Thursday, May 28, 2009

The first Chardonnay

I have to confess a real love for Chardonnay. But of a very particular sort. It would be wrong to say that I prefer them with as little intervention as possible as I'm not over fond of the New World 'un-oaked' style. More often than not they call the word "flabby" to mind. Or "insipid" (but I've levelled that criticism at Pinot Gris often enough to make it inextricably tied to Nu Zillund Gris). But neither do I like a Chardonnay that's been mucked about with over much.

It's a tightrope.

Reviewing my notes reveals a number of Chardonnay that have flirted with my tastebuds and achieved that startling and and evocative combination of terroir and winemaking that elevates them beyond the ordinary.

At the silly money end of the spectrum there's the marvelous, weighty Bell Hill Chardonnay or the cult status Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay. But neither of these really fit in with the baby budget.

This leaves two special but basically affordable Chardonnay in my mind and it's hard to pick between them. In the end parochialism edges the Shaw + Smith Chardonnay out of contention. But it's a close run thing. I love the balanced exhuberance of the cool climate Adelaide Hills wine. It performs exactly that trick of exhibiting place whilst evoking the personality of the winemaker.

However, the Villa Maria Keltern Chardonnay will be the bottle I'm asking for after the littlest Sommelier pops into the world. I believe I may be being sentimental but it conjures up an almost Mersault-like almondine nose without sacrificing spine-tingling acidity and all at a very reasonable (of course - it's Villa Maria) price.

And it's inseparable with a rainy night in Rotorua a long time ago when Rich and I first met.....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The first Sauvignon Blanc

This is one grape variety I went off in a big way whilst pregnant. Something to do with the pungent aroma and high acidity had me nauseous during my first trimester and left me cold thereafter.

Reading through my tasting notes I know that I've always had a fondness for the ubiquitous New Zealand white and now that the end is nigh and a whole glass is (almost) back on the menu I'm looking forward to a glug of the juicy, lip-smacking refresher. With all that snow glittering at me across the lake I'm picking an odd time of year to be hankering after Sauvignon Blanc.

So which one?

2008 produced some very forgettable Sauvignon Blanc and the 2009s aren't with us yet so what to want?

Seresin stands out in my mind as a charming take on the Marlborough style with a lot more class than most. Or perhaps something with racy, green Awatere fruit would be better.

Overall I'm leaning towards Hawke's Bay and the more Bordeaux Blanc type wines that come from the region.

Ah, I really feel like the panache of the Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc. That'll be the ticket.

What to drink, when you can drink it..

That's definitely a burning question. I've already let Rich know that I expect Champagne in the delivery room but which one?

I've long been a fan of Perrier Jouet NV as I find the citrus-sy delicacy and floral component infinitely preferable to the masculine swagger of Bolly and its ilk.

We don't see quite the range of Champagne down here in Nu Zillund so some of the more esoteric examples are going to be in the too hard basket but if anyone would like to make a suggestion as to the perfect fizzy drop to 'wet the babies head', I would be grateful.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Monowai Estate, the first of my baby friendly vineyards

I first tried the Monowai Estate wines at Wine NZ last year and, despite being a little, relatively unknown voice in a shouting crowd of heavyweights, they impressed with a Chardonnay exhibiting all the balance that you look for but so seldom find.

On top of this, they were being realistic about their pricing and so this yummy Chardonnay was good value.

Back at the restaurant and looking for budget friendly wines to entice the clientele, Monowai sprang to mind. It didn't move as fast as I would have liked due to its lack of profile but it didn't stop it from being a great drop, punching well above its weight.

At the wine shop for a dinner party drop to go with lamb, Monowai showed up and I thought the Merlot should get an invitation to the party. It took Rich some convincing to leave the Trinity Hill Syrah on the shelf in favour of what I was sure would be another tasteful, judicious wine from this stable.

Monowai Estate Merlot 2006 is from Hawke's Bay but the vineyards are in Crownethorpe, higher up into the hills than most and on opening the wine smelt cool and assured. It's reminiscent of dark cherry fruits and a little bittersweet chocolate. With only 12.5% it holds a lovely poise on the palate. Neither brash nor insipid the Monowai Merlot is a congenial wine. That's to say it's a lovely quaffer with an underlying sense of class that lifts it above the ordinary. a 3-4 glass wine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The baby vs wine budget

Rich and I had a good talk today about just how the finances will go after the arrival of the littlest sommelier and it's become apparent that, whilst wine won't be off the agenda completely, we will be dealing with a reduced allocation.

I wish I could say that I've a carefully built cellar that will tide us through the nappy-buying years (so expensive - who knew?) but I don't and whilst I'm being a stay-at-home mummy I won't have access to the tastings and releases that were such a big feature of my work life.

So this brings me to a juncture. A time of frugal application and of mindful purchasing. If anything it can exercise my palate and knowledge further as I look to squeeze the best out of every bottle. I don't want to turn into a 'best wines for under $20' hound but there's every reason to make every glass count.

Only a month to go before I can have a whole glass of wine again. I better get cracking. First perhaps a list of what I'm dreaming of drinking....