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Wine of the Week for week ending 24 October 2004
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Sacred Hill White Cabernet 2004
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

I woke up this morning to finish off my Wine of the Week review only to find the document had mysteriously disappeared from my computer. I know I wrote it. I know I saved it. Where had it gone? Frustrating to say the least.

I wrote about flying to Hawkes Bay during the week, leaving Auckland on a cold, overcast, drizzly spring morning to arrive to 26 degree, summer-like temperatures. It was like arriving in a different country and on disembarking from the plane the first priority was to get the overcoat off.

The reason for the journey was the Hawkes Bay Winegrowers Vintage Review 2004, a sneak preview of the 2004 vintage wines, 91 in all. Some wines, like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling were already on the market but of most interest were the work in progress wines like Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Hawkes Bay blended reds. It was necessary to look past the unfinished yeasty characters of the Chardonnays and the youthful and still evolving tannins of the reds but it wasn't difficult to find the fruit that powerhoused these wines. The normal suspects looked very good indeed, but the well known names will have lots of challengers. I canít wait for their release.

The following day was given over to tiki touring and it was easy to see the vines were revelling in the Hawkes Bay warmth. Almost all were showing the bright greens of their new growth. I found it easiest to recognise the Cabernet Sauvignon, not by the leaf but by the lack of leaf, this variety being the last to bud. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines were either naked of leaf with buds swelling and ready to burst, or with just a smattering of newly emerged, tiny green leaves.

If only the hot weather would come to Auckland! With Labour Weekend next weekend I've got my fingers crossed, so on arriving back home decided to taste some Rosť wines with summer in mind.

Is Rosť the ultimate summer wine? It certainly seems to be making a comeback down under. At this year's Liquorland Top 100 International Wine Competition there were 32 Rosťs entered, double that of last year's entry which then was a huge increase on the 4 wines the year before. But Rosťs never seem to garner the enthusiasm of the judges. Just one wine won a silver medal this year.

The wines donít get high points for several reasons, in my opinion. Firstly, as they are designed for a luncheon or summer afternoon refreshing drink, they are not overly complex wines. Secondly, they can be made from many variety of grapes so there is no stylistic consistency. Thirdly, a wine competition where the wines are served at room temperature is a fairly sterile environment for this style of wine that really needs to be served well chilled on a hot day with the sound of waves breaking in the distance or a light breeze rustling through the trees.

At the Hawkes Bay Vintage Review someone asked the question "Is Rosť a market driven thing, purely for sales". Winemaker Tim Turvey from Clearview Estate, who make a Blush Rosť from a blend of Chambourcin and white wine grapes, answered "Yes". Vidal Winemaker Rod McDonald said Rosť is one of the only wine styles to experience growth in the domestic market while wine drinkers in the US market won't look at it.

My own tasting didnít result in a wine I would rate as a gold medal wine, but there were certainly wines that would make enjoyable drinking in the right conditions. After much deliberation, I decided on the Sacred Hill White Cabernet 2004 as my Wine of the Week.

A delicate pink wine, not white as the label would suggest, the colour is the palest of watermelon while the aroma is of macerated strawberries. It is herbaceous and zingy with a spicy citrussy finish and a long pungent aftertaste with lingering flavours of strawberry and blackcurrant. With its zesty, punchy, lively flavours and underlying herbaceousness there's a reminiscence to sauvignon blanc. A clean, crisp, refreshing wine for summer, it carries 13.5% alcohol by volume and 5 grams per litre of residual sugar. Recommended retail is $19.95.

Hard on the heels of the Sacred Hill White Cabernet was a stable mate wine, the Sacred Hill Whitecliffs Rosť 2004 made entirely from Merlot. It's a weightier style with strawberries and cherries and lots of fruity charm, nicely balanced sweetness and good length.

Also recommended are Ata Rangi Summer Rosť 2004 from Martinborough and from Hawkes Bay the Odyssey Hawkes Bay Rosť 2004 made from Cabernet Franc grapes and Villa Maria Hawkes Bay Rosť 2004 made from a blend of Merlot and Malbec grapes.

As usual the wines were tasted on their own and then with food. Tonight the match was the tender breast meat from a roasted chicken served with avocado, tomato and a side of salad greens dressed with a pomegranate vinaigrette. Pomegranate is one of my favourite fruits and though it is an autumn fruit, imports from the Northern hemisphere are arriving in our fruit stores. Combine some seeds (without the pithy membrane), freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, avocado oil and a little Rosť wine in quantities to taste and toss over the greens.

© Sue Courtney
17 October 2004

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