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Sue Courtney's blog of Vinous Ramblings

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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings.  It's my on line journal and an adjunct to my website which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.

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Archive: January 2010
Jan 30th: Focus on Spain
Jan 29th: A Dry Riesling food match
Jan 27th: Riesling drinkability
Jan 26th: Australia Day bubbles
Jan 25th: WOTW: Alpha Domus AD Aviator 2007
Jan 24th: Focus on Italy
Jan 22nd: Spinning a story with something different
Jan 19th: Riesling Highlights and Wine of the Week
Jan 18th: Tasting Big Name Australians
Jan 14th: June in January
Jan 13th: Message on a cork
Jan 11th: Saving the best bubbles 'til last
Jan 9th: Swooning over Moscato
Jan 7th: Boom Diddy Boom
Jan 6th: Another Hawkes Bay bubbles
Jan 5th: 'H' is for Hill, I presume
Jan 3rd: Messages in the 'firsts' of the Year
Jan 2nd: WOTW: Gladstone Wairarapa Viognier 2009
Jan 1st: Lobster Reef evokes summer, sea and fun
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 30th 2010

Focus on Spain

Twelve Spanish wines were poured at the Wednesday tasting to take us on a vinous journey from the north east Mediterranean coast to the south west Atlantic coast through the central spine of Spain.

I was very impressed with the two Spanish whites that we began with. Firstly Torres Vina Esmeralda 2008 ($22.99) from Catalunya on the north east coast, a blend of 85% Muscat and 15% Gewurztraminer that totally had me baffled.  With its floral perfume and fresh bright flavours of pear, zingy herbs, tangy acidity and honey and a slightly oily texture it was like a Sauvignon Blanc / Pinot Gris/ Viognier blend if there is such a thing. It's one of the most appealing Spanish whites I've tried.
Secondly Baluarte Verdejo 2008 ($25.99) from Rueda in the central high country. This aromatic crisp fresh white reminded of Riesling in a way with its lightly oily mouth coating texture, zingy citrus, a honey finish and a ‘floral’ nectar infusion to the herbaceous aftertaste. It was very good too.  Both excellent and refreshing whites for the down under summer.

With ten reds on the card I was hoping we would get a Riserva and a Gran Riserva* poured from the Rioja region, after all it was these "aged before release" styles that made me fall in love with Spanish reds.  I had to made do with the next best, a Crianza, but it was a wine I enjoyed very much. Torres Ibericos Tempranillo 2006 ($28.99) from the north Rioja region is a wine that combine juiciness and savouriness with fine tannins, vanillin oak, spice and the underlying acidity I expect from Tempranillo. It is one of the key factors that make it ageworthy wine.

Other reds ranged from modern to traditional, from unoaked and lightly oaked juicy quaffers to serious reds that needed decanting, in fact the Papa Luna Garnacha Shiraz Monastrell 2007 was decanted before the tasting but it was still brooding and tight.

The tasting culminated in a delicous, heady Pedro Ximinex sherry.
Check out all my notes on my Wednesday Roundup page.

*Gran Riserva Rioja reds are aged for a minimum of five years before release with the wine spending at least two years in barrel.
Riserva wines are aged for a minimum of three years before release with the wine spending at least one year in barrel.
Crianza wines are aged for a minimum of two years before release with the wine spending at least one year in barrel.
Joven wines do not need to be aged before release.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 29th 2010

A Dry Riesling food match

I always have a problem finding the right food to match to Riesling, especially dry Riesling, which is probably why I am such a fan of the 'beverage' styles. But last night we came up with a food match that amazingly tamed even the most austere including the Fromm Dry Riesling 2006 mentioned in the previous blog entry. (It should be noted that by this time the wine had been opened three days and although the cork was firmly reinserted, some aeration most certainly would have happened).

I saw pork mince when I stopped at the butcher's on the way home. It is not often available so I decided pork rissoles/burgers/patties would be on the menu especially as they could be cooked on the barbecue. Lightly spiced rissoles, the pork mixed with onions (softened in a pan before adding), breadcrumbs, ground coriander seeds, salt and pepper, a little chilli sauce and the x-factor - a Kaffir lime plucked off the tree. Oh, the tree was a present I gave my husband for Christmas and yes, there was a motive for buying him this.

But not all of the dry Rieslings worked, one notable exception the Foxes Island Marlborough Riesling 2008, which I scored gold to in my initial tasting. I'll have to find another food match for this, or drink it without. Also the older Rieslings.  The food needed something young with racy acidity, it seemed.

So what stood out? Well, the Fromm Dry Riesling of course and another very austere wine in the first tasting - Rockburn Parkburn Riesling 2008 from Central Otago.

I wrote in my notes that I couldn't drink more than one glass of the Riverby Marlborough Riesling 2008 without food and this wine was super with the pork rissoles. Another excellent match from Marlborough was Spy Valley Envoy Dry Riesling 2008, which had a little more spice.

Neudorf Brightwater Riesling 2009 is tight in its youthfulness and it matched the rissoles too as did other Nelsonites, the Richmond Plains Nelson Riesling 2009 and the Te Mania Nelson Riesling 2009. I thought the Richmond Plains the most drinkable of these three on its own.

Lastly from Waipara the Muddy Water Dry Riesling 2009 was good, but the best match of all, Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Dry Riesling 2008.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 27th 2010

Riesling drinkability

I like Riesling but I don't. I love Riesling but I hate it. The dilemma is because when I open a bottle of Riesling to drink I want a Riesling that I am going to enjoy drinking, not one that gives the impression that it will offer that drinkability in five or ten or even twenty years time. But I guess it's part of a wine writer's brief to let their readers know that a wine needs to be kept in the cellar rather than raving on about a wine that is nowhere near ready.

Riesling is one of the great varieties of the world and one of the reasons for this greatness is its high natural acidity and its amazing potential to age. The trick is to realising the potential. Is that terribly austere riesling, so ugly and awkward in its youth, a candidate to transform from an ugly duckling to a swan?

It's easier to predict when you see the wine's label, like Fromm Dry Riesling 2006 ($23) from Marlborough. I opened it last night and it was still so tight, so youthful and phenolic that it was hard to believe that the wine was almost four years old. I knew I wouldn't enjoy drinking it. It is simply unapproachable wine right now and doesn't deliver the promise that this label evokes.  But it could be an utterly magnificent drop in 2016 - a full ten years after vintage. Of course there will be the geekiest of Riesling geeks that disagree with me. They will simply revel in the body-quivering austerity, the malic apple-like flavours and the astringent finish. It's a cult wine label, but my personal preference is Fromm's Spatlese and Auslese styles. In fact the Fromm Spatlese Riesling 2006 was a Wine of the Week, reviewed alongside the Fromm Auslese Riesling 2006 which took the title of Riesling of the Year in my wrap up of the 2007 year.

When I'm not in wine tasting mode I want Riesling that I can drink when I open the bottle, not Riesling that's going to be good in five or ten years time. But when I open an older wine that's aged to perfection it is wonderful to revel in its deliciousness and toastiness, the natural acidity of the grape preserving the wine's youth while bottle aged characters add richness and complexity.

Johanneshof Marlborough Riesling 2003 ($21) is an aged release that came from the winery at the beginning of last month although I understand it was released in mid 2008. There must be a reason why it was released so long after after vintage, and that reason, in my opinion, is that it was not ready until then. But it is ready now. It's a rich gold colour and perfumed with nectar, melon, candied citrus and an underlying earthiness. The taste is dry, rich, full-bodied, creamy - like Riesling on steroids - some botrytis perhaps, a stonefruit sweetness and citrus on the very dry finish with the richness of the wine counteracting a suggestion of astringency. There's also an intriguing smoky character and a nuance of lemony herbs. I like the balance of sweetness, creaminess and tartness. A dangerously drinkable wine, it has 12.5% alcohol and 6.3 grams per litre of residual sugar. Highly recommended.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 26th 2010

Australia Day bubbles

A tipple to toast our friends across the ditch and what more uniquely Australian than Sparkling Shiraz? The bottle of Hardy's Oomoo Sparkling Shiraz 2004 had been in the fridge for some time so was icy cold when we poured the blood red drop. Didn't stop the pink foamy mousse accruing on the top, however. oomoo.jpg (4562 bytes)

I tasted this wine after it won a gold medal at the NZ International Wine Show last September and as it is specialled at around $15 a bottle, it was worth buying for an occasion such as this. Made from Clare Valley fruit, this is a hearty Aussie sparkling red. It is succulent and juicy, smooth and creamy with savoury oak a feature. Fruit is in in the cherry and blackberry spectrum with typical Shiraz spices. There's some bottle-aged complexity coming through and a fine attack of bubbles. Not a wine to be taken seriously, but perfect for sipping while cooking the snarlers on the barbie, which is what you do on Australia Day - apart from cooking prawns on the barbie of course, but prawns and Oomoo don't really go.

This is the best sparkling Oomoo to date.  Being from the Clare Valley, I have to wonder if it is a relabelled Leasingham sparkling red.  The Leasingham winery was closed in August last year. Will we ever know?

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 25th 2010

WOTW: Alpha Domus AD Aviator 2007

The 2007 red wine vintage in Hawkes Bay may go down on record as the best to date. Some may argue that 1989, 1991 or 1998 was better but 2007 is available now and we can taste the quality. From top end wines to every day quaffers, the quality right across the spectrum of reds is remarkable - Pinot Noir, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and those wonderful "Hawkes Bay blends".

One of the fabulous Hawkes Bay blends crossed my lips this week - the delicious Alpha Domus AD The Aviator 2007, made from a blend of 36.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27.3 % Cabernet Franc, 22.7% Merlot and 13.6% Malbec. From the luxurious deep blackberry colour to the succulent taste, this wine performs from go to whoa.

Click here to read the full Wine of the Week review because this wine is so much better than a bronze medal at the 2009 Air New Zealand Wine Awards would suggest.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 24th 2010

Focus on Italy

Italy was the theme at the Wednesday night tasting.  Touring Italy with just ten wines really does not do the world's largest wine producing country justice, but it did give a snapshot of some of their most popular regions and it showed how New World moderninity is influencing some of the styles.

Click for larger mapFrom Veneto in the north to Puglia in the south, we zigzagged   across the country in random fashion tasting Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Gargenega, Valpolicello, Sangiovese, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Primitivo, Amarone and more. And to help us visualise the places, a map of Italy, courtesy of was provided.

The Farnese Pinot Grigio 2008 was one of the more modern styles - Italian, yes,  but not as we know.  Also the Alpha Zeta wines, especially the Valpolicella 2008, with Marlborough winemaker Matt Thomson the consultant.  Evidently he goes to Italy four times a year.

"Has this wine got some TCA?" asked Jim beside me after another wine was poured.
"I don't think so, but gosh there's a ton of tannin in here," I replied. 
The wine turned out to be Rivetto Barbaresco Ce Vanin 2005 from Piemonte, made from Nebbiolo, one of the most tannic grapes in the world.  One you got past the tannins, and let the vinosity take over, this was a drop worth savouring.  Amazing wine - my Wine of the Night.

A fascinating tasting and with a ring-in Sangiovese from South Australia as a ubiquitous Wednesday night Chardonnay in the line-up as well. Notes as usual on my Wednesday Roundup page.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 22nd 2010

Spinning a story with something different

I received a wine accessory for Christmas. A novel accessory called SpinWine. spinwine.jpg (4802 bytes)We decided to try it out on three wines to see what effects the accessory made to the wine. According to the sales spiel, "SpinWine enhances the natural characteristics of wine, making it taste softer and smoother with a delicate accentuation of the basic taste".

So to the three wines - yes I could detect a difference in the aromas and the initial taste. A fourth wine was tasted - a glorious blend of red grapes from Hawkes Bay - and both samples seemed identical to me. 

Brown Brothers Tempranillo 2006 - Victoria, Australia ($18.95)
Rich ruby with purple tinges, quite dense. Aromas of sweet vanillin oak chocolate and tobacco - very typically Australian. The first taste impression is jammy red fruit - raspberry and redcurrants together with red jelly baby lollies, underlying acidity and spice. That vanillin oak asserts itself on the finish with tobacco and jaffa lingering. It has the characteristic flavours I associate with tempranillo wrapped up in American oak. Full on, animated wine. 13.5% alcohol. Screwcap.
I preferred the sample that had not been in the SpinWine. This was a soft wine to start with - in fact the SpinWine sample made the wine taste harsher.  Neil couldn't detect any differences.

Te Awa Hawkes Bay Pinotage 2007 - Hawkes Bay, New Zealand ($30)
Concentrated, impenetrable, blackberry red hue. There's a tomato character to the aroma and a hint of a barnyard character too. A full-bodied wine in the mouth with soft tannins and bright, spicy, meaty flavours. Actually the tannins are quite powerful but the juicy dark berry fruit cuts right them down. Acidity pops up like a speed bump, it's here and then it's gone, and the finish is chocolatey with a hint of liquorice. Fermented with natural yeasts and matured in French oak for 12 months. A fascinating wine - the most fascinating of the three - in that's it so different. Liked it. 13.5% alcohol. Diam closure. $30.
I preferred the sample that had not been in the SpinWine. The result was the same as the previous wine - the SpinWine made the wine seem harder - I preferred the softer sample, which was not the SpinWine sample. Neil couldn't detect any differences. After a while, both wines were identical to me as well.

Blackenbrook Montepulciano - Nelson New Zealand ($27)
Deeply translucent purple red. On the nose this is chocolatey, earthy, savoury and meaty and the flavours are all bright, fresh, strawberry and cherry with a jammy intensity. Medium-bodied in style with underlying savouriness, sweet creamy oak - perhaps a mixture of French and American (nope, notes say 12 months in French oak only) tannins are moderate and the finish is savoury and earthy. Almost a little funky - yes, definitely some funk. Good wine. 13.5% alcohol. Screwcap.
I preferred the sample that had been in the SpinWine - it didn't seem as meaty on the nose.Interestingly Neil could detect a difference on this wine and he preferred the SpinWine sample too.

So SpinWine seems a novelty. Whether it works for you could depend on the wine, the time of day and your mood. A bit like wine scores.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 19th 2010

Riesling Highlights and Wine of the Week

The weather this January in Auckland has been uncanny.  Usually it rains several times over the summer holidays and there is also the occasional subtropical storm.   We batten down the hatches while we read about the balmy days elsewhere in the country. But this year, for a real summer holiday, Auckland and Northland have been the places to be.  And my refrigerator, instead of the umbrella, has been getting a workout.

Riesling has featured of course.

Bouldevines Marlborough Riesling 2009 ($29) is an excellent example of a dry Marlborough Riesling - and you don't get too many of those.  I think I could count the really dry Marlborough Rieslings on the fingers on just one hand. Aromatic with perhaps a hint of toastiness, grapefruit is the immediate fruit impression.  It's dry but not bracing with a talc-like slipperiness to the texture and lime peel characters coming through.  Try this with Greek Salad made with white Balsamic.

Mt Beautiful Riesling 2008 ($23.95) from Cheviot, a little way south of Marlborough, is more apple-like in its flavour. But there's a buttery character too that quells the acidity and lets honeysuckle, lime and ginger marmalade flavours push though and with its fruity finish, it is so much easier to drink without food.

But not as easy as the delicious and much sweeter wine that's called The Crater Rim Dr Köhls Riesling 2008 ($28). This is from Waipara, the next settlement south of Cheviot and the home of some of New Zealand's most consistently good Rieslings.   Botrytis adds richness and nectar-like flavours to this Germanic-inspired style and while it's sweet, the racy acidity beings everything into balance.  I loved it so much it is this week's Wine of the Week.  Click here to read the review.


Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 18th 2010

Tasting Big Name Australians

Western Australia was part of the theme of last Wednesday's tasting and boy oh boy, two big names were poured in the blind tasting line-up.

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2006 ($117) is the latest release of the Chardonnay that some people say is Australia's best.  I have to say that tasting it blind I could have swayed towards Marlborough if there had not been the Western Australian theme.  It was the citrus infused savoury French oak aroma and initial flavour of grapefruit that quickly morphed into caramel cream that would have led me astray. Citrus and caramel are key indicators for Malborough - but this was from far, far way - from Margaret River in W.A. It looked extremely youthful for its age both in colour and taste.

Moss Wood Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($114) is a super smooth wine and again if there wasn't the theme I would have been heading towards South Australia.  It's desperately good wine with a deep cassis richness to the layers of concentrated flavours - I'd say it is as good as Penfolds 707 (how I remember it be).

Not bad for a $15 wine tasting, I'd say.  My full notes and the rest of the wines are here.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 14th 2010

June in January

When a bottle of bubbles from Kaimira Estate arrived by courier yesterday and I saw the name, I was momentarily tempted to leave it until June to open it but that thought quickly passed and quite honestly there was little hesitation in popping it into the refrigerator straight away. That's because it's summer, darling, and that's when a chilled glass of bubbles can be most enjoyable.

I was also tempted not to write about it because the back label states, "It's bubbles, darling. Don't read about it - drink it!" Did they really mean that when they sent a sample to me. I don't think so. So read on, if you wish. Otherwise get a bottle and drink it.

Kaimira Estate has dubbed their first methode traditional "June" after June Hamilton, co-owner of the estate with husband Ian Miller, and it's a vintage expression rather than NV.

Kaimira Estate June 2007 is a strongly fizzy drop with streams on bubbles rather than just a single stream erupting from the bottom of the glass to fuel the small head of foam that lasts for minutes (on my glass at least). There's a slight suggestion of pink to the clear, creamy lemon hue too. Toast and bread aromas are typical of bottle fermented styles and there's a hint of earthiness tempered by an ever so delicate stonefruit sweetness. Very dry on first tasting, extra brut most definitely. It's savoury with plenty of the yeast lees influence, which is not surprising because it had two years on yeast lees in the secondary bottle fermentation stage, with pinot noir's earthiness, plenty of racy lemon-like acidity and a touch of stonefruit again to round out the finish and balance the dryness of the start. In fact once your palate adjusts, it quite creamy and more-ish and the finish, like the foam, last for minutes too.

It's a blend of 77% Nelson Chardonnay and 23% Nelson Pinot Noir harvested from the 2007 vintage and was disgorged in November 2009, just in time for Christmas. Well December, January, June, does it really matter when you drink it? The wine has 13% alcohol and price is around $26 and can be purchased from as well as from "discerning retail outlets". End of reading.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 13th 2010

Message on a cork

"It is said that a toast is made to complete the cycle of the five senses. Sight, smell, taste, touch and the sound of wine glasses"

The Wednesday tastings have started again and that gives me an opportunity to try wines I normally would never see. There was the usual Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz but one wine was different to the rest.

It was the Carchelo Monastrell Syrah Cabernet 2007 from Jumilla in Spain. This is a deep, rich coloured wine, a black red colour and opaque to the eye. The aromas are reminiscent of plum with hints of chocolate and spicy vanillin oak then it is quite earthy and savoury to the taste with some herbal nuances behind the blueberry fruit. There's some tannin grip to balance the juicy fruit with liquorice and spice and a touch of mocha filing out the finish. A smart wine for the price (NZ$15.99 on the night) and the new and attractive bottle presentation makes this thoroughly modern Spanish wine even more appealing.

But it was the cork in the bottle that also grabbed my attention. A white synthetic cork printed with the quote above.

I've no idea who wrote the quote and when I posted the quote on the Wine Lovers Page forum, no one else did either, so I guess the wine company's marketing boffins created it. Makes a talking point at the very least. I liked it.

Click here to read the Wednesday 6th January tasting reviews

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 11th 2010

Saving the best bubbles 'til last

Not to take anything away from the very enjoyable bubbles we've been drinking all week, but this wine, Johanneshof Cellars EMMI Methode Traditionelle NV, ($35) absolutely pressed all the right buttons when we tasted it over the weekend. Smooth and rounded with peaches and cream-like flavours supported by fresh acidity, vibrant bubbles and a deep, rich, savoury complexity, it was the star turn.   It brought back memories of our visit to Johanneshof's underground cellar when we had time to stop there on route a few years ago.  We loved the wine so much we've chosen it as this Week's Wine of the Week - click here to read the review and the story of the underground cellar that tunnelled into a hill.

The Johanneshof website says "Methode Traditionnelle Emmi is a wine for special occasions, perfect for toasting the milestones of life". I disagree because my new found philosophy of life is that every day is a milestone and every day is a special occasion wine day because you never know what is around the corner.

Our food match was salmon pizza and the first one was so good, I made a second one. They are easy to make if, like me, you have ready prepared bases. My base of choice is Turkish flat bread. I rub the base with oil, then spread over a tomato paste and then spread a spreadable cream cheese over that. Next slices of basil and tomato are added and the pizza is cooked in the oven on high heat for about 7 minutes. Then the smoked salmon slices can be added and the pizza returned to the oven for 5 minutes more. What could be easier, especially when it is almost the perfect match for EMMI.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 9th 2010

Swooning over Moscato

Continuing on the sparkling theme to complement the sparkling weather that has been bestowed on Auckland almost all this year, a Jacobs Creek Moscato was pulled out of the fridge last evening before dinner. This light fresh bubbles with just 9% alcohol is straw gold in colour and is effervescent in the glass with tiny bubbles and the occasional bigger bubble racing each other to the surface then migrating to the edges to make a lacy rim. It's deliciously fresh and fruity with fragrant aromas of fresh nectarines and wine macerated Muscat grapes then in the mouth the delicate fruit flavours are reminiscent of musk, apple, lime and feijoa flowers (they are flowering in my garden right now and taste delicious). There's a whisper of sugar sweetness but crispness keeps that sweetness in check while the bubbles add foaminess and liveliness to the texture.

The wine was shared between four of us until a neighbour popped in and added another notch to the belt of Jacob Creek Moscato fans. Talk about someone swooning over a wine but the bottom line was we all loved it immensely. A wine that must be consumed well chilled in the late afternoon of a hot summer day as a pre dinner aperitif or as a mid-meal sorbet or an after dinner treat. Table grapes are an ideal accompaniment.

Moscato is a very recent addition to Jacobs Creek and with its well-known name, and wide availability, I am sure it is going to be a strong contender for most popular bubbles of the summer if our reaction was anything to go by. Recommended retail is $13.95 in New Zealand but it is sure to be discounted from time to time as Jacobs Creek wines usually are.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 7th 2010

Boom Diddy Boom

Fellow blogger Paul Sharp - - has become a wine producer and his first effort, Boom Sparkling Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008, is a pretty fine debut. This carbonated wine has a clear, light straw gold hue. Fizz thunders from the bottom of the glass with millions of bubbles racing each other to explode on the surface. There are hints of vanilla poached pear on the nose and crisp fresh flavours in the palate. It's dry, but not bracing as the low acidity of the Pinot Gris grapes add a fruit sweetness. Then that vanilla poached pear from the bouquet lingers on the finish. The bubbles are fine, imitating a Methode, and give the wine get-up-and-go.

The bottom line is that we liked it very much. It's fresh, it's clean, it has lots of vinosity and the finish is pleasingly long. 

I loved this on its own - a great aperitif or party wine - but I did prepare two food matches.

First smoked salmon atop a sour cream, cream cheese and chervil spread atop a cracker. This made the wine seem richer. Actually the oily salmon was just too powerful.

Paul mentioned that he had taken the wine up to Singapore and it was a great hit with the medley of spicy food you get in that part of the world. So lightly spiced chicken, similar to what we matched the Trinity Hill 'H' to the other night, was the main course dish. I think the Singapore food would be better with Boom.

Where do you buy this 13.5% alcohol wine that Paul has given an RRP of $20 a bottle? There are a few outlets around Auckland. Check out the details on the Boom website.

Oh yes, about that name. "I wanted something short and concise that expressed what the wine was all about," said Paul. Boom, yes, it does actually pack a punch.

I have to say I prefer this to the sparkling Sauv Blancs that seem to be the trend right now.

Boom could be a little piece of New Zealand history too. Unless anyone can dispute it, it's quite probably the country's first sparkling Pinot Gris.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 6th 2010

Another Hawkes Bay bubbles

A bottle of Dolbel Estate bubbles from Hawkes Bay was the next one pulled out of the refrigerator and it's quite a contrast to the Trinity Hill 'H' reviewed yesterday. The first thing you notice is the sunshine yellow colour, and the flurry of bubbles that rise incessantly from the bottom of the glass. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and aged on yeast lees in the bottle for two years, this is more Champagne-like on the nose with toasted fruit bread scents. Yeast lees flavours are dominant and there's a marmite-like nuance coming through and a slightly oxidative character that is acceptable in wines of this style - you wouldn't complain if it were Champagne. This is a serious sophisticated bubbles, whereas the 'H' and the Spy Valley Echelon (reviewed over the last couple of days) have a lighter party feel. The Dolbel is full-bodied and dry. It was an excellent season in Hawkes Bay and that shows in this powerful wine.

Dolbel Estate Methode Traditionelle 2006 is a 50:50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, or Pinot Noir and Chardonnay if you like and the back label says it is different from the more conventional style in that the grapes were picked with riper and fuller flavour followed by fermentation in French oak barriques before the secondary bottle fermentation stage. Well, maybe different from the convention, but not unique.

It's the style of bubbles that really needs food if you are going to drink more than one glass and I was thinking those salmon canapes in little pastry cases that I did for Christmas would have been just the thing. They were brilliant with a vintage Champagne, so would have been perfect for vintage Dolbel too.

Tony Prichard, the once-upon-a-time winemaker at Church Road wines, is the winemaker behind this creation. Alcohol is 13% by volume, the closure is one of the Diamante supercritical corks (as was the closure in the Trinity Hill 'H') and the price per bottle is $30. Check out for more. Interesting history to the name.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 5th 2010

'H' is for Hill, I presume

This impressive looking bottle of bubbles emblazoned with a colourful 'H' is a debut Blanc de Blancs style bubbly from Hawkes Bay winery, Trinity Hill. The bottle presentation excels and the wine itself is pretty groovy too. Made from 100% Hawkes Bay Chardonnay grapes, it's a white lemon colour, brilliantly clear except for the interference from the persistent bead of minuscule bubbles. It's crisp and fresh to the taste, rounded from the outset, and although the initial impression is dry there's a pleasing stonefruit and dried apple sweetness to the finish. It has that sought after bready character, a toasty mouthfilling richness, sophistication and verve. Great on its own and also as an accompaniment to a light meal where the main ingredient was slices of chicken breast coated in a mixture of flour, cumin, coriander and cinnamon, pan-fried and accompanied with a rocket, watermelon and pomegranate seed salad. We finished the wine with fresh peach straight from the refrigerator. Definitely an easy to drink little number.
Trinity Hill 'H' Blanc de Blancs Traditionelle NV has a recomended retail of just under $30. Click here for more details.

Postscript: An email from someone in the know says that the 'H' is for Hancock. That's John Hancock, of course, one of the founders of Trinity Hill wines.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 3rd 2010

Messages in the 'firsts' of the Year

The first thing I read this year was "How to lose 10 kilos this year - without going on a diet". It was on the cover of a magazine on the vanity unit in the guest bathroom at my sister's place and it wasn't a New Year feature. The magazine, Healthy Food Guide, was dated March 2009. The gist of the article was that if you can put on weight over the holiday feasting period without even noticing, you should be able to lose it without dieting. It's all about eating habits, I guess.

The first email I received this year was from my hosting provider. "Disk Usage Warning Critical. Please remove some files from this account, or ask the administrator to increase your disk quota. Do not respond to this message. Your reply will go nowhere!!" On investigation I found I could delete some of my logs to free up a quarter of my disk space but I also noticed that images on my blog alone were taking up another quarter of my disk space. I'm going to have to do some deleting there too.

I didn't make any New Year resolutions although, on returning home for the first time in 2010, I did vow to get through a backlog of wine tasting samples. They are filling up my spare bedroom, one side of the hallway, the laundry room beside the loo and I've made a corridor between bottles in the back room where I work at the computer. At least they are in some kind of order and everything has been catalogued into my database so I know what I've got to taste at the click of a button.

There was an influx of bubbles that arrived during December and the first one opened was Spy Valley Echelon Methode Traditionelle 2007. A blend of 59% Pinot Noir and 41% Chardonnay from Spy Valley's Johnson Estate in Marlborough, it has the lightest tinge of pink to the hue topped with a head of white foam when the wine is poured. It's got that freshly baked bread aroma and has lots of fizz to tickle the insides of the mouth with hints of wild strawberry, a savoury earthy character, a citrussy tang to the finish and exceptional length. While it seemed a little sharp to start - it was the first wine of the evening - it becomes rather moreish. Then, by the time you are ready for more, the wine has enthused everyone and suddenly the bottle is finished.

The notes say that after hand-picking, the free run juice was fermented and aged in old oak for one year before bottling. Secondary fermentation took place in the bottle where the wine stayed for at least 18 months before disgorgement. Spy Valley says it was originally devised as 'party supply' bubbly and represents "the lighter side of life, fun, lively and the place you most want to be." RRP is $28.90 a bottle and it should be widely available too.

I'm looking forward to tasting more of the bubbles, after all why wait for an excuse like Christmas or New Year (another whole year away!!). The message here is bubbles are wines to drink at any time and particularly suited for summer soirees.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 2nd 2010

WOTW: Gladstone Wairarapa Viognier 2009

This Wine of the Week review is either a day early, or six days late.  Does it matter at holiday time?  No.

I chose this wine for our Christmas Eve feast because I had liked past vintages of the Gladstone Viognier so I had high expectations. I wanted a wine that would go with a variety of seafood and I was hoping this wine would have the versatility to match every dish. It did.  Read more ....

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jan 1st 2010

Lobster Reef evokes summer, sea and fun

lobreef.jpg (21855 bytes)The clean, stylish and evocative label of Lobster Reef Wines from Marlborough gets my vote for best new wine label that I discovered in 2009.

"Rock Lobster!" exclaims the back label. "These brightly coloured crustaceans have made the Marlborough coastline home as long as anyone in the area can remember and we thought their quirky nature perfectly reflected what Lobster Reef wines are all about."   The 'we' in that statement is Cape Campbell Wines, who have recently re-branded themselves as Brown Family Vineyards as the parent company of the Cape Campbell, Lobster Reef and Cable Station Road brands.

Rock lobster, aka crayfish, was the food part of my first wine and food experience in Marlborough.  We bought the crayfish at a roadside stall on the Kaikoura coast and stopped the night on our way north to Blenheim at at a camping ground in Ward where we enjoyed the delicious crustacean with a half bottle of Sancerre.  That was the day before we discovered Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for the first time. It's now a ritual to buy a crayfish every time we pass through Kaikoura. And if we weren't driving, we'd be drinking Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, not Sancerre.

The Lobster Reef wine inside the bottle is not bad either - both the 2008 vintage, which is one of those 2008 vintage wines that's drinking superbly right now, as well as the vivacious 2009. Not surprising really when you read that name of the winemaker is Matt Thomson, the whiz winemaker behind the high flying Saint Clair wines.

Lobster Reef Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009, the current release, is a deliciously juicy wine with tropical fruit aromas and an edgy herbaceousness to the flavour with loads of lime-like citrus and a flinty character to the long dry finish.  Just 12% alcohol by volume, and sporting a screwcap closure, of course, it's has a recommended top price of $15.95 a bottle. We enjoyed this wine on Christmas Eve and while we would have liked to have matched it to rock lobster, the prices for the delicacy in the local fish shop were ridiculously expensive.  So we had the next best thing - Alaskan King crab - yes, cheaper than NZ crayfish but deliciously tasty and beaut with the wine too. 

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