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Wine of the Week for week ending 8 February 2004
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A selection of NZ Pinot Noir
Marlborough, New Zealand

I walked into the bathroom and looked into the mirror. My lips were stained, my teeth were black and my tongue was deep purple. I wondered what the heck the couple in the elevator just before had thought when they asked, "What floor do you want" and I said "Floor 23, please" and gave them a big purple smile of thanks. If they had been delegates at Pinot Noir 2004, they may have understood but I donít think they were. I possibly reeked of alcohol too but I hoped not, for despite the back page of the Pinot Noir 2004 programme carrying an advertisement from our national airline saying "See, Swirl, Sniff, Slurp. New Zealand wines are too good to spit out", it had been a day of tasting for me and spitting was definitely on the agenda. I am sure the black teeth, purple tongue syndrome is augmented by spitting, as spitters tend to use every wine like a mouthwash, swishing it around to cover every nook and cranny to get the maximum, then spitting it out while taking the mouth's natural goodies with it.

And so to the Wine of the Week.

Well, there is no one particular Wine of the Week this week because after four days of tasting superb pinot noirs from all parts of New Zealand, I canít single out any one wine when there were so many different wines on show. There were lighter style wines that excelled at the Celebration lunch, there were heavier style wines that were superb at the Chefs Celebration Dinner and there were a myriad of styles in between, wines that danced across the palate and flirted outrageously with their charm. Then were also the wines tasted at the formal wine tasting sessions, wines served in the designer 'Ultimo Taster' glass by Zerrutti, wines that I had time to muse over and write copious notes.

These three wines were all standouts in separate wine and food situations and by coincidence, they all come from Marlborough.

Selaks Drylands Marlborough Pinot Noir 2002, an entry level pinot noir according to Nobilos but a wine that charms nevertheless and a wine that excelled at the Celebration lunch served in a huge marquee on a hot humid day. It's a beverage wine, a wine that is light enough to be consumed on its own but it is definitely one of the best food wines coming up trumps with so many food styles. At the celebration lunch its medium style matched to all the foods, which included hot smoked salmon fillets with rocket, basil and tomatoes and rare slices of fillet of beef served with hummus and olives.

Herzog Marlborough Pinot Noir 2001 is definitely not a beverage wine. It is a big seductive style with a wonderfully smooth flow and a perfect example of harmony on the palate when consumed with the right food. It is a dense and deeply coloured wine, a concentrated sweet-fruited wine, a rich, full, smooth and creamy wine with a slightly spicy backbone and a chocolate richness that was enhanced by ' loin of rare lamb served with truffle infused mashed potatoes, savoy cabbage scented with truffle oil and mushrooms of many kinds'. This was the main course dish at the Roxburgh Restaurant, where I dined at the Chef's Choice Dinner.

Mudhouse Black Swan Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2000 was definitely the star pinot on the Marlborough day. This was the day when delegates travelled on the Lynx ferry for the two and a quarter hour trip across Cook Strait for a Marlborough Mystery Tour, destinations unknown until each allocated bus was on its way. Bus 'H' went to Mudhouse for lunch, a winery I knew nothing about therefore expectations could only be exceeded. A four vintage mini-vertical of Mud House 'Black Swan' Reserve Pinots showed the evolution of the wines and the vintage variations. While the 2002 pinot noir was rich and robust, I liked the fragrant charm of the 2000 vintage wine. Despite its age it was youthful in looks and taste; a clean, fresh wine with a smoky oak and forest floor aroma, a lovely fruit backbone, a savoury richness, a touch of rose petal and herb and an underlying chocolate cherry sweetness; a medium to full-bodied style with lovely mouthfeel and length. It was matched to Chicken stuffed with Pea Puree, wrapped in bacon for cooking and sliced to show a striking contrast between white and green, roasted vegetables and of course, Marlborough salmon.

© Sue Courtney
2 February 2004

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