Monday, January 28, 2008

A piece of 2 by 4

Appears to be sticking out of my wine and for some reason it's not all that bad. I had a nasty trick (well not that nasty really) played on me earlier tonight when my work colleagues pressed a taste of this wine into my hand with a quizzical arch of the eyebrow. I sniffed and swirled in the appropriate manner and declared;
"Over-oaked vanilla character competely dominating some fleshy grapefruit" or something like that.
"Out of balance Chardonnay" was my verdict.

Turns out I was drinking the Clearview Semillon 2007 which (horrors) I have had before and not a Chardonnay at all. I'm drinking it now too. It's actually better warmer (it was fridgid earlier) which helps the oak stay settled in the fruit rather than poking out like a rude bit in too tight shorts. With warmth this Semillon develops a generous (if slightly forward) personality of kalamansi lime and coconut. A tropical holiday in a bottle. Wearing an Hawaian shirt (and too tight shorts..)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2006

I'm going to stick with the draft copy of my notes despite their being fairly syntax-less.

Acacia and roast almond or nougat with citrus on the nose. A coil of acid around the warmth of the fruit, persistent and poised. Still tight even though open since yesterday. A well regarded chardonnay that is definitely not yet showing at its best. Not glowing and not yet luminous. Still quite shy and only hinting at the creamy, depth of flavour it's sure to gain....

Last night as I tried to ferrit out flavours I resorted to trying other wines to give my nose and palate a break from searching for nuances in a wine the was acting like a steel trap. It didn't work but it did highlight the bugeoning complexity of the Neudorf Moutere, especially tasted against the Te Awa Sauvignon Blanc 2006 which in contrast smelt and tasted like Tropical Raro.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

More on an Anomaly

Given Nu Zild's reputation as a premium Pinot Noir producer emanating from Central Otago with the instigators Marlborough and Martinborough bringing up the rear.... And "whine country" Hawke's Bay excelling in the forgotten wine that is the Merlot, this superb High Country Pinot Noir from John Hancock's Trinity Hill is definitely an "incongruity or inconsistency".

Not that there aren't other producers trying to grow Pinot Noir in this part of the country. Even given the tricksy growing issues and crop levels it's more saleable than unfashionable Bordeaux imitators. But this would be the first one I've tried that really nails the varietal without reservations.

so then... my note from 12:30am last night.

Ruby-violet with enough clarity to read through. Hugely varietal. Sour black cherry and plum with a hint of herbs. Really aromatic. Allspice. Little tight. Second sniff is all game meat and bitter chocolate but not muddled and a lovely pure expression. Complexity from blending a number of different clones of Pinot Noir. So aromatic I keep nosing about the glass. Not carnal but definitely alluring. Bringing the ubiquitous, romantic French movie scene to life where the hero inhales the perfume from the nape of the heroine's neck..... The tannins may velvet-out but at this stage they are softly firm (aha! another anomaly) and similar to the Mountford 2004. After a whole glass the acidity stats to bite, giving weight to the idea that this still needs a little time. The finish is reminiscent of the creamy, sweetness of lightly roasted milky coffee.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

an anomaly

I'm drimking (rather too much of) a fine, fun, serious Hawke's Bay Pinot Noir.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Some reasons why I'm a Kiwi wine fan

Well it was interesting to try some new things yesterday..... interesting but not necessarily pleasurable. We tried 8 wines but it's the international examples I want to highlight. I'm not sure if my palate has simply become attuned to the local style of winemaking or if there's something else going on but I found the predominantly Australian line-up really hard going.

Well here goes.

We started off with an inexpensive French Burgundy in the shape of the Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2005. It showed some pretty, sweet red fruits and a hint of chocolate on the nose and was a lovely garnet colour in the glass. So far, so appealing. Unfortunately what followed was some quite drying tannins attenuating a thin palate. More oak than the fruit could support and so a slightly empty wine in the mouth. And don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of the local Central Otago 'fruit-busters' so I wasn't searching out that but this wine is out of balance.

If there was a lack of fruit in the Burgundy then the Geoff Merril Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 more than made up for it, but not in a good way. An opaque purple in the glass it overlayed the not insignificant fruitcake nose with huge pine trees and a medicinal smell verging on jagermeister. In a similar fashion to that iconic, drunken beverage the Geoff Merril was certainly providing good value in the alcohol department. As far as the palate went it was quite similar to sucking on a cigar. There was fruit about too but I was too overwhelmed by the intensity of it all to notice what.

I feel like I'm being a bit cruel and I'm sure for someone who likes huge wines this would be just the thing, and as mothers do, mine told me "not to say anything at all" and all that.

On a more pleasant note was the Charles Melton 'Nine Popes' 2004. Out of all the wines we tried this was the only one that had me considering drinking a glass. A lively violet of a wine full of juicy fruit and purple wine gums. A perfumed wine tasting of red licorice. Delicious and fun and blalanced and very agreeable.

Which made it all the harder to move on to the Hewitson 'The Mad Hatter' Shiraz 2005. Unfortunately the comment in the tasting notes from the web that "We’ve thrown everything we’ve got at this wine" doesn't inspire confidence in me. At 14.5% it's another BIG wine. Another inky wine. The use of oak dominates in a savoury spicy nose that smells a little burnt. Perhaps like burnt coffee. So we move on to the Kilikanoon Covenant Shiraz 2004 which actually states that it's 15% on the label. It smells like raisins which is understandable given raisins are hot dried grapes. The aroma gives up ripe black fruit, mocha, vanilla (80% French oak), stewed plums and a touch of mint. It tastes like blackcurrants and tar.

I think it's fair to say that I don't understand these kind of Australian wines. In all their deep, rich, opulent Robert Parker-endorsed glory they don't speak my language. Maybe it's because I'm not a man?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tasting Ahoy

After what seems like far too long we're finally to do some tasting tonight at work.

I say 'finally' as I'd gotten so used to the rounds of sample bottles and 'wine release' shindigs in Auckland, that 2 months of self funded (mostly) drinking and tasting was beginning to seem like an arid desert of one-dimensional, over-oaked Chardonnay. The trips out to the local vineyards of the Hawke's Bay have provided some welcome respite but unfortunately my palate has been badly affected by Hayfever this year and for that reason (and perhaps others) those tasting visits haven't resulted in much note-taking.

And there was a post of many hyphens......

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In a (happy?) cheap wine slump

I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been drinking wine but unfortunately they aren't the sort of wines that inspire much note taking or contemplation. Mostly these are the sort of wines that you have with dinner when you're just having dinner or after work as a drink that's just a drink. I once read in a Nigel Slater cookbook that in his opinion you should never serve yourself a lesser wine that one you would happily take to share with friends - just because you were dining alone. I found this to be good advice in the past and bought extravagently, accordingly.

Now, unfortunately, fiscal responsibility has replaced youthful devil-may-care-ness and my eye is more often caught by the cheerful yellow sticker advertising the reduced price than the label itself. Sad but true. We do try to marry value with the most interesting labels we can find and this can lead to very long periods spent in the wine aisle of the supermarket as we try and avoid the larger commercial brands (often propped up with residual or added sugar to appeal the 'average' consumer palate).

Here then, is an overview of what we've been drinking. Everyday wines, everyday prices. All under the magical $20 mark and usually on special for less than $15.

Stoneleigh Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
I'm not sure when this winery moved, in my estimation, from a boutique prodicer to a commercial producer and I'm sure that mental shift is purely arbitrary given the size of their production in worldwide terms. They are no longer what I consider to be a 'restaurant wine' however and I haven't tried this for some years. It's a pale gold and fairly oaky for an inexpensive Chardonnay whilst still showing aromas of white peach, tangerine and cloves with a little floral hit. A citrus vanilla mouthful and here I will stop looking for too much. It's varietal and good enough.

Giesen Marlborough Chardonnay 2005
This was on a very good special and the little yellow sticker by the price was like a flag to a bull. The first whiff was of cashew nut with the fruit lying a bit dormant although after nosing around I uncovered some melon and citrus. It was quite rich and mouthfilling, tasting of summer lemons and toast sprinkled with cinammon. On the whole quite balanced with enough fruit and oak working in harmony to make this fun, easy drinking Chardonnay. Summer fruit, summery wine. Lovely supermarket price.

Maven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
I remember when Rich and I first spotted this label at La Barrique in Auckland. Tom was talking it up and it certainly looks pretty on the shelf with the 4 or so different label designs. I believe the new 2007 vintage has done fairly well in the awards rounds but here was the 2006 retailing for just $13 on special. Guess they didn't sell out of the older vintage yet. It seemed like a good bet, however, as I've been enjoying my NZ sauvignons with one or two years bottle age. Especially now so many wine makers are starting to use a touch of oak and/or lees stirring thus complex-ifying our simple Marlborough style.

Mike Just is the winemaker at Maven and you can smell it on the nose. I always find something slightly feral in his wines. Not necessarily in a bad sense but a definite pongy presence. It's a greeny straw colour and despite my love of older Sauvignon and the use of oak in the wine I think this is about as long as you would want to leave it on the shelf. Although this is not true of a local drop we have been drinking a great deal. We have been taking advantage somewhat of the Askerne winery and the amazing value offered by the Askerne Sauvignon Blanc 2005 which they sell at the cellar door for $10. This might seem like false economy but the wine is perfectly poised. So resolved. I mean, y'know, tastes great and is drinking beautifully NOW.

But back to the Maven. It has a pungent, sweaty, green ,fruity aspect all wrapped up in dried mint. Bitter lemon and sweat that settles into blackcurrant leaf. Another decent drop given that cheerful yellow sticker.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2007 or 'a reason to drink savvy'

This is just such harmonious stuff. I spent quite a while swishing it around my mouth waiting for the acid to poke out and attack, but it never did! The nose is green but softly so with feijoa and green apple and a suggestion of vanilla somewhere in the background. It's smooth and appealing with really fine acid running through the entirety of the palate and so quite similar to the Cloudy Bay in that respect. The crisp green apple shows up in the mouth along with banana to round things out. If the Seresin Sauvignon Blanc was at a party she would be the pretty girl all the boys wanted to dance with. It has, admittedly, a bit more winemaking thrown at it than most. Reading from the back label tells me that 21 portions of Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Semillon were fermented seperately and that 40% of the wine got wild yeast and 14% spent 4 months in French oak! Pfewph. That's a great deal of winemaking for the usually humble Marlborough Sauvignon but it's all the better for it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Little Pinot Rant

After spending a few days showing another lush around the wineries in the Hawke's Bay I've discovered that drinking and tasting are mutually exclusive. Everything began tasting of its separate components. Hence I could taste acid, tannin and the carpentry of the wine but not the fruit. All of the delightful parts of the wine disappearing, flashing in and out of existence and preventing me from getting a sense of the wine. Certainly my notes from over the last few days are scratchy.

Had a nice wee line up of quite disimilar Pinot Noir from three different regions. Palate fatigue was intense but here goes....

La Strada Pinot Noir 2004 was a nice lively ruby in the glass and was giving up dry baking spices, red cherry and rhubarb followed dusty herbs. This is a fairly high acid style without the dense fruit of some New Zealand Pinot but none the worse for that. A touch herbal on the palate, floral and sinewy. The fact that we impressed a collector of Clos de Vougeot with this wine the other day speaks volumes about it's fine structure. I'm not suggesting that it's in the same league but I had an interesting discussion with this guest debating the 'problems' with New World Pinot Noir for the Burgundy afficianado. The crux of the issue being that New Zealand Pinot starts big and tends to unravel in the glass whereas his favourite (famous and expensive) tipple only whispers its name and then builds to a cacophony. It was nice to change his pre-conceptions and serve him something like the La Strada.

The Rippon Pinot Noir 2005 is another New Zealand Pinot that eschews the overly dense style. I like it and I guess there is something of a pattern emerging in that I'm much more fond of Pinot Noir you can read a book through. Not insipid just feminine, seductive and alluring Pinot Noir, as it should be..... And so to this wine. It's had 16 months in barrel and is not filtered or fined which gives the wine a slightly wild aspect. For all that the nose shows great varietal depth and harmony with cranberry and black cherry surrounded by dried flowers and basil. The oak lends some lovely cinnamon and perhaps a touch of licorice.

And all these flavours are so different from the Dry River Pinot Noir 2005 which swings the pendulum almost to the other end of the spectrum. Now I realise that with only a couple of years in the bottle this wine is something of a baby but right now it's not pushing my buttons. I'm sure it will and I'm sure the kiwi Bacchus would strike me down for daring to type that I didn't find Dry River to be perfection in a bottle but..

Actually I might put off making notes on this for another day before that bolt of lightening hits....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reading not drinking

Due to a lack of money and perhaps a lack of inclination, call it 'festive wine fatigue', my enthusiasm for tasting wine is a little diminished. I'm also no longer in Auckland where wine reps for the various distribution companies helped to prop up an adventurous wine habit with a seeming endless supply of 'tasting' bottles.

My fervor for the subject of wine as a whole is still shining brightly so I've kept myself busy plundering the Napier library. One great little find was 'the perfect glass of wine' by Ben Canaider. Sub-titled "how one man searched for heaven in a bottle", it is less a novel than a collection of vignettes (ooo, I just checked the definition for that word and how apt as it's
[French, from Old French, diminutive of vigne, vine (from the use of vine tendrils in decorative borders); see vine.]) but they all link together in that he's trying to discover and potentially define the 'perfect' glass of wine. It's humorous, not least because he has the happy and slightly irreverent view that wine is primarily about getting drunk. It also struck a chord as he pretty much rubbishes Super Icon wines as not being the path to a perfect glass, in particular he levels this criticism at Grange, a wine I've personally never had much time for. Plus, well plus, he writes well. The sort of curling, fabulous prose full of wit that makes me green with envy. The sort of intelligent, interesting ideas about wine that I wish I'd thought of..... Worth checking out. Actually I think I might read again......

Before I moved to the Bay I was gifted The Story of Wine by Hugh Johnson. It's a beautiful illustrated edition and a sturdy 'coffee table book' of a book. A real book about wine, fascinating and impeccably researched. It certainly did nothing to quench my devotion to Hugh. Being as mad about wine as I am it's mitigating to believe that wine has been and is central to the "understanding of civilisation". In fact..... I think I have to read that again too......

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It had been a day of driving. A new experience for me and thrilling, frightening. It was a day that the exciting Hastings New World hove into view. We selected some very 'gourmet' nibles. We also selected some very ordinary wine. I was thinking that anything crisp and acidic would partner a plate of such intense flavours.

We started with an Australian supermarket brand in the form of Wolf Blass Eaglehawk Riesling 2006 (it's dirt cheap and therefore potentially not in the 'critical' catagory). There was citrus and kerosene on the nose and a little tropical fruit on the palate. It was a bit spicy, a bit fresh. But not fresh enough! We were, admitedly, eating purple olives, Mortedella, Telegraph Hill garlic olives, full flavoured 'Sopressa Nonna' and oat & almond biscuits. So basically, I couldn't taste a thing after a few bites. Oh, and a VERY ripe local camembert. But I wanted something high in acid to deal with the rich, buttery flavour of the cheese and the salty, briny olives.....

Then I remembered that on the latest jaunt around the Hawke's Bay wineries I had picked up a sherry style from Ngatarawa. It's rich and dry, made in an aproximation of an Amontillado style. Nutty, mouthcoating with citrus and roasted nuts and a hint of dried apricot.

I'm not pretending this wine comes close to the classic wines of Jerez for finesse and depth but it certainly retained ground against some fabulous, fun flavours on the balcony....

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Late night tipple

Tasting after work when you're tired can lead to some pretty funny notes. Admittedly the palate may not be doing its best work but the brain is working in wierd and wonderful ways as evidenced by this....

Sileni 'The Circle' Semillon 2004
I picked this up from the winery for $15 as and end of bin special. And the cellar hand told me that this is no longer in production.
It's deep gold in the glass and the first impression is of beeswax and warm hay with a floral note in the background. The palate is broad, slightly herbal and a little bit tingly on the tongue. There's good length too with the herbal note resolving itself into bayleaf. Actually, it's like a big warm hayfield with a few wildflowers and a couple of bumblebees and some clover. Not hugely complex despite all that's going on. Like running through the hayfield in the sun and only catching glimpses of the different aspects. But it is mouthfilling with lemons and pith and a tiny bit savoury.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The rest of the festive cheer

To continue on from where we left off despite the fact I've just spent all day touring the vineyards of the Hawke's Bay....

Puriri Hills Reserve Merlot 2005
We tried this a few days after it was opened yet it was still displaying an opulent, ripe nose of plummy fruit. Elegant and subtle yet still layered. Ripe cassis, chocolate and saddle leather alongside fine integrated tannins. Not a shout-y wine. Beautiful instead.

Kingsley Estate Cabernet Merlot 2000
This is all gone now, as far as I know. But this was such a delightful wine. Managing to be all things to all people. So smooth that for the unintiated it was easy drinking whilst for the afficianados of New World Bordeaux styles it was silky and complex. The only derogatory comment I ever heard leveled at it was that it was "beautiful, but too French".....

Unlike, (apparently...)

Blake Family Vineyard 'Redd Gravels' 2004
The first realease from this vineyard. 53% Merlot and 47% Cabernet Franc. So whilst quite similar to the Puriri in make up it is not as deep and more direct. Less silky plum and leather and less roundabout. More manly? Definitely more grippy tannins.

So we've been tasting a lot. You need to when even your 'knowledgable' customers will drink half a bottle of badly corked Dry River Pinot Gris 2006. We went ahead and tried that tonight (a different bottle) and it was stunningly textural with all that Alsace oiliness all over but lacking discernable fruit flavour. For whatever reason I was enjoying a wine I'm normally not that fond of in the shape of the Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2004. It's presenting a very floral nose with a tropical, creamy palate. Fruit custard in a glass.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A selection of festive drops

We've been tasting and drinking a fair bit over the last week. Put it down to the generous, festive spirits of our clients who seem keen for us to drink along too.....

So in no particular order and with no theme other than what said clients happened to fancy.... oh and with an apology to myself for somewhat brief, erratic jottings due to the nature of the drinking and storing the ideas away...

Villa Maria Waldron Vineyard Chardonnay 2005
A strange combination of Malborough citrus and caramel, acidity with butterscotch, as if the winemaker forgot where the fruit was from and was making a bigger Gisbourne beast. 1.5 residual sugar and you can taste it. So drinkable though and compelling somehow.

Alan McCorkindale Cuvee Rose 2002
Somehow the flavour of strawberry jam and hot butter mixed up. Pure red fruit on the nose but very creamy, rich autolysis on the palate.

Hatton Estate. The Doctor Syrah 2005
A very pure expression of berry fruit on the nose along with a suggestion of apricots (as though there was some viognier in the blend, although there's not?). Quite sweet fruit on the palate yet not jammy; a little bloody too but not so much pepper as a mineral quality and leather. A floral element rears its head and the tannins are fine, clean, refreshing.