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Wine of the Week for week ending 12 September 2004
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Three Stylish Wines
It has been extremely difficult to choose this week's Wine of the Week because although I tasted in excess of 400 wines with some absolute stunners as well as some bummers, I still don't know what most of them were. This is because most of the wines were tasted blind for the Liquorland Top 100 International Wine Competition in which I was privileged to be a judge. Perhaps my favourite was wine 10 from class 20c, or was it wine 4 from class 12d? The Liquorland Top 100 International Wine Competition results are announced on 1st October and I don't get my cross reference sheets that identify the judging numbers to the wines until much later this month. So I'll be waiting eagerly until then to find out what my well scored wines were, especially the exquisite sweet wine and the outstanding Pinot Noir that I tasted in the trophy line-up as the last event of the competition.

All of this weeks tasting highlights are quite coincidentally as a result of the Show. Kingsley Wood of First Glass Wines and Spirits is the competition convenor so during show week he has the visiting winemaker judges starring at the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday tasting. The tasting notes are on my Wednesday Round-up page but there are a couple of wines I want to mention again here.

Firstly the Escarpment Pinot Noir 2002 from Martinborough. Made by Larry McKenna who is regarded as one of this country's finest Pinot Noir winemakers, this wine shows the finesse that we came to expect with the Martinborough Vineyards Pinot Noirs that he made so famous. This release of Escarpment is just the second vintage and has a tiny portion of first crop fruit from the Escarpment Vineyard in Te Muna Road. This wine has been in the bottle for about a year and it is starting to drink beautifully now. The good news is that this wine is available. It costs around $45 a bottle. Check it out on

The other highlight was John Hancock's Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2002, another outstanding Syrah from the Gimblett Gravels subregion in Hawkes Bay and though not yet released it is certainly one to look out for when it makes its debut. It's going to be priced around a $100 a bottle, so will not be cheap and may become quite sought after if the world's most influential wine critic, Robert Parker, rates this wine. John Hancock met with Mr Parker at the end of June and reports "an exceptionally positive response – beyond all expectations”. Write to John Hancock at Trinity Hill Wines for more information or keep an eye on the Trinity Hill website at

Every year Liquorland invites an overseas guest judge to the competition and this year it was Paul Lapsley the group red winemaker for Hardys. So it was another privilege to lunch with Paul on Friday and enjoy a range of Hardys wines, including the Arras 1998 Chardonnay Pinot Noir, the most wonderful expression of Australian bottle fermented sparkling wine that I've yet tasted. Having judged the sparkling wine classes, including Champagnes, the previous day it is safe to say that Arras, had it been entered in the competition, would have been right up there with the best.

Made entirely from Tasmanian grapes with a blend of 61% Chardonnay and 39% Pinot Noir this golden hued wine has rich bready flavours with a Champagne-like earthiness, a beautifully creamy mid-palate richness and a long drawn-out finish with natural acidity adding freshness.

Arras has been made since 1995 in experimental blends by Hardys' sparkling wine guru, Ed Carr, but 1998 shows new finesse according to Paul. I certainly would not contradict that. It spent 4 years on yeast lees and a year in bottle before release.

This is a beautifully presented limited edition wine expected to make its debut into New Zealand in October and again it is another wine that will not be cheap. Expect to pay around $60 or $70. You may be thinking why pay that much when you could have Champagne for the same price, but Arras is vintage and Champagne at that price point will be a generic non-vintage blend. I think if you are going to spend that amount of money, it's worth the punt.

It is rare that an Australian wine excites me so much that I feature it in my New Zealand Wine of the Week, but sometimes these things just have to happen if that is the way the week pans out. Next week it will be New Zealand all the way.

© Sue Courtney
5 September 2004

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