Monday, July 28, 2008

The Helen Hunt

of Pinot Noir.
The Crab Farm Hawke's Bay Pinot Noir 2004 is a classic ruby colour but opaque in the glass and the aromas are intriguing; mulberry, red licorice, plum, sweet bayleaf and nutmeg. Balanced, plush tannins distinguish the palate, set against some lively acidity this is a wine of structure and harmony. After some time in the glass strains of milk chocolate mingle with a lingering suggestion of gritty baking spice. At 4 years of age this is mellowed, resolved and graceful. Faceted if slightly flawed. Not beautiful but not unattractive and refreshingly modest.
A 4 glass wine.

Clever and Quirky

Wino Sapien led me to this sweet little test via Wine Woman and Song. Sweet, silly and varietal. I just had to show it off too.

What kind of wine are you?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Brown Brothers Dolcetto and Syrah - from the sublime to the ridiculous

Everyone makes mistakes and this was one. Unfortunately my 'knowledge and expertise' didn't protect me from buying this Australian Lambrusco-esque monstrosity. My ongoing wine adventurer quest often sees me reaching for the more esoteric reaches of the wine shelf and I like Dolcetto, the sweet little grape of Piedmont in Northern Italy, which usually makes a wine similar in body and tannin to New World Pinot Noir. I have had it on my wine list and had no qualms in recommending the Italian version.

This is not like that.

It smells like raspberry jam and tastes like it. Or more precisely like very sweet, iced raspberry tea (iced as the label recommends chilling so I'm 'drinking' it cold, and tea as there is a little fuzzy 'tannin' peaking through). If I was being kind I say it bears a passing resemblance to the varietal flavours of Shiraz, but I don't think I need to be kind and despite only clocking in at 10% this still manages to taste alcohol heavy.

I'm a bit horrified that this gets to be regarded as wine. A quick (post purchase) check of the Brown Brothers website reveals that they are quite open about the "Grandma's lolly jar" like flavours and the 76g/L residual sugar. What, if anything, this has to do with Dolcetto is not so apparent. A 1 (begrudging) sip wine.

Actually I take that back. A little more investigation has revealed that the residual sugar for the 2005 vintage of this wine was revealed but the details for the 2007 vintage only talk of stopping ferment to retain "a little natural sweetness". If this doesn't have a huge dollop of sugar thrown at it well then I really am a monkey's uncle.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Maison Leroy Richebourg Grand Cru Cote de Nuits 1990

In my line of work and hailing from the parochial, hick-country that Nu Zillund can, on occasion, be; it can be easy to miss the times you are drinking something rare and expensive. My 'Sommelier' status notwithstanding it's nigh on impossible to keep up with all the names of the Burgundy Grand Cru unless you're exposed to them often, and I'm not, often enough.

Maison Leroy Richebourg Grand Cru Cote de Nuits 1990
Tart cherry along with layers of loam, moss and hints of smoky bacon. The after-taste starts out racy then builds into sweeter strains as the diaphanous tannins coat the mouth with a patina of blackberry and sweet cherry. A 2 bottle wine (see Hugh Johnson scoring system and yes I know you shouldn't drink 2 bottles of wine but this would be worth it).

A short note for a long, big wine. Long finish. Big price. Worth it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Terres Fumees Petit Manseng Cotes de Gascogne 2006

This smells like the sea or a deserted beach and it's salty and tangy and a lot like daisies. Whilst the nose is ephemeral and playful; the palate is all clean minerality. Tangelo and sparkly silica. And for all that, the (high) acid isn't mean in the mouth but somehow manages to be rich. This is beautiful in its simplicity but unavoidably short and it almost seems a crime to drink it at this time of year. A 2 glass wine (I'd be trying to pick up that green thing that keeps skating in and out of the glass).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Close but not quite

I wanted something textural, something a little bit different. I was thinking Vouvray, Nu Zillund Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Viognier. Somehow I bought Sauvignon Blanc again. Still, the Fairhall Downs Small and Smith Family Estate 2007 seemed to fit the bill; elevage in a mixture of stainless and seasoned French oak, fine lees for 4 months and unfined this is care-full Savvy.

Greeny straw with wafts of blackcurrant leaf, dried mint and minerals this promises a real departure from typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is grainy and a little bit shocking in the way the first bite of a Braeburn apple is shocking. Malic acid and a prickly sensation. There's also apricot, fennel and juniper and a definite sense of wet twigs reminding me of the undergrowth notes that appear in Chablis. For all this the wine is still developing and at this stage seems a bit tight. Spritzy and developing. a 1 glass wine.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Alan McCorkindale Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Sometimes you buy wine to please yourself and sometimes you buy wine to appeal to someone else's palate.

When faced with the rows and rows of wine on a rare Saturday night off it's so tempting to throw money out of your wallet and secure something lovely, special, celebratory and fine, in keeping with the ethos that (erudite food writer) Nigel Slater espouses when saying that you should never buy a bottle for yourself that you wouldn't take to a friend - as why would you treat yourself less well than others you love?

Having said that.... I know the predilection of my winsome Sonj for a fruity Sav. Nothing too complicated, too acidic, too sweet or too...... interesting. So you makes your choices and you pays your money.

When we first poured a glass and sat down to gossip I have to admit that this wasn't my cup of tea. It seemed blandly Sauvignon without, even, a belligerent nose leaping out of the glass. Hours later and with a glass still left in the bottle and some time for contemplation it seems a different beastie

Nothing much to speak of on the nose until you really shake it up when it starts to get a little like really sour kids-made lemonade, green melon and hawthorn. Subtle though and hardly 'bursting through'. The palate is textured citrus. Lemons of all sorts, pith and zest. With such a dominant character I can't decide if this is one dimensional or compelling in its focus. A 1 (or maybe 2) glass wine

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Surrendering to the thrill of the new

(n.b. I stole the title and some phrases for this post from here)

In a drinking culture that eagerly awaits the next vintage of Cloudy Bay, Dry River, Palliser Estate or whatever, there's something equally bracing about surrendering to the thrill of the new: the sense of occasion elicited when chancing on a wine you've never heard of before, especially when that wine, after the first whiff, displays attention grabbing aromas and promises a distinctive palate.

Add to that the frisson that comes with finding said wine far from the salubrious surrounds of an upmarket wine emporium, but rather hiding away in a late night convenience store.

Anchorage Sauvignon Blanc Nelson 2006
The straw yellow colour is speaking to the age of the wine and extra time in the bottle gives this an initial whiff of sweat, hay and green capsicum. This seems grown up and harmonious, without Sauvignon Blanc's usual adolescent overtures.There's also a definite trace of gunflint. It tastes of grapefruit, green bean and honey and the palate is broad ending with a peach skin texture although when colder it develops a Camembert aroma and a similar creamy texture in the mouth.A 4 glass wine.

I love the fact that screw-cap closures are extending the life of our normally short-lived Nu Zillund savvy. At 2 years bottle age and with the 2008 vintage Sauvignon Blanc almost on the shelves this is delightful, different and definitely showing well. Maybe we shouldn't be so hasty to offload the older aromatic whites...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Scoring Wine

Passing judgements on wine has been very much on my mind recently as for better or worse the wines I taste and enjoy are the ones that will make an appearance on our wine list.

Everybody is at it! Cuisine runs tastings every month and those purple and gold stickers sell wine in Nu Zild in the same fashion as scores out of 100 sell wine in the U.S. I'm in the team that feels a kind of hopeless horror at the use of the 100 point score and the gradual Parkerisation of wines globally. So when my lovely father sent me a copy of Michael Cooper's article detailing, amongst other things, Hugh Johnson's suggested alternative I was so rapt with its apt-ness I just had to reproduce it here.

English writer Hugh Johnson suggests an alternative to the 100-point system, which you can use at home. The minimum score is one sniff, with a step up to one sip. Two sips indicate faint interest. One glass means tolerance, even general approval. Four glasses mean the wine tickles your fancy, and two bottles mean it's irresistible.

This seems, by far, the most winning system of assessing the merits of one wine over another. I love its beautiful simplicity and irreverence and I have more than half a mind to put it in to practice.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mystery Wines

I realise that there are more wineries in New Zealand than I could possibly keep track of but this latest round of tasting threw up some intriguing question marks.

Bascand Estate Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2007
From a Waipara winery comes a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Not that mysterious. The wine itself is subtle and classic. Green apple and grass. Limes and tropical fruit. A safe savvy nose and a rounded palate complete the picture in a wine that isn't angular but somehow isn't pretty either.

Bascand Estate Chardonnay Marlborough 2006
Hints of butter from 70% malolactic fermentation make this a texturally rich and nutty mouthful. Over-ripe nectarine and popcorn. Sunny tasting and at a great price point. This would only sit at around $45 on my pricey winelist.

Bascand Estate Pinot Noir Marlborough 2006
Soft red fruits and an earthy perfume form the nose with a suggestion of something feral underneath (sweaty horse-trek). An uninhibited nose that's more than a little promising. Then a simple palate, left waiting for nuances that never come. The taste of stone-fruits that I would expect from Chardonnay make an out of place appearance. Nectarine amongst the strawberry. Ending with bayleaf this isn't delivering at the moment.

Now here's the real mystery.

Waiau Estate Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay Syrah 2006
This new (to me) winery is somehow getting Syrah fruit of the Hawke's Bay gravels which leaves me at a bit of a loss. That's not easy land to get hold of and I wouldn't have thought that many would be giving away fruit from the variety tipped as the great red hope of the Hawke's Bay. There's a link to Hatton Estate but I'm not sure how.
Jammy at first with meaty undertones. Sweet, fresh blood and violets. Delicate blueberry and blue flowers. A bewitching feminine style for all the bloodiness. A frilly Victorian bodice ripper with a whiff of apricots.

This is prepossessing Syrah and a mystery worth solving. If anyone has any notions?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Big, bold and desirable

Despite a considerable absence of 'buttery' Chardonnays being made there is still (at least in my experiences and going on requests in the restaurant) a good portion of the drinking public that loves this style of wine.

It's hard for me to see the appeal as often they tend to sacrifice balance in the name of swaggering, unctuous texture. Still, there's room in a considered list for lots of alternatives and, in New Zealand at least, Chardonnay made from Gisborne fruit usually delivers these bold flavours.

TW (Tietjen Witters) Chardonnay Gisborne 2006
A very golden glassful with a heavyweight, savoury nose of grilled nuts, weet-bix and super-ripe, squishy apricots. On the palate the concentrated style takes on a syrupy grapefruit character. It's mealy, voluminous and bold with not so much 'butter' as vanilla icecream. For all this it's only 13% and a good example of an ample wine that doesn't go too far.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Possible Pinot

Kaituna Vineyard Canterbury Pinot Noir 2006
Clean, lifted nose of bright red fruits. Bit tight. Slight minerality underlayed by something slate-y and medicinal. Dried herbs and iodine. Bit alcohol heavy.

Kaituna Valley Bone Hill Pinot Noir 2006
A more generous approach than its brother. The nose is more forward and giving. Red cherry and coffee tinges and the palate is weightier without being rich. Still firm with smoky oak curling around the edges.

Murdoch James Estate Pinot Noir 2007
Soft red fruits and sweet briar fill up the nose over the classic 'stinky' aromas common to the Martinborough style of Pinot. The tannins are still grippy at this stage but promise silky things in this developing wine. A perfumed style but masculine, aftershave scents of cedar. Refreshing.

We're a bit short of Pinot Noir on the list and there's a definite desire to list some lesser known examples. Of this line up the 'Bone Hill' impressed with a kind of suave depth despite being very youthful. The Murdoch James is a definite as it has flair and comes in at a price that few Pinot Noirs can match without sacrificing style and typicity.

A good day at the 'coal face'.