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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: April 2011
Apr 30th: Blues, Breakers, Brides and Brown Bros
Apr 28th: Gorgeous Gewurz, Tasteless Thai and Wireless Woes
Apr 21st: Sauvignon Sadness
Apr 20th: Edel Weiss
Apr 18th: A stunning quartet of Merlot Malbec blends
Apr 17th: World Malbec Day
Apr 14th: On the Pinotage bandwagon again
Apr 13th: Birthday Chardonnay Treat
Apr 11th: Lifesavers, corkscrews and Wednesday's tasting
Apr 7th: Vale Mr Purple Death
Apr 5th: Reefers and Jungle Juice
Apr 4th: Syrah from the Island
Apr 3rd: Easter Show trophy winners
Apr 2nd: It was April Fools Day, but this Sauvignon Blanc was no joke
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 30th 2011

Blues, Breakers, Brides and Brown Bros

It was the big night in last night but what television channel to watch? The Blues v Highlanders Super XV rugby game was on channel 30 from 7.30pm, the Breakers v Taipans ANBL final was on Channel 31 from 7.30pm and there was a choice of nine channels for Will's and Cath's wedding. After flicking through all of the wedding broadcasts, and finding most were screening the same pictures anyway, we chose one where the commentator didn't spend the whole time opinionating, which eliminated the ones with annoying advertisement breaks every 10 minutes (no TV1 or TV3 for me). In the end I think we settled for UKTV's coverage. Very British!. But as most of the lead up to the wedding was a yawn, it made it easy to do a rotation of the sports channels to see the Blues narrowly beat the Highlanders and the Breakers annihilate the Cairns Taipans and in doing so, win the coveted Australian league title. Oh, did I say that the Breakers were the only kiwi team in the league? They are real heroes.

Well the games were over by the time the nuptials began. In the meantime in the absence of any wedding celebration invitations, we treated the night like a normal Friday night.

I thought a red would work well with my whole stuffed marrow. I love marrow, they are in season right now and although the dish is very retro, it can be really good. My stuffing was beef mince browned off with oil, garlic, onions, bacon, salt and pepper, loads and loads of basil, flat leaf parsley and a couple of diced, skinned tomatoes. The unpeeled marrow was halved lengthways with the seeds and enough flesh scooped out to accommodate the stuffing. Then a handful of grated tasty cheese went on top. It took about an hour to cook in a dish, with some water in the dish, in a moderate oven.

After a couple of false starts we found a wine to match. It was Brown Brothers Tempranillo 2009 from the King Valley, in Victoria, Australia. This is a ripe, juicy, medium-bodied red with creamy vanillin oak (mostly American) and succulent red fruit in the cherry / plum spectrum. It's also a little spicy with an undercurrent of woody herbs, a hint of cigar smoke, supple tannins and bright acidity. Brown Brothers always hits the mark, both on flavour and price point. The recommended retail is $18.95, alcohol is 14.5% and the top is a screwcap. I see this wine is the supermarkets now, which means it probably gets discounted from time to time. Give it a go, why don't ya.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 28th 2011

Gorgeous Gewurz, Tasteless Thai and Wireless Woes

A motel with free wi-fi and an unbelievable rate deal for a long term stay (3 days or more) seemed ideal for the Easter get-away, but the best laid plans for updating the blog turned to custard when the wi-fi was continually overloaded and I couldn't log on. But at least the rain stayed away for three of the four Easter Weekend days and the sun also tantalising shone for a short time one afternoon. I had to find a Thai restaurant, just to pleasure my senses, because the Saint Clair Pioneer Block 12 'Lone Gum' Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008, that we had taken with us, was looking for a perfect match. Pity we couldn't check out any online reviews for the motelier's only recommendation. Well, not so much a recommendation, just that it existed, and after ringing both Thai restaurants listed in the phone book, it appeared that Bangkok Gardens was the only Thai BYO in Taranaki's biggest town.

The wine was delicious as we sipped on it while waiting for our food to appear. The coconut soup was also divine and a perfect accompaniment to the wine. But things went downhill from there. The fish cake were like rubber and while the stuffed mushrooms were nice there was nothing in the flavour to make me think Thai. Then the utterly disappointing main. I ordered Thai Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Gra Pow), just to see how a Thai chef would make the dish I love to make at home. Turned out he was from Laos and the dish was not was I was expecting at all – just lumps of chicken, an assortment of vegetables including much despised baby corn and a syruppy brown sauce that was heavy-handedly fishy. Sure, there were basil leaves in there – 'holy basil' the Chinese waitperson had eventually ascertained. But they had been dried and were stringy and had none of the exquisite aniseed flavour that I just love. It made me wonder, how many 'genuine' Thai restaurants are there in New Zealand and whether any make the dish as all the online recipes say: basically minced or finely diced chicken, garlic, peanuts, chillies, capsicum, fish sauce and copious amounts of fresh (it's easy to grow in Auckland - see my photo) or properly reconstituted dried Thai (holy) basil. It's sounds like some research is needed, which means more Thai takeaways and more gewurztraminer, please.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 12 'Lone Gum' Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008 has an  evocative scent of violets, hand cream, rose petals and spices. Smooth, rich, hot, spicy, not really fruity, just quintessentially varietal - full of delicious spicy flavours and a pleasing slippery texture. Totally in harmony, it takes me to another place. 13% alcohol. Screwcap closure. RRP $27.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 21st 2011

Sauvignon Sadness

2010 was rated as a fabulous year throughout New Zealand but a recent tasting of sauvignon blanc was disappointing. Too many wines showed what I'd called premature development with noticeable pea and bean-like characters. I would expect these characters to develop as the wine matures and the fruit goes through its natural development stage. But these recently turned one-year-olds were all dressed with screwcaps and I would have thought that screwcaps would have slowed down maturity. In several of the wines I asked, "Where is the fruit? Where is the brightness that we have come to expect from the nation's number one white wine drink?" The development I was tasting seemed to be just too soon. And one wine was so sulphury, it was tipped down the sink.

You just have to watch the faces of the tasters to see what they think about a wine. A smile or a nod means they like it, a grimace means they don't and when someone's mouth forms a silent 'eek' you know how or she will be writing DNPIM on the tasting sheet.

I awarded just one five star accolade - to Bouldevines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010, which was was several body lengths in front of the rest of the pack. Runner-up was Pencarrow Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010. Not a surprise when the wine was revealed – it's the sibling to the stunning Palliser Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc and that's always amongst my top rated savvies.

Bouldevines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is a moderate gold colour and the rich powerful aroma evokes scents of lemon, orange zest, passionfruit, pineapple, grass and an abundance of summer herbs. Silky and textural in the palate, it slides into the mouth and coats it gently, then wham! The flavours start quite citrussy then there's a herbal hit to the mid palate and the finish is grapefruit and tropical fruit. Terrific sauv – I enjoyed it very much. 5 stars.

Pencarrow Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is a lighter wine in the context of the tasting. It doesn't assault the palate; it's more of a gentle caress. Lovely texture, perhaps some yeast lees maturation, and flavours of lime, passionfruit and fines herbes. I like this wine and it get better with every mouthful. 4.5 stars.

Also getting a pass mark tick were

Alexia Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - 3 stars
Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - 3 stars
Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - 3 stars
Richmond Plains Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - 3 stars
Sacred Hill 'Halo' Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - 3 stars
Sisters Ridge North Canterbury Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - 3.5 stars
Te Mania Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - 3.5 stars

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 20th 2011

Edel Weiss

We couldn't decide what wine to open – would it be Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling or Viogner? And then I spotted the Waimea Edel 2009. A white blend of 47% Riesling, 38% Pinot Gris and 15% Gewurztraminer from Nelson, perhaps it would be an all in one fantastic combo. edel.jpg (13714 bytes)

When he carried the glass of wine into the room, the smell was overwhelmingly apples - like an orchard in autumn with windfalls on the ground. But when the wine was 'nosed' properly, the musky, floral and spicy Gewurztraminer component came through. An interesting wine to the taste – pinot gris-like orchard fruit up front, then the lychees and spice of the Gewurz the finish kicker and a waxy honey / honeysuckle character that could only come from the Riesling, which provides the acidity to balance the fruity sweetness. With its rounded structure and fruit/spice flavours that are not too over powering, I think it could have wide appeal. I like this wine but it was best with some chilling because it seemed a little sweet at room temperature.

Edel and Thai basil is a wondrous experience. If you grow this in your garden, just grab a tender leaf, chew it and wash it down with Edel as you are prepare Chicken with Thai basil (Gai Pad Gra Pow) to have with the wine for dinner.

Winemakers have been blending different grape varieties together for what seems like forever but it is usually the red blends we hear about. White blends are starting to come in to vogue but some of them are very expensive and cost over $50 a bottle. You could buy two Edels for $50 and still get $8 change. There's some interest in the weird and the wonderful and Waimea's Edel is one of them.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 18th 2011

A stunning quartet of Merlot Malbec blends

When I line up glasses of wine for a blind tasting, it's not often I rave about every wine, but that's what happed when five wines, one straight Malbec and four labelled Merlot Malbec, were put on the table. The first one I awarded 17 points and 4 stars to but as I went along the row, they seemed to get better and better. It was a terrific tasting and the food was good too.

There was a similar theme running through the wines: savouriness, acidity, red fruits, floral nuances, texture and weight.

I reviewed the Malbec yesterday (see below). These are the others: -

Soljans The Tribute Merlot Malbec 2009, $39.95, made from Hawkes Bay fruit, is a smoky savoury wine with dark fruit, leather, tobacco and violets joining the scent and a sappy generosity to the flavour with juicy red and blackcurrant fruit, chocolate, cigar, tobacco and hints of vanilla adding sweetness which is nice foil to the underlying acidity. Made from predominantly Merlot with 24% Malbec in the blend, I gave it a 4 star rating.

This wine is being released this weekend at the Soljans winery in Kumeu, Auckland, at their annual Berba Festival, which is held every Easter. The Tribute celebrates three generations of family winemaking in New Zealand.

Te Awa Left Field Malbec 2009, also from Hawkes Bay, has two gold meals and a trophy to its name. A deeper, darker coloured wine, it has more a more traditional, Bordeaux-like French oak scent with cherry, vanilla, toast, beef and floral notes too. A deep, rich, concentrated wine with well balanced acidity, red and black fruits, chocolate, leather, supple silky tannins and a rounded finish with excellent length. A blend of 79% Merlot, 11% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc. I rate this 5 stars.

Mills Reef Gimblett Gravels Reserve Merlot Malbec 2008, $25, was the third Hawkes Bay wine. Bright in colour, almost opaque, the scents are savoury with a hint of barnyard, blackcurrant, vanilla and pencil shavings. Thick textured with velvet-rubbed-the-wrong-way tannins, voluptuous fruit concentration, well balanced acidity, chocolate, liquorice and leather, it's deep and intense. I gave this blend of 55% Merlot and 45% Malbec, a 5 star rating too.

But Waimea Nelson Merlot Malbec 2008, $22, was the most intriguing of them all. A blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Malbec, it's dark in colour, almost opaqu. Chocolate comes through on the scent and the flavours are meaty and savoury. But what I liked most was the deep purple sense that this wine evoked. Every time I smelt or tasted the wine, I found something different. And for that reason, I've made it my 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
Apr 17th 2011

World Malbec Day

Today is World Malbec Day, an initiative by Wines of Argentina to promote their number one red wine around the world. I thought I had a bottle but when it came to the time I couldn't find it. I probably took it to a BBQ because I like grunty Malbec with BBQ'ed sausages and steak. So I decided to open a home grown version instead and to keep it honest, I tasted it alongside four Merlot Malbec blends including a double gold and trophy winner. Well, all the wines came up splendidly. It was a super 'red wine' night.

Hyperion Midas Malbec 2009, $35, from Matakana was the 100% Malbec wine. A deep dark red colour, shiny in hue and opaque in appearance, it smells concentrated and voluptuous yet dark and savoury with rich red fruit, blackcurrants, vanilla and cherry. A big wine, a gutsy wine with firm velvet-textured tannins, juicy red and black fruit, toasty oak, woody herbs and Black Forest chocolate, it has distinctive underlying acidity and, true to Malbec's form, a lifted floral finish that is rich and generous with cherry and vanilla lingering.

With just 13% alcohol, as stated on the label, it totally delivers. I rate it an easy 4 stars. That's two out of two for this label because I loved the 2008 too. Check out to find out more.

The food match was venison schnitzel, coated with flour, egg and coarse breadcrumbs that had been processed with a handful of parsley, thyme, sage and basil and pan-fried for about four minutes each side, a repeat of the dish made a couple of weeks ago when it was matched to Syrah. With the Hyperion Malbec and the Merlot Malbec blends, a very tasty and satisfying match.

More on the blends tomorrow.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 14th 2011

On the Pinotage bandwagon again

Well, I'm on the pinotage bandwagon once again and the reason why is because it makes terrific wine. Proof is in two recent Wines of the Week – Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Pinotage 2009 two weeks ago, and this week Kairkari Estate Northland Pinotage 2008.

Don't like Pinotage? Wonder what I'm on about. Well, have you ever tasted Pinotage? Or if so, when did you last actually taste one without any preconceived notions in your mind? Because if you have preconceived notions you are living in the past? It's 2011, not 1967.

A tasty newcomer worth seeking out, made from grapes grown in Henderson from vines planted in 2002, is Kowhai Point Auckland Pinotage 2010. It has a deep, bright, black cherry hue and fragrant, floral and red berry scents. A medium-bodied wine in palate weight, with raspberry, blueberry and cherry fruit, smoky oak in the background, cake spice and a savoury, smoky bacon-like depth. Nicely structured with silky tannins and a finish that's fruity yet dry, it compounds in richness and intensity with time in the bottle, as we found out after drinking it over 2-3 days. Acidity hums through the wine, which is one of the key factors in the ability of pinotage to age.

Paul Sharp from Global Wine Consultants is behind this wine. His original plan was to make a sparkling red but when the fruit came in, the quality was too good to effervesce away. It's a snip at $24.95 a bottle, but he's only produced a mere 220 6-packs. Check out

Also tasted on the weekend, was Karikari Estate Northland Pinotage 2006, opened the night after the 2008, this week's Wine of the Week, was guzzled away. Five years on from vintage, the 2006 doesn't hint at all of its age. It's a deep rich red colour, concentrated, opaque. It smells like chocolate – a savoury chocolate, a meaty chocolate – chocolate infused with cherry and vanillin oak. Rich, meaty and savoury to the taste with concentrated berries and wild blackberries – like the ones I picked from the roadside last month with the occasional unripe one creeping in. A suggestion of dried rose petal then a meaty, savoury, gamey backbone and a touch of spice. Firmly structured and gutsy with excellent length, this is very much a baby with a bright long future ahead of it. Terrific with lighted peppered BBQ'ed steak.

I'm loving how these wines age.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 13th 2011

Birthday Chardonnay Treat

When it comes to special birthdays, special wines are required. Sauvignon Blanc was off the menu because the tastes had changed. So we grabbed a Chardonnay.

West Brook Ivicevich Chardonnay Two Thousand 4 is a very special wine. It's an Auckland chardonnay and seven years on from vintage, it's mighty fine.

It's the colour of liquid butter in the glass but shiny and gem-like - heliotrope gemstone comes to mind. The refined smoky oak scent is infused with beurre noisette and the smoky character carries through to the smooth rounded palate that's underpinned with an orange peel-like acidity, and stonefruit and fig. A full-bodied wine with a smokiness that is absolutely intriguing.

From the first crop of Clone 95 (95%) and Mendoza (5%) chardonnay grapes grown at West Brook's Waimauku Estate vineyard, this wine is beautiful now but seems nowhere near its peak - and the fine acidity will keep it on its ascent.

The food match went down pretty well too - homemade flat bread served with home made hummus.

West Brook still have this wine for sale on their website, and no doubt at their cellar door in Ararimu Valley Road, Waimauku, east of Kumeu village. A mere snip at $38 a bottle.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 11th 2011

Lifesavers, corkscrews and Wednesday's tasting

Friends were going on holiday. An intrepid journey. I wanted to give them a gimmicky gift so I went into the dairy to buy a few packets of Lifesavers.
They dairy didn't' have any.
I went into the Shell Shop next door. I'd bought Lifesavers there before. But the shop assistant looked at me as if I had asked for a horse and carriage.
"What?" she said.
"Lifesavers," I repeated.
"What are they?"
"They are about the size of a 10 cent piece, they look like a miniature life buoy and they are packed like in a roll of twelve or so."
"Are they for a sore throat?"
"No, they're lollies and they come in lots of flavours. So you've never seen them before?".
She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head.
Suddenly I felt very old.

I imagine I would have got the same reaction if I had asked for a corkscrew. She had probably never seen one of those either.
Luckily I have several corkscrews and I'm keeping tabs on them because there are still plenty of wines in the world that need them.

Evidently Clarence Crane invented lifesavers in 1912 but the corkscrew has been around for much much longer. Carl Wienke, a German, is often credited as inventing the corkscrew. Wienke apparently invented the waiter's friend-type corkscrew in the 1880s but a Reverend Samuel Henshall, from England, had a patent for a corkscrew in 1975.

We see lots of screwcaps in New Zealand but the need for a corkscrew still arises. The new drinkers, who don't have a corkscrew, are missing out on a global experience of wine.

The Wednesday tasting last week took us round the world with Jane Skilton MW presenting and entertaining. The corkscrew was needed to to open the Chateau Lavallande Saint-Emilion Grand Cru and the superb Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni. To check out my reviews on my Wednesday Roundup page, simply click here.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 7th 2011

Vale Mr Purple Death

On the slopes of the Waitakere Ranges, the hills that protect Auckland city from the prevailing westerlies coming off the Tasman Sea, there's a vineyard that will go down in history for it's part in the filming of Vintners Luck. The vineyard, which was first planted in the 1940s, belongs to Sapich Wines and at the cellar door in Forest Hill Road you'll find another claim to fame, the legendary Purple Death.


An unusual "Rough-as-Guts" aperitif that has the distinctive bouquet of horse-shit and old tram tickets. it is best drunk with teeth clenched to avoid foreign bodies. Connoisseurs often drink this strange brew in conjunction with other beverages which complement, or mask, the delicate flavour of Purple Death.

I called in there two years ago, when the vineyard was displaying its best autumn colours, and was immediately welcomed by a jovial-faced man who seemed very comfortable in his surroundings. And before I could say anything a stool was pulled out for me to sit on and a sherry was poured and handed to me. He pulled up his chair and we started chatting. I asked about the 'for sale' signs on the vineyard road frontage. He said part of the vineyard had been subdivided into lifestyle blocks.

The man was Ivan Sapich, and as I've now found out, a West Auckland icon, life member and long-time President of the Avondale Jockey Club and life member of the Auckland Rugby Union where for several years he coached Auckland's under-18 representative team.

His sons, Darren and Craig, now run the business but until Ivan, aka the gentle giant, died suddenly last month, he was very much part of the scene.

He'll be remembered in the wine industry for Purple Death as much as his other achievements.

I love to drive to the Waitakere Ranges, via Holdens Road and Forest Hill Road, past the Sapich Vineyard. And it really does look beautiful at this time of the year.  If there is time to stop on the way you will find more than ports and sherries to taste. Classical grapes are grown on the property and are bought in from further afield. I was impressed with the first crop Pinot Gris from the home vineyard that day.

And we still have a bottle of Purple Death. It's so strongly fortified, it hasn't gone off after 20 years.  Vale Mr Sapich. Vale Mr Purple Death.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 5th 2011

Reefers and Jungle Juice

"We've got three reefers arriving today," says West Brook winemaker, James Rowan (pictured).

james-4042011.jpg (64702 bytes)Reefers? Reefers!! And I thought they were into making wine. I head out to the winery.

"Where are the reefers," I say with anticipation when I get there after a 26 kilometre drive from my home.

He points to a refrigerated container. "That's the reefer," he says. There's no wacky baccy there.

The reefers have the pinot noir that was picked in Marlborough last week. It had its cold soak on its stop-start journey north by train, truck and rail.

Another truck has two 9100 litre tanks on the back. One is full of riesling, the other of sauvignon blanc. We taste the juice after it has been pumped into the winery tanks. It's super cold and I see little difference between the two except the riesling is fruiter and a little more honeyed. But really, they both taste like grape juice to me – deliciously fruity grape juice that's so easy to guzzle.

I am sure there would be a market in this stuff but James insinuates that too much grape juice can promote movements of an intestinal kind. Same as eating too many grapes, a vintage hazard. The ideal liver cleansing diet perhaps. But how many people outside the industry get to taste juice like this before it's been made into wine?

James plies me with more juice and I start to feel a little heady. "I call it Jungle Juice," he says.

We wander around the winery tasting the ferments of various 2011 components. The pinot gris is a delightful baby pink.

But the next wine is different. It's clear, it's bright, it's golden in hue and there's a butterscotch nuance that comes through. "Chardonnay," I say, and I'm right. The wine is delicious and tastes like it is already ready. We've moved to 2010 and a sample of the Waimauku Chardonnay, grown on the vineyard the surrounds the winery – a wine to watch out for when it is released - a chardonnay from Auckland that will slay any contender.

But action is starting to happen outside. The 10/5 clone of pinot has been weighed and is going into the crusher. I grab my camera and start clicking. I'm experiencing the 'crush', as they say.

Photos below left to right: Pinot noir being tipped into the receival bin; the grapes being pushed into the crusher; the stalks coming out the end and the juice collected below for pumping into the fermenting tanks.


Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 4th 2011

Syrah from the Island

There was an article in the World of Fine Wine magazine (issue 31 2011) about New Zealand syrah and we all know how important the words are that overseas wine writers say. Three wine tasters, three different top wines, but some of the wines received polarised scores and when the scores from each taster were added up and averaged, a Marlborough wine - Fromm 2007 - and a Waiheke Island wine - Passage Rock Reserve 2008 were the top two respectively. So Hawkes Bay, a region that prides itself as the Syrah capital of New Zealand, must surely be a little miffed. The article is available to download from the Fromm website - click on this link here.

Last night I tasted several Syrahs, under $40 in value, mostly from Hawkes Bay with one from Nelson, one from Matakana and one from Waiheke Island. Well, perhaps like the wines in the World of Fine Wine tasting, Hawkes Bay was edged out again and Matakana and Nelson didn't feature.

Cable Bay Waiheke Island Syrah 2009 ($35) was my top wine of the tasting. There's a smidgen of Viognier in the blend of this intense powerful wine with lashings of chocolate, lovely fruit brightness, quintessential spiciness, well-balanced savouriness and a clean cutting finish. It's this week's Wine of the Week - check out the full review here. It won bronze at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards judged last November, silver at the Easter Show judged in February, but a gold medal rating, in April, from me.

Sacred Hill Halo Hawkes Bay Syrah 2009 ($25) was my second-placed wine. Spicy, peppery and even a touch of florals to the scent, it is finely structured with flavours of cameo cream biscuits and red and black fruits that make me think Christmas. It has deep, savoury, nuggetty note with creamy oak and finish is long. Yet with its powerful and slightly disintegrated tannins, I'd like to see this after a little more time.

These two really were a level above the others but I have to mention my third-placed wine.

Te Awa Hawkes Bay Left Field Syrah 2009 ($24) has a dark, mysterious, meaty aroma with a touch of leather and richness of fruit adding sumptuousness to the scent. The taste is of juicy redcurrant and cherry fruit with supple tannins, creamy oak and a deep, meaty, savoury backbone laced with cake spice and rose pepper. And then gorgeous rose-like florals come through on the clean lasting finish. A lighter style than the other two above, but at the price rather a crowd pleaser I think.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 3rd 2011

Easter Show trophy winners

The trophy winners from the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards were announced a couple of weekends ago and once again the judges voted a Syrah as the number one wine in the Show. It's the fourth time in six years that Syrah has been voted as Champion Wine of the Show, previously in 2006, 2007, 2008 and now 2011. I don't know how they do the judging for Champion wine at the Easter show but isn't it time another red wine style, other than Syrah, got a go?

I tasted several of the trophy winners last Wednesday at the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday tasting and while I am not the biggest fan of Bordeaux-styled reds, the two that were shown were outstanding, and to my palate, they showed better than the Syrah on the night.

The Champion Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Trophy was awarded to Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2008. This is an intensely concentrated blend with an impenetrable colour. It smells and tastes plush, lush, creamy and spicy with mocha, chocolate, cassis and blueberry and a nice touch of acidity balancing the deep savouriness that wells up from within.

The Champion Merlot Trophy went to Church Road Cuve Series Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008. This, to me, was the outstanding crowd-pleaser wine. Densely coloured, opulently scented and sumptuously flavoured with a caress of supple sensuous tannins. A delicious Merlot that would convert the protagonists. A Merlot that's sure to please.

The two reds I highlighted here endorse that 2008 is indeed a super Hawkes Bay red wine year. Click here to check out all my trophy wine reviews

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Apr 2nd 2011

It was April Fools Day, but this Sauvignon Blanc wine was no joke

The label said Sauvignon Blanc, but this is not Sauvignon Blanc as we know it. This was oak fermented Sauvignon Blanc that had remained on its gross lees all the time it was in barrel with no racking, occasional lees stirring and partial malolactic fermentation. And what's more, it is Sauvignon Blanc not from Marlborough, but from Parkburn in Central Otago.

Rockburn Three Barrels Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is an intriguing wine, a savoury wine, a smoky wine, a departure from the norm. Wood-smoked asparagus is the best flavour descriptor and there's a kick of acidity too. Some herb nuances come through on the aroma, an aroma that makes you think it would go well with smoked fish, but not hot smoked salmon, as we found out – the salmon was too strong and overwhelmed the wine. It would be better with a smoked snapper pate. However it was a delicious match to a rocket and tomato salad, and pasta with basil and lemon vinaigrette-like mixture stirred through it. Here's the recipe so I remember how I made it.

Basil-Lemon Vinaigrette for Pasta
Saute finely chopped red onion in a little butter and oil over a low heat for about 10 minutes to soften and start to caramelise. Remove from heat and let cool a little. Add a handful of chopped basil - something other than the standard sweet basil if possible - we have a selection that was planted from a packet of seeds called 'Basil Gourmet Mix', which included Thai basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil and purple basil. Stir the chopped basil into the onion then add the zest of a lemon that you've just picked off the tree and the piquant juice - one tablespoon or two. Then your best quality olive oil - two parts of oil to one part of lemon. Drain the cooked pasta and toss the vinaigrette through it. The scent that comes off it as the vinaigrette is warmed by the hot pasta is quite amazing. Accompany with a rocket and tomato salad. Top with hot smoked salmon that been reheated by gently steaming - on a rack over the cooking pasta - until warmed.

Rockburn Three Barrels Sauvignon Blanc 2009 costs $35. Check out the Rockburn website to find out here to buy it.

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copyright Sue Courtney 2011