Friday, June 27, 2008

'O' Chardonnay 2004

I remember a time when I thought the Montana 'Initial' Series (of which the 'O' - Ormond Chardonnay is one) was the pinnacle of wine-making chic.

That time was 1996 - or so - and that is a long time ago in my wine education. But I do remember the frisson of excitement at having something so exclusive to sell in the restaurant. And the innovative labels, with their minimalist design, were something new and different in a sea of busy, European-harking-esque Nu Zillund bottles.

So... How does it stack up today? 12 years on. With me older, uglier and (not much ) wiser

'O' Ormond Estate Gisborne Chardonnay 2004
The tropical fruity Gisborne flavours have been kept in check in this fairly savoury beastie. At 4 years bottle age this is giving up grilled nuts on the nose and first impressions scream lanolin and banana. It's doing a sweet yoghurt dance around the primary fruit which finally, after much warming up, turns out to be grilled pineapple.

Holding its own!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And so it begins...

We're writing a new wine list and I'm tasting every day. Wine reps and distributors are bringing wines and I'm furiously taking notes and asking opinions of my colleagues and well.... I guess... passing judgement.

It's a funny situation when I think about it as wines promoted to the high end of the market are likely to have been made carefully and with not a little love. And so none of these producers would have set out to make an 'average' wine. And yet some wines sing and others don't despite the care and attention lavished on all.

But wine notes in these situations tend to be blunt, less given to lists of fruit and flowers and more concerned with stating the personality of the wine and its aptitude to line up.

William Thomas Marlborough Chardonnay 2005
16 months old French oak. Winemaker - Will Hoare, assistant at La Strada. Quite sweet citrus nose. Orange peel, floral, savoury cashew. Grainy palate. Mendoza clone. Refreshing, persistent, clean finish. Pretty yet refined.

Domaine Jaquairy Pinot Noir Central Otago 2003
11 months French oak. Clear garnet red (not over extracted!). Forest floor and white truffle. Spicy, feminine style

Lindis River Pinot Noir Central Otago 2005
Beguiling nose. Red fruits and high acidity. Refreshing. Red liquorice. Quite linear.

Lindis River Pinot Noir Central Otago 2006
Warmer smelling than the 2005. Fruits tending darker and better mouthfeel. Spicy and rich but oak still prominent. Needs time to integrate. Coffee background.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


What a glorious texture the Henschke 'Louis' Semillon 2005 has. It manages that trick of having fine and fun, refreshing acid along with a weighty, waxy palate. It's all very ripe fig...... and very ripe fig and then some. A bit of kero and that beesewax-y texture wrapping it all up along with the weird aromatics of mothballs. Sounds bad, but tastes amazing!

So good now but if you can wait on the wine for 5 years (or even 10) then the whole Arabian Oasis awaits. Figs and dates and warm honey and warm sand and warm exotic nights.

Hewitson 'Lulu' Viognier 2006

Funky, savoury, almost ham-like nose totally belies the floral perfumed palate. This is a wine of contradictions. At around 2 years bottle age I'd expect less freshness and more unctuous weight. But, despite a golden colour in the glass, this viognier has a zesty, lemon youthfulness mingling with the rose and acacia perfume on the tongue. Contradictory indeed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

jumping at bargains

Just scored the Old Coach Road Sauvignon Blanc from Foodtown for $10.99 and thought that this would be perfect as a late night tipple. I've always kinda admired this Seifried supermarket label as it produces real quality from Nelson grapes at a quarter of the price but with just as much verve and zip.

The Old Coach Road Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is lovely and ripe and definitely more at the tropical end of the Sauvignon spectrum. A generous mouthful and although Sav wouldn't usually feature at this time of year; the lovely cold, clear afternoons can make a buxom Sav just the wine. This one is a full straw gold colour yet has a delicate nose. It jumps into a palate of pawpaw, mandarin citrus and a touch of classic gooseberry with a bit of wild mint in the background. Refreshing without being racy. Sound and agreeable.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Updating the list

It's that time of year when the Sommelier's mind turns to updating the wine list. Many of the new vintages are beginning to be released and there's natural attrition happening as popular varietals like Pinot Gris start to run out. Also, with the colder weather comes smaller numbers and a chance to breathe and take stock.

In order to shape the new list it's necessary to reflect on what has sold well and try and predict the trends to come.

Champagne is a tower of strength. The fact that French wine authorities are expanding the boundaries of what can legitimately be called Champagne indicates the huge worldwide thirst for this status, style and taste - New Zealand Methode's deliciousness notwithstanding. Not that local bubbles have a hard time selling.

Riesling continues to under-perform. Or rather, it continues to not sell as much as we'd like, despite a haphazard popularity. Sauvignon Blanc seems to have lost out with even it's die hard fans to the flossy, johnny-come-lately Pinot Gris (That is the ratio of middle-aged, striped suit wearing business men who order Sauvignon Blanc as the 'starter' at lunch is dipping). Viognier experienced a surge during the summer but seems to be back in a lull. And Chardonnay. Well Chardonnay is a funny one as there's a part of the public out there that wants it 'buttery' despite most winemakers giving up on the full MLF. (I had one gentleman who wanted "a white wine for red wine drinkers").

Pinot Noir sells itself, especially if it's from Central Otago (especially if it's from 3 year old vines on a slope of a hill in the valley and at the bargain price of $38 per bottle................ trade, or better yet if it's got a nice dark colour and a plummy flavour...............................a bit like Merlot.......................................).Syrah has firmly implanted itself in the public's mind and it's seldom that the Syrah/Shiraz question gets asked any more. If anything we could do with more Syrah on the list. Bordeaux style blends have spent far too long out in the cold and seem to be making a slow return to favour. And all the fun 'other red' varietals get a look in too as finally we start to see the breadth of wines here in New Zealand that other countries have enjoyed for years.

So that's the state of play.

What to do next?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Jacob's Creek Riesling 2007

Some time back, in these pages, I told myself off from being so dismissive of 'supermarket wine'. Some wineries (in that instance Villa Maria) manage to produce consistent, varietally correct wines at low prices which hit the mark when the budget is tight and/or it's just a mid-week dinner.

To be fair we only bought the Jacob's Creek Riesling to play a part as cooking wine in the Oxtail Stew that's featuring at tonight's dinner party. And I'm only drinking it now because I'm too greedy to wait for the Verdejo we're having as an aperitif to chill.....

So what is sub $10, mass-produced supermarket Riesling like?

Sugar wafts up on the nose dominating any fruit flavour that might be lurking underneath and after the initial shudder of introduced acid (?) fades the over-riding impression is of..... cooking apples. Lemons and scary not-for-eating cooking apples. It's a short and narrow wine, flat of structure and plain of song. Cooking apples. Is it.

Rich reckons it's redeeming feature is so confidently asserting the flavour he remembers of cooking apples. I think it's verging on undrinkable. But that can't be right as I'm drinking it. I'm not much surprised that Riesling is a poor cousin to other aromatic whites if this is most peoples introduction to it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir 2001

Almost ancient by New Zealand standards, this Pinot Noir is yummy and exhbiting all the fun secondary characteristics that Nu Zillund Pinot seldom gets the chance to develop. How is it that Australia can hold on to its Pinot Noir whilst we slurp ours up in their infancy revelling in their "depth and weight" and completely ignoring the velvety, stinky nuanced creatures they may become?

Right, Rant over.

Orange-y red tending amber at the rim. The Stonier smells initially of stewed rhubarb and wild strawberries. But those forward red fruits give way to savoury, gamey characters of hay, dust and leather. The tannins are beautifully Pinot, all velvety, veloury, bathrobe-y comfortable. A delicate hug.

Pyramid Valley Hille Semillon 2006

Pale gold flecked with green and an exotic nose of figs and lemongrass. The layers of this wine recall the complexity and fragrance of Thai food and the palate is alive with flavours of the east. Lemongrass and coriander dominate the front of the palate which is rounded out by green coffee bean and pandan ( the vanilla of the east). The savoury aspect from the pandan is further fattened with tonka bean in the persistent length of the wine, giving it a breadth that the nose doesn't suggest. Multifaceted and more than a bit elusive.

An exotic Asian dish of a wine (in more than one meaning of "dish").