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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 www.wineoftheweek.com which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.
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Archive: May 1st to May 16th 2007
May 16th: Latitude 35 versus Latitude 45 - Two Chardonnays Excel.
May 15th: Viognier Workshop for Gisborne.
May 14th: Spy Valley Envoy - Wine of the Week
May 13th: Do you Want to Be a Wine Judge?
May 12th: The Best Show in Town
May 11th: A Hot White amongst the Hawkes Bay Hot Reds
May 9th: Hawke's Bay Winemakers coming to town
May 8th: Wagyu Beef and Yalumba Tempranillo
May 7th: Scaremongering Screwcap Cancer Link
May 6th: Stonyridge Larose 1996 - just in time
May 5th: Duck Season
May 4th: Not So Common
May 3rd: The Good Gout
May 2nd: Marlborough Harvest Report
May 1st: May Day
Latitude 35 versus Latitude 45 - Two Chardonnays Excel
Ten degrees of separation results in distinctive flavour profiles a tasting revealed the other day because amongst the lineup were two delicious but quite unique wines. One turned out to be from the Far North of New Zealand while the other was from the Deep South. They were Marsden Estate Black Rocks Chardonnay 2005, from Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, grown at Latitude 35° 15' S; and Gibbston Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2004 from Central Otago, grown right on Latitude 45 S at Lowburn and at vineyards either side of the invisible line at Bannockburn and Bendigo.
The tasters were a little befuddled, however, thinking that the rich, rounded, oaky Northland wine was from Hawkes Bay while the clearly higher acid wine was from Marlborough. At least they picked the right islands of origin.
The light yellow gold coloured Marsden Black Rocks Bay of Islands Chardonnay 2005 has a tantalising perfume of smoky French oak with hints of caramel and toasted marshmallow and envelopes the palate with its rich texture and flavours of grilled peaches and nectarines and classy French oak with bubblegum-like tropical fruit and youthful oak esters. There's a spicy yeast lees richness to the smooth backbone of the wine and the soft creamy finish is long and lasting. Powerful, but not overpowering, it has 13.5% alcohol and costs $35 a bottle. I wouldn't want to cellar this wine too long as it is drinking so beautifully now. www.marsdenestate.co.nz
The light gold coloured Gibbston Valley Reserve Central Otago Chardonnay 2004 is powerfully fragrant with tropical fruit, toasty oak, grapefruit zest and later nougat wafting out of the glass. The care and attention in the making of this barrel fermented wine is evident in the palate. It's smoky and leesy with a lemon butter backbone, a creamy texture, hints of apricot and nougat but it is the acidity that defines the character culminating in a bright finish and a rich, complex aftertaste. I call this a seafood wine - it's the beurre blanc to accompany South Island blue cod. Rich, delicious and simply super, it has 13.5% alcohol by volume and costs $32 a bottle. With that delicious acid component, this is a great cellaring proposition. The Gibbston Valley website says, " enjoyable as a young wine, its real delights can only be savoured after three to five years of cellar development. It will continue to develop up to eight years." Well, I've drunk my bottle, so I'll just have to take their word for it.
Viognier Workshop for Gisborne.
Gisborne Winegrowers and Corbans Viticulture have announced a 'Viognier Workshop' to be held in Gisborne on Saturday June 9th at the Irish River Function Room, Peel Street, Gisborne. They have arranged a top line-up of wines and speakers for the region's first formal Viognier workshop and hope to attract a mix of New Zealand grapegrowers, winemakers and Viognier enthusiasts.
Tastings will include wines from Condrieu in France and Australia as well as from New Zealand while speakers include John Hancock (Trinity Hill), Simon Nunns (Coopers Creek), James Millton (The Millton Vineyard), Raymond Chan (Regional Wines & Spirits), Philip Bothwell (Pernod Ricard) and Nigel Blieschke from Yalumba - Australia's foremost Viognier producer.
Attendance at the all day workshop costs $85.00 (+ GST) per head and seats are limited to 100. Closing date 1st June 2007. For further information and registration please contact Prue Younger, Wines of Gisborne Marketing & PR, firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 2765484.
According to the 2006 New Zealand Winegrowers Statistical Annual 2006, there are approximately 119 hectares of Viognier producing vines in New Zealand in 2007. That area is forecast to increase to 135 hectares by 2009. In 2007, Gisborne leads the country's plantings of Viognier, closely followed by Hawke's Bay.
Spy Valley Envoy - Wine of the Week.
Do you want to be a Wine Judge?
There are many people who are keen to get into wine competition judging but the opportunities are few. But now details of a wine judging / evaluation seminar have been announced and it's the perfect opportunity for aspiring wine judges to test their palates and stamina alongside New Zealand's top judge, Bob Campbell MW with Larry McKenna (Escarpment Vineyard) and John Hancock (Trinity Hill) completing the evaluation panel.
There will be three flights of 20 wines to assess, a flight of Sauvignon Blanc, a flight of Chardonnay and a flight of Pinot Noir, which the senior judging panel will score and rate out of 20 points, as they would in a formal judging situation. Candidates scores will be assessed against the senior judges' ratings.
The event is being run by the organisers of the New Zealand International Wine Show, which is New Zealand's largest wine competition. With increasing entries they see the need for new judges to join the pool of talent. Thus the top candidate from the Evaluation / Seminar will be allocated 2 days as an associate judge at the 2007 New Zealand International Wine Show being judged from the 11-13th September in Albany. The next four highest scoring candidates will all be invited to be an associate judge for one day.
The all day judging evaluation / seminar, with lunch included, takes place on Thursday 19th July at The Spencer on Byron Hotel, Takapuna and costs $195 per person. Registration forms available from www.nziws.co.nz.
Bob Campbell MW is New Zealand's most experienced wine judge with 25 years at the helm of the Royal Easter Wine Awards, 11 years in charge at the Liquorland Top 100 from 1994 to 2005 and since then the Chief Judge of the NZ International Wine Show. He led Cuisine Magazine's judging panel for more than 14 years has judged in at least nine countries around the world. As Kingsley Wood said in the First Glass newsletter, "Nobody comes close to Bob for judging experience in this country and hes very good at it as well."
The Best Show in Town
The 2007 International Comedy Festival is on and fans are flocking to the venues around Auckland and Wellington give their laughing gear a good work out. But one of the best shows that's been on this week has not been part of the official Comedy Fest at all. It's the Jane Ferrari Show and it's been held at various wine venues around the country.
Yes, Yalumba's travelling wine ambassador is one of Australia's best kept secrets when it comes to stand up comedy, although Jane likes to park her backside on a bench or table, rather than stand up, if possible. Mostly about her encounters, or lack of encounters with the opposite sex, did anyone mention Hugh Grant, Jane delivers her lines in dead pan Ocker style while the audiences split their sides with laughter. What's even better, is that the humorous lines are accompanied by some of Australia's most outstanding wines with the educational aspect too. From exotic Viognier to some of the most seductive and long lasting Shirazes, a night of Yalumba Wines with Jane Ferrari is a night to remember.
Jane is wrapping up her New Zealand tour of trade and wine shop retail tastings as I'm writing this, in Wellington today and in Christchurch (at Vino Fino) next week. So if you have missed out, remember that this time next year, Jane will be back and she could be coming to a wine shop near you.
Like all good performers, Jane has her fans, as do the Yalumba wines. I am unashamedly one and this year I managed to attend two of her shows and accompanying tastings. Highlights of the trade and media luncheon were mentioned the other day, now all of the notes have been written up on my Wednesday tastings page.
Click here to read them.
A Hot White amongst the Hawkes Bay Hot Reds
What if you went to a showing of red wines, but a white wine was your favourite wine of the tasting? Sounds rather odd doesn't it? But at Hot Red Hawkes Bay in Auckland yesterday there was a separate tasting in another room where a range of Hawkes Bay wines from 2006 vintage were shown. And I came away in love with a chardonnay! It was one of 11 chardonnays in the tasting, with some pretty solid names in the lineup, and they all showed the quality, the superb ripeness and concentration that came out of the vintage.
But there was something about the taste of the Squawking Magpie Gimblett Road Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006 that seduced me into giving it top wine status - not that I was there to rank the wines - but it was just so striking, so memorable. I can still taste that burst of fruit as I write this up this morning. It's light gold coloured, clear and bright, with mesmeric fruit flavours of juicy nectarines with hints of melon and pineapple supported by nutty, hauntingly smoky French oak with a yeast lees richness and fruit nectar-like texture. Medium to full-bodied in style, long in flavour, decadent in its fruit richness, the oak plays the harmonious background role.
Down in the Hot Red room, a few exciting wines were discovered and old favourites revisited.
A new label to hit the Hawkes Bay scene is Highrocks with their debut Highrocks Syrah Merlot 2006. An unusual 71:29 blend but it works very well. It's ripe and creamy with a rich pepper aroma and lots of peppery Syrah nuances in the smooth textured, spicy palate with a cigar box finish and some coffee and chicory lingering on the aftertaste. Owner Peter Bell and his son-in-law Peter Steers may be new to the game but the winemaking team are old hands. They are Bruce and Anna Barbara Helliwell of Unison fame.
The OMG!!! wine of the tasting by a long long shot was Vidal Soler Syrah 2004, in fact I'm surprised to see that there is still some of this about after it won a gold and Champion Wine of the Show in Easter 2006. It's a while since I last tasted this wine but it has definitely become more seductive over the last 9 months. It's like it's been born again, not that it needed to. With its ripe, rich, creamy, spicy and concentrated blackberry fruit and spice flavours, it's simply gorgeous.
Also rather exciting was Clearview 'The Basket Press' 2004, a blend of 65% CS, 25% Merlot, 6% Malbec and 5% CF. A deep dark, dry, rich and cedary wine with a wonderful deep fruit richness, fine tannins and a powerful, earthy, savoury finish. Only made in the best years (previously '89, '98 and 2004), this is set to hit the shelf at a cool $140 a bottle.
Continuing the excitement was the CJ Pask Declaration Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2004 with a touch of American oak adding another layer of voluptuousness to the already voluptuous, rich, sexy fruit. Juicy and vibrant with blackcurrant spice, just sensational.
"Excellent" also written for Cottage Block Syrah 2005, Esk Valley Reserve Syrah 2005 and Craggy Range Sophia 2005 (62% Merlot, 34% CF, 4% CS) and the rather intriguing Askerne Dessert Cabernet. Notes on these to come.
Evidently some wine called 'Tom' was there, but had gone by the time I arrived. A phantom wine, I'm sure.
Hawke's Bay Winemakers coming to town
It's the time of year when the weather should be getting cooler, time to think about warming red wines for winter. When it comes to the local drop it makes a good day out if can actually get to the wineries and taste the wines for yourself. Easier said than done unless you live in wine country and have wineries close by. Not so bad in Auckland because days trips to Henderson, Kumeu, Matakana, Clevedon and even Waiheke Island can be arranged at a drop of a hat. But a trip to another region takes more than a day and quite a bit of money. Say, for example, I want to visit Hawkes Bay. From Auckland it's a six hour drive with comfort stops - and that's only one way. Then there's accommodation and meals on top of that.
Fortunately for me, and other wine lovers in major city centres, the Hawkes Bay winemakers are coming to town. With the Hot Red Hawkes Bay road show, they are giving me and other wine lovers the opportunity to taste over 100 red wines from over 20 producers without the six hour road trip and other expenses.
"You'd have to spend days travelling around the vineyards of Hawke's Bay to come close to the same experience," says Rod McDonald, chairman of Hawke's Bay Winemakers. "Even then you probably wouldn't get the chance to chat with the people who grow and make these wines," he says.
The expos, all open to the public from 4pm to 7m, take place at the following venues.
Auckland Thursday, 10 May Limelight Rooms @ Aotea Centre
Queenstown Tuesday, 15 May Millennium Hotel, Frankton Rd
Christchurch Wednesday, 16 May Copthorne Hotel, Durham St
Wellington Thursday, 17 May Duxton Hotel, Wakefield St
Tickets, available from Wine Hawkes Bay, cost $35 and include free wine tasting of all wines, a tasting glass to take home and canapés on arrival.
Wagyu Beef and Yalumba Tempranillo
Today I tasted the most incredible beef I have ever tasted in my life. It was Wagyu Beef, served as carpaccio, ie raw and very thinly sliced, accompanied with a parmigiano wafer filled with an Alba white truffle foam (though more of a paste than a foam) and toasted capers. The venue was the Jervois Steak House in Ponsonby and the occasion was a lunch with Yalumba Wines travelling ambassador, Jane Ferrari.
The beef was rich and creamy, melt in the mouth tender, beautiful on its own, intriguing with the Alba white truffle foam and beautifully matched to the rather exciting Yalumba Hand Picked Tempranillo Grenache Viognier 2005 ($40), a blend of 89% Tempranillo, 6% Grenache and 5% Viognier. This is deep purple red coloured with an earthy, savoury, smoky, tobacco and tar aroma and a lush, ripe palate with vanillin oak and deliciously juicy red and purple fruit that combine beautifully with the herbal savouriness. Violets, rose petals and a white pepper spiciness emerge on the lifted finish.
There were 14 wines in total in the Yalumba tasting, including some of the so-called 'phantom wine', the Yalumba Reserve Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz 2001 ($127). This was released at the beginning of the month and is definitely not a phantom although stocks are limited.
Wine of the tasting was the Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Barossa Shiraz 2002, an inky purple black coloured wine with a deep, rich concentrated aroma of creamy oak, nutmeg and chocolate and a deep opulent flavour with incredibly fine tannins. It's savoury and spicy, warm and biscuity, dense and earthy with dried herbs, plum and blackberry fruit and a flourish of acidity to make this wine a very long-lived prospect. Jane calls it 'The Abyss' because it's a big black bottomless pit. The Octavius was matched to a Queen Cut of Black Angus Prime Rib. Incredible steak to match an incredible wine. I rate the Octavius 2002 'outstanding' and at a cool $103, I'd rather buy five of these than one bottle of the iconic Penfolds Grange 2002 ($500), which incidentally I haven't tasted.
Call me a Yalumba lush, but I'm going to another of Jane's tastings tomorrow. So the rest of the notes of these beautifully made and rather tasty wines will appear later.
Scaremongering Screwcap Cancer Link
In the May 5-11 2007 issue of the New Zealand Listener, wine writer Keith Stewart poses the question, "What if wine under screwcaps compromised your health, lowered sperm counts and was a factor in increasing breast cancer statistics?".
And on the Truewines website, where he has posted a PR news piece for his Listener article with the scaremongering headline, "Screwcaps implicated in cancer epidemic", he writes,
"Breast cancer is one of the ultimate edocrine (sic) disruption consequences, and with breast cancer rates in New Zealand up 98% in the last 50 years thids (sic) issue is high on the public health agenda. More so as women are now the principal buyers of wine, and kety (sic) targets of the screwcap campaign. "
Mr Stewart is claiming that the PVDC liner of the screwcap closure is the culprit. However the industry has been quick to backlash, saying there is no proof, that the PVDC liner is world approved food grade quality and it is used on other drinks packaging and in some medicine containers (see the article Wine screwcap link hotly disputed).
Medical experts say there are no known causes of cancer, only risks, and when it comes to breast cancer, the consumption of alcohol is a definite risk. If Mr Stewart was really concerned about women and breast cancer, should he be targeting the whole product, not just the screwcap closure? However moderate consumption of alcohol is known to have benefits.
According to the Cancer Research UK website, these are definite risks for breast cancer -
1. Being a woman
2. Being a white woman
3. Getting older
4. Family history of breast cancer
5. Carrying a breast cancer gene
6. Women who have never had children
7. Women who are starting or stopping their periods.
8. Benign breast disease
9. Hormone Replacement Therapy
10. Having dense breasts
11. Alcohol intake
12. Weight and height
It's quite alarming and personally I am at a huge risk already, especially as I am a white woman whose grandmother had a mastectomy. I am getting older and I partake in consuming alcohol. I'm overweight for my height and I've never had children.
So is drinking wine with a screwcap closure going to worry me? I dont think so.
Stonyridge Larose 1996 - just in time
The cork was absolutely saturated, wet right through - but the bottle was opened in time because it hadn't leaked and there was no hint of its eleven years both in colour, aroma and taste.
A deep red colour, a concentrated deep red garnet with black hues, saturated to the edges and cedary, creamy, smoky and savoury aromas with some development, some sweet earthiness, but that is to be expected. In the palate the fruit is still primary, red fruits - red currants - with hints of liquorice. It seems so fresh but the developed characters that come with bottle age are there too resulting in a harmonious synthesis, a beautiful unification. It's so smooth as well, with finely textured integrated tannins and a thick, almost luscious, voluptuous finish. It slips down very easily.
When it comes to the end of the bottle, it is even bigger and bolder due to the black sediment that the wine has thrown. Should have poured it through a strainer but didn't think of it at the time and couldn't waste those last few drops.
Thanks to the Pictionary opponents for sharing the bottle and thanks to Stonyridge for printing the relevant information on the label. It's a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot and has 13.2% alcohol by volume. Stonyridge Larose Waiheke Island Cabernets 1996 is an outstanding wine and drinking to perfection eleven years after vintage. It is one of New Zealand's greatest red wines.
I expected to wake up this morning to the sound of guns popping in the dawn sky. It's the start of the duck shooting season, you see. But the only noise I could hear was the loud intrusion of a digger that the neighbours were using to rip up their garden. So early on a Saturday morning. They've no respect for the sleeping.
Duck shooters dont sleep in. They are out well before the crack of dawn, hiding in their maimais, waiting for the birds to stir. Then they'll bring their bounty home and prepare then for a feast.
Duck and Orange is one of my standard favourites, I love it with Gewurztraminer, but there are so many different ways that duck can be cooked and one person who knows just how many, is Di Pritt, author of the Mitredale Duck Club Cookbook.
Di, who used to run a wine shop, knows her wines as well as her ducks. She once told me her favourite wine to match to duck is Pinot Noir and if at all possible, Dry River Pinot Noir.
She recommends "Duck Breasts with Red Peppers and Mushrooms" to go with that wine. You need wild duck breasts, chargrilled red peppers in oil, sliced mushrooms, streaky bacon rasher and garlic salt. Slice the breast almost through to make a pocket. Insert the chargrilled red pepper and slices of mushroom. Close and wrap completely with a rasher of bacon. Sprinkle with garlic salt and a good grind of pepper. Bake in a fan oven at 200°C for 20-25 minutes in a lightly oiled baking dish until just cooked. Serve with potato wedges, courgettes and mushrooms and of course the wine.
It's so simple, I'm going to try it. But unless someone gives me some wild duck, I will have to resort to the farmed duck that's available in some butchers and supermarkets.
There is a Wild Game Bird Festival on throughout the country from May 7th to May 17, 2007, sponsored by Fish and Game. Because wild games birds cannot be legally sold in New Zealand, the idea is that hunters take their birds to a restaurant for a top chef to cook. The restaurant therefore is not selling wild game but makes a profit by charging for its services. Sixteen restaurants are participating, one in each major region. So if you like shooting but don't like cooking, navigate to Fish and Game's Restaurant Menus (pdf file) to find out more.
Not So Common
When it comes the everyday wines we drink, the grape varieties are quite familiar and as I look my database, the most popular, not in any order, are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz/Syrah, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.
There are about 4,000 grape varieties in the world, but if I tried to list all the ones I had tried, the percentage of that total would be minimal. So to go against the grain and try some wines a little out of the ordinary the other night was interesting
Once was Verdeca, an innocuous, neutral Italian grape that has traditionally been used for white Vermouth. Now it's being made into table wine, but best blended with something like Chardonnay, and it seems like it needs it, to give it some flesh and flavour. I didn't think too much of the Novementi Bianco Salento 2006 ($18) from the Puglia region. It had a rather unusual aroma and flavour and oxidative characters running rife yet trying to be restrained by a crisp fresh acidity. With its floral tones and oily texture it reminded me of a gewurztraminer without the spice but otherwise the flavours were simply apples and nuts, with a rather weird Colgate-like mintiness to the finish.
Much more exciting was the Pazo de Barrantes Albarino 2004 ($35) from the Rias Baixas area in Spain. Tangy, fresh, crisp and racy, I was thinking a young dry Riesling or a young dry Chenin Blanc, but this naturally high acid grape had an apricot-like Viognier-like fascination as well. Easy to see why it is captivating taster's palates and has become one of the most expensive white wines in Spain.
Malbec is Argentina's forte and the Chanarmuyo Malbec 2005 ($19) from the La Rioja region is a real charmer. It's deep and inky and tastes ripe, smooth and voluptuous, powerful and flavoursome. At the price it was my Wine of the Night.
Lastly the opportunity to taste a recent Wine of the Week, the Ransom Carmenere 2005 ($27) from Matakana just north of Auckland right here in New Zealand, against the Hacienda Araucano Carmenere Reserva 2005 ($18) from the Colchaqua Valley in Chile. After the formal tasting I put these wines side by side and really compared them. The Chilean wine was deeper and more crimson in colour and the fruit seemed riper, more towards the blackberry spectrum, and it had a chocolatey richness. But other than that there were amazing similarities both on the nose and in the palate. The aromas of both had wild berries and cedary oak and both tasted spicy and lifted with good acidity, creamy oak, tar and herbs.
All the notes from the tasting are on my Wednesday Roundup page.
The Good Gout
Q: Is gout a good word or a bad word?
A: It depends on the language
In the English language, gout is a disease, a form of arthritis that often attacks the big toe. It's caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals, often caused by overindulging in alcohol. In the English context, gout is bad.
In the French language, gout, or more correctly goût, is sense of taste. It also means taste, relish and savour. In the French context, gout is good.
One of my favourite books is 'Le Goût du Vin', by Émile Peynaud. The English translated version is called 'The Taste of Wine' and is subtitled 'The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation'. I bought it in the annual University Book Shop sale about 8 or 9 years ago, reduced to $70 from the original $105.
There have been many books written on wine tasting, but this text still rates amongst the best. Now I've taken it off the shelf, I'm going to have a little read again.
Want to read it too? This link will take you to Google Books where you can read snippets from each chapter.
Marlborough Harvest Report
Marlborough Winegrowers have just released their 2007 vintage report and depsite overall crop levels being down by about 15 percent, there is excitement about some of the most intense flavours ever, especially in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
Drylands winemaker Dave Edmonds is raving about the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc quality. "Its the best I have seen in the five years I have been in Marlborough," he said.
Spy Valleys winemaker Ant Mackenzie is raving about the Pinot Noir while James Healy from Dog Point says, "I thought 2006 would be very hard to beat, but I have to say I think the 2007 Pinots will be very special."
Other varieties to have winemakers salivating are Riesling, described as "very pure and concentrated" and Gewurztraminer described as "stellar".
While the November frosts and the second coldest December of record reduced the crop size, the long drawn out summer made up for it with cold nights, followed by warm, but not hot days and for the last weeks of ripening, perfect conditions. This allowed the sugars to climb and the flavours to intensify with possible lower alcohol levels in the finished wines. The overall Marlborough vintage is expected to be about the same, with fruit from new vineyards making up the crop reduction shortfall.
Harvest in Marlborough has now virtually finished with late harvest grapes the only ones still hanging.
May Day. Time to gather nuts and all sorts of other things for in most places in New Zealand, harvest is almost over.
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copyright Sue Courtney 2007