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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.

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.

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Archive: August 2011
Aug 31st: Wine of the Week: Nautilus Marlborough Cuvee
Aug 29th: 174 NZ wines win gold in August
Aug 24th: Talking with Paul Henry on Radio Live about gimmicky wine labels
Aug 24th: Wine of the Week: 199 Gold Medal Wines
Aug 23rd: Kumeu River and Melba's Potatoes
Aug 18th: Talking about wine and wine shows with Paul Henry on the Radio
Aug 15th: Wine of the Week: Rock Ferry Central Otago Tempranillo 2009
Aug 14th: Tasting someone else's favourites
Aug 11th: Stellar reds from north of the tunnels
Aug 10th: A Highs and Lows Tasting
Aug 9th: Wine of the Week: Gladstone Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2009
Aug 8th: Seduced by Viognier
Aug 5th: Wine Me Up Wednesday and a very expensive white
Aug 1st: Tasting Rieslings in Winter is better
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 31st 2011

Wine of the Week: Nautilus Marlborough Cuvee

I just love the subtleness and creaminess of good bubbles. I would drink Champagne all the time if my disposition and budget allowed it. But there are Champagnes, and then there are champagnes. I know what I like. Fortunately for my budget New Zealand produces some excellent methode traditionelles, ie sparkling wines made by the Champagne method. Like the Nautilus Estate Cuvee Marlborough Methode Traditionelle Brut NV, which I have enjoyed several times recently. And after tasting again today I'm still savouring the savoury, bready and ever so slightly salty tangy flavour that is lingering in my mouth – two hours later!
Click here to read the rest of my review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 29th 2011

174 NZ wines win gold in August

With the Bragato Wine Awards announced late last week, as well as those from the NZ International Wine Show early last week, I have started my Gold Medal List for the 2011- 2012 year.

At the Bragato Wine Awards there is strict entry criteria. Wines must be produced from grapes owned or operated by the entrant, and that 85% of the grapes in the wine must come from those vineyards. The wine also has to be made and matured in New Zealand. Any wines entered from vintage 2010 onwards, must be from vineyards and wineries and packaging facilities that comply with and accredited or audited program determined by New Zealand Winegrowers. This includes Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, BioGro, Demeter, AsureQuality and ISO: 14001.

This year's competition attracted around 550 entries (down 225 on last year) from which 51 gold medals, 99 silver medals and 202 bronze medals were awarded. Trophies were announced on Saturday and the Champion Wine was awarded to Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2010.

At the New Zealand International Wine Show there is no sustainability or even volume criteria and the 2080 entries and included wines from Australia, France, Italy, Spain and other countries. 199 gold medals were awarded and, of these, 132 gold medals went to New Zealand wines. The Trophy winners have not been announced yet.

Combining the results of the 2011 Bragato Wine Awards and the 2011 New Zealand International Wine Show, only 9 wines were double gold winners, resulting in 174 new gold medal winners for my new gold medal list summary. However, 30 of these wines have won gold medals previously, resulting in 144 virgin golds for my new list.

Most awarded so far in NZ competitions from the current crop

5 golds
Forrest Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2009
Waimea Classic Nelson Riesling 2009

4 golds
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Auckland Chardonnay 2009

3 golds
Bannock Brae Estate Goldfields Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009
Church Road Cuve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008
Coopers Creek SV Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 'Gimblett Gravels' 2007
Hawkshead Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2009
Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Riesling 2008
Olssens Slapjack Creek Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 19 Bird Block Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Villa Maria Reserve Barrique Fermented Gisborne Chardonnay 2010

Click here to see my list of golden wines so far.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 24th 2011

Talking with Paul Henry on Radio Live about gimmicky wine labels

When you are browsing the wine shop shelves, in a quandary as to what to buy, how often do you pick up a bottle because a label catches your eye? Perhaps you are looking for something to impress your guests at a dinner party, a wine for a gift, something you think is going to be good to drink because it is adorned with medal stickers (or look-alikes), or perhaps you want something with a quirky label as a conversation starter.

You find something that's right for the occasion, but is it within budget? If it is, you put it into your shopping basket. If it isn't you move on.

But the last criteria is what's inside the bottle. Is it going to live up to your expectations? If it has won a gold medal, then you will be getting a really good wine inside. Wine show results can be a great buying guide, so if it has won a gold medal at a wine show in Australia or New Zealand, or is recommended by a wine magazine, like Cuisine, then it has passed a rigorous test by a team of at least three judges.

The wines I've chosen today are gold medals winners from the 2011 New Zealand International Wine Show, wines that during the setup day for the wine show, were conversation pieces.

Ass Kisser Shiraz 2010 from South Australia is made by Rocland Estate – a producer with a range of gimmicky labels. My notes follow:

Deep red black in colour with a tempting chocolatey aroma and a smooth impression on the palate with vanilla, allspice, rosehips, mint, creamy oak, tar and a light seasoning of nut chocolate and pepper, it's rounded, complete and easy for Shiraz-lovers to drink.

Distributed in New Zealand by Sanz Global. Around $19-$20. To find out where to buy, email Martin.

d'Arenberg The Noble Botryotinia Fuckeliana Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is from McLaren Vale producer D'Arenberg Wines, the home of innovative labels and larger than life, daring to be different, winemaker Chester Osborn. Made from the classical Bordeaux sweet wine varieties, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, affected with botrytis, Chester has named his wine after the plant pathogen, Botryotinia Fuckeliana, named after botanist and mycologist, Karl Fuckel, 1821 - 1876. It's the causal agent of the more widely known Botrytis cinerea, aka Noble Rot. My notes follow:

A rich golden colour in the glass, it has an aroma that's heady with the scent of plumped-up dried apricots and honey and the taste is sweet and syruppy yet it has refreshing acidity that cuts through the sweetness and the lingering finish is tropically vibrant. A heavenly wine, that Paul described as 'Liquid Gold'. Absolutely!

Distributed in New Zealand by Negociants New Zealand, RRP about $28 for the 375ml bottle. If you can't find this rarity, however, there are other delicious sweet wines about. While D'Arenberg won three golds for sweet wines at NZIWS, others were De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2008, Forrest Estate Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2009, Hudson Late Harvest Martinborough Riesling 2009 and Seifried Winemakers Collection 'Sweet Agnes' Nelson Riesling 2011.

Click here for the audio of today's Wine Me Up Wednesday wine chat.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 24th 2011

Wine of the Week: 199 Gold Medal Wines

Finally able to surface after writing tasting notes for 199 gold medals wines for the NZ International Wine Show has made me think I can't do a Wine of the Week this week. After all, all I tasted last week was gold medal wines, and there were so many delicious wines to choose from. So what of these gold medal winners. Click here to read my thoughts.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 23rd 2011

Kumeu River and Melba's Potatoes

One of the highlights on the local wine writers' calendar, and indeed for collectors of fine New Zealand wine, is the annual vintage release of Kumeu River's chardonnays, this year the 2009s. Wine writers are invited to taste the wines and join the Brajkovich family for lunch: steak cooked by Paul on the wood-fired barbecue, Melba's potatoes, creamy mushrooms (last year the release was in May and the mushrooms came from the Hunting Hill vineyard) and fresh garden salad followed by delicious and sometimes stinky cheeses.

While Melba's potatoes are a great talking point, the wines are of course the raison d'etre for the gathering and they never disappoint.

The 2009 vintage wines are described by winemaker, Michael Brajkovich MW,  'after the ripe and luscious vintage of 2008 ... a little more restrained', however it was the acidity in these wines that seduced me. To me they are possibly the best I've seen since the remarkable range of Chardonnays released in 2006.  All of the wines are a clear light gold hue.

Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2009
Savoury aromas with a hint of pineapple to the scent. Spicy with a fine creamy texture, a citrussy infusion and the pineapple detected on the nose lingering with tropical fruit. A lovely balance of savouriness and fruitiness and always great value for money. 13% alc. About $16-18.

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009
Smoky with a tropical and pear-like bready infusion to the tantalising scent, and mealy, delicately yeasty flavours with integrated French oak, a little spicy in that respect with restrained tropical fruit, a hint of pineapple and a delicate honey nuance too. A little grainy right now but will become seamless with time. A multi-clonal selection. 13% alc. $40.

Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2009
Quite savoury smelling with smoky French oak, this is richly textured, yet tight and flinty with a grainy youthfulness too, like the oak, also youthful. There's a creamy mealy, savoury undercurrent and again pineapple comes through with a lovely brightness to the finish with exotic tropical fruit and smoky oak lingering. 100% Clone UCD 15. 13.5% alc. $45.

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2009
A little more restrained on the nose but with distinct lemon-scented floral aromas reminding me of my first freesia that came into bloom this week. Showing much promise in the palate, it is crisp and fresh with a lovely mealy undercurrent and again hints of pineapple and the lemon intrigue of the scent infusing the flavours too. Very dry and more complex than the Coddington, I thought.100% Clone UCD 15. 13.5% alc. $45.

Kumeu River Mate's Vineyard Chardonnay 2009
Similar to the Hunting Hill at first, but with time in the glass, more intense. Savoury, smoky, sophisticated and elegant with a richness and depth that's unique in the lineup and an intensely, long, rich finish with some lovely salty, zest nuances coming through. 100% Mendoza. 13.5% alc. $55.

The acidity is a key to all of these wines and they all have remarkable length. I think they will be very long lived.

White Burgundy, the wines of Puligny Montrachet, in particular, and the more elegant end of Mersault are the benchmark and inspiration for the Kumeu River style, so it was wonderful to have an opportunity to taste Mersault Coche Dury 2007 from the family's cellar and I could see in the latest Kumeu River releases shades of this remarkable wine. Smoky savoury scents with a hint of bacon, and leesy mealy flavours with a wonderful floral lemon undercurrent and a fine texture. A remarkable wine  and while it has more new oak, 100% maybe, the Kumeu Rivers are the closest in New Zealand you will get to this.

The Village and Estate are already released with the Single Vineyard wines available on September 1st. Find out more from

Melba's Potatoes
Recipe told to me by Melba

Hand select your potatoes to ensure you have only the best. Desiree potatoes are perfect for roasting and Agria potatoes are very good too. Peel and cut the potatoes into large chunks. Wash and take care to completely dry. Pour olive oil over the bottom of a baking dish to cover and add the potatoes. Drizzle a little of olive oil over the top and season with salt. Add whole cloves of unpeeled garlic and put the dish in the oven for the potatoes to roast, uncovered, at 180 to 200 degrees C. When you see them browning, turn them over. For perfect Melba potatoes that are crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, it will take one and a half to two hours but a watchful eye is needed to ensure they do not over brown.

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

Talking about wine and wine shows with Paul Henry on the Radio

I've been engrossed in the NZ International Wine Show for the last three days with the enviable job of tasting all of the gold medal wines, that the judges have chosen, to write notes for the booklet that is distributed to wineries and retailers after the Awards Dinner on September 3rd. So it wasn't possible for me to get into the Radio Live studio for my weekly wine chat with Paul Henry yesterday so we did it by phone. After having tasted 28 gold medal Shiraz and Syrah earlier in the morning, I was pretty pleased, actually, that Paul wouldn't get to see my new shade of 'Purple Shiraz' lipstick and my heavily black-stained tongue and teeth.  But despite the gory look to my mouth parts, being surrounded with beautiful wines and watching hunky rugby players train on the footie field that my room in the North Harbour Stadium overlooked, I was possibly getting near to heaven.

With over 2050 entries in the competition, over 8200 bottles of wine had been unpacked and set up in the main function room of the stadium.

  8200-bottles.jpg (81755 bytes)

"Why do you need so many," asked Paul and I explained, using Chardonnay as an example.

  • One bottle is opened for the initial round of judging.
  • If a wine scores a high silver or gold in the first round, a second bottle is opened for a second round of judging, to confirm the score.
  • The best scoring wines go forward to the trophy round for that variety, when a third bottle is opened .
  • The wine that is selected as the trophy winner then goes forward to the Champion Wine of the Show trophy.
  • As well there are the commercial red and white trophies, based on the wine price. So if a wine that wins the champion of its variety is in the commercial price category, it will be judged again for the commercial wine trophy. Sauvignon Blanc is a good example, as the best Sauvignon Blanc could quite possibly be a contender for the best commercial white wine.
  • Then every gold medal wine also has to be photographed, so four bottles is not actually enough for the 'best of the best' wines.

"That makes sense," he said.

Unique opportunity for Consumers

All of the gold medal wines from the NZ International Wine Show will be available for tasting at the unique Pick the Trophies tasting at the Crown Plaza Hotel from 6 – 9pm on Thursday 1st September. Tickets $30. See to download a ticket booking form or follow @nziws on Twitter. Tickets are limited and will only be available at the door if there are any tickets left. And it will be an exciting tasting, as I've just had word there are 199 gold medal wines this year.

Newsy Item

Paul and I also talked about the recent World Pinot Noir Ranking that Californian sommelier, Russ Meek, had organised. Twenty top pinot noirs representing France (5), California (5), Australia (4), Oregon (3), New Zealand (2) and Germany (1) and a dozen knowledgable judges to rank them. Amongst the wines, the most expensive was the revered Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache 1990 ($US5500.00). The NZ wines were Martinborough Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir 1998 ($US80) and Daniel Schuster Omihi Hills 2000 ($US80).

As the wines represented a number of vintages within a selected vintage window, the wines were all decanted, according to the winemakers instructions, before tasting, which the organiser feels gave a more even playing field.

Well the famous La Tache was ranked fifth and because it didn't win, there has been a huge outcry from winelovers around the world, and more controversial is that the two NZ wines were ranked higher. Daniel Schuster's came in 4th (with one judge giving it first place ranking), but Martinborough Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir was ranked overall as No. 1 (with three first place rankings). Interestingly La Tache received no first place votes, and only three of the 12 judges rated the Romanee La Conti higher than the Martinborough wine.

Here are a couple of links to this tasting – the first one will give you another link for the full list of wines.

The wine

Mark, Paul's producer, said he wanted something he could pick up from Glengarry's around the corner from Radio Live and I knew they had this stunner, which I had tasted a couple of weeks ago.

Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010, from the Bannockburn subregion, has the most amazing, intense plummy purple colour. Talk about drinking with your eyes! The aroma is gorgeous too, I got plums, spice, a hint of smoke … and the taste is just yum with spiced black cherries, that quintessential savouriness, a smooth cosy velvety feel to the texture and a touch of chocolate as the bright flavours linger. It's a big wine as far as Pinot Noir goes, but you can enjoy it now or let it evolve in the cellar. On special at Glengarry's this week for $34.90. Paul enjoyed it very much.

I haven't found a link to the podcast yet, but you can check out the previous week's podcast, when I reviewed Waimea Nelson Viognier 2009 and Mojo Barossa Shiraz 2010.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 15th 2011

Wine of the Week: Rock Ferry Central Otago Tempranillo 2009

Why would you plant the Spanish grape, Tempranillo, in Central Otago? Well, why not? It's inland high country with a semi-continental climate and in the summer the days are hot and perfect for ripening grapes. Rioja, on a high continental plateau, is surrounded by mountains that keep the chilly winds away. Sounds a little familiar to Central Otago in a way.

I was intrigued when I heard that Rock Ferry was growing the grape in Bendigo.
"Would I like to try the wine?" they asked.
" Too right," I replied.

I popped it into a tasting with several other varieties, including Pinot Noir. But the Tempranillo was distinctly varietal, and while the colour was like Pinot Noir, and the wine had cherry nuances too, that's where the similarity ended.

Click here to read the rest of this Wine of the Week entry.

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

Tasting someone else's favourite wines

The First Glass Wednesday tasting this week just past was 'Our Favourite Wines' and, being a First Glass tasting, I could guarantee that a few Chardonnays and Shirazes would be in there. So it was rather a surprise to find a Sauvignon Blanc as the first up wine! Well, Kingsley admitted that Sauvignon Blanc would not normally be in his favourite wines tasting but it was an opportunity to put this new vintage wine in front of his customers. It was Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3 Sauvignon Blanc 2011, and after tasting I think it will be one to look out for in the medal list of the 2011 New Zealand International Wine Show. Judging starts tomorrow and results will be out on August 22nd. The judges just have to get it right!

Chardonnays followed and while many people like the mellow and I thought slightly tired John Forrest Collection Marlborough Chardonnay 2006, my preference was the more youthful Sileni The Lodge Chardonnay 2009 from Hawkes Bay.

But it was the reds that were the most head-turning, starting with the chocolatey Chocolate Box Sparkling Barossa Shiraz 2009 - a chocolate lovers delight. But what do you match a chocolatey sparkling shiraz to? The subtitle of this wine is 'strawberry chocolate', so maybe strawberries and chocolate? I feel an experimental wine and food matching session coming on. What a good excuse to open a bottle of this wine.

After a few cheapies we hit the heavyweights, including John Riddoch Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. But my Wine of the Night was Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 2008, now made from McLaren Vale fruit. I can see in this wine shades of some of the best New Zealand Syrahs - and interestingly, for an Aussie, it's labelled Syrah not Shiraz.

All of the wines are reviewed on my Wednesday Roundup page.

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

Stellar reds from north of the tunnels

A heads up for my Rodney Times column today – five wines reviewed from Matakana – all particularly stellar. Did you know that the tiny winegrowing region of Matakana has almost as many grape varieties as producers? Seven different white varieties make up 40% of the vineyard area while fifteen different reds take the majority 60%. Some of the vines are still in their infant years, however, but it won't be long before all 22 will produce grapes to harvest.

The white varieties are Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Flora, Albarino, Roussanne and Semillon. The reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Carmenere, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, Barbera and Tannat.

The reason for the diversity is, I feel, is that Matakana is a young wine-growing region and while traditional Bordeaux varieties lured the early players, the temperamental weather conditions meant that quality from year to year could not achieved. Could something else be more consistently reliable? Perhaps the only way to find out is to plant it and see.

Ransom Carmenere 2008, $32, is a succulent wine with juicy red fruits, hints of violets, tannins the texture of suede and a very dry yet majestic finish. Matured and seasoned American oak. "American oak seems to be able to ameliorate a green edge which Carmenere can sometimes displays," winemaker Robin Ransom says. I say it's a sensational match to lamb shanks.

Ransom Dark Summit 2007, $38, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. With 22 months in oak, it has a smoky aroma and a profound depth of fruit with firm tannins, a meaty veneer, a hint of liquorice and a full-bodied savoury end.

Ransom K Syrah 2008, $39, is a striking wine with a rich, creamy aroma and flavours initially tarry and savoury becoming rather juicy. Blackberry and raspberry fruit, cake spices and plenty of oak make provide a robust mouthful of succulent red. (Not reviewed in today's column as I've got a later spot for this wine, but useful to include here.)

Hyperion the Titan Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, $39, is savoury from the outset with firm tannins and a dried mint character. Plum and blackcurrant fruit, and vanillin oak sweetness, balances the savouriness and the finish is powerful and long.

Ascension The Bell Ringer Pinotage 2010, $29, is generously fruity with velvety tannins, creamy oak and lingering flavours of chocolate and cherry. Aged in American oak and very approachable already.

Herons Flight Sangiovese Dolcetto 2009, $44, is the lightest in the lineup, but this more medium-bodied wine is by no means least. This marriage of Italian grapes has produced a perfumed, silky-textured wine with a lovely ripe fruit character, and perhaps even a hint of liquorice. Beautifully packaged in a tall bottle with a bronze heron. A real treat.

You can read the original article in the digital version of the paper - flick through to page 14. Registration is required, but it's free.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 10th 2011

A Highs and Lows Tasting

Tasting wines in pairs, blind, one very expensive (the high), one a lot cheaper (the low), which one would I prefer? Would price or palate dictate what was the best. Well of course my palate would dictate what it thought was best, but interestingly, as it turned out, my favourite of every pairing was the more expensive. No bargains for me at this tasting.

12,000 Miles Wairarapa Pinot Gris 2009 ($10.99 sp) was matched to the brand new Vavasour Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011 ($20.99 sp). The scintillating freshness of the younger wine was the key in the choice here.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Auckland Chardonnay 2010 ($31.99 sp) matched to Clearview Beachhead Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2010 ($31.99 sp) was really a non event. The Ihumatao was sensational – it's no surprise to find it was awarded the recent Spiegelau International Wine Competition's Champion Wine of Show.

Charles Wiffen Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2009 ($21.99 sp) another Spiegelau IWC Trophy winner, but Joseph Cattin 'Hatschbourg' Grand Cru Alsace Gewurztraminer 2009 ($49.99) was breathtakingly irresistible.

Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Pinot Noir 2010 ($16.99 sp) great buying if you like a lighter style. I'd rather spend more on the fuller, richer, Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 ($32.99 sp).

Jerome Quiot Côtes-Du-Rhone 2008 ($19.99) was a world apart from a Barossa counterpart. Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2008 ($44.99) stole this pairing.

Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2008 ($35.99) was immediately identifiable as Kiwi, and stood its ground well to the Australian pairing. But Penfolds South Australia St Henri Shiraz 2007 ($79.99 sp) just had something extra special.

Tasted at a First Glass Wednesday tasting, all of the wines are reviewed on my Wednesday Roundup page.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 9th 2011

Wine of the Week: Gladstone Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2009

When you hear about a wine winning award after award overseas, you wonder how it will stack up when you taste it in its homeland amongst its peers. Well, it seems the gongs were justified. The wine in question came top in my book too – both in the initial tasting and again with the food that was put on the table.

Gladstone Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2009 has taken Trophies from the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition 2010 for Overall Best Pinot Noir, which of course mean it receives the Best New World Pinot Noir. As well it has received a gold medal in the Selections Mondiales des vins Canada 2011. It adds to the gold medal haul that this Wairarapa Pinot has been accruing since 2004.

Here in New Zealand, silver medals and four star awards late last year was the best the Gladstone Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2009 has attained. But perhaps a little more time in the bottle since those awards was all that was needed to take it to the top homegrown rung? Click here to read the rest of this Wine of the Week entry.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 8th 2011

Seduced by Viognier

When people ask me what my favourite wine is, I usually say, 'the one in my glass'. But when it comes to whites I'm leaning more and more towards Viognier. As long as it's a good 'un. Like one of my absolute favourites from last year, the Moana Park Vineyard Selection Dartmoor Valley Viognier 2009 – reviewed as a Wine of the Week in May 2010. Sadly my last bottle was opened on Saturday night. But gosh, this wine had blossomed from time in the bottle. I said in my May 2010 review it was 'verging on the irresistible'. Well, it had become absolutely irresistible and with four of us drinking, it evaporated quite quickly.

I've already written up two Viogniers this year as Wines of the week, Churton Marlborough Viognier 2010, and Seresin Marlborough Viognier 2009, so I though I'd take the chance to highlight here some of the Viognier samples I've been sent – the reviews are on my Viognier page but I haven't blogged about them yet.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Viognier 2010 is temptingly aromatic with a hint of spicy oak and concentrated apricot quintessential to the variety. Fragrant also to the taste with apricot to the fore and an underlying bready richness. It has an ethereal grapey brightness that I really like, a very appealing rounded mouthfeel and a hint of tarragon on the finish lingering with apricot and spice. 100% barrel fermented. Yum, yum, yum! 14% alc. $24.95.

Waimea Nelson Viognier 2009 has a rich, full bouquet with tantalising apricot and ripe peach scents, some rose petal florals too. A sweet honeyed style with an undercurrent of oak and ripe fleshy stonefruit infused with citrus. Beautifully balanced and furthermore, it takes chilling well. 14% alc. $23.90.

Gladstone Vineyard Wairarapa Viognier 2010 has a lovely rich, spice-infused creamy aroma with distinctive apricot scents that carry through to the mellow palate. Apple joins in with a little bit of spice and a zing of underlying citrus adding zest. Fermented in tank with 20% matured in older French oak. 14.2% alc. $24.00

Dry River Martinborough Estate Viognier 2009 – the spicy scent combines with nuts, apple and apricot with a hint of pineapple coming through. In the palate the spice is zingy and the fruit is juicy - there's apple, apricot, tropical fruit and pear. Seems to have high acidity, or perhaps it's the phenolics, but the edges are rounded and there's honey too. And as with all Dry River wines, it's even better when tasting the second half of the bottle the next day. Alcohol is 14% and price was about $55.   However I think I preferred the Dry River Martinborough Estate Viognier 2010 tasted in September 2010 – a hedonistic wine, which means when it was a no-brainer choice as a Wine of the Week.

As for my favourite Viognier and food match - crayfish reigns supreme, but that is out of the budget, so fresh salmon is my next-best Viognier treat. A spice-rubbed crispy skin, to complement the spicy nuances in the wine, and barely cooked in the middle so it melts in the mouth when you eat it. Easy to prepare and so long as the salmon is not overcooked, always satisfying.

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

Wine Me Up Wednesday and a very expensive white

On Radio Live with Paul Henry for Wine Me Up Wednesday (isn't that a great name) we discussed the 200-year-old bottle of Chateau d'Yquem, 1811 vintage, that sold at auction in the UK at a record price for a white. £75,000 (UK pounds) was the winning bid and I worked this out to be, from the exchange rate on Wednesday, $141,451.981 (New Zealand dollars). It made me think what a good time it is for us to be investing in wines like this. Top end wines in overseas auctions. The reason being, with our dollar currently so strong against other currencies, it makes such an investment one that has to see a good return ... because no doubt the kiwi dollar will drop again. Lets go back to November 2009, when the Sterling – NZ Dollar languished at a 25-year low, say when it cost $2.27 to buy £1. Then the £75,000 paid for the 1811 Chateau d'Yquem would have been the equivalent of NZ$170,250. Maybe it is something our exporters should be thinking of as they lament the strong kiwi dollar, the ROI they could make on a few well-thought out investment purchases and how it might offset the pain they are feeling right now.

Going back to 1811 Chateau d'Yquem, the news item I read, at this link, indicated the rigorous checks the bottle underwent to prove its authenticity. They say, " … on removal of the capsule the full printed cork was examined to prove this ancient bottle was authentic." This made me wonder how could they inspect the cork for authenticity without pulling it out. And if the cork was pulled out, did someone have a sneaky and very expensive sip?

On Wine Me Up Wednesday, the wines reviewed were Villa Maria Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010, the same wine that was purchased for the Queen's Cellar, and Vidal Reserve Series Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2009.

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Villa Maria Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 has a bright fruity aroma and punchy flavours of tropical fruit, citrus and summer herbs. Villa Maria has moved onto the 2011 vintage at the winery but the 2010 is still around in retail. Prices ranges from $13 to $22.

Vidal Reserve Series Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2009 has a cosy-looking purple-crimson colour and a pepper-infused berry aroma. It's medium to full-bodied with silk-edged velvety tannins, juicy berry fruit and just the right amount of oak and seasoning of pepper and anise. It's well balanced, soft and very appealing. Best as a food wine, and best if you get rid of any Sauvignon Blanc residue in your mouth before you taste it. Price ranges from $24 to $32.

Click here to listen to the audio.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 1st 2011

Tasting Rieslings in Winter is better

Now that it's cooler it's a good time to taste Riesling. I was finding until just recently, well up until the end of May in fact, the most sub-tropical May on Auckland's records by the way, that if I tasted the Riesling at room temperature the wines would warm up in the glass on the table. This wasn't good for evaluation and a definite handicap for the sweeter-styled wines in particular. But chilling the wines to the bones, while good for the sweeter-styled wines, over-accentuated the acidity in the wines that were very dry. I realised if I was going to taste Riesling in flights it was essential to taste together wines with a similar Riesling Taste Profile - determined from the wine's residual sugar, acid and pH. But that's only for the wines we have the relevant data for. The others we have to guess.

So in early July I chose six Rieslings with RTP points in the dry to off-dry range. They had been stored in the unheated spare bedroom where the temperature was about 11 degrees C. And there was no chance of the wines warming up in the glass, either.

These were my favourites:

Palliser Estate Martinborough Riesling 2010  - rich and juicy, lots of flavour, citrus (hinting of grapefruit) and tropical fruit in abundance. Very dry finish but well balanced and appealing. 12.5% alc. $18.

Te Mania Nelson Riesling 2010 - a class act. Limes and tropical fruit with wonderful balance of acidity to the off dry sweetness. Fresh, focussed and harmonious with juicy flavours lingering. 13%. $19.

Richmond Plains Nelson Riesling 2010 - delicate honeysuckle and tropical fruit aromas and off dry flavours. The freshness of juicy apple with freshly squeezed mandarin and a subtle hint of spice, finishing dry. 12%. $20.

Gladstone Wairarapa Riesling 2010 - a moderately weighty Riesling with a sherbet-like tingle, a flinty backbone and a lingering flavour of orange zest and anise. 12.3%. $24.

Hawkshead Central Otago Riesling 2010 - a bright expression of dry Riesling with fresh yet tight acidity, hints of orange zest, a touch of honey and five spice. Concentrated finish. Fabulous length. Shows potential to age. 12.4%. $22.

With Riesling on my mind I had splashed out seafood, a rare treat these days. I thought pan-fried gurnard would be a perfect. But it  proved not to be the case. Only one wine sparked, which sadly this echoes previous experiences - it makes me think only certain styles of Riesling work with white-fleshed seafood and Sauvignon Blanc is proving more versatile in this respect. So while the Palliser and the Te Mania were hard to separate in the tasting evaluation, it was the Palliser that was the star Riesling and seafood combination. Thus the Palliser Estate Martinborough Riesling is this week's Wine of the Week. Click here to read the review.

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