Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fit For the Purpose

Kaimira Nelson Riesling 2006. At 11.5% alcohol and with a touch of residual sugar this is quaffable and pleasant. Brie-like creamy cheese overlay to the lemons and limes of the palate (which sounds mildly disgusting but isn't). Greeny-straw colour. A piquant balance between the gentle sweetness and an orange peel acidity. Maybe some lees work giving an almost yogurt-y softness and, as it warms up, cumquat and orange blossom. Simple stuff. The epitomy of this rather neat little quote from "A Good Nose and Great Legs" by Robert Geddes (p.63)

For the purpose of dividing memorable wine from popular priced wines the obvious needs to be stated. Some wines are made as a process with cost in mind to the style required, the so called 'fit for the purpose'.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A definition

ex·u·ber·ant [ig-zoo-ber-uhnt] Pronunciation Key –adjective
1.effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic; lavishly abundant: an exuberant welcome for the hero.
2.abounding in vitality; extremely joyful and vigorous.
3.extremely good; overflowing; plentiful: exuberant health.
4.profuse in growth or production; luxuriant; superabundant: exuberant vegetation.

This was a treat! A generous taste of the Hatton Estate Tahi 2004 made polishing piles and piles of glasses so much more bearable. The first thing that struck me was youthful, exuberant clarity. It was as clear as the fruit aromas and flavours, a personality as defining as any list of fruit and wood. Having said that the fruit is remarkable in its 'clean-as-a-whistle-ness'. Purity of blackcurrant overlaying the subtle cigar box smoke. The tannins rest in the wine in an easy fashion, giving structure without ever dominating the palate. Marvellous stuff. Exciting now but with every sign of growing up into a fine, upstanding wine of character.

Also notable for the fact that, after a night expounding tableside the superiority of New Zealand's attempts at Bordeaux blends when they are dominant in the Merlot, this wine is Cabernet Sauvignon dominant but highly successful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What they were drinking

The only reason for grouping these wines together is that they constitue the wines I sold the other night.

I was pleased to sell the Clos Marguerite Sauvignon Blanc 2007, finally, to an English lady who was unsure about drinking Nu Zillund Sav as she normally drank French Sancerre. Apparently the last time she tried Cloudy Bay Sauvignon it got relegated to the cooking wine cupboard and recommending something was further complicated by her request for something "very dry and clean". Given that many of the Sauvignons on our list are the new New Zealand style including partial or full oak (which I quite enjoy) it was becoming difficult to see a way to satisfy her desires. Also, I had never actually tried the Clos Marguerite and was basing my suggestion on half remebered back labels and newspaper tasting notes. Luckily this wine was bang on.

Lemons and subtle tropical fruit on the nose with a background of lovely clean minerality. On the palate this is freshly green, racy and clean. Really tasting the stones of the Awatere along with capsicum. Snappy yet delicate and definitely not shouty.

The next wine was another client ordering conundrum. After telling me that he liked "fruity, weighty" styles of Pinot and my suggesting Central Otago as a suitable region and more specifically some of the fruity and weighty styles therein he threw a curve ball and insisted on the Valli Banockburn Pinot Noir 2003, not, in my estimation, a good choice for his tastes.... Not surprisingly he did not finish the bottle. I'm almost certain he was disappointed. But what can I do if people won't take a little advice?

The nose gives up Autumn plums and thyme and is fragrantly herbaceous with a smoky bacon aspect in the background. However, the palate is pleasant but not distinguished (I prefer the 'Gibbston' fruit Valli) and at 5 years old the fruit is falling away to a dilute tasting finish.

The other Pinot I sold was more successful. The Nuedorf 'Tom's Block' Pinot Noir 2006 is a wine I sell with confidence knowing that it brings the drums at a fraction of the price that most of our guests are prepared to pay. Sometimes it's nice to give rich people a bargain (even if they don't need one).

Red and bramble-berries and mocha chocolate nose preceed an aromatic damson plum and fig-sweet palate. The aromatics play with teasing hints of chocolate to make this a really rewarding mouthful. The palate is quite forward and the length only medium but not really a problem as the wine is so attractive. Flirtatious with summer berries and cinnamon spice that stay refreshing due to a lush green note that is unlike the dried herbs apparent in Central Otago Pinot Noir and more like the blackcurrant leaf of Sauvignon Blanc.

Lastly, there was a request for a 'dry' white wine. A request made so often and yet so confusing as very little on the white wine list has more than 3 grams residual sugar. A request made for so many reasons and mostly nothing to do with lack of sugar in a wine. It seems to mean, "a wine I will like" and this obviously varies wildly and is not predicated on things the sommelier can know. Thankfully the English gentleman in question qualified his wishes to include Chenin Blanc rather than the Chardonnay. And in doing so gave me a direction that brought him the Esk Valley Chenin Blanc 2006.

Apples. Soft red apples in a lovely 'dry' and weighty mouthfeel. A waxy palate with great acid to support the fullness. Fat yet fresh. A hip-hop star of a wine.

And funnily enough at 4.6 grams per litre residual sugar a sweeter wine than he was drinking initially but without the full malolactic of the Te Awa Chardonnay 2005. Funny. No?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hard to find

Stuck in the bar and sweating a fair bit with the weather somehow hot and wet at the same time I got to try two special wines. One a 'not commercially available' and the other 'available but prohibitively expensive'.

Glenora Estate Merlot Cabernet Franc 2006 from Waiheke falls into the first camp. Certainly not a label I've heard of before and there's something quizzical in the packaging and the liquid inside. A pedestrian label is at odds with the stated intention to produce high quality wine and I can't get a handle on the wine itself as it teases wonderful flavours and then hides them in the next swallow. It has a lovely aroma of plums and berries, mixed up with olive and pencil shavings. The palate is distinguished by extemely fine, mouth-drying tannins that linger long after the fruit has fallen away but as the flavours tease in and out I get the sense that this may be because the wine is too young. The wine is not disjointed, quite the opposite, and it seems to be showing signs of quietly knitting into a rewarding whole.

I also had a bare whisper of the Providence 2002 left in the bottle after someone carelessly threw out the glass I was left to try. I may be about to be unfair as the wine had been opened the day before and it was the last, scraggy end of the bottle but the nose smelt old and was overlaid with mousy brettanomyces. Under this some red plum aromas tried to get out of the glass. It was better on the palate with a sharp burst of mulberry fruit and subtle spice but this feels to me like a fake. Mutton dressed up as lamb. A dowager in virgin frills. A little redcurrant fruit and a dusting of cocoa powder can't detract from what this lacks. Intensity, complexity and breed.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sicilian white as the sun comes out

Hawkes Bay has been unseasonably cold so it was something of a relief to see the sun finally poking out yesterday afternoon. It inspired a trip to a local Italian food market and finally tempted Rich to eat tomato-y pasta (something he usually, inexplicably, avoids).

We came back with lovely things to cook. Real speck bacon, grana pandano and a tin of whole cherry tomatoes. We also had interesting wine.

Lamura Grillo 2006 from Sicily we selected mainly as neither of us had tried one before and also due to it coming in at well under $20. Interesting and cheap. It's a lovely gold colour shot through with a hint of green and looks full of intense Italian sunshine. The nose is delicately floral and also suggests marzipan almond and grass. There's lovely acidity in the mouth rounding out a fairly viscous palate. It's not a fruity New World style and there is a tang that puts me in mind of a salty seafaring-ness along with lime-y minerality and preserved lemons. Fresh and quirky and a great aperitif.

We also bought a Farnese Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2006 which not only was a lovely sub-$20 price bit also came blazoned with recommendations from BOTH Hugh Johnson and Robert Parker. Which, given their somewhat polar opposite opinions on what constitutes 'good' wine, seemed remarkable.

"Hugh Johnson called our fabulous Farnese - “the hearty, ripe, really warming wine that Chianti so often fails to be” while US supremo Robert Parker hailed it “one to buy by the car-load” ... not to mention a top prize at Italy’s No.1 wine show and four years as a No.1 Poll Winner!"

Definitely something to try and I can report that it went spectacularly well with our silky, tasty pasta but not much more as I had let the evening slide into happy cuddles on the couch and I was not making notes.....

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reasons for writing a wine blog

I was about to enter murky territory and use someone else's words to express my own feelings. I've been spared that indignity as we've already thrown out yesterdays paper so it's not there for me to reproduce.

My love of wine has me sitting here this afternoon, drinking a (somewhat) forgotten beverage in the form of vermouth. Essentially a fortified, aromatised wine it tends to languish in the drinks cabinet unless you're a hardened drinker of classic martinis. I like it over ice with a slice of lemon and the 'rosso' version better than the 'bianco' as it's a little bitter. Unfashionable but great.

The article that had me so inspired was published in the NZ Herald and written by Jo Burzynska. I've not always been a fan of her wine writing but she had some lovely things to say and they really hit home. Again, I can't quote them verbatim but they beautifully stressed the fact that wine writing should allow others to become informed consumers not bully or badger them into a particular mindset. And that seems like a reason for all the endless lists of fruit and other jargon.

I love wine. I drink a fair bit of it. And I'd like others to be inspired to make interesting choices.

On that note.

Rich and I are going to try a Grillo from Sicily tonight.

Kim Crawford SP "Flowers" Sauvignon Blanc 2006

I have to admit that I'm not usually a fan of Kim Crawford wines. They represent many of the things that are wrong with the industry and this seems to imbue their wines with real (or just percieved ?) flaws.

Having said that this wine seems to justify its elevated reputation. It's all fruity, fruity, fruit. Papaya, feijoa, passionfruit. And softly, sweetly green, like new tiny peas.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Not about wine exactly

although I am drinking a perfectly nice Sauvignon Blanc but more importantly as a kiwi and a kiwi wine fan I just wanted to mention that I am finding soooooooo much out about the NZ wine industry (that I never knew before in my ice-princess castle of NZ-Restaurant-Land) from watching wine library TV. It's odd.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Anthropomorphising of Wine

Increasingly I'm referring to the wines that I try in very human terms and I wonder if this is more or less confusing than recipes of fruit.

Some opinions on the topic of wine-speak would be welcome.

But rather than dwell on this here is a wine that we snuck out of the supermarket feeling very lucky to have nabbed a Te Kairanga Chardonnay 2004 for the same price as the more recent vintage. Supermarkets are good like that, having no knowledge of the aging wine being better..... Still you run the gauntlet of heat and flourescent lighting having got to it before you did.

On opening it all seemed fine throwing up really grilled nuts and savoury stonefruit. But then I started wonedring if that 'savoury' smell was just plain old or nice. So I tried again and got dried apricot and cereal on the nose. The wine was a really deep yellow gold in the glass and the palate still refreshingly rich, the oak not prominant but definitely there in the the texture of the wine and sensation of cloves in the mix.

"Perhaps we should have chosen the younger wine instead of this vintage" is still crossing my mind as I start being overwhelmed by Old Fridge. This aroma seems to be unique to Chardonnay and was first identified in relation to the Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 1999 when we tried that last year. We're presumming that its unique old butter in the fridge-y smell has something to do with the malo falling over, but we're not sure of this. In the Cloudy Bay we decided we liked the smell but I'm still not sure if I find it savoury and interesting or just nasty.

I perservered anyway (well I was drinking the wine not clinically tasting it) and decided the palate was like warm straw and fig. Definitely quite developed but still giving up some fun flavours. Perhaps out of balance with too much age and not enough vivacity.