I saw the Southern Cross in a strange place in the sky when I looked out the window at 2.45 am on Saturday morning on the 21st June. Must be the time of the year because it was as far west as I have ever seen the Southern Cross. It seemed to be quite low in the west-southwest sky and I had to tilt my head to an almost 90 degree angle to the left to confirm it really was the group of stars that appears on New Zealand's flag.
Out of the same window, but higher in the west-northwest, I could see the moon, just starting to wane off full, on it's descent towards the horizon. It's not often I see the Southern Cross and the moon in the same quarter of the sky
The Southern Cross was so far west because it's the middle of the lunar year and sometime during that early morning or later that night, the sun stood still. That's because it is the winter solstice and 'sun stands still' is a literal translation of solstice. It obviously has to stand still in the night because after rising in the morning it is continually moving across the sky until it sets at night.
If I had stayed awake, or even woken at the normal time, which at this time of the year is before the sun rises, I may have seen Pleiades rising too.
Pleiades is the constellation the Maori call Matariki. It celebrates the Maori New Year and the start of the new growing season. And now that sun has stood still, the daylight hours will become longer and we will start to see the new season's growth emerging. The peach tree in the garden is already pushing buds, as are the hydrangeas.
This week's Wine of the Week is in honour of the celestial celebrations, the Maori New Year and the passing of winter solstice. It is from the aptly named Matariki Wines in Hawkes Bay and is the latest release of their flagship wine.
Matariki Quintology 2004 is a deep but bright colour with a red-black core and crimson edges. The aromas are deep, concentrated and winey with a touch of cedar, a hint of spice and a cherry sweetness - it seems quite Merlot dominant on the nose yet it is beautifully fragrant. And it's generous to the taste too, with juicy ripe cherry, plum and blackcurrant fruit, spice and a complex, sweet smoky oak undercurrent. The velvety tannins have a grainy edge while a touch of acidity adds a bright disposition to the finish while a long, savoury cedary aftertaste balances the fruit sweetness. This is a seductive wine and one you want to drink.
Made from five different grapes harvested from Matariki's Gimblett Gravels vineyard, hence the name 'Quintology' (which incidentally used to be 'Anthology' until a USA winemaker with money and clout objected), I was excited to taste this wine because I tasted in parts, three years ago, at a 'blending' workshop. The final result is so juicy and delicious and is far better than I could ever have produced - although the individual components spent almost another year in barrel after my blending attempt.
The blend, as written on the bottle, is 32.3% Merlot, 24.3% Cabernet Franc, 20.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.4% Syrah and 10.2% Malbec. The components spent 21 months in fine-grained French oak, 40% new and the remainder 1, 2 and 3 year old barrels. Then the blended wine had 3 months in tank before bottling. The finished wine has 14% alcohol by volume; it is sealed with a natural cork and has a target retail price of $45 a bottle.
This wine needed something majestic to be paired with it and my mind went wild with imagination, aided a little by the availability of products. It was medium rare cooked fillet steak for me (rare for him) with a wine, cherry and chocolate jus, a mushroom medley, baked baby beetroot and a potato and leek casserole.
We also tasted the Matariki Quintology 2002, a deeper coloured yet more finely textured wine, beside it.
I thought it might be interesting to include the blending notes of the Quintology blending session - so I have put these on my blog together with my new review of the Matariki Quintology 2002 -
Find out more from www.matarikiwines.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
22 Jun 2008