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Wine of the Week for week ending 23 January 2005
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Morton Estate Blanc de Blanc 1999
Marlborough, New Zealand

After the fifth coldest December since records began in 1853 and the coldest since 1945 (ref: NIWA), the cold snap continued into the first week of January. It was becoming hard to convince anyone in New Zealand that the world was supposedly in a phase of global warming. In fact whenever that phenomenon was mentioned a common catch phrase was "Global warming. Yeah Right". But once the Christmas New Year break was over and most indoor office workers had to head back to their place of work, the sun came out as if to say "Hey, summer is really here".

The week just past has been the hottest week of the year so far and at last I was able to pull out some of the wines that had been stored in the fridge for such an occasion. In particular the methode traditionelles aka sparkling wines, fizz, bubbles, or 'mirumiru' to use the Maori word.

I've been lucky enough to taste quite a few thimblefuls of Champagne from that hallowed region in France that gives its name to the wine style and on more fortunate occasions I've actually been able to partake of several glasses or three. But many of the kiwi styled versions are right up there in quality and some, dare I say it, could be even better.

With the prestigious wines of champagne being the benchmark for kiwi sparkling wine producers, bottle fermented sparkling wine is the choice of most who want to make a complex style. And those who are totally serious about this have invested in equipment and vineyards to fulfil their aim.

Particularly impressive was a brand new release, the lovely rich creamy Morton Estate Blanc de Blanc 1999, made from 100% chardonnay fruit grown on Morton Estate's Stone Creek vineyard in Marlborough. Light yellow gold in colour with pristine white froth that surges up the glass as the wine is poured then mysteriously disappears as the frothy bubbles burst, tiny bubbles endlessly rise from the bottom of the glass. The aromas are rich and deep, complex yeasty aromas mingling with fresh citrussy scents. The effervescent fizz tickles the tongue and rich, bready flavours with waves of fresh citrus and ripe stonefruit intermingle with yeasty marmite nuances and caramel. Five years aging on yeast lees before disgorgement and bottling has resulted in the complexity this wine shows throughout and the dry, full-bodied finish is fresh and bright. It carries 12% alcohol by volume and costs $27.95.

Morton Estate is no stranger to top class sparkling wines. There is the stylistically consistent and tasty Morton Estate Brut (non vintage, $18.95), a blend of chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir, and the beautifully presented Morton Estate Black Label Methode Traditionelle vintage (current release 1997, $33.95), made from pinot meunier, pinot noir and chardonnay. And those of us that are old enough to remember will recall the outstanding blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, the Morton Estate RD 1995.

Find out more from the

What do you do when you have a lot of left over bubbles? It does happen sometimes, you know.

I have this champagne stopper that works exceptionally well. It looks like a top hat and was a freebie from a champagne producer. I donít know what it is called and I don't know if these things can be purchased but this particular one has stored left over bubbly in the fridge for up to 3 months and retained the effervescence and flavour.

You can also use leftover bubbles in cooking. And what could be more perfect for the morning after than Bubbly Scones? A while ago there was a fad for making scones with lemonade, using a cup of lemonade, a cup of cream and 3 cups of self raising flour. My creation simply substitites leftover sparkling wine for the lemonade and is doctored up with herbs and seasonal produce like tomatoes and capsicums, to make a summer morning brunch treat.

© Sue Courtney
17 January 2005

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