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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: October 2011
Oct 29th: Cellared Neudorf, brand new Greywacke and other vinous stars
Oct 27th: Learning about Chianti for a tasting on Radio Live
Oct 24th: Drinking Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay for the RWC Final
Oct 23rd: Drinking Australian wines for the RWC Bronze Final
Oct 19th: NZ v France taste-off on Radio Live - hysteria takes over
Oct 16th: How many wine shows do we need?
Oct 12th: Talking about Rosé with Paul Henry on Radio Live
Oct 10th: Pinot Gris excites with several stars revealed
Oct 5th: Tasting Syrah, Shiraz and Petite Sirah on Radio Live
Oct 4th: Ring around the Rosies
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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 29th 2011

Cellared Neudorf, brand new Greywacke and other vinous stars

Friday night drinks is always eagerly looked forward to. He who pours the wines chooses something that I don't have to write about - but sometimes I can't help myself. Last week it was the excellent Villa Caffagio Riserva Chianti Classico 1995. Browning but still dark in the core, the bouquet brought back lots of memories - like six month old Christmas cake and red paint on lead pencils. Robust for its age, yet mellow at the same time, with plums, cherries, bloody game and smooth tannins over a moderately full-bodied backbone, it was a sumptuous wine where vinosity reigns. We were so relieved that the cork did its job without spoiling the wine.

There were no such fears with this week's wine because, although it was 10 years old, it had a screwcap. But could I guess it was ten years old on tasting? Heck, no! And did it matter that it had been cellared in the refrigerator for a couple of years? No, no, no! This was Neudorf Moutere Riesling 2001 and sported a screwcap because Neudorf were founder members of the New Zealand Screwcap Initiative launched that vintage year. In the glass the wine is citrine gold with a gem-like vitreous glow. Intriguingly there's a white mushroom nuance to the honeyed scent - rather sensual actually. And more intriguing is the creamy texture. The flavour profiles were to me like sweet orange marmalade and toast tempered by vibrant acidity that indicates it still has the legs to keep on going. Beautifully balanced, lovely off dry sweetness, moderately low alcohol (10.5%)  and such a delight to sip and savour. I have to say it takes great self-discipline to keep a wine this long, but the wait was totally worth it.

On Wednesday night at the First Glass tasting, the theme was based around Cuisine magazine's Top 10 Pinot Noirs. But only eight Pinot Noirs were tasted, which left some gaps. It's not often to have a tasting at First Glass without Chardonnay, and this tasting was no exception. It's important to me to taste wines blind so I'm not influenced by the label. Top wines should be able to stand up to the reputation that precedes them. And this was the case with Greywacke Marlborough Chardonnay 2009. I had tasted it at a trade tasting in June and it was the most talked about wine in the room. I never would have thought that Kevin Judd would make such an oaky wine - barrel fermented and matured for 16 months, although just 25% of the oak was new. But on Wednesday it was even more impressive as the boisterous oak had settled. It  smelt tantalising with sweet oak and grapefruit and a fine citrussy seam to the seamless malt and smoky oak flavours with something that reminded me of Top Top's caramel butterscotch crunch 'Trumpet' ice cream. Utterly delicious. $39 a bottle on the night.

Wednesday's tasting was quite terrific with this Chardonnay and many Pinot Noir stars, including my favourites on the night, Thornbury, Olssens and the ever reliable Wooing Tree.  Click here to read my reviews.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 27th 2011

Learning about Chianti for a tasting on Radio Live

When Paul Henry said he wanted to taste Chianti for one of our Radio Live wine chats, it was time for me to brush up on Chianti facts. I knew Chianti was Italy's best known red wine but what else did I know about it? Well, I did know that the raffia-covered bulbous-like flasks, common twenty years or so ago, are only likely to be spotted as candle holders in traditional Pizzerias these days. So I turned in to a Chianti swat for a day. And here's what I found out.

  • Chianti is named for the Chianti Mountains in Tuscany between Florence and Sienna.
  • In the 14th century Chianti was a white wine, but by the late 17th century it was a red wine.
  • Today Chianti encompasses eight sub-regions, the oldest and most famous being Chianti Classico, defined in 1716.
  • Sangiovese is the most important red grape in Chianti
  • Sangiovese translates to Blood of Jove (ie Jupiter)
  • Bettino Ricasoli, Prime Minister of Italy 1861-1862 and 1966-1867, is credited with the modern recipe for Chianti: Sangiovese as the predominant variety together with Canaiolo (red) and Malvasia (white). Later Trebbiano (white) would be allowed.
  • For a wine to be labelled Chianti Classico the Sangiovese component must be between 80 and 100% and since 2006, no white grapes have been allowed.
  • For all other Chianti wines, there must be 75 to 90 % Sangiovese, between 5-10% Canaiolo, between 5-10% white grapes Malvasia and/or Trebbiano and up to 10% other grapes.
  • Chianti Classico Riserva wines must spend 24 months in oak and a further 3 months in the bottle before release.
  • Chianti Classico wines proudly display a gallo nero, or black cock on the neck tag.
  • Wines from any of the Chianti subregions can claim DOCG status. This stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita and means that the origin of the wine is guaranteed. It doesn't mean the quality of the wine is guaranteed.
  • Chianti is designed to go with food. Try pizza, pasta and antipasto.

We tasted Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico 2008, a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 5% Canaiolo. The colour is a dense dark ruby with red cherry flashes, translucent not opaque (a little like Pinot Noir for some idea of comparison). The perfume is initially farmyardy savoury but there's a dried rose nuance and hints of dried herbs too. It's a medium bodied, smooth, generous wine with firm but supple tannins and warmth to the dry finish where a rustic savouriness comes through. It costs about $26 - $29 from fine wine stores and restaurants that have a decent Chianti Classico on their list. Alcohol is listed at 13.5% and it is sealed with a natural cork.

Click here for the audio of our Wine Chat - and hysteria got the better of us, once again. But gosh, I have to say laughing is a great tonic in life - almost as good as a good red (or white) wine.

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

Drinking Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay for the RWC Final

What a night it was last night with the Rugby World Cup final between the All Blacks and France. Tense for sure. Did anyone predict a final score with single figures to each side and a one point margin? Some heart-stopping moments in the last 20 minutes, so when the final whistle blew there was a collective sigh of relief because it was New Zealand that had the one point lead. We were the winners.

The wines we drank were winners too. Outstanding Marlborough chardonnays from Dog Point Wines. I had accrued a mini-vertical, vintages 2007, 2008 and 2009, and as stay at home rugby watchers it seemed an ideal time to open them to taste and then to accompany with a chicken dish I had cooked and liked a couple of weeks ago.

The Dog Point chardonnays are exciting, refined and elegant wines - they are the Kumeu River of Marlborough - stylish chardonnays for true chardonnay lovers. Fermented in French oak by the action of indigenous yeasts, they are smoky and savoury with fine citrus acidity and expand in the palate with vinosity and flavour.

Consequently I have chosen Dog Point Chardonnay - no particular vintage - as this week's Wine of the Week - click here to read my review.  You 'll also find the recipe for a delicious chicken recipe where the chicken and sauce are infued with tangelo juice and zest - the citrus just so complimentary to the wines.

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

Drinking Australian wines for the RWC Bronze Final

It was going to be a taste-off of the wines of countries playing the Rugby World Cup bronze final but as I had no access to Welsh wine the tasting was, unlike the result of the game, a one-sided affair. The quartet of Aussie wines came from McLaren Vale-based Penny's Hill and Woop Woop and the varieties were chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

Penny's Hill 'The Handshake' Chardonnay 2010 with fruit sourced from the Adelaide Hills is a fantastic welcoming wine – kudos for the clever name. I have a great deal of respect for chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills, and this fulfilled all expectations. A lovely bright chardonnay with a toasty nuance, a creamy backbone, a pleasing mealy influence and a citrussy finish with a flourish of zest, the mouth becomes coated with butterscotch as the flavours linger. It was terrific with a homemade pork pate, and the star anise pod that I chewed – wow, just a fantastic combo. It's 13.5% alcohol with a screwcap closure and 20% of the wine was ferment in seasoned French oak for 5-6 months.

As we knew nothing about the producers, or the wines, they weren't tasted blind and the three reds were poured to accompany a stuffed leg of lamb with bacon, garlic and mint in the stuffing, and a mint jelly accompaniment.

Woop Woop Cabernet 2010 has South Eastern Australia as the grape source, but it also states  'predominantly McLaren Vale'. Interestingly the name means somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and I remember saying, "it's in the Woop Woops" for somewhere the back of beyond. So this Australian colloquialism is also a kiwi one. As for the wine, it's a bright dark red hue and the aroma is raspberry with a boiled lolly overtone and a savoury nuance too. On the medium side of full-bodied with fine tannins and perfumed fruit, it's soft with a lingering finish. The label is whimsical, drawing your eye to the distant landscape. We all gave this wine the thumbs up. It's 14.5% alcohol with a screwcap closure and a percentage of the wine spent 9-12 months in French and American oak.

Penny's Hill Edwards Rd McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is immediately fuller. It's black red with crimson highlights and the aroma is of chocolate, oak spice and mixed berries set in blackberry jelly. This is a strong tasting wine with firm tannins and bright acidity adding freshness. Momentarily the flavours of cedar, mint and cassis have you thinking of a region further east but the chocolatey nuances whisk those thoughts right back to the Vale. A wine that works well as a food match right now, but will evolve magnificently in the cellar. I'd love to drink this in three years time. It's 14.5% alcohol with a screwcap closure and spent 13 months in French and American oak (30% new).

Penny's Hill Malpas Road McLaren Vale Merlot 2010 was my favourite. A brighter red-hued colour, but still dense and dark. Aromas of plum jam cooking on the stove with some herbal notes and hints of sweet smoky vanillin oak. A lovely, bright, fresh, berryish wine with a well-balanced savoury backbone, hints of mint and a pleasing sappy character, it was drinking beautifully on the night and a terrific accompaniment to the lamb. It's 14.5% alcohol with a screwcap closure and spent 14 months in new and seasoned French oak.

The wines are made by Ben Riggs - now that's a famous Aussie wine name! Stylish wines and recommended to accompany a meal.

Federal Geo are bringing these wines into New Zealand. Check out and to find out more.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 19th 2011

NZ v France taste-off on Radio Live - hysteria takes over

As a lead-up to Sunday's Rugby World Cup final, when New Zealand will battle France at Eden Park for the title, a mini New Zealand versus France wine battle took place in the Radio Live studio in Ponsonby today on Paul Henry's drive time show today. The wines I took in were the gold medal winning Tohu 'Rore' Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 and Domaine Gachot-Monot Cote de Nuits Villages 2009 but Paul had no idea which one was which, as the wines were served blind. The number 1 on the base of one glass, and the number 2 on the other, the only identification.

Domaine Gachot-Monot Cote de Nuits Villages 2009 was wine number 1. This has a translucent cherry-ruby colour and the scent, while moderately restrained, has a classic Burgundian earthy savouriness with floral nuances and hints of cherry.
Cherry comes through in the taste and while the wine initially seems 'hard', it opens up beautifully, the tannins dissolve, and as the flavours linger they leave you wanting more. This finish is delicate but the pleasing taste lingers for ages.
13.5% alc. Cork closure. $40. Available from Maison Vauron.

Tohu 'Rore' Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 was wine number 2. This is a little more intense in colour but of a similar hue, and it is richer and fuller both on the nose and in the palate.
The bouquet is chocolate and cherry while the taste is quite smoky with firm tannins, sweet juicy red and black fruits, a savoury gamey undercurrent, a touch of thyme, some brambly characters, and a long lingering raspberry and chocolate finish.
14% alc. Screwcap closure. $36-$39. Available from traditional fine wine stores. See for stockists.

I am sure Paul wanted New Zealand to win, but he thought the richer fuller Tohu was the Burgundian wine, so picked number 1 as the Kiwi and also affirmed it as his favourite. I hope his selection, as a prediction for the rugby, is wrong. We will all be devastated. However the wine stood its ground in the tasting. And that's what blind tasting is all about. 

As for the title of this blog entry – you'll just have to listen to the podcast. As I take Paul through the 10 steps of wine tasting you will know what I mean. Click here to listen.


Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 16th 2011

How many wine shows do we need?

Wine shows, wine shows and more wine shows. In the past few months there has been the Bragato Wine Awards, the New Zealand International Wine Show, the New World Wine Awards, the Marlborough Wine Show, the Upper North Island Wine Challenge, the Hawkes Bay Wine Awards and the International Aromatic Wine Competition. And in the UK, the judging of New Zealand wines entered into the International Wine and Spirits Competition took place. But that's not all because in a couple of weeks, the one that's most important to New Zealand Winegrowers, the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, is judged.

Most, but not all, have eligibility criteria such as: grown within a certain area for regional shows; wine variety for the varietal (eg aromatic) shows; price restrictions for under-$25 shows, wine availability (eg minimum cases) for several shows; sustainability criteria for NZ Winegrowers shows. Each also has a different set of entry fees.

So many shows. How many do we need? Are shows just a way for a producer to somehow get a gong to use in marketing, after all there are not many wines that win gold at more than one competition. I know many wines are entered into more than one competition yet the strike rate so far this season for multiple show golds is 15%. Last year it was 18%.

And how does one keep up? Thank goodness for websites like that lists all the medal winners of most New Zealand competitions. And of course there is my 'Gold Medal Summary' page right here on Today I updated the page with every New Zealand show and one overseas show that's taken place since the first of the 2011 wines hit the market and for gold medal wine drinkers, there is plenty of choice – 297 wines in fact.

But there has been some noise on Social Media sites about knowing the number of wines entered in each competition (usually, but not always, stated); the number of wines in each class (hardly ever stated); and the failure to disclose the wines that were deemed unworthy of an award. If we take so much interest in the gold medal winners, wouldn't it be nice to know the wines the judges least preferred as well?

Well, the New World Wine Awards, on their comprehensive wine awards website, has taken the unusual step of including the 'no award' wines in the full list of results that can be downloaded in PDF format. Good on you! While I don't agree with some of the 'no award' results, it's interesting to see what the judges thought of the wines on the day. Like @winescribe said on Twitter, "Really! The fabulous Main Divide Riesling 2009 a 'no award' wine. Perhaps it should have been judged as it's made to be drunk – if it was chilled the result would have quite likely have been gold."

Some of the overseas wine competition websites are a bit harder to decipher, perhaps because they are so big and a search facility is needed. But how important are the overseas results anyway? I think I'd take more notice if New Zealand wines were judged against other countries, but at IWSC, for example, they are judged by subregion in New Zealand and then special awards for each subregion are given out. This year there were four 'Best in Class' winners for Central Otago pinot noirs, and a similar number for Marlborough sauvignon blancs. And many of these classes had only one gold medal winner. I'd like to know just how big each class was, for example the 'Sauvignon Blanc – Waihopai 2010' class?

Sorry, I can't get excited about 'Best in Class' winners. But I can get excited about overall Trophy winners, like Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009, winner of the Bouchard Finlayson Trophy for Best Pinot Noir from anywhere in the entire competition. Now that is a fabulous achievement and cements New Zealand as the most successful Pinot Noir producer in the history of this Trophy award.

Below is a list of Bouchard Finlayson successes and while there are a couple of gaps (if you know what won the trophy in the gap year, please let me know), New Zealand features most heroically.

2011: Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 (NZ)
2010: Black Estate Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 (NZ)
2009: Mount Dottrel Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 (NZ)
2008: Remarkable Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir 2006 (NZ)
2007: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005 (NZ)
2006: Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004 (NZ)
2005: Domaine Alfred Calida Pinot Noir 2002 (Calif, USA)
2004: Yering Station Reserve Pinot Noir 2002 (Yarra Valley, Vic, Aus)
2003: Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2001 (South Africa)
2001: Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 1999 (NZ)
1997: Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 1994 Reserve (NZ)
1996: Ata Rangi Pinot Noir (NZ)
1995: Ata Rangi Pinot Noir (NZ)

So either gold medal winners are for you, or they are not. If they are, then I've given you the headups to find out hundreds of winners. 297 golds already - and with the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, the Sydney International and the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards to come, the number for the 2011-2012 season could be heading towards 600.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 12th 2011

Talking about Rosé with Paul Henry on Radio Live

Today we tasted Ti Point 'Tess' White Merlot 2011 from grapes grown on the Matakana Coast, and Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Rosé 2011 from Marlborough.

"Is this a Rosé?" asked Paul, of the White Merlot, the pink so pale it was barely there. The Lawson's Dry Hills, on the other hand, sparkled like a spinel gemstone. The wines had been in the refrigerator overnight and were transferred to my wine bag about one hour before opening. They are wines that are exhilarating after chilling, wines made for summer, or to drink in winter to remind you of summer. The Ti Point wine was quite subtle, a wine I recommend to Pinot Gris drinkers. The Lawson's Dry Hills had the delicious taste of ripe Pinot Noir grapes and got Paul's nod as his favourite.

I prepared this list: Ten things you probably never knew about rosé

1. Rosé simply means pink. A wine labelled rosé could be made from anything. It could be still, it could be sparkling, it could be dry, it could be sweet. There are no rules for a wine labelled rosé but of course in France there are appellation laws that dictate what can go into a wine that bears the appellation name. We call these wines rosés but they don't bear that name.

2. Red wine gets it colour from the grape skins. A rosé that is made from red grapes spends only a few hours on the skins to pick up colour where as a red spends days, perhaps even weeks.

3. Some rosés are made from white wine with a dash of red wine added to give the pink colour. Frowned upon by wine snobs, but that's actually how some Champagne rosés are made. Pink Sauvignon Blanc anyone? Crossroads Winery introduced a pink sauv in 2009, the colour coming from a dash of Syrah.

4. Other names for rosé are pink, blush, white, saignée, vin gris, rosado (Spanish), rosato (Italian). Clairet is a dark rosé from Bordeaux.

5. In the 1980s in the USA it was fashionable to drink white wine, so the red winemakers introduced white reds (ie pinks). White Zinfandel accounts for 10% of all wines sales in the USA and outsells full-bodied red Zins at a ratio of 6:1.

6. Pinky coloured wines made from 100% white grapes are not rosés, they are oranges.

7. Still rosés never do well in general wine competitions because they are not tasted in conditions that show them at their best. Those that do win gold medals are dry and usually close to a light red in style. Sweet rosés need to be chilled and that's just not feasibly possible at most wine competitions.

8. Sparkling rosés, particularly Champagnes, do do well at wine competitions. Sparkling wines are always chilled for judging.

9. The most popular rosé ever sold in New Zealand, and probably internationally, is Mateus Rosé from Portugal. A slightly fizzy wine, very cult in the 1970s, it was bought not only for the contents of the bottle, but for the bottle - the unique shape making it popular as a candle holder and for leatherwork. Check out this 1971 TV commercial on YouTube.

10. Pink wines outsell white wines in France.

There's a Rosé Revolution going on!  Cheers, Sue

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

Pinot Gris excites with several stars revealed

So once again, for the second tasting of three just recently, the wine pourer and I disagree on our top wine of the tasting. It's not surprising really because the taste of wine is an art of subjectivity.

"Well, I might have been biased by the label," the wine pourer says.

And that's one of the reasons I taste blind. He chooses the wines, he pours the wines, we both taste the wine and while I don't score them points out of 20 or 100, they get ticks and crosses and are ranked in order of preference.

We see if that preference stands when we taste the wines with food and we have another sip of the wines the following day.

Interestingly, in the initial tasting of these eight Pinot Gris, we did agree on some things. We both rated four wines as a top group; there was one wine in a middle group waving its flag all on its own, and the other three we ranked as our least preferred group. My least preferred wines could have been interchangeable. Classic Pinot Gris, unmistakably Pinot Gris, nothing wrong with them per se – good clean wines but just lacking a little excitement in the context of the tasting. But if the wines were poured at a social function or as a drink before or with dinner, you'd nod your head silently and think okay.

So once we knew our preference, we tried the four wines again. I wouldn't budge from my favourite, the Seresin Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009. And when I found out what it was I thought perhaps bottle age had contributed to its complexity. A full-bodied savoury wine with delicious fruit intensity, an exotic spiciness, a honeyed sweetness and a tingle of tangelo on the bready finish.

Neil's favourite was Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010. Yes, the one with the label, the one with the cachet. Texturally intriguing with bright fruity flavours and a savoury undercurrent with accents of grapefruit on the finish.

I really loved the Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011, so bright and fresh in the tasting, but I wonder if it there is a splash of Sauvignon Blanc in there. Will I ever know? Probably not. The fruity aroma is tantalisingly appealing and the flavours are juicy and delicious with apples, pears, an infusion of citrus and honeydew melon. Interestingly my top three wines, this the Seresin and the Greywacke, all had some degree of fermentation in older oak and wild yeasts.

And rounding out the top four was Devils Staircase Central Otago Pinot Gris 2011, made by the folks at Rockburn. There's an exotic nuance to the scent and fleshy fruit flavours with citrus exciting the finish. It's bright and clean with just the right amount of fruit sweetness and should have wide appeal. This was Neil's second favourite by the way and simply delicious with a favourite orange and fennel pork recipe.

Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2011 was the lone middle group flag-waver. The bouquet, perfumed with tropical fruit, cherimoya and sweet apple, follows through to the citrus zest-infused palate. Bright acidity and a warm texture makes this a very appealing wine to drink.

We both placed the next three wines in the order reviewed.

Rock Ferry Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009 is quite a steely wine with a citrussy attack and the sometimes earthy nature of the Pinot Gris grapes apparent. But its best asset was the finish – long, light, bright and definitely quite pleasing. I think bottle age has added to its complexity.

Stoneleigh Latitude Pinot Gris 2011 is full-bodied and textural with lovely flow across the palate and juicy flavours of nectarines, apples and pear. Plenty of appeal to Pinot Gris drinkers but lacking the x-factor for me. I had tasted this wine a couple of weeks ago with winemaker Jamie Marfell at a consumer tasting at First Glass. But then it was not tasted blind. I was glad I had a bottle to put in this lineup.

Flying Sheep Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris 2010, made by Osawa Wines, is warmly textured with flavours of apples and pears, a touch of ginger to tickle the top of the tongue and a gentle savoury depth to the finish, but just lacks the fruity brightness of some of the others.

So one of these wines is my Wine of the Week. Which one? All will be revealed here.

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

Tasting Syrah, Shiraz and Petite Sirah on Radio Live

With Paul Henry on holiday in the USA, today was the day to take a couple of spicy reds into the Radio Live studio to taste with Brent Impey. I picked two recent gold medal winners from the New Zealand International Wine Show, wines that I feel are outstanding value for money.

Trinity Hill is one of Syrah's leading lights in the Hawkes Bay and the Trinity Hill Homage Syrah shines most bright. It's a dense, rich Syrah, made from the oldest vines, and matured in the best oak until just right. But at $120 a bottle it's a wine that is elusive to many. But the entry level Syrah shows an inkling of what that top Syrah has achieved.

Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010 is a vivid blackberry red colour. There's an appealing richness to the scent that's floral, a little earthy and not overly peppery. It's smooth and creamy to the taste with juicy red fruits, chocolate and mocha and though it has a spicy edge, it's balanced by the supple velvety texture. There's a lovely savoury depth and a dry finish where floral nuances come through. Immensely drinkable and at the $18 to $22 price tag, it a fabulously priced top tasting New Zealand syrah. Find out more from

The Australian wine I took in is an 85% Shiraz, 15% Petite Sirah blend made by Quarisa Wines from grapes from the Griffith and Riverina regions in New South Wales. This is not your typical Aussie Shiraz because of 1. NWS fruit and 2. Petite Sirah, also known widely as Durif, and although it is derived from Syrah, it is not the same. Petite Sirah is common in California where the growers there have a banner, PS I love you. It has intense colour, gobs of fruit, a rich texture and and excellent cellaring potential. And it adds an 'X' factor to Shiraz.

Shot in the Dark Shiraz Petite Sirah 2008 is a purple red, opulent in appearance. The aroma is of chocolate biscuits, allspice, mocha, and pepper with floral nuances coming through. Compared to Trinity Hill, this is a deeper, fuller-bodied wine with firm grippy tannins, red fruits reminiscent of redcurrants and cherries, a smoky savoury undercurrent, hints of chicory and tar and the finish is smooth succulent and long with Black Forest chocolate flavours lingering. While a little full on at quarter to four in the afternoon, it would sure be a hit with a steak sandwich snack. Priced from around $14 to $18, in New World supermarkets and traditional liquor stores, it shouldn't be too hard to find.

If in doubt then check with the importer,

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

Ring around the Rosies

In 2005 and again in 2009 I noted that the first roses of summer were in bloom at this time of year. But in 2011 there is no early blooming, not on the rose bushes anyway although the Dublin Bay is budded and almost ready to go. However the first Rosé wines are out and I tasted the ones that arrived on my doorstep to see that they were like.

roses11.jpg (71623 bytes)

Waimea Nelson Pinot Rosé 2011 was my favourite of the tasting. Delicate pale ruby in colour, it smelt and tasted of pinot noir grapes. Enticingly fruity with richness to the flavour, it has a red berry freshness with underlying touches of strawberry. A serious Rosé that's quite dry, it does what it is meant to and the finish is tangy and fresh.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Rose 2011 was a very close second for me, but got the wine pourer's nod for top wine. A pretty baby pink colour with floral nuances to the strawberry and cherry aroma followed by cherry fruit that fills the palate. There's some spritz to the texture that adds freshness and verve and a finishing tingle of tangy sweet citrus. Dry, well-balanced and refreshing.

Ti Point Tess White Merlot 2011 hails from Matakana and the pink is so pale, it's barely there. It's a wine that I think will have wide appeal. A light wine, dare I say a little reminiscent of Pinot Gris with orchard fruit and the most delicate hint of citrus, and perhaps some strawberry nuances coming through, there's a mid palate vinous richness and the finish is clean.

Ake Ake Vin du Soleil 2011 is probably a first for New Zealand, as it is a Tempranillo and Chambourcin blend. Made from grapes grown on the Ake Ake Vineyard in the Bay of Islands, it proved to be the most food friendly later. There's a slight smoky whiff, perhaps the tobacco of Tempranillo, and the flavours are fruity in a fascinating fruit salad kind of way. A savoury backbone balances the fruit, it's just off dry, there's textural richness and the lingering flavours are pleasing.

Herons Flight un bacio dalba Sangiovese Rosé 2010 from Matakana may be one year old but is still very fresh. Juicy and flavoursome with a tickle of citrussy zest and lingering flavours of strawberry, it has a touch of sweetness but when well chilled it's beautifully balanced and I'm besotted when I'm kissed at the end by the lingering hint of tarragon.

Tohu Single Vineyard Pinot Rose 2011 was sweeter than the rest. A baby pink colour with an earthy pinot noir-like scent, fruit is in the strawberry and cherry spectrum and the finish is spicy.

Omata Estate Northland Summer Merlot 2011 has a savoury aroma with typical Merlot leathery nuances. A salmon pink colour, it's a rich wine in the palate but quite sweet, even with chilling. Tastes like fresh grapes with a berry richness coming through.

Brown Brothers Victoria Tarrango 2010 was the deepest coloured in the line-up, looking like a light red, rather than a Rosé, with dark ruby gem-like glow. A savoury leathery wine with grip, tannin, nuances of blackberries, tobacco and woody spices, it will stand up to hearty food, and indeed worked nicely the next day with Fegatini.

Gillman Matakana Clairet 2009, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, is a pinky red colour with a vibrancy to it, and while it looks like a deeper coloured Rosé that's where any similarity ends. That's because it's Clairet rather than Rosé, and with its vanillin oak and subtle tannins it was so different to the others, so I put it aside to look at later. But I liked it so much it's this week's Wine of the Week. Click here to read the review.

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copyright Sue Courtney 2011