Saturday, November 29, 2008

So Hard to Know

Viognier is a tricksy grape. Sometimes it can be so heady as to be overwhelming and sometimes, like this time, it can be so evasive as to be unknowable. The Millton Clos de St. Anne Gisborne Viognier 2006 wasn't giving up much. Closed down and hiding and hinting. Dry and spicy on the nose with bay leaf and cinnamon and just a touch of caramel sweetness there was little in the way of floral perfume or ripeness. The palate had some good, glycerol weight backed up with apricot and lemon but after half a glass Rich gave up, put some cling film on the glass and went to bed. Frustrated.

Night two. Well sunny afternoon really and finally the wine fills out. The expected ripe fruits and flowers appearing like springtime. In some ways it's too little, too late and the mineral dryness of the palate just doesn't evoke the nose. Milton are masters of the varietal white but for me the 2006 Viognier is too shy. a 1 glass wine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rich Riesling at Reasonable Price

The Main Divide Waipara Valley Riesling 2007 is a good drop for these frugal times. At around $20 retail (and possibly less bought in case lots) this would be on my list for Christmas cheer. Made with fruit purely from the Waipara Valley it's a weighty style of Riesling despite its lovely low 11.5% alcohol. It smells like stonefruit and green apples set against the backdrop of typical Waipara salty tang. Whether that's the terroir or some judicious lees work I can't be sure but Waipara Rielsing has a common thread of weight and salt that sets it apart from its Marlborough cousins.

The palate continues in a stone-fruity style, minerality providing freshness rather than the Marlborough zippy, acid citrus tones. Off dry, balanced and terribly agreeable this is one to snap up and then wash down at Christmas with the Ika Mata. The fat, pineapple nose a dream pairing with the fish and coconut
. a 4 glass wine.

Carrick Pinot Noir 2006

This Central Otago wines smells lush without even a hint of the sappy note that dominates others of its ilk. It's earthy without being dirty or even slightly barnyard-y and the fruit tends wild and dark. Rich is drinking it and enjoying it although he's telling me tales of a super-premium from Carrick (everyone in Central is doing it, doncha know) that was magnificent. A serious wine. A crowd pleaser. A serious crowd pleaser and a 4 glass wine.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fromm a Winery I Admire

The Fromm Dry Riesling Marlborough 2007 had me stumped last night. I think my nose is having some issues because everything smells like apricots. Initially the aromas seemed fat with peaches and a matchstick tang in the background and, without knowing what I had in front of me, I was confused. A wee sip shattered the blowsy first approach with its white lightening purity and bone tingling acidity. Unmistakably Riesling now.

A fat nose of peaches with a matchstick tang but a fatness that blows off after a while and resolves itself into apple blossom and lemons with that flinty, struck match character lurking underneath. Becoming sharper and more piercing with each breath. The palate is very long, linear and pointy. Not so much austere as peremptory.
a 1 glass wine (too intellectual to be fun).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tasting in Situ

The trip to Marlborough was lovely, the itinerary beautifully considered and, if the Marlborough sunshine had come out on both rather than just one of the days we were there, it would have been magical. Unfortunately standing above the Awatere terraces with Awatere fruit savvy in hand lost some of its lustre due to a stinging breeze and brooding sky. More gothic than bucolic.

The wines in focus were from the Constellation portfolio which tend towards the more commercial end of the spectrum but that does not in any way diminish the obvious passion, energy, knowledge and enthusiam of the winemaking team we met. This is Marlborough Sauvignon that is going out to meet the world, specifically the U.S. market and as such needs to be made in volume.

We had a thorough run through of their Drylands wines (plus some Selaks) at the winery and I tried hard to keep my prejudice against commercial styles stop me from dismissing the wines out of hand. These are all good wines that speak to where they come from.

Drylands Dry Riesling Marlborough 2007
Rapaura fruit. Lime, mandarin, orange blossom and jasmine with a warming cinammon background this is under 5 grams residual sugar and the palate has strong citrus elements without displaying huge tension or poise. Pleasant commercial style that shows a little flint in the palate and medium length.

Drylands Pinot Gris Marlborough 2007
10 grams residual and using yeast from the Rhone and a slow ferment this is a rich, yeasty style. Quite savoury witha citrus palate, oily but not luscious it's more quince, pear and pear skin.

Drylands Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2007
Passionfruit, grapefruit, sweat and green apple at a year in the bottle the acids are beginning to flatten out.

Drylands Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2008
Aggressive grass and white flower, peach and grapefruit pith. The palate is juicy acidity and lip-smacking un-ripe peach. More delicate than the 2007 at this stage but finishing with a wierd hint of cheese twisty.

Selaks Founders Reserve Oak-Aged Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2003
This was something of a treat. Not available but lurking in a corner of the winery. Deep yellow gold and wearing its age well. Creamy vanilla and redcurrent leaf nose leading into a banana, passionfruit palate hemmed in by hints of asparagus. Honey and nuts. Savoury lemon-honey on toast. Complex and developed but with every sign of living much longer.

Drylands Chardonnay Marlborough 2006
White nectarine, honey and white peach given charcater through barrel ferment this ends with a lees-y, weetbix softness and is undeniably moorish.

Drylands Pinot Noir Marlborough 2006
Red fruits with leather and baking spice. Good structure with mouthcoating, slightly grippy tannins and a long strawberry and rasberry fruit finish.

Drylands Merlot Marlborough 2006
Deep garnet colour with elegant nose. A fruitcake, log-fires and plums wine. Smells like it and tastes like it. The tannins are grippy and drying without the plump-ness that warmer climates can bring.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I'm finally going to get aquainted with Nu Zillund's most famous wine region. It's a flying visit of a day and a bit but I'm excited. Living in the Hawke's Bay last summer gave me a different appreciation of that region and it helps (when you're a visual learner) to be able to visualise the lansdscape where the grapes are grown.

I guess I should take my camera..

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Out of wine sorts

I've been feeling at odds with my favourite tipple and it's coalesced into a hiatus in imbibing (but not, it appears in verbosity). I've been scratching around in piles of wine notes looking for inspiration and stumbled across a quote from Eric Asimov which appeared months back on January 25, 2008 in the New York Times online.

He says
I prefer oddball, idiosyncratic lists that can’t contain the passion and individual tastes of the sommelier." (Read the rest of the article here)

It's a comforting thought that someone likes wine-lists that run to the left of centre and especially so when I look at the list I'm creating and see those little known gems that might just languish there if I don't spend my nights cheerleading and championing.

The summer list is almost done. It doesn't have this wine on it but this is definitely something that gets the juices flowing.

I sipped the Fromm Clayvin Marlborough Chardonnay 2004 at Euro Bar a wee while back and it was a developed, harmonious drop somewhat at odds with the brash, waterfront location. It smelt like lemons and wet leaves with the oak influence giving just the merest suggestion of cloves. Integrated, fragrant and delicious. a 4 glass wine.