa Maria and what they stand for and I shouldn't bag them for appearing in the supermarket....

Horrible rain, supermarket wine and wondering why

I realise that nobody changes the world by writing a wine blog. And planning your next post whilst scrubbing the bathroom sink... well....

Starting out it's hard to decide if you:-
a) begin with the parameters already drawn. i.e. I know why I want to write all this down, I've got reasons etc etc

or do you:-
b) make the process transparent, showing a gradual understanding of ideology. That is, I'm not sure what I'm adding the discourse or if I've got an especially good palate or if I write well enough etc etc.

And/ But does all that detract from the wine part of the blog.

Then again, what exactly do you write about when you're scoffing (excellent) Indian takeout and swigging Villa Maria's bog standard Sauvignon Blanc 2007.

We had started the evening with every intention of a nice glass of wine and had found ourselves heading out to the rainswept port where the bars live. After huddling inside all day getting out seemed necessary and nights off call for wine. Provedore, a local bistro, has a passable list. Short but with enough interest to keep the wine adventurer happy. Given our financial retrictions we were choosing from the entry level but felt happy with the Esk Valley Verdelho 2007.

Unfortunately it arrived sub-zero cold so there was no nose to speak of but the palate had a pleasant weight to it and as it slowly warmed up started to reveal lemon meringue and crystalised ginger. I'm not sure if this is the only Verdelho grown in New Zealand but if so it's a shame as it is a very moreish wine. I've had other vintages that were a little hot but the 2007 is 13.5% so avoids this with more than enough persistent juicy melon and passionfruit to balance the alcohol. Rich and I had an enjoyable hour sipping this and eating olives but the evening went downhill from here.

We were trying avoid the supermarket and the bland offerings in their aisles but found, after visits to other booze retailers, that whilst the Hawke's Bay might be wine country it is not wine shop country. And I resent having to pay over the odds for uninteresting wine. Plus, as already stated we're in tight financial straits at the moment.... All roads last night seemed to lead to the supermarket where you can count on loss leader prices for the consistentcy of Villa Maria's basic wines. All this has us proclaiming the need (yet again) for a cellar to mitigate against occasions like this..... over very good Indian curry with the rain howling....

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Alan McCorkindale Cuvee Rose and streaky glasses

Another slow night at the coal face gave me a chance to sip a little whilst polishing glasses. Last night there was about half a bottle of Alan McCorkindale Cuvee Rose 2002 looking for a glass. It's a lovely delicate pink in the glass and the nose is clean with a fresh fruitiness. All the mouthwatering acidity of strawberries on the palate, without the candyfloss element that destroys the refreshing-ness of rose, and a nice firm kind of creaminess coming from the autolysis. Lovely. I'd give some more technical description if I had any but I don't know much about this local bubbles and this was the first time I had come across it.

After work. The Elephant Hill Viognier 2007. Less than half a bottle so I hogged it and made Rich drink beer. Another delicate wine. I've had this before after we got given a bottle to try when we visited the building site that's going to become their winery. I have a feeling that this wine has won an award recently and it's certainly a nice example of the varietal, although it lacks the pungent, florid vinosity of Condrieu or Yalumba's Virgilius. Strangely it puts me in mind of the Cable Bay Gewurtraminer with an almost chalky muscat note. Like pink smoker lollies. But other Viognier traits are in there too. Soft white flowers and apricot on the nose and the palate is starting to develop that lovely oily texture to support the full flavour of white stonefriut. Enjoyable.

Just realised that I'd posted without really delving in to the realm of food matching which is the bread and butter of my trade (literally). We'd opened the Elephant Hill to match the second course in an evening degustation. The dish was scallops with spiced eggplant puree and saffron sauce. In some ways I dislike pairing wine and food when you start with the food as the liquid in the bottle is finite whereas the food can (should) be tweaked and adjusted. I also dislike pairing wine and food when I've not tasted the food but I'm not sure these American guests were that worried about sublime combinations. On an intellectual level then....

Viognier may not be a classic match with scallops but I find the perceived sweetness of the two balances nicely. Mostly I was hoping to mimic the creamy texture of the spiced eggplant puree with a creamy textured wine without reaching for the ubiquitous Chardonnay and avoiding the inherent acidity of that grape. There's an underlying spiciness in most Viognier (subtle but there in the Elephant Hill) which should keep up with the spices in the puree and the almond kernel savouriness on the palate of the wine is in line with saffron as a flavour in the dish. Not bad.

Oh and the Americans really liked the wine. Again, not sure they were that worried about the two together but it does speak volumes about the likeability of Elephant Hill Viognier. Delicate, creamy and yummy.

Reasons and starting out

As an academically over-achieving waiter it's somewhat hard to take the leap into writing a blog about wine as mostly you get the feeling that there's far too much written on the subject already. Mostly vacuous (or not) wittering concentrating on those wines that aren't achievable drinking for most of us.

Except that I often get the chance to taste those wines (not drink, taste) on a daily basis. So it seemed a nice chance to meld my good fortune (is it good fortune to still be a waiter at my age?) with a desire to write and join the ranks of the great unwashed (literally, as you don't have to shower in order to share online - ah ew that's sounds a little gross).