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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: December 2011
Dec 31st: Wrapping up my New Zealand Wine Year
Dec 31st: Christmas Wine Highlights
Dec 21st: Drinking with Paul Henry on Wine Me Up Wednesday
Dec 20th: Two Pink Sweeties, Belated Thanks and Recent Wednesday Tasting Highlights
Dec 20th: Festive Bubbles
Dec 12th: And now for something completely different
Dec 9th: Back from a long weekend away, sans car
Dec 2nd: Top Pinot Gris a difficult food match and Wednesday highlights
Dec 1st: Tasting note catch-up on recycling day
Older Entries

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

Wrapping up my New Zealand Wine Year

It's come to that time when we reflect on the year that's passing. Of course wines feature in my reflections. These are the wines I've selected as my Wines of the Year and the close contenders.

Sauvignon Blanc

  • Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – well-priced, reliable and consistent
  • Invivo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – a top tasting treat and the best dressed on the shelf


  • Kumeu River – choose any one of their labels from Mate's to Hunting Hill, to Coddington, to the Estate – and even the super-priced Village. However Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2006 gets my nod as 'Chardonnay of the year'. I bought a bottle on museum release from the winery as a special birthday treat.

Close contenders for Chardonnay of the Year were

  • Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay - my 'Kumeu River of Marlborough' – a mini vertical earlier this year of the 2007, 2008 and 2009 was just incredible.
  • Villa Maria – can't go wrong with any of the Reserve or Single Vineyard labels although they drink best with a little age.
  • Morton Estate Black Label chardonnay 2007 – perfectly aged for drinking right now


  • Felton Road Block One Riesling 2009 from Central Otago – can New Zealand Riesling get any better? I bought this bottle a couple of years ago after scoring it 20/20 at its release tasting. To me it's perfection.

Riesling has to be served at the correct temperature and preferably with a little bit of age – don't be afraid to buy Riesling and cellar it for at least a couple of years – the rewards are worth it. Three from 2007 have stood out this year

  • Waipara Hills Equinox from Waipara
  • Waimea Bolitho Single Vineyard from Nelson
  • John Forrest Collection from the Wairau Valley

Pinot Gris

  • Dry River Martinborough Pinot Gris 2010 It's hard to go past this ethereal wine. From hundreds of Pinot Gris wines made in New Zealand, this is simply the best


  • Johanneshof Cellars Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2009 gets the nod as my Gewurztraminer of the Year.
  • Lawson's Dry Hills The Pioneer Gewurztraminer 2010 was a strong contender.


  • Waimea Nelson Viognier 2009 - affordable, tasty and pretty darn nice in a year where Viognier really captured my attention. I love well made Viognier.

Other stars were

  • Churton Marlborough Viognier 2010 – heady and concentrated
  • Seresin Marlborough Viognier 2009 – opulent and decadent

Other whites

  • Seresin Chiaroscuro – a scrumptious full-bodied blend of Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris

Pinot Noir

So many excellent labels from Central Otago – Akarua, Wooing Tree, Rockburn slip easily off the tongue. But Valli, made by Grant Taylor, is the name that escalates to prominence when it comes to my Pinot Noir of the Year. From three different sites – Gibbston Valley, Bannockburn and Waitaki Valley, I loved the Valli Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2008 but a vertical tasting of the Valli Gibbston Valley Pinot Noirs from the 2003 vintage to the current was a memorable highlight. It was a tasting that showed pretty, ruby coloured floral wines in youth, muscular wines in middle age and silky mellow caresses from the bricky pioneer and it's successor.

From the North Island this year the nod goes to Julicher – both their top Martinborough label and their more affordable and deliciously succulent 99 Rows. The 2009 vintages of both these wines were veritable highlights for me.

Cabernet Sauvignon etc

  • Love the Mills Reef reds, especially their Merlot Malbec blends (I'm a fan of Merlot Malbec blends) but the standout 'Bordeaux-styled' red during the year was the Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2009.
  • Also outstanding was Alpha Domus AD The Aviator 2007, which blew me away at the Negociants trade tasting in the middle of the year but it had already featured as a Wine of the Week in 2010. A subsequent tasting in August confirmed to my tastebuds this is one of the greats.
  • Also lighting up the tastebuds was Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – new label, incredible wine but must be cellared at this stage of its life.

Other Reds

  • Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Pinotage 2009 – if all Pinotage tasted like this, it would be as popular as Pinot Noir.


  • I'm not a big Syrah fan, but I really enjoyed the Elephant Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010 when tasting the gold medal winners at the New Zealand International Wine Show. A terrific follow-on to the highly awarded 2009 vintage of this label.

Sweet Wines

  • Forrest Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2009 – when you taste this honeyed nectar it's easy to realise why it has won so many 'Champion Sweet Wine' accolades over the past three years. And the accolades keep on coming. Will my 'Sweet Wine of the Year' count in the mentions?
  • Also a last minute contender gets a bouquet. Akarua Noir Ice 2011 - a decadently sweet wine made from frozen pinot noir grapes.

Wine Person of the Year – Sir George Fistonich

  • Sir George started Villa Maria 50 years ago in 1961. Now his family-owned wine group includes the Esk Valley, Vidals and Thornbury brands. Constant improvement has seen their wines excel across all varieties this year.
  • In 2011 Villa Maria won 35 trophies and 94 gold medals from a total 463 awards. In addition, Villa Maria took the top award at seven shows.
  • The Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010 also won four 'Champion Wine of the Shows' in just three months. What a momentous feat. It's a wine to be cellared for at least a couple of years for the most rewarding drinking, however.
  • Sir George was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Wine Challenge in London earlier this year.
  • Sir George is my Wine Person of the Year

So that's it from me for 2011. What will 2012 bring?

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

Xmas Feasting and Drinking

Our Xmas feasting traditionally starts on Xmas Eve and this year was no different. It is a huge food and wine occasion in our now depleted family. We go the extra when it comes to food and special wines are opened to share. And most importantly there's no worry about drinking and driving because we sleep over.

I went smoked salmon crazy, buying smoked salmon for both Xmas Eve and Xmas Day, but my sisters excelled with fresh tuna for the Eve and fresh salmon for an easy dinner after the lunch time feast on Christmas Day.

My main contribution to the Christmas Day feast was ham and this year I made an orange juice and port wine glaze, the oranges coming from our tree.

The glaze was orange zest, 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice, 1/2 cup of port (ruby is best) and 1 cup of brown sugar. The fat of the skinned ham was scored and studded with slices of oranges and cloves and basted several times throughout the 80 minutes of slow (160° C) cooking. The oranges were discarded before carving. The remaining glaze was reduced with more slices of fresh orange and a little mustard added in an attempt to counteract the sweetness. This was an awesome sauce for the ham. No other condiments were needed.

One of my sisters rolled and stuffed a boneless breast of turkey and wrapped it in bacon to keep it moist while cooking. Other accompaniments were new Jersey Bennie potatoes from Oamaru, fresh snow peas, baked pumpkin and orange kumara, and a fresh garden salad. Quite simple, really.

Desert was simply a Pavlova roll with strawberries and whipped cream.

Xmas Wine Highlights

Xmas Eve Wine Highlight 1: Champagne Mumm Rose with Regal Smoked Salmon Salsa Nibbles and Smoked Salmon and a fresh dill cream cheese spread - divine.

Xmas Eve Wine Highlight 2: Domaine Gachot Côtes du Nuits Villages 2009 – perfect with the seared tuna.

Xmas Eve Wine Highlight 3: Churton Marlborough Pinot Noir 2002 – yes Marlborough Pinot Noir can age and this is a terrific example. A special from my sisters' stack (although I probably gave it to them). Wow, amazing wine, we loved it.

Xmas Day Wine Highlight 1: Mt Difficulty Single Vineyard Long Gully Pinot Noir 2007 with stuffed turkey breast wrapped in bacon - sensuous.

Xmas Day Wine Highlight 2: Ivicevich Waimauku Chardonnay 2007 (made by West Brook) – absolutely scrumptilicious. Perfect with both turkey & ham with an orange and port glaze.

Xmas Day Wine Highlight 3: Akarua Central Otago Noir Ice 2011 with Pavlova Roll with strawberries & whipped cream – divine combo.

Boxing Day Wine Climax: Felton Road Block 1 Central Otago Riesling 2009 with cold 'orange and port glazed' ham. Perfection in low alcohol New Zealand Riesling.

Post Xmas Wine Highlight: Dry River Craighall Riesling 2006 – lime, honeysuckle, toasty nuances and refreshing acidity. Served perfectly chilled by my brother as a pre-dinner drink at the beach. Just perfect.

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

Drinking with Paul Henry on Wine Me Up Wednesday

It's the last Wine Me Up Wednesday on Radio Live ( for 2011 so the last time this year for me to taste wine on air with New Zealand's most talked about radio host, Paul Henry. Today we'll be tasting a delicious sweet wine, Forrest Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2009, one of New Zealand's most awarded sweeties (but I'm not going to say ever). Talk about consistency in form, just look at these awards -

  • Champion Sweet Wine at the 2011 New Zealand International Wine Show
  • Champion Sweet Wine at the 2011 International Sweet Wine Challenge
  • Champion Sweet Wine at the 2011 Spiegelau International Wine Competition
  • Champion Sweet Wine at the 2010 Liquorland International Wine Competition
  • Gold medal Royal Easter Show 2011
  • Elite gold medal Air New Zealand 2010
  • Canberra International Riesling Challenge 2010 Top 10
  • Cuisine Magazine Dessert Wine Tasting 2011 No. 1 with a 5 star rating

The liquid nectar radiates deliciousness in as little as a droplet on the tongue. With 240 g/litre of residual sugar, it's an indulgent experience of toffee, honey, apricot, passionfruit and candied lime. It's the natural acidity of the Riesling grape and the low alcohol (9%) that makes this wine style so unique. Approximately $40 a 375-ml bottle, it's available from fine wine retailers and from

I hardly ever drink sweet wine, but if there is any time to drink them, it's Christmas. Can't think of anything more perfect to sip on with the Pavlova and fruit salad.

What We Tasted

To recap the tipples that crossed our lips since my first stint on air on July 13th, here's the list of wines I drank with Paul Henry on Wine Me Up Wednesday this year.

RL-20110803.jpg (77671 bytes)

13 Jul: Spanish White Guerrilla Albarino 2009 - $19.95
20 Jul: Matua Valley Shingle Peak Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011 ~ $10-$15 and Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 ~ $35-$45.
3 Aug: Villa Maria Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ~ $13 to $22 and Vidal Reserve Series Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2009 ~ $24 to $32.
10 Aug: Waimea Nelson Viognier 2009, Mojo Barossa Shiraz 2010
17 Aug: Akarua Central Pinot Noir 2010
24 Aug: d'Arenberg The Noble 'Botryotinia Fuckeliana' Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and Ass Kicker Shiraz 2009
31 Aug: Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2006 and Nautilus Estate Methode Traditionelle NV
7 Sep: Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg Pinot Gris 2011 ~ $20- $23 and Olssens Slapjack Creek Pinot Noir 2009 ~ $85-$95
14 Sep: Marsden Estate Black Rocks Chardonnay 2009 and Karikari Estate Hell Hole 2008
21 Sep: Main Divide Waipara Valley Riesling 2009 ~ $17
28 Sep: Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ~ $16-$20
5 Oct: Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010 ~ $19-$22 and Shot in the Dark Shiraz Petite Sirah 2008 ~ $15-$18
12 Oct: Ti Point Matakana Coast White Merlot 2011 ~ $17 and Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Rosé 2011 ~ $19
19 Oct: Domaine Gachot-Monot Cote de Nuits Villages 2009 ~ $40 and Tohu 'Rore' Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 ~ $36-$39
26 Oct: Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico 2008 ~ $27-29
2 Nov: Coopers Creek Gisborne Gewurztraminer 2009 & Coopers Creek Gisborne Gewurztraminer 2010 ~ $17
9 Nov: Taylor's Fine Ruby Port ~ $40 & de Bortoli 8-year-old Tawny Port ~ $45
16 Nov: Morton Estate Black Label Chardonnay 2007 ~ $33
30 Nov: Crowded House Pinot Noir 2010 ~ $17
7 Dec: Mud House South Island Pinot Gris 2010 ~ $15-$18
14 Dec: Gustave Lorentz Crémant d'Alsace Rosé NV ~ $32-$34
21 Dec: Forrest Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2009 ~ $40

Lots of fun. Thanks Paul!

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

Two Pink Sweeties, Belated Thanks and Recent Wednesday Tasting Highlights

Two pink sweeties

Since the first release in 2009 I've been enamoured with Wooing Tree's Tickled Pink dessert wine made from Pinot Noir grapes. So with Akarua's Noir Ice being produced this year, it was a chance to taste these two pink sweeties from Central Otago, together. Yum, such beautiful wines to grace the Christmas table this year - or in my case Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - thanks to frugal tasting pours (you don't need much to get the true sense of these wines) meaning leftovers - yay!

Wooing Tree Tickled Pink 2010 has 100 grams per litre of residual sugar. This means it's very very sweet. Yet it has a lovely light impression on the palate and the liquid honey sweetness is beautifully balanced by the perfectly poised tangelo-like acidity that cuts through the sweetness and leaves the mouth feeling bright and clean. The cranberry and strawberry aromas follow through on the palate with flavours of peaches, strawberries and cream. 9.5% alcohol by volume. Always a treat.

Akarua Noir Ice 2011 has a whopping 204 grams per litre of residual sugar. Tasted beside the Tickled Pink, it takes sweetness, viscosity and concentration to another level. That's because the grapes were frozen so pure, unadulterated and waterless juice could be fermented. Aromas of fresh pinot grapes with a delicate musk / rose petal nuance and a taste that is scintillating and bright with tangelo-like acidity penetrating the spun sugar sweetness. Pinot noir grape flavours exude through this 10% alcohol wine. Hedonistically impressive, it's this week's Wine of the Week. Click here for my review and my ramblings about ice wine in general.

Belated Thanks

Thanks to John Bartlett of the NZ Wine Directory, for making my website his 'Wine Website of the Week' the other week. I had received a Twitter text from John while I was away. The text said, 'Sue Courtney's Wine of the Week is our Wine Website of the Week'. I read this and thought John had made the Woven Stone website as the Wine Website of the week – as the Woven Stone Pinot Gris 2011 was my Wine of the Week that week. That's nice to mention me, I thought. I had no access to the Internet so it wasn't until I read my emails on arriving home, that I realised it was my website that was his Wine Website of the Week. Much appreciated, John.

Highlights from the first two December tastings at First Glass

The First Glass 'Signature Tasting' of Chardonnay and Shiraz on the 7th December attracted the normal large turnout and although I'm not the world's greatest Chardonnay or Shiraz fan, it was nevertheless a tasting not to be missed. 

The outstanding Morton Estate Black Label Chardonnay 2007 has been slashed in price and retailing in more than one outlet around the country for about $25 a bottle. This was my Wine of the Week a couple of weeks ago and it didn't disappoint on retasting. In fact when the wine was revealed it had fulfilled all the expectations I would have had if I had known what he wine was when tasting it.

The other Chardonnay I really loved was Vidal Reserve Series Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2010. Lovely creamy, mealy, flavours, savoury to start but with a ripe, spicy finish and not overly oaky for my palate - at $16.99 a steal for the quality offered.

At the tasting on the 14th December, it is was Thorn Clarke William Randall Barossa Valley Shiraz 2008 that had me totally besotted. This sumptuous succulent full-bodied red is way out of my price range, but oh so beautiful to taste. Still, at under $60 a bottle, it's comparably cheap compared to what some top flight Aussies Shirazes are fetching right now.

Also enjoyed the ridiculously cheap Coopers Creek Gisborne Viognier 2010 and Coopers Creek Gisborne Gewurztraminer 2010 – both gold medal winners, both $13.99 a bottle.

Check out the notes of the 25 wines tasted on the December Roundup page. Next Wednesday's tasting is the last of the year.

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

Festive Bubbles

You can't think Christmas and New Year without thinking bubbles. For a long time here in New Zealand we've been constrained to Champagne and look-alikes from around the world, with the occasional delicious low alcohol Asti or Loire Cremant. But now the local bubbly market has exploded with Kiwi winemakers adding bubbles to everything. Want Sparking Sauvignon Blanc? Yes you can have it! Want sparkling Pinot Gris?, Yes, that's available too! What about sparkling Riesling. Yes, yes, yes. It seems there has never been more choices.

While some wines literally have bubbles added – 'bubblised wines' I call them – others are also made the traditional fermented-in-the-bottle way. How do you know? Well it is doesn't state 'Methode Traditionelle', 'Fermented in the bottle', or some similar phrase on the label, it's probably bubblised by adding CO2.

A tasting with those that matter, ie the extended family, had some interesting results. While I liked the Sauvignon Blanc bubbles the rest of the crew despised it. They wouldn't drink Sauvignon Blanc anyway. My favourite was a creamy, varietal sparkling Pinot Gris – it is what is it. The sparkling Riesling rated highly with everyone while the others preferred a blend of Riesling, Muller Thurgau and Pinot Gris. Both of the chardonnay wines were oak-aged before secondary fermentation in the bottle to produce the bubbles. Perhaps it was the company of the bubblised wines, or the oak influence, but neither did much for me on the day.

Of the reds the Brown Brothers Cienna Rosso from Australia immediately seduced with its fruity sumptuousness, but the Rosé Methode made from Pinot Noir was far more sophisticated and classy. The Methode Traditionelle Malbec was a new one for me - a savoury, meat-lover's bubbles.

These were the wines: -

Brancott Reserve Sparkling Pinot Gris NV - Light lemon coloured with a fine bead, the creamy, sweet-fruited aroma smells like a bowl of pears. Fizzy and foamy in the mouth with classic baked apple, pears and strudel spices, it has a gentle touch of sweetness and is what it is meant to be. Made from Waipara fruit and highly recommended to Pinot Gris lovers for casual summer drinking. 12% alc. $25.95.

Waipara Hills Southern Cuvee NV - Made from Riesling grapes grown in Waipara, this light yellow-gold coloured bubbles smells a little toasty with a hot climate peaches and cream character. Tasting dry, rich, creamy and sophisticated it has a citrus finish, a touch of sweetness and a pretty floral aftertaste. Delicious and quenching when chilled. 12% alc. $18.90.

Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Bubbles 2011 - Pale creamy yellow with a fine bead of bubbles, a strong scent of passionfruit and sugar snap peas and crisp, fresh, savvy flavours of passionfruit, citrus and tangy summer herbs all the long, creamy way through. If you want bubblised Sauvignon Blanc, this is the one for you. 13% alc. $19.50. Zork.

Toi Toi Prosecco NV - The name is strictly Italian but this Kiwi wine is made from Riesling, Muller Thurgau and Pinot Gris grapes. mostly sourced from Marlborough. Semantics aside, this fresh tasting wine has crisp apple flavours and while it seems initially quite dry, it’s nicely balanced with sweetness pushing through the finish. Served chilled, it was not my favourite but was popular with other tasters. 11.5% alc. $16.95. Zork.

Tohu Rewa Blanc de Blanc 2009 - Light gold coloured, redolent of strong yeast autolysis with its bready, toasty aromas, this is a full-bodied, leesy bubbles with rich butterscotch, oak, stonefruit and bread flavours and a hint of toffee on the finish. Powerful wine made from 100% Chardonnay with malolactic and 9 months in barrel before secondary fermentation. 12% alc. $30.

West Brook Methode Traditionelle Blanc 2009 - Made from a blend of Waimauku Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, the latter imparting copper tints to the hue, this creamy bubbles has a strong apple scent and fresh and baked apples are to fore in the palate with a lemony infusion and a touch of honey. It starts off crisp, fresh and fruity and finishes with that honeyed sweetness. Barrel fermented prior to secondary fermentation. 12.5% alc. $38.90.

No 1 Family Estate No 1 Rose NV - Clear salmon coloured with a yeasty infusion to the strawberry aromas, it's soft in the palate with subtle fruit sweetness and a tangy finish. Made from 100% Marlborough Pinot Noir in the true methode traditionelle way, it's foamy and light with serious appeal. 13% alc. $44.00.

Brown Brothers Cienna Rosso NV - Crimson blackberry hued - deep, vivid and bright. The aroma is like ripe wild blackberries in the hot autumn sun and the flavour is intensely fruity and juicy with a deep savouriness welling up from within. With plums, blackberries, cedar, leather and a delicious berries and cream finish, this succulent bubblised red should be kept away well from the kids. 7.5% alc. $17.99.

West Brook Methode Traditionelle Rouge 2009 - Made from Malbec grapes grown in West Brook's Waimauku Vineyard in Auckland, the deep purple garnet hue tells you this is a wine of substance. On the nose the fruit is intense and is joined by an aroma of wine gums and fruitcake cherries, yet in contrast the taste is quite meaty and savoury with a succulent plum and blackberry depth. A powerful, full-bodied red with a flourish of acidity on the end. 12.5% alc. $38.90.

Another piece of trivia to store away is about the Zork bubbles closure. Great for resealing an unfinished bottle to keep the unescaped bubbles in - but only a bottle designed for a Zork closure. We found with dismay that these tops don't fit the standard bubble bottles.

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

And now for something completely different

The alternative wines that have recently turned up on the doorstep would have some people grabbing Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes or Googling. Wines like Arneis and Gruner Veltliner.

Arneis calls Piedmont, in north west Italy, its home. It's been grown in New Zealand a few years now and Michael Cooper's Buyers' Guide to New Zealand Wines 2012 reviews seven producers - Clevedon Hills, Coopers Creek, Forrest, Matawhero, Montana, Trinity Hill and Villa Maria.

The first Arneis I tasted was from Clevedon Hills, called Chiara it was a blend with Chardonnay and we loved it. Coopers Creek Arneis 2007 was a gold medal winner on its debut.

Gruner Veltliner, from Austria, is a more recent import. But with vines planted from Gisborne to Central Otago there's a growing chorus of praise-singers of what is typically a dry-styled wine. Michael Cooper reviews seven producers – Babich, Coopers Creek, Forrest, Konrad, Seifried, Tinpot Hut and Waimea. Coopers Creek produced the country's first Gruner Veltliner in 2008.

I had a Forrest The Doctor's Arneis, two vintages of Forrest The Doctors' Gruner Veltliner and a Saint Clair Gruner Veltliner to taste. We added the Matawhero Musque Chardonnay 2011, which was really out of place in a line-up of wines the previous day.

The wines were chilled for 30 minutes prior to tasting.

Matawhero Chardonnay Musque 2011 from Gisborne smells of green apple skins. There's moderate richness to the palate, a hint of sweetness, green apple and lime. And yes, the merest suggestion of musk comes through. Chardonnay Musque is a clone of Chardonnay (Clone ENTAV-INTRA 809 ) with Muscat-like qualities. This is definitely not Chardonnay as we know it and quite possibly misleading to call it Chardonnay because it is not like any Chardonnay I've tasted before. I was completely baffled as to its varietal make-up in the previously night's blind tasting – the only thing I was sure it was not Gewurztraminer or Sauvignon Blanc. I can't find any tech notes on the wine but it appears to be unoaked - and in this tasting it sat in harmony with the others.

Forrest The Doctors' Marlborough Arneis 2011 is straw gold coloured with an apple aroma. Spicy and savoury to the taste, it's dry, crisp and flinty. Apples and a hint of lime make me draw a comparison to Riesling and the long finish is juicy and fruity with a touch of orange zest and spice. 12% alc. $25.

Saint Clair Premium Marlborough Gruner Veltliner 2011 has aromas of tropical guava and apple and while it smells quite racy, it's contrastingly soft in the palate with a delicate musky sweetness and an orange blossom tang. Just off dry with roundness and richness and a long lingering finish, it shows much promise. There's partial oak ferment but it's not obvious to the taste. 14% alc. $21.50.

Forrest The Doctors' Marlborough Gruner Veltliner 2011 is straw gold coloured and the apple aroma is infused with the subtlest hint of violet. It's bright and tangy to the taste, a little nutty as well, with apple to the fore, a hint of guava and an earthy depth. There's lots of fresh green apple acidity here. 11.5% alc. $25.

Forrest The Doctors' Marlborough Gruner Veltliner 2010 is light gold coloured and has a rich full scent – it's like there's very subtle oak but the notes don't say so. In the palate it's soft to start with a subtle vanillin nuance and bright fruit flavours of apricot, ripe apple and honeysuckle and the finish is bright, tangy, persistent and long. I just love the complexities it has garnered with time in the bottle. It was clearly the highlight of these 'new varietals' on the night. 13.5% alc. $25.

It's interesting to me that 'apple' featured in all of these wines and one thing is for sure, I don't have a real feel for Gruner Veltliner and Arneis, not yet. More tasting of these varietals is clearly required.

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

Back from a long weekend away, sans car

"What does the 'F' in 'MGTF' stand for," I ask Neil. A rhetoric question, however.
I know what the 'F' in 'HGF' stands for though. Failure. And so the car journeyed back to Auckland on a transporter.

Fortunately we were on the final leg of our return journey after enjoying a few days in the sunny Far North of New Zealand and yes, the clouds did part occasionally. But boy, it can rain up there!

My shoes got soaked as I wandered through the Doubtless Bay vineyard at the bottom of the Karikari Peninsula. Not surprising as 85mm of rain fell in the general area in the weekend, according to the weather station at nearby Oruru. Fortunately the sandy, peaty soils in the Doubtless Bay vineyard drain quickly and the natural irrigation will set the vines up nicely for the fruiting season.

The wine pourer and I met owner Hugh Ammunsden in the vineyard to check out what he grows there. Ten varieties in total, including the first (but not the last) Vermentino vines to be planted in the country. It's a variety that Hugh reckons is perfect for his coastal location. But we won't see any commercial wine from these vines at least until 2014. Check out for more or follow @hughdoubtless on Twitter.

We visited the vineyard after a trip to the northern end of State Highway 1 and walked to Cape Reinga lighthouse where the low clouds and eerie light made it seem mystically moody. It was surprising how many people walked down the path to the lighthouse, stayed there only a minute or so to take a picture, then headed back up the hill again. It was neat to stay there almost half an hour and experience this spiritual place where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet.

Saturday night the 100 or so of us in MG  group had a dinner and BYO was suggested. It was a fundraiser for the Taipa Sea Scouts and the mums and dads organised transport. So I left my 'low alcohol' option behind and the wine pourer popped into the Coopers Beach Liquormart where he found a Wild Rock Strugglers Flat Pinot Noir 2008 from Martinborough. With the lamb on the spit, this sumptuous savoury pinot noir was just delicious.

The other highlight was the Mangonui Fish Shop – BYO only $5 a bottle. It's 'takeaway' but they have tables that about 10 people can sit around and provide plastic knives and forks so you can eat your paper-wrapped fish and chips there. Great concept.

Also espied the Far North Wine Centre at Mangonui, unfortunately closed for the day both times we went past (well it was late). A boutique outlet for tasting and buying Northland wines. Not sure of the hours (and website links are dead). Suggest you get there before 5pm. 

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

Top Pinot Gris a difficult food match and Wednesday highlights

The week's Wine of the Week is late. So late it's now next week's Wine of the Week and it's early! Figure that out. Anyway, at a recent Pinot Gris tasting, the Momo Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011 was emphatically the top wine. It was a unanimous decision from both the wine pourer and me. Yes, we sometimes disagree but not this time.

"Is there a Seresin wine in this tasting," I asked during our blind tasting session. He gave me the usual silent, one eyebrow raised, poker face reply.
"You're good at that," I said.
"You don't really want me to tell you," he replied.
I shook my head. Then from somewhere in the recesses of my memory, I remembered we had tasted a Seresin a couple of weeks before, so it couldn't be.

Turned out, when the wines were revealed, it was the Momo, made by Seresin. It seems winemaker Clive Dougall has introduced the wild yeast and barrel aging that's a signature of the Seresin, to this organic Momo wine. When it's done well, like this, it produces a style of wine I really like to drink. Click here for the technical details.

But the problem I often have with wild yeast fermented and barrel aged wines is successfully matching the funky flavours to food. A delicious salmon dish, that sang with every other Pinot Gris in the tasting, was an abject failure with this. And salmon is my no-brainer Pinot Gris food match. What to do? If anyone knows what works, please let me know. Email

Consequently the Woven Stone Ohau Pinot Gris 2011 from the Lower North Island is this week's Wine of the Week - click here to read the review. I've included a recipe for Chicken in a Wine, Shallot, Mushroom and Herb Sauce, a super match to the Woven Stone.

I thought this recipe could be adjusted for Sauvignon Blanc, using Sauvignon Blanc in the cooking, replacing mushrooms with capsicums and substituting basil and coriander (which is bolting away in the pots right now) for chervil and tarragon.  It kind of worked as a Sauvignon Blanc food match a couple of days later but I wouldn't make it again. The mushroom and chervil, tarragon, chive combo is much, much better. For sauvignon blanc, I'd much prefer grilled chicken with capsicum, vine tomatoes and a green leaf and basil and coriander salad - crunchier and fresher.

Also check out my Wednesday Roundup for this week. A few Felton Road wines tasted, in particular the Felton Road Calvert Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010. This wine deserves all he rave reviews it gets, and so nice to taste blind.

The other highlight was the Italian white, Vermentino, made by Marchesi Antinori from their coastal Guado Al Tasso estate in Bolgheri, Tuscany. This 2009 vintage wine ripples with limey acidity while an apple-like sweet pervades the rich, lingering finish. A very smart dry white and exciting to hear that Vermentino has been planted in New Zealand, in the Far North, on a coastal vineyard.  I think I might go and check them out this weekend.

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

Tasting note catch-up on recycling day

I was clearing out empties for the recycling, haven't put any bottles out for a couple of weeks, and with a flurry of recent tastings the partly consumed bottles were starting to make the lounge look like a bottle recycling depot. So the leftovers went down the sink and now I can get into the sideboard cupboard again.

I taste by variety or style, when possible, so here's a rundown on recent tastings, each in order of preference. What do the numbers mean? You choose.

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A pair of Gewurztraminers

Flying Mouton Hawkes Bay Gewurztraminer 2009
Richer in the palate than the delicately floral nose would suggest, it's textural and spicy with ginger-like heat and a candied violet sweetness to the warm, rounded finish. 3.5

Ellero Central Otago Gewurztraminer 2010
Spice and honey on the nose, warm and heady in the palate, lovely spice poached pear and a long, rounded finish. Chilling is need to keep the sweetness in check. 3

A trio of Sauv Blancs

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Quite sweaty to start, yet the Air NZ judges obviously didn't mind this when they awarded it a gold medal. Classic grassy herbaceousness, grapefruit and passionfruit with juicy lime on the lasting finish. 5

Tiki Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Perfumed and musky,well-balanced and focused, richly textured with punchy herb flavours infused with fleshy peach. Rounded and complete. 5  

Jackson Estate Stich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Lime, musk and herbs infiltrate the punchy flavours with nectarine and sherbet adding to the appeal. Bright and tasty with a long tangy finish. 4

A quartet of Rosés

Abbey Cellars Blushing Monk Rose 2011
A blend of Merlot and Malbec, it's long and full with a moderately dry finish. Earthy, savoury, spicy and soft with concentrated fruit, - top wine of the tasting and a Wine of the Week. 5

Rockburn Stolen Kiss Central Otago Rose 2011
Seems a little sweet to start but savoury characters kick in to balance it and the lingering taste is dry and crisp. Watermelon and pepper, strawberry and citrus come to mind. 3.5

Heron's Flight un bacio d'alba Sangiovese Dolcetto 2011
Crisp, refreshing and quenching, nice touch of viscosity to the texture, delicate cherry fruit and a well-balanced spicy tang. Reasonably dry with underlying hints of leather. 3.5

Invivo Sophie's Rose 2011
Savoury with early-season plums, some Pinot Noir-like herb nuances coming through, rounded mouthfeel, a touch of viscosity and a zingy finish. Intriguing blend of Pinot Noir (80%), Merlot (15%) and Sauvignon Blanc. 3

Pinot Gris Tasting 1

Seresin Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009
Full-bodied and savoury wine with delicious fruit intensity and a tingle of tangelo on the bready finish. Hints of butterscotch and exotic spices adds intrigue. 5

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010
Texturally intriguing with bright fruity flavours where a touch of peach joining ripe juicy pear. Savoury yeast lees flavours and nuances of grapefruit on the finish. Lots of fleshy bite here. 4.5.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011
The tropical fruit aroma is tantalisingly and the flavours of apples and pears with an infusion of citrus and honeydew melon are as juicy and delicious as the tantalising aroma suggested. 4

Devils Staircase Central Otago Pinot Gris 2011
A fleshy and exotically fruity style with the brightness of citrus, apple and nuances of brioche. Bright clean aftertaste. Should have wide appeal. 4.

Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2011
Tropical fruit, cherimoya and sweet apple on the nose and in the citrus zest infused palate. Bright acidity and a warm texture. 3.5.

Rock Ferry Central Otago Pinot Gris 2009
A earthy style with a steely, citrussy attack yet it's long in flavour and the finish is light and bright. 3

Flying Sheep Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris 2010
Warmly textured with flavours of apples and pears, a touch of ginger tickles the tip of the tongue and there's a gentle savoury depth to the finish. Just lacks the fruity brightness of some of the others.

Pinot Gris Tasting 2

Momo Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011
Enticing ripe tropical fruit and ginger flower aromas and oily in the palate with a bready warmth and a savoury wild yeast nuances. Complex, harmonious and well balanced, it hums along nicely.

Bald Hills Pigeon Rocks Central Otago Pinot Gris 2009
Powerful wine with nuances of grapefruit and a bready richness, an 'alternate' style in some respects. Dry, rich, fruity, savoury, heady and almost waxy. I wonder whether it has some botrytis. 4.5

Bouldevines Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011
Warm apple strudel, cherimoya and citrus, a delicate hint of rose petal and a savoury richness to the expansive finish. 4.5

Tiki Waipara Pinot Gris 2011
Lovely purity of pear, peach and tropical fruit with warmth to the backbone and a well balanced citrus infusion. Lingering apple juiciness is infused with a feel-good touch of apricot. 4.5

Matawhero Gisborne Pinot Gris 2011
Aromas of peaches and pear and an incredibly juicy taste - all purity of fruit with a slight herbaceousness and citrussy tartness to the finish. 3.5

Te Mania Nelson Pinot Gris 2011
Apple blossom aromas and apple flavours dominating the palate with a hint of sherbet and lime. Quite crisp and fruity, but a little one-dimensional in the tasting. 3

Richmond Plains Nelson Pinot Gris 2011
Lovely fruity perfume leading into an intriguing and exotically fruited palate. Just a little sharp on the finish and like the Te Mania, a little one-dimensional in the palate to me. 3

An interesting tasting, I liked several wine for different reasons, mainly because the wines are so different but the top 4 are all exciting wines. Matched to salmon with a sweet marinade (brown sugar, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, wine vinegar) and garden fresh salad. All but the funky Momo worked with the food. Another thing that's interesting is that in Pinot Gris tasting 1, Seresin was my number one, then it's sibling Momo coming out top in tasting number 2.

Off the Radar Reds

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Coopers Creek Single Vineyard "Guido in Velvet Pants" Montepulciano 2010
Deeply coloured and boldly flavoured. Creamy vanillin oak, raspberry, cherry, herbs, chocolate and leather. Sumptuous yet firm and meaty with the tannins dissolving and the fruit filling the mouth with juiciness at the end. 5

Awa Valley James Reserve Kumeu Merlot Malbec 2008
Fine textured and silky to start with smoky oak, brambles, earth , cigar box and leather, the tannins becoming firm and velvety at the end, likewise the wine compounding to become a full rich and creamy wine with an intriguing Bordeaux-like element. 4.5

Waimea Nelson Trev's Red 2010
This blend of a blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Malbec is smoky, savoury, spicy and slightly earthy with a fish smoker in the distance Juicy with supple tannins, it has loads of fruit sweetness but finishes dry. 4

Heron's Flight Matakana Unplugged Dolcetto 2011
Concentrated and deep with a floral infusion, juicy blackberries and raspberries, hints of musk with underlying acidity adding brightness. Dry tannins are balanced to the fruit with a liquoricy herbaceousness and a surprisingly medium-bodied finish. 3.5

Heron's Flight Matakana Unplugged Sangiovese 2010
It looks and smells big (the most intense and impenetrable of the line-up), this is a beefy wine with blackberry and cream rippling through the dark leathery backbone and a spicy finish just let down a little by the yeasty finish. 3

Waimea Nelson Dolcetto 2009
Beetroot, vanillin oak and paintbox aroma and flavours of spice, pepper, tobacco, tar and rhubarb with thick, firm grippy tannins and a slightly green edge. 3

With the food match of steak and mushrooms with potatoes, parsnip and kumara mash and salad, the Coopers Creek Montepulciano was outstanding and the Awa Merlot Malbec pretty good, while the Trev's Red was in the the hunt too.

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