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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: September/ October 2012
Oct 31st: George Fistonich: Winemaker
Oct 25th: Gold Medal List Updated
Oct 17th: How to make a picnic wine glass holder
Oct 12th: The NZIWS Champions List booklet is out
Oct 3rd: Highlights from the NZIWS Awards Dinner - Part 3: Vic Williams
Oct 2nd: Highlights from the NZIWS Awards Dinner - Part 2
Oct 1st: Highlights from the NZIWS Awards Dinner - Part 1
Sep 20th: You can't beat a good Burgundy
Sep 17th: Gold Medal Summary Update
Sep 9th: Outstanding Osawa Pinot from Hawkes Bay
Sep 5th: The Pumas are in town ...
Sep 5th: My Radio Live wine chat ends - looking back on what we tasted

Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 31st 2012

George Fistonich: Winemaker

What a grand occasion it was at Villa Maria's 50th birthday celebrations last Friday. Five hundred guests, including the Prime Minister of New Zealand, descended on the Villa Maria Headquarters in the extinct Waitomokia Volcano in Mangere.

Guests were directed into a reception room, given lanyards adorned with their name and ushered into the barrel hall where a glass of bubbly was offered.

Displays around the hall took each guest on a journey of Villa Maria through the decades, starting in 1961 when George planted his first acre of grapes, through to 50th anniversary of the first vintage in 1962. Plus old equipment and bottles that bought flashbacks to drinking days gone by.

The Barrel Hall
Barrel Hall pictorial display

villamaria-3.jpg (51938 bytes)
The Ford truck that used to park on the side of the road to advertise that the winery was open.

villamaria-2.jpg (51458 bytes)
Old bottles bring back memories.

Speeches and then lunch, skillfully done as it always is at Villa Maria, with plenty of the vinous product on offer, and when guests were ready to depart they were invited to leave via the reception room, turn in their lanyard and receive a gift. That gift was The Winemaker: George Fistonich and the Villa Maria Story, written by Kerry R Tyack especially for this occasion.

I engrossed myself in the book over the weekend. A story of humble beginnings for George’s father, Andrija, who arrived in New Zealand from Croatia in 1926 to join his cousins who had written glowingly about the promise of the new land. Living first in Auckland city, then moving north to work the gumfields, then south to jobs in Ngatea and Horitui, he returned to Auckland in 1935 and shortly after that, married. But instead of settling in West Auckland, like most of his fellow countrymen, Andrija and his bride Mandica, bought land in Mangere, close to his sister and her husband.  George was the third child and second son, born in November 1939.

The book covers the Mangere childhood and schooldays and George’s early life as a builder. The family already grew grapes, primarily to make wine for the family’s own use, but was registered as Mountain Vineyard in order to sell wine legally. But George, for whom wine was a part of everyday life, decided he wanted to make wine on his own account. In 1961 he leased land from his father to plant his grapes, the same year he married Gail. He named his vineyard Villa Maria.

The early winemaking history in the book is fascinating. We find out that Frank Yukich of Montana Wines is George’s brother-in-law, and Milan Brajkovich of Kumeu River Wines is his son-in-law. There is the vision and determination. There is the fierce competitiveness from the major wine companies in the mid-1980s that almost resulted in George losing Villa Maria. There is the staff loyalty and reverence of the boss. And there is the vision for the future. And as well there are the interviews (some very telling) with past and present staff, both admin and winemakers. Most talk glowingly of George’s generosity that everyone at the 50th birthday celebration experienced.

If you are looking for a Christmas present, or just want a good read, I recommend the book. Hopefully you will be as engrossed as I was. Enjoy it with a glass of Villa Maria wine of your choice. Find out more from

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

Gold Medal List Updated

My list of wines that have won gold medals at New Zealand Wine Shows has been updated with the trophy results of the New Zealand International Wine Show, the gold and trophy results of the International Aromatic Wine Competition held in Christchurch, the gold and trophy results of the Hawkes Bay Regional Wine Awards, the gold and trophy results of the Upper North Island Wine Challenge and the gold medals from the regional Marlborough Wine Show.

At the International Aromatic Wine Competition, 27 gold medals were awarded and the Champion Wine of the Show was Maude 'Mt Maude Vineyard' East Block Riesling 2012, a wine that had previously won gold at the 2012 NZIWS.

At the Hawkes Bay Wine Awards, 33 gold medals were awarded and the Champion Wine of the Show, now with a collection of 4 golds, was Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2010

At the Upper North Island Wine Challenge, only five gold medals were awarded, four to Syrah and the other to the Expatrius Waiheke Island Blend of 8 2010, this blend also the Champion Wine of the Show.

At the Marlborough Wine Awards, 39 gold medals were awarded. The Trophy presentations are made early November. 

So far the eight shows held since August, summarised in my current list, have awarded 354 New Zealand golds, but with double-ups between shows, the wines actaully listed number 315.

The most awarded wine is Waimea Classic Riesling 2009. This has a tally of 7 golds - one in 2012 and six in previous years.

The next update will be after the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, mid November.

The list is availabe to view here on my website at

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 17th 2012

How to make a picnic wine glass holder

This is for readers of my Urban and Country column although you are welcome to have a go if you stumble across these instructions by chance.

These are meant to be simple instructions and photos for making a picnic wine glass holder. All you need is some number 8 wire, pliers, a hammer and a bit of grunt.  It can be done without anything else, although of course if you have a workship with a vice and a wire bender, it is altogether much easier.

Take a piece of No. 8 wire, 40-cm long and hammer it straight.
Measure 24-cm from one end.
IMG_5400 (Small).JPG (56659 bytes)

and bend the wire 90-degrees (a right angle).





On the short piece, measure 5-cm from the angle.
then fashion the remaining wire into a 5-cm diameter curve, keeping it parallel to the 90 degree plane. While this sounds easy, and can be done (because we did it), a wire bender and ice comes in very handy at this point.
Leave an opening in the curve large enough to slip the stem of a wine glass through. Push the long end of the holder into the grass and pop the stem of the glass into the curved bit at the top.
Push the long end of the holder into the grass and pop the stem of the glass into the curved bit at the top.



Pour your wine and rest assured your glass won't tip over.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 12th 2012

The NZIWS Champions List booklet is out

nziwsbookletcover.jpg (56310 bytes)This is the Champions List booklet from the 2012 New Zealand International Wine Show. Bottle images and short descriptions of all of the Trophy and gold medals winners, plus photos of key winners on the night - Champions Wine of Show recipients Crawford and Catherine Brown, Winemaker of the Year Jen Parr and of course Vic Williams. Worth picking up a copy - and it's absolutely free. Where to get your copy - email to find a stockiest near you.

Oh, and did I mention - tasting notes were written by Sue Courtney, er that's me. Try the wines and see if you agree.  Of course, the words in the book were limited and what took me the most tine was editing my usually copious descriptions to around about 20 words. Like these:

Bannock Brae Barrel Fermented Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010
Beguilingly fragrant with an enticing perfume of wild thyme, spiced plums, smoky oak, tobacco and cherries. A very smooth creamy wine with a gorgeous fine silky texture, so harmonious all the way through, with a lovely marriage of red fruits, chocolate, sweet spices and beautifully balanced savoury oak. Still young with an exciting underlying freshness that brings brightness and florals to the finish. Trophy for Champion Pinot Noir. Trophy for Champion Wine of the Show. Winemaker Jen Parr.

Terra Sancta Bannockburn Central Otago Rosé 2012
The deep watermelon hue is enticing in this vibrantly scented, weight Rosé. The bouquet of wild strawberry and Black Boy peaches is joined by concentrated cherry flavours in the palate. A simply delicious Rose, it has richness and fruit purity with a spicy nuance and a long lasting, juicy finish. Nothing frivolous at all about this wine. Trophy for Champion Rosé. Winemaker Jen Parr.

All of the my abbreviated trophy descriptions are available on and some lengthier descriptions from the Trophy Tasting held at First Glass - my notes here.  

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 3rd 2012

Highlights from the NZIWS Awards Dinner - Part 3

One of the big surprises at the NZIWS Awarded Dinner last Saturday night was the awarding of the Sir George Fistonich Medal for a Legend of New Zealand Wine to Vic Williams - the person most surprised, the recipient himself.

"I had no idea," Vic said to me yesterday when we spoke at a tasting on Auckland's waterfront, where I snapped the photo to the right. "Kingsley asked me if I would like to come along and present the Shiraz Trophy of behalf of Vino Fino, so I said 'yes'."

Ian Clarke from Villa Maria, who presented the medal in Sir George's absence, explained that every year a short list of possible candidates is drawn up and this year Sir George had no hesitation in choosing Vic, a person he had known for around 40 years.

Sir George and Vic first met in the early 1970s when Vic was the Editor of the South Auckland Courier. Their paths would often cross in the reporting of events, particularly when noted celebrities visited the South Auckland winery. It was Sir George who encouraged Vic to write about wine.

"I remember it was in 1979 when the Vidal winery opened their restaurant. That was my first 'wine' column," recalls Vic when we talked yesterday. He continued the column in the South Auckland paper for several years, but it was his wine and food spot on Weekend TV, the Sunday morning television show that ran from 1980 to 1984, that really opened the doors for Vic and made his name a household name amongst the wine lovers and foodies of the time.

Vic said in his acceptance speech that it annoys him when wine is lumped in with other alcoholic drinks as simply booze. "Wine is quite different," he says. "It is made with passion, with love, and it speaks of the land that spawned it. It is a magical substance, a food product rather than an alcohol product. I wish more families would sit around the table so the younger generation can see the right place of wine – with food and conversation, and then maybe they wouldn't get so trollied".

Vic is the most longstanding wine writer in the country that has always matched wine to food, not only in columns but also on radio and the several books he has written. That is why he is the 2012 recipient of the Sir George Fistonich Medal for a Legend of New Zealand Wine.

He's also a great guy. I remember the first wine tasting I was ever invited to as a 'wine writer' back in the 1990s, and Vic was the first and only person at that tasting to come over and introduce himself to me, to ask me who I was, and to welcome me to the 'wine writer fold.'

Congratulations Vic. You deserve it.

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

Highlights from the NZIWS Awards Dinner - Part 2

"I'm seating you with some wine producers," said Kingsley. These weren't just any wine producers; they were gold medal winning producers who were coming to the New Zealand International Wine Show Awards Dinner to accept their awards. "You will probably know some of them," he said. And I did.

Ross & Jennimay MillarThere was Ross and Jennimay Millar (pictured, right) from Millars Vineyard in Mangawhai in Northland – I had just written an article about them, for the Rodney Times, on their historic Syrah gold medal win - their first gold medal from their young vineyard in Bush Lane, Mangawhai, where just 600 syrah vines grow.
Someone was coming from Mountain Landing, the vineyard on the Purerua Peninsula, north east of Kerikeri in Northland, where I visited last year.
I had met Carl Fraser from Murdoch James, in Martinborough, a long time ago but met his lovely partner, Nicola for the first time.
And Chase Arquette from Chateau Waimarama, in Hawkes Bay, rounded out the seating.

There was already a bottle of Millars Syrah and Murdoch James Pinot Noir on the table and Chase found a bottle of his Chateau Waimarama Cabernet to add to the collection. The people from Mountain Landing were late, so Neil sought out a bottle of their wine - and it was worth it!

The Landing Bay of Islands Chardonnay 2011 is full-bodied, opulent, rich, toasty and mouthfilling; definitely not for the faint hearted. It's full of lovely muesli-like lees flavours with juicy stonefruit and a tropical fruit overlay to the bold, spicy creamy oak with a spicy nuance to the lingering finish. It's a wine that will take chilling well. Made by Rod McIvor of Marsden Estate, from fruit grown on the tiny Mountain Landing vineyard next to the bay where Samuel Marsden conducted the first Christmas Day service in 1814, you can find out more about this operation from

I poured a taste of the three reds to try with my main and savoured over the beguiling bouquet of the Murdoch James Single Vineyard Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010. When I tasted this almost three weeks before, for the Champions List booklet, I noted how much finer in appearance it was than the block-buster South Island pinot noirs, not much chance of seeing that, however, in the dim ballroom light. This is a savoury gamey wine with violets and a hint of chocolate to the scent, then an impenetrable savouriness a feature of the full-bodied, firm textured palate. It's gamey and smoky with a touch of bacon, wild strawberries, cherries, and a bright zesty flourish to the end, and the best match to the duck that was one of the two main courses on offer.

The purple red coloured Millars Mangawhai Syrah 2010 has a fragrant rose pepper, rose spice, cake spice and sweet cherry/vanillin oak scent and spicy flavours of plum and cherry backed up by creamy vanillin oak with a rich nut chocolate layer to the deep savoury finish and soft, rounded, velvety tannins. Pepper is a key note, but it's balanced to perfection. It was aged in new American oak for 9 months. I preferred this wine as an accompaniment to the beef fillet steak– it was pretty bland beef I have to say, overcooked and under seasoned – this Syrah gave the combo some pizzazz.

Chateau Waimarama 'Chateau Waimarama' 2009 is made from 100% Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard is close to Te Mata Estate, but nearer the river, and Elise Montgomery is the winemaker. Dark ruby red with a cinnamon edge, this is so emphatically Cabernet Sauvignon with its smoky, cedary bouquet infused with herbs, strawberry biscuits and cassis, and the full-bodied taste is rich and opulent with super fine tannins, classy French oak, concentrated berries, a touch of cinnamon and anise and a super long finish. An exciting Hawkes Bay red but begging for steak that was cooked rare.

A super evening, with excellent company and super wines on the table for dinner. Just little tastes for me, as I was the driver; Carl said I showed incredible restraint.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 1st 2012

Highlights from the NZIWS Awards Dinner - Part 1

The Trophy for Champion Other White Wine goes to ...

This year there were five contenders for the Trophy that bear this website's name – they were the gold medal winners that weren't Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer or Viognier. The wines were:

Buller Beverford Moscato 2011
Coopers Creek "Bell Ringer" Gisborne Albarino 2012
d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2010
Mount Pleasant Cellar Aged 'Elizabeth' LANG="EN-NZ"> Hunter Valley Semillon 2006
Tyrrells Single Vineyard Bedford Hunter Semillon 2004

These are the descriptions I wrote for these wines – and without knowing what the judges would chose I made my own selection.

The Buller Beverford Moscato 2011 smells of grapes and tastes like grapes, like freshly picked Muscat grapes that you buy on the side of the road in northern Victoria in grape harvest season. Been there, done that - fabulous memories. The wine is grapey and floral with a slightly spritzig texture that adds to the appeal of this deliciously fruity lunchtime or before dinner wine and what adds to its appeal is the 5% alcohol by volume. It's the kind of wine I love to have in my fridge in mid summer, to have chilled down to the bones, on the deck, while I'm thinking about what to cook for dinner. A lovely wine, but it couldn't be the Trophy winner in this company.

Coopers Creek "Bell Ringer" Gisborne Albarino 2012 had already picked up a gold and Trophy at the Bragato Wine Awards in August. Aromatic, perfumed, with apple blossom and honeysuckle, there's a flinty nuance to the backbone and a spiciness to the finish. A little like a cross between Pinot Gris and Viognier with the aromatic expression of Riesling, this is definitely an exciting new variety and a delicious aperitif. The popular choice at the 'Pick the Trophies' tasting last week, but it didn't have the complexity to be the Trophy winner, I thought, and it wasn't to be on the night.

The d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2010 had previously won a gold medal, a blue gold medal in fact, at the Sydney International Wine Show. On the bouquet the fragrance and oiliness of the Viognier grape comes through and it's a textural delight in the mouth with its seductive sensual, smooth, mouthcoating texture, yet aromatically vibrant flavours of apricot, exotic tropical fruit and nuts and well-balanced soft acidity and savouriness from the obvious yeast lees contact, a deliciously long juicy finish anv a suggestion of quinces. A top contender.

Mount Pleasant Cellar Aged 'Elizabeth' Hunter Valley Semillon 2006, such a contrast to the previous wines, it's very dry, rich, textural and tangy with a preserved lemon intensity to the lime and talc flavours and a rich, long-lasting, concentrated finish. There's a hot grassy nuance there, entwined with lemon balm – perhaps what we call dried hay – and of course dried hay comes up a lot in Semillon descriptions.

And lastly Tyrrells Single Vineyard Bedford Hunter Semillon 2004 – oh my gosh, what an incredible wine this is. There's a haunting smoky, gunflint nuance to the bouquet and delectable lemon nuances to the flavour – lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon honey, lemon cream biscuits, I could go on. The acidity is so pure, so piercing, with a delectable, almost sweet, toasty, boiled lemon lolly layer to the warm textured finish. An incredible wine that we hardly ever get to drink and it's not only what put in your mouth; it is what is left in your mouth, the memory of the taste that stays with you for ages. When you taste this, you know why Semillon is one of Australia's greatest vinous treasures. This was my favourite of the five, and I'm delighted it was the judge's favourite too. The label is adorned with gold and trophy medals, a nd it's deja vu with a repeat of its NZIWS trophy win two years ago.

The trophy for Champion Other White Wine at the New Zealand International Wine Show 2012 is Tyrrells Single Vineyard Bedford Hunter Semillon 2004.

This wine is available in New Zealand, I'm very pleased to say. Marketed by Greg Day and team at Kahurangi Wines in Nelson, they have an amazing portfolio of imported wines to complement their own. The price on the Kahurangi website is $NZ 39.60 a bottle.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 20th 2012

You can't beat a good Burgundy

After tasting 224 gold medal wines for the 2012 New Zealand International Wine Show Champions List booklet that's currently in the process of publication, sometimes the last thing you want is a glass of wine. And when one is proffered, it has to be one that you know you don't have to write about, that you can just sip and savour, and join in the conversation about anything – but wine. That was the plan, anyway, until the wine pourer decided to open a bottle he had been hiding away.

When gold medal wines have been passing your lips and at an unquivering speed, you know quality wine when you taste it. They are not wines like the green little Aussie grenache blend I had at the Northcote Tavern that sent icky shivers down my spine; they are wines of balance and harmony.

Thank goodness the wine pourer found a wine that I can only describe as exceptional and I couldn't continue sipping without recording a note to remind me in the future of a wine lovingly shared.

A pinot noir, 17 years old – will the winning pinot noirs at this years' wine show last that long? Yes, I am sure some of them will.

Jean-Claude Bellande Santeney-Comme Premier Cru 1995, Appellation Santenay Contrôllée was opened without any aplomb and the cork, dried out at the top and two pink stain lines along the length, about 100º apart, was looked at with dismay. But there was no ullaging of the wine and the colour was richer than I could have imagined.

A deeply saturated orange-tinged garnet with a blackish core makes a myth of the preconception that Burgundy colour quickly fades.

The aroma – violets, rose petal, deep rich anise spices, is that vanilla? Maybe. It's beguiling, romantic, not particularly earthy at all.

Then the taste – I can't believe the richness, the depth, the succulence and the fruit, which seems primary from my experience of aged New Zealand pinot noir and Burgundy. Macerated strawberry, cherry and some thing that makes me think red-blue. The tannins, firm with a gentle teeth-coating caress, dissolve into the sweet earthiness that's like being a rain forest with moss and ferns all around you; the anise herbaceous, the cake spice-infused savouriness, the sensuous, the length.

We restrain from pouring a second glass until dinner was served – boneless chicken thighs stuffed with bacon and cooked covered with a touch of Riesling that would soon be joined with the cooking meat juices for a rich tasty jus; mushrooms, shallots, garlic, thyme, parsley and chives sweated in brandy, finished off with a lick of cream and topped with chervil for serving; a fantastically tasty layered potato and leek casserole with a few fennel seeds thrown in, and boiled green beans.

Needless to say, this was a wine and food match of exquisite harmony. What more could you want for your birthday!

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 17h 2012

Gold Medal Summary Update

New Zealand wine show season has started and already four shows have been judged with results publicised on their websites.

Firstly the Bragato Wine Awards judged in August - a show for winegrowers and wineries enter wines where at least 85% of the fruit comes from vineyards they own or manage. Wines from the 2010 vintage onwards have to be comply with audit programs, such as Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, Demeter, BioGro or any other program approved by New Zealand Winegrowers.' sustainable' vineyards, or be certified organic or biodynamic. In addition, from the 2012 vintage onwards, growers and wineries entered must be registered on the New Zealand Winegrowers Vineyard Register. No minimum quantities are specified. Five hundred and thirty four wines were entered and 48 gold medals were awarded. The Champion Wine of Show, winning the coveted Bragato Trophy, was Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2011, grown on the company;s vineyard surrounding the winery and cellar door in Mangere, near Auckland's International Airport. The wine was also awarded the Bill Irwin Trophy for Champion Chardonnay and the Sustainability Trophy. Trophy results are available from

Also judged in August, but with the result officially announced today, is the New World Wine Awards. The main criteria is that the wines must normally retail for under $25 and at least 500 cases of the wine must be available - obviously to share around the New World supermarkets if the wine is successful, where the award winning wines are promoted. Look out for the consumer friendly booklet with loads of tips and advice. On the New World Wine Awards page on the New World website, competition chairman, Jim Harre, share tasting notes by video. Champion Red was awarded to Wild Rock Pania Chardonnay 2010 from Hawkes Bay 2010, Champion Red to Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir, and Champion Sparkling to Brancott Estate Sparkling Rosé. Forty-nine of the Top 50 wines are gold medal winner. It is not known by this writer how many wines were entered.

Judged the first week of September was the Spiegelau International Wine Competition, a competition open to wines from anywhere, but for sale in New Zealand with minimum quantity requirements stipulated. It is not know how many wines were entered, but most reports say over 1000, and 63 gold medals were awarded. Trophies are awarded on the 5th October. go to for the full list of medals.

Judged the second week of September was the New Zealand International Wine Show, the largest wine competition in New Zealand, attracting 2122 entries this year, not a record for the show, but the number of gold medals awarded, 224, certainly was. "The reason for this high percentage of gold medals is entirely due to the quality of the entries.  Many of the bigger wine companies submitted only wines above a quality level, so many of the wines available in supermarkets were not in the judging lineup.   The wines that were sent in by Australian wineries were simply stunning.  We have never encountered so many high quality, high profile wines being sent in for judging before," stated Kingsley Wood in a newsletter on Friday. 
Wines are open to all varieties and all countries, they do not have to be available for sale in New Zealand and it is up to the entrant to determine that their wine will be available in 'sufficient quantities' if they are lucky enough to win an award that will create demand for their wine. Results are available on the competition website,, with trophies to be awarded on Saturday 29th September.

Gold Medal List. I have compiled a list of the New Zealand gold medal winning wines from these four shows, and the number of individual wines awarded gold medals comes to 231. Two wines, Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir 2010, and Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2012 have won gold in three of the competitions, the Grasshopper Rock not eligible for the New World competition and it is not known if the Peter Yealands was entered. Another 24 wines have won gold in two of the four competitions. Still to come is an analysis of the season's gold medal winning wines in addition to their success in previous seasons, eg the Royal Easter Show judged early this year, or another show.  Note, I regard the 'season' as starting the first time wine from the vintage of the year, e.g. 2012 are entered, so current season is 2012 to 2013.   Go to to peruse the list.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 9th 2012

Outstanding Osawa Pinot from Hawkes Bay

We think of the best Pinot Noirs in New Zealand coming from the South Island and Martinborough / Wairarapa in the North Island with Pinots from the dramatic landscape of Central Otago seeming to take up the most column inches in press. Not surprising, perhaps, as the number of Central Otago-based wine producers has climbed to 120 in the latest New Zealand Winegrowers statistical survey, second only to Marlborough's 148. But every so often, when I have a blind regional Pinot Noir tasting, there is a wine I rate top that bucks the trend, a wine that could be 'picked last' if you were selecting the wines based solely on the label / region.

Earlier this year it was Sileni 'The Plateau' Pinot Noir 2009 from Maraekakaho on the south side of the Ngaruroro River in Hawkes Bay This beautiful wine had the richness and savouriness yet radiated elegance and finesse. It was a Wine of the Week in February.

Earlier this month it was Osawa Prestige Collection Hawke's Bay Pinot Noir 2010 and in the lineup alongside wines from Central Otago, Waipara, Marlborough, Nelson and Martinborough, it really stood on a pedestal. At $45.99 price tag, it was the most expensive, however. The colour of black cherry juice, not quite opaque, the aromas radiate savoury oak with sweet / savoury nuances and the fragrance of violets and cherries. A lovely, ripe, rich, juicy tasting wine with beautifully balanced spicy savoury oak, classic pinot earthiness, concentrated Black Forrest cherry fruit and silky tannins. Harmonious and mouthfilling without losing its varietal expression and an enthralling aromatic end. Everything I like in Pinot Noir - except for the cork that the bottle is closed with. The wine has 14% alcohol and consulting winemaker is Rod McDonald. Grapes for this wine are grown in the Mangatahi Valley, alongside the Ngaruroro River, probably quite close to where Sileni's grapes are grown. These two producers are affirming this sub region as the premium Pinot Noir area in Hawkes Bay.

Silver in the Hawkes Bay regional wine show last year, I'd like to see it take out gold in national or international competition, as the previous vintage, the 2009, did in the New Zealand International Wine show in 2010.

A top tip also for Osawa Prestige Collection Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2010 - a variety where I we totally expect Hawkes Bay to excel. A bright light gold colour, this has a toasty oak and creamed nut aroma with a hint of citrus and caramel. In the mouth it is smooth in its attack with smoky French oak and pineapple springing to mind but also incredibly nutty, as the bouquet suggests, with the warmth of toasted spices on the end. A young wine with good cellaring potential if the bright acidity is anything to go by, and the zesty finish is layered with caramel cream. 14.5% alcohol. $45. A gold medal winner at the 2012 Royal Easter Show.

I'm really looking forward to tasting more wines from this producer. They make the Flying Sheep (previously known as Flying Mouton) wines, the 2009 Pinot in this label also a gold medal winner at the 2010 NZIWS. Check out

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 5th 2012

The Pumas are in town ...

… in Wellington to be precise. They're here for the All Blacks home game of the New Zealand v Argentina round of the brand new Four Nations Rugby Championship.

From 1996 it was the Tri Nations, with the All Blacks, the Wallabies and the Springboks competing for the championship crown and in the sixteen years of the competition, New Zealand won ten times while Australia and South Africa each won three.

From 2012, it's be renamed the Four Nations Rugby Championship with Argentina. the other Southern Hemisphere rugby heavyweight, joining in So today, to wish the Pumas good luck, because they will need plenty of luck in their clash with the All Blacks on Saturday, I'm getting behind them with a Argentinean wine.

Argentina, the fifth largest wine producing nation in the world, produced wines that offer amazing value, yet for some reason we don't see too much of the product here, if we do it's likely to be Malbec. Malbec is to Argentina as Sauvignon Blanc is to New Zealand. The wine variety is synonymous with the nation, and the traditional Bordeaux variety, shunned by most Bordeaux wine producers, has found its niche in the South American nation.

I'm opening Septima Malbec 2010 from the famous Mendoza wine region on the eastern foothills of the Andes and closer to the Pacific than the Atlantic. This is a wine that epitomises the best Malbec has to offer. It's a saturated, glossy purple red colour that you know will instantly stain your tongue and anything that the wine spills on to – so pour and swill with care. It's a deep meaty wine, a savoury wine, an earthy wine, with herbal tones in the background and the brightness of red berry fruit and vanillin oak in the foreground. There's a hint of anise-like spices, and beguiling floral nuances that emerge and linger on the full-bodied end.

A tannic wine in its youth, I recommend decanting and then enjoying with a rare side of a beast. However importer Tomas Tonnelier says he likes this wine with pizza and pasta, not what I would have thought were typical Argentine dishes, but evidently every three of out five Argentineans have Italian heritage!

Alcohol is 14% and it's sealed with a cork, so have a corkscrew ready.

Click here for the Bodegas Septima webite when you can find out everything you wnt out this clss Argentinean wine, click on to find out where to buy in New Zealand from  - click on the stockists page. You can get if for around $19.99 from those stores that have it on 'special'.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 5th 2012

My Radio Live wine chat ends - looking back on what we tasted

It's the phone call you dread, the phone call that tells you you are no longer wanted. This call was to tell me there's no longer a place for the wine segment on the Radio Live Drive Show. At least it wasn't a text message and I thank producer Mark Wilson for that. And he did say the content was changing, so I hope it wasn't specifically me but that it is sign of recent times,  recognising the fact that wine commentary is also being dropped from traditional print, the space taken up by paid advertising. And while a review on radio or in print is 'advertising' in a way, for the brand, I do hope my Radio Live wine chat was a service for listeners as I fished out from an ocean of wines the wines that offered exceptional value at a (mostly) under-$25 price point. Even the $6.99 wine I used for mulled wine wasn't bad. It was a great fourteen months, firstly with the ultra-enthusiastic, contagiously hilarious and adorable Paul Henry - Wine Me Up Wednesday was his idea anyway. Then temporary hosts over the summer such as James Coleman and Duncan Garner, then for most of this year red wine lover Andrew Patterson with sometimes fill-in host Samantha Hayes. It was fun, while it lasted. And thanks heaps to the wine producers who supplied the wines when I requested them. So for as much as my own benefit, as anyone else's here is a list of the wines that I reviewed on the Radio Live Drive show when I was on air - all with Andrew Patterson unless otherwise stated:

29 Aug 2012: Seifried Nelson Gewurztraminer 2011
22 Aug 2012: Beetle Juice Pinot Noir 2010
15 Aug 2012: Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010
8 Aug 2012: Babich Family Estate Fernhill Viognier 2011
1 Aug 2012: Thornbury Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
25 Jul 2012: Yalumba Eden Valley Shiraz Viognier 2008
18 Jul 2012: Forrest The Doctor's Marlborough Riesling 2011 with Samantha Hayes
11 Jul 2012: Grandin Grande Reserve Methode Traditionelle Brut
4 Jul 2012: Big Top Zinfandel 2010 - California
27 June 2012: Buller Fine Old Muscat - Vctoria, Australia
20 June 2012: Whale Point Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 - Western Cape, South Africa
13 June 2012: Chateau de Sours Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2009
6 June 2012: Cypress Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010
30 May 2012: Rabbit Ranch Central Otago Pinot 2010
23 May 2012: Abbey Cellars Prophet Cabernet Blend 2009
16 May 2012: Main Divide Waipara Valley Pinot Gris 2011
9 May 2012: Wyndham Estate George Wyndham Founders Reserve Shiraz 2008
2 May 2012: Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Chardonnay 2010
25 Apr 2012: (Anzac day - no show)
18 Apr 2012: Matua Valley Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 with Samantha Hayes
11 Apr 2012: Moana Park Estate Series Hawkes BayViognier 2010 with Samantha Hayes
4 Apr 2012: Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Arneis 2011
28 Mar 2012: (Sue sick - no wine segment)
22 Mar 2012: Waimea Classic Nelson Riesling 2009
14 Mar 2012: Te Mata Woodthorpe Syrah 2010
7 Mar 2012: Johnny Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
29 Feb 2012: Tiki Wines Marlborough Rosé 2011
22 Feb 2012: Christchurch Earthquake one year anniversary show (no wine segment)
15 Feb 2012: Sileni The Plateau Hawkes Bay Pinot Noir 2009 with Paul Henry
8 Feb 2012: Sue on holiday
1 Feb 2012: Mills Reef Gimblett Gravels Reserve Merlot Malbec 2009 with Duncan Garner
25 Jan 2012: Maui Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 with James Coleman
18 Jan 2012: Herons Flight Unplugged Dolcetto 2011 with James Coleman

Older wines can be viewed here.

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