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Sue Courtney's blog of Vinous Rambling's

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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings.  One day I'll update it to proper blogger software but right now I haven't the time to research which blogging software is best, nor do I have the time to teach myself how to use it.  I'll stick to archaic html to record my daily events.  It's my on line journal and an adjunct to my website which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.

You'll find links to other wine blogs on my Vinous Links page.

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Archive: February 2nd to February 14th 2007
Feb 14th: Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2006 for Valentine's Day
Feb 12th: BBQ Wines and Symington's Quinto do Vesuvio Vintage Port 1991
Feb 11th: More on the Waiheke Island Wine Festival
Feb 10th: Waiheke Wine Festival and Pilgrim Syrah Mourvedre Grenache 2005
Feb 9th: Leftover Wine and Fish in a Sherry and Mushroom Sauce
Feb 8th: Verdicchio
Feb 7th: Manaia Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Feb 6th: Waitangi Day and James Busby
Feb 5th: Heron's Flight Dolcetto and Duck
Feb 4th: Dr Loosen and Torus
Feb 3rd: Brown Brothers Crouchen & Riesling 2006 and Spicy Pork
Feb 2nd: Bilancia Hawkes Bay Pinot Grigio 2006
Other Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 14th 2007

February 14th. Valentine's Day. And I woke up to a vision of red roses. But it wasn't anything special. :-(  It wasn't a token of love from my loved one. :-(
Dublin Bay - photo by Sue CourtneyYou see I wake up to red roses every day when the rose bush is in flower, the gorgeous Dublin Bay climbing rose outside the bedroom window, now with its second flush of blooms this summer.

So just what does Valentine's Day mean these days? If you’re lucky it means you will be bestowed with booze and baubles, bouquets and bonbons. And when it comes to booze, bubbly takes preference. Corks will be popping out of bottles everywhere as lovers fuel their romantic notions with this most romantic of drinks. Bubbles for lunch, bubbles for an aperitif, bubbles for dinner and bubbles for later. Have to take it easy, though, because tomorrow is a work day.

But you don't really need bubbles to indulge. A gorgeous sweet wine will do the trick nicely. And when a work day follows, what could be better than a seductive, botrytis infected, low alcohol sweetie, like the Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2006 from Waipara.
Straw gold coloured, it smells so enticing with its flower nectar fragrance of honeysuckle, loquat blossom and exotic tropical fruits and it tastes so delectable with its tangy-edged flavours of passionfruit, nectarine, lime sherbet, orange honey, flower nectar and rosa moschata. The texture is ever so slightly spritzy, which brightens it even further and then there's this almost icy, mouthwatering juiciness as well. Botrytis in the wine accounts for the honeyed richness while the succulent lingering flavour is as sweet as kisses. It's just 7.5% alcohol but oh so full of flavour, a sip lasts a long, long time - which is good if you're kissing.

This wine has just been released and although it sounds expensive at around $38 a bottle, it is actually quite cheap because it's a full size (750ml) bottle and lots of sweeties like this come in half size bottles at more than half the price. It's screwcapped for freshness too.
Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2006 is made by the inimitable duo of Matt Donaldson and Lynette Hudson. As a husband and wife winemaking team they know how to make wines for seduction. The proof is in the taste of wines like this.
More from their website:

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 12th 2007

lonelycowv.jpg (38166 bytes)The gorgeous Lonely Cow Viognier 2006, a wine from Gisborne but tasted at the Waiheke Island Wine Festival (see Feb 10th entry), is this week's Wine of the Week (click on the link to read it). It's a critter label with a humorous story behind the name, but the wine is good, good, good.  So good I bought a bottle to take to a BBQ last night, where other gorgeous wines were opened.

We also took an Albert Mann Vin d'Alsace Riesling 2000. The colour had taken on a golden glow and the taste had picked up a slightly kero character. Rich and full-boded with well-balanced acidity, but slightly sweeter than I would expected from Alsace.

A 'blind wine', inside a brown paper bag, had just about everyone stumped.  Crisp and dry with bright but beautifully integrated acidity and a delicate pungency to the aroma and flavour.  It was gorgeously poised and balanced, an older Sauvignon Blanc yet still fresh with no peasy characters at all. Sancerre, perhaps?  No. It was Dry River Sauvignon Blanc 2002, from Martinborough, a wine made to age and the taste proved why.

A Louis Sipp Pinot Gris 2003 from Alsace was rich, oily, intense and powerful with a honeyed richness and a long clean finish.   Gosh they do it well.

A mini vertical of the Clape's Cornas - '97 and '99 - showed two very different wines. The colour of the '97 was fading and bricking whereas the '99 was youthful, crimson, dark and dense.  The '97 had an evocative floral aroma with a tolerable level of Brett whereas the aroma of the '99 was quite meaty and totally permeated with the stinky B. The '97 had a grainy texture, 'disintegrating' is how I would put it, and although there was no dominant fruit character, there was a deep vinosity and richness to the wine. The '99 was big, rich, meaty and savoury and had just a hint of mint - it has a long way to go. Interesting wines, not sure I would race out and buy them, though.

These wines were like chalk and cheese to a couple of down under wines, one in particular, Yalumba The Signature Shiraz Cabernet 1999 from South Australia, quite sensational with its robust fruit and oak flavours, fine tannins and mouthfilling richness.

Wine of the Night, however, was Symington's Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port 1991, out of our host's cellar. A complete wine in every way, I marvelled at inky, deep boysenberry red colour and as I inhaled the aroma and closed my eyes, I smelt home cooking, like spiced biscuits cooking in the oven.  It tasted smooth, rich and concentrated with liquorice, anise and sweet berry fruit, seductive oak, hints of caramel and no spirity excessiveness at all, just a lovely warm glow as the flavours linger. Powerfully seductive, what an absolute treat. The website ( says the wine should be matured for 15 to 20 years, so it really was in its optimum drinking window.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 11th 2007

Waiheke Island is really a red wine island, with Bordeaux-styled reds the claim to fame. But other varieties do exceptionally well, as shown by Stonyridge Pilgrim Syrah Mourvedre Grenache 2005 reviewed yesterday. Incidentally, Stonyridge say they are the only growers of Mourvedre in New Zealand. Grenache is almost as rare, although there is (or was) some growing in Hawkes Bay. I would imagine that Grenache and Mourvedre need pretty warm climates and Waiheke Island delivers that requirement.

Obsidian made a Montepulciano from the 2006 vintage (tiny quantities and when released it will only be available from the cellar door) and they grow Petit Verdot too. Of course Stonyridge has used Petit Verdot in the Stonyridge Larose blend since the beginning. I remember tasting a 100% varietal release of Stonyridge Petit Verdot from the 2000 vintage. It was, deep, inky, meaty rich and dense.

But perhaps Syrah will be the superstar of the future, if the tastings yesterday were anything to go by. It really performed best across the board of all the varieties. There were gorgeous examples, specifically Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2005 (my Wine of the Year in 2006), Kennedy Point Syrah Viognier 2005, Peninsula Estate Zeno Syrah 2005, Mudbrick Reserve Syrah 2005 and Man O' War Dreadnaught Syrah 2005. Now looking at the Festival Wine List, I see I missed a couple, from Ridgeview and Saratoga Estate. I hope they were up to the high standard of the others. In fact I am sure they were.

I was told so many times that the 2005 vintage on the island was one of the best ever. There was no rain from mid January through to mid April and the fruit matured perfectly. It was certainly the best vintage ever for Bordeaux style reds - but was it the best vintage for Syrah? I ask the question because I tasted a pre release sample of the Passage Rock 2006. Compared to the massive, meaty, muscular, extracted and totally sensational 2005, the 2006 was delicate and lithe. It was crimson rather than vivid purple in colour and had more aromatics and florals to the rich berry aroma, a gorgeous spicy profile to the palate with rose petals, tar, aromatic spices, lifted finish. Not a lesser wine than the 2005 by any means. Just different. In fact it reminded me of the Northland syrahs from the 2006 vintage that I tried from the barrel before Christmas.

But going back to the 2005 vintage, I thought the newly released Obsidian Weeping Sands 2005 ($25) was pretty darn good. It was concentrated, rich, dark, fleshy and plummy with a lovely smoky character, good colour and a juicy finish. It is a blend of five varieties, including the afore-mentioned Petit Verdot, perhaps what gives it that extra depth of complexity.

Man O' War Ironclad Merlot Cabernet 2005 ($45) was interesting. Slightly salty, rosemary character to start with but it softened out with fine grained tannins and polished French oak. Not overly robust but well structured and complete.

But I really loved the Awaroa Cabernet Merlot  2005 ($35). Vivid purple in colour with lovely use of oak, ripe fruit and fine tannins all beautifully balanced and building to a long full rich finish. Then I saw the 15% alcohol on the label!!! Mind you, it carried it well, as I didn’t detect it in the palate.

I also want to mention Peacock Ridge Reserve Merlot 2002. I loved this wine at the festival two years ago, I loved it last year and I love it again.  Still fantastic, still very primary, delicious fruit and lovely integration of French and American oak. Now they are bucking the '2005 is best' trend by saying the yet to be bottled 2006 may be as good as this 2002. I wait with anticipation to taste it.

As for the Waiheke whites at the festival, apart from chardonnay, there was one producer with Viognier (Passage Rock), two producers with Pinot Gris (Ridgeview and Man O' War), and one producer with Sauvignon Blanc (Man O' War). All the other whites came from elsewhere, like Gisborne, or Marlborough, or other far flung places. Not that it mattered to the punters. Nor to me, as my favourite white of the day was the Lonely Cow Viognier 2005 made from Gisborne grapes. This will be reviewed as this week's Wine of the Week when I get around to writing it.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 10th 2007

Just spent the day on Waiheke Island at the annual Wine and Food Festival and gee they do it well. A compact venue amongst the grapevines, good music, gorgeous food and mostly stunning wines.

Neil and I were guests of Waiheke Winegrowers for the day and they gave us a goodie bag full of goodies. There was a tiny parasol, sun cream, glasses to drink out of, a bag of grape coloured jelly beans and various bits of literature including the festival guide.

Waiheke has forged a reputation for being one of the most expensive wine regions in New Zealand, and there are some decidedly expensive wines being made. But there are also some excellent priced wines coming off the island now. Although not all of the wines actually come off the island into mainstream retail as some are made in such small quantities, they are only sold from the cellar door.

There were 19 of Waiheke's 30 wineries represented this year and unfortunately I didn’t get to every tent, as the idea was to relax and not make copious notes, as I did last year. But I did make notes on a few.

One of the highlights that I was compelled to write about was true to the island's reputation. It was one of the most expensive wines and one that is only available from the cellar door.

Pilgrim Syrah Mourvedre Grenache 2005 from Stonyridge Vineyard is a voluptuous spicy, creamy wine with dense, rich, sweet fruit, savoury oak, a funky, earthy, meaty character, incredibly plush smooth tannins and shrubby 'garrigue-like' herbs on the long, full-bodied finish. A gutsy wine and quite sensational.
However, I horrified winemaker Martin MacKenzie when I said it could be mistaken for an Aussie.
"It's more Rhone," he said.
"I thought I tasted American oak," I said.
Ah yes, I did, because the wine has 50% American oak as well as 50% French oak, and 50% of that oak is new. Now I can’t imagine a Rhône having American oak, but I could be wrong. Martin then told me that they cut back on the American oak for the 2006 vintage and probably won’t have any at all in the 2007.

Anyway, I think this sensational wine would hold its own against any Aussie SMG or GSM or whatever. Unfortunately for us mere mortals, it costs $120 at cellar door and only 450 bottles were made.

More on Waiheke to follow tomorrow.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 9th 2007

There always seems to be bottles of leftover wine in my house. I taste the wines and then they sit there, sometimes to be retasted in the following few days - perhaps with food or perhaps to see how they develop in the bottle. Sometimes I give the leftovers away, sometimes I blend the leftovers and make a new wine, sometimes I simply tip the wines down the sink - especially if I have left the leftovers sitting around too long when bottle recycling day comes around. But often I use the leftovers in cooking. I love making red wine reduction sauces, for example. But I have leftover bottles of white wine and here's one recipe that uses so little, you could use a newly opened bottle of wine too.

It is Fish in a Sherry and Mushroom Sauce, a long time favourite in this house. It's easy to make, it's tasty and I can use a cheap cut of fish, like Hoki ($12.99 a kilo at my fish shop) compared to snapper (which is $31.99 a kilo at my shop!).

My recipe, though, uses leftover Riesling as well as sherry. And after tasting a pile of Rieslings the other day, I had plenty of leftover Rieslings to choose from. I use the Riesling as a lemon juice substitute, so I chose the driest one I had, which was the Riverby Marlborough Riesling 2005. The wine was still a delicious example of dry Riesling, dry and crisp with a lovely lemon fruit sweetness and gorgeous lemon acidity but perhpas a little more complex than before. It was used in the sauce that would cover the fish. Of course you could open a new bottle of Riesling, as so little is used in the cooking, then accompany the rest of the Riesling with the meal.

Adjusting the ingredients for two people, you will need 400 grams of firm fleshy white fish fillet, such as Hoki (about a $5 outlay), or Snapper if you are flush (almost $13 outlay). Keep it in the fridge while you prepare and make the sauce.

Place a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of dry Riesling in a saucepan and when the butter has melted add about 3/4 cup of sliced white button mushrooms and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and saute on a low heat for about 5 minutes.

Add a tablespoon of flour (I used potato flour but you could use ordinary flour, or even cornstarch, if you wanted to) and stir to combine then add half a cup of milk and half a cup of cream and stir until thickened. Now add 1-2 tablespoons of sherry. I used the gorgeous Lustau Don Nuno Dry Oloroso Sherry. It could also be considered a leftover as it had been in my fridge for a while.

While the mushrooms are sauteing, you can prepare the fish. Wash and dry then cut into chunky cubes and place in a greased, glass baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and then sprinkle with about half a cup of chopped parsley, which at this time of the year is going absolutely beserk in the garden.

Pour the sauce over the fish and then, if you wish, cover with breadcrumbs and sprinkle with about a tablespoon of freshly grated parmesan or 10 or so shreds of shredded parmesan cheese.

Pop into a hot oven (400° C) and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.   Serve with a summery greens and tomato salad.

This is a recipe that has I've recently seen featured in a 'Kiwi Foodies' interlude on FoodTV and though they ask for original recipes, it's the same as that in the 'New Zealand Radio and Television Cookbook' (1976 edition), which is my source.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 8th 2007

This blog is a chance for me to highlight some of the more unusual non-New Zealand wines that I taste, whereas as on, the Wine of the Week is always (well almost, almost always) a New Zealand wine.

On Wednesday night I tasted an Italian Verdicchio, a white wine in the glass, and gee, I was surprised. It was not a steely, bracing, fairly neutral tasting, bland white, as so many Italian whites are. This was rich and full-bodied, even a little chardonnay-like - a wine that had me heading over the Tasman because of a distinctive cockatoo-poo, hot climate character on the nose.

So what is Verdicchio?

According to Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, Verdicchio is …"a central Italian vine with many subvarieties, provider of classic varietals on the Adriatic coast". (Adriatic is the right hand side when looking at a map of Italy).

Wikipedia says, " it is grown in the Marche region" and the name is a derivative of the word "verde", (which translates to green) because of its slight yellow green hue.

Berry Brothers and Rudd says it has been cultivated for over 600 years and is the grapes behind two of Marches most important DOC's, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica. They say it produces crisp, dry whites with naturally high acidity, often with hints of citrus and almonds, and is well suited to the production of sparkling and spumante style wines.

Had I read that last sentence first, first, there is no way I would have picked the Marotti Campi Salmariano Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva 2003 as Verdicchio, because it was not a high acid wine at all. It was a modern style, a new world style, a clean style made partially with French oak and extended lees contact, a wine of weight and texture.

Light gold in colour with a clear, bright appearance, it smelt slightly sweetish with a whiff of candy floss at first followed by copious amounts of butterscotch and a scent I can’t really describe (though hinted to above) that says to me 'hot climate'. A bold style, nutty and buttery to the taste with fleshy ripe stonefruit adding to the mid palate weight and citrus rind adding crispness to the finish. As the lightly smoky aftertaste lingered, I also detected a hint of salinity, the mineral component of the wine.

If you want something different, but also with that homely comfort feel, then try this. It costs from $28 to $31, depending where you buy.

One the Web:

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 7th 2007

Manaia is a new New Zealand brand, one of the many that come onto the scene each year, but I have to say this has one of the most evocative New Zealand labels I've seen. It's the personal label of winemaker Jennifer Bound, whose main job is winemaker for Okahu Estate, one of the country's most northern vineyards just west of Kaitaia in the Far North.

Jen, as she likes to be called, owns a 22 hectare property nearby and will be planting her own vineyard there soon, on a nice north west facing slope. She plans to plant Syrah and Pinotage, perhaps Chambourcin too. All of these red wine grapes do superbly well in the hot, humid northern climate. Meanwhile, she has produced this tasty and beautifully presented Manaia Sauvignon Blanc 2006, which of course is made from Marlborough grapes.

I like the clean lines of the Manaia carving, which is a mythical birdlike creature of New Zealand often depicted in Maori carvings. It's a protector over the air, land and water, a possessor of great power, a guardian of the people.

Jen designed this Manaia herself and local Maori carver, Te Aroha Te Paa carved it from cow bone. The Manaia is set with an eye made from paua shell and it is positioned on the label so the eye dots the i.

As for the wine, it's straw lemon gold in colour with a fresh citrussy aroma imbued with lemon grass and other aromatic herbs. It's a crisp, dry, steely style, lovely and refreshing with the sauvignon flavours growing in richness for a long, flavoursome finish.. Not overly pungent but well balanced and totally perfect for the occasion, which was a summery platter lunch on Waitangi Day, ie yesterday. I had chilled it for about an hour and of all food it was most exceptional with basil flavoured feta cheese and cold falafels.

The grapes for this wine come from the southern side of the Wairau Valley, it has 2 grams per litre of residual sugar and 13% alcohol by volume.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 6th 2007

busby.jpg 167 years ago today, the father of Australian and New Zealand wine, James Busby, played a major role is the forming of the new nation of New Zealand.  167 years ago today, on 6th February 1840, James Busby, viticulturist, winemaker and Official British Resident in New Zealand signed the Treaty of Waitangi along with other representatives of the British Crown and the Maori Chiefs.  It was the start of a new nation. So how did a winemaker get to be part of this very important day in New Zealand's history?

You can find out by reading my latest newsletter (click here) - and scrolling down to the entry "A toast to the Father of New Zealand wine".

And of course later today I'll being opening a distinctly New Zealand wine.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 5th 2007

Had duck last night and oh my gosh, it was so gorgeous. I had bought legs because they were there (usually breasts are the only choice) and after this experience, I'll definitely buy them again. Watching food television, duck seems to be quite common in the UK and the USA, but here in NZ, duck is a bit of a luxury although fresh whole duck and cuts go into some supermarkets and to my local butcher, with deliveries either weekly or fortnightly.

I wanted duck to match to the newly released Heron's Flight Dolcetto 2005 from Matakana, the second vintage of this rare-in-New-Zealand Italian variety. When I asked winemaker David Hoskins what food match I should try, he said they had served it with duck at the Heron's Flight Restaurant and the customer feedback had been good. But he didn't tell me how it was cooked so I searched for an Italian style recipe and Google threw one up that I was tempted to try. Believe it or not, it was comes from an Irish cookery school ( I didn't realise that until just now), but the 'Italian style' and the ingredients, all of which I had on hand, made me choose this recipe over something else. Besides, many other 'Italian' recipes meant the duck had to be cooked, then shredded to serve with pasta.

The recipe was for 6 legs, but I only had two, so I modified it and reduced the time because I was impatient. The legs were washed and dried, placed into a dish, rubbed with a combination of thinly sliced garlic, salt, sugar, ground nutmeg, ground black pepper, ground coriander, freshly picked chopped thyme, the zest from a tangelo and zest from a lemon, and placed in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. Then I rubbed off the rub and sizzled the duck legs on both sides in a hot pan to render off some of the fat. The legs were transferred into a glass baking dish, together with the lumpy bits from the rub (i.e. the garlic, the thyme and the zest) and placed into a hot oven (220° C) for 10 minutes. After that time the heat was lowered to about 150° C for the duck to cook for about an hour more. At some time, near the end of cooking, I added the left over potatoes that I boiled for Saturday's potato salad but did not use, to crisp up in the duck fat that was filling up the dish.

Well, this recipe was yum, and so was the wine.

Herons Flight Dolcetto 2005 is an appealing, deep, bright, boysenberry colour and smells enticing and tempting with sweet cedary oak, polished oak, smoky oak and savoury oak not that it is overly oaky by any means. Concentrated berries add to the aroma's allure. Smoky and savoury to the taste, the sweetness of the cherry and berry fruit comes through with a spicy coating and fine grained dusty tannins while there is good support from the firm acid backbone. It's meaty and savoury with delicious fruit sweetness and a long juicy finish. Very young, but very very approachable. It costs $35 a bottle and is sealed with a cork.

Click here for the Heron's Flight website

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 4th 2007

A refreshing, slightly sweetish but perfectly balanced Dr Loosen 'L' Riesling 2004 with only 8.5% alcohol, proved to be the ideal vinous tipple to take to a party where I had volunteered to be the responsible driver. A glass or two over several hours with plenty of nibbles before the BBQ meant that the blood alcohol level stayed well under the legal limit, in fact well under the youth limit, which is half the adult legal limit in New Zealand. Dr Loosen played his part well, providing me with an aromatically scented, slightly oily textured, sweet and floral yet crisply tart and citrussy.

When it comes to low alcohol wines, we really do have a lot of choices, especially if that choice is Riesling. It is the most easily obtained and certainly a little more sophisticated than frivolous Muscat. Mind you, I do love a glass of well-chilled Asti on a hot summer's day, although two glasses could be pushing it. Asti just doesn't have the piercing seam of acidity to balance the sweetness. Low alcohol Mosel wines are the easiest to find although there are more and more of the low alcohol Germanic styles now being made in NZ. But as Dr Loosen had been in the fridge for almost a year, it was time to break the seal on the screwcap.

I said to Neil, let me know if there are any outstanding reds I should try let me know. There was a Vacqueyras (didn't get the domaine or vintage) that was quite interesting, but also a wine labelled 'Torus', made by Alain Brumont from the Madiran appellation in the South of France. There was a man's face on the top right hand side of the label and he kept winking at me. So I had to try it. Deep, dark and savoury, quite tarry in fact, almost bretty - but I think it was the intrinsic earthiness of the wine rather than a yeast-derived character - and a concentrated dark berry fruit finish. Great structure, quite understandable when I found out later that it was made primarily from tannat with cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. It was like a combination of old world and new world. It is one of the few wines I seen with the wine's description on the front label. It says "charnu, profond, puissant, chatoyant, fruit noir, cassis, mure".

It was purchased at Maison Vauron in Newmarket, without doubt the best source of interesting French wines in New Zealand.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 3rd 2007

A bottle of Brown Brothers Crouchen & Riesling 2006 arrived the other day. With just 10% alcohol by volume, it seemed perfect for a light drink before dinner. It wasn't chilled so it quickly went into the fridge to cool it down.

A pale coloured wine when poured , it had a rather neutral aroma but the taste had the refreshing acidity of Riesling combined with a soft honeyed sweetness. Floral and fruity with pronounced toffee apple flavours, it took me back to a childhood birthday parties when we had to stick our head into a barrel to try and retrieve a get a toffee covered apple with our mouth. All I managed to ever retrieve was a whole heap of water in my hair.

But it was a little sweet and flabby, a bit like Muller Thurgau in some respects, so it went back into the fridge while dinner was thought about, then cooked. That did the trick because when the wine is ice cold, it brings out the acidity and gives it some verve.

Crouchen is an obscure grape variety. It originated in the western Pyrenees of France, but never really grew well. Now it is evidently found in parts of South Africa and in Australia. According to Brown Brothers it is "a vigorous variety that produces a wine of flavour and body with enticing hints of ripe melon and a delicate finish." Hmmm. I didn’t get any melon.

A soft sweet wine like this goes well with spicy food. I had a pork fillet among the meat I had bought from the butchers on the way home and we had just picked up some windfall oranges from under the orange tree, so a spicy pork and orange dish could go well. And it did.

The recipe was a modification of my Pork Braised in a Wine and Citrus Reduction. Of course with fillets, you don’t want to braise. So soy sauce, brown sugar, fresh grated ginger, ground coriander, 1/2 cup of gewurztraminer and the juice of two of the oranges and the zest of one were used as a marinade. Then after the fillets were cooked, the marinade was reduced a little and served as a sauce. The match with the Brown Brothers Crouchen and Riesling 2006 was very good, but even better with the last leftovers of the Spy Valley Gewurztraminer 2006.

Brown Brothers Crouchen and Riesling 2006 is from Victoria in Australia.  It is sealed with a 'twintop' cork and has a recommended retail in NZ of $14.95.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
February 2nd 2007

So I picked up a glass of wine, as I always do when I arrive at the Winespirit for the weekly Wednesday tasting, walked a few paces to get out of the way of the entrance, and had a sip. The first sip is always the one that gets rid of the toothpaste and the aftertaste of dinner still loitering in the mouth. The second sip is when the vinous magic really starts to work on the taste buds. By the third sip, you know if you have a just another get-one-in-the-mood starter wine, a good wine, or a really, really good wine that you didn't expect at all as a starter wine. The third category happens from time to time and it happened again on Wednesday night.

The wine was pale and when swirled, shapely legs ran down the glass. It smelt of apples and pears on the nose, a little floral but also a little neutral, like pinot gris. But there was good fruit and good acidity in the palate. It was crisp, fresh and juicy. It was like biting into a crunchy fruit salad of red apples and crisp pears with a whisper of pineapple and a hint of passionfruit. Perhaps it was riesling? No, couldn't be. Too alcoholic and too soft on the finish. Then a herbaceous thing started happening, a twist of herbaceousness that pushed its way through as the wine lingered in the mouth. A herbal character like you get in sauvignon blanc. But the wine was pretty sedate for sauvignon blanc. Perhaps it was verdehlo? Don’t have much experience with verdelho. It had to be pinot gris.

When the tasting started and before the wine's identity was revealed, Kingsley asked how many people liked the wine. Just about everyone put up their hand. If it was pinot gris, this was a rare occasion to have so many people say they liked it.

"I think this is a wine you could serve to non-wine drinkers, and they would just love it," I said.

"But are you going to serve a $27 wine to non-wine drinkers?" he replied.Bilancia back label

Turned out the wine was the Bilancia Pinot Grigio 2006 from Hawkes Bay. A wine from the Lorraine Leheney / Warren Gibson partnership. It had been served slightly chilled, which seemed to pronounce those gorgeous fruity flavours, more so than when I had tasted it at the beginning of the year. So if you want a food friendly, person friendly pinot gris and don’t want much change from $30, then this is the wine to buy. It has 14% alcohol by volume, is sealed with a screwcap and has a recommend retail of $28.95. On the Web:

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copyright Sue Courtney 2007