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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: July 1st to July 16th 2007
Jul 16th: Wine of the Week: Hinchco Dessert Merlot 2005
Jul 14th: A French wine for Bastille Day
Jul 13th: Stunning Kumeu River Chardonnays
Jul 13th: Rosemount Diamond arrives
Jul 12th: Wine Tasting Term: Mealy
Jul 11th: Dinner by Candlelight and Pinot Noir
Jul 11th: I'm expecting a diamond today!
Jul 10th: Old wine goes for $14,000
Jul 9th: Morton Estate 'Marchioness of Morton' Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Jul 8th: Spanish Lamb Cutlets and Pesquera
Jul 7th: Saturday afternoon Chardonnays
Jul 6th: Gemstone Wines and benchmark Pinot Noir
Jul 5th: Pruner shortage in Marlborough
Jul 4th: American Wine Drinking Day
Jul 3rd: Wine and Health
Jul 2nd: Wine of the Week: Villa Maria Waldron Chardonnay 2004
Jul 1st: Impressive results for New Zealand Wines in San Francisco
Other Entries

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

Wine of the Week: Hinchco Dessert Merlot 2005

Hinchco Dessert Merlot - photo by Sue CourtneyOften I hear people saying "it's winter, so we need to drink warming winter reds", or "it's summer and we need to drink crisp summery whites", with of course pinks fitting into the summer category as well. However I'm of the opinion that wines are not seasonal. It is the food that is seasonal and it is the food that dictates the wines we drink ....

But there are two drinks I definitely like in winter.  One is mulled wine - consumed like a hot drink - fantastic when coming off the ski slopes or after clearing up in the paddocks, like after last week's mid-winter storm. The other is a robust fortified red because there's nothing like that like that extra hit of alcohol to quickly warm the blood stream on a freezing winter's night. Curled up in front of the fire with a decadent chocolate dessert or a plate of creamy blue cheese, I can't think of anything better.

Hinchco Dessert Merlot 2005 from Matakana, north of Auckland, is a yummy fortified red I discovered this past week - in fact last Tuesday in the midst of the big storm. It's beaut both with chocolate and blue cheese. Read my review at this 'Wine of the Week' link.

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

A French Wine for Bastille Day

Drouhin Clos des Mouches 1996 - Burgundy, France
clos des mouches redThey don't make pinot noir like this in New Zealand. This is earthy, savoury and gamey, the silky tannins could be considered even a little hard, but the impact of flavour, the funkiness, the complexity, the underlying acidity, the old fruit cake, the subtle spice. Even a bit of blood - or its that the lamb cooking in the kitchen? There's an orange brown tinge to the pinky red colour, translucent in appearance - like a spessartine garnet in the light - and I love the salty herbal flavour to the finish. Oooh .... such a seductive and gorgeous wine with 13% alcohol by volume and a pristine cork.

It was matched to rack of lamb with a crust made from 1 thick slice of wholegrain bread ripped up and put in a blender with a tablespoon of diced onion, a crushed clove of garlic, fresh thyme, two small mushrooms and olive oil to bind it all together. The lamb was baked in the oven to medium rare, it was pink and moist in the centre and an exquisite match to this beautiful Pinot Noir.

What makes this wine so delicious? Perhaps it is the small percentage of Pinot Gris that is in the blend? Yes, evidently the Clos des Mouches red is made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris according to the Drouhin website. Well, knock me over with a fly, or in the case of this wine, a bee.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 13th 2007

Stunning Kumeu River Chardonnays

Chardonnay lovers, put a big circle around August 1st 2007 on your calendar. This is the day the 2006 vintage chardonnays from New Zealand's leading Chardonnay producer, Kumeu River, get released to the market. And with the addition of two single vineyard vines, the line-up has expanded from three wines to five. krchards.jpg (61037 bytes)

Joining the Kumeu River Village Chardonnay, the Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay (renamed from Kumeu River Kumeu Chardonnay) and the premium single vineyard Kumeu River Maté's Vineyard Chardonnay are the Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay and Kumeu River Coddington Vineyard Chardonnay.

Hunting Hill is the hill overlooking Maté's Vineyard opposite the winery in Kumeu. This is where Kumeu River founder, Maté Brajkovich used to hunt rabbits and pheasant. Vines were first planted on the hill in the 1980's but were replaced with new chardonnay plantings in 2000.

Coddington Vineyard is on a clay hillside between Huapai and Waimauku. It's actually on State Highway 16, opposite Bees Online, but you can't see the vineyard from the road. It's owned by Tim and Angela Coddington who have been supplying Kumeu River with grapes since 1998.

Kumeu River ChardonnaysI was in the privileged position to have a sneak preview of the wines yesterday and, oh my gosh, they are just gorgeous. There was a similarity to all the wines - the lemon citrine colours and the smoky savoury aromas, especially when comparing the Kumeu River Estate, the Coddington and the Hunting Hill. These three wines had similar oak regimes - a mix of medium, medium plus to heavy toasted French oak (20% new) from 12 different coopers. The stunning Maté's Vineyard Chardonnay is more concentrated in its expression of smoky savouriness - only three different coopers were used and 20% of the oak was new.

It was nice to have three Masters of Wine in the room. One was Kumeu River's winemaker, Michael Brajkovich MW, of course. Of the two visitor MW's, one likened the Coddington to a Mersault and the Hunting Hill to a Corton Charlemagne. The other likened the Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay to a Premier Cru Chablis. (I don't drink enough of the French wines to know).

Kumeu River vineyard with Hunting HillMy favourite chardonnay of the five on the day was the Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2006 ($NZ44.95). Concentrated and full-bodied with fig and savoury, smoky / smoky bacon scents and rich, almost luscious flavours, the smoky savouriness plays a big role in the palate but lets the ripe melon, pear and spice flavours come through in a most beautiful and harmonious way.  It's quite dry and tightly structured with a biscuity lemony leesy backbone and has the potential to magnificently age.  The traditional Brajkovich lunch of juicy, rare-cooked barbecued steak infused with the smoke from wood-fired barbecue really complimented the smokiness of the wine which has  has 14% alcohol and a screwcap - naturally.  Just 1200 cases were made.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 13th 2007

Rosemount Diamond arrives

I was a little disappointed on Wednesday when my 'diamond' failed to arrive (see my blog entry of 11th July) but the disappointment was fully compensated when it arrived yesterday - together with bottles of wine and glasses. The 'diamond' is the shape of the base of the new Rosemount bottle - a diamond base with facets that taper up to the traditional round 'Bordeaux' style shoulder. Rosemount has always had a point of difference with the flanged tops of their former bottles but it was a top that didn't suit the preferred screwcap closures that consumers down under are demanding today. So the creative boffins came up with a solution - and the diamond shaped base to the bottle is it. And I think they look pretty good.

rosemount diamond bottlesAs for the wines - the ones I tasted last night are the ruby and garnet jewels in the diamond cluster. Well made commercial wines - with a full RRP of only NZ$13.99 a bottle - so perhaps synthetic rubies and commercial garnets at that price. These generic Australian wines will be positioned in supermarkets and will most likely will get discounted from time to time but even at full price they offer value drinking.

Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Pinot Noir 2006
Deep purple garnet coloured. Soft, savoury, smoky maraschino aromas and sweet cherry and plum flavours with mulled wine-like spices, smoky vanillin oak, and hints of citrus and mint. While not for the pinot purists, it's warm, soft, velvety and comforting at this time of year - mid winter in New Zealand. 13.5% alc.

Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Merlot 2006
Deep cherry red coloured with aromas and flavours of smoky plum and redcurrant, it's bright fruited with acidity underpinning the warm velvety texture, sappy oak and a dry finish with herbs and cigar smoke on the lingering sweet fruitcake cherry aftertaste. 13.5% alc.

Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Shiraz 2006
Dense purple red coloured. Appealing dark smoky oak, raspberry and blackberry jube aromas lead into a ripe, succulent, creamy, spicy, soft, smooth, rounded palate with hints of pepper, spice and chocolate. While a little sweet on the finish, this medium-bodied wine has immense appeal at its price point. It's Shiraz - it's what the Australians do best. 13.5% alc.

Love the glasses too. They are the new Mikasa 'Oenology' glasses called 'Open Up', designed for tasting young wines, 1 - 3 years old. They are impressive to look at, nice to hold and swirl, and excellent to drink from.

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

Wine Tasting Term: Mealy

A reader writes:

"Dear Sue,
I am a big fan of your site and tasting notes. Recently I used the term 'mealy' when wine tasting with my friends. I thought that I understood this expression which you often used for some chardonnays but I couldn't express it properly at the time. As long as I understand, it could be used with some oak-influenced white, especially Chardonnay. Some oat meal-like nuance with some creaminess.
When you use that term, which flavour or taste do you intend to describe?
Regards, Isaac."

It's a good question and one I tried to cover about 15 months ago when I reviewed the Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon.

I replied to Isaac as follows -

"Dear Isaac,
I use mealy to describe a flavour that is derived from the yeast lees.
It can be a kind of an oat meal / corn meal / wheat meal character, sometimes even an oat or wheat biscuit character.
It is not related to oak but often found in oak-fermented wines when the wine has remained on the yeast lees and the lees are stirred regularly.
I do think, like you, that the yeast lees can introduce creaminess as well.
I sometimes get mealy flavours in unoaked chardonnays where the winemaker has used extended yeast lees contact to introduce complexity into the wine without using oak. Another wine style where a yeast lees mealiness sometimes occurs is Pinot Gris.

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

Dinner by Candlelight and Pinot Noir

Dinner by Candlelight. Sounds romantic. Even more so when the candle light dinner is forced on you because there's a storm raging outside and the power has gone off. It's unplanned and spontaneous and later, because it is the middle of winter, the only way to keep warm is to snuggle up in bed. But first with dinner (soup cooked on the barbecue by torchlight), it was time to reassess half a dozen Marlborough pinot noirs opened in the weekend.

More pinot noir is produced in Marlborough than in any other New Zealand wine region - Central Otago is a distant second - so not surprisingly there are some very tasty, well-priced wines coming out of the region. I tasted five produced by the Nobilo Group and one from Ra Nui Wines to round out the numbers. It turned out the Ra Nui and the two cheaper Nobilo Group wines were medium-bodied in style while the other three medium to full-bodied wines showed more depth and complexity.

All of these wines were good but on the night, the 'top wine of the tasting', because of its flavour and tannin structure, was the Rose Tree Cottage Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006. Three nights later, the Selaks Founders Reserve had really hit it straps and from had gone from a sweet little baby to a sophisticated little madam.  Here are my notes. 

Ra Nui Wairau Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Dark ruby coloured. Smoky, savoury, sweet mushroom and fruit cake cherry aromas and spiced cherries and red berry fruit flavours with a hint of liquorice, hints of vanillin oak, a touch of forest floor, a flourish of acidity on the finish and a savoury, earthy, mushroomy depth. A clean, easy going, approachable, fruity, medium-bodied style. Matured in French oak, 30% new. 13.8% alc. Screwcap.

The Jibe Latitude 41 Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Deep ruby, translucent in appearance. Spiced cherry and soft vanillin oak aromas. Earthy, savoury red fruit flavours with underlying acidity and a herbal edge. A soft, smooth, sweet-fruited, quaffable, medium-bodied pinot noir with a warm flourish of velvety spices on the finish. Excellent with blue cheese on garlic pita bread - of the six wines, this was the only one that this combination worked. This wine also got the vote for the best label. It was matured in seasoned French oak for 9 months. 13.5% alc. $18.95. Screwcap.

nobilopinot.jpg (85958 bytes)Drylands Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Deep ruby, translucent in appearance. Ripe fruitcake cherries on the nose with a backing of smoky spicy oak, medium to full-bodied in style, bigger, richer and oakier than the Jibe with an earthy savouriness and a little more complexity however the reds fruits, the underlying acidity and the herbal edge is quite similar. There's a crunchy crispness to the lingering finish and vanillin oak and floral notes linger. Matured in new and seasoned French oak for 11 months. 13.5% alc. $18.95. Screwcap.

Nobilo Icon Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Deep in colour, dark ruby with an almost opaque centre. Vanillin oak, cherries and sweet spices on the nose and rich, succulent, savoury flavours with slightly chunky velvety tannins, fruitcake spice, hints of milk chocolate and an earthy, brooding, mushroomy undercurrent. Tasty and long with a citrussy tang to the finish, this full-bodied pinot noir is very appealing from the outset. Matured in new and seasoned French oak for 12 months. 13.5% alc. $22.95. Twintop Cork closure.

Rose Tree Cottage Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Deep crimson ruby tending to opaque in the core of the glass. Initially quite shy on the savoury nose, it opens up to reveal smoky, earthy, slightly funky pinot scents. In the palate it's beautifully poised with a silky tannin structure that imparts a lovely balanced flow to the smoky oak and sweet and savoury red fruit flavours. There's a brooding, earthy, mushroomy undercurrent, intrinsic herbal pinot characters and a spicy flourish with a brightness of red fruits on the lingering finish. Medium to full-bodied in style, it was matured in new and one-year-old French oak for 12 months. 13.5% alc. $27.95. Screwcap.

Selaks Founders Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Deep ruby red. Quite complex and smoky with sweet vanillin oak and cherry on the nose and although the palate is smoky and savoury and there's an intrinsic herbal character underlying the wine, it seems sweet and confectionary-like in its cherry fruit flavours and charry oak lingers on the finish. Later, however, this wine really has morphed into a different beast and shows its form as an intense and concentrated pinot noir. A big-oaked wine with grainy tannins, there's a hint of pepper to the savoury flavours with thyme, mushrooms, fruits of the forest and a musky floral note to the succulent lingering finish. Medium to full-bodied in style, it was matured in new, one and two-year-old French oak for 12 months. 12% alc. $28.95. Screwcap closure.

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

I'm expecting a diamond today!

The courier called two days ago with a tiny box in his hand. I opened it and it was the top third of a plastic bottle. It had Rosemount Estate on the top of the cap and 'Diamond Label' around the base of the capsule.

rosemount bottle sectionsThe courier was perplexed as I was.

"People usually send me bottles of wine, not plastic replicas of parts of bottles," I said.

"I'd rather get wine too," he replied.

Yesterday, when I came home in the midst of the storm, there was another wee box in my letter box. When I opened it I found the middle section of a plastic replica bottle. It had Rosemount Shiraz on the diamond-shaped label. I screwed the pieces together and it started to make sense.

So today I'm expecting a diamond to arrive. It's the new foot print for the Rosemount Diamond range and its launch coincides with the visit of George Samios, Foster's Wine Estate Global Ambassador, to New Zealand. 

Mmmm, wonder if I will actually get some wine too.

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

Old wine goes for $14,000

A bottle of 1903 Lansdowne Claret, believed to be one of the oldest bottles of New Zealand wine in existence, fetched $14,000 at the Te Omanga Hospice Charity Wine Auction held in Martinborough on Saturday night. The buyer, former Brierley Investments chief executive and current Wellington regional stadium trust Chairman Paul Collins, says he has no intention of drinking it though.

"The wine itself is so unique that it will now become a feature of my wine cellar," he said according to an article in today's Dominion Post.

The generous donation came from Ed Beetham, great nephew of winemaker William Beetham who made the wine. The old stocks have remained in the cellars at Brancepeth Station which the Beetham Family established in 1856 east of Masterton in the Wairarapa.

At the time of the donation, Mr Beetham said he hoped whoever bought it would drink it. Well, it doesn't seem likely now, that that will happen.

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

Morton Estate 'Marchioness of Morton' Sauvignon Blanc 2006

The MarchionessOpened a couple of bottles of sauv blanc on Friday night to have with gurnard fillets pan-fried in butter with freshly squeezed lime juice and copious amounts of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro). But I was surprised, when I tasted the wines, to find they both had oak. Later when I looked at the back labels, only one of the wines mentioned it. This was the Morton Estate 'Marchioness of Morton' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006. I liked it so much it's my Wine of the Week. The Marchioness is pictured.  I wonder who she is.
Also reviewed in the Wine of the Week article are two other savvies that have oak - the Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2004 and the Isabel Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006.
Click here to read the reviews.

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

Spanish Lamb Cutlets and Pesquera

Lamb Cutlets by Sue CourtneyInvited to a 'Tapas' party the other weekend, I wasn't sure what to take but finally decided on lamb cutlets as I thought that with their built in handles they would be easy to eat. Even though they were cold when eaten, I was rather pleased with the way they turned out. So I made another batch for a lazy weekend nibble.

The cutlets came from a baby rack of lamb, which was trimmed of its fat then cut into individual cutlets which were marinaded overnight in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons Dry Sack Sherry (a medium dry style), a large clove of garlic - roughly crushed, a teaspoon of smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera - La Chinata from Spain), salt, pepper and a few sprigs of thyme. Then they were grilled (broiled) under a high heat for a few minutes each side, basting with the leftover marinade.

The lamb chops were tasted with the Dry Sack Sherry, but the flavours of the Sherry were so strong, they overpowered the food. A much better and more interesting match was Pesquera Tinto Cosecha Crianza 1992 from the Ribera del Duero in Spain. A deep inky coloured, savoury, full-bodied wine with complexity from bottle maturity yet still with abundant sweet fruit, vanillin oak, smooth lush tannins and underlying natural acidity from the tempranillo grape preserving a youthful edge. So much of a youthful edge that some people at the party, who didn't spot the vintage on the bottle, thought they were drinking the recently released 2004.

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

Saturday afternoon Chardonnays

What better to do on a dull, cold, winter, weekend afternoon? Taste a few chardonnays, that's what. I picked out some unoaked Chardonnays and some cheap quaffers to see how they looked and these are my notes and results from first to last.  I actually gave the wines some scores too. All of the wines except the last wine had a screwcap closure and prices are, of course, in New Zealand dollars.

chard07Jul07.jpg (127554 bytes)

Saint Clair Unoaked Marlborough Chardonnay 2005
Light gold coloured. Aromatic, stonefruit aromas with an underlying savoury richness, that carries through to the medium to full-bodied palate. Mouthfilling and bright, rich and fruity with figs, melons, stonefruit and orange zest and a yeast lees spicy savouriness adding complexity. Very tasty and complex in a well-balanced dryish style and a lasting fruit-filled aftertaste that is almost buttery. 13% alc. $19.95. My score 17/20.

Taylors Promised Land Unwooded Chardonnay 2006 - South Australia
Light straw gold. Tropical fruit with hints of dried banana lollies on the nose, it's quite oily textured and slippery in the palate with stonefruits and ripe pears. Medium-bodied with plenty of flavour, there's a touch of spice from the yeast lees to add some complexity and it fills out to quite a sweet-fruited finish. Nicely quaffable with an attractively cute seahorse on the front label. 13.5% alc. $15.99. My score 16.5/20.

Matua Valley Settler Series Gisborne Chardonnay 2004
Nice mature, creamy, buttery aroma indicative of Chardonnay and warm climate, tropical fruited, pineapple and citrus flavours with a raisin bread backbone, it's holding out very well for a 2004 wine tasted in 2007, the reasonably high acidity seemingly keeping the wine fresh. There's a touch of toffee butterscotch on the mellow, creamy finish and the aftertaste is buttery and savoury. A surprisingly rounded, 'drinking well' wine that sells for under $10 on special. 13% alc. 3.8g/l rs. $10-$12. My score 16.5/20.

Anchorage Unoaked Nelson Chardonnay 2006
Very pale straw, this is a taut, citrussy wine, a little reminiscent of pinot gris at first in the palate with its neutral pear-like flavours then it fills out with a citrussy zing. The creamy savouriness of the yeast lees component comes through and with its reasonably high acidity, the long tasty finish seems dry. With its bright zestiness, this would be a great seafood wine, immensely suited to the flavours of the Nelson region. 13% alc. $16. My score 16/20.

Spy Valley Unoaked Chardonnay 2006
Straw gold coloured. Citrus and tropical fruit aromas with a confectionary overlay and sweetish tropical fruit flavours with a tangelo and lime citrus tang. This off-dry style has masses of fruit balanced by a spicy yeast lees savouriness that comes through on the slightly, jazzy, spritzy textured finish and a bright, clean fruity flavour is left in the mouth. 13.5% alc. $16.95. My score 15.5/20.

Gibbston Valley Greenstone Chardonnay 2006 - Central Otago
Earthy pithy aromas and savoury, slightly herbal flavours with melon fruit and some exotic fruits adding intrique. Quite bready and citrussy, it take a while to seduce the palate but becomes quite creamy and fruity with underlying tangy acidity and hints of apples. Bendigo fruit. 13.5% alc. $20. My score 15/20.

Robard and Butler South Eastern Australia Chardonnay 2005
Light gold with a hint of butter on the earthy, leesy aroma. There's no detection of oak in the palate, just apples and tropical fruit in a light to medium-bodied, off-dry package. It has good length and fills out with bright tropical, almost passionfruit flavours on the lingering aftertaste. Reasonably simple but with sufficient flavour. 13% alc. 7g/l rs. $10.95. My score 15/20.

Matua Valley 'Settler' Gisborne Chardonnay 2005
A bit of a let down after the delicious 2004 (see above), this is a simple, one-dimensional, light-bodied, almost watery wine. There's a hint of stonefruit and a hint of oak and a slightly mellow cheesy character on the slightly oxidised, apple-like, struck match finish. Disappointing. 13% alc. 4g/l rs. $10-$12. My score 13/20.

Hardy's Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2005 - Australia
"Oops, it's got a cork in it, ", said Neil as he was opening the wines. I heard it pop in the kitchen. "Is it a real cork?" I asked. "Twintop," he said.
The light yellow gold colour is this wine's most redeeming feature because it is suffering from oxidation, something it wouldn't have suffered from, perhaps, if it had a screwcap. Think stewed fruit and overripe melons and stonefruit with a touch of savoury smokiness and a bitter aftertaste with flavours of overripe apples lingering in the mouth. 13.5% alc. $13-$15. My score 12/20 - but obviously a faulty bottle. Not even good value at under $13 on special. "Quick, pour something else".

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

Gemstone Wines and benchmark Pinot Noir

Andrew Buttery from Gemtree Vineyards in South Australia's McLaren Vale was at the Wine Spirit on Wednesday night with some of his fabulous Shirazes. I asked him why they named the vineyard 'Gemtree' but evidently that was the name the vineyard had when the Buttery family purchased it from McGuigan in 1991. They liked the name and decided to keep it. It was the catalyst for the 'gemmy' names of some of their wines after they started their own label in 1998.
Bloodstone Shiraz is named for the gemstone for March. It's the month the Shiraz is picked and it is Andrew's birth month.
Uncut Shiraz is so named because it's like an uncut gemstone - it shows its natural beauty without any faceted edges.
Obsidian Shiraz gets its name from the darkest, shiniest blackest gemstone.
You would expect the Buttery family to not make a 'buttery' chardonnay (you could see that coming), but they say they do not. They call their chardonnay 'citrine'.

Also at the tasting, a Mosel-like Riesling from a new producer in the South Island called the Crater Rim. Winemaker Theo Coles is following the trend that seems to be immensely suited to South Island rieslings, and that is the low alcohol, Germanic style.

Another highlight was a wine that has set a standard for the soon-to-arrive flurry of New Zealand pinot noir releases from the 2006 vintage. It was the Felton Road Pinot Noir 2006 from Central Otago - a wine with a fabulous deep ruby garnet colour, a mesmeric aroma and a delicious thick-textured, sweet and savoury taste. My tasting notes are here.

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

Pruner shortage in Marlborough

It is not surprising there is a shortage of pruning labour in Marlborough, really, given the increased hectarage of land now under grapevines. The NZ Wine Statistical Annual shows the growth of the vineyards quite clearly ...

2005 - 9,940 hectares
2006 - 11,475.6 hectares (estimated)
2007 - 12,704.2 hectares (estimated)

Add to that the vines that will not produce for the first time until next year - these have to be pruned as well.

The number of vines per hectare depends how close the vines have been planted, but New Zealand Winegrowers CEO, Philip Gregan, estimates there are over 30 million vines in Marlborough and 500 more people are needed in addition to the 2000 already working. However, for casual workers, pruning is not always a very attractive job.

Pruned and unpruned vines - photo copyright Sue CourtneyMarlborough seasonal labour co-ordinator Claire Wilson said in an article on the Stuff website that there has already been a turnover of 1000 people this season. There are the overseas workers who have come to the end of their work permits, while others find the physical work too hard. The cold weather snaps have not helped either.  Nor has the lousy pay, I suspect.

Pruning involves identifying the canes to be cut off, pulling the severed canes from the trellising wire, laying the remaining canes along the trellising wires and tying the canes to the wires. Discarded canes, i.e. the vine prunings, are usually removed for burning or used as mulch. Crafts people also collect vine prunings for artwork.

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

American Wine Drinking Day

akharbridge.jpgThe flagpoles on the Auckland Harbour Bridge are still naked, but at least when the date is the 4th of July we don't need an international flag flying to remind us that somewhere in the world this is a country's special day. Because, of course, the 4th of July is American Independence Day. So I 'm thinking that an American wine would be an appropriate wine to drink today, and fortunately, as our dollar gets stronger, American wines are not the inflated, overpriced, poor value for money expense they used to be.

I've been searching websites to find what American wines are available in New Zealand, and there are quite a few, although you do have to shop around. Some online websites have no American products at all, others like Regional Wines in Wellington have an extensive selection. And don't forget the Wine Circle in Kumeu/Huapai, that I mentioned a few days ago. They import a number of labels including five pinot noirs from Au Bon Climat. In fact, if you are out that way you can also pop into Nobilos cellar door and possibly pick up some of the parent company's Constellation brands such as Ravenswood or Mondavi.

So here is a list of American wine brands that I've found are available in New Zealand - with some easier to procure than others.

Argyle, Au Bon Climat, Bien Nacido, Bonny Doon, Calera, Gallo, Kistler, Mondavi, Napanook, Quintessa, Qupe, Random Ridge, Ravenswood, Rex Hill, Ridge, Seghesio, Simi, Stags Leap, Sterling Vineyard and Sutter Home.

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

Wine and Health

At least once a week I receive an email in my inbox about the health benefits of wine. Just last week it was the results of a study that concluded that red wine is good for your teeth. The research from the Universite Laval in Quebec, Canada says that compounds known as polyphenols in red wine have been found to stave off periodontal diseases which affect the gums and bone around the teeth, often leading to permanent tooth loss. So red wine is okay - but what about high acid white. Yes, drinking white wine is good for your dentist.

A few weeks ago the people from got in touch with me about the health benefits of red wine - not just any red wine though, but the red wine from the Madiran district in the South of France that they are now importing into New Zealand. Dr Erica Lauder is a GP and she and her husband Rob like wine but they also follow a healthy lifestyle. In April of this year they attended a Wine and Health symposium held in France and came away very excited. They were excited about the research of Professor Roger Corder, Professor of Experimental Therapeutics at the William Harvey Research Institute in London. Professor Corder has identified 'procyanidin', the polyphenol in red wine responsible for the reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease and the lowering of overall mortality in regular, moderate consumers of red wine. And he's written all about it in his book, 'The Wine Diet'. But the wines that have the most concentration of procyanidin are the wines from Madiran, in particular the wines that are made from a grape called Tannat.

Professor Corder says, after only two weeks of a daily 125ml glass of Madiran wine there will be positive effects on cardiovascular health.

But there's another good reason for drinking the wines that Rob and Erica import from Madiran - at least the three that I have tasted - and that is because they are rather deliciously good. Even better with a rich beef stew.

The wines are all made by Alain Brumont, who is regarded as a highly innovative winemaker, ahead of his time. They are as follows .....

three madiran winesAlain Brumont Torus 2004
Deep purple red - opaque with a crimson glow. Wow - concentrated blackcurrant and blackberry aromas with a dark savoury layer and deep, dark, savoury flavours with lush spicy oak, velvety tannins, concentrated blackberry and blackcurrant fruits and a tarry depth. Powerful, but not overpowering with a smoky finish and hints of liquorice and chocolate on the aftertaste, this is a modern, well-made wine and a lovely wine to drink this winter. I rate it delicious. It is made from 50% Tannat, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc with 12 months aging, with 50% in one year old barrels and 50% in oak vats. 14% alc. NZ$24.90.

Chateau Bouscasse 2002
Even a deeper colour - deep purple black. Meaty, earthy, dried herb aromas with seasoned oak and hints of blackberry, the cassis of the cabernet grape comes through in the palate with sweet cedary oak cruising above the earthy backbone and wild brambles. It shows some maturity, the powerful tannins are dry, and pepper, liquorice and fruitcake spices linger on the bright, lifted finish with the dried herb characters coming through again on the lingering aftertaste.  Full-bodied and intense, with a French rusticity throughout, it's made from 65% Tannat, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc with aging on lees in 1-2 year old oak for 12-14 months, and is unfiltered. 14% alc. NZ$31.40.

Chateau Montus 2002
Ever deeper, inkier in colour and the aroma is deep, dark, tarry and savoury. Made from 100% Tannat, this is a powerful wine with concentrated, macerated red and black berry fruits with the liquorice richness that fruits like this exhibit. The fruit is so concentrated it cuts through the initial upfront tannins and although the wine is powerful, it is has a whimsical beauty. It's a big wine with sweet vanillin oak, black fruits, tar and powerful tannins in a beautifully balanced, full-bodied package and reminds me of something almost Australian with its rich, sweet-oaked chocolate and spice, its lush full-bodied texture and modern, clean winemaking. If I had tasted this wine blind I probably wouldn't have initially pick as coming from France! The Tannat vines are 25 years old and the wine aged on lees in oak (60% new, 40% one year old) for 12-14 months. 14.5% alc. NZ$44.50. I rate it five star quality.

Buy from and visit the website to find out more about Professor Corder's research too.

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

Wine of the Week: Villa Maria Waldron Chardonnay 2004

The Villa Maria Single Vineyard Waldron Marlborough Chardonnay 2004 from Marlborough, that we drank on Friday night, is the kind of wine you pick up, take a sniff of, take a sip of and before you've even swallowed it the taste sensation in your mouth has you swooning with an orgasmic-like sigh.  I loved it so much, I've now reviewed it as my Wine of the Week.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 1st 2007

Impressive results for New Zealand Wines in San Francisco

New Zealand Wines took five 'Best Of' accolades at the 2007 San Francisco International Wine Show, which, according to their website, is "the largest and most prestigious international wine competition in America". It was judged mid June and New Zealanders Jim Harré and Kate Radburnd were amongst the judges. The 'Best of ' accolades  - which means best of all wines entered in the respective categories, regardless of country, were awarded to the following wines.

Best Sauvignon Blanc: Cairnbrae Vineyards The Stones Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Best Pinot Gris: Kathy Lynskey Wines Single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Gris 2006
Best of Show Dessert Wine: Stone Paddock Late Harvest Hawkes Bay Semillon 2006
Best Gewurztraminer: Spy Valley Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2006
Best Fortified Wine: Mazuran's Vineyards 1948 Vintage Port New Zealand

The above wines were also awarded 'Double Gold', as were -

Jules Taylor Wines Marlborough Pinot Gris 2006
Sileni Estates 2006 The Straits Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Mazuran's Vineyards Reserve One Vineyard Tawny Port 1968

Gold Medals were awarded to

Brancott Letter Series Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Eradus Wines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Fallen Angel Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Gunn Estate Wines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Jules Taylor Wines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Monkey Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Seifried Estate Firestation Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Sileni Estates Cellar Selection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Wairau River Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Wither Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Wild Rock The Infamous Goose Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Seifried Estate Nelson Gewürztraminer 2006
Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Marlborough Pinot Gris 2006
De Vine Wines Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006
Gravitas Wines 2006 Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Oyster Bay Wines Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Whitehaven Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005
Mazuran's Vineyards Special Tawny Port Reserve One Vineyard
Mazuran's Vineyards Old Tawny Port
Mazuran's Vineyards Reserve Tawny Port 1958

Almost 100 other New Zealand wines picked up silver or bronze medals.

Navigate to the results page on the SF competition website to find out more.

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