Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Summer of Riesling – Published 03.02.12

It started in New York and now it has reached New Zealand – the Summer of Riesling is a bold initiative to engage the consumer with the many delights the riesling variety has to offer.
This international movement was started in 2008 by Paul Grieco from Terroir Wine Bar in New York and to help local organisers Angela Clifford from Waipara and Duncan Forsyth from Mount EdwardWines in Central Otago kick start the first Summer of Riesling in New Zealand Paul, the self-styled Summer of Riesling Overlord, joined the celebrations being held around the country.

The object of the Summer of Riesling is to encourage the consumption, discussion and enjoyment of Riesling and New Zealand’s Summer of Riesling started on the 12th January and so far has included winemaker dinners, tastings and wine lists celebrating what is the single most versatile wine grape produced

In 2008 Paul decided that only Riesling would be offered by the glass as the white wine pour at Terroir and the concept has caught the imagination of producers, retailers, restaurantuers and consumers. What began as one man trying to convince customers to try this noble variety has resulted in about 500 restaurants and wine retailers in the US taking part as well as restaurants and retailers in Australia, Canada and now New Zealand.

Pauls attitude of ‘If you like chardonnay then there is a rich, succulent, barrel aged riesling to keep you happy; if you prefer crisp fruity sauvignon blanc then you will probably enjoy a dry, vibrant riesling’ and his belief that providing great service means making great recommendations to his customers (rather than just being a host and giving them what they ask for) was the beginning of the Riesling Revolution and earned him the Summer of Riesling Overlord crown. Last year Terrior Wine Bar had only Riesling on its wine list for the ‘94 days of summer’, 30 by the glass and over 90 by the bottle.

Last week I joined in with two parts of the Summer of Riesling celebration in New Zealand; firstly a national riesling tasting, featuring about 45 versions from different regions in New Zealand, that was attended by wine writers and restaurantuers from the US, UK, Australia and of course New Zealand. This was held at the stunning Tipapa luxury lodge and function venue at Greta Valley, just north of Waipara.

Part two was the CLIMAX celebration dinner at Pegasus Bay Winery where supporting Waipara wineries had a range of aged rieslings for us to sample and each person took along a bottle of riesling that best expressed what they love about the variety to share with their dinner companions. Not only did we experience some stunning wines from around the world but Pegasus Bay showed why Cuisine magazine judge them the best vineyard restaurant in the country year-after-year. Unbelievably good food, a fantastic environment and people who know how to celebrate!

This year more than 30 dining and retail establishments along with about 40 wineries from around New Zealand are celebrating the Summer of Riesling so as the website says “Become a foot soldier, choose Riesling. Viva la Revolution!” www.summerofriesling.co.nz

I have been drinking

Gladstone Vineyard 2011 Riesling – RRP $25
Produced in Gladstone in the Wairarapa this is made in a off-dry style the initial flavour is a burst of green apple that quickly evolves into zesty lime flavours with a backbone of river stone minerality. With a touch of honeyed sweetness in the finish to balance the mouthwatering acidity this would be perfect with pan seared white fish.

Julicher Estate 2011 Pinot Rose – RRP$19.95
This multi-award winning winery in Martinborough has produced another cracker here. Made from 100% pinot noir fruit the wine has a luscious texture in the mouth and is bursting with fresh summer berry flavours – strawberries and cream with a twist of spice and just enough sweetness to make it a delightful lunchtime wine.  

Nelson Region rainfall – published 20.01.12

While the heavy rains and flooding in Nelson that destroyed homes and land just before Christmas last year was headline news the impact on the wine grape growing sector has yet to be fully determined.
Rainfall statistics show some of the heaviest rain in parts of the region since records began with Nelson Airport recording six times its mean rainfall for December – 446mm while in Takaka about 1100mm of rain fell - more than 8 times its normal December total.
City residents got to feel like they were living in Auckland with the closure of one of the main arterial roads into the city for more than a week, resulting in a normal 15 minute drive taking up to three hours and the horticulture sector (particularly market gardeners) having to deal with flood damaged crops.
A photo published in The Nelson Mail showing people walking through a flooded vineyard was a dramatic visual reminder of just how much rain we had and while it probably made many winegrowers hearts sink just a little the effects of the rain on the 2012 vintage are still only best estimates at this stage.
With the main rainfalls occurring over a few days the impact of the rain on flowering and fruit-set was limited. Reports from across the region indicate the hardest hit variety is Gewurztraminer with most growers spoken to expecting no crop this year. Grape berry growth known has ‘hen and chicken’ appears as big and small grapes on each bunch. This is quite normal for the Mendoza clone of chardonnay but its occurrence in other varieties is both unusual and unwanted because the individual grapes will have different ripeness levels at harvest time and this has the potential to effect flavour profiles of the finished product.
The impact of the big wet on other varieties is very much location dependant with vineyards in some areas expecting a harvest at either near normal levels or down 20% - 40%, again dependant on how far through flowering the varieties were when the rains hit each vineyard.
Because of dangerous wet, slippery conditions on some sloping vineyards growers were unable to get equipment onto some vineyards to get disease control sprays on their vines and this has lead to some high labour costs as growers resorted to manually trimming the vigorous canopy growth to help dry the sodden bunches. One grower even resorted to using a helicopter to apply some anti-fungal sprays.
Those who were able to manage their vineyards intensely before, during and after individual rain events appear to be mainly disease free however some are reporting outbreaks of mildew in vineyards and, depending on whether or not these outbreaks can be controlled, this will also have an effect on the size and quality of the 2012 grape harvest in this region.

So it looks like this grape harvest is going to be below average in size in the Nelson region and quality is going to be highly dependent on weather patterns over the next few months. No more rain and lots of long hot days until mid May are at the top of every grower’s wish lists for 2012.

I have been drinking

Kaimira Estates has put together a deal where you can buy two $12.99 wines from their Brightside range for just $20 the pair. This deal is available at Fresh Choice Richmond and Takaka
Brightside 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – RRP$12.99
Vibrant fresh tropical flavours of passionfruit with a twist of lime are supported by firm river-stone minerality characters making it the perfect budget wine to enjoy with seafood off the barbecue this summer.
Brightside 2011 Rosé – RRP$12.99
Made from a blend of merlot and pinot noir the beautiful pale raspberry colour hints at the luscious creamy flavours of the wine. Fermentation in oak barrels adds texture to the mouthfeel and lets the blueberry and currant flavours shine. This is a serious wine for the price point and won’t disappoint rosé lovers.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas – Published 23.12.11

Christmas is here at last. For the little ones it probably seems to take forever to arrive but for me it seems like we have just got over Christmas 2010.
A lot has happened in New Zealand in 2011 with everything from natural disasters to the Rugby World Cup and almost everything in between. Fortunately for the vast majority of New Zealanders they fit into the ‘everything in between’ category. No one has been left untouched by the tragic reports emanating from the Christchurch earthquake and closer to home the recent floods will have a long term effect, not only on the region, but particularly on those left without homes and livelihoods at what is supposed to be a celebratory time of the year.
Among the highlights this year has been the outstanding quality of Nelson and New Zealand wine from the 2011 vintage. Local wines have received many accolades and, personally, I have found some new favourites and rediscovered some old ones. Among my new favourite producers is Sea Level Wines. With vineyards on the coast at Mariri and having the wines made at Whitehaven in Marlborough by co-owner and winemaker Sam Smail the first couple of vintages have been outstanding.
Spending a bit of time with Dave Glover reminded me that he produces some great wines under the Glover’s label and having sampled some pinot noir treasures resting in barrels I can’t wait until he bottles and releases them later in 2012.
One of the things I love doing at this time of the year is browsing through our cellar to select some treats to enjoy over the holiday season. We have some fantastic wines in the cellar but we also have what I call our trial corner, the place we put the last bottle or so out of a case and forget about them for several years. We don’t expect anything great from these wines because they are there to learn about how wines age and sometimes when we open them we just pour them down the drain but other times we are very pleasantly surprised.
Ten year old sauvignon blancs may not be fresh, lively and vibrant like they are in their youth but they can develop into really complex, interesting wines if they are well made in the first place and we have a lot of fun trying them with fellow wine lovers.
Of course there is nothing better than dipping into the cellar to find a bottle of premium wine that has been aged well to enjoy with friends. This year we will be at Herzog’s in Marlborough for Christmas lunch but by the time we get home in the late afternoon we will be ready to chill down a bottle of Neudorf 2006 Moutere Chardonnay to enjoy with the crayfish friends have promised us. Then it will probably be time to bring out the Stilton and open a bottle of vintage port - a little luxury at Christmas time.
However you are celebrating Christmas and New Year this year take a few minutes to think about those who have had a very tough year and if you are having a few wines please make sure you don’t drive, we don’t need any more sadness in our community.
I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas, a prosperous New Year and a safe holiday season.

I have been drinking

Parr & Simpson 2010 Barrique Fermented Limestone Bay Chardonnay – RRP$23
From a tiny vineyard high on the hillside above Port Tarakohe in Golden Bay comes this delight. Dry in style, elegant in structure and oozing soft stonefruit, lemon and delicate nut flavours bound together with firm mineral characters and a streak of fresh acidity this is a five star wine and outstanding value in my books.

GreenhoughVineyards 2010 Hope Vineyard Pinot Blanc – RRP$32.00
Made in an off-dry style off-dry but full bodied with a lush, rounded mouthfeel and white peach notes with a touch of soft spice this is a wine lovers wine. It is all about structure and complexity rather than just ripe fruit characters and will be perfect with that left over ham and turkey on Boxing Day. A super wine from one of Nelson’s best producers.

Champagne – Published 09.12.11

I love champagne! I know sparkling wines made in New Zealand in the same style as those from the Champagne region, the home of bubbles in France, are very good and always rate highly in tastings but there is something just a little ethereal about the real thing I just can’t resist.
Last week I was in heaven at a champagne tasting. Imagine the chance to taste a range of champagnes from three premium producers including three that come with a price tag of over $200 a bottle with one hitting $450. Now this is way beyond my wine buying budget so it was a real treat to be able to try them and see if they are worth the money – and I can report the ultra-premium wines absolutely are worth the money if your budget can stretch to it for a special occasion. 
Casa del Vino hosted the New Zealand representatives for the fine Champagne houses Louis Roederer, Taittinger & Bollinger and each had a small selection available for tasting paired with delightful finger food prepared by Hopgood’s Restaurant.
Ju Mannering from Negociants presented two wines from Bollinger along with another couple from Ayala. The Ayala Brut Majeur NV was refined and had just enough creamy sweetness to make it oh so drinkable. With a retail value of about $100 a bottle Bollinger NV Brut is the wine we have for special celebrations and I guess because Sari and I have been to the House of Bollinger we have a soft spot for it. While we enjoy this wine having the chance to try the premium Bollinger La Grande Année 2002 Vintage Prestige (RRP$199) was too good to turn down. With a quite firm brandy character this was a sensational match with Hopgood’s chicken liver parfait.
Juliane Cormier from Eurovintage was there to present Champagnes from Louis Roederer including a stunningly good value for money sparkling wine made by them but produced at  Roederer's Californian vineyard - Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut NV (RRP $39.95). This is as good as sparkling wine gets when it isn’t made in Champagne. However for me the wine of the night was the Louis Roederer Cristal 2004 Vintage Prestige (RRP about $450). This wine is so refined and elegant that when you taste it, it simply explodes into a mouthful of champagne mousse in your mouth. I can understand why this is so expensive, it is a stunning wine.
Finally Doug Campbell from Vintners presented a range of wines from Tattinger and my favourite here was the Tatttinger Les Folies de la Marquetterie NV ($120 and 5 stars, No.1 Cuisine Magazine, Nov 2011). Beautifully rich with a touch of fruitiness and a very long dry, satisfying finish with flavours that linger in your mouth for a very long time. I think this will be the wine we see New Year in with this year because I would rather share one bottle of excellent wine than three bottles of good wine.
All of these wines are available at Casa del Vino along with some very fine New Zealand made sparkling wines. Ann has something for everyone to celebrate with this holiday season.

I have been drinking

te Pa 2011 Sauvignon Blanc - RRP$19.95 - $21.95
This first release from the MacDonald family owned vineyard has set a very high benchmark. It has just been awarded 5 stars and named the top wine for the Cuisine magazine 2001 Sauvignon tasting following on from a Blue Gold award at the Sydney Top 100 wine competition. Intense citrus aromas are reflected in the flavours where crisp lime and passionfruit characters dominate while the very long finish has a first burst of minerality. A stunning wine for the price.

Mahi Boundary Farm 2010 Sauvignon Blanc – RRP$29.00

Fermention in French oak barrels using wild yeasts then aged for a further 11 months in the oak makes this a complex, seductive little temptress with power and weight to impress. Soft nut tones compliment the lime and capsicum characters nicely. This style of sauvignon blanc can be aged quite happily for a few more years.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas gifts – Published 25.11.11

Christmas is only a month away, in fact one month today, so it is time to start buying gifts for the special people in your life if you haven’t already done so. Because this is a column about wine of course I am going to tell you to buy something wine related but it doesn’t have to be a bottle of wine, there are lots of choices for you. Two of my favourite gift-buying places arePage & Blackmore Booksellers on Trafalgar Street and Casa del Vino on Hardy Street. At page and Blackmore you will find a nice selection of wine books that will please any wine loving person. They stock two great books from the person I consider New Zealand’s leading wine writer, Michael Cooper. His annual Buyers Guide to New Zealand Wine ($39.99) is a bible for every buyer of wine, if you have a cellar or just enjoy good wine then this should sit beside your favourite chair. It without doubt is the most comprehensive book that reviews and rates multiple vintages of New Zealand wines.
For something a little lighter Cooper’s 100 Must-Try New Zealand Wines ($34.99) to use his words “.. is to give you a diverse and stimulating array of New Zealand wines to choose from, regardless of whether you are in the mood for a wine of sublime quality, or looking for something new and exciting, or just thirsting for a bargain.” Well laid out and packed with easy to understand information and recommendations this makes a great gift.
Just around the corner at Casa del Vino you are spoiled for choice; Ann has everything from premium glassware to special bottles of liquid nectar that will satisfy every taste and budget. If the special person you are buying for loves a particular variety of wine, chardonnay for example, then why not buy them a couple of glasses designed specifically for that wine.
Riedel make a range of premium glasses designed to enhance every variety of wine, and the right glass does make a difference. To help you choose Ann has a display of glasses and because they can be quite expensive (RRP$55+ a glass) you can buy them in packs of two and she has 10% off all Riedel glassware before Christmas.
If you don’t want to stretch to $55 in cost then check out the range from Spiegelau, another premium maker but their glassware start at about $20 a glass and goes up from there. One really good idea is a tube of four stemless glasses.
Of course Casa del Vino also sells wine and they have plenty of treats. How about a magnum (1.5ltr) of the 2008 Te Mata Coleraine for $185 in a presentation box? Or maybe a magnum of bubbles from Pol Roger for $220, the special person you are buying it for may even share it with you. If you have a whiskey lover in your house then a single malt from Bruichladdich in a presentation box with a purpose designed whiskey glass for less than $100 will be perfect.
Both of these stores have plenty more delights for you to buy the wine lover in your life or maybe you could just treat yourself this Christmas.

I have been drinking

Dibon Cava Brut Reserve - $18.95 at Casadel Vino
Recommended retail price for this Spanish delight is about $25 but Ann has it at this special price just about all the time. Bright, fresh, powdery minerality and with a twist of citrus this sparkling wine is simply delicious. Perfect for every occasion this summer.

Saint Clair Family Estate 2011 Gruner Veltliner – RRP $21.50
As winemakers are coming to grips with one of the newest varieties to be planted in New Zealand and the vines get a wee bit of age the finished wines are getting better and better. This example from Saint Clair smells like gewurztraminer, has pear and soft apple flavours similar to pinot gris, a texture in the mouth reminiscent of chardonnay and a lovely citrus finish, almost like riesling. This New Zealand produced Gruner Veltliner (grew-na velt-leena) is proof this new variety has exciting potential and is one to watch for.

Sea Level Wines – Published 11.11.11

Occasionally I come across a new wine producer that gets my attention from the very first taste; something quite unusual because it normally takes a couple of vintages for a new producer to get to grips with making the best possible wine from fruit grown in a new vineyard. Sea Level Wines is one such producer. Owned by the father and son team of Mike and Sam Smail this is a new label on the Nelson winemaking scene. Their first wine, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, hit the shelves in 2010 while the first white wines from the home vineyard at Mariri were produced and released this year.
When I met with Mike and Sam to taste their wines a couple of months ago I quickly understood why the wines are so good so soon, Sam is a senior winemaker for Whitehaven Wines in Marlborough and has a wealth of experience to call on. Mike Smail may be new to the wine industry but is certainly not new to business having been an importer and distributor of goods for many years. His enthusiasm for this new venture is obvious and as well as “bringing resources essential to a fledging wine company” as their website says “he is proving useful at a wide array of tasks including vineyard development, label design and sales.”
Sam has worked for Whitehaven Wines in Marlborough since 1999, having previously
worked vintages in Italy, USA and New Zealand and studied winemaking at the University of Adelaide. Not a bad pedigree for a new wine company winemaker.
The focus of Sea Level Wines is to “make wines with varietal intensity and expressive of the site”. As a small producer Sea Level has a total quality focus and the first wines from the home vineyard reflect the hard work and dedication to quality. Definitive varietal characters, purity and intensity of flavour and perfect balance between fruit ripeness and freshness demand your attention from the first taste.
As well as a Sauvignon Blanc from the Awatere Valley in eastern of Marlborough the Mariri vineyard is planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc. When I first tasted these wines they hadn’t been bottled very long and needed some time to recover from inevitable bottle shock (wines don’t like being beaten up in the bottling process and need to settle down a bit after bottling) but the individual flavours and structure components were all there.
At the first smell of the 2011 Sea Level Gewurztraminer (RRP $23.95) my senses lit up, this is a special wine; delightful perfumed powdery rose and Turkish delight aromas with a palate weight that is opulent and has multi-layered flavours of soft spice, lychees, green apple and Turkish delight. I rated this as a five star wine then and not long after I tasted it with Mike and Sam the wine won a Gold medal at The New Zealand International Wine Show.
Since I first tasted and rated these wines I have been following Sea Level’s show success with more than a little interest and they have continued to pick up awards including a Pure Gold medal for their 2011 Pinot Gris (RRP$18.95) at the Bragato Wine Awards.
These new boys on the block are creating something very special and I will be following them with a great deal of interest in the years to come. Check out www.sealevelwines.co.nz

I have been drinking

Yealands Estate 2011 Pinot Noir Rose – RRP $19.95
I can see why this wine was crowned as Champion Rose at this year’s Bragato Wine Awards. It is packed with red current and raspberry flavours and is made in a dry style. The mouthwatering acidity in the long finish mean it is perfect with food. This is a vibrant, exciting style that I just love. Try it with smoked fish.

Ti Point Matakana Coast Matriarch Syrah 2010 – RRP $44.95
This is an iron fist in a velvet glove - deep red in colour with rich, complex, savoury red and black berryfruit flavours that finish with a delightful pepper burst and a twist of acidity. Two Gold medals already point to this as another wine to follow from one of my favourite newer producers.

Sauvignon Blanc – Published 28.10.11

The success of the New Zealand wine industry is based solely on one variety – sauvignon blanc. Sure there are plenty of other varieties grown in New Zealand and our winemakers have developed a huge reputation worldwide for the quality of most varieties they turn their hand to but without sauvignon blanc the world wouldn’t know about or rieslings, pinot noirs, chardonnays, syrahs, merlots, sparkling wines or the many other wine styles produced here. Make no mistake, sauvignon blanc is the backbone, the workhorse and shining star of New Zealand’s wine industry. It accounts for more than 50% of all vines planted and more than 50% of all wines made here, but not every sauvignon is the same; if you buy a sauvignon blanc made in Marlborough then chances are it will have very similar characters, but if you buy one from the Awatere Valley or the Wairau Valley you will find the base sauvignon characters of freshness and zesty acidity are the same as those from the Waihopai Valley but the flavour profiles are quite different.
Comparing sauvignon from these sub-regions is like comparing Nelson sauvignon blanc with Marlborough sauvignon blanc – the same variety but different flavours because the climate and soil structures they are produced in are different.
When we drink sauvignon blanc I think we expect one of two styles, either ripe tropical fruit based characters or juicy gooseberry characters but there are also many variables on these base flavours. Winemakers have been trying to make something that stands out from the crowd by employing a few winemaking techniques to change the texture of the wine and create subtle flavour differences. Fermenting or aging the wine in old oak barrels or letting the wine sit on yeast lees for a while adds a touch of richness to the texture of the wine while letting the grapes ripen a little longer on the vine will soften the acidity noticeably. The trick is making sure the wine still tastes like sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.
One of the latest party tricks winemakers have pulled from the hat is to make a sparkling sauvignon blanc. Again this can be made in a number of styles, medium styles made from riper fruit can have tropical fruit characters and other flavours just like standard sauvignon - but with bubbles. Harvest the fruit less ripe and with lower sugar levels as is done when making champagne and you will find the wine is dry with quite firm herbaceous characters.
In 2008 not only was the vintage challenging because of the weather but it was a huge, record setting harvest. In 2011 we have seen another huge sauvignon blanc crop but this time the quality of the finished wines has generally been outstanding. A number of great examples have crossed my doorstep this year so check out my blog regularly for more of my thoughts on 2011 sauvignon blancs.

I have been drinking

12,000 Miles 2010 Pinot Noir – RRP $26.00
Rich cooked black cherry flavours are balanced beautifully with charred oak and a touch of herbal spice. Made by Gladstone Vineyards in the Wairarapa region the wine is a delightful expression of regional characteristics with a little help from the winemaker to turn it into something quite delicious.

Maui Sauvignon Blanc – RRP $17.00 - $18.00
This strolled away with the trophy for best sauvignon blanc at the 2011 New Zealand International Wine Awards. Made from Marlborough fruit this has everything a great sauvignon needs – crisp, zesty yet juicy acidity that comes from perfectly ripe fruit and then layer after layer of flavour in the palate. From bright gooseberry to lush pineapple and passionfruit. A real treat. Check www.tikiwine.com to find out more.

Rosé – Published 14.10.11

Just because it is pretty in pink it doesn’t mean rosé wines aren’t serious wines and in recent years we have seen some outstanding examples being produced, not only in this region but from all around New Zealand. It wasn’t so long ago that rosé wines were regarded by some as a ‘ladies sweet lunchtime fun wine’ and you wouldn’t see a bloke within 100 meters of a bottle but how times have changed. As consumers are being a little more adventurous and winemakers have refined the art of making rosés that are seriously good with food and not just a bit of frivolous fun, the style is growing in popularity. In fact I reckon this summer we are going to see a lot more rosé being consumed than ever before.
The deep red colour in red wine comes from the skins of the grape and rosé wines are made by lightly pressing these so there is minimal colour extraction and good rosé wines are made from fruit harvested for the purpose. Yes they are the same grapes that normal pinot noir or merlot wines are made from but they are harvested at a different time and treated quite differently in the winery.
Slightly earlier harvesting means a little more acidity in the wine adding some nice summer freshness while minimal pressing means a lot less tannin. Gentle lees stirring and secondary malo fermentation add a creamy texture and often a sweet whipped cream flavour. Reduce the percentage of malo fermentation and you have a wine that appears much drier in style.
Now here is the warning, there are a few winemakers who have some red wine grapes they don’t need and think they can just lightly squeeze the fruit and bottle it as a rosé. How wrong they are; like any fine wine rosé needs to be crafted and not treated as an afterthought. Fortunately for consumers there are some fine rosés to choose from. A few that have been sent to me for sampling and are well worth searching for are the delicious Neudorf Pinot Rosé 2011 ($22.90 at the cellar door) dry, rich in style with flavours of raspberry and a touch of whipped cream. A long dry finish makes this a perfect food wine. Try it with some pork terrine from Philippe the butcher in Montgomery Square.
Another beauty is the deep raspberry red Pinot Rosé from Waimea Estates (RRP $21) that is bursting with berry fruit flavours woven with a touch of minerality and a dash of creamy vanilla. Another rosé that is perfect with food and the winemaker recommends matching it with Christmas ham.
Finally from Gladstone Vineyard in the Wairarapa comes a Cabernet Franc Rosé (RRP $25). We know about the quality of pinot noir produced in this region so it is no surprise Gladstone have delivered a luscious salmon pink rosé that is simply charming. Elegant sweet fruit with a touch of creaminess and a long mouth watering finish. Just enjoy it by itself late on a Saturday afternoon, maybe with some pate and cheese.
There are plenty of very good rosé wines being produced and you will find a great selection on the shelves of your favourite wine shop so guys, be brave and buy pink!

I have been drinking

Gladstone Vineyard Reserve Sophie’s Choice 2010 – RRP$36
This limited release barrel fermented and barrel aged sauvignon blanc from this boutique Wairarapa vineyard deserves both its reserve status and price tag. A seductive textural weight in the mouth with soft toasted nut and passionfruit flavours, a touch of oak spice and just enough ripe acidity to make your mouth water for more this is a wine that will make you smile.

Saint Clair Family Estate Sawcut Vineyard 2009 Chardonnay – RRP$30.50
While this barrel aged wine has had the full oak and malo treatment it is elegant and refined. Spiced stonefruit aromas of peach and nutmeg are reflected in the flavours along with firm acidity and a dash of chalky minerality. This creamy textured wine is perfect with roasted pork or chicken.

Anchorage Wines – published 30.09.11

When the Drummond family decided to convert their apple orchards to vineyards in the early 2000’s the wine industry was booming, the economy was growing like crazy and people had plenty of spare cash to enjoy the finer things in life. Creating Anchorage Wines was a sound business decision at the time and while we all knew the bubble had to burst at some stage no one expected all the negative forces to line up with such devastating impact on a single industry. Fortunately the Drummond’s had decided to target the middle ground with their product and while times have been tough, with their vineyards reaching full production just in time to coincide with a bumper 2008 vintage and a downturn, no let’s say plummet, in the world economy they have weathered the storm by delivering good quality wine at a great price.
While the downturn meant selling wine at about the cost of production with very little or no margin for a couple of years Anchorage has always delivered on quality.
Winemaker Justin Papesch has the luxury of selecting fruit from different vineyards from which to craft his product each year. Vineyards at Lower Moutere, Riwaka and beside the Motueka River have quite different climate conditions and soil structures so Anchorage is able to deliver wines with distinct vineyard characters that make the most of each variety.
The Motueka site is located at the mouth of the Motueka River so the soils are quite light, stony and free draining and the Riwaka sites have a similar soil structure while the Lower Moutere site has a top layer of stone filled clay with gravel below that. In 2011 it was decided that the sauvignon blanc fruit from the Motueka River site was delivering the flavours and structure that best represents the Anchorage Wines style for this variety so that is the fruit that went into the Anchorage sauvignon blanc.
Anchorage wines don’t pretend to be $50 wines but they often deliver flavour and quality well above their price range of between $17 and $22. Take the Anchorage 2010 Pinot Noir Rose (RRP $18) as an example; bursting with lush creamy raspberry aromas with rich fruit, a touch of vanilla and minerality in the flavours this is a dangerously easy wine to drink. And you will often find it on special for about $15.
I was particularly impressed with the Anchorage 2010 Reserve Chardonnay (RRP$20). Justin has a soft spot for chardonnays made with the use of seasoned oak as well as new oak barrels. This wine is made in a big, full style but is beautifully balanced with rich peaches and cream flavours and some nice lime freshness in the finish.
Next time you see Anchorage Wines at your favourite wine retailer don’t be shy about picking up a bottle and putting it in your shopping bag, you won’t be buying a premium wine but you will be buying a wine that delivers great flavour and very good value.

I have been drinking

Villa Sandi Prosecco il Fresco DOC (Italy) - $24 at Casa del Vino
Many Proseccos can be quite sweet but while this version has lovely ripe fruit flavours and a modest 11% alcohol it is delightfully dry. The fresh acidity in the finish balances the residual sugar nicely. Fantastic drinking late on a sunny afternoon.

Blackenbrook 2009 Riesling – RRP $23
Selected as one of the wines to represent Nelson in the 1st XV Competition this went on to win the Best Riesling award. Exceptional balance is the key to this finely crafted wine. With intensely floral aromas and a backbone of fine minerality we see in many Blackenbrook wines this wine not only represents everything great about the 2009 vintage but also the dedication to quality at Blackenbrook. Be like me, by some for the cellar, you won’t regret it.

Recent Awards - Published 16.09.11

Wine shows are important for the wine industry for a couple of reasons. Firstly because winning a medal and, in particular, a gold medal or trophy means producers get to put a nice shiny sticker on the bottles they are trying to entice you and me to buy. A medal of any colour is a general indication that the wine is of good quality, it may not necessarily be to your taste but it should be a good example of the variety. The second key reason for those in the industry is it lets producers benchmark their product against other wines; as all judging is blind (the judges don’t know whose wine they are tasting) and because judges at wine shows are generally all very experienced, have palates that are able to detect small nuances in wines and are able to express why they prefer one wine over another it is fair to say wine producers find out very quickly whether or not their wines are up to generally accepted industry standards.However we also need to remember that not every winery enters wine competitions, either because they have already established a great name for themselves in the market place and or because of the expense. By the time a winery pays to enter the competition which can be expensive, sends several bottles of each wine entered and then have the cost of attending an awards dinner if they are in the running for a trophy of some sort it is not a cheap exercise.
On top of that some competitions insist you have a certain amount of wine available for sale after the awards and many small wineries simply don’t make the volume of wine required so are excluded from entering by default.
Having said all of that Nelson wineries have performed exceptionally well in the recent round of wine shows, especially for aromatic style wines. Gold medals for sauvignon blanc, riesling, gewurztraminer, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot noir and syrah are very good results but two trophies for Riesling is simply exciting. Kaimira Estates Iti Selection Brightwater Riesling 2011 (low alcohol) was the Champion Riesling at the New Zealand International Wine Show while Brightwater Vineyards Nelson Riesling 2011was the Champion Riesling at the Bragato Wine Awards. And let’s not forget Seifried Estate winning three gold medals in the same show for three different rieslings, a fantastic achievement.
For one of New Zealand’s smallest wine producing regions the wineries here certainly punch well above their weight. About 3% of New Zealand’s wine is made here but the region won 4.5% of gold medals awarded (200) at the NZ International Wine Show that attracted entries from around the world and 16% (51 awarded) at the Bragato Wine Awards.

On a local note the fiercely competed for Colin Harrison Memorial Trophy for this region’s best Chardonnay was awarded to Rimu Grove’s 2010 Chardonnay, one to look forward to when it is released later in the year.
Over the next few columns I will have a look at the award winning wines, let’s start with
Waimea Estates 2011 Sauvignon Blanc - $19.00
Bursting with pungent floral aromas of white peach and passionfruit with a palate that is full, rich and fruity with lashings of crisp lime flavours to balance the fullness of the passionfruit characters. With a long juicy finish this wine certainly deserves its gold medal status.
Kahurangi Estate Mt Arthur Reserve Chardonnay 2010 - $22.00
There is nothing shy and delicate about this old fashioned beast. Flavours are packed with big oak characters with lovely creamy butterscotch flavours, a dusting of oak toast and some lovely herbal characters all beautifully balanced and wrapped up in a lusciously rich texture.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

RWC Part two – Published 02.09.11

The upcoming Rugby World Cup has been embraced by New Zealand’s wine industry, not necessarily for the rugby but for the promotional opportunities. The chance to show off their wares to an international audience on their home turf doesn’t come along very often and the wine industry is giving visitors and visiting media plenty of opportunities to experience the best the country has to offer.
The industry is also working with other sectors so they can provide a total experience, not just sipping samples. We know about the First XV competition in Nelson and the events around that, and you have probably heard about the Big Balls competition at Te Mania Wines and Richmond Plains. If not get out to McShane Road and check out the vine sculptures, vote for your favourite and get your hands on a bottle of the ripe, juicy and very drinkable Big Balls Syrah.
Our neighbours in Marlborough have a fantastic event lined up for the 30th September - Indulge Marlborough. It is a celebration of the new release Sauvignon Blanc's from eight well respected Marlborough wineries including Astrolabe, Dog Point, Forrest, Hunter’s, Tohu, Villa Maria, Wairau River and Whitehaven. Like others in the wine industry they are joining forces with the arts community but in this case it is the iconic New Zealand fashion labels Kate Sylvester (who, this year is forgoing NZ Fashion Week to exclusively show at Indulge), Kathryn Wilson and Stolen Girlfriends Club. The designers will be in Blenheim at the event to make sure their 2012 Winter Collection will be shown at its very best at the only public viewing in NZ.
So what happens after a fashion show and the launch of eight of New Zealand’s most respected sauvignon blanc wines? A party of course! There will be music and dancing into the wee hours of the night.
A fashion show, sauvignon blanc and a party all for $95 a person (plus drinks at the party). Check out
www.indulgemarlborough.co.nz for more details or get tickets from Ticketdirect.

Women’s fashion may not be my thing but wine certainly is and I have been lucky enough to sample the new release sauvignon blancs from these wineries including a low alcohol version from Forrest Estate that is bursting with freshly crushed grape flavours. The overall impression I have after tasting these new wines is that it must have been a great vintage in Marlborough, they are all bursting with ripe flavours, have easy acidity (nothing too harsh) and will make exceptional summer drinking. Check out my blog at www.thewinebarrel.co.nz for my tasting notes on each one.
And finally back to Nelson; don’t forget to get your tickets to the First XV dinner, the tutored tasting or the annual new release launch at the Boat House where you will be able to taste some fantastic gold medal winning aromatic style wines as well as one or two wines that have won trophies recently.
Then of course there is the Nelson Arts Festival that will also feature wines from a couple of our premium producers at the Festival café. So many things to choose from I don’t think I will have time to go to the rugby!

I have been drinking
Blackenbrook Vineyard 2011 Muscat - $23
I loved the 2010 version of this wine and I think this year’s is even better. It doesn’t seem quite as sweet as last year’s but has a lot more complexity. Ripe apples, musky roses, elegant spices and dangerously easy to drink. Another summer delight from a premium producer of aromatic style wines.

Kahurangi Estate 2010 Syrah - $22
Big, ripe and lush blackberry flavours with lashings of spicy pepper, balanced beautifully with refined oak tannin. This is classic cool climate syrah, not too sweet like many from hot climates and it picked up a Gold medal at the Spiegelau International Wine Show, Nelson Syrah at its very best.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First XV – Published 19.08.11

In case you missed it the Rugby World Cup is coming to Nelson! To make the most of this outstanding business opportunity RWC Ltd has encouraged regions to organise a series of events that leverage off the media coverage RWC will generate.
Some of us aren’t quite so enthusiastic about the RWC and the effectiveness of the opportunities promised but what we will have are some outstanding events we can all enjoy at a local level. One of these is the First XV wine competition being organised by Nelson Wineart, the local winegrowers association.

Again in case you missed it, Nelson will be hosting three RWC games in the city and the Italian team will be using Nelson as its base for a few weeks, the Americans will be here with a huge media contingent for a week or so and the Russians will spend a couple of days here along with the Australian team.

The First XV competition focuses on aromatic style wines from three countries, New Zealand (only Nelson), America and Italy. The Australians were a late addition after the Christchurch earthquake so it was a bit late to include them in the competition and the Russians miss out because it is about wine not vodka.

Each country has run a competition to select their top 15 aromatic style wines and these will be judged against one another in Nelson by a team of international wine judges. The results will be announced at a gala dinner at the stunning underground cellars at Woollaston Estates winery while all of the wines will be available at a tutored public tasting to be held at WOW where you will also get to listen to and meet the international judges. This is a fantastic opportunity to not only taste a range of top flight wines but to learn about how varieties are produced in different ways in each country.

The final event will be the annual new release tasting at The Boathouse where local wineries show off all of their latest release wines.

The showcase event will be the gala dinner at Woollaston Estates hosted by John Hawkesby and catered by the team from Petite Fleur. Each course reflects food from a different country and will be matched with stunning international and local wines. Treats like the finest Nelson seafood out of the shell, then the Italian influenced clear Osso Buco soup with Italian herbs followed by wild venison leg steak or pan-fried local fish and if you are up for it a dessert trio of mini apple pie, mini doughnut and the famous chocolate brownie – from America of course.

This promises to be an outstanding event and bus transport to Woollaston’s will be running so you can indulge to the extreme (well almost) without worrying about drinking and driving. To find out more about these events and to secure your tickets go to www.wineart.co.nz and follow the links to the First XV competition.

I have been drinking

Seifried Estates 2011 Nelson Sauvignon Blanc – RRP $21
This widely available delight is packed with luscious ripe tropical fruit (passionfruit) and crisp apple flavours with zesty acidity and lingering nettle spice. The flavour intensity and purity on the palate reflects a great vintage and sensitive winemaking.

Buller Wines Beverford Vineyard 2011 Muscato – RRP $18
With only 5% alcohol this is a light fresh wine that screams ‘bring on summer!’ Apple and powdery mineral characters in the aromas a touch of spritz and bright freshly squeezed grape flavours ensure this is a tasty treat. And the low alcohol makes it a perfect lunch time or late afternoon wine.

Clos Henri – Published 05.08.11

A couple of weeks ago Sari and I were guests at the 10th Birthday celebration for Marlborough winery Clos Henri. The Bourgeois family are well know Sancerre winemakers and despite ten generations of winemaking history in the Loire Valley producing sauvignon blanc and pinot noir they were eager to create something new in a country without the restrictions they have to work with in France. 
Because Marlborough is world renowned for its production of sauvignon blanc it was an obvious location for the family to choose but rather than simply coming here and growing grapes the same way they do in Sancerre the Bourgeois’ spent time studying the local climate, soil types and viticultural practices, learning as much as they could about their new location before they applied their French winemaking history to the Marlborough business.

The result is a range of wines that could be described as the perfect marriage of New Zealand conditions and French experience. One of the key differences in production is that in France sauvignon blanc isn’t designed for consumption in the year it is made, rather the wines are designed to age and offer complexities we don’t generally see in young, brash Marlbourough sauvignon blanc. 

Jean-Marie and Arnaud Bourgeois travelled from Sancerre to host the birthday celebrations at Clos Henri and treated their suppliers, distributors, Marlborough friends and the French Ambassador to a delicious French style luncheon, they also let us taste a range of wines from both Marlborough and the home estate in Sancerre, including the exceptional 1990 Domaine Henri Bourgeois Etienne Henri, a 21 year old sauvignon blanc.

This wine from an exceptional vintage proves that sauvignon blanc is more than a one trick pony and Clos Henri in Marlborough have set about proving that such exceptional wines can be produced in this country. As well as being aged on yeast lees for eight months the 2009 Clos Henri Marlborough sauvignon blanc also had a small amount (8%) of barrel fermented wine included in the final blend and this has resulted in a wine that has developed a lovely rounded, rich mouthfeel while still retaining the freshness of classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

Another wine from Sancerre that we were treated to highlighted the minerality and elegance of wines produced there. The 2008 Domaine Henri Bourgeois Jadis is made from vines that are a minimum of 50 year old. It was 50% fermented in barrels and 50% in tanks as well as spending some time resting on lees and treating sauvignon blanc in this way has resulted in a wine that has a seductive, fleshy mouthfeel with ripe floral aromas. Typical powdery minerality in the very long finish is the perfect foil to the soft acidity.

Being invited to join this French family at its 10th birthday celebration was a delightful experience and showed how the blending of two winemaking regions and cultures can lead to something very special. Check their website for more information about where to buy their wines and next time you are in Marlborough take the time to visit the old church converted into a wine tasting facility five minutes south of Renwick

I have been drinking.

Seifried Estate 2011 Gruner Veltliner (grew-na velt-leena) - RRP$21
This is the second vintage of this European variety from Seifried’s. Delicate aromas with a complex array of flavours from zesty lemon, ripe apple and powdery minerality this dry wine is a lovely alternative to aromatic style wines like pinot gris.

Julicher 2009 Chardonnay – RRP$19-$22
From a boutique Martinborough producer recognised for its outstanding pinot noir this is a rich, mouth-filling wine. Even though this was fermented in a mix of new and old French oak and matured on yeast lees it still retains citrus freshness and river stone like minerality. A fantastic wine and worth hunting down. www.julicher.co.nz

Buller Wines – published 22.07.11

It makes sense for any business to maximise the use of all of its resources and this basic business principle applies to wine producers too. Wineries have a huge investment in specialist production equipment, equipment that is only used for a few weeks each year but without it a winery would not be able to operate.
Take the press used to extract juice from grapes as an example. A good quality press can cost tens of thousands of dollars or at the top end large capacity premium quality equipment can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, all for a few weeks work a year. That is only one item of equipment so you can imagine the cost of establishing a full winery operation.

One asset that wineries have and is often over looked as something that can be used for more than its own purposes is a sales team. Owners of small wineries tend to take on this role themselves while others use national distribution chains to get their product to market.

Medium to large producers however often have their own staff who visit restaurants and wine outlets promoting and selling their wares and it is these producers who are starting to look for other products they can sell at the same time. They add wines to their portfolios they don’t produce themselves and fill a gap in the wines they have to offer.

Tohu Wines, based in Nelson, have recently added a range of good quality Australian wines to the portfolio their sales team has to offer. Tohu is a brand owned by Wakatu Incorporation which is in turn owned by four Iwi making it essentially a family owned business, even if it is a very large family, and they have many similarities to the large family owned Buller Wines that was established in 1921 in Rutherglen (Victoria) and is one of the five oldest winemaking businesses in the region.

The key difference however is in the style of wines each produces and this is where working together really pays off; in Australia Buller Wines distribute Tohu wines and on this side of the Tasman Tohu gets to sell a range of wines that are quite different to their own. Buller wines available here include a low alcohol Muscato ($17) that has a refreshing spritz on the palate and is packed with apple and powdery river stone flavours, a range of fleshy cabernet and shiraz based reds and a stunning fine old muscat ($30) that has been fortified with premium brandy – a wine to warm you through and put a smile on your face. And Robert Parker gave this wine 96 points out of 100 and it has won multiple gold medals and a trophy or two.

Buller wines will start appearing on shelves near you very soon, keep an eye out for them as they deliver great value for money.

I have been drinking

Waimea Estates ‘Trev’s Red’ - $23 (cellar door)
Made from Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah the harvested fruit was fermented together. The intention was to make a light, bright easy drinking red but it turned out to be a medium weight, supple wine with savoury chocolate-dipped plum flavours and a nice long toasty oak finish. The perfect winter everyday red.

Clearview 2009 Old Olive Block - $39.99 (RRP)
Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec this wine won both a Gold medal and the Trophy for best Cabernet dominant blend at The 2011 Spiegelau International Wine Competition. Packed with big berry fruit and cassis flavours and layers of spice and oak that evolve in your mouth, all bound together with silky tannins, this complex wine is worth every cent of its price tag.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Waimea Estates

In recent weeks we have had lots of news about award winning wines from this region but I think one in particular is quite special, not just because of the award but also because of the team behind the production of the wine.
When the general manager and winemaker left Waimea Estates a couple of years ago co-owner and the bloke in charge, Trevor Bolitho, offered the head winemakers job to the young assistant winemaker. There is nothing unusual in the fact she is a woman, there are plenty of female winemakers in New Zealand, but it is not very often we see an all female winemaking team. Winemaker Trudy Shields has stepped up to the challenge in a most successful way.

When I spent a couple of hours chatting with her and tasting some new releases it became obvious why Trevor has such faith in this woman, she credits everyone else for the success of the wines she produces but I detected a quiet, understated self-confidence in her ability.

Trudy told me that the wines produced before she took over had a great track record and that you don’t need to change a winning formula, she then went about telling me about some of the small changes she had made in producing the sauvignon blanc that has won the Regional Trophy at The Decanter World Wine Awards. They may have been very subtle changes and Trudy says the fruit was very good (again crediting someone else) but these small changes were quite insightful and the effect they had on the finished product was significant.

So what is so special about this award? Firstly these are international awards, judged on a regional basis with the regional winners going head-to-head to find the international winner so they are a big deal on the international wine competition scene. Secondly Marlborough is recognised as the home to the variety that has put New Zealand wine on the international stage and a winery from little old Nelson has beaten the big boys at their own game. Finally Waimea Estates 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is the first delivered by the new wine producing partnership of viticulturist Ben Bolitho and winemaker Trudy Shields. I think the skill of Ben in the vineyards and attention to detail of Trudy in the winery is a winemaking partnership worth keeping an eye on.

And anyone who can get Trevor Bolitho into a pink polo shirt obviously has his respect!

I have been drinking

Vidal Reserve Series Gimblett Gravels 2009 Syrah – RRP $29.99
The first release in a new tier of wines from Vidals is already flexing its muscles. Deep plum red in colour with aromas of black pepper, floral blackberry and soft spice backed up with intense fruit flavours, a lovely medium tannin structure and a nice twist of toasted coffee in the finish this is drinking well now and will cellar for five to six years.

Neudorf Vineyards
2010 Nelson Chardonnay – Cellar Door $29.20
The 2010 vintage in Nelson was outstanding and this wine proves the point nicely. Rich, luscious stonefruit with a touch of creaminess, a kiss of toasty oak and lashings of minerality add up to another great wine from the masters of chardonnay.