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Wine of the Week for week ending 9 October 2011
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Gillman Clairet 2009
Matakana, New Zealand

In a line-up of Rosés on the table one wine looked a little deeper in colour than the others did, and with an infusion of vanillin oak it tasted what I would call 'out of class'. It was quite delicious actually, but more like a light red wine, and because it wasn't like any of the other Rosés, I pushed it to one side.

Later when the wines were revealed, I found out why. This was not a Rosé in the sense that the others were. This was clairet. The back label on the wine bottle explains what clairet is.

"Clairet, or 'clear wine', was the predominant wine of Bordeaux when it belonged to the English crown in the 13th century. In that time, before the invention of the cork enabled wine to be aged reliably, red wine was run off the grape skins after only one or two days. The resulting wine was light in colour and low in tannin, well-suited for earlier drinking."

As the taste for clairet grew in England, the word was eventually abbreviated to 'claret'. Today 'claret' is used in upper class wine drinking circles for the full-bodied dry red wines from Bordeaux, but in Bordeaux clairet has kept its original meaning.

Gillman Matakana Clairet 2009 is made from a blend of the beautifully fragrant Cabernet Franc (66%) together with 34% Merlot. The hand picked grapes, grown on the Gillman family's 1.5 acres vineyard in Sharp Road, Matakana, were sorted and destemmed and left on their skins for 24 hours before pressing. The juice was fermented in French oak, then aged for one year before bottling. Alcohol achieved is 14%.

In the glass, the transparent colour is vibrant with flashes of ruby and touches of garnet. The scent is fruity and rich, perhaps some oak. Yes vanillin oak and a hint of eucalypt. Not a Rosé at all as it is more robustly structured. It's a light, juicy, fruity red that has a well-balanced touch of sweetness, spicy savoury nuances and a dry finish. Bottom line, a lovely summer wine and deliciously easy to drink.

This wine is a rarity as just one French oak barrel full of wine was produced and the number of bottles, just 289. A true artisan wine, buy directly from the producer – the price of $30 a bottle includes delivery to your door. Check out for more.

© Sue Courtney
3 October 2011

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