Sue's Avatar


Sue Courtney's blog of Vinous Rambling's

wine, food and other vinous topics from New Zealand home           Current Blog              Blog archives

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.

If you want to make a comment, drop an email to and, if appropriate, I'll post it in the appropriate place.

Click here for this site's RSS feed.

Archive: January 2008
Jan 31st: 287 Golden Wines
Jan 29th: Pegasus Bay Maestro 2003 - a wine for three courses.
Jan 28th: Auckland Anniversary Day and Marlborough Vintage Update
Jan 26th: Drink an Australian wine today
Jan 25th: Cloudy Bay sings an Aria and sends Shirvers up the spine
Jan 24th: The names behind the new labels and Ebbitt Oyster winners
Jan 23rd: Vaynerchuck reviews new labels from the locals
Jan 22nd: RIP Sir Edmund Hillary
Jan 21st: Wine of the Week: Pegasus Bay Dry Riesling 2007
Jan 20th: Five Refreshing RosÚs
Jan 18th: A Quartet of Viogniers
Jan 17th: Matakana Wine Festival and aged Hyperion red
Jan 15th: Crimson Wine of the Week plus 12,000 Miles
Jan 14th: Bosca, Brick Bay, Millton, Rippon, Kim Crawford and Pegasus Bay impressions
Jan 11th: Wednesday Tasting Highlights
Jan 10th: Best of 2007 - Part 3
Jan 9th: Best of 2007 - Part 2
Jan 8th: Best of 2007 - Part 1
Jan 6th: Picnic at Puriri Hills
Jan 5th: Pizza Patate and Chenin Blanc
Jan 3rd: From the Bering Sea to a table in Auckland
Jan 2nd: Les Amoureuses - a wine to make you fall in love with wine
Jan 1st: Was there a New Year's Eve
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 31st 2008

287 Golden Wines

When the results for the Sydney International Wine Competition were announced a couple of weeks ago, I looked at the spreadsheet that arrived with the Press Release to find that 361 wines had received a Blue-Gold medal or Highly Commended award with 121 of the Blue-Gold wines receiving a 'Top 1OO Blue-Gold' status. 

"How could 121 wines be in the Top 100," I thought, then I remembered that I had asked this question before,when more than 100 wines were in the Top 1OO list. So look closely and you will see that 1OO is not a number. It just appears like it is and is pronounced as if it is. Clever guys!

New Zealand wines did well in this competition - not surprising really as they had the biggest entry after Australia.

  • Of the 121 Blue-Gold winners with Top 1OO status, 31 were from NZ
  • Of the 142 Blue-Gold winners without Top1OO status, 37 were from NZ
  • Of the 98 Highly Commended wines, 26 were from NZ

"Phew - what a lot of New Zealand wines to list". I also thought how excited I could get about the results because with so many wine shows in New Zealand, and the Sydney International which attracts so many NZ entries, there are now so many gold medal wines for us punters to choose from, if gold medal wines are what we want to drink.

"Just how many gold medal wines," I wondered.  Well, with the 2007-2008 show season alone, which started in August in New Zealand, there have already been more than 287* wines awarded gold medals.

These medals come from the following shows

Surprisingly, this season there has not been too much overlap but some wines do stand out.

5 golds
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 2 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 - an amazing achievement from the 8 shows the list was compiled from, especially as the wine was not eligible for the Hawkes Bay Wine Awards or the International Chardonnay Challenge.

4 golds
Forrest Estate Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2006
Forrest Estate 'The Doctors' Marlborough Riesling 2006

3 golds
Boatshed Bay by Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc 2007
De Vine Wines Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006
Esk Valley Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Goldwater Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Kim Crawford Doc's Block, Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2006
Marsden Estate Black Rocks Northland Chardonnay 2006
Mud House Swan Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Want to see the full list - then head over to my Wine Show Results page. I'll update it again after the Royal Easter Wine Show, to be judged in Auckland on 23/24 February.

*There have actually been 299 wines awarded gold so far. I omitted some of the Air NZ Wine Awards 'Elite' Gold Medal winners when compiling the list.  They have now been included.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 29th 2008

Pegasus Bay Maestro 2003 - a wine for three courses

Made with estate fruit from the Pegasus Bay vineyard in the Waipara Valley, north of Christchurch in the South Island, the Pegasus Bay Maestro Merlot Malbec 2003 is a stunning find. Deep, plummy red black, almost opaque in appearance with sweetly fragrant nutty oak aromatics, this is a succulent mouthfilling, rich, savoury, full-bodied, 'robust' red with ripe plummy fruit, creamy oak, sweet mulled wine spices, velvety tannins and a chocolatey richness. In fact the creamy chocolate with its berry infusion just overtakes the aftertaste in the most appealing way. There's a hint of spiced dried orange peel and perhaps a hint of pepper or something adding a brightness to the whole.

Made only in 'special' vintages, the tasting note on the Pegasus Bay website says Merlot 75% and Malbec 15% but mentions Cabernet Franc adding to the aromatics. We could, therefore, assume that up to 10% Cabernet Franc is in the wine but there is actually 5% C. Franc and 5% C. Sauvignon. The 750ml bottle is sealed with a screwcap and the label says 14.5% alcohol by volume. Cellar door price is $43.95 a bottle.

I love matching rich, red, slightly rustic wines like this to French bread and a mature cheddar - perhaps a Colby or a creamy Havarti. With the Malbec component, matching to grilled game meats such as venison or lamb with a little bit of char, is also a no-brainer. BBQ beef meat patties infused with mushrooms and herbs is also divine.

But what about a chocolate biscotti? Yes, yes, yes! Let me tell you, a Chocolate and Mixed Nut Biscotti went very well indeed. Several actually. The biscotti, in my opinion, is even better with this wine than with coffee.

So there you have it - a stunning red wine to enjoy over three meal courses - cheese to start, meat for the main and chocolate biscotti for dessert.

Wine of the Week - Te Mania Three Brothers Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2003

Also tipping the scales in the immensely approved direction is this week's Wine of the Week - another South Island red that could fool almost all of us to be from Hawkes Bay - the self-acclaimed capital for this style of red wine. But Te Mania Three Brothers Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2006 is from Nelson.

In my Wine of the Week review, I opine of the use of uncatgeorised 'Cabernet' on the label, but it doesn't detract from the wine.   Ripe and juicy with concentrated fruit, savoury oak, a creamy texture, spice and length - this beautifully balanced red is super succulent and easy to drink.  What's more, you get 10 cents change from a $20 note if you call into the shop in Nelson and buy a bottle from Te Mania's cellar door. 
Click here to read the Wine of the Week review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 28th 2008

Auckland Anniversary Day

It's been a public holiday here in Auckland, New Zealand today as office and business workers in the top half of the North Island get a day off to sleep in, to check out the sales in the malls, to watch or take part in the world's largest regatta on Auckland Harbour or go for a drive, perhaps to one of the region's beautiful beaches.  Or, for something completely different, to visit a vineyard. 

Cruising round Auckland wine country, you can't help but notice nets on some of the vines already as the grapes plump up with juices ready for the impending 2008 harvest - and all the signs so far is that it is going to be a good one.

Sharp-eyed vineyard spotters will also notice new vineyards popping up in rural locations not far from Auckland city. There seem to be several new vineyards around the Kumeu area but also south of the city, like the two vineyards in the affluent area of Whitford Park Road. After all, if an aspirant winegrower is not into high volume Marlborough sauvignon blanc or pinot noir, there is trendy pinot gris and the new great red hope, Syrah, that are well-suited to the Auckland region climate. There's also montepulciano, while chardonnay should never be forgotten.  Some of New Zealand's most decorated and lauded chardonnays come from the greater Auckland region -  the likes of Kumeu River, Villa Maria from their Ihumatao Vineyard in Mangere and the delicious, oaky Marsden Estate Black Rocks Chardonnay from Northland.

Marlborough 2008 Vintage Update

Word in from Marlborough today (workers there not privy to the top half's public holiday) with predictions for the country's biggest wine region's vintage prospects.

Key points are: -

  • Higher than average temperatures during December and January are helping to increase predicted yields for this year’s vintage, despite the knock-on effect from the coldest flowering on record in December 2006.
  • The higher than average temperatures have also helped counter some of the damage experienced during a frost in October.
  • Wairau Valley is looking clean and healthy and the vines have flourished from rain experienced during December and mid January.
  • The region’s flagship variety Sauvignon Blanc is looking like producing an average yield to slightly above average in some vineyards - probably similar to 2006 yields.
  • With long, dry days followed by the cooler nights, all is on track for a very good vintage.
  • More than 80,000 are expected to attend the 25th Marlborough Wine Festival on February 9 at Pernod Ricard’s Brancott Estate. It is the largest ever with 57 wineries taking part.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 26th 2008

Drink an Australian wine today

Today is Australia Day, so if you need an excuse to pop the cork or unscrew the screwcap on a bottle of Australian wine, today is the day to do it. 

According to the Wine Australia website,there are 63 designated wine regions in Australia totalling 170,000 hectares with current export figures placing Australia as the fourth largest exporter of wine to more than 100 countries around the world.  However the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand are the top four markets for Australian wine. But no matter where you are, it shouldn't be hard to find a bottle of Aussie wine. 

Cheers, Mate!

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 25th 2008

Cloudy Bay sings an Aria and sends Shirvers up the spine

A few stunning wines were poured at Wednesday night's Wine Spirit tasting with several wines putting on top performances.  One of those was a wine with the name, a wine with the fame, the wine none other than Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($33).  Every year it is served blind at a tasting so the tasters can form their opinions without 'drinking the label'. Traditionally tasted in October close to its release date, the wine is often too austere in its youth and rather universally disliked by the 80 or so in the room. But add an extra three months maturation and what a difference it makes because this time the wine was universally approved of. It's a little subdued on the nose with tropical fruit and melon aromas (as noted in November when I tasted it in a lineup of sauvignon blancs) but it's lost that apple greenness that characterised the wine in November and is so much more zingy, grassy and vibrant and grassy now with razor-sharp acidity balancing the tropical fruit, capsicum and pineapple.   A great Cloudy Bay savvy.

A grand performance and the high note of the tasting was Pegasus Bay 'Aria' Waipara Valley Riesling 2006 ($38). It was so great to taste this again, especially with new vintages Pegasus Bay Riesling featuring in this week's Wine of the Week. Just 7.5% alcohol by volume, yet weighty with its viscous texture and honeysuckle, sweet citrus and hints of botrytis, there's also a touch of the Pegasus Bay signature grapefruit running through the wine too.  Just 'Yum!'.

Then a wine with a flavour to savour all the way home, the Shirvington McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003 ($90) from South Australia.  'Whoa,' was all we could say when we tasted it.  You would never believe this wine had 16% alcohol, not til you saw the label afterwards.  Impenetrable inky-black colour, powerful aromas and full-bodied concentrated flavours of smoke, sweet oak, allspice, liquorice, chocolate, black and red fruits with supple velvety tannins and great length. Still so youthful, this is a wine of textural complexity and mouthfilling savouriness. Simply outstanding! Evidently this wine has 'cult' following in some place.  I can totally see why.

The reviews of all twelve wines tasted are on the Wednesday tasting page - click here for the January 23rd summary of Delicious Tasty Wines.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 24th 2008

The names behind the new labels and Ebbitt Oyster winners

Thanks to Mike in Oregon and Pete in the UK for responding to the question in yesterday's entry.

'Chasing Venus' is a new wine brand from the Sacramento-based Crew Wine Company and is the baby of John and Lane Giguiere, the founders of RH Phillips who sold their shares in that company in 2005 after it was sold to Vincor. Grapes for the Chasing Venus Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc come from the Comely Bank and Griggs Vineyards in Marlborough.

'Arona' is a brand of Grange Wine Marketing USA and Barkers Marque Wines in New Zealand. Brothers Ed and Simon Barker are behind the wine with Ed living in the USA and marketing the product there and Simon living in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough on the family vineyard, which he manages.

'New Harbour' is produced by Sacred Hill Wines and is sometimes called 'Newhaven'.  The labels look identical except for the brand name.

'Discovery' is made in New Zealand for American Estates Wines by grape grower 'friends'.  This Marlborough wine is a blend of Awatere and Wairau Valley fruit and the back label is signed by the company's President, George Galey.

During the 'research' I discovered other export-only brands such as  'Lobster Key', 'Rain', 'Tom Eddy', 'Dyed in the Wool', 'Chimney Creek', 'Mak', 'Sunday Mountain', 'Silver Beach' (made by Spy Valley), 'Gray Parrot' (made with Nelson grapes), 'Zeal' (made by Sileni) and a plethora of other labels I've never seen in New Zealand before. I guess with the increasing plantings of sauvignon blanc in New Zealand, this new label trend will continue. 

Old Ebbitt Grill's Wine for Oysters Competition

While searching the Internet for some information on the obviously 'Made for USA' brands, I came cross the results of the Old Ebbitt Grill's Wine for Oysters competition, judged November 2007

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was the overall Grand Champion.

Seifried Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was the second runner-up.

Other gold medal winners were ....

Saint Clair "Vicar's Choice" Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Staete Landt Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Oyster Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
New Harbor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Highfield Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Click here for the results

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 23rd 2008

Vaynerchuck reviews new labels from the locals

Ever heard of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from Arona, New Harbor, Chasing Venus, Discovery, Tohu, Nobilo Icon and Kim Crawford. Well, you should have heard of the last three because they are firmly established New Zealand brand names. But what about the others? They are new to me, but they've just been introduced to a plethora of Vayniacs, the fans and followers of Gary Vaynerchuk and wine library tv. If the Gary's name and the website are unfamiliar to you then where have you been because Vay-ner-CHUCK is the world's hottest wine reviewer right now. He's totally consumer-orientated and when he reviews wines, the thousands who tune into his daily video log (vlog), listen. Just like Robert Parker, who revolutionised wine reviewing in 1978 with his 100-point scoring system, Vaynerchuck is revolutionising 21st century wine reviewing with his sometimes humorous, exuberant and passionate video wine reviews available to everyone, for free, via Internet. His by-line is "You .. with a little bit of me … we're changing the wine world whether they like it or not".

winetv390.jpg (19202 bytes)So I tuned into Wine Library TV to find out about these new brands that were reviewed in Episode 390 - the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Marathon tasting (7 wines is a lot for GV to review in one session) and aired in the US on Monday 21 Jan. I summarise the wines below but you have to click on the Episode 390 link above and tune in to feel the exuberance and passion that he emits right into your room. You have to tune in to hear the excitement in his voice and the expressions on his face. And, boy, he is excited about this tasting and the expressions on his face, at times, are priceless.

The Wines

Arona Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($US8)
Arona is evidently a name meaning 'colorful'.
GV's Sniffy-sniff: An enormous amount of grass, a dab of Argentine honey, quite appealing with minerality and a hint of pineapple.
GV's Whirl: Good freshness, clean, nice balance, light in the scheme of things, grass plus hay giving farm action on the back end with subtlety of pineapple juice.
GV's Verdict: Serviceable, acceptable, solid.
GV's Points: 88
Wine Library Product and Label Link

Tohu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($US12)
GV's Sniffy-sniff: Very sweet, sweet cereal, honeycomb, apple candy
GV's Whirl: Lacks acidity, great bodyweight, Sancerre style, vibrant beautiful fruit but the sugar rush bothers him.
GV's Verdict: Not loving it and not hitting his vibe.
GV's Points: 84-85
Wine Library Product and Label Link

New Harbor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (US$11)
Obviously designed for the American market, because that is not the way we spell 'harbour' in New Zealand.
GV's Sniffy-sniff: Textbook, grass and grapefruit right down the line. If you miss it in a blind wine tasting, you are kicked out of the club.
GV's Whirl: Sweet tartness, green peas, grapefruit and grass. Extreme greenness. Reminds him of what Cloudy Bay tasted like the first time he had it.
GV's Verdict: A wine that could use the benefit of food.
GV's Points: 87 - as he liked the Arona better.
Wine Library Product and Label Link

Chasing Venus Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (US$14)
GV says, "Pretty rad label. Great package".
GV's Sniffy-sniff: Fascinating. Bluestone, truffle, lots of different types of grasses, freshly squeezed lemon.
GV's Whirl: More going on. Has the bodyweight of the Tohu but the clarity and complexity of none of the others but more like a Sancerre. Lemon candy for sore throats, beeswax lip gloss, waxy feel, great body weight, grapefruit, kiwi(fruit)s with the skin, interesting wine.
GV's Verdict: Exciting and worth seeking out.
GV's Points: 91
Wine Library Product and Label Link

Nobilo Icon Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (US$16)
You just have to watch the video because the face says it all and how does he get that pronunciation of Nobilo?
GV's Sniffy-sniff: Really interesting, really fresh cut glass, nail polish remover (will turn off a lot of people but secondary),a bell green pepper jalapeno aspect coming through as well.
GV's Whirl: 'California-esque', awkward, a wine that has lost its way.
GV's Verdict: Pass
GV's Points: 83
Wine Library Product and Label Link

Discovery Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (US$11)
GV says, "Looks like some used clipart to design the label .. in 1985".
GV's Sniffy-sniff: Weird. Like a blend of grapefruit juice and Werthers original candy, also a little bit of asparagus … awkward, not loving it on nose.
GV's Whirl: Razor sharp, very vegetal component, broccoli and asparagus.
GV's Verdict: Solid effort, not bad but kind of forgettable. Forgot it already.
GV's Points: not rated.
Wine Library Product and Label Link

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (US$14)
GV says the price increase breaks his heart.
GV's Sniffy-sniff: Stonefruit, a little 'erbaeous action, subtle, crisp, covering a lot of aspects.
GV's Whirl: All the classic characteristics. Grapefruit. Reminds him of how good it was when it was US$8.
GV's Verdict: Middle of road NZ SB - grapefruit. Doesn't see any reason to spend $14 on it.
GV's Points: Pass.
Wine Library Product and Label Link

So, Chasing Venus is the clear cut winner of the massive debate with the Arona showing price value ratio. And already the Arona has sold out from the WineLibrarytv store.

I've run out of time right now to research more about these new, obviously 'Made for USA', New Zealand brands. If anyone can fill me in on who is behind Arona, Chasing Venus, New Harbor and Discovery, then please email me.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 22nd 2008

RIP Sir Edmund Hillary

We'll raise a glass in memory of you. We'll raise a glass to the greatest ever New Zealand adventurer. A quiet and humble achiever who was universally revered, you will live on in our hearts  - and in the $5 notes in our wallets.

To gain an insight into this great man, listen to his son Peter speak at his funeral today and link to other eulogies and tributes from the New Zealand Herald website.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 21st 2008

Wine of the Week: Pegasus Bay Dry Riesling 2007

Why is it that some of us absolutely love Riesling but others detest it?
I am a long time Riesling drinker and definitely part of the 'love it' camp, but I know others who are in the 'detest it' camp, so I have a few ideas. But to gain some more insight, I posed the question on the Wine Lover's Page Wine Forum (WLDG) to get an international rather than purely local perspective. And the answers, while not really all that surprising, were rather interesting. Take a look (click here to go straight to the topic) and add your thoughts if you wish or dare, although to comment you will have to register.

Actually 'detest' is far too strong a word. 'Misunderstood' is more appropriate and misunderstanding is rife because this naturally high acid grape comes in so many different styles. Compare a bracingly dry, moderate alcohol, weighty, lime-rich Clare Valley Australian riesling to a light, sweet, floral, fruity, low alcohol wine from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region in Germany and you'll find these two Rieslings are worlds apart in more ways than one. But with time you learn what to expect when you see Clare Valley or Mosel-Saar-Ruwer on the label. They mostly adhere to a 'regional style'.

But with locally produced Rieslings, which could come from just about anywhere in New Zealand south of the Bombay Hills, it's often a mystery as to exactly the style of Riesling you are going to get. And this was quite patently obvious when I pulled out 12 New Zealand Rieslings for tasting the other day. They were tasted blind and in no particular order and I found styles that ranged from Clare Valley-like dry to Mosel-Saar-Ruwer-like sweet with all sorts of dryness/sweetness and weight levels in between.

Later I studied the labels to see if they revealed any insight to the styles.

Two stated 'DRY' proudly and clearly on the front label but after that it was a matter of getting the magnifying glass out to read the fine print back label detail. I found two stated 'off dry' with one also including the German designation of 'Spatlese' (which only a Riesling aficionado is likely to understand), while another two stated 'medium dry'. Another stated 'a balance of sweetness and acidity' while another had, 'a balance between acidity and sweetness'. Yet another said, 'a tropical expression of Riesling', while another said, a 'classic style' (whatever that means).The remaining had no indication at all on the label to give the give the drinker any indication what to expect.

Top 'sweeter' style of the tasting was the Saint Clair Pioneer Block 9 Big John Riesling 2007 - the one that the label stated was 'off dry' in a German Spatlese style. A fresh juicy wine, full of apple, citrus, ginger and tropical fruit with a reasonable amount of residual sweetness but finely attuned balancing acidity. This is a wine that can be chilled to the bones and still seduce the palate. Tech details for this wine are 10 % alcohol by volume, 45 grams per litre residual sugar and a whopping 9.5 grams per litre total acidity.

Top 'drier' wine of the tasting was Pegasus Bay Dry Riesling 2007 - with 'DRY' stated on the front label. It's rich, concentrated, weighty and mouthfilling with the Pegasus Bay signature 'grapefruit' that I always seem to detect in their Riesling wines. There's a toasty richness and a hint of botrytis and with 14% alcohol, it's a big, big wine. This is a new style for Pegasus Bay and I rather like it.

Pegasus Bay Dry Riesling 2007 is my 'Wine of the Week'. Want to know why Pegasus Bay have introduced this rather different style to their range? Then click here to go to my Wine of the Week review to read all about it.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 20th 2008

Five Refreshing RosÚs

It's summer. It's hot. And here in Auckland it's humid. It's the time of year when a chilled light wine is very refreshing , for a picnic lunch at the beach, maybe, or for a refreshing aperitif before dinner. So last evening, with this in mind I opened five recently arrived bottles of the pink stuff to see if any would hit the spot. That was a fun exercise in itself because I like to taste wines blind and with my able assistant having something better to do this weekend, I devised a plan to get the wines poured without knowing the order.

I put them in the refrigerator about midday, in the middle shelf, lying on their sides and they were deliciously cool for the 5pm taste test. So with five paper bags at the ready, I opened the refrigerator door and pulled the wines out one by one, without looking, placing each of them into a paper bag. The ones with screwcaps had the tops twisted off - again without looking - and the tops hidden away in a drawer. I knew at least one of the wines had a cork - a cork for a RosÚ - in New Zealand - you better believe it - but I wasn't sure if a second wine also had a cork. So with a wine with a cork closure in my hand, I managed to get the top of the capsule cut and the cork extracted without too much fuss. It turned out when the five wines had been opened, that was the only one with a cork, so the bags were shuffled and numbered and the wines poured.

Eek, one of the wines was white. Then I remembered, there was another wine in the fridge, a 2000 vintage Riesling - and that was what I had opened. Never mind. I pushed the cork firmly back in that bottle for another day.

fiveroses.jpg (30972 bytes)

Vavasour Awatere Valley RosÚ 2007
Made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes, it's such a pretty clear, deep ruby pink and wins points on colour alone. It smells inviting with its lightly floral, strawberry and cream aromas with a hint of a savoury edge and after the aromatic impact, there is pleasing flavour, body and texture too. There's a touch of sweetness to the cherry fruit with a squeeze of tangelo adding freshness to the finish. Perfect straight from the fridge and my top wine of the 'chilled to the bones' tasting, but just a little sweet when it starts to warm up. 13% alc. NZ$24.50.

Woollaston Nelson Pinot Noir RosÚ 2007
Clear pale pink. Clean aromatics, a little savoury, pinotish. A reasonably dry, crisp style with a vinously rich texture and just the right amount of sweetness to balance the citrus zest-like acidity. With winey flavours of strawberry, cherry and citrus and an underlying savouriness, this is a bright, zesty, refreshing, summery drink. I wrote 'Yum!'. Love the new look label too. 13.5% alc. NZ$18.

Te Mania Nelson Pinot Noir RosÚ 2007
Clear, deep pink. Reasonably rich berryish aroma for RosÚ. A little sweet to the taste, without the crisp balancing acidity at first but herbal, savoury and spicy rather than fruity, with some graininess and grip to the texture and a zesty tingle left in the mouth after the wine is swallowed. Good straight from the fridge. A great summer refresher! 14% alc. NZ$17.90.

Richmond Plains Nelson Monarch RosÚ 2007
Clear, deep pink almost ruby. Delicately floral and sweet smelling, but surprisingly quite savoury to the taste - savoury and earthy with concentrated 'very ripe' cherry and red berries and a hint of grapefruit too. Made from organically grown Pinot Noir grapes, when tasted straight from the fridge I found the acidic edge just a little harsh. I liked it much better when it wasn't chilled to the bones. 14.5% alc. NZ$19.90.

Schubert Wairarapa Rose 2007
There are hints of orange to the pale pink hue, so it stands out not only for its 'real cork' closure but also for its lighter colour. A fuller bodied style of RosÚ with a yeasty richness and a spritzy texture, it's bright, spicy and zesty with a touch of sweetness and underlying savouriness but just a little astringent when chilled to the bones. When it's lost the cold edge, it's well-balanced and refreshing and a little reminiscent of a Riesling, even though it's made from Pinot Noir grapes. 12% alc. $20.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 18th 2008

A Quartet of Viogniers

Way back in May last year I reviewed my first 2007 wines of the vintage and one of those wines was the already impressive Coopers Creek Gisborne Viognier 2007. The wine was fresh and clean and showed just how exciting the variety can be. Click here for the full review. It went on to win an 'elite' gold medal and a Trophy at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards held in November.

On Wednesday night, at the weekly Wine Spirit tasting, I was re-acquainted with Coopers Creek Viognier 2007, and gee, this wine is good. It was served just a little chilled which subdued the aromatic qualities of the wine but it tasted bright and juicy with apricot and rock melon flavours over a soft, creamy, nutty palate and a flourish of alcoholic warmth. I just loved the way it expanded and filled the palate with its exquisitely pure Viognier flavour.

I'm finding some Viogniers a little bland and wonder whether they are worth the price, then this exciting Coopers Creek wine comes along to remind you just how good NZ Viognier can be. It has 14% alcohol, it has no oak and is simply great buying at $19-$20 a bottle.

A few weeks ago I tasted a trio of Viogniers. I loved the Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Viognier 2007 (14% alc, $24.50). Young and vibrant with lovely purity of fruit, it starts off gracefully like a flower just starting to open but develops beautifully into a rich, powerful and lingering finish. A touch of complexity too, with a hint of oak, wild yeast nuances and a delicately creamy, savoury backbone.

Trinity Hills Gimblett Gravels Viognier 2006 (14.5% alc, $30) from Hawkes Bay, with an extra year of age, has lost the vibrancy of youth but hasn't lost the pure, fragrant 'essence of apricot' signature Viognier scent. It's creamy, luscious and long with a touch of spice and a savoury aftertaste while the 30% oak imparts a butterscotch character with time in the glass.

Lastly Ti Point Hawkes Bay Viognier 2007 (13.5% alc, $20) which is young and fresh with delicate creamy scents infused with honeysuckle, sherbet and spice, and spicy, vibrant flavours with a creamed nut backbone, hints of apricot and alcoholic warmth. It's such a baby, it seems like it needs more time - but match it to fresh juicy corn on the cob smothered with salt, pepper and butter, and it's just the perfect match.

Back to last Wednesday's tasting which featured some of the latest Cuisine Magazine's top rated Sauvignon Blancs as well as the Coopers Creek Viognier 2007, there was also some Chardonnays, a couple of Spaniards and the most delicious Two Hand's Shiraz.  Click here for all of the reviews.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 17th 2008

Matakana Wine Festival and aged Hyperion red

The inaugural Matakana Wine and Food Festival is going to be held on Sunday 2nd March 2008 from 10.30am to 6pm at the 21-hectare Matakana Country park on the corner of Leigh Road and Takatu Road, Matakana, about an hour and a bits drive north of Auckland City. Details are a bit sketchy at this stage but it's limited to Matakana Winegrowers' members and the organisers expect a good turnout of the region's 29 wine producers.  Modelled on the very successful Toast Martinborough but in a central location, each winery will have its own pavilion and dedicated restaurant or chef to match food to their wines and festival francs will be the currency of the day.

Ticket price is $65 per person, however an an 'early bird' discounted ticket is just $55 per person for those who purchase by January 30th. Tickets are available at the Warkworth iSite or from TicketMaster. Find out more from

titan.jpg (16840 bytes)Good to see Matakana written up in the International Herald Tribune earlier this week with thumbs up for several of the local wine producers including Hyperion Wines. Tonight we opened one of their current releases, a wine which is, believe it or not, a 2001 vintage red.

Hyperion 'the Titan' Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 is developing nicely in the bottle with good depth still to the fading deep red colour.  Smoky and cedary on the nose, typical of a moderately aged NZ Cab Sauv, there are crisp red fruits in the palate with sappy cedary smoky oak, dusty grainy tannins, earth, leather, a hint of a mushroom-like pinosity and underlying acidity keeping it fresh.  There's a plushness to the finish with sweet red and blackcurrant fruits lingering on the aftertaste.   Not a blockbuster by any means but definitely some 'Bordeaux-like' complexities in more of a medium-bodied style.  It's 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Matakana at Hyperion's two vineyards and aged in French and American oak barrels for 18 months.   Cellar door price is $39. Find out more from

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 15th 2008

Crimson Wine of the Week plus 12,000 Miles

Always on the look out for great value drinking, I found it in this week's Wine of the Week, the Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2006 ($28), a young vines wine from Martinborough.  Rich red in colour with cherry aromatics and spicy savoury flavours, this bright fruity young thing is ready to drink, it's easy to drink and it's definitely a real crowd pleaser. Check out the full review on my Wine of the Week page.

12000pn.jpg I'm really enjoying a whole host of 'second label' wines from the Martinborough / Wairarapa area 2006 vintage and here's another - the Gladstone 12,000 Miles Pinot Noir 2006. Its smoky savoury, funky aroma has depth and vinous complexity and doesn't hint of the acidity within, but get past that and you'll find the velvety textured, savoury flavours take over. Add cherry, spice, dried herbs and smoky oak and you have a wine that's intrinsically pinot. It has 14% alcohol, a screwcap closure and costs about $25.  Last year it was just $21.95, so the price has gone up a notch. I quite like the label, a luggage tag which, in conjunction with the 12,000 Miles name, represents owner Christine Kernohan's journey from her native Scotland to her new home in Gladstone, in the heart of New Zealand's Wairarapa. 

Footnote: I contacted the Gladstone Vineyard - ( regarding the pricing and it seems that *their* cellar door price of this wine is still $21.95 - so a great bargain - however if you buy through their 'online' shop agent, the RRP is listed as $31 because a 'freight' fee has been added to a single bottle purchase of the wine. Buy 6 bottles and the price is $23.18 a bottle, delivered to your door.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 14th 2008

Bosca, Brick Bay, Millton, Rippon, Kim Crawford and Pegasus Bay impressions

Tasted at an Italiano restaurant on Saturday night.....

Bosca Five Stars Prosecco NV - tart and crisp with apple and Muscat grape flavours and malic earthy undertones, there's a fleeting impression of lemonade sweetness on the finish but a tart lemon rind bitterness chases it away. Served chilled, this light bubbly is quite refreshing and gets the taste buds salivating (for something better) because there are much better Proseccos around.

Brick Bay Matakana Pinot Gris 1999 - a bit of bottle stink on opening, but others didn't notice it so I let it pass and it blew away. Remarkably still holding in there with a seam of apple-like acidity, it's dry and nutty yet picking up some honeyed apricot notes with age. This is a great example of why Pinot Gris is such a great food wine, because it needed food and my order of Chicken Livers and Mushrooms in a Marsala wine sauce worked impressively. Tasting again now as I type these notes, it reminds me a little of an old Chenin Blanc, without the viscosity that old Chenin can get.

Millton Opou Riesling 1996 - amazing Gisborne Riesling, golden in colour - but it always was - great acidity still and lovely botrytis infusion to the flavour. Still a spark of freshness, not tasted blind, we were besotted. A bit too honeyed for my snapper main, but a real treat to drink.

Rippon Central Otago Pinot Noir 1998 - poured from a cork-closed flange-topped bottle, the faded, translucent pinky-brown wine seemed quite tired with an almost undetectable acetic hint on the nose and flabby past-it thin strawberry in the palate. But it seemed to perk up (or perhaps I perked up) - and it was an interesting wine to muse over, reminding me a little of old Burg but with 'new world' fruit sweetness. But we did think, "Wish we had tried this 5 years ago".

Kim Crawford SP Cabernet Franc Merlot 2002 - A medium to full-bodied, deep plummy coloured Hawkes Bay red with a remarkable fragrance that many wines strive for but few manage to get. Why don't we have more of these Cab Franc dominant blends in NZ - after all the most famous Cab Franc / Merlot blend is Cheval Blanc? Right! The gorgeous, almost floral fragrance carries through to the palate which is spicy and creamy with American oak adding a rather alluring vanillin edge. Hints of cigar box and a touch of plum and chocolate wrap up the silky tannined package. A gorgeous and deliciously drinkable red with a lasting finish. And who would have thought it would match to snapper in a creamy white wine sauce. You just never what will work, sometimes, not until you actually try it. Thanks JF.

Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2002 - the queen of Riesling in New Zealand - when this wine came out of the bag, we decided to drink our dessert instead of eating it. More botrytis than I remember and a rather delicious, mouth-coating viscous texture, from memory this was the first of the real sweet Aria's but the racy acidity does its job at keeping the 120 grams per litre of sugar in check. Outstanding, of course.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 11th 2008

Wednesday Tasting Highlights

Value, Variety and Vintage Releases was the theme for the first Wine Spirit tasting of the 2008 Year and I was there in my comfortable seat, in the corner, with my new notebook and pen and big spit bucket, taking notes as best as I could. 

Value wines included two Spanish reds from Campo de Borja for just $12.99 a bottle and a couple of Aussie reds that needed only a $20 note to buy.  The Spanish, especially, would be perfect BBQ reds.

At the other end of the scale, the Fromm La Strada Reserve Syrah 2003 ($56.99) and the superb Orlando Jacandara Ridge Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 ($54.99) showed wines with excellent cellaring potential - still.

Another expensive aged wine that really was past its best was the Penfolds Bin 00A Chardonnay 2000  ($55.99) from South Australia. With such rampant bottle variation across the samples poured, I wouldn't want to buy a botte of this to take to a dinner party, that's for sure.  Something like the Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2005 ($37.99) and sealed with a screwcap is a much safer option.

The evening started with the Triplebank Awatere Pinot Gris 2007 ($19.99), a just off dry style with loads of crunchy fruit and it was much preferred by most of the 80-odd tasters than the follow-up wine, the highly regarded and well critiqued Bilancia Hawkes Bay Pinot Grigio 2007 ($29.99).  To me the Bilancia was drier and noticeably more weighty. It was a more complex style.

Loved the Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2007 ($24.99) which really tantalised with its sweet perfumed aromas and didn't lack, for me, in the palate. However comments from some tasters around the room was that they thought it was just a little short and perhaps too dry. It was drier than some of the luscious GW's we taste, but everything was in balance. I had to ask myself were they drinking the same wine?

The full write up is on the Wednesday's Tasting Page for January 2008 - click here.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 10th 2008

Best of 2007 - Part 3

A summary of the Day 3 additions to the Best of the 2007 year.  For full coverage and contenders to the 'Best of ...', check out the Wine of the Week entry by clicking here

Best Riesling: Fromm Riesling Auslese 2006
Best GewurztraminerJohanneshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2006.
Best Sauvignon Blanc: Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3 '43 Degrees' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and Blackenbrook Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2007 are declared 'joint best'.
Best Pinot Noir:  This is too hard to pick a favourite. Crater Rim Omihi Rise Waipara Pinot Noir 2006, Auntsfield Heritage Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005, Clayridge Excalibur Pinot Noir 2004, Foxes Island Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005 and the Valli Waitaki Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 are the top contenders.
Best Sweet WineVinoptima Ormond Noble Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2004 from Gisborne
Best SyrahTrinity Hill Homage Syrah 2006 from Hawkes Bay.
Best Wine and Food Matching Event: Simon Gault at Pasha for the fantastic and exciting menu he created for the launch of the Montana Terroir Series Pinot Noirs. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 9th 2008

Best of 2007 - Part 2

Best Chardonnay: Kumeu River
Best Bordeaux-styled Red: Puriri Hills Reserve 2004
Best Wine Trip: Marlborough Wine Weekend
Best Other Highlight: Peter May's visit

For more details see the Wine of the Week

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 8th 2008

Best of 2007 - Part 1

Best new Producer:The Crater Rim
Best South Island Winemaker: Mike Just - Clayridge Vineyard
Best North Island Winemaker: Strat Canning - Margrain Vineyard
Most Exciting Variety of the Year: Pinot Gris with both Johanneshof Pinot Gris 2007 the Pinot Gris of the Year.

For more details see the Wine of the Week

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 6th 2008

Picnic at Puriri Hills

When I visited the beautiful Puriri Hills Vineyard near the South Auckland village of Clevedon, last September (click for link), I thought what a wonderful venue it would make for our MG Car Club's annual summer picnic. I asked owner Judy Fowler what she thought and to my delight, she agreed.
Today the picnic day arrived and the weather gods came to the party by putting on the most perfect day. There was cloud coverage in the morning to block out some of the summer heat with the cloud decreasing in the afternoon.

MG's at Puriri Hills - Sue Courtney photoThe cars looked fantastic lined up to a backdrop of Puriri Hill's Carmenere grapevines, while on the other side of the driveway, oak trees provided shade for the groups of picnickers.

I had arranged a tasting of four wines - the RosÚ because it's summer and perfect for a picnic lunch, two of the Puriri Hills Estate reds and one of the Reserves. But we had a surprise in store when Judy told us she was going to serve both Reserve reds.

"These are some of the best New Zealand red wines I've tasted," said one well-travelled wine lover from the club as we tasted through the wines. And smiles of satisfaction crept across others' faces as they savoured the tasting samples that were poured.

Puriri Hills Estate 2004 ($35) is earthy, savoury and a little funky with warm black-berried fruits and a long finish. It's gaining some mellow characters with age but still has underlying "bite". There's a touch of a 'pinotesque' character too. My favourite of the 'estates'.

Puriri Hills Estate 2005 ($33) is a very different wine to the 2004. It's from a warm, ripe vintage which has resulted in a richer, heavier, fruit-sweet wine with a hint of chocolate and a funky cedary edge. This is definitely a crowd pleaser.

Judy Fowler in the Puriri Hills tasting roomI've now tasted the reserve wines three times and the Puriri Hills Reserve 2004 ($68) remains my personal favourite. From the invitingly ripe, creamy, cedary nose to the balance and smoothness of the wine in the mouth with underlying red berry acidity adding an edge to the long, savoury, smoky finish, this wine has excellent longevity and potential. I was pleased to find out it was Judy's favourite wine too. At least three other females in the group agreed.

The Puriri Hills Reserve 2005 ($68) is oh so savoury, much more so than the 2004, with power and richness all the way through - it's a bigger, smoother but much more refined version of the estate 2005. I even detected a hint of chocolate adding to the allure of the finish.

Put to a vote, the Reserve 2005 was the most preferred wine of the two Reserves by about 30 votes to 5. This, perhaps, was not surprising as Puriri Hills Reserve 2005 has some claim to fame with Bob Campbell MW naming it his top wine in a Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine tasting last year. It should also be pointed out that the Puriri Hills Estate 2005 came equal 9th, on points, in the same tasting. My favourite 2004, was not supplied, for that tasting.
More claim to fame comes from Michael Cooper, who has named Puriri Hills Reserve, with only three vintages released so far, a 'Potential Classic' in his 2008 Buyer's Guide. Then of course the are the excellent reviews of Internet writers such as Craig Thomson of and of course myself. See for the reviews.

We chose to drink the Puriri Hills Rose 2006 ($25), a crisp, dry, tangy wine made from 100% Merlot, to accompany our lunch. It had really hit the spot as first wine tasted after a long but scenic car run via the 'Pohutukawa Coast'. It was nicely chilled but warmed up to reveal its fruit side as we enjoyed it with a lunch - another Potato Pizza (see below), cooked in the morning and served cold and topped with salad.

Puriri Hills is at 398 North Road, Clevedon and is open to the public on weekends from 11am to 4pm.  Wine tastings cost either $5 or $10 per person, depending on what you taste. 'Groups' must definitely book.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 5th 2008

Pizza Patate and Chenin Blanc

On a cooking program on TV yesterday afternoon, I saw a Pizza Patate being made. The chef placed loads of very finely sliced potatoes that had been mixed with onions, black pepper and a little salt, then "shuffled it like cards" onto the rectangular-shaped, oil-drizzled pizza dough. He then topped the potatoes with a little more salt, drizzled it with a little more olive oil and sprinkled a few rosemary leaves over. It was baked in his very hot pizza oven for about 30 minutes. I was drooling.

I can do that, I thought. Well, partly, because I've never attempted a pizza dough. But I do love the wood-fired thin, crispy pizza bases from the Turkish Bread company and texted Neil to ask him nicely if he could pick up some on the way home from work.

Potato PizzaOut came the mandolin slicer to thinly slice a reasonably sized peeled potato, which after soaking in a little water to remove some of the starch, was dried and mixed with extra virgin olive oil, rock salt and rosemary. I decided to coat the pizza base with grated cheese before placing  the potato / onion mixture on top. I also added a sprinkling of chopped up bacon, then slipped it into a 200 degree C oven, with the fan on, for 20 minutes. The result was definitely so yum.

Tried a few wines from the leftovers I still had lying around, all NZ wines, and after tasting a few, including Pinot Gris, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, off dry Riesling and Chardonnay decided this type of dish needs a wine with a decent amount of acidity to cut through the cheese. Top match by a long long way was Margrain Chenin Blanc 2007 ($30) from Martinborough.  This fresh, juicy, vibrant wine has lots of verve. It's a fantastic alternative to Riesling with richness and power.  How I wish this underrated variety was more popular with New Zealand winegrowers. I applaud those like Margrain, who continue to produce it, despite opposing trends. Check out

I also think a dry, steely, Italian Pinot Grigio style, rather than the more fruity, floral New Zealand style of Pinot Gris, could work as well.  Didn't have one of those, though.

And just one note on these leftovers - for some reason, young white wines with screwcap closures seem to last for ages in a partially consumed bottle.  I've not had so much luck with reds, which seem to become acetic rather quickly. Why, I don't know.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 3rd 2008

From the Bering Sea to a table in Auckland

Have you seen the program 'Deadliest Catch' on the Discovery Channel? It's about the men who risk their lives on their fishing boats in treacherous weather fishing for Alaskan king crabs in the Bering Sea. So imagine my surprise when I saw some of those Alaskan king crabs' legs for sale at a fish shop in Auckland, New Zealand, on Christmas Eve.

"Better than crayfish" the sign exclaimed.

Crayfish is my most favourite seafood ever when cooked and eaten within one or two hours of catching. It's also divine with Dom Perignon RosÚ vintage Champagne. However the crayfish in the shop looked like it had been cooked the day before and I didn't have any RosÚ Champagne.
The price of the still frozen crab, at $55 a kilo, was also more attractive than the $79 a kilo crayfish, especially as the crayfish would have a lot more waste than the crabs legs. So some legs were selected and the deal made. It would make a different treat for Christmas Day.

crablegs1.jpg (61740 bytes)The legs thawed out overnight in the refrigerator, ready for the big feast.

"Saute in garlic butter" the sign had suggested. But first I steamed them on a rack over a big frying pan partially filled with water with a lid over the top, to ensure they would be heated right through.

Did the crabs taste better than crayfish?
"Yes," exclaimed Neil, explaining that sometimes crayfish can be like a one-dimensional wine.

I found them incredibly salty - but I take that to be the true taste of the Bering Sea.

crablegs2.jpg (45878 bytes)Riesling is definitely the wine to have with Alaskan king crab. We tried it with bubbles and chardonnay, and it just didn't work, but the two Rieslings we had simply sang!

The sweetness of a low alcohol Spatlese-style Riesling with its tug of sweetness and acidity worked well with the tangy seafood. But even better was Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Riesling 2004. Although it seemed quite dry, perhaps because it came straight from the fridge, it is actually just off dry (with 7g/l residual sugar and 7.6 g/l total acidity). It had picked up some 'kero' notes on the nose and had lovely richness and weight in the palate with a hint of oiliness off-setting the fine seam of refreshing Riesling acidity. It was simply the best accompaniment to the crab. This wine was a 'Top Pick' when I tasted it in September 2004 (click here and scroll down for description). 

It was also a good excuse to get out our Riedel Riesling glasses - probably the best glass Riedel have made. And after we finished the crab, we sat on our covered deck as the afternoon rain started to fall and enjoyed this lovely aged wine just on its own. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 2nd 2008

Les Amoureuses - a wine to make you fall in love with wine

Every so often it's nice to have a treat. Christmas Day is one of those days. And so we decided to open a bottle of red Burgundy and give our gorgeous Burgundy glasses a work out.

amoureuses.jpg (51639 bytes)It was an Adrien Belland Corton Greves Grand Cru 1993 that came out of the box. But there was a problem. A terrible problem. Some people in some parts of the world may shrug their shoulders and accept it, saying "Eet ees jeest zee Big Undie's terroir". 
To us, however, the wine was badly corked and totally unacceptable.
"It is the worst cork I have ever smelled," said Neil. And the wine was regretfully tipped down the sink.

"What will we drink now," asks the man with the corkscrew, wishing that Burgundy had screwcaps.
"No idea. Just pull a wine out of the box and open it. I don't care what it is," I said.

And so our one and only bottle of Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny 'Les Amoureuses' 1986 was opened with fingers crossed, especially as the cork snapped on opening. But the remaining piece of cork was tight against the neck of the bottle and had to be pushed in.  Neil poured.  We swirled, we sniffed, we sipped and we sighed in both ecstasy and relief.  The wine was fine.  The wine was better than fine.   The wine was OMG perfect. No wonder people fall in love with red Burgundy when they drink a wine like this.
A silken-textured, ethereal, smooth flowing liquid, it still has some depth to the 'burgundy' colour, the alluring aroma has just enough 'funk' and the taste has just enough cherry to infuse and sweeten the earthy, savoury flavours that ebb and flow with a gorgeous mouthfeel from the tannins that have lost all the hardness of youth. There's a delicious liquoricey nuance - a herbaceous liquoricey nuance like fennel or tarragon or Thai Basil and an earthiness - yes - the damp earth of dusk that we experienced as we went outside to watch the sun set and as we stayed outside in the humid warmth of the summer evening. With the flavour that persists and expands on the palate - who needs food when you have a truly magnificent wine like this to savour.

Earlier today I dug up some trivia about these wines ….

'Les Amoureuses' are the words on the label of the 1986 Joseph Drouhin wine, but there is no 'Les' on the 1986 date-stamped cork. It appears from the Drouhin website that the 'Les' has now been dropped from the label as well.

Adrien Belland became Jean-Claude Belland in 1996 when Adrien retired and his son Jean-Claude took over. Some info about Belland here.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 1st 2008

Was there a New Year's Eve?

I can't believe how quiet it was last night. That's what you get for living in the country. Even the neighbours, who tend to have rowdy parties, went AWOL for the night.   When midnight struck, the sound of fireworks in the distance could be heard but looking out the window, none could be seen. I had intended it to be a New Year welcome to sleep through and I would have, except for someone sending a text message and my phone beeping madly just 3 seconds before the strike of the clock.    It was one of the 'chain' texts .....  "send this on to 3 more people for good luck in the New Year".  I didn't.

New Year's Eve drinks consisted of a glass of Quartz Reef Chauvet NV - left over from Xmas Day.  I have to say a Zork reusable stopper  (click for PDF) does a great job of preserving the bubbles and fizz. 

That was followed by a glass of Framingham Select Riesling 2005 (9% alcohol), left over from a September tasting and preserved almost perfectly in the refrigerator with its screwcap closure.  Want something to match devilled eggs - then try one of these low alcohol, 'spatlese' style Rieslings.

I made devilled eggs because I had chatted online to some wino and foodie aficionados earlier in the day and the subject of devilled eggs came up. They were American and for one of them it was a tradition for NYE.  It seems the basic devilled eggs recipe over there consists of mayo, hot dry mustard and paprika. Not so here. I mashed up the yolks of my hard boiled eggs with Greggs Curry Powder then stirred in some Best Food's (lite) Mayo (in the absence of the old favourite Highlander Condensed Milk salad dressing) and lots of chopped parsley.  These were served with garden lettuce greens and small vine tomatoes because hard boiled egg and fresh tomato is one of my favourite combos.  It was interesting to try the eggs with wine too - and to find a match that worked. 

jacksonsb.jpg (41054 bytes)More tomatoes on the plate - slow-baked with basil, slivers of garlic, sugar, avocado oil and balsamic. Ditto some red capsicums.   Best match to this was Jackson Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006.   Not so good with the Jackson Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 - which seemed far too acidic in comparison. Straight from the fridge, on a gorgeous hot day like we had today on the 1st January 2008, this light, bright, sprightly, zesty, herbaceous, lemony young thing would really hit the spot. But not with my food last night.

Why don't we drink more Sauvignon Blanc with a little age?  I'm sure I don't know. Or perhaps I do. It is because the winemakers, going right back to the 1980's and early 1990's, told us to drink it young.  They had an agenda because every year they had a new vintage to sell and bank managers to appease.  The myth continues. And so we drink our savvies young.

Jackson Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 is subtle yet powerful with wonderful fruit weight and richness to texture with a light 'fruit nectar-like' viscosity that adds to the pleasing mouthfeel. It's abundantly fruity with a hint of orange peel on the nose and a touch of ripe stonefruit amongst the summer herb, capsicum and tomato and citrus flavours, yet there's a softness and creaminess there that makes this wine so appealing  - I reckon even Chardonnay drinkers would enjoy this savvy.  

It's as good as the Jackson Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005 was, when I tasted it seven months ago, when the wine was two years old.

So here's a tip for the New Year - don't be afraid to hold your Sauvignon Blanc back for that extra year. Seems that some of the wines, at least, garner that extra edge of complexity and more dimension of flavour with the initial brash acids becoming softer and more seamlessly integrated. And so perfect for the garden bounty of the summer season.

Happy New Year. It's 2008 - let's not be afraid to buck trends.

Current Blog
Previous Entries
Following Entries
Complete Blog Archive home

copyright Sue Courtney 2008