The tasting at First Glass last Wednesday reminded me just how good Kiwi-grown bubbles can be. The French method, now adopted generally, produces some outstanding, homegrown methode traditionelle styles. We tasted Nautilus Cuvée Marlborough Methode Traditionelle Brut NV, a gold medal winner at the New Zealand International Wine Show, judged in a line-up with Champagne. Then two from the man who is credited as being the catalyst for the turning point in the production of fine New Zealand sparkling wines. The man, of course, is Mr Daniel Le Brun, a 12th-generation Champagne winemaker who has made New Zealand his home.
Daniel visited New Zealand in 1975 when the Marlborough wine region was still in its infancy but instinctively knew this was the ideal place to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes for his family's traditional style of wine. He returned to establish Cellier Le Brun two years later and his achievements attracted international interest. After Cellier Le Brun was sold and Daniel found he was no longer allowed to use his now 'trademarked' name, No. 1 Family Estate was founded by Daniel and his wife Adele for the sole production of methode traditionelle wines.
This year Daniel and his family celebrate 30 years of winemaking in New Zealand. Based on the taste of the gorgeous No 1 Family Estate Marlborough Cuvee Virginie 2006 and the No 1 Family Estate No 1 Cuvee Methode Traditionelle at the Wednesday tasting, we thought we would like to taste more and share the experience with our family.
We found a bottle of the No 1 Cuvée stashed away and chilled it appropriately before heading off to my sisters' place, wine in cooler bag, for the ritual decorating of the tree.
No 1 Family Estate No 1 Cuvee Methode Traditionelle is a non-vintage wine made solely from Chardonnay grapes. I scanned the bottle for a clue to bottling date, but none could be seen. I wasn't quite sure how long the wine had been sitting on my shelf, but the first taste told me all was well and suddenly minor details didn't matter.
When poured, the liquid is a clear, bright, 18-carat gold hue. The bubbles are fine and the delicate froth quickly subsides. The bouquet is toasty, lemony, almost toffee aromatics - with a deep sense of yeasty richness. But it is the palate that completes the seduction – rich, toasty and creamy - smooth and seamless with a wonderful complexity that has accrued with time in the bottle. I picked up the faintest hint of tropical fruit, perhaps pineapple, on the finish, like you get in fruit bread. A beautiful wine on the day, and so delicious with an accompaniment of strawberries and Camembert as we decorated the Xmas tree.
This is my favourite bubbles because the packaging is outstanding too. Price ranges from $30 to $35 a bottle, depending on where you buy. It should be found in all good wine stores. Find out more from www.no1familyestate.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
6 Dec 2010