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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: July 2012
Jul 30th: Four year old Pinot Gris with balance, equilibrium and harmony
Jul 26th: First look at 2011 Pinot Noirs
Jul 25th: Yalumba and their Shiraz Viognier
Jul 18th: Doctors' Riesling and Waitaki Wine Week tasting dates
Jul 14th: The French Connection
Jul 11th: Getting into bubbly mode for Bastille Day
Jul 4th: A Zin for American Independence Day

Jul 2nd: Sip by Sip at First Glass Wine Options 2012
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 30th 2012

Four year old Pinot Gris with balance, equilibrium and harmony

It is a surprise to see an older Pinot Gris on current release. I had to double check the bottle and website to see if the sample hadn't been mixed up somehow. But boy, what a delicious wine and now, after tasting this four-year-old Gris, I'm determined to taste more from this variety with a little age rather than guzzling them down quite soon after release.

Bilancia Reserve Pinot Gris 2008 is a lustrous clear gold colour and has abundant aromas of yellow fruits – loquats, peaches, pineapple and melon come to mind. It's quite tropical in a way yet subtle nut nuances nicely balance the fruit that follows through to the taste of this rich mouthfilling wine – it's almost unctuous with its lush rippling texture and fleshiness with a creaminess from the lees aging, an intriguing spiciness and a suggestion of flower musk at the end. Impeccable balance, as you would expect from Bilancia, richly textured and despite the lusciousness, seems to finish dry and nutty with apple-like acidity adding brightness.

The notes on the Bilancia website suggest cellaring four to six years. Well, they have cellared it four years for you and it's quite superb right now. Their price is $28 a bottle on mail order and $34 RRP.

Also recently released from Bilancia, the variety they are most known for, Syrah, and their flagship red, Bilancia La Collina Syrah 2009. Pipped at the post by its sibling Bilancia Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010 in the recent Cuisine magazine tasting of New Zealand Syrahs, the little brother was number one Cuisine wine and also the gold medal winner and Champion Syrah at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards last year. The La Collina perhaps needs decanting or to be poured into a big glass, to edge ahead of its little brother in a comparative judging situation.

I tasted both at a recent tasting of the Cuisine winning wines, and I have to say I preferred the deep, rich, sumptuous La Collina – the hint of rose petal to the bouquet and the beguiling floral notes that linger, the beautifully balanced peppery savouriness and fruit concentration and of course the supple velvety texture. Their price is $90 a bottle on mail order and $95 RRP.

To check out  my notes from the Cuisine tasting click here.
For more on Bilancia, click here to be transferred to their website and click on the picture.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 26th 2012

First look at 2011 Pinot Noirs

There has been so much positive commentary on the 2010 vintage Pinot Noirs from New Zealand and lots of whispers as to how difficult the 2011 vintage was, so what does an early tasting of the 2011 Pinots tell me? Well, it is only the beginning paragraph in the first chapter of the story, a story that will continue to unfold, and to be truthful I've tasted only a handful of 2011's so far. The forward drinking Pinot Noirs are early releases from some companies that will hold off on the release of the flagships but there is a mainstream release and it is, as to be expected from the label, a star.

Brancott Estate Limited Edition WOW South Island Pinot Noir 2011
Light ruby violet colour and an attractive smoky savoury aroma with a concentrated cherry richness. Medium bodied with spiced cherry and raspberry fruit, a savoury backbone, smooth tannins and a juicy finish. 13% alcohol. Recommended retail $25.95.
This wine is perfect for a World of Wearable Art (WOW) soiree. It has that juicy drinkability that you want when you are having wine and canapés before dinner or a show. But as far as retail goes, I'm not sure of the pricing of this wine and whether at $26 a bottle that it offers value for money. But if these limited edition bottles make it to the supermarket and are specialled at $17, with the accompanying marketing material alerting you to a $9 savings, then it will look pretty smart. And the bottle does look smart. The Pinot Noir bottle I was sent for review is one of a collection of four WOW labels, this one being Firebird by designer Susan Holmes (2009).

Takutai Nelson Pinot Noir 2011
Translucent violet red. Light red fruit aromas and a nice balance of sweet and savoury flavours in the light to medium bodied palate. Raspberry and cranberry fruit, smooth easy tannins, a touch of tarragon and spice, and a dry and reasonably firm finish. 14% alcohol. Made by Waimea Estates, it's recommended retail is $17 and this is the kind of Pinot I expect from this price point - it just lacks a litle excitement for me.

Devil's Staircase Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011
Translucent dark pinky red. Stalky aroma, quite herbaceous, which can be okay for Pinot Noir, and a smidgen of vanillin oak adding a calming effect. Medium bodied and savoury with smoky bacon and polished leather infiltrating the red fruit palate; the fruit reminiscent of cranberry and bittersweet cherry. Firmly structured with a grippy edge and acidity adding brightness at the end. 14.2% alcohol. Recommended retail $25. Made by Rockburn, who is constantly up there with their standard Rockburn label when it comes to quality Central Otago Pinot Noir, I think this will soften with a little more time.

Clark Estate Marlborough Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011
Translucent light pinky red. Fragrant, sweet smelling aromatics with herbs and smoky savoury oak too. Tasting fruit forward with cherry and framboise on entry to the palate, yet despite the fruit sweetness there's firmness to the structure with a slightly dry, grippy undercurrent and smoky savoury notes accenting the finish. A lighter, medium bodied style with grapes sourced from the Black Birch vineyard in the Awatere. Limited production, 160 cases. $28. 13.5% alcohol. Available only from Clark Estate.

Felton Road Central Otago Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2011
Now this wasn't a sample, instead tasted blind at last night First Glass tasting, and oh what a fantastic wine! Impressively deep violet ruby with a nuance of chocolate to the ripe black cherry and thyme flower scent. Youthful with firm tannins (for Pinot), this is full bodied, spicy and expressive with floral nuances, a touch of anise, a concentrated juicy black cherry sweetness and a delectable savouriness that holds it all together. Selling for around $58 , it's a benchmark for 2011 Pinots at this price point. A very smart wine but with 14.5% alcohol, it's a heady proposition, to be sure.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 25th 2012

Yalumba and their Shiraz Viognier

Today on Radio Live's Wine Me Up Wednesday, we are tasting Yalumba Eden Valley Shiraz Viognier 2008.

Recently rated five stars and in Cuisine magazine's Aussie shiraz tasting and No. 3 in the Top 10 for the second year in a row, it's dark red in colour with perfumed aromatics and juicy, sweet berried, chocolatey flavours with biscuity oak, soft easy tannins and a touch of mint. it spent 12 months in oak: 13% new French and Hungarian oak and the remainder older French and American oak. Alcohol reads 14% and the bottle has a screwcap.

Using Google to search for this product in New Zealand I have found stores in Auckland and Christchurch selling for $18.99 a bottle. It seems to be sold mostly in dedicated wine stores but could be in some supermarkets as it was a silver medal winner in the New World Wine Awards last year. The top price was $25, average around $23.

So what we have here is a blend of two grapes Shiraz and Viognier, and what may seem unusual is that Shiraz is a red grape, and Viognier is white. Surely adding white to red would dilute the colour? But when Viognier is fermented together with the Shiraz, it seems the opposite happens.

The Viognier seems to concentrate and fix the colour at a darker denser point in the spectrum, yet at the same time it appears more lustrous and glossy in appearance. The aroma is definitely more fragrant, with perhaps a hint of rose musk or dried rose to the perfume. But the best thing is what happens to the tannins, the co-fermentation of the two grapes makes the finished wine seem smoother, more slippery if you like and this is a very pleasing mouthfeel effect. The winemakers also say that the wines are more vibrant and more stable over time. 

In the Yalumba Eden Valley Shiraz Viognier 2008, some of the Shiraz grapes were  co-fermented with Viognier grapes, which is what you can do when they are picked about the same time. Other portions were fermented with Viognier juice.

About Yalumba -

Pioneers of Southern Hemisphere winemaking, the winery was established in Angaston by English brewer, Samuel Smith in 1849. Last week Samuel would have celebrated his 200th birthday, had he till been alive. The winery is still family owned, which is a remarkable feat. They also pioneered Viognier, the white wine grape from the Rhone, planting it in one of their Eden Valley vineyards in 1980.

Of all the wineries to visit in the Barossa, this holds memories for me for more than a couple of reasons.

Firstly the massive size of the place, it's like a castle.

Secondly the cooperage, where they made their own oak barrels on site at the winery, the only winery in Australia to do this. Fascinating to watch, especially when the barrels are toasted, the flames licking the wood, you wonder why they don’t catch on fire.

Thirdly, because on our first visit there in the early 1990s, we were doing a lot of wine tasting and being responsible wine tasters with several winery visits planned in a day – you have to make the most of it when you have travelled over 3250 kilometres from Auckland to Adelaide by air - we wanted to sip and spit rather than sip and swallow. Well, the effort we had to go through to find a spitting receptacle, in the end they gave us the buckets they used for mopping the floors. I imagine they have got their act together when it comes to spittoons these days.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 18th 2012

Doctors' Prescription for Riesling
Waitaki Wine Week tasting dates
(scroll down)

If you are in the camp that believes wine is good for you, and there are plenty of articles on the Internet that say this is so, then believe me, lower alcohol wine is even better. So it's a lower alcohol wine I am taking into the Radio Live studio to share with TV3's Samantha Hayes, who is filling in for Andrew Patterson today.

Forrest The Doctor's Marlborough Riesling 2011 (~$20), is called The Doctor's, not only because winemakers John and Brigid Forrest are doctors (the PhD kind), but also because they prescribe low(er) alcohol wine. As well as this 8.5% abv Riesling, they have a very tasty 9.5% abv Sauvignon Blanc too. 

Riesling - a summer wine surely! But I love it in winter, as it is here in New Zealand in July. It's so fresh, bright and quenching, it's like summer in a glass. In winter when we have colds and flus, or just feel poorly, we have lemon, honey and ginger drinks to make us feel better. These are the primary flavours in the delicately scented Doctors' Marlborough Riesling 2011. From the bouquet of honeysuckle and lime, the taste is crisp and fresh with racy acidity to balance the honeyed sweetness. A lovely light refreshing style with florals, spice, zest, juicy lemonade and lime and a bright, tangy finish - perfect for an aperitif, but even better with some spicy Thai herb and spice-inspired food.

Forrest is one of only a handful of wine producers in New Zealand that use the Riesling Taste Profile, a little scale on the black label that tells consumers the approximate sweetness of the wine inside the bottle. This scale is promoted by the International Riesling Foundation and this morning they emailed news that the wine we are tasting today, Forrest The Doctors' Riesling 2011, has just been awarded 'double gold' at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. So it is truly a world class wine.

John Forrest is passionate about Riesling and makes a whole range of utterly superb wines, from bone dry styles that become more and more complex with age to hedonistically delicious sweet wines - we tasted the delectable Forrest Botrytised Riesling 2009 in Radio Live with Paul Henry last year.

John puts his best wines in the John Forrest Collection label. For these wines he sources grapes from anywhere in NZ, not just Marlborough. A highlight of tasting of these wines, besides the fantabulous John Forrest Collection Marlborough Riesling 2007, were the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from the Waitaki Valley.

Waitaki Wines are hard to find, but the Waitaki Valley winemakers are taking their wines to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown next week and John Forrest will be there. They have details of the tasting on Waitaki Facebook site, but this is behind the locked door. So if you want to taste some Waitaki wines, here are the details known so far.

Auckland: Monday July 30th. $15 tasting at Fine Wine Delivery Company
1:00 - 3:00 or 4:30 - 7:30 | 50 Cook Street

Wellington: Tuesday July 31st. Free tasting at Centre City Wines & Spirits
4:30 - 7:30 | 2-4 Waring Taylor St

Christchurch: Wednesday August 1st. $10 tasting at Vino Fino
4:30 - 7:30 | 188 Durham St

Queenstown: Thursday August 2nd. Free tasting at Wine Tastes
4:30 - 7:30 | 14 Beach Street

Although they have RSVPs, They are all wine shops, so you may be able to just turn up.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 14th 2012

The French Connection

I read a wine story in the New Zealand Herald headlined French still the best winemakers with the text stating, "When it comes to wine, whether we like it or not, France remains the benchmark for quality and style."  The ten comments were the most I had ever seen on a Herald wine story. But whatever side of the debate you are on, down under here in New Zealand it sure makes the heart flutter when someone says they are going to open a bottle of French wine.

So it was at the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday tasting the other night where seven little French beauties were poured and amongst them some real surprises including a wine where the style was obviously influenced by New Zealand. That wine was Henri Bourgeois Le Bonnes Bouches Sancerre 2010 from the Loire Valley. French wines from traditional French appellations are often a mystery to newbie drinkers because they don't usually state the grape variety on the label - Alsace and Vin de Pays excepted. So a consumer looking for a French wine, buying Sancerre, swooning over how fabulous it is because it is French (as I, and others I know, have done in our novice wine drinking days), may not even know the wine is Sauvignon Blanc. Tasting the wine blind, ie not seeing the bottle or label, it was obviously Sauvignon Blanc and the bouquet of passionfruit and grass was zoning me in home territory. And while restrained in the palate, which some Marlborough, and more so Nelson, wines are, especially those with a little oak action, I could not comprehend that this wine was from Sancerre. But it was. So who set the benchmark here?

The evening started with bubbles, the Grandin Methode Traditionelle Brut NV ($16), mentioned in my previous blog entry. Made from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, it' an unusual taste - like baked apples and mile high lemon meringue pie, but hits the spot nevertheless. However I would pay a few dollars more and drink the Grandin Reserve by choice. 

Burgundy flew both its red and white colours and the Joseph Drouhin Meursault 2010
($78) was quite stunning. A 'villages' level wine made from 100% Chardonnay, there's a lot of oak action going on in here and while subtle and smoky at the Wednesday tasting, it was quite prominent when I taster a mouthful of the leftovers on Friday. The Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2010 ($23) with Pinot Noir stated on the label, was a pretty good example for the price, considering how expensive red Burgundies can be. Dry and savoury with firm tannins and classic cherry, mushroom and herbs.

Between the Burgundies we popped back to the Loire to taste Marc Bredif Vouvray Classic 2010 ($34). This initially fooled me as I thought with its bright racy acidity and hints of honeysuckle it could have been Riesling, and with its rich, full palate and long dry finish, Alsace Riesling at that. Perhaps the apple character should have been the pointer to the Chenin Blanc variety this wine is made from. Juicy and lovely wine to drink already but I know how this variety blossoms with bottle age. 

Off to the Rhone for the impressive Domaine Charvin Le Poutet Cotes du Rhone 2010 ($27). Great colour, lovely fragrance and juicy red fruits characteristic of Grenache grape with an underlying smoky savouriness, but oh so tannic and youthful, it really needs time to settle or to be poured to accompany a carnivore's meal right now.

So rarely do I drink Sauternes these days but perhaps that will change with the delicious ad relatively affordable Mouton Cadet Reserve Sauternes 2010 ($35), in a 750-ml bottle. A label of Baron Philippe de Rothschild's company, the blend of 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc grapes are from the same vineyards that produce the top Sauternes, Chateau Coutet. In this bottle size this luscious wine, with flavours of apricots, candied oranges, honey and lanolin, is perfect for a dinner party - to accompany both a blue cheese course or a creme brulee.

If the quality of these wines is anything to go it seems like 2010 was a pretty good year in France. A super tasting. Thank you First Glass. All of these wines, plus others in the tasting are reviewed in more detail on my Wednesday Roundup page

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 11th 2012

Getting into bubbly mode for Bastille Day

Today on Radio Live we are going Vive la Francais. That's because on Saturday, July 14th, it is France's national day, Bastille Day. A national holiday in France, it commemorates the beginning of the French Republic with the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789.

It is a day of patriotism and celebration for French citizens the world over and for food and wine lovers, it is a time to reflect on the principles of democracy that brought the end of the Monarchy and made fine wine and food available to everyone.

I have to admit that during my school days I wasn't a very good history scholar. I would rather gaze out the window or doodle in the margins of my exercise book. So most of my knowledge of the French Revolution came from the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables.

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Here in New Zealand we often take the opportunity for a French-inspired feast on Bastille Day and of course that starts with bubbles. While it would be nice to have all French wines with the meal it's also important to remember how much France has contributed to New Zealand's viticulture and winemaking. Many grape varieties are commonly associated with France and regions such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhône, Loire and Sancerre. French oak is often used for aging wines and local winemakers travel to France to learn more about making wine. And of course French winemakers come here. So a local substitute with a French connection is also fine.

For my French feast I'm starting with bubbles. French bubbles, but not Champagne. Of course Champagne carries prestige by its very name, but other regions of France make bubblies in the same bottle fermented style. So today we are going to the Loire.grandin-res.jpg (12856 bytes)

Henri Grandin makes very affordable bubbles and I love the Grandin Grande Reserve Methode Traditionelle Brut, which is made from a Pinot Noir base with some Gamay. This smells and tastes like Champagne and I just love the yeasty brioche flavours that come through and the salivating citrussy tang to the finish. The bead (ie bubbles) are fine and steady and there's a touch of sweetness to the lingering finish. Expect to pay from $24 to $29 for this delicious and attractively packaged drop.

The Reserve can be a little hard to find however the Grandin Methode Traditionelle Brut NV, from as low as $15.99 (on case buys) to $22.99 a bottle, is more widely available. With predominantly Chenin Blanc in the multi-grape blend, it does have the apple favours that this grape variety is renowned for. Federal Geo is the importer and they told me it is available at Advintage Limited, Branos Wines & Spirits, Cambridge Fine Wine Company, First Glass Wines & Spirits Ltd, Liquor Centre Belmont, Liquor King Napier, Miller & Co 2010, Nosh Food Market, Schnapper Rock Cellar Select and Super Liquor The Barn, most Liquorlands, some New World and Pak n Save stores and some Mill Liquorsave stores.   So plenty of selection there.  Enjoy!

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 4th 2012

Zin for American Independence Day

Thinking about finding an American wine to drink tonight in New Zealand for the 4th of July? Think again because American wines on wine shop shelves are extremely rare. But they are not non-existent and fine wines stores like the Wine Circle in Kumeu, First Glass in Takapuna, Scenic Cellars in Taupo and Regional Wines in Wellington carry a good selection. In fact Chris at the Wine Circle imports American wines and has about 50 reds and whites in his catalogue to choose from that's more than any other store in New Zealand. But you will rarely find a wine that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. That was until Greg Day at Kahurangi Estate in Nelson realised there was a gap in the market for affordable American Zin. So he found one that would sell on average for just under NZ$20 and imported it in.

The wine is Big Top Zinfandel 2010 from Lodi in California and it comes with quirky packaging too. Never mind the label because it's what you pour in the glass and drink that matters. This is a deep coloured and terrifically fruity red that bursts with juicy favours of blackcurrants, strawberries and plums with characteristic peppery spiciness and a well balanced savoury undercurrent. It's not the greatest Zin I've ever tasted but with its smooth tannins and creamy finish, it's a perfect BBQ (or grill as they call in in the USA) red. Zin and grilled steaks nothing could be better to celebrate American Independence Day. Whoowee it has a screwcap too!

Big Top Zinfandel 2010 has been in the country three or four months now and it's been selling well so some of the retailers may be out of stock (but they won't all be) but a new container is due at the end of August and will be in stores by the beginning of September. Greg gave me this list of retailers who originally took it on and some of these may still have stocks today.

  • New World Orewa
  • New World Albany
  • Wine & Moore Albany
  • Mairangi Bay Fine Wine
  • PaknSave Sylvia Park
  • First Glass Takapuna
  • Farro Fresh
  • New World Devonport
  • Fresh Choice Richmond
  • Fresh Choice Roslyn (Dunedin)
  • Fresh Choice Nelson
  • New World Nelson
  • New World Motueka
  • New World Blenheim
  • New World Bishopdale
  • New World Fendalton
  • New World Ilam
  • New World South City
  • New World Lincoln
  • New World Timaru
  • Liquorland Oamaru
  • New World Gardens (Dunedin)
  • New World Centre City
  • New World Cromwell
  • Liquorland Cableways (Dunedin)
  • Liquorland Riccarton
  • Franks Liquor (Christchurch)
  • Super Liquor Papanui
  • Cellar Room Karori
  • PaknSave Petone
  • New World Island Bay
  • New World Thorndon
  • Cuba Liquor Wellington
  • Scenic Cellars (Taupo)

RRP in NZ is approximately $19.90. You might find it for less, and in the supermarkets if it is not on special, it may cost more. Cheers!

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 2nd 2012

Sip by Sip at First Glass Wine Options 2012

Wine options is over for 2012, the last on a grand scale to be hosted by Kingsley Wood and probably the last on such a grand scale than is likely to be seen again in New Zealand.

Kingsley where he likes to be - in front of the microphone!Kingsley (seen left where he likes to be - in front of the microphone) started Wine Options 30 years ago in his Wilson Neill days. When Wilson Neill became Liquorland, the game became Liquorland Wine Options and when Kingsley left Liquorland and started up First Glass in 1999, he took the game and the trophies with him. It's been the First Glass Wine Options ever since.

Fifty-seven teams, including from Dunedin and the West Coast and as well as individuals from Marlborough and Nelson who made the trek north to the big smoke, played the 2012 and last National Final - as we know it. No longer did teams have to qualify in a regional heat to make the final ... if you wanted to pay the airfares, you were in.

Rather than repeating here how teams did, all of the results are on the First Glass website. I took the photos - some a bit yellow - my camera was struggling to compensate with some of the bright costumes. Fantastic costumes - if you look at the photo gallery I am sure you will agree.

I didn't play this year due to misadventures in the Courtney household, so Neil worked with the team out the back and I tasted the wines and wrote sip by sip tasting notes instead. Read on if you are interested. The wines were served from jugs - no bottles to be seen except by the trusted back room crew.

Wine One : Smells like a straight forward up and down Chardonnay. Nice hint of butter, nuts, stonefruit, rich, full-bodied and spicy with a lovely backbone of French oak and mouthcoating intensity. Very classy and while initially restrained with obvious mlf characters it is beautifully expansive in the mouth. But is it Kiwi or French? That will be hard.

optionswine1.jpg (7147 bytes)Q1: Is it Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris. Couldn't be anything else but Chardonnay - an easy 3 point in the bag.
Q2: Aus, NZ or Europe? Going for the obvious it points to NZ. Doesn't taste Australian and if it was French, surely the regional question would have been first as you have to think of what question could come next. NZ is the answer.
Q3: Auckland, Hawkes Bay or Marlborough? Could be Auckland – it is a Kumeu River / Villa Maria Ihumatao style – but Hawkes Bay is the obvious so go for that. And Hawkes Bay is correct.
Q4: 2010 or 2009 / 2008 or 2007 / or older. Go for the younger. Yes!
Q5: The 5 pointer. Will Villa Maria Keltern be in the options? Yes it is along with Tom 2009 and Rifleman's 2010. Would usually say go for the most expensive but Keltern is in there. It is not the most expensive and I can’t remember it having this much MLF, it would be stupid to ignore the fact that this is the most awarded Chardonnay in one year, ever!

The correct wine is Villa Maria Keltern Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2010.

Wine Two: This is light to moderate gold in colour and tastes like it has some age, even a trifle oxidised, so are we looking at an older wine from Europe. There's apricot to the fore and it is warm and textural to the taste, there's a touch of botrytis in there but not so much that it overpowers, and it gets sweeter and more intense at the end with a fantastically long finish. But hot also – perhaps high alcohol. Viognier or PG. Initially I thought Alsace Pinot Gris but I am confused about the Viognier-like alcohol intensity. Let see how the questions pan out.

optionswine2.jpg (7414 bytes)Q1: PG, Viognier or Chenin Blanc? Darn. Both PG and V are in there. I back my initial hunch and go for Pinot Gris. But the answer is Viognier.
Q2: NZ, Australia or France? Should go NZ but can we make them this good? There is fantastic V from Yalumba, for example. Glad I'm not playing, Still I will go for the obvious – NZ. Correct answer for 5 points is NZ. Phew!
Q3: Akl, Nelson or Marlb, HB or Gisborne? Will go HB 'cos that is where that fantastic Villa Maria Omahu Gravels viogniers come from, and there are lovely V's from Gisborne too. Correct.
Q4: 2011/ 2010/ 2009 or older. Go with initial impression, ie older. Correct.
Q5: Church Rd Reserve 2009, Trinity Hill GG 2009 or Villa Maria Omahu Gravels 2009? Let's go the Trophy winning Church Rd Reserve – I remember this was a sweeter wine and it had a little botrytis too.

The wine is Church Road Hawkes Bay Viognier 2009

Wine Three: Citrine in colour, quite smoky on the nose, another Chardonnay perhaps. But this is older and different. Lots of oak interest here, honey/toffee-coated oak, nuts, mlf influence and a warm zesty finish, fruit is now a memory. Such a seamless wine to taste, such mouth-coating intensity, lovely flow and a mellow finish that lingers completely.

optionswine3.jpg (7466 bytes)Q1: Semillon, Chardonnay or something else? What else could it but Chardonnay? I go Chardonnay. Correct.
Q2: Europe, Australasia, USA? I go Australasia. Possibly one of those high end wines that Kingsley had in his recent iconic Chardonnay tasting. Next question leads to that.
Q3: Auckland, Nelson/Marlb, Aus? I will punt on Australia. Yes – Aus is correct.
Q4: 2010, 2009, 2008 or older? I stick to older because it tastes older. Older is correct.
Q5: Eilleen Hardy 08, Moss Wood 07, Leeuwin Art Series 05. I go with Leeuwin. Wrong!

The correct answer is the five year old Moss Wood Chardonnay 2007.

Wine Four: A sweetie – a hedonistic sweetie – so elegant in its mouthfeel and seamless impression. Initially toffee and honey but not overly sweet, beautifully balanced by spice and perhaps even some oak with lemon restraint and a long, almost creamy finish with bittersweet candied fruit lingering. Plenty of bright acidity carries the lasting finish. Bright straw gold colour indicates youth.

optionswine4.jpg (6233 bytes)Q1: NZ, Aus, Europe? On first taste I thought a Riesling from NZ – but this kind of question leads to Europe and the more I think about it seems to have the Sauternes-like elegance and power without the overpowering botrytis, apricot and toffee sweetness we get in kiwi wines, So I am going Europe. Correct.
Q2: Italy, France or Germany – you would have to go the tick of confidence on France. 5 points plus 2.
Q3: Loire, Bdx or Alsace. If this is Sauternes, the answer is Bordeaux. But the answer is Alsace so I got it wrong.
Q4: Is this Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris or Riesling? I think it has to be Pinot Gris because it lacks the evocative, spicy, floral GW aromas. But it is GW – I am really failing on this wine.
Q5: Schoffit Cuvee Alexander Vielle Vignes 2010 / Lucien Albrecht Reserve 2009 / Domain Weinbach Cuvée Laurence 2007? It seems young so I will go A. But it is C. Gorgeous wine, about $98 RRP.

The correct answer is Domain Weinbach Altenbourg Cuvée Laurence 2007. It seemed a lot of people bombed out on this wine and I wasn't the only one who thought Sauternes. The lack of varietal aroma, the silky elegance, the hint of oak fooled me.

Wine Five: Ruby hued, translucent not opaque looks like Pinot Noir without tasting it. It smells ripe, fruity and juicy and tastes elegant, silky and savoury with bittersweet cherry fruit, lovely anise spices and a firm meaty finish. A young ,floral, seductive and savoury pinot noir with a long way to go.

optionswine5.jpg (6994 bytes)Q1: Bdx varieties, Pinot Noir or something else. PN is correct
Q2: South, Is, North Is or Burg I would go for the obvious – South Island. Correct.
Q3: Marlb, Waipara, Central Otago. I go CO. Correct
Q4: 2010, 2009 or 2007? I go young 2010. Correct answer is 2009
Q5: Peregrine 2009, Felton Road Cornish Point 2009, Olssens Slapcreek 2009? I go the NZIWS Trophy winner Olssens over the Air NZ Trophy winner Peregrine. Yes!

The wine is Olssens Slapcreek Creek Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009

Wine Six: A deep red, almost opaque in the ballroom's light with a savoury, earthy scent – some Brett there I think. Fine silky textured wine yet with a firm tight structure, plums and boot leather, not peppery at all (so eliminate Syrah) with an impressively long finish and beautifully balanced savouriness to the plum and blackcurrant fruit that opens up in splendour. Florals emerge – violets perhaps. Initially reminded me of Merlot but too complex for one variety - a super expression of NZ Bdx.

optionswine6.jpg (6426 bytes)Q1: Trad Rhone, Bdx or Italian varieties. Bdx - yes
Q2: NZ, Aus, Europe – NZ is correct
Q3: Akl/Waiheke, HB, Martinborough. A really hard question. I want to go Auckland but this is probably something like Coleraine so I will go HB. (Remember to go for the obvious). HB is correct.
Q4: Villa Maria, Craggy Range or Te Mata. Stick with my hunch and go Te Mata.
Q5: 2010, 2009, 2007? I go 2009 because it looks young, even though 2007 was supposedly the greatest. It looks young because it is young.

The wine is Te Mata Coleraine 2010

Wine Seven: This is an absolutely gorgeous wine with sweet oak, spices, fine tannins and increasing voluptuousness. It's a black cherry red colour, just on the edge of opaque, with lovely rose musk florals, firm seductive tannins, chocolate, mocha, biscuits and violets underpinned by an earthy savouriness with cigar box nuances lingering. A splendid wine of class and elegance, one that is very enjoyable to taste and drink.

optionswine1.jpg (7147 bytes)Q1: Northern or Southern Hemisphere. I think it could be top NZ or Aus Syrah, but the answer is Northern Hemisphere so with its peppery traits will persist along the Syrah trail, the florals pointing perhaps towards Cote Rotie, but this could lead me completely in the wrong direction.
Q2: Spain, Italy or France? I had already reasoned this was France, even though the vanillin oak sweetness could actually be Spain. Do Spanish wines have those evocative florals? Seems they do because the answer is Spain. I should have followed that vanillin oak sweetness signpost to Spain.
Q3: Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrel? Go for the obvious. Go for B. It's a 5 pointer. B is correct.
Q4: 2010 or 2009, 2008 or 2007, 2005 or older? I remember Riservas are not released until 3 years at earliest and Grand Riservas at 5 years, so eliminate A. Still seems young so I will go B. Answer is B - hurrah!
Q5: Bodegas Alion 2008 Ribera de Duero, Pesquera Crianza 2007 or Sierra Cantabria Coleccion Privada Rioja 2008? I look at these options and am glad I am not playing for real. I will go C because I don't think it is a crianza and Rioja could be the clue. Whatever it is a fantastic wine.

The wine is Sierra Cantabria Coleccion Privada Rioja 2008

Wine Eight: Dark red, sweet vanillin characters on the nose; big, rich and chocolatey in the palate with firm tannins but that lovely hot climate fruit sweetness hints of its origin. Blackberries, blackcurrant, plums and spices, the slightest suggestion of mint with a dark chocolate creaminess on the full-bodied finish. Increasing liquorice, anise and violets on the finish. Still evolving. Quite outstanding. This wine is so elegant it cannot really be described as a blockbuster – and I don’t think I've tried it before. That should be a clue.

optionswine8.jpg (7043 bytes)Q1: Australia, NZ or Northern Hemisphere? I will go Australia.
Q2: CS, Shiraz, Grenache? I will go B. It's the obvious after all. Correct.
Q3:. Vic/SA/WA? Go for the obvious. SA. Of course it is.
Q4: 2010 or 2009, 2008 or 07, 2006 or older? I will go C. But correct answer is B.
Q5: Wolf Blass Platinum Shiraz 2007, Gemtree Obsidian Shiraz 2008, Penfolds St Henri 2008? I will go C. I haven't tried it and it should be the most elegant of the three.

 The wine is Penfolds St Henri 2008

A lot of fun, playing options without the stress and delicious wines to taste and review. Thank you Kingsley for all your efforts over the years.

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