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edited by Sue Courtney

Wednesday Round-up - the 2003 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

February 2003
[ Click here for index to other months ]

Sue Courtney's Fine Wine Wednesday tasting notes were recorded for First Glass Wines and Spirits in Takapuna for publication on their website.
Prices listed are the retail at First Glass Wines and Spirits at the time. Check out for current availability and pricing and New Zealand readers can purchase the wines online from there.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 26th February 2003
Hot Climate Cold Climate: Wines from New South Wales and Central Otago
All wines were tasted blind except for the last one.

Tempus Two Sparkling Chardonnay 1999 - NSW
Pale lemon with a fine mousse. Lightly yeasty lemony aromas, very yeasty and lemony in the mouth with the flavour of Griffins 'Lemon Treat' biscuits (these have a lemon cream centre). Lots of acidity on a creamy backbone, the wine is sharp and tangy with a very dry finish. It seemed a little disjointed for me. $28.95.

Felton Road Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2001 - Bannockburn, CO
Bright golden hued in the glass, this is a ripe fruity and full-bodied creamy buttery chardonnay with aromas and flavours of figs, stonefruit and spicy vanillin oak and a long, delicious finish that lingers with the flavour of ripe, juicy, windfallen Central Otago apricots. $34.95.

Arrowfield Show Reserve Chardonnay 1999 - NSW
Yellow gold with a hint of green, this blend of Hunter Valley and Cowra Chardonnay has strong vanillin chunky American oak aromas and is hot, woody and alcoholic in the mouth. However, despite these initial impressions the wine is quite classy with juicy tropical fruit flavours, figs and a hint of oily honey. It's stylishly dry on the finish and the delicious fig-like flavours linger well. $31.95

McWilliams Mt Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 1997 - Hunter Valley, NSW
Golden in colour, this wine smells quite developed with Riesling-like kero and mineral scents and flavours of crisp apples, lemon juice, white raisins, and rubber. It's an oily textured wine, very dry but creamy and the creamy lemony flavour lingers well. But overall it is lacking in flavour. In a good year this is one of the greats from the Hunter Valley. This seems to be not one of those years. $25.95.

Mt Difficulty Target Gully Riesling 2002 - Bannockburn, CO
Extremely floral on the nose this seems a sweeter wine than the just-tasted Elizabeth and with 20 grams per litre of residual sugar it is no wonder.  But there's lots of acidity too and there is no way I would have though it this sweet - the sugar balances the acidity well.  It is creamy textured in the mouth with the steely acidity terrifically balanced to the myriad of fruit flavours that cover the apple, citrus, pear, passionfruit and banana spectrum.   Very refreshing and moreish. $21.95.

Rippon Jeunesse Pinot Noir 2001 - Wanaka, CO
This second label of Rippon has a light garnet hue, a smoky nose and a savoury, earthy, mushroom flavour. There's not as much cherry as one would expect from a C.O. Pinot, just a hint of fruit emerging on the more concentrated finish of this overall lean herbal style. It received a muted reaction on the night. $29.95.

Kawarau Reserve Cromwell Pinot Noir 2001 - Pisa Flats, CO
This is alluring with its ruby purple hues and savoury smoky aromas that remind me of barnyard, charred game meats and a backyard garden fire. It's savoury, mushroomy, earthy and oily with good tannins and some solid cherry and plum flavours emerging on the fruit driven finish. An excellent wine with some intrigue, it holds the interest right through from the first sniff to the end of its lingering finish. $33.95 special.

Mt Difficulty Elevage Pinot Noir 2001 - Bannockburn, CO
Medium colour weight with pale red garnet hues, this is quite closed on the nose, perhaps a little nutty but the fruit content on the palate is enormous. It's ripe and full with cherries, almonds, creamy chocolatey oak, firm velvety tannins and a long spicy and savoury finish. A mouthfilling fruit-driven pinot. $40.95.

Andrew Harris Mudgee Shiraz 2000 - Mudgee, NSW
Such a contrast to Central Otago Pinots, this richly coloured soft juicy number has voluptuous aromas of caramel and chocolate, lovely ripe cherry and plum fruit, white pepper, mint, lots of creamy oak and a chocolate raisin finish. It's soft and easy drinking and at the price, great value. $15.95 special.

Wyndham Estate Show Reserve Shiraz 1997 - Hunter Valley, NSW
A blackish red rich spicy wine oozing with chocolate, earth, mint and some lovely blackberry, blackcurrant and stewed prune fruit. It's rich in texture with firm tannins, lingering brambly fruit and creamy chocolately oak. Nicely developed and drinking well now, with still some potential ahead of it. $29.95.

Tempus Two Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - NSW
Dense purple-red with a rich fruit and spicy oak aroma, this wine is a step up in quality and shows its class in the mouth. It's a powerfully flavoured, beautifully balanced, earthy, nuggety wine with lots of juicy blackcurrants, coffee, savoury oak and a gorgeous fine-grained, seamless texture. Class plus. $28.95.

de Bortoli Noble One 2000 - Riverina, NSW
Deep and rich in its golden colour, this smoky, beeswax smelling wine is rich and luscious and chock full of botrytis. Honey, caramel, beeswax, apricots and candied orange flavours are supported by a touch of spicy oak and a nectar-like texture. The balance is superb and the finish is rich, full and long. Yum! This is Noble One back to its very best. $32.95 / 375ml.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 19th February 2003
All wines were tasted blind except for the two Foxes Island wines because Foxes Island owner/winemaker, John Belsham, was at the tasting in person, to talk about his wines.

Chancellor 'The Hamner Junction' Pinot Gris 2002 - Waipara
Pale lemon in colour with a slightly herbal, green, pip fruit aroma. Seems a simple wine at first but it gets better the more one sips it. It's a little oily, nutty and lemony with a creamy texture and a sweetish finish that is a little tingly. $20.95.

Foxes Island Chardonnay 2000 - Marlborough
Light gold in colour with nutty scents that have yeasty influences, this is a big mealy, buttery wine with lots of oak, lots of malo and lots of ripe stonefruit flavours. It's creamy in texture with a spicy lifted finish that lingers with savoury oak and flavours of citrus, figs and roasted nuts. This is a seamless and classy Chardonnay with an excellent finish that is persistent in length. Drinking very well now. $33.95.

Penfolds Clare Valley Reserve Aged Riesling 1997
Bright gold with greenish hues, this limey, petrolly-smelling dry Riesling has fresh lemon juice and citrus blossom scents. Its oily in texture, minerally (in that it is a little salty) and spicy in flavour with a full rich taste of white raisins. The length is powerful yet still crisp and refreshing. Developing nicely. $33.95 / $19.95 special.

Langwerth Von Simmern Riesling Spatlese 1989 - Rheingau, Germany
Bright yellow gold in colour, this wine is quite stinky with an abundance of sulphur preservative and cheese. The stink disappears to reveal far more appealing lemon peel and creamed honey aromas. The flavour is vibrant and fresh and reminds me of tinned apricots and their juice on yellow custard. There's apples, peaches, white guavas, honey, lemons and orange peel too. The finish is bright and refreshing with lots of earthy citrus flavours lingering. Not bad at all for a 13 and a half year old wine. $39.95.

Melness Riesling 2002 - Canterbury
Straw lemon in colour with flinty, stony, honey, orange juice and floral aromas, this fresh spritzy and vibrantly fruity terrifically balanced Riesling, with its sweet musky flavours of honeydew melon and all sorts of citrus, just flows. It is delicious and mouthwatering. There's a hint of botrytis too. My white wine of the night. $21.95 special.

Castano Monastrell 2001 - Spain
A well-coloured fruity red that is plummy, herbal and a little stemmy on the nose, the flavour is oily and tarry with little oak influence. Seems quite simple at first but full black fruit flavours fill out with a Euro savouriness and a smokiness that reminds me of sausages cooking on a BBQ. A tasty quaffer that was well liked on the night. $16.95.

Foxes Island Pinot Noir 2000 - Marlborough
Developed medium depth red black colour with good intensity, it seems an oxidative style at first on the nose but later reveals spicy, fennel flower and vinous pinot scents. This is a seamless, silky-textured pinot with subtle oak well balanced to the red and black fruits, sweet earth, ferns, mushrooms and hints of aniseed. Well-structured with supple tannins, there's a touch of acidity on the finish and the length is long and savoury. $37.95.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2001 - Hawkes Bay
A big, dense, blackberry coloured wine, this is succulent and juicy, with lots of sweet fruit, nuggety oak and rich ripe tannins. It's spicy and leathery with a touch of tobacco, hints of mocha and lots of chocolate. A terrific wine from the vintage and even with those youthful tannins, it seems very easy to drink. $22.95 special.

Fox Creek Short Row Shiraz 2001 - McLaren Vale, South Australia
Bigger and blacker in colour with lots of purple hues, this is a gorgeous, sweet-fruited Shiraz that is finely textured in the palate with lots of black fruit, mint, chocolate and mocha flavours and soft furry (as in stroking a cat) fine grained tannins. It's juicy and sumptuous and terrifically balanced with lovely spicy fine-grained oak and black pepper, anise and licorice spices lingering on the finish. A super wine that is very hard not to like. $41.95.

Chivite Gran Feudo Muscat 2000 - Spain
'Slightly sweet' says Michelle. Well Kingsley did say it was a 'late harvest' style. Lightly musky nose with lots of citrus peel aromas it tastes of citrus too with peach and raisins and a little saltiness to add intrigue. Light, sweet and slightly viscous, it would be wonderfully refreshing served slightly chilled as an aperitif on a hot summer's day or as a dessert wine to accompany wine-poached fresh peaches. $24.95 / 500ml.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 12th February 2003
Matt Thompson, winemaker for Saint Clair wines was in town. I went to Matt's tasting two years ago. The wines were all terrific but who was Saint Clair?. No-one had really heard of them. But then the wines started performing on the Show scene and they just kept on winning, show after show. What a meteoric rise.

Saint Clair is totally owned by Neal and Judy Ibbotson, who resist offer after offer for their vineyards and winery, as they are not prepared to cash in yet. They originally planted their first vineyard with Muller Thurgau and as growers for Montana, the fruit went into the Blenheimer label. In 1994 they produced the first wines in the Saint Clair label, using the VinTech winery facility to process the grapes. Their own winery was commissioned in 2000 and they now grow grapes in their own vineyards scattered throughout the Wairau Valley and in the Awatere Valley. They also source fruit from growers. The wines are exported to many countries throughout the world.

Saint Clair Unoaked Chardonnay 2002
A rich, full-bodied fruity wine with attractive juicy fruit aromas and citrus and stonefruit flavours on a creamy, caramel backbone. Some pineapple develops and lingers on the finish. Has no oak but a toasty richness nevertheless from the 100% malo and extended lees contact. A nice wine to start the evening. $18.95.

Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2002
Richly aromatic with a pungent musky passionfruit fragrance that has just the merest hint of asparagus, this is a vibrantly flavoursome and juicy wine with passionfruit, green melon, gooseberry and summer herbs. The finish is long and persistent with good grassy acidity and just a hint of smoke. A simply terrific Sauvignon Blanc (and much better than the wine poured at the Cuisine Top 10 tasting last December). $16.95 special.
Gold Medal, Air New Zealand 2002 & Sydney Top 100 2003

Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2002
Youthful and vibrant, this is just a little riper on the nose with a touch of stonefruit and plenty of that character people call 'armpit' and can't think of a better name for. Wonderfully ripe and incredibly silky textured in the mouth the powerful flavours of passionfruit, stonefruit, apples and musk are incredibly persistent and linger with grass, summer herbs and that awesome Sauvignon Blanc pungency. An absolutely sensational Sauvignon Blanc. One of the world's best.  $NA (No longer available).
Trophy Bragato WIne Awards 2002  & Casino. Gold Medal Liquorland Top 100 2002, Air New Zealand 2002 and Sydney Top 100 2003.

Saint Clair Marlborough Chardonnay 2002
The appealing smoky nose reminds me of summer fires and fresh ripe figs while the savoury, wheaty flavour with lots of malo influence has hints of ripe nectarines. Made with American oak, this is a terrific easy drinking well-balanced chardonnay with spicy oak and a lovely creamy texture. $17.95 special

Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Chardonnay 2000
Golden coloured and richly aromatic with buttery oak, dried figs and just a hint of grapefruit, this is a finely polished wine that is complex and intense, rich and mouthfilling. There's a myriad of flavours reminding me of butterscotch, honey on toast, stonefruit, grilled citrus and dried tropical fruits that linger with savoury spicy oak on the finish. A terrific Chardonnay that is drinking beautifully right now but still has plenty of life ahead of it. Those who have this in their cellar won't be disappointed. $NA.
Gold Medal & Trophy, Liquorland International Top 100 2001

Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Chardonnay 2002 - Barrel Sample
With the colour and appearance of pineapple juice, the suggestion of this fruit definitely carries through to the palate. There's plenty of acidity in this unfinished wine, with hints of butterscotch and a terrific balanced oaky flavour that is a hallmark of the Saint Clair Omaka Chardonnay. One to look out for when it is finished for bottling late next month and released soon thereafter.

Saint Clair Marlborough Riesling 2002
Served just slightly chilled, this is a vivaciously fruity riesling with the aromas of all sorts of citrus, from limes through to grapefruit marmalade, as well as a touch of honey and something that reminds me of minerally 'bath salts'. Its crisp and refreshing and just off-dry with the sweetness well-balanced to the acidity. Richer apricot flavours join the citrus, adding to the flavour and length. Drinking very well right now with the potential to cellar for at least 5 years, there is probably no better value Riesling in the country. $17.95.
Gold Medal Liquorland Top 100 & Air NZ 2002.

Saint Clair Vicars Choice Pinot Noir 2002
Bright purple red with good density of colour, this wine first emits an aroma of burnt jam but it definitely improves to become quite smoky, gamey and savoury. There is a good depth of pinot character in the mouth with cherry and plum fruit and dried herbs supported by furry tannins and finishing with lots of acidity. Some creamy chocolate flavours develop as it lingers. '2002 was a good vintage for Pinot Noir', says Matt Thompson and the price is in relation to the quantity. $18.95 special.

Saint Clair Rapaura Reserve Merlot 2001
Dense red black in colour with a tarry, savoury, leathery aroma that has some distinct red berry scents behind it and the slightest suggestion of mint and later, aniseed. It's a big gutsy Merlot in the mouth with spicy dusty oak, mocha, ripe berries, plums and rosemary and savoury herbs. The tannins are firm and the finish is dry though the wine is terrifically ripe and even a little jammy on the finish. There are lots of interesting things going on in this wine and it is hard to believe it is from Marlborough. $28.95.
Trophy & Gold Medal Air New Zealand 2002
Trophy & Gold Medal Bragato Wine Awards 2002.

Taylors Vintage Port 1997
Dense, almost black in colour with a rich, spirituous, yeasty, licorice and red berry aroma, it's hot, spirituous and spicy in the mouth with sweet raisin flavours and a hint of beef tea. It is ultra smooth in texture and slips down easily. $159.95

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 5th February 2003
No review from me this week - I was out of town!

Note: The New Zealand wines listed on this page have been cross-catalogued to my wine reviews by grape variety - check out my Wine Review Index.

Wednesday Wines index
Current month's tasting notes.
Index to all Wednesday tastings notes.

Other 2003 Tastings
January 2003 tasting notes.
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March 2003 tasting notes.
April 2003 tasting notes.
May 2003 tasting notes.
June 2003 tasting notes.
July 2003 tasting notes.
August 2003 tasting notes.
September 2003 tasting notes.
October 2003 tasting notes.
November 2003 tasting notes.
December 2003 tasting notes.

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