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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

January 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 29th January 2003
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2002 - Marlborough
Straw gold in colour, the distinct gooseberry aromas of sauvignon are quite shy at first however this crisp and refreshing palate teaser opens up well in the mouth with flavoursof passionfruit, gooseberry and limes.  It's full-bodied and rich with a hint of toastiness and the finish is long, grassy and catty, just the epitome of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Gold medal and Trophy for Best Commerical White Wine at the 2002 Liquorland Top100. $19.95  special.

Kaituna Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2000
Yellow gold in colour with a slight tropical nuance to the mellow oak aromas, this soft creamy wine seems ever so easy to drink. It's ripe, rounded and harmonious with warm toasty oak, a mealy richness, stonefruit, pineapple and citrus flavours and a long spicy finish. It's still quite youthful, however and should drink well for a couple more years.  Gold medal winner somewhere. $24.95.

Shadowfax Chardonnay 2001 - Victoria, Australia
A totally different style to the Marlborough wine, this regional blend from the Yarra Valley and Geelong is pale in colour and its nose is shy. But there's nothing lacking in flavour.  It's deliciously soft and creamy and full of ripe juicy stonefruit and citrus then white nougat flavours that linger for ages. If you like Chardonnay you will love this terrifically balanced and classy wine with its well integrated nutty oak and long delicious finish. The judges at Winestate Magazine loved it too - they awarded it Chardonnay of the Year in 2002. $29.95.

Seresin Estate Riesling 2001 - Marlborough
Pale straw in colour with racy lime aromas and a monetary whiff of rubber band this wine is stylistically different to typical Marlborough Riesling. It's dry to the bone, spicy and refreshing with excellent citrus acidity that will cut through the greasiest fish and chips. $22.95.

Stoneleigh Riesling 2000 - Marlborough
Yellow gold in colour, this wine smells lush and ripe. It's dry, spicy, earthy, nutty and limey with hints of stonefruit and a honeyed toastiness developing on the lingering lime-flavoured finish. It's a full rich and powerful Riesling and though it is technically dry, there's a hint of residual sweetness in there that gives it an almost unanimous nod of approval. $17.95.

Donata Reserve Riesling 1998 - Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
Here's a sweet Riesling that brings a smile to the face.  It's ripe and fruity smelling with just the merest suggestion of anise while the flavours are perfumed, musky, grapey and sugary with lots of freshly squeezed orange and a hint of honey too.  Just 7.5% alcohol by volume, this rich oily-looking pale gold Riesling makes refreshing summer drinking. $23.95.

Borgia Campo de Borja 2001 - Spain
Made from Garnacha, this bright cranberry-coloured wine smells of strawberry jam, spice, tiger balm and manure. However the taste is totally different. It's smoky and savoury with blackberries and white pepper spice. It's not overly complex, just easy drinking and 'totally awesome with hot spicy pizza' according to the legendary Sharon.  A fairly popular wine on the night.  $14.95.

Deakin Estate Select Shiraz 1999 -
This deep dark Black Doris plum coloured wine is so obviously Aussie with its creamy seductive American oak aromas. It's soft and juicy with ripe tannins, sweet vanillin oak, spicy plums, hints of milk chocolate, a touch of mocha and the slightest hint of mint.  There's acidity too that makes it so lively. You won't need pizza with this one.  It's just so delicious on its own.  Perfect for 5 o'clock drinks. $17.95.

Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot 2000 - Margaret River, WA.
A definite step up in class, this garnet coloured wine has a complex aroma of plums, cassis, leather, spice, nugget and oak together with a hint of barnyard and a little menthol.  It's a dry, spicy wine and though a little lean at first with sour cherry and barnyard flavours it fills out well with juicy plums, robust berries, firm tannins, smoky savoury oak and a touch of hot chili pepper that lifts the bright spicy and flavoursome finish. It's reasonably approachable right now. $25.95.

Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz 2000 - South Australia
Densely purple black in colour, this wine is full of the aromas of spice, smoke, leather and the melting tar of the bitumen roads on a hot summer's day.  It a big dark and creamy in flavour with plums and lots of crushed black peppery spice together with chocolate, mint, mocha and tar, rich meaty tannins and tobacco-like oak. It finishes dry and the length is excellent.  Opulent is definitely the word for this wine. $16.95.

Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz 2000 - South Australia
This dark blackberry coloured wine just reeks of blackberry fruit and sweet syrupy malt while a port-like liquorice aroma is a little more subtle. It's richly flavoursome, juicy and succulent with blackberries, rum and raisin chocolate, hints of licorice and lots of pepper and spice. The tannins are smooth and the oak is totally integrated.  Chewy and long, it's a very ripe wine with a definite porty flavour to the finish. $25.95.

Eileen Hardy Shiraz 1999 - South Australia
Deep dark and dense and almost black in colour, the aroma of smoke, tar and burning tyres is quite intriguing. Hugely spicy, peppery, salty and savoury this well-balanced youthful wine doesn't really have any fruit flavours that are readily distinguishable at this stage of its life.  It's dry, woody, meaty, creamy and nutty with rich ripe grippy tannins, a hugely vinous complexity and a ripe and sultry lingering finish. From a vintage that was overshadowed by the sumptuous wines of 1998, it will develop well in the cellar.  It definitely needs a big glass and lots of swirling right now. $87.95.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 22nd January 2003
Wynns Coonawarra Chardonnay 2001 - Coonawarra, South Australia
Yellow with green hints, this is a typically Aussie chardonnay with a smoky nose, melon and pineapple fruit, buttery oak and a creamy texture. The first taste is quite fresh but then it becomes soft and creamy and lingers with ripe mellow flavours and a hint of sultana. A good summer quaffer at the price. $14.95.

Brookfields Bergman Chardonnay 2002 - Hawkes Bay
A paler chardonnay with more delicate creamy, nutty aromas and spicy melon and stonefruit flavours. It's a lovely and ripe with a good citrus attack and a powerfully rich mealy and slightly hot finish. A honeyed complexity emerges to linger with the stonefruit flavours in this characterful well-worked wine. About half the room gave it the thumbs up, though its youthful citrus fooled many into thinking it was from Marlborough. $15.95.

West Brook Blue Ridge Chardonnay 2001 - Marlborough
Bright and clear, the colour of a pale citrine gemstone, this is a powerfully scented mealy, rich wine. Lots of very classy French oak flavour fills the mouth to be quickly joined by a juicy medley of tropical fruit, pineapple and pear. There's a terrific creaminess with subtle butterscotch and a hint of caramel too. Though still very tightly wound up in its mealy flavour this is a very classy wine indeed and totally deserving of its gold medal at the 2002 Air NZ Wine Awards. Just about everybody liked this wine. $23.95

Donata Reserve Pinot Gris 2000 - Baden, Germany
An oily looking pale wine with marzipan and almond-like scents reminiscent of Christmas cake icing. A steely, oxidative Euro-style with hints of lemon and apricot fruit hiding behind the lanolin-like flavours and a hard finish. It was clearly not impressive, as only about 8 people liked this wine. $23.95.

Peregrine Riesling 2001 - Central Otago
The first whiff of the hot lemon and slightly rubbery aroma at first made me think this was a Clare Valley Riesling and indeed half the room thought this was Australian too. However the concentrated 'Roses Lime Juice' aroma quickly takes over and dominates both the nose and palate. It's a fairly dry, spicy wine with good palate weight and lots of juicy lime and lemon citrus flavours. However, this dry, acidic style of Riesling is one that people either love or hate and tonight the room was split 50/50. Me, I just love this style, as did the Cuisine Top 10 Riesling judges last year. $21.95.

Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2001 - Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
A pale coloured wine with a classic 'German' nose of lemons and flowers, this beautifully pure Riesling has wonderful balanced acidity and a lovely apparent sweetness though it finishes quite dry. It is quite creamy textured in the mouth with the freshness of mountain river water, the ripe fruit of apples and lemons and the full rich flavour of 'fresh out of the oven' apple crumble. Far too yummy to spit out. Only about 8 people didn't like this wine. $32.95.

Artazuri Garnacha 2000 - Spain
This medium dense, dark grape coloured wine has a kind of odd aroma at first but give it a swirl to let the licorice and spice emerge. In the mouth it's rustic, savoury and peppery with a touch of blood and a definite barnyard character or 'zoo poo' as one taster described it. Although quite tannic and dry, sweeter flavours with a hint of caramel chocolate emerge to linger. An interesting alternative to quaff around a smoky BBQ. $15.95

Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir 2001 - Central Otago
What a contrast! This dark ruby/black coloured wine has opulent and alluring scents of sweet cherry and cedary French oak. There's a myriad of flavours in the mouth although they are very tightly wound up in the youthful tannins of this medium-bodied wine right now. It's creamy textured, savoury and smoky with spice, cherries, dusty blackberries, mature meadow mushrooms, smoky bacon, a hint of anise and a touch of woody herbs. There's plenty of acidity too, which makes the dry 'sucking on a cherry stone' finish quite puckery and more-ish. An excellent wine with a long life ahead of it. Just about everyone liked this wine as well. $63.95

McWilliams Hanwood Merlot 2001 - Australia
Seems so simple after the wonderful Block 5 and I actually thought it was a Grenache rather than a Merlot. Fairly dense red black in colour, this has candy-like cherry fruit flavours, spice and vanillin oak. It's juicy, soft and easy drinking with a dry spicy finish and a chocolate raisin character that lingers. $11.95.

Brown Brothers Merlot 2000 - Victoria, Australia
Youthful in its purple black colour, this has a leathery aroma and a full rich flavour of blackberry and spiced plums, black nugget and a touch of mocha. It's smoky, savoury and leathery with a hint of mint that appears and lingers on the finish. This is more what I expect Merlot to taste like. $19.95

Mission Estate Gimblett Road Cabernet Merlot 2000 - Hawkes Bay
A densely coloured blackberry hued wine with pinky/purple rim. There's fabulously classy oak on the nose enhanced with blackcurrant fruit and vanilla spice. Still very youthful, the flavour is spicy, the tannins are silky, and the texture is creamy. This is an opulent wine with a blueberry juiciness, a black savouriness, a cedary oakiness and lingering leather plums and spice. Highest scoring New Zealand Cabernet-dominant wine in the 2002 Liquorland Top 100, it's drinking well right now. $27.95. *** My Wine of the Night and superb value too.

Te Mata Coleraine 2000 - Hawkes Bay
(52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and 19% Cabernet Franc)
Even denser and blacker, if possible, this is a huge wine with its firm ripe tannins very powerfully dominant. There's a cedary vinous aromas and lots of structure and body in this silky and creamy textured dense, dark wine with flavours of marmite, blackcurrant, blackberry jam, tobacco, cigar ash, tar, meat and spices with cinnamon and ginger appearing on the long, warm cedary finish.
"This is more grown up' said one taster. To me it still has plenty of growing up to do. It simply needs more time to let the powerful tannins integrate and the vinous complexities emerge. $63.95

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 15th January 2003
Santero Asti - Piedmont, Italy
What a refreshing light and fruity sparkler to start the tasting. We thought it could be an Asti and it turned out we were right. With its Muscat-like aromas, slightly minty sweet lemon and apple shortcake flavours and foaming creamy texture, this definitely suits the summery weather. Though perhaps a tad metallic on the finish at first, this is soon forgotten as the sweet musky flavours linger. Just 7.5% alcohol by volume, its a great wine to take to a picnic if you are the driver. Serve very chilled. $15.95.

Oyster Bay Chardonnay 2001 - Marlborough
This straw gold coloured wine emits reasonably appealing tropical fruit and buttery oak aromas. However once the wine is in the mouth the chunky oak is hard and the pineapple flavour is so dominant it makes the wine taste unappealingly acidic. A fairly ordinary chardonnay that is showing disjointed oak, malo and acid right now. It was not a crowd pleaser tonight. $21.95

Nobilo Icon Chardonnay 2001 - Marlborough
There's much more complexity on the nose of this wine with melon-like fruit accompanied by spicy French oak. Malo buttery flavours are quite dominant in the palate and there is lots of that distinctive Marlborough acid but with this wine the components are in harmony. There's ripe melon and stone fruit, nutty oak and butterscotch with some lovely peach-like flavours lingering on the smooth-textured dry finish. "Much better than better" was a comment on this well-liked wine that has gold medals from the 2002 Liquorland Top 100 and the 2002 International Chardonnay Challenge behind it. $22.95.
This wine should have only very slight chilling, otherwise the acidity will become too apparent.

Akarua Pinot Gris 2002 - Bannockburn, Central Otago
A pale coloured wine with a very aromatic and characteristic Pinot Gris aroma of ripe pear. It's a juicy wine with nutty, spicy, mealy oak, lots of balanced acid and pear, lemon and apple flavours. It is reasonably full bodied and the flavours linger well on the dry finish. Reasonably popular tonight, though with the high acid and strong aromatics, many thought at first it was Riesling. $22.95

Allan Scott Riesling 2002 - Marlborough
A spicy zesty Riesling with lemon sherbet, mandarin and freshly picked apricot flavours. Just on the cusp of off-dry, it's sweetly musky and the 7.4 grams of residual sugar is balanced well to the lively acidity. As the wine lingers it develops a honeyed complexity. Serve chilled for a refreshing summery drink. Gold medal winner at the 2002 Liquorland International Top 100. $17.95

Felton Road Block One Riesling 2002 - Bannockburn, Central Otago - White Wine of the Night
This pale coloured, oily viscous looking wine has been served quite cold and at first the nose is quite closed. But as it warms up there is a vague notion of strawberry then later lots of citrus. Lemon and limes and a medley of fruit salad ingredients join the nutty apple flavours of this seamless, silky textured and beautifully balanced wine. A pure lemon flavour lingers on the fabulous length. Just 10% alcohol by volume, this is a definite favourite with the tasters tonight. $30.95.

Te Mata Woodthorpe Gamay Noir 2002- Hawkes Bay
This light cherry red coloured wine has smoky jammy strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant aromas. It's a little chocolatey too. Light, soft and fruity with a spicy fruit flavour and a Euro-like savouriness. $21.95

Antonori Tignanello 1998 - Tuscany, Italy - Wine of the Night
Deep black red in colour, this blend of Sangiovese (80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon has an intriguing salty, marmite licorice aroma combined with sultry spiced cherry and prune fruit. It's a huge dense full-bodied wine that is full of tar, leather, barnyard, gravel and earthy flavours combined with a spicy pruney grape sweetness, woody herbs, wonderfully integrated nuggety oak and a delicious savoury meaty character. It is so deep, dark and brooding and locked up within its enormous tannins, making it almost impossible to drink, but not quite. $101.00.
This was simply a spectacular wine that was a treat to try. I just wanted to savour the flavour that became quite stonefruit-like in its fruit sweetness as it lingered on the palate. But we had to go on.

Jim Barry Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - Clare Valley, South Australia
This was such a contrast to the Super Tuscan with its sweet fruited chocolatey, brambly, smoky and slightly minty aromas leaping out of the glass. Spicy grainy tannins with a touch of barnyard and some leathery notes at first, the classic Clare mint character comes through. It's a juicy spicy wine with lots of brambly berry flavours and very good length. This got the thumbs up tonight. $22.95.

Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 1998 - Coonawarra, South Australia - Star Buy of the Night
Blackberry in colour with peppery spice and blackberry aromas, this is a big wine that is ripe, sweet, juicy and luscious. Lots of ripe fruit tannins combine with spicy vanillin oak, a hint of nut chocolate and loads of sweet plum and blackberry fruit. A very good wine from a sensational vintage. "Yums" all round. And look at the price! $15.95 special.

The Willows Barossa Shiraz 2000 - Barossa Valley, South Australia
Dense blackcurrant red in colour with mint-mocha chocolate aromas that are so very Australian. The choc/mocha character carries through to the palate to join the rich dense spicy oak and cameo creme biscuit flavours that are well supported by the lovely ripe tannins. Perhaps not as classy or as cellar worthy as the as the 1999 from this producer (2-3 years instead of at least 5) but rich, juicy, succulent and immensely drinkable regardless. $31.95

Waimea Estate Noble Riesling 1999 (375ml) - Nelson
Sparkling bright burnished gold, this ultra-sweet wine (picked at 47 degrees Brix and with 200 grams of residual sugar) emits wonderfully concentrated aromas of botrytis, apricot and orange honey and tastes of bright, spicy and zesty ripe Riesling fruit with flavours of orange syrup and apricot nectar. Wonderfully thick and viscous in texture with terrific concentration, weight and length, a hint of spicy ginger and candied peel livens up the long lingering honeyed finish. Fully deserving of its Gold and Trophy for Best Sweet Wine in the 2001 Liquorland Top 100. $49.95

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 8th January 2003
The first of the New Year's Fine Wine Wednesday tastings started with appropriate wines for the Summer Series, a trio of Rosť's.

Chivite Gran Feudo Rosť 2001 - Spain
The dark watermelon/raspberry coloured from Spain is a ripe and juicy off dry wine with refreshing flavours of crisp watermelon, strawberries, plums and a grind of black pepper. Good but perhaps a tad lacking on the finish. Made from Grenache, this is apparently this is Spain's best selling Rosť. $15.95.

Redmetal Rosť 2002 - Hawkes Bay
Crushed raspberry colour, quite dark for a Rose. Sweeter wine, jammy strawberry flavours, a hint of wood, a touch of spice and plenty of acidity that tingles the tongue. A full rich plummy flavour that lingers with the strawberries. Most preferred this to the Chivite. "Better all round" was the comment. $20.95.

Ata Rangi Summer Rosť 2002 - Martinborough
Salmon colour (lighter than the Redmetal). Not as forthcoming on the nose but a lovely ripe and balanced wine with a good body and fruit salad, melon and tropical fruit flavours. Several people thought the wine had some Sauvignon Blanc in it, however it is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Pinot Meunier. I thought the wine had really opened up well since lasted, when I found blackcurrants in the flavour profile. I wondered if anyone else tasted blackcurrants. I've read that blackcurrant is used as a descriptor for sauvignon blanc, tho' not very commonly in New Zealand). Perhaps that is the correlation.
Nice, easy and refreshing drinking. Most people liked this tonight. $20.95.

Then some refreshing quaffers from around the world.

Lurton Pinot Gris 2001 - Argentina
Heaps of rubber band, hot climate character on nose. Quite aromatic, a little musky with ripe apricot and stonefruit flavours. Full-bodied with a little oak. Something in here reminded me of Australian Chardonnay. Most people liked it, especially its reasonable value. However, it wasn't really my style. $16.95.

Montrose Mudgee Stony Creek Chardonnay 1999 - N.S.W, Australia
A big ripe round oily buttery wine with citrus and creamy oak. Good development. Drinking well now. Plenty of length. Pretty popular wine. $12.95 special. Even better value at $11.95 a bottle for a 6-bottle case. Star Buy of the Night

St Francis Chardonnay 2001 - Hawkes Bay
Up front ripe to overripe citrus flavours, the oak is very subdued after the Stony Creek but becomes more apparent and the flavours become more peachy/apricot as wine lingers. Reasonable finish. Not so popular with the troops. I think this was because it followed the more developed and oaky Mudgee wine. $21.95

A couple of rieslings showed the excellence that some producers are achieving with this grape variety.

Craggy Range Rapaura Riesling 2002 - Marlborough
Fresh and fruity, lots of juicy acidity, apples, a touch of pear. Nice grainy textured wine with a full bodied Riesling richness and lingering lemon flavours. I can see this developing a honeyed concentration with time. Nice wine. $21.95.

Felton Road Riesling 2002 - Bannockburn, Otago
Floral and citrus scented medium style with lots of zizz in the mouth that attacks like sherbet with a limey pizzazz. It loses the zizz to become quite creamy textured with flavours of lemons, spice and honey with an earthy complexity. A 'serious wine' with terrific length and a concentrated long lingering finish. Very, very good. $25.95.

A rare treat followed -

Marc Bredif Vouvray 2000 - Loire Valley, France
Ripe apple and floral aromas. Oily at first in the mouth with the faintest hint of lanolin. Rich, concentrated, a touch of burnt sugar and plenty of apple pie . Nicely balanced acidity that flares with a touch of lemon on the long creamy finish. Made from Chenin Blanc grapes and probably capable of cellaring 10 to 15 years. $33.95/$29.95

A trio of pinot noirs completed the tasting. What a treat of a line-up.

Nautilus Pinot Noir Marlborough 2001- Marlborough
"Hot asphalt on a summer's day" said someone. Deep ruby, bright in colour, there's definitely a chocolate raisin aroma. It tastes very ripe and creamy and a little funky, savoury and gamey with chocolatey oak, sweet strawberry and cherry fruit, zingy spice and a lovely ripe velvety tannin structure. 'Extremely good pinot noir' said Kingsley. I agree. It is ripe and round with a lovely balance of acidity and ripe savoury fruit. It is a wine that is just so totally delicious to drink now. $35.95.

Carrick Central Otago Pinot Noir 2001
This wine, that came top in a UK magazine tasting last year, is showing more purple hues to the youthful purple-black colour. It's feral scented and silky textured with wild herbs and a dark berry savoury meaty character. Seems to have a bit more polish than the Nautilus but not quite the immediate yummy factor. Spicy with some chocolate and tar, plenty of acid and a touch of that funky Burgundian character. A good wine. $35.95.

Martinborough Vineyards Pinot Noir 2001
Garnet coloured with a bright hue. Tar, oil, herbs, citrus and mulled wine spices combine with cherries and smoky/charry oak. This is just so more complex than the others, so creamy, quite voluptuous in fact. With its dense, well-integrated silky tannins, this is a wine with incredible finesse. Rated as excellent and my pick for Wine of the Night. $65.95.

I thought it interesting that here we had three excellent wines from the 2001 vintage, yet they all showed different colour hues and all had their own delicious traits. However the Martinborough Vineyards Pinot Noir really stood head and shoulders above the other two. No doubt this has a lot to do with the heritage of this Martinborough producer and the older vines.

© Sue Courtney, 2003

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.

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