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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: June 16th to June 30th 2007
Jun 30th: Villa Maria, Dry River and Vidals Soler at Art Ducko
Jun 29th: Cuisine Aussie Shiraz Tasting Redux
Jun 28th: Spicy Sausage Soup And Spicy Shiraz
Jun 27th: Penfolds "rare" wines hit supermarket shelves
Jun 25th: Croatia National Day and Babich Syrah
Jun 24th: The Wine Circle in Kumeu
Jun 23rd: Mushroom Soup and Mercure
Jun 22nd: Winter Solstice
Jun 20th: Trophy Fest at 2007 London IWC
Jun 19th: Australia's National Sparkling Red Day
Jun 18th: Honey, Citrus and Coriander Chicken with Riesling
Jun 18th: Wine of the Week: Matariki Aspire Chardonnay 2005
Jun 17th: Spanish Saturday at First Glass
Jun 16th: Thoroughly Modern Baumann
Other Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 30th 2007

Villa Maria, Dry River and Vidals Soler at Art Ducko

It was my sister's birthday yesterday so last night was the perfect opportunity to try out our favourite restaurant in its new incarnation at Murray's Bay on Auckland's North Shore. I'm talking about Art Ducko, which started life at Waiake Beach a few bays to the north. Art Ducko at Waiake beach is still humming along. Art Ducko at Murray's Bay is restaurant number two.
Inside the new Art Ducko it looks pretty much the same as it was a month ago when it was 'Murray's at the Bay' even though some of the duck ornaments have flown to the new abode. Some of the wait staff are the same (good to know they didn't lose their jobs) and even the post-it note messages in the ladies loo, haven't changed. But what has changed is the menu. It's now traditional Art Ducko fare with many old favourites, although one sister was disappointed to see the 'blue cheese and roasted pear salad' entrée missing from the list.
For me ordering was easy. Duck and Duck - the Duck Liver Pate entrée and the Roasted Duck Leg with Citrus main. And they didn't disappoint.

Art Ducko is a BYOW restaurant, which adds 100% to its appeal. So with four of us dining, they were four wines to accompany the meal.

birthday winesWine of the Night was unanimously Villa Maria Single Vineyard Waldron Chardonnay 2004 from Marlborough. It was ripe and rounded with a beautifully smooth harmonious texture and flavours reminiscent of hokey pokey ice cream (without the ice). Burnt caramel said one of the sisters. Whatever, it was beautiful with the Duck Liver that the three girls had and also the Smoked Salmon and Camembert Phyllo Parcels with a Butter Cream Sauce that Neil devoured. And with my Duck main course it was beautiful too.

Also outstanding was Dry River Gewurztraminer 2003 from Martinborough. This is a beautiful rendition of New Zealand Gewurztraminer made in an Alsace style. Light gold with a deep tint in the restaurant light, aromatics spices and floral scents wafted out of the glass then in the palate it had a lovely mellow richness. Quite dry for Dry river, but with a honeyed nuance and mandarin or tangelo zest on the spicy, lifted, warm finish. Excellent with both Duck courses as well.

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2000 is still quite deep garnet in colour, starting to brick on the edges but nowhere indicative of its age. There's cherry and a forest floor earthiness on the nose and still a reasonable amount of acidity in the savoury, slightly grainy textured palate with a fruit cake richness to the flavour which has a cherry / cassis like taste and a chocolatey nuance to the finish. Like the colour, the taste is quite youthful too.
Unfortunately this wine died with the Duck Liver Pate and also with Neil's seafood starter but it was a star with the Duck main course.

Lastly the Vidal Soler Syrah 2002 from Hawkes Bay. This wine is an intense, saturated, blueberry red. It's quite subtle and seductively sweet oaked on the nose but there's nothing subtle about the taste. It's a full-bodied wine with beautifully lush, sweet-fruited flavours of cherry, chocolate, liquorice and creamy oak with a fine tannin backbone and a well-proportioned smattering of black pepper that lifts the lingering aftertaste. This really went better with the beef and venison dishes on the table than with my Duck.

None of us could fault the food at Art Ducko at Murray's Bay last night, and the wines were utterly sublime. But paying for the meals was rather an ordeal. It's a manual system at Art Ducko at Waiake Beach so the owner just has to get used to the fancy electronic gadgetry he has inherited at Murray's Bay. I guess it didn't help that two big groups that were there, and got up to leave just before us, wanted to pay for everything individually as well. And then the taxi went to the wrong Art Ducko to pick us up.

But those little hiccups won't deter us and we'll be back.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 29th 2007

Cuisine Aussie Shiraz Tasting Redux

A wet wintry night and warming Aussie Shiraz - what could be better. So it was with great expectations that we arrived at the Wine Spirit's tasting of Aussie Shirazes from Cuisine Magazine's Issue 23 wine tasting.

And, not surprisingly, our expectations were fulfilled.

There were seven of Cuisine's Top 10 wines, but it turned out that my favourite wine of the tasting wasn't one of the Top Ten. It was the Richmond Grove Limited Barossa Shiraz from the rather spectacular 2002 vintage, and the Cuisine judges gave it just 4 stars.

rgshiraz.jpg (3988 bytes)If you love traditional Aussie Shiraz with sweet American oak, as I do, you'll love this wine. It's deep dark, inky red, showing a little fading on the edge with seductive aromas of voluptuous, creamy, toasty American oak and Shiraz spices and rich, ripe, full-bodied flavours full of spicy vanillin oak, concentrated red and black fruits, chocolate and hints of mint that brighten the finish. Tannins are strong but beautifully integrated giving this wine a gorgeous flow and secondary bottle flavours are starting to emerge. Totally harmonious, it's drinking beautifully now but there's plenty of life ahead of it too. This wine has already won three gold medals and two trophies and I rate it five stars. It has 14.5% alcohol and is sealed with a cork, so perhaps the bottle in the Cuisine tasting wasn't as pristine as the one I tasted from. It happens. Great pricing too at just NZ$17.99.

Here's a summary of the other wines in the tasting but you can read the full reviews with pricing on the night on my Wednesday Reviews page at this link.

Willows Barossa Shiraz 2003 - Cuisine's No. 1 with a 5 star rating
Not as vibrantly minty as I remember Willows wines of the past but it has the pedigree that this winery always delivers. Think Christmas cake cherries, fruitcake spices and chocolate with hints of liquorice, mocha, mint, cigar box and black pepper.

Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Barossa Shiraz 2005 - Cuisine's No. 2 with a 5 star rating
Deeply coloured, aromatically spicy and big, thick, full-bodied, mouthfilling flavours that completely take over the palate with plums, blueberries, chocolate, liquorice and firm grippy tannins underpinned with a complementing savouriness.

Grant Burge Filsell Barossa Shiraz 2004 - Cuisine's No. 3 with a 5 star rating
All the qualities of top class Aussie Shiraz, full-bodied and smooth with smoky oak, bright berry fruits, aromatic peppery spices and chocolate while a touch of mint adds a bright, lifted clean finish. Great cellaring potential too.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Barossa Shiraz 2005 - Cuisine's No. 4 with a 5 star rating
Smoky vanillin oak, fruit cake spices, pepper, purple and black fruits, chocolate and cream with a burst of sweet shiraz spice on the long, salivating finish.

Saltram Mamre Brook Barossa Shiraz 2004 - Cuisine's No. 5 with a 5 star rating
A perennial favourite, this juicy wine has cherry chocolate, hints of mocha, hot peppery spices, fine tannins and toasty French and American oak all wrapped in a fine-textured, firm tannin package.

Shingleback McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 - Cuisine's No. 8 with a 4 star rating
Showing a little maturity to the dark savoury, earthy flavours with hints of bitter chocolate, the fruit plays a secondary role in this full-bodied harmonious wine until cherries emerge on the finish.

Ingoldby McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 - Cuisine's No. 9 with a 4 star rating
Medium-bodied and fruity to the taste with red fruits, dark smoky oak, fruitcake spices, soft juicy tannin, hints of mocha and chocolate and underlying acidity to keep the sweet fruit in check.

Annie's Lane Copper Trail Clare Valley Shiraz 2002 - 4 stars Cuisine
Powerful deep, dark, earthy flavours with harmony and integration throughout.

Taylors Clare Valley Shiraz 2005- 4 stars Cuisine
Medium to full-bodied with hints of pepper and mocha, quite firm tannins, fruit cake and peppery spices. 4 Stars Cuisine.

Tapestry McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 - not in the Cuisine tasting
Savoury, spicy and meaty with a dark, juicy, black fruit palate, finely textured tannins and an abundance of pepper. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 28th 2007

Spicy Sausage Soup And Spicy Shiraz

A big warming bowl of chunky Spicy Sausage and Bean Soup, so chunky that it's a meal in a bowl, is the perfect way to prepare your palate for a mid-winter, mid week tasting of Aussie Shiraz. Especially when it's a big tasting with some of Cuisine Magazine's Top Ten Aussie shirazes in the line-up and other delicious Aussie shirazes to make up the numbers.

Back at home, after the tasting, when the soup leftovers were consumed, I found this chunky soup is pretty good with a glass of Aussie shiraz, too. What could be better for winter.

It's pretty easy to make because apart from the frankfurters it is mostly staples and cupboard food. These are the ingredients you will needsausage soup

1 tablespoon of oil for frying - or bacon fat if you have that on hand.
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunky cubes
6 to 8 Brussels sprouts (optional)
1 tsp of chicken stock powder
3 cups water
1 can of Indian Spiced Tomatoes (best with Shiraz - otherwise Mexican Spiced Tomatoes will do)
1 can of either Cannelloni Beans or Lima Beans - or you could use chickpeas instead if you want.
3 or 4 frankfurters from a brand that you like, or use cheesy franks for additional taste

Saute onion in the oil or bacon fat until soft. Add the carrots and saute a couple of minutes more. Sprinkle over the chicken stock and stir into the vegetables, add the water, bring to the boil and simmer until carrots are almost tender. Add the tin of flavoured tomatoes and the drained beans or chickpeas plus the Brussels sprouts cut into quarters if large, or halved if small. Bring to boil and simmer gently until vegetables are cooked. Chop the frankfurters into pieces about 1 cm long. Fry or grill until cooked. Add to the soup and serve.

We had one of Cuisine Magazine's recommended wines, the Ingoldby McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 which scored four stars in the magazine's tasting.  This medium-bodied, soft, easy drinking style is full of sweet red and black jubey fruit with creamy French and American oak, fruit cake spices and hints of pepper. It was a definite hit with the soup because it seems that the creamy coconut and aromatic spice flavours of the tomatoes have an affinity with American oaked Aussie shiraz.

All the wines from the tasting will be reviewed on this site by Friday night. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 27th 2007

Penfolds "rare" wines hit supermarket shelves

When a press release arrives in the inbox about wines I am never likely to try and never likely to buy, it usually gets aimed at the trash can. The junk mail that arrives in mail box at the gate gets aimed in the same direction. But I usually have a quick squiz to see if anything catches my eye. Imagine my surprise when I saw the "Rare Penfolds 2004 Special Bin Wines" headlined across the page of the Foodtown / Woolworths weekly specials brochure, sitting above the beers and on the opposite page to the normal loss leader wines.

But it was not the wines - the Penfolds 2004 Block 42 and the Penfolds Bin 60A - but the prices that immediately stood out - wine prices you don't expect to see in a supermarket brochure. The boldly displayed prices show wines specialled at $399 with the latter also available in a 1.5 litre magnum at a cool $1399. Double the amount of wine for 3.5 times the price - rarity and collectability factor the reasoning behind this, I guess.

Penfolds advert

The picture shows that the Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon has a capsule with presumably a cork closure concealed beneath it while the Bin 60A blend of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon and Barossa Valley Shiraz has a screwcap closure.

So where else are the wines available? I retrieved the Penfolds press release from the trash can and saw there was a photo available of the wines being delivered to the owner of the Victoria Park New World, but on ringing the store to find out what their prices were, I was told by the liquor department person that they did not have the wines. And my local fine wine store did not 'take up the allocation' when it was offered en primeur.

Whereever it's available, the supermarket special prices will be hard to beat. According to the brochure, the promotion runs until 1st July. I wonder if they are doing in-store tastings.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 25th 2007

Croatia National Day and Babich Syrah

Today is National Croatia Day, the 16th anniversary of Croatia declaring independence from the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. So it's the day to toast the Croatian winemakers of Auckland. They used to be known as Dalmatians, or more affectionately Dallies, and some of the names are ingrained in New Zealand's vinous history.
Like Yukich, the name behind Montana Wines, the company that pioneered the modern era of New Zealand winemaking when they planted grapevines in Marlborough's Brancott Valley in 1973. From a single vineyard at the foothills of the Waitakere Range in West Auckland, Montana is now New Zealand's largest wine producer - and owned by the French.
Like Nobilo and Selak, still based in Huapai but now owned by Americans.
Babich Syrah 06Like George Fistonich, whose Villa Maria Estate is New Zealand's largest family owned wine company and Delegat, who is also one of the country's biggest.
Like Brajkovich (Kumeu River), Soljan (Soljans Wines) and Babich, which celebrated their 90th anniversary last year.

The industry has a lot to thank the Croatians for, so let's drink a toast with one of their wines.

I chose Babich Winemakers Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2006. This is a dense purple-red colour, intense and opaque. It's easy to pick the variety because there's a ton of white pepper on the nose and the flavour is tarry, earthy, savoury and spicy with sweet cedary oak, fine grainy tannins, wild blackberries, hints of liquorice and a lovely floral lift to the bitter chocolate finish. It's smooth, ripe and creamy with a well-balanced combination of sweet, savoury and spicy and the peppery character that is so flamboyant on the nose is there all the way through. Matured in French and American oak, it has just 12.5% alcohol. It has a 'Diam' technical cork closure and costs about NZ$26.
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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 24th 2007

The Wine Circle in Kumeu

When Chris Carrad opened the 'Wine Circle' in Kumeu last August, he invited me to come out and take a look around. It is now June 2007, so it only took a mere 10 months to get there because every time I passed through Kumeu/Huapai I was on a mission to one of the region's wineries. But it was worth the drive on a wet Saturday afternoon because this wine shop is not just a wine shop, it has an amazing range of malt whiskies, tequilas and sakes as well as beers from just about every country on the planet where beer is made. From the UK there was an old favourite 'The Speckled Hen' as well as the eye-catching 'Monty Pythons Holy Grail - tempered over burning witches'.

Chris Carrad @ the Wine CircleBut I was there primarily to see the wines - and wines by the dozen there are with a huge range of local and international tipples including a selection of brands that Chris imports himself. These imports include Champagne Pierre Gimonnet; Agusti Torelli sparkling wines from Spain; several labels from Germany including Muller Catoir, Gunderloch, St Ursula and Grans-Fassian; Qupe and Au Bon Climat from California and other quirky labels from ABC's winemaker Jim Clenenden; and lastly Domaine Viret preservative free wines from the South of France. Chris opened some wines from his own imports for me to taste and these are the wines I tried.

Agusti Torello Mata Brut Riserva Cava 2004 - Penedes, Spain
With hints of coconut on the nose this crisp, fresh, high acid fizz has slightly musky grapey flavours, a salty tang, exotic fruits like feijoa, good length and mouthfeel. There's also a bready undercurrent from the yeast lees and it's quite dry - I imagine this would be perfect on a hot summers day - think of the kiwis in Spain right now. Made from 40% Macabeo, 25% Xarel-lo and 35% Parellada. NZ$26.90.

Devils Rock Riesling 2005 - Pfalz, Germany
Pale straw. Lemon and lime with a slight oiliness like that you get from skins of citrus, a spicy zest tang, an earthy undercurrent and a mellow, cheesy-apple character on the finish. It's off dry and fruity with hints of tropical fruit amongst the citrus with acidity keeping the wine crisp. An oily 'kero' character is starting to kick in, making it seem like the wine is on the point of turning from young and fresh to having more secondary complex notes. Not a classic German Riesling, but designed as a crowd pleaser and packaged as such with its modern, new world-styled label. Screwcap closure. 12.5% alc. NZ$14.90.

Grans-Fassian QbA Riesling 2003 - Mosel, Germany
Pale straw. Shy on the nose but bright and tangy to the taste with a spicy salinity underpinning grapey, grape-musk, floral flavours. Again that earthy undercurrent and a long, mellow finish with hints of just-ripe apricot and mandarin emerging. Bright, tangy and refreshing, this is more what I expect from German Riesling and it is stylish at the price. 10.5% alc. NZ$19.90. Cork closure.

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara Chardonnay 2005 - California,  USA
Rich lemon gold. Spicy cedar on the nose and a big, rich, oily seasoned oak palate. A powerful wine with a hint of salinity, ripe lush stonefruit and a maltiness to the finish. The wine was a bit cold and I would have loved to have seen it in a big glass. I would have liked to have seen it open up more because it hinted of butterscotch and figs and all sorts of interesting nuances behind the oak. One for lovers of the powerful Chardonnay style. 13.5% alc. $37.90. Cork.

Au Bon Climat Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2005 - California,   USA
Subtitled "La Bauge Au-dessus", this is a deep black-garnet red with ruby hues. The aroma is immediately seductive with its savoury, earthy, black cherry scents. In the mouth it's spicy, savoury and earthy with black cherry, plums, spice, leather and a lovely flourish of red fruits and rose petals on the finish. It's a beautifully structured pinot noir, full-bodied and warm with velvety tannins, there's a slight salinity as well and the wine has great length. Evidently this is the entry level pinot noir in the ABC range, but I was mesmerised with its beauty and class. All I could say was 'Wow'. It's 13.5% alcohol and in comes in 375ml (NZ$29.90) as well as 750ml ($53.90) bottles. I tasted from a 357ml. Will look forward to putting this in a line-up of NZ pinots noirs sometime.

Domaine Viret Solstice IV 2004  - Vin de Table de France
From the south of France, this is deep garnet-black red coloured, shiny in appearance. Dark, earthy, almost gamey aromas and savoury to the taste with leather and tar, blackberry and strawberry fruit, hints of liquorice and despite the upfront grippy, gravelly tannins, the long savoury finish is rather juicy and clean. Medium-bodied in weight, it is made from Mourvèdre, Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Caladoc, Grenache and Carignan. Chris calls this a French Stew, and it would be a mighty fine accompaniment to a gamey stew, that's for sure. Perfect for these wintry nights, this wine has no preservatives added, and is unfiltered and unfined. NZ$19.90. Cork.

Wine Circle is a well presented wine shop with neck tag tasting notes on just about every single bottle so you can browse on your own if you are too shy to ask.

It's definitely worth a visit.  If you are not one of the city commuters who pass the shop on your way home, then call in on a Saturday or Sunday because there is likely to be something open on the barrel for you to try. There is no website so you'll just have to visit - the address is Shop 2, 329A SH16, Huapai. It's on the western side of the road next to the National Bank.  It's open 10am - 8pm on Saturdays and 11am - 7pm on Sundays.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 23rd 2007

Mushroom Soup and Mercure

The pruners quite likely had another day off in the Central Otago vineyards today with the region even more clogged with snow than it was when I posted yesterday's blog entry. So much snow, in fact, that last night's opening of the Lindauer Winter Festival was cancelled. The special guests, such as the Prime Minister of New Zealand, couldn't get there because the airport was closed and even with the roads that were open, people were being told to stay at home.

However, my Winter Solstice Dinner went off as planned with a three course meal, starting with a Mushroom Soup, followed by Roast Leg of Lamb with in a Red Currant Sauce and then a desert of Roasted Fresh Fruits served with homemade Greek Yoghurt.

The soup recipe came from "The Purnell Colour Book of Soups" published in 1972 in Great Britain. It is a gorgeous soup, easy to make but sophisticated in its silky texture and its sweet yet earthy taste. Here's the recipe, with minor modifications from the original and the measurements changed to metric.

For four people, with enough for seconds, you will need the following ingredientsThe Mercure

60 grams butter
1 small onion, chopped,
250 grams white button mushrooms
200 grams flat brown mushrooms
2 tablespoons of cornflour
1 litre vegetable stock (I used the ready made Campbells brand)
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs of parsley
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup of milk

Melt the butter and cook the onion over a low heat for 4-5 minutes to soften. Wash and slice the mushrooms and add them to the pan, cover and cook for 5 minutes more. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until smooth. Pour on the stock and mix well. Add the bay leaf, parsley and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Blend the soup (a stick mixer is good) until almost smooth. Add the milk and re-heat. Adjust seasoning to taste.

I served the soup with thick slices of ciabatta bread topped with a roasted garlic hummus and shreds of Parmesan, and baked in the oven until crisp.

This soup was a star with Morton Estate The Mercure 2004, which when tasted blind in a line-up of wines both before the meal and with the food, was lighter than the other 'Bordeaux-styled' wines both in its medium weight colour and medium-bodied taste. With its dried herb complexities, it could almost have been mistaken for reasonably serious Pinot Noir - and I knew there was a pinot noir in the line-up - so it was a surprise when the labels were revealed to find it was a Hawkes Bay blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec grapes with 12 months maturation in French and American oak and bottle aged before release. This fragrant wine is soft, ripe and creamy with a touch of spice, juicy fruit and smooth tannins, the American oak adds sweetness, there is a pinot noir-like savoury complexity and the finish is long. It is sealed with a screwcap and has 13.5% alcohol by volume, but what is best about this wine is its price. At just NZ$18.95 a bottle, it is a perfect medium-bodied red for mushroom soups and roasts of lamb this winter.
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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 22nd 2007

Winter Solstice

It's the Winter Solstice and the earth is at its most extreme tilt, making the sun appear at the most northern point in the sky at and so, in the Southern Hemisphere we have the shortest daylight hours of the year today. In Auckland that is just 9 hours and 37 minutes - just a little shorter than yesterday by a few seconds. sunrise 220607

After a stormy night, the sun rose this morning in Auckland at 7.34am - and this is what it looked like a couple of minutes later after it emerged from the low bank of cloud above Auckland's Hauraki Gulf. It sets tonight at 5.11pm and not long after that, our winter solstice dinner will start, commencing with a wine tasting of New Zealand reds. On the menu is New Zealand lamb cooked with redcurrant sauce and mint, which should be perfect to accompany the wines after the tasting.

Here in Auckland we only have to put up with a little wet and a few hours of chilly winds but it's a real winter wonderland in Central Otago where the region is covered in snow. Take a look at this pic from the Otago Wine Cellar website. On Wednesday they were pruning, yesterday the pruners had a day off - and you can see why.

The organisers of the Lindauer Winter Wine Festival,  which starts today in Queenstown, must be rubbing their hands in glee - or perhaps not with fourteen major roads closed as I write this entry. They have a Worship for Mid Winter Snow on Sunday, but hey guys, the snow is already here. The festival is sponsored by Lindauer, New Zealand's favourite bubbly.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 20th 2007

Trophy Fest at 2007 London IWC

Has the London International Wine Challenge gone overboard with the number of Trophies it now awards because at VinExpo this week where the awards were announced, 84 gold medal winning wines won Trophies. As well as the coveted International Trophies, which means the wine was best of all the entries regardless of country, there were Trophies for region and/or variety within country as well. Consequently New Zealand wines were in the running for the New Zealand South Island Pinot Noir Trophy, the New Zealand North Island Pinot Noir Trophy, the Gisborne Trophy, The Wairau Valley Trophy, the Awatere Valley Trophy, the Marlborough White Trophy, the New Zealand Chardonnay Trophy, the Marlborough Chardonnay Trophy and so on.

The wines that picked up the above awards were Bald Hills Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005, Villa Maria Single Vineyard Graham Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004 , Montana Letter Series Ormond Chardonnay 2004, Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006 and Wither Hills Fairleigh Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2005.

But as well as winning their regional and/or varietal trophies, two New Zealand wines were awarded International trophies.

Bald Hills Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005 won the International Pinot Noir Trophy and Villa Maria Single Vineyard Graham Sauvignon Blanc 2006 won the International Sauvignon Blanc Trophy. Congratulations!

The complete list of Trophy winners can be viewed on the IWC website.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 19th 2007

Australia's National Sparkling Red Day

redbubbles.jpg (15386 bytes)It's National Sparkling Red Day today in Australia. It's the sixteenth anniversary of the day introduced by the owners of the Melbourne's famous Jimmy Watson Wine Bar who thought that this Australian icon warranted special attention. They even coined the word 'Spurgler' for lovers of Australian Sparkling Red. Sounds like fun although right now, where I'm sitting, it's a little cold for a chilled red bubbles.

Sparkling reds haven't taken off in New Zealand. Oh, there was Cold Duck about 30 years ago but that did a good job of turning people off sparkling red coloured wines. Soljans Wines in Kumeu made a sparkling Pinotage a few years ago and I heard that Trinity Hill in Hawkes Bay dabbled with a non commercial sparkling red as well. But it really is one of Australia's fortes. Usually made from Shiraz grapes, it is a style that polarises wine lovers who either love it or hate it.

John Wilson, of the Wilson Vineyard in South Australia's Clare Valley has researched the history of sparkling reds. He says that the Aussies pinched the idea from the French, then made the style into their own distinctive drop. It appears that the first sparkling red was made in Burgundy in1820, or perhaps before if the poems of Keats are anything to go by. Australia's first sparkling red was made in 1881, but the light coloured reds of that era were very different to the full-bodied, inky purple, sparkling reds made today. That first rendition of that style of red, made from Shiraz grapes, was introduced by Edward Mazure at Auldana Wines in 1892. Want to know more about the history of sparkling reds - then click here to read John Wilson's comprehensive account.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 18th 2007

Honey, Citrus and Coriander Chicken with Riesling

A couple of weeks ago, when deliberating over what to make for dinner, I rediscovered a recipe I hadn't made for years. It was "Grilled Lemon Coriander Chicken" from Jo Seagar's 1997 cookbook with the super name, "You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble, darling". The recipe had chicken breasts, with skin on, coated with a honey, citrus, oil and coriander mixture, then grilled.

I'm not too keen on chicken skin and I don't like grilling (broiling), so I decided to marinate skinless breasts for several hours, then bake them slowly in the oven. With the syrup from the cooking served over the chicken, the honeyed richness balancing the citrus acidity, it was an absolute treat with a fairly dry Marlborough Riesling.

Tonight I made the dish again only this time, with fresh limes in season and my orange tree still aglow with fruit, I decided the marinade would include a citrus combo.

Chicken marinadeThe marinade ingredients are

1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Juice and zest of 2 lemons - or from a small lemon, a small lime and a small orange
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of dry white wine - preferably Riesling
2 tablespoons honey

Either use liquid honey, or melt creamed honey in the microwave and add this to the rest of the marinade ingredients. Place the chicken breasts in a marinading dish, season with salt and freshly cracked pepper and pour the marinade over. Leave for several hours (e.g. prepare in the morning before you go to work).

When it comes to cooking time, line a baking dish with baking paper that comes up the side of the dish (makes for easy cleaning up). Place the chicken breasts on the paper and pour the rest of the marinade over. Set the oven to 160 degrees Celsius and cook the breasts slowly, until tender (45 minutes to an hour). Serve with the juice from the cooking, which, if you are lucky, will have thickened into a heavenly syrup.

The perfect match for the dish tonight was the Gibbston Valley Central Otago Riesling 2006 ($26). At first the aromas of the wine seemed green-edged, tight and yeasty but swirling brought out citrus and earthy nuances. There's cutting Riesling purity in the palate - it's almost tropical in it's fruit expression with limey citrus, a honeyed backbone and sweetness to the finish. It was like it was made to match this chicken in honey, citrus and coriander dish.

The previous successful match was the much drier Riverby Marlborough Riesling 2006 ($19.50) which had a talcy, dry, citrussy aroma and sprightly Tahitian lime flavours abounding in the crisp, dry, steely and refreshing palate. The honeyed syrup from the chicken beautifully balanced the lively acidity in the wine.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 18th 2007

Wine of the Week: Matariki Aspire Chardonnay 2005

Trying to work out what would be my New Zealand Wine of the Week, in a week when most of the wine I had tasted came from overseas, became patently clear when I attended the Tongariro Ski Club's 75th Jubilee on Saturday night and enjoyed several glasses of Matariki wine. There was the Matariki Aspire Chardonnay 2005, the Matariki Aspire Sauvignon Blanc 2006 and the Matariki Aspire Cabernet Merlot 2003, all from Hawkes Bay grapes.  But the Matariki Aspire Chardonnay 2005 was the all-round star. Click here to read the full review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 17th 2007

Spanish Saturday at First Glass

I don't usually go to the wine shop on Saturdays, but I was compelled to this Saturday (yesterday) because the weekly email newsletter had announced a Spanish Saturday including a line-up of Sherry. Held to toast our friends in Valencia for the Americas Cup challenge which starts next week, it was an occasion simply too good to miss because I love Sherry. And best of all, the tasting was free. Five Lustau Sherries

There were five Sherries on the table, from very dry to very sweet. All were from Lustau, all in 375 ml bottles with T-top corks.

Lustau Papirusa Light Manzanilla
Pale lemon gold, strong flor yeast scents, mellow and slightly 'oxidithed'. Very dry, nutty and bitter olive-like characters first up in the palate morph to a sweetness on the finish, no doubt from the alcohol. It's quite creamy in texture with a long, salty, nutty aftertaste and the length is delightful. Overall a good wine but lacks the freshness and is a little deeper in colour than I would have expected from this style. 15.5% alc. NZ$18.95. Bottled June 2005. "Light, delicate and very dry," states that label. It really should have been drunk by December 2005 but that is probably when it arrived in New Zealand.

Lustau Puerto Fino
"Dry, elegant and distinctive," states the label of this pale lemon gold wine. Nutty, mellow, butter-lolly scents have a slightly rancid overlay with hints of melon. Very dry, aldehydic and nutty to the taste with a delicate butteriness underpinning the wine adding oiliness and slipperiness to the texture. There's a hint of caramel on the finish, which is very long, dry, salty and tasty but like the previous wine, it suffers a little from a lack of freshness. 15.5% alc. NZ$32.95. Bottled Sep 2005.

Lustau Palo Cortado Peninsula
The label declares this to be, "a full-bodied dry Sherry between the Amontillado and Oloroso types".
A dark golden amber glows from the glass and the scents are full of toffee. It tastes dry, fresh, salty and raisiny with a lusciousness to the flavour without detracting from any of those gorgeous dry, salty raisiny flavours and there seems to be a juiciness and a caramel creaminess to the finish. My favourite of the five wines. 19% alc. NZD$28.99. Bottled August 2004.

Lustau Dry Amontillado Los Arcos
Quite intense aromas of raisin and other dried fruit, including lemon peel - like alcohol-soaked dried fruit that would go into fruit cake. It's tawny in colour and although dry, it is sweeter and not so intensely rich as the Palo Cortado. There's a spicy, salty richness and a strong, rancio yeasty character and a tawny nutty finish. Quite sophisticated with good mouthfeel, warm viscosity and a hot, dry, spiritous finish which is long and powerful. 18.5% alc,. NZD$19.99. Bottled August 2005.

Lustau East India Solera Sherry
Deep golden amber with yellow edges, it has a strong sweet golden syrup-like aroma and is lusciously sweet to the taste, like toffee with lots of spiritous warmth, honey, nuts and macerated raisins - and the finish is simply a caramel lover's dream. But in true sherry fashion, there's a hot, dry undercurrent with hints of candied orange peel to balance the sweetness. 20% alc. NZD$27.95. Bottled 3rd April 2006. 

This tasting was an absolute treat.  Sherry is such a misunderstood drink but this tasting showed it can be truly exciting.  Let's hope the yachties and supporters in Valencia think so too.  Maybe some of these people will be instigators of a Sherry revival when they return to New Zealand in a few weeks time.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 16th 2007

Thoroughly Modern Baumann

Baumannn labelsAt the Wine Spirit tasting last Wednesday night (click on the link for tasting notes) the theme was Spain, Italy, Argentina and others - the others being two French wines from Alsace, from a producer called Baumann who is based in the town of Riquewihr. This is a producer who has taken his labelling of his ClassiQ range into the 21st century and done it in a thoroughly attractive and consumer-oriented way. The front label looks modern but the back label - now that's an encyclopaedia of information and it's multi-lingually stated in English as well as French.

back labelFood pairing is indicated by symbols and for the Riesling there's a pig, a chicken, a fish, a lobster and a Chinese character (are there Chinese restaurants in Alsace?).

There's a sweetness level scale. '1' being Sec/Dry and '9' being Liquoreux/Sweet - the Riesling clocks in at number '2', so it's fairly dry.

A bottle indicates the number of years to cellar and a thermometer gives the optimum serving temperature both in Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Lastly there's a tasting note for the wine and for the Riesling it says, "Scents of lime and ripe flavours of apple and quince, with a dense texture underscored by racy acidity. Well, structured, crisp, dry with a pleasant intensity."

I found the Baumann ClassiQ Riesling 2005 to have a light yellow gold, fragrant, floral aroma and crisp, dry flavours with limes, lemons and a touch of peach, an oily richness to the texture and a reasonably full-bodied finish. It has 12.5% alcohol by volume and costs NZD$26.99.

Also tasted was the lemon yellow coloured and fragrantly perfumed Baumann ClassiQ Pinot Gris 2005. Viscous and leggy in appearance, it's a fleshy wine with stonefruit and honeysuckle, a hint of botrytis, a nutty richness and a clean lingering finish with apricots to the fore and a touch of spice. I find it a very 'pretty' wine with appealing weight and flavour. It clocks in at '5' on the Baumann sweetness scale, it has 13% alcohol and costs NZD$31.99.  If you have been disappointed in the local versions of Pinot Gris, then try this.

Well done to Baumann for providing information to consumers without them having to look past the bottle. I wish other producers would follow suit.  It can't be too hard to do.

You'll find Domaine Baumann on the web at, although the website is in French and they don't yet show their modernised labels.

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