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edited by Sue Courtney

Wine Reviews
A Few from J & F Lurton

© Sue Courtney, 20th March 2002

Jacques Lurton touched down in Auckland yesterday and so, of course, a tasting was arranged. As he and his brother own vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, the question was asked 'Are you looking for vineyards to buy in NZ?' The answer was no, the reason being that they like to visit their vineyards on a regular basis and the feasibility of travelling regularly to NZ was not on. The Lurton's used to have vineyards in Australia. Jacques spent a couple of years there in '84 and '85. But they have let the vineyards there go for the same logistical reasons. He manages to visit his South American vineyards at least once a month, however.

Lurton produces 64 labels from their vineyard around the world, although 44 percent of their wines come from the Languedoc in France. In each country they have their own production facilities, winemakers and other essential staff.

We tasted a few wines from four of the company's countries.

Bodega Lurton Pinot Gris 2001 (Argentina) Grown 1100 feet above sea level on the foothills of the Andes, Lurton says this is a semi-continental climate similar to Alsace. I liked the varietal pear aromas on this dry nutty wine. If you get a good bottle you should find richness of flavour with stonefruit fleshiness, lemon skin zestiness, orange citrus powderiness and a spicy mouthfilling length. If you get a bad bottle the wine will be flat with an oily steely flavour. Having tasted the wine on two occasions, and both times the first bottle showing a 'dullness' bought on by very slight TCA infection, I am a little wary to recommend this wine fully. I would say buy it the day you tend to drink it. Open it in the shop and check that it is indeed OK. The wine was made in Argentina by Anna Martens, ex Petaluma. She spent a vintage here in Auckland at Matua Valley between the A's. RRP NZ$15.95.

Les Bateux Merlot 2000 (Carcasson region, Languedoc) There's no oak in this leather and spice smelling wine. In the mouth there's dry spice at first then the wine fills out with some crisp rose and juicy plum flavours. There are medium tannins. Some herbs and a marmite savouriness that lingers. I found this wine a little odd, despite all the wonderful reviews it has received by high profile wine writers. NZ$14.95

Les Bateaux Syrah 2000 (Carcasson region, Languedoc) Very, very shy aromas on this second unoaked wine in a row. There are medium tannins, juicy plum fruit and cracked pepper spice. A partial carbonic maceration contributes to the sweet fruit finish, I'm sure. There's a moment when dry tannins dominate but I like the savoury fruit flavour that lingers. NZ$14.95

Les Salices Syrah 1999 (Northern Corbieres appellation, Languedoc)
This is more my style. There's a meaty aroma together with sweet curranty fruit. Heaps more flavour and intensity than the unoaked wine, even though this has only seen older barriques. Lovely spice, nice level of creamy oak, soft tannins, lingering plum and a nice savoury finish. Quite, no very, gulpable. Try with aged cheddar. The wine will disappear fast. NZ$16.95. Recommended.

Terra Sana Vin de Pay d'Oc 2000 (Languedoc)
Quite lifted spice and raspberry at first in this blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon made from organically grown grapes. It's earthy with medium tannins then some juicy sweet raisin-like fruit fills the mouth and lingers. The red berry flavours of the cabernet lifts this wine in the mouth, compared to the others. Again an unoaked wine. Not so good with the cheese though. NZ$19.95.

Chateau de Merville Corbieres 1998 (Languedoc)
60% Shiraz (as J. Lurton was calling this wine) and the rest Grenache "Why are you saying Shiraz instead of Syrah", asked someone. "Shiraz, Syrah - they are the same. It's only a matter of name", was Lurton's reply. We figured he said 'Shiraz' because he was talking in English and we down here drink a lot of Australian wine. This is a little ripper of a wine. There's smoked meat, herb and spice aromas. In the mouths it's meaty and flavoursome with a creamy, almost chocolate texture, spicy berry fruit and a savoury finish. Ripe, juicy and flavoursome, this is nicely rounded and balanced. Undoubtably excellent value for money at NZ$24.95.

Bodega Lurton Piedra Negra Malbec 1999 (Argentina)
. Big black fruit and leather aromas to go with the big black colour. Smoky too. The spicy blackberry fruit is sweet, ripe and juicy with heaps of flavour. And there's something that makes me think of 'Kiwi Shoe Polish'. It's a mouthfilling flavoursome wine with good tannin structure, a ruffled velvet texture, plenty of peppery spice, a long blackberry finish and lingering sweet leather and berries tending toward the licorice spectrum. Nice to try but at NZ$49.95, though I think we can do better.

El Abar Toro Excellencia 1998 (Spain)
A mutant of Tempranillo, which Lurton says is slightly different from the Rioja Tempranillo. Aged in French and American barrels for 18 months, this wine has an oaky, savoury meaty aroma. Savoury, dry and spicy in the mouth with some broad fleshy fruit flavour, hints of smoky menthol, crisp spice, good tannin. Goes well with the salty prosciutto (nothing else at the tasting did though).

Lurton Gran Araucana Colchagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 (Chile)
Opulent aroma of tar, smoke and berry with a hint of mint. Without food this is a very full-bodied intensely flavoursome wine with a lovely thick velvety texture and a very good fruit profile of plum and cassis and a lovely integration of 100% new French oak. Dense as heck with a licorice complexity, this is a wine to have for dinner instead of with dinner. I detect a whiff of a bretty meaty character on the finish and there's a touch of rusticity too. As for the food matches: with prosciutto, the wine becomes bretty and savoury. It's good with aged cheddar and with a creamy liver paté the wine becomes rather sweeter. An excellent example of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, it sells in NZ for $69.95.

The J&F Lurton wines are imported into NZ by Bennett and Deller and the wines under $30 should be widely available throughout the country, although not in supermarkets. The more expensive wines are probably only likely to be found in restaurants and fine wine stores. Website

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