Monday, December 27, 2010

End of the year

Wow, what a year. We have had everything from tough economic times to an earthquake that made the world sit up and take notice then the tragedy at Pike River that has effected so many people on the West Coast in a number of ways.
Sitting at the top of the South Island we seem to have been sheltered from much of the direct pain suffered others; our economy hasn’t been too bad, not easy but not disastrous. We supported our fellow New Zealanders in their tough times in Canterbury and on the Coast and we supported wine industry by continuing to buy local and searching out some great deals at the supermarkets and liquor outlets.
While the wine industry has been struggling on a national basis, particularly in Marlborough, local wineries have hunkered down, keeping costs under control and focusing on producing some outstanding wines from a great vintage so they can thrive into the future.
In recent weeks we have seen the release of some super wines to enjoy over the holiday season and here are a few I will be enjoying. I already have my Christmas French bubbles sorted – a bottle of Pol Roger ‘Pure’ from Casa del Vino but I think I will make sure there is a bottle or two of No 1 Family Estate’s ‘2006 vintage Virginie Cuvee’ ($58 - a rich mousse and palate with flavours of hazelnut and fresh lemon zest crispness) and their new Rose ($45 – merest blush of salmon pink colour, delightfully well balanced dry style with lashings of cherry and soft nut characters) floating around to welcome in the New Year.
While I am having some time off in the summer sun I am bound to enjoy a bottle of Pied Stilt Pinot Gris ($14.95, fresh and delicate rather than big and sweet, aromas with apple and citrus characters) with a seafood lunch somewhere and more than one bottle of Greenhough Vineyards gewurztraminer ($20 – rich aromas, lush full bodied style bursting with lychee and stonefruit flavours) will find its way to our barbecue table.
On Christmas Day other than champagne there is only one thing certain, we will be enjoying the world class Seifried Estate Sweet Agnes Riesling (about $20) with dessert. 375ml of seductive, lush sweetness to finish the meal with.
I may not make it over the hill to Golden Bay but if you do be sure to check out some of the local wineries. If you are like me and won’t get there then you can still get a taste of the Bay’s wines by popping into Casa del Vino and selecting something from the range made by Parr & Simpson. They produce a beautiful range of wines that have a European style elegance rather than just big fruity wines.
Whatever your plans are for this holiday season please don’t drink and drive, enjoy wine in moderation with food and I will see you again next year. I hope you have a safe and happy Christmas and a very prosperous New Year.

I have been drinking

Parr & Simpson Limestone Bay 2009 Chardonnay - $22
Michael Cooper gave this wine 4 ½ stars and says Parr & Simpson is a label worth discovering. Now that he has told everyone about them you need to make sure you get your share quickly. This chardonnay has a full palate weight with stonefruit, citrus, nut and cream flavours. A slight austerity in the mid-palate adds a complexity that is quite exciting. This is a true delight.

Ohau Gravels 2010 Pinot Gris - $25
Classic quince and pear aromas are reflected in the flavours but with a twist of mandarin and a streak of minerality. Juicy acidity with a hint of Turkish delight sweetness in the finish make this a complete pinot gris experience.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nelson Ark

One of the fantastic things about the wine industry is the amount of support they give the local community. In the past I have talked about wineries that support the arts and other sectors but there is one business that is supporting a very cool community project – The Nelson ARK.
I am a bit of a softie when it comes to animals (as our two dogs and two cats can testify) and I think these guys are doing a great job not only for animals but for people too. The Nelson ARK (a Charitable Trust) is a community centre which houses a fully functioning no-kill animal rescue shelter.
Its website says that “youth-at-risk and older people are brought together with the animals, as volunteers or participants to help each other in a variety of educational rehabilitative and integrative programmes. The Nelson ARK believes that joining these groups together in a meaningful and caring endeavour will benefit not only the animal and human participants but will have positive effects for the entire community. Our APART (Animals, People And Rehabilitative Training) programme, which is based on successful programmes in the US and Canada, brings together young people, older people as mentors, and animals in an intensive training environment. Dog training teaches the value of patience, discipline and hard work. It also offers young people the opportunity to learn co-operative ways of dealing with problems in the training which will in turn provide alternative coping strategies in their own life. The programmes give youth an opportunity to participate in positive, rewarding experiences where respect for themselves, other people and animals is reinforced.”
So what has this got to do with wine? Well the guys at Richmond Plains are supporting this great programme by donating 20% of all sales from specially labeled bottles of their sauvignon blanc to the Nelson ARK. This isn’t some gimmick to get rid of surplus wine, Michael Cooper gave this wine four stars and it is one of their top selling wines; I love the classic, ripe Nelson sauvignon characters.
At a time of the year when we all think about others and donate to causes like the food bank I think it is fantastic someone is thinking about the animals in our community so when you see bottles with photo’s of dogs on the label at Fresh Choice Richmond and Nelson, and New World Nelson remember that 20% is going to help this great initiative. You can also buy it from Richmond Plains winery in McShane Road. The perfect Christmas gift if you are looking for something for clients or friends.

I have been drinking
We tasted these wines with our friends Nic and Tim so for a change I thought I would tell you what someone else thinks as well as my thoughts.

Sacred Hill Halo Hawke’s Bay Syrah – RRP $24.90
The colour is dark, deep inky red and the flavours are bursting with intense blackberry characters without being sweet and jammy. Layers of black pepper, lashings of elegant oak spice and firm but easy-to-manage tannins make for a complete wine experience and Nic says it is too easy to drink (as he enjoyed more than one glass) and is exceptional buying at this price. You will find it at premium wine outlets or go to

Julicher Estate 2009 Sauvignon Blanc – RRP $18.75
Produced from Martinborough fruit this is similar to a Nelson style sauvignon rather than a Marlborough style. The palate is rich and textural with lush tropical fruit and citrus characters. Ripe fruit acidity ensures it is juicy in the mouth without being harsh. Tim managed to get to the bottom of the bottle (with a little help) and asked if there was any more.

Christmas is coming

It seems like Christmas was only yesterday but like me I am sure you know it is already that time of year again. One month from today and we will all be reflecting on Christmas Day 2010 but before we can reflect we need to plan and as this is a wine column we need to plan what we will be drinking on the big day.
If you like to start Christmas Day with a glass of bubbles you have got time to shop around and pick up either some great value New Zealand sparkling wines or to save your pennies for a bottle of something special from the French region of Champagne.
For Sari and I we always start with champagne; if we can’t be a little decadent on Christmas Day when can we be? Because the world economy is still recovering very slowly champagne houses in France have a bit of surplus stock so you will find some pretty good deals being offered by many retailers. Fifty dollars will buy you a very respectable bottle of Champagne but if you want to push the boat out a bit then the sky is the limit - $300 plus for rare or ultra premium wines.
I know this sounds expensive but a mid-range champagne at around the $100 mark can make your Christmas a very special occasion and you have four weeks to plan for it.
Last week I went to a tasting of Pol Roger and Charles Heidsieck Champagnes at Casa del Vino where we tasted everything from the $110 Pol Roger Pure NV through to the $320 Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 1999. The latter was the star of the tasting as you would expect but the Rosé Champagnes ($150 & $240) were stunningly elegant and oh-so-drinkable. If you want premium champagne for your Christmas Day then drop in and see Anne and she will help you choose the right wine for you.
If your budget won’t quite stretch to premium bubbles then you have some great New Zealand choices. Old favourites like Cloudy Bay’s Pelorus, Daniel Le Brun’s No 1 Family Estate Number Eight or Allied Domeque’s Deutz are absolutely reliable wines made in the traditional champagne method and you will find them on special for $20 – $45 depending on the wine. Then there is always the old faithful Lindauer. It doesn’t set the world in fire but you can always find it somewhere for about $10 a bottle.
Whichever sparkling wine you choose stay away from the ultra-cheap ($4 - $7) carbonated wines, the bubbles are artificial like soft drinks and will just give you a huge headache.
If you see very cheap imported champagne be wary if it is parallel imported. The storage and age is not guaranteed by a distributor and the quality can vary significantly from bottle-to-bottle. They can be great value but if it is not as exciting as you expected then you have been warned.

I have been drinking
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 2008 Lone Gum Gewurztraminer - $21
This multi-trophy winning wine is simply stunning. The wine is full bodied and bursting with rose petal and Turkish delight characters with lashings of sweet lychee and delicate spice all bound together in a luscious, oily texture in the mouth. Named as Winestate’s New Zealand Winery of the Year 2010 it comes as no surprise the trophies for this wine contribute to 100 trophies the winery has won over the years.

Julicher Estate 2009 99 Rows Pinot Noir - $25.45
A gold medal Martinborough pinot noir for $25? They do exist and this is living proof. The light colour understates the delightful intensity of this wine. Packed with ripe dark cherry, elegant vanilla and soft toasted oak flavours wrapped around silky tannins this wine is a warm delight.

Golden Hills

Nestled in the foothills at the northern end of Waimea West is one of the most delightful vineyards in the region - Golden Hills Estates.
Geoff and Sophie Marr set out to establish more than a simple productive wine venture, they wanted to create something special for people to enjoy, and even though it is still a work in progress the vineyards are a delight to spend some time in.
It may not be obvious when you arrive at the tasting room that is located at the business end of the property near sheds and other areas still under development. But take a stroll around the outside of the house and enjoy the views across the gently sloping vineyards to the lake below. The bones of a deck over the lake are in place and when time permits Geoff and Sophie will get it finished, hopefully in the not too distant future.
Another feature of the vineyard is the wide spacing between the rows. Geoff says this is for a couple of key reasons; firstly they wanted to get a full size tractor on the sloping land so they can operate safely. Secondly they lay a reflective cloth between the rows to increase the temperature in the vineyard at key times of the year – at flowering time and prior to harvest to help ripen the fruit. Wide row spacing not only makes it easier to lay and pick up the cloth but also allows more sunlight to penetrate between the vines. An unintended benefit is that is makes it easier for visitors to stroll around the vineyard when it is safe to do so.
When the Marrs bought the property in 2002 they planted avocado trees and as well as producing avocados for sale they also tree ripen a large volume for pressing to make avocado oil.
Then they met Trevor Bolitho from Waimea Estates who encouraged them to establish a vineyard - so they did. However not satisfied with just growing varieties considered normal at the time they also planted a few rows of an Italian variety, Dolcetto, and this has proved to be a very successful variety for them.
The Marrs are delivering Dolcetto under the Golden Hills label along with their award winning sauvignon blanc and pinot gris as well as a pinot noir, syrah and merlot.
They also want share the environment they have created and welcome visitors who want to have a picnic beside the lake or even ride their horses around the 30 acre property. Before you turn up with your horse give them a call to make sure it is safe to have them in the vineyard. Have a look at

I have been drinking

Golden Hills Estates 2010 Sauvignon Blanc - $20
The 2009 edition of this wine won a Blue Gold medal at the Sydney Top 100 wine awards last year and the pedigree is reflected in this edition. As the back label says “a fruit salad of flavours” with gooseberry and grapefruit characters and a touch of minerality in the finish to balance the fresh, mouthwatering acidity. Perfect summer drinking.

Neudorf Vineyards 2009 Moutere Chardonnay - $55 at the cellar door
This wine has cult status, even when chardonnay has been out of favour with many wine drinkers, and is regularly rated as one of the very best chardonnays not only in New Zealand but in the world. If you are a regular buyer of this wine you won’t be disappointed with the 2009 vintage. Sparkling pale gold in colour with refined warm biscuit and floral aromas that hint at the complexity of the flavours. Full flavoured yet elegantly refined, the winemaking team at Neudorf has delivered another super wine. A small crop means small volumes of this so get yours quickly because it will sell out once again.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sari and I are delighted to be regular supporters of the annual Nelson Arts Festival that is held in various venues around the region in the second half of October each year. For the last four years we have sponsored a show and each year have been proud to be associated with the performances we have been associated with through Sari’s business, Savage & Savage, Chartered Accountants.
For rather obvious reasons we have been sponsoring shows that take place in wineries and to ensure we make the most of our sponsorship we invite a few people to join us at each performance.
This year Baker Suite performed two shows, one at Founders Park and the other at Neudorf Vineyards. We would like to thank not only the great team who organise the Arts Festival but Tim and Judy Finn who this year handed over their dining room to us so we could have lunch before the show.
Of course over lunch we enjoyed a bottle or two of Neudorf wine; everything from a flavour-filled off-dry merlot rose to the deeply complex 2009 Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir was sampled by our small group. I must say they seemed to enjoy the Moutere Pinot quite a bit!
The previous night at Founders we enjoyed a range of product from the other Arts Festival wine sponsor, Woollaston Estates. Their 2006 Pinot Noir was enjoyed in reasonable but responsible quantities by our small group along with a couple of refreshing Founders Brewery’s Show Hopper III beers.
Arts Festival sponsors like Neudorf and Woollaston’s not only make their outstanding venues available to stage various performances but their sponsorship of this festival and other events during the year add vibrancy and life to the region. Their businesses are about more than just making a product and selling it, they enrich our region.
Another business that also happens to be an Arts Festival sponsor that we can be exceptionally proud of in this region is Page & Blackmore Booksellers. This year they have been named New Zealand’s Best Independent Bookseller and as a direct result of this Michael Cooper will be at their store in November to celebrate his latest book. Cooper is New Zealand’s most respected wine writer and critic so visit and register for their newsletter to ensure you receive the event details when they are finalised. You will need to get a ticket to the event as numbers are limited and there is a rumour there may even be a couple of local wines available for tasting.
Over the next few months I will be visiting as many wineries in the region as I can and intend to tell you about them so you can spend a bit of time this summer searching out some vinous treats to enhance your summer, just like the Nelson Arts Festival and sponsors like Neudorf Vineyards, Woollaston Estates and Page & Blackmore enhance this delightful place we are lucky enough to call home.

I have been drinking

Neudorf Vineyards 2009 Brightwater Riesling - $22.90 at the cellar door
Another classic wine from a classic New Zealand producer. This just off-dry wine has aromas of powdery lime with a hint of sweet orange blossom in the background and vibrant citrus flavours with a delightfully rounded texture in the mouth. A refreshing twist of fresh acidity makes this a mouth watering palate cleanser or the perfect accompaniment to fish and chips on the beach this summer.

Seifried Estate Nelson 2010 Sauvignon Blanc - $21.00 RRP
This is typical Nelson Sauvignon Blanc – ripe tropical fruit flavours with herbaceous capsicum spice and refreshing acidity. Seifried’s has produced yet another delightful wine that is packed with flavour and is oh so easy to drink on a warm summer day. Shop around because you are bound to find this on many supermarket shelves this summer for less than the recommended retail price.

Nelson WineArt regional tasting

It has been a few weeks since I added posts to this blog - let's blame it on the holiday and then the workload after the holiday that makes it seem like months since we spent some time in the sun in the Cook Islands - so here is a bit of a catch-up.

In October Nelson Wineart held their annual new release tasting at the Boathouse on Wakefield Quay. With well over 100 wines available for tasting I was never going to be able to sample them all in the couple of hours I had, however I did manage to get through a fair few of them.

With a tasting of this size it is impossible to taste and rate each wine on offer in a serious manner so I treat this annual event as an opportunity to get an overall snapshot of what is happening in this delightful wine region.

The overall impression I got this year, particularly of the 2010 vintage wines available for tasting, was great depth of varietal flavour and beautifully clean characters. By ‘clean’ I mean wines that have been made from ripe fruit harvested in pristine condition so there are no extraneous characters that can appear after a wet or difficult vintage.

The summer of 2009/10 was very kind to winemakers in Nelson and the long days of sunshine are reflected in the wines.

There were a number of highlights at the tasting and a few wines had winemakers making a bee-line to other stands to find out what everyone was talking about.

Waimea Estates have just won a gold medal and trophy for Commercial White Wine at the New Zealand International Show following up on the gold medal and trophy for Champion Other White Variety at the Bragato Wine Competition – both awards for their 2009 Viognier ($21.90 and available at good wine stores). The all female winemaking team of Trudy and Wietske are bursting with pride about this wine as they are with the seductively drinkable 2010 Pinot Rose ($18.50).

Milcrest Estate 2010 sauvignon blanc is a bright flavoursome delight. Packed with big ripe fruit flavours and balanced beautifully with juicy acidity this wine from label that has only been around for a couple of years really caught my attention as did the lovely ripe, fresh flavours delivered by the Kina Cliffs Vineyard 2010 sauvignon blanc.

While on the subject of Kina Cliffs they have a stunning premium 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir ($45). Again lovely full fruit flavours with a savoury twist and silky tannins make this one stand out from the crowd.

Some old favourites continue to deliver great wines. Greenhough Vineyards must be the producer most under-rated by the public. Fellow winemakers and critics hold them in high regard and they deliver wines that are exceptional value for money. Hand crafted wines like their 2009 Greenhough Hope Pinot Blanc ($30), the delicate yet highly aromatic 2009 Gewurztraminer and refreshing 2010 Greenhough Apple Valley Riesling reinforce the reliable quality of their chardonnay and pinot noirs.

Kaimira Estate Brightwater 2009 Pinot Gris has a luscious mouthfeel and is bursting with spiced pear and ginger characters.

Nelson winemakers have continued to develop their craft and that means you and I can buy Nelson wines with a huge amount of confidence when we see them on the shelf.

I have been drinking

Seifried Estate 2010 Gruner Veltiner - $21 at Casa del Vino and the cellar door

Gruner Veltliner is a European aromatic variety being trialled in Nelson by a couple of growers and this version is not only the first to hit the market it is the first with the new look Seifried label. Made in very limited quantities and fermented to dry with powdery minerality and soft acidity to round out the floral flavours this will make delightful summer drinking.

Brancott Reserve Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc - RRP$23.95
In with the new - Brancott Estate – and out with the old – Montana. And to launch the new name they have a bright new label as well. Furthermore it is what the label says it is, sparkling sauvignon blanc with bright, fresh, round and satisfying capsicum based flavours. This is an easy drinking wine that has enough acidity to cleanse the palate before you tuck into something serious.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tohu Wines

Over many years Wakatu Incorporation, the investment and business vehicle for a number of local Iwi, has invested heavily in the future of the Nelson region while also investing in the future of its people in a number of ways; they have provided education opportunities and have developed their own businesses to provide employment opportunities.

In recent times we have heard quite a bit about their investment in aquaculture research and development in association with The Cawthron Institute but Wakatu Incorporation also now owns all of Tohu Wines (Check out this web site - it is worth a click to visit). They have always had a big stake in this wine business but recently bought out their partners and have set about restructuring and further developing the business.

One of the first things they did after they took full ownership was employ Mike Brown, chairman of Nelson Winegrowers Association and former winemaker at Waimea Estates, as their new CEO. A couple of weeks ago I spent an afternoon with Mike, Tohu Wines winemaker, Bruce Taylor, and the man responsible for turning approx 33ha of gorse covered hillsides in the Moutere Hills into vineyards, Jonny Hiscox.

All three of these people are relatively youthful in terms of their outlook on life and want to create something for future generations. They are prepared to try some slightly different things (don’t tell Jonny it can’t be done!) and I am sure we will see Mike’s hand in new aromatic varieties planned for the future.

Jonny loves growing things and his passion for the land goes well beyond planting grape vines, he has made sure the irrigation pond also support wildlife and has planted around 10,000 native trees, shrubs, flaxes and grasses in various areas around the vineyard that will provide material for traditional Maori cultural uses.

Of the 60ha of scrub covered land available only 33ha was able to be planted in vines and the plan for the balance is to get rid of gorse and plant more indigenous trees and plants and develop some low maintenance amenity areas.

Murray Moffatt is a vital team member in the vineyard and in his very reserved manner said the place has ‘a really nice feel’. If you meet Murray you will know that this simple statement really means Wakatu Incorporation and Tohu Wines are creating something very special in the Moutere Hills.

The delightful vineyard is only part of developing a great wine brand of the future, making good wine is also pretty important and the attention to detail going into this vineyard development will ensure Tohu Wines can expand the range of fine wines they currently produce, predominantly from fruit grown on their Awatere Valley vineyards in Marlborough. Watch this space.

Finally if you haven’t got your ticket yet to the annual regional tasting at The Boathouse on Tuesday next week contact Gisela at Nelson Wineart. Phone 021-1010-366

I have been drinking

Tohu 2010 Sauvignon Blanc - $19.90
This wine recently picked up a gold medal and the trophy for best sauvignon blanc in show at the Bragato Wine Awards. Rather than being a big punchy wine this has elegantly restrained aromas but with beautifully clean apple, gooseberry and lemongrass flavours. Plenty of balanced, ripe acidity and a streak of minerality in the finish make this a perfect match with seafood. A classy wine at a great price.

Ti Point 2010 Rosé – RRP $21.90
Made from merlot grapes grown on the Matakana Coast this is a delightful reminder summer is only a few rainy days away. Pretty in the glass, pretty floral aromas and pretty creamy summer fruit flavours with a twist of lime in the finish adds up to something a lot more than a pretty wine. This is a serious wine to enjoy on a warm, sunny afternoon.

Gort Vintners

In the last couple of weeks we have seen the incredible New Zealand ability to support those affected by the earthquake disaster in Canterbury but a few months ago, on a much smaller scale, winemakers in Marlborough showed the same generosity in helping one of their own.

Gordon (Gort) Forshaw from Gort Vintners in Marlborough lost about $40,000 through the theft of stock and damage caused by partying thieves who smashed bottles, glued bottles to walls threw paint bombs and scrawled graffiti on walls in his Blenheim warehouse before making off with 86 cases of wine along with a five hundred litre tank and several barrels of wine.

However there is a silver lining for this battler from Blenheim. The local industry, co-ordinated by Mike Just from Clayridge Wines, donated wine to help Gort get back on his feet and the wine has been released under the Gort Vintners label as the Wine Thief range.

Being able to have a bit of fun has helped Gort move on from the wonton vandalism he suffered and part of that fun has been putting together a case of wine called The Court Case Jury’s Decision which includes gems like Magistrates Merlot (Hawke’s Bay fruit), Ripped Off Riesling (Waipara), Guilty Gewurztraminer (Marlborough), Stolen Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) and Pilfered Pinot Gris (Marlborough).

There are 250 cases of The Court Case Jury’s Decision available and while there will be a mix of wines in each case with the exact mix depending on wines left. Receiving your case will be a bit like waiting for the jury’s decision! A few days ago I sat down with Gort and tasted the range of wines and I can tell you they are all very well made, flavoursome wines that will not disappoint and at $140 delivered to your door are exceptional value.

You can order a case by contacting Gort (, 03-579-5506 or from Clayridge Wines.

On the Nelson scene if you would like to taste a wide range of new release wines from Nelson then get your ticket to the annual Nelson WineArt tasting at the Boathouse on the 5th October. More than 20 wineries will be there showing off their latest release wines and maybe a few older wines as well.

Tickets are $35 and include a glass to take home, delightful nibbles and tastings of dozens of wines. This event is growing in popularity and tickets are selling out earlier each year so get yours quickly at or by calling the organiser, Gisela, on 021-1010-3566. See you there!

I have been drinking

Mt Difficulty Dry Riesling 2009
We are seeing plenty of ripe fruit-driven styles of riesling on the shelves these days but well made, balanced dry wines like this are still one of my favourite styles and Mt Difficulty are geniuses at producing it year-after-year. Fermented to absolute dry and with a little late harvest riesling added to the final blend this treads the delicate dry acid/fruit sweetness balance line with precision. With aromatic citrus blossom, touches of apple and firm lemon/lime flavours this is fantastic. It is only available from the cellar door for about $25 so contact them and make up a mixed case of Central Otago delights. Maybe include the sweeter Target Gully riesling and a few bottles of affordable premium Pinot Noir.

Gort Vintners Magistrates Merlot 2008 - $28
This is now only available as part of the Court Case Jury’s Verdict pack (two bottles in each pack) and is a cracker. Made from Hawke’s Bay fruit from a single vineyard this unfiltered, unfined wine is packed with big punchy berryfruit, plum and toast flavours with talcum powder fine tannins and a touch of acidity to make your taste buds want ‘just another glass please’.

New wine labels

I have come across a couple of labels in the last few weeks that are new to me and I think they are both worth talking about. One is from Nelson and one from Central Otago.
Auburn Wines only produce riesling with the ambition of building a portfolio of rieslings from each of the sub-regions of Central Otago, wines that express the site differentiation. Each wine in this selection of rieslings will be named after their respective sub-regions (Lowburn only from 2009, Lowburn and Alexandra from 2010, and Lowburn, Alexandra, Bendigo and Northburn for 2011). The intention is to make this regional selection in a very clean and pure style so the key differences will be imparted by soil and climate conditions rather than winemaker influence.

Rounding out the range will be a selection of wines that have had some winemaker influence. The incorporation of botrytis, indigenous ferments, skin contact and other influences will add variety to the pure styles of the regional selection and satisfy the winemaker’s desire to experiment. The “Twilight” from 2009 (harvested from the same site as the Lowburn, except with botrytis fruit and skin contact) is a great example but is unfortunately sold out.

In keeping with the boutique nature of the business only 1000 bottles of each wine will be produced. Find out more at .

The second label is local, Gareth and Alex Partington’s Partington Wines label. They purchased a lovely parcel of land in Wills Road, Upper Moutere about eight years ago and have since developed a BioGro certified organic vineyard. The small selection of wines is fully organic, BioGro certified and made in a truly artisan manner.

I particularly like this quote from their website “We believe the extra "hands-on" care we take at every stage allow this wine to express the subtleties of Nelson sunshine and our love and passion for creating an organic wine that treads lightly on the land.”

The wines currently on offer include 2007 ($38.00) and 2008 ($49.50) Pinot Noirs and 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($24.00)

It is winemakers like Gareth and Alex Partington who make the wine industry so interesting. They are investing huge amounts of energy into creating artisan wines that gives us, the consumers, something exciting to look forward to. This is a new label worth exploring now and following in future years, I certainly will be.

Find out more about them and buy their wines at

I have been drinking

Partington 2008 Pinot Noir ($49.50) – sealed with a cork
The bronze medal this was awarded at the Liquorland International Wine Competition this year is only the beginning for this wine. Bright spiced dark cherry aromas are seductive and the taste is simply packed with flavour and complexity. Fine tannins provide the backbone for the flavours to hang from while a nice twist of minerality in the background adds even more complexity. A super, handcrafted wine that is worth searching for.

Auburn ‘Lowburn’ 2009 Riesling - $28 from the winery
Made from fruit sourced from 16 year old vines in Lowburn this is a pure expression of riesling grown in the region. The 31gms/ltr of residual sugar are delightfully balanced with low pH, ripe acidity. Delicate floral citrus aromas and flavours will be suppressed if you over-chill the wine but enjoy this lower alcohol wine (9%) late on a Sunday afternoon in the bright sprin

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Events and new releases

We are getting to the time of the year where all sorts of interesting things are happening. I know it is early but we can feel spring in the air as the days get noticeably longer and the temperatures are warming up. There is bound to be a sting in winter’s tail but a bit more sunshine makes us feel a bit more positive and encourages us to get out and about a bit.

We are seeing 2010 vintage wines on the shelves with some exciting new wines, there are dinners to attend, courses to gather information from and of course wine to enjoy.

NMIT’s restaurant, The Rata Room, has a number of events coming up. On the 1st September they have a degustation dinner with Fleur Sullivan from the well known and highly regarded Fleur’s Place at Moeraki on the east coast near Oamaru. Located in the most stunning location on the wharf at Moeraki Fleur’s is one of the best places to enjoy New Zealand’s great seafood. The last dinner Fleur created at The Rata Room was outstanding and this is an event not to be missed.

Also at The Rata Room NMIT’s hospitality training team have joined forces with Nelson Wine Art to deliver a series of seminars to help you learn about wine. The first session in the series of six is on the 31st August 7.00pm – 9.00pm where I will host an introduction to wine tasting then each Tuesday for the following five weeks a different winemaker will help you explore a range of wine varieties. The cost is $150 for the whole series and you get to taste about six wines at each session. Book your space by calling 0800-422-733.

On the new release front one of the most exciting new wines to be released in Nelson for some time is a variety new to this region, Muscat. Blackenbrook Vineyards planted what they believe to be the first Muscat vines in the South Island a few years ago and this first release is stunning. Most people are familiar with Muscat as a dessert wine produced widely in Australian and European warmer climates.

As the Nelson region is considered a cool climate region for grape growing planting the vines was very much experimental but the results have been outstanding and reinforce this region’s ability to extract wonderful flavours from aromatic style wine varieties.

Finally a few days ago I had the somewhat dubious pleasure of judging a cooking and wine and food matching competition at the Katrina Gordon Trade Show. Local celebrities were asked to recreate a dish prepared by a chef and then match a wine with the dish. A lot of fun was had by everyone, the results were somewhat mixed and Jonathan Poff and Afeleki Pelenisi from the Makos emerged from the carnage as the winner by making a fine job of recreating NMIT Tutor Matt Fahie’s Venison dish and matching it with Kaimira Estate 2008 Pinot Noir.

I have been drinking
Blackenbrook Vineyard 2010 Muscat - $23 from Casa del Vino and Mediterranean Foods
This is a highly aromatic wine with aromas that excite the senses. It is bursting with rich, floral and spicy Turkish delight and orange blossom aromas that are reflected in the sweet, intense flavours. Delightfully balanced with soft minerality and tantalising ginger spice flavours in the very long finish with ripe acidity that leaves your mouth watering for more of this luscious delight. I will be drinking plenty of this fantastic wine in the coming summer months.
Millton Opou Vineyard 2008 Riesling - $27.50 but look for it on special for about $20
8.5% alcohol, plenty of succulent residual sugar and delicately balanced acidity make this the perfect aperitif. Luscious honeyed citrus flavours mean it will also work very well with seafood.

Tyrrels Wines Dinner in Christchurch

One of the little bonuses, and they are very pleasant little bonuses, that come my way because I have the onerous task of writing a few words about wine is the occasional dinner invitation, even if I do have to travel to Christchurch to partake.

As well as making great wines Greg and Amanda Day from Kahurangi Estate have another string to their bow, Kahurangi International Selections is the brand that imports and distributes a range of international wines. One of these labels is Tyrrell’s Wines from Australia and last week they hosted a number of luncheons and dinners in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch where aged and current release Tyrrell’s wines were served with six courses of delightful food.

Sari and I were invited to the Christchurch dinner held at Riccarton House and sat with Bruce Tyrrell, the fourth generation owner of Tyrrell’s Wines, and Graeme Stringer, the wine writer from The Press. You can probably guess that we talked about all sorts of things happening in the wine industry in both New Zealand and Australia over dinner.

Tyrrell’s Wines were established in 1858 but didn’t start selling their wines under their own label until 1959 and since then have helped shape the Australian wine industry. They were the first to open a cellar door for wine sales so you could argue they started wine tourism in Australia. While Tyrrell’s Wines home is in the Hunter Valley, north easy of Sydney, they have vineyards in most of the premium wine growing regions in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Selecting premium vineyard sites in each region means they can produce a wide range of wine varieties and styles.

At dinner we were treated to Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2002 ($79.99, 13 gold medals) as an aperitif. Dry in style with balanced juicy citrus flavoured acidity and a powdery texture the dried apricot and slight kerosene age characters set the scene for the rest of the meal. Tyrrell’s semillons dominate this category at all of the wine shows in Australia. The first wine served with food was the highly awarded Belford Semillon 2004 ($49.99, 3 trophies, seven gold medals) and the luscious cooked lime and soft acidity were perfectly matched to a fillet of Akaroa salmon.

The Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2008 ($29.99) has just collected a gold medal at the Decanter international Wine Show in London and is being served by the glass in many London Restaurants, including the Grill Room at The Dorchester Hotel. This is a big wine but avoids being sweet and jammy. A little viognier in the ferment has given the wine freshness with some mouth-watering acidity and lashings of white pepper to balance the bright Berryfruit flavours. The match with Pepper cured beef fillet was perfect.

Tyrrell’s Wines are available from FreshChoice and New World supermarkets or from the cellar door at Kahurangi Estate.

I have been drinking

Knappstein Watervale Riesling 2005 - $20
From the Clare Valley in South Australia this is classic Clare riesling. Floral citrus aromas, rich lemon and lime flavours that are well balanced with low pH acidity. Lashings of minerality tie it all together. If you are a riesling lover then get your hands on some. I got mine from Liquor King in Christchurch but you won’t have to look too far to find it locally.

Edmond Briottet Crème de Cassis - from Casa del Vino
Ribena on steroids! From Dijon in France this blackcurrent based liqueur is fantastic straight-up or add a little hot water for a delightful winter hot toddy. In the spring add a cube of ice and soda water for a refreshing aperitif.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wine & Food Matching

When we start talking about wine and food matching it can get more than a little confusing and I often see people’s eyes glaze over, however the more you try it the better at it you will get.

There is one very general rule that the wine and food matching beginner can follow and that is ‘white wine with white meat and seafood and red wine with red meat’. This is a great place to start but if you don’t like red wine you will need to find a white that can work with red meat and that is where the fun starts.

When you start thinking beyond ‘white with white and red with red’ I recommend thinking on a regional basis. For me it makes sense that foods grown in a particular area will work well with wines grown and produced in the same climate. Once again this is a very general rule but is a good place to start.

It makes sense that in Marlborough where sauvignon blanc is the dominant regional wine it is likely to work well with green shell mussels, the dominant seafood produced in the region. Then if you consider what foods were produced successfully in Marlborough before grapes dominated the landscape then it makes sense that lamb and cherries are good matches with pinot noir, another wine produced to a high standard in Marlborough.

Consider Hawke’s Bay and the best wines in my opinion are the fuller style red wines, syrah and merlot in particular but chardonnay is also a successful variety in the region. Some of the country’s best beef is produced in the region and fuller style reds work very well with beef. As an alternative a fuller style chardonnay also works well with beef.

Nelson is New Zealand’s largest seafood port and the aromatic style wines produced here like pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and riesling are a good match with seafood. Give me a dozen sweet, succulent Nelson scallops with a flavour packed pinot gris and I am in heaven. Nelson also produces a wide range of pip fruits and berry fruits as well as lamb so if you are thinking about an apple based dessert consider a fruiter style riesling to pair with it.

In Central Otago rabbits used to rule the landscape so it is no surprise that the pinot noir grown there works well with rabbit. Stonefruits like apricots grown in the region work well with riesling, a variety that performs also well there. We also relate fantastic cherries with Central Otago and cherry flavours are often found in pinot noir.

Are you starting to get the idea? These are very basic guidelines because each region can produce a wide range of foods and wine styles but if you want to explore wine and food matching then regional thinking isn’t a bad place to start.

I have been drinking.

Trinity Hill 2008 Arneis
A specialty of the Piedmont region in the North West of Italy where the variety was saved from extinction this is a floral delight. With spicy characters reminiscent of gewurztraminer with lean, minerality in the mid-palate this is an aromatic wine that is drinking beautifully right now and is worth searching for.

Petit Bourgeois 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Don’t expect this Loire Valley, France wine to taste like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The flavours are fresh and green in character. By ‘green’ I mean flavours like green table grapes and nettles rather than unripe grapes. Without harsh acidity but with lovely powdery minerality this is a great apperitf.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Varieties

2010 vintage wines are starting to hit the retail shelves about now and I can’t wait to wrap my tastebuds around them. The release of the first new seasons wines seems to arrive quite quickly after harvest but about now it seems like we have to wait ages for them, even though the better sauvignon blancs are only a matter of week away.

While I have been talking to winemakers and vineyard owners about the 2010 vintage a number of them have told me about different varieties they are trialling. Trying new things in vineyards and wineries is simply part of making better wine but adding varieties that are common in Europe comes with both risk and reward. The risk is that the variety simply doesn’t deliver the flavour profiles when planted here but when they do deliver the results can be outstanding.

Another risk is that you and I are less likely to pick a wine off the shelf if it has a name we don’t recognise, for example what does Grüner Veltliner taste like – sweet, dry, fruity, austere, oaky, citrus, stonefruit? Is it a red wine or a white wine?

Now being grown in small quantities in Nelson Grüner Veltliner is a white aromatic style wine commonly grown in Austria. Regarded as a perfect food wine it is expected the variety will do well in Nelson’s cool climate and I can’t wait to find out. Waimea Estates have produced a very small trial batch this year that is highly unlikely to be sold but I am going to twist a few arms and get my hands on a bottle later in the year.

The Spanish variety Albarino is also being trialled in the region. Best known for red varieties Albarino is regarded as one of the few white varieties that produces reasonable white wine in Spain. Again, its fresh, crisp peachy characters are expected to suit Nelson’s climate.

In Nelson’s cooler climate varieties like cabernet sauvignon and merlot have limited success because, other than in little microclimate spots in the region, we don’t have enough heat for the fruit to develop fully ripe characters. However varieties like montepulciano from Italy and zweigelt from Austria deliver great flavour in our cooler climate. You will find fine examples of these at Blackenbrook Vineyards (montepulciano) and Seifried Estate (zweilgelt – bottled under the Sylvia label by Seifrieds). Others are also trialling monetipulciano so watch this space with interest.

The Italian variety dolcetto is being grown with some success by Golden Hills and again is also being trialled by other growers in the region.

Nelson may be very well known for it’s chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, dessert wines and to a lesser extent gewurztraminer but the pioneering attitude of the family owned wine producers in the region means there are lots more treats in store for you and me in the years to come.

I have been drinking

If you want to know how the use of different oak affects a wine get your hands on both of these and find out for yourself. Using the same juice, the same ratio of new oak to older, both wines were fermented with the same yeast and all winemaking processes were the same – except for the oak.

Saint Clair 2009 Omaka Reserve Chardonnay (RRP $32.95)

Fermented in American oak barrels this has a rich, generous mouthfeel, a hint of creaminess with underlying stone fruit flavours. A delicious wine.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 10 Twin Hills 2009 Chardonnay (RRP $29.95)

Fermented using French oak barrels this is rather more restrained with delightful minerality, tropical fruit flavours with hints of fresh baked biscuits in the aromas. Beautifully elegant.

Wine Tours

Sari (my partner) and I organise a fundraising dinner each year for The Suter Art Gallery and for my sins she auctions me off to the highest bidder; that is she auctions my services as a tour guide.

Arranging tours of wineries is not something I normally do, in fact this is the only one I do each year as there are commercial operators out there who do a fine job catering for tour groups.

Each year I make sure the tour has a focus on something in particular and this year it was aromatic style wines. First stop was Te Mania Wines and Richmond Plains where David Holmes introduced us to a white wine made from red grapes (Richmond Plains Blanc de Noir made from pinot noir fruit) and talked about organic production.

I thought 10am might be a bit early to be tasting wines but not for this heroic bunch, they approached the task with gusto as David lead them through a tasting of finished wines and tank samples. The tank samples proved just how good the last harvest was with all of the wines bursting with clean, pure varietal flavours.

Back in the van at 11am and off to Blackenbrook Wines at Tasman where co-owner and winemaker Daniel Schwarzenbach showed us around his winery, talked about how he makes wine and let my bunch of wine lovers taste some of his product, comparing finished wines with new season tank samples. The group were astounded at Daniel’s passion and dedication to quality in everything he does. For me Blackenbrook’s 2007 reserve gewürztraminer was the best match with the still warm home baked bread Ursula produced for us.

12.30pm meant arrival at Neudorf Vineyards for lunch and a wine tasting and chat with Tim and Judy Finn. Tim is widely regarded as one of the country’s premiere winemakers who has an affinity with the environment that contributes so much to the flavours and textures delivered in every bottle of Neudorf wine and for this group the chance to sit down over lunch (in the sun believe it or not) and chat with him about his winemaking philosophy, the continual search for new techniques, technologies and research to help improve his product was a unique opportunity.

By 3pm we were driving through bitterly cold pouring rain heading to Seifried Estate to meet Chris Seifried who not only talked with passion and a deep understanding of the things that make Seifried Estate the success they are but he simply couldn’t resist pouring ‘just one more’ tank or barrel sample. Learning about the almost extreme lengths they go to in making Sweet Agnes Riesling in an ice wine style showed us how even a large winery puts huge effort into creating something very special.

5.15pm and my tour group was tucked up in the warmth of their homes and I got to put my feet up for another year.

I have been drinking

Golden Hills 2009 Dolcetto - $34.90 from the winery

I have been following this wine for a couple of years and I am just as impressed with the latest release as I have been with previous versions. Medium to full palate weight and packed with elegant cherry and aniseed flavours. A delight

Morton Estate ‘The Regent of Morton’ 2002 - $54.99 but on special for $21.99 at Freshchoice Nelson City

This eight year old blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is a beauty. The age means the flavours have had time to get to know one another, the tannins are still firm but are nicely integrated into the refined mouthfeel and to top it off you can save $33. Fantastic wine at a fantastic price.

Wine Lists

For the last few years I have been asked to judge the annual Hospitality Awards Outstanding Wine List award and this year’s task was the most difficult to date.

It has always been challenging comparing wine lists from café/bars with those from formal style restaurants but this year the step up in wines being offered was significant.

When deciding the best wine list I considered a number of criteria with an over-riding consideration for balance. By balance I mean does the list have something for everyone and does it reflect the focus of the establishment. For example I don’t expect a bar to offer the same high value wine I would expect to see on a fine dining style restaurant list but I do expect them to offer wines that reflect the style of food they serve, the price point their customers expect to pay and have a selection of Nelson, New Zealand and international wines.

Just because these establishments are in Nelson it doesn’t mean they should have only Nelson wines on their lists. I think they should have a good representation of Nelson wine but when I go out I also like to drink wine from other regions in New Zealand and I like to try wines from overseas. For example Nelson is not really suited to making full bodied red wines so there should be a choice from Hawke’s Bay or Australia to pair with a rich steak.

In recent years wine marketing companies have been putting a lot of effort into helping the industry offer you, the consumer, better choices and the owners have been investing in more and higher quality stock holdings. This raises another issue faced by the industry, consumer reluctance to pay reasonable money for wines they serve.

I can understand people thinking ‘why should I pay x when I can buy it for y in the supermarket?’ The answer is simply that the establishment has to invest in the stock and have it sitting on the shelf so you can have choices, they need to provide and clean glassware, replace glassware broken by customers, have trained and licensed staff (who they need to pay more to), meet liquor licensing requirements and finally they are a business that needs to make a profit.

The wine lists I judged this year showed that owners are prepared to invest in good product so you can have choices when buying wine in a bar, a café or a restaurant. They are also putting a lot of effort into helping you make good wine buying decisions with many establishments now including a description of the wine so you know whether it is sweet, dry, full bodied or rich and fruity. Some are also making wine match suggestions on their menus so when you are deciding what to eat you can choose a wine the chef thinks will go well with the dish.

When you are dining at one of our fantastic hospitality venues have a closer look at the wine list, you just might be surprised at the well considered selection you have to choose from.

By the way this year’s winner was Hopgood’s Restaurant and Bar.

I have been drinking

Chateau Marguerite Fronton 2007 - $24.95 from Mediterranean Foods

From the South West area of France this is a delightfully rich wine. With plums, prunes, black berry fruit flavours, firm but balanced tannins and a long satisfying finish this is a cracker.

Petaluma 2008 Hanlin Hill Riesling - $28

I bought my bottle of this from Liquor King in Christchurch but it is worth searching for if riesling is your thing. From the Clare Valley in Australia this is a rich, powerful dry wine. Packed with ripe citrus and mineral characters and has a nice oily texture. Great now and perfect for the cellar.

Neudorf Vineyards 30th Anniversary Dinner at Hopgoods restaurant

Thirty years ago this month Tim and Judy Finn completed their first vintage at Neudorf Vineyards and to celebrate this milestone and a year packed with awards and accolades they joined forces with Cuisine Restaurant of the Year category winner, Hopgood’s Restaurant, to present a celebration dinner.

Over the years Neudorf Vineyards has proved to be one of New Zealand’s leading producers of fine wine and a long history of top accolades has been added to in the last 12 months; named New Zealand’s Greatest Winery for 2009 in The Wine Report by Tom Stevenson, Winner of Champion White Wine at the Tri Nations in Sydney (also winner of the Chardonnay Trophy and runner up for the Riesling Trophy), Decanter magazine chose Neudorf Chardonnay as ‘New Zealand’s Best’ and Michael Cooper awarded all the Neudorf Moutere wines Five Stars in his indispensible Guide to NZ Wine.

The six course celebration dinner was held on the 10th May and each course was matched with a premium Neudorf wine. I would like to say ‘my favourite course was xyz’ but I can’t, all of the food was simply outstanding and the careful pairing of the wines made sure the dinner was simply faultless.

Some of the delights about 80 diners enjoyed included dishes like Smoked Venison carpaccio with a fried quails egg, creamy celeriac and beet jelly served with Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir 2007’ followed by ‘Salmon and crayfish ravioli with watercress, apple & fennel salad and sorrel cream paired with Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2004’

The skill and imagination of Kevin Hopgood and his head chef Aaron Ballantyne were displayed throughout the entire meal with little treats like the quail eggs that were poached, removed from the shell, crumbed then quickly deep fried and duck that can be quite dry but in this case was rich and succulent.

As to the wines, well they were as good as we expected – refined and elegant. One thing that did make me sit up and take note was the pinot gris. From the 2005 vintage the Neudorf Moutere version reminded me that good pinot gris can age magnificently.

In recent years pinot gris has had plenty of bad press (from me included) because there are a number of bland, boring, flavourless versions being sold for about $10 or less however when made well from grapes grown with care and attention pinot gris can be a super wine and will age beautifully. Buy a good version, put it in the cellar or cupboard for a few years and be pleasantly surprised.

To top it off for Neudorf Vineyards the dinner was held about a week after one of the best vintages ever in the region came to an end.

These two outstanding Nelson businesses are proof that quality will always shine.

To see what is happening at Neudorf or to check out the stunning vineyards go to their website and have a look at the live webcam images. Tim moves the camera occasionally, depending on what is happening on any day.

I have been drinking

Neudorf Moutere Pinot Gris 2009 - $28 at the cellar door

This is a luscious wine designed to last the distance. It has enough acidity to hold the fruit flavours together while the full palate weight continues to develop complexity that results from extended yeast lees contact. Bursting with spiced nashi pear and quince flavours and a little twist of ginger in the background this is delightful autumn drinking right now. Perfect with cheese.

Blackenbrook Vineyards Pinot Gris 2009 - $23.90 at the cellar door

This is another wine designed to stand the test of time. The big, rich mouthfeel is there predominantly because of the huge 15% alcohol. The alcohol is high because the sugars have been fermented out resulting in a drier style wine packed with ripe flavours but without being too sweet. A beautifully balanced delight.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Riedel Glassware

I think it is pretty safe to assume that we all know drinking from a glass is much more satisfying and a far greater experience than drinking from a recycled jam jar but does using the right glass improve the wine?

Improve the wine, no, but improve the enjoyment of the wine, absolutely. A couple of weeks ago I attended a Riedel (pronounced ‘reedle’ like ‘needle’) tasting at Casa del Vino where the focus wasn’t on the wine but on the glassware the wine was served in. While it sounds a bit poncy saying you must serve each variety of wine in the correct glass, the correct glass does make a difference to the way we taste a wine.

While the science is quite simple Riedel have dedicated decades of research to the development exquisite glassware that makes a difference to how we taste wine. In short here is how it works; different parts of our tongue taste different flavour components and a glass shaped to deliver the wine to the tongue in just the right spot changes how we experience the flavour and texture of a wine.

With sauvignon blanc for example a glass with a narrower opening at the top will deliver wine to the centre of the tongue first so we can taste the sweet fruit of the wine before the crisp acidity kicks in. If you taste the same wine from a glass with a wide opening where the wine is delivered to the whole tongue the acid totally dominates the experience and you miss out on the sweeter fruit burst.

This principle can be applied to each variety of wine, red or white.

Taking an oaky chardonnay as another example, drinking this style from a glass with a wide opening means the wine is delivered to all parts of the tongue at the same time and in this case you experience a full range of flavours at the same time. Using a glass with a narrow opening puts the focus on bitter oak components that are sensed at the back of our tongue and makes the wine taste quite bitter rather than full and rounded.

There are many other little things that make Rieldel glassware both perfect and expensive, like being made with a large component of lead crystal and they have cut and polished rims rather than chunky rolled rims so the wine pours nicely from the glass and they are beautiful to both look at and use – form and function.

Yes they are very pricy at $50+ a glass but if you look after them they will last for many years and will enhance every glass of wine you drink or you can pay a lot of money for one bottle of wine and serve it from average glassware.

My advice is buy a few Riedel glasses to suit the wine you drink most often and then have a set of good quality multi purpose glasses you can use for other wines. Ann and Mark at Casa del Vino can help you choose the right glassware for your use.

I have been drinking

Saint Clair Marlborough Riesling 2009 ($20.95)

Bursting with ripe lime and grapefruit aromas with lashings of minerality and a full citrus palate this is a true delight. That minerality and fresh but ripe acidity in the finish makes this worth putting in your shopping basket.

La Strada Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 - $34.90 from O’Neill’s Gourmet Butchery and Deli at the Richmond Mall.

Made by those pinot geniuses at Fromm Winery this wine is a beauty. Layers of ripe spiced cherry, subtle mushroom, black liquorice and delicate oak are complimented by just enough juicy acidity to make one glass simply not enough.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

2010 Grape Harvest in Nelson

The 2010 wine grape harvest in the Nelson region is winding down with the vast majority of fruit safely harvested and being processed in wineries. Each year I spend some time visiting wineries in the region tasting freshly pressed and partially fermented juice to get an overview of the quality of the fruit being harvested and the likely quality of the finished product.

I can tell you that this year I have tasted some of the most flavoursome juice I have ever tasted in the region. Not only were the harvested grapes in pristine condition but they are packed with incredibly pure varietal flavours. In fact the word ‘purity’ is one word you will read a lot more of in this column in future months.

It can be difficult sometimes to predict what a finished wine will be like when you taste the fresh juice because often the true flavours are disguised by high sugar characters (sugars are fermented into alcohol so the sweetness we see now is reduced markedly as the juice is turned into wine). This is often the case with varieties like pinot gris where you can’t really taste fruit flavours at this stage, however this year the pinot gris juice I tasted is already bursting with ripe pear and spiced quince characters that are clean and pure - no honeyed botrytis characters to overshadow the fruit.

Neudorf Vineyards are celebrating their 30th vintage this year and when I spent some time with Tim Finn and winemaker John Kavanagh last week they were smiling contentedly as we tasted the fresh juice, it will be a vintage of superb quality to mark the 30 year milestone.

Daniel Schwarzenbach from Blackenbrook Vineyards has a smile from ear-to-ear as he proudly lets me taste juice that has such delightful balance and flavour purity that you could almost bottle it now as grape juice, something I would not normally be saying about wine grape juice.

Pat Stowe from Rimu Grove Wines had a similar beaming smile as we tasted some fantastic freshly pressed juice while he declared it was the very best fruit he has seen in the history of Rimu Grove.

Even the notoriously cautious Hermann Seifried from Seifried Estate is happy to talk about the great quality of this year’s vintage. He does however caution that even if producers make great wine this year they still need to sell it and the international market is still very fickle.

It doesn’t matter how good this vintage has been it will be remembered in this region for the tragic loss of viticulturist David McIntosh who has made a significant contribution to the local industry. The whole industry has been affected by the tragedy but none more so than the team at Greenhough Vineyards where he was a close friend as well as a workmate. The industry’s thoughts are with David’s family and his workmates.

No 1 Family Estate Remy Cuvee - RRP $55
Made by bubbly guru Daniel Le Brun and named after their 21 year old son Remy this is a real treat. The wine is lively, fresh, delicate and complex at the same time. Fresh apples in the aromas with just enough lively acidity in the luscious palate and a satisfying biscuity finish make it a delight.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay 2009 Viognier – RRP $21.99
It already has a gold medal and trophy hanging from its belt and I think we can expect it to win many more. A luscious palate weight packed with flavours of spiced quince, yellow peach and just a touch of honey combine to make a multi-layered wine of great complexity. Perfect autumn drinking.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blended White Wines

A couple of years ago I commented on the production of blended white wine and noted at the time that “blending different wine varieties and styles has happened all over the world for centuries, all in the name of producing a finished product that is better than the individual parts.”

We see this approach in France where Bordeaux red wines are generally made from blending four red wine varieties; they still produce single varietals like Merlot but blends tend to dominate in this famous region. Winemakers have also been blending the white varieties of semillon and sauvignon blanc for many years.

In 2006 John Forrest released the first version of his “The White”, a blended white wine that came with a $50 price tag at the time. In developing The White Forrest set out to make a wine with defining characters that are expressively New Zealand – great aromatics and ripe fruit flavours with fresh acidity.

But does it make sense to blend the pure flavours of some white wine varieties with others? I think it does. Take Forrest’s White as an example. This is a blend of seven different white wine varieties and is made using fruit grown in regions of New Zealand best suited to each variety (viognier from the warm, stony Gimblett Gravels, pinot gris from the limestone soils of North Otago’s Waitaki Valley and sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay, chenin blanc and gewürztraminer from Marlborough) and the distinctive characters of each variety contribute flavour and texture components to the finished wine.

The trend for producing blended white wines has increased significantly in the last year or so and while the cynical talk about it being a way to use up surplus juice I think it is a sign that the winemaking industry in New Zealand is starting to find its place in the world.

New Zealand white wines are characterised by a delightful purity and brightness in flavour and winemakers have been working tirelessly to produce the very best varietal wines they can so is there anything wrong with taking beautiful wines with lush fruit flavours from varieties like gewurztraminer and pinot gris and combining them with the purity and fresh acidity of varieties like riesling then maybe adding a twist of complexity with some chardonnay?

Sure, these wines are not a pure varietal expression but when made with thought and balance they can be an expression of everything that is great about New Zealand white wines and I still stand by my earlier thoughts that blending white wines can turn the mundane into the enchanting.

I have been drinking

Waimea Estates 2009 Edel - RRP $21.90

This is a blend of riesling (47%), pinot gris (38%) and gewürztraminer (15%). Combining the spiciness and rich palate weight of gewürztraminer with the fruitiness of and luscious texture of pinot gris along with the purity and freshness of riesling then making sure there is a little bit of residual sugar to balance the acidity has resulted in a wine that is delightful as a late afternoon aperitif, a great match with Asian dishes and perfect with sweet Nelson seafood. Actually, I could just drink this by itself anytime because it offers so many flavours and characters. A thoughtful wine that is super drinking.

Running With Bulls 2008 Barossa Tempranillo - $17.99

It smells like ripe boysenberries overlayed with smoky oak and tastes like blended juicy black berry fruits with a hint of dark chocolate and has lashings of powdery tannins in the finish. If you like ripe Aussie reds without jammy sweetness then this one fits the bill. Fantastic value, easy drinking elegant red with great flavour and balance that is even better on the second night.