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Wine of the Week for week ending 17 December 2000
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Heron's Flight Sangiovese 1999

"We have great pleasure in inviting you to the launch of our 1999 Heron's Flight Sangiovese" said the invitation. This was an opportunity not to miss as I had tried the first release of this unique wine last year and thought it simply delicious.

The 7-hectare Heron's Flight Vineyard in Sharps Road, Matakana, is about a 45-minute drive north of Auckland City. Along with grapes grow fig, olive, citrus and pine nut trees surrounding a Mediterranean-style garden, while herbs and vegetables grow near the winery cafe. The Sangiovese vines were first planted in 1994 and, along with Dolcetto and Tempranillo, will now replace the poor performing Cabernet Sauvignon.

Herons Flight Sangiovese I joined the other guests at the vineyard and when the speeches were over the time to unveil the new wine had arrived. The room was quiet with an air of anticipation as owner-winemaker David Hoskins took a bottle out of its wooden box and unwrapped the black tissue paper. As he held up the bottle for everyone to see, "ooohs" and "aaahs" filled the room. The tall black bottle, labelled with only with a pewter image of a Heron in flight, was simply stunning.

Poured with ceremony, we all had a chance to taste this deep ruby red coloured wine with a cerise glow. I found ripe fruit aromas with an earthy rustic note then in the mouth bitter sweet cherries, vibrant and ripe wild berry fruits and strong dry upfront tannins with peppery spice. Then the velvety vinous texture of the wine takes over. There is a lovely depth of flavour and concentration with a rich fruitcake spice and a creaminess from the well-integrated new French oak. By the time you get to the end of the glass the wine seems so mellow and the rich full flavours linger for a long time.

This wine has great structure and a fine future ahead of it, altogether an excellent example of Italy's most common grape that is rare in New Zealand. Found mostly in Tuscany where Sangiovese makes up the base blend of Chianti, a rare strain of Sangiovese makes one of Italy's finest wines, the Brunello di Montalcino. This Brunello strain is the variety believed to be growing at Heron's Flight.

I think the wine will benefit from a period in the cellar but if you have to drink it now, I would suggest some mouthfilling food as an accompaniment. Try some bread and strong cheese such as the Kapiti Brick, or perhaps a big plate of spaghetti bolognaise.

This unique wine will be available to purchase by the glass at the winery weekends only and during the main Christmas holiday period. A bottle costs $50, the same price as last year's release but with its sensational packaging it will quickly become a collector's item. For further information, contact the winery by e-mail and keep an eye out for the launch of their website in early 2001.

A good time to visit the vineyard will be in late January early February. In the top paddock where the Cabernet Sauvignon vines have been pulled to make way for new vines next year, rows of sunflowers have been planted. I for one will be making a visit in February to see the full splendour of these blooms.

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