Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Wine

Christmas is usually my favourite family time. My family are unashamedly 'foodie' and Christmas Day often gets a theme for the menu and special wine from the cellar.

Actually nothing is different this year apart from one small matter, in that I'm pregnant and can't swing into the selecting of wine with quite as much enthusiasm as usual.

I'm still a Sommelier though and a proper, geeky wine enthusiast so my tasting (smelling and spitting) will continue.

I'm looking forward to dinner tomorrow despite the lack of that frisson of excitement emanating from those special bottles.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2008

Two Very Fine Wines

Out at lunch the boys seemed unable to restrain themselves from selecting wines from the expensive end of the list.

The Bell Hill Chardonnay 2005 from North Canterbury had already been talked up by Chris before it even hit the stemware. He'd enjoyed it at the same establishment not so long ago and it had proved to be the lingering memory of that lunch. With a $75 mail-order-from-the-vineyard price tag this is a serious foray into serious Nu Zillund wine. The Aussies have been hiking the prices at the top end of the market for a while but we've been remarkably reticent over here. Not so with
Marcel Giesen and Sherwyn Veldhuizen, the owners and wine growers. For all the swagger and expense this is exciting stuff.

It leads in with melon and guava, a tropical fruit spectrum under flinty iodine all leading to marzipan softness. "More Montrachet than Mersault" says Rich. Great concentration and fine acid with rocking lemon-y balance on the palate and a slight graininess emanating from oak still resolving itself into the fruit. As it sits cereal notes appear until all I can get is Apricot All Bran. It sits some more and the breakfast aspect morphs into pudding. The sweetness of apricot crumble. Butter and oats. For all this apparent softness it's a big wine and quite raw boned. A solid German fraulein. Not inelegant but very natural. Hewn. a 2 bottle wine

The red was another revelation and a very special wine. Craggy Range 'My Selection' Pinot Noir Te Muna 2003 was blended by the late Doug Wisor, a winemaker for Craggy Range before his tragic death in a kite-surfing accident. As such it takes on a bitter poignancy, not that that should detract from the wine itself, rather it adds a layer of regret that such a talent should have been taken so young.

With 5 years in the bottle this is definitely in its best window right now. The glinting garnet colour of blood still shot through with a little purple and only slight fading at the rim. The concentration if not the profile is reminiscent of Dry River although it puts me in mind of a quote from the back of an Ata Rangi bottle.
"Maximum Power without maximum weight, like a well-engineered back pack". And in colour it looks like an aging Ata Rangi. The aroma is heady. Red fruits and rhubarb with a sheen of bacon fat. The palate super-plush, an almost waxy character, red licorice. After the bacon fat dissolves the wine blooms into greeness leaving sweet pineapple mint, anise, camphor and bayleaf. This is a Pinot that grants me understanding of the 'perfumed' descriptor. Gentle, sensitive, fragrant, quixotic.
a 2 bottle wine

Friday, December 12, 2008

It is one of the strange laws of ordering wine in restaurants that certain indicators will sway a client towards one particular wine despite their never having encountered that wine before.

The laws for Pinot Noir at Christmas functions seem to dictate that it must not exceed a $90 price tag, but neither must it fall below $80 either. This being some nominal indication of the right level of quality. They also appear to dictate that the wine must hail from Central Otago, this being the only place that any self respecting Aucklander will consider as the birthplace of PineNwah.

With this in mind, and having been blind-sided by a price hike of the wine that was serving in this particular catagory, I had to search out a Central Otago Pinot that would fit the bill. This is my least favourite part of wine-list-writing. It is wine as business and commodity and shuns the romance that I would prefer.

Two wines were called to attention. The right price, the right provenance.

The Nanny Goat Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 is a strange beast. Untypical to say the least and displaying a sexy, feral mushroom and barnyard funk to the nose. A Pinot Noir of horse manure overlaying plummy red fruits. A little bit obscure but silky and structured nonetheless.

The Wild Earth Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 is upfront with a sweet caramel hint to the nose and plenty of muscular dark blackberry. Certainly less complex but a straightforward hit of fruit and flesh that will please whilst wearing a silly hat.

I sound cynical. I guess I am. I console myself with the fact that at least the Wild Earth doesn't display the sappy aspect that puts me off so many of his brothers.

And despite my preference for the Nany Goat's varietal charms a brief tasting with the crew confirms the Wild Earth as the more pleasing of the two. So Wild Earth it is.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2006

Apparently this is the de riguer Pinot du jour at restaurant hot spots about town. It has a coterie of awards from all and sundry and and endorsement from Parker.

It smells like sap, stem and bramble. But mostly sap and has the ubiquitous Central Otago power in the nose. The palate is tart and grainy. Not my cup of tea. a 1 sip wine.

But this does rather fly in the face of other learned opinion.

Monday, December 1, 2008

2008 Kiwi Wine Fan Club Wines of the Year

The lovely people over at Kiwi Wine Fan Club have announced their 9th Annual wine awards. The writing is in depth and prolific (definitely puts my posting ability in the shade), although they did let me put my two cents in.

As they put it
our rules of engagement for these awards are loose and ad hoc" and "All errors are on purpose."

There's no denying this team their quirky approach to scoring wine but neither is there any denying their huge passion, enthusiasm and obvious talent.

Read all about it here