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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

June 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 - 25th June 2003
All gold medal and 5-star wines
All wines were tasted blind.

Nikau Point Reserve Chardonnay 2002 - Hawkes Bay
Pale gold with smoky spicy toast and citrus aromas, this is ripe, juicy and creamy with savoury toasty oak, bright tropical fruit and a warm mealy, hot tangy finish.
14% alc. $17.95 special.
Gold - Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2002

Mudhouse Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2002
Pale straw in colour with a pungent, sweaty distinctly Sauvignon nose. Juicy ripe passionfruit and limey citrus flavours with gooseberry overtones fill the palate. It's a grainy textured wine with a smoky, fumé, fresh cut grass finish - it's young, fresh, bracing and zingy, exactly what SB should be like. It's sealed with a screwcap and still has that youthful exuberance of freshness 12 months after vintage. Simply excellent.
12.5% alc. $15.95 special
Gold medal NZWS Easter Show 2003

Mudhouse Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2002
Pale straw in colour, this is quite subdued on the nose after the previous wine but has typical rich Sauvignon pungency in the palate. It's softer in acidity and more developed with a suggestion of canned pea joining the capsicum, gooseberry, grass and fleshy fruit that hints of stonefruit and pineapple. The finish is long, tangy and pungent.
It's a good sauvignon and about half preferred this style but boy, were we surprised when this was revealed to be the same wine as the previous one. Absolutely nobody in the room would have guessed this, in fact half thought it from Hawkes Bay. It just goes to show the difference a closure can make. This one, closed with a black synthetic cork, really lacked the youthful vitality, acidity and freshness of the screw.
I would think the screwcapped wine was the one that won the gold in the Easter Show.
12.5% alc. $15.95 special

Mills Reef Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2002
Pale yellow in colour with ripe, juicy, mellow, toasty aromas. Smooth in texture with pineapple, pears, peaches, hints of grapefruit and spicy oak in palate. It's toasty, mealy, nutty and just a little buttery. Straight up and down, very easy to like, especially at the price.
13.5% alc. $13.95 special.
Gold - NZWS Easter Show 2003

Kumeu River Chardonnay 2001 - Auckland
Golden yellow with green glints, this looks bright in the glass. Toasted nuts dominate the nose. Sweetish spicy oak, pear, peach, lemon, grapefruit, banana and tropical fruits with lots of mealy, nutty wine making complexities and a very long, creamy oak finish. Quite Burgundian-like.
13% alc. $35.95.
Rated 93/100 by Wine Spectator, USA.

Melness Waipara Riesling 2002
Richly perfumed and pungent with floral, spicy, musky aromas this is medium sweet in flavour with an array of juicy citrus that comes in layers of oranges, grapefruits, mandarins and limes with a smattering of ginger, musk and honeysuckle nectar. Almost unctuous in its texture. Quite primary in its fruit and almost impossible not to like. I rate it fantastic.
12.5% alc. $21.95 special
Gold - NZWS Easter Show 2003

Ross Estate Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
Sweet vanilla, blackcurrant and spicy American oak aromas. Leather, mocha, sweet oak, black berry fruits, thick, chewy. A rich savoury spicy wine with furry tannins, lots of depth and length. There's a just a touch of a medicinal-like yeasty flavour which some people will love and others will find distracting.
12.5% alc.$18.95 special.
Gold - Liquorland Top 100, 2002

Orlando St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Inky blackberry hues. Gorgeous sweet fruited primary fruit aromas of blackcurrant and blackberries together with chocolate and mint. It smells great and the promise follows through in the mouth with the concentrated fruit flavours joined by tobacco, leather, liquorice and vanillin oak. There's heaps of tannins but very fine they are. Rich chocolate, cherry and leathery oak flavours linger. A gorgeous wine with so much going on.
$13.5% alc. $41.95
Gold - Australian National Wine Show, Canberra, 2001

Sacred Hill Brokenstone Hawkes Bay Merlot 2000
Inky red/blackcurrant colour. Biscuity oak on nose. It's tarry and dry first up in the mouth following straight on from the sweet fruited Aussie but the sweet ripe fruit comes forth with tobacco, leather, plums, blackberry and chocolate coated cherries filled with more warm liquid chocolate. Savoury French oak plays in the background with powerful ripe tannins but overall the wine is smooth, spicy and succulent. A blockbuster of a New Zealand Merlot.
13.5% alc. $39.95
Gold medal and trophy - Liquorland Top 100 2002.

Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 1999 - Franklin River, Western Australia
Very deep inky red with bright crimson rims, there's concentrated brambly fruit and spicy cedary oak on the nose. It's sweet creamy, ripe and juicy in the mouth with a multitude of flavours including cherries, cassis, violets, sweet spices, cloves, tobacco, classy French oak and firm, slightly leathery tannins. The texture is thick and biscuity. It's smooth on entry and there's a seamless flow throughout. The sweet, ripe, creamy, vanillin and berry flavours linger.
I can totally understand why Australian judges love this wine - it smells like an Australian but there's some classy Bordeaux-like flavours in there too.
14.5% alc. $88.95
Three trophies and 12 gold medals

Lauriston Show Port - Reynella, SA
Clear dark orange amber in colour with a savoury, salty, raisin-rich aroma and a rich, powerful, spirituous, pruney, sweet nutty flavour that finishes with a lift of salty citrus. It's very fine and terrifically balanced, smooth and seamless in its flow, warming away any winter blues. There's 70 years of wine in the blend.
19.5% alc. $33.95 / 500ml
Multiple gold medal winner

Lauriston Show Liqueur Muscat - Reynella, SA
Green rims on the clear, golden hued coffee brown coloured liquid that smells just wonderfully sweet and delicious. It's thick and unctuous with flavours of caramel, sticky raisins, moist rich fruit cake, brandied fruits and hot warming alcohol, just the perfect way to end an evening - though some FGFWW tasters know that Liqueur Muscat is also a wonderful addition to pancakes on a lazy morning. Quality plus with 20 years of wine in the blend.
19.5%% alc. $33.95 / 500ml
Multiple trophy and gold medal winner

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 18th June 2003
Mostly Cuisine Top 10 Chardonnays - and a couple of ring-ins
All wines - except the last one - were tasted blind. Star ratings are out of 5.

The pre-taster
Ashwood Grove Chardonnay 2001 - Australia
Bright yellow gold with aromas of nuts, melons and smoky Australian bush-fires in the distance, this fairly developed wine seems a little flat at first. Perhaps it was the toothpaste for it livens up with spicy oak, melons, canned peaches and dried-bananas. Savoury oak lingers. An easy wine to start the evening. ***
13.5% alc. $11.95 special.

Saint Clair Explorer Chardonnay 2001 - Marlborough
(Rated 5 stars, 93/100 and No. 4 in the Cuisine Chardonnay Tasting)
Pale yellow in colour with smoky oak, juicy tropical fruit and a hint of estery bubble-gum on the nose. Light and bright, showing its fresh youthfulness in the palate with mandarins, grapefruit peel and hints of lime. Leesy, nutty, milky flavours dominate the finish and linger with lots of savoury oak. ***1/2.
13.5% alc. $17.95 special
None of the Saint Clair bottles opened on the night were big, rich and buttery as stated in the Cuisine notes. A pleasant wine at best.

Forrest Estate Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2001 - Marlborough
(Rated 4 stars, 87/100 in the Cuisine Chardonnay Tasting)
Pale lemon. Perfumed peachy aromas with a leesy, vanillin, spicy oak influence, this is a rich, full-bodied and lengthy wine with a smooth creamy texture. It's hot and spicy with vanilla, butterscotch and nutty leesy flavours at first then some juicy tropical fruit emerges on the lingering spicy oak finish. Sealed with a screwcap. ****
14.5% alc. $17.95 special.

Waipara Springs Lightly Oaked Chardonnay 2002 - Waipara
(Rated 5 stars, 93/100 and No. 3 in the Cuisine Chardonnay Tasting)
A very pale coloured fruity smelling chardonnay with lots of fruit vibrancy in the palate - tropical fruit, passionfruit and even a suggestion of Sauvignon Blanc-like gooseberry. Light, fresh, juicy and fruity with savoury, salty, nutty leesy flavours emerging and a smidgen of oak loitering in the corner. An 'aperitif' style. ***1/2
14% alc. $16.95 special.

Tasman Bay Marlborough Chardonnay 2002
(Rated 4 stars in the Cuisine 'Best of the Bunch'. Gold Medal - Easter Show)
Light yellow in colour; rich, ripe and perfumed peachy aromas, this is a rich, smooth, creamy wine with lots of vanilla, caramel, melons and stonefruits then tropical fruits that linger. A classy well-made wine that blows all others away at a similar price. *****
The wonderfully smooth texture and that luscious caramel flavour seem to be a hallmark of the Phil Jones chardonnays (Spencer Hill and Tasman Bay).
13.5% alc. $17.95 special. 'Star Buy'.

Brookfields Marshall Bank Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2002
Light yellow. Smoky bacon on the nose with almost overpowering oak in the palate, this is a big, spicy wine but it's also a little astringent. First-up lemon meringue and lime sherbet top the crème brulee and butterscotch flavours while rich peach and apricot nectar fill out the finish that has a slightly disintegrated alcoholic bite. ***1/2 (on the bottle tasted)
14% alc. $29.95.

Charles Wiffen Marlborough Chardonnay 2002
(Rated 4 stars and 85/100 in the Cuisine Chardonnay Tasting)
Quite gold for its age, this is a juicy wine with a smooth, rich, creamy texture, well-integrated spicy oak and full-bodied peachy fruit flavour. Bright juicy citrus and tropical fruit flavours lift the finish and linger well.
A repour had ensured we were served a good wine. Bottle variation was again rife in the room. "The sooner these wines are in screwcap, the sooner we will get consistency in the wines" said Kingsley. "Several bottles tasted in the previous 2 weeks were stunning wines and had different characters to those tasted on the night". ***1/2
14% alc. $19.95 special.

Mission Estate Jewelstone Chardonnay 2002 - Hawkes Bay
(Rated 5 stars, 94/100 and No. 2 in the Cuisine Chardonnay Tasting)
Pale yellow. Rich, nutty, leesy, mealy and toasty French oak aromas. Sweet, ripe peachy fruit with wonderfully integrated spicy, savoury oak and a rich creamy, mealy texture. It's creamy and rich with lingering peach and smoky savoury oak. This is a complex interesting wine but still tightly enclosed in its cocoon right now and has lots of developing to do. The signs are all there that this is a wine that will reward cellaring, it is a wine that will last and given enjoyable drinking for years to come. The intensity of sweet stonefruit and the incredible length of flavour in this wine is to me what the 2002 Hawkes Bay vintage is all about - profound fruit flavours and fantastic length. ***** (and my personal WOTN)
13.5% alc. $28.95.

Matua Matheson Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2001
Yellow. Slight hints of botrytis on the nose with aromas of honey and beeswax. Smoky and toasty in the palate with honey-cured bacon and mealy, savoury oak flavours joining exotic yellow fruits, white raisins and biscuits, with a good fruit richness on the finish. Bottle variation was again apparent in the room. Ours was good in comparison. Gold medal winner. ****.
13% alc. $19.95.

Mount Riley Seventeen Valley Chardonnay 2001 - Marlborough
(Rated 5 stars, 93/100 and No. 6 in the Cuisine Chardonnay Tasting)
Golden yellow. Rich, wheaty, mealy and creamy with peachy perfumed oak, this concentrated powerful wine is hot, rich, dry, and savoury. There's layer upon layer of flavour with ripe peachy fruit, citrus, toffee and spice. It has the benefit of a little bottle development and is opening up well and drinking rather deliciously right now. *****
14.5% alc. $32.95.

Matariki Reserve Chardonnay 2001
(Rated 5 stars, 93/100 and No. 5 in the Cuisine Chardonnay Tasting)
Creamy yellow. An immediately sweeter smelling wine than the Mount Riley with oily concentrated fruit and again a hint of botrytis (as per the previous 2001 HB Chardonnay tasted). Smooth textured honeyed oak in the palate with vanilla and lemon bread, it’s oily and savoury with rich mealy flavours then peach and marmalade coming through to linger on the finish. A wine that is still evolving. Bottle variation again apparent in the room. ****
13.5% alc. $36.95.

Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2001
(Rated 5 stars, 94/100 and No. 1 in the Cuisine Chardonnay Tasting) Bright yellow. Lots of creamy citrus and grapefruit peel on the nose. Well-integrated with sweet honeyed oak, custard and fruit salad in the palate. Creamy textured with a ripe fruit profile, lots of smoky mealy richness and a good dollop of savoury spicy oak on the finish. Powerful and flavoursome. Screwcap ensured consistency. Everyone loved it. *****
14.5% alc. $34.95.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 11th June 2003
Chocolate and Australian Shiraz
All wines were tasted blind. Star ratings are out of 5.

Wyndham Bin 555 Sparkling Shiraz
When you see this lovely rich Burgundy-red coloured wine you can understand why the Aussies used to call bubbly Shiraz 'Sparkling Burgundy'. It's bright, bubbly and fruity with a good depth of rich chocolatey oak and spicy Shiraz flavours, raspberry, fruitcake cherries, plums, velvety tannins and a succulent juicy finish. Good. Lots of fun. 14% alc. $14.95. ***1/2

Tatachilla McLaren Vale Shiraz 2000
Blackish red with heaps of sweet vanillin, coconut oak and mocha spice on the nose, blackberry, blueberry and blackcurrant fruit, licorice, pepper and tar in the mouth. A deep inky wine with lots of tannin, lots of acid and a sweet fruit finish. Will benefit from cellaring. Matured in American and French oak. 14.5% alc. $29.95. ****

Banrock Station Reserve Shiraz 2001
Medium depth, deepish red. Slightly oily, muddy aromas give way to sweet plummy fruits. A creamy spicy wine with a savoury twist, liquorice, tar, pepper, bitter chocolate, a touch of mocha, robust tannins and a sweet spicy leathery finish. It's a little bit disintegrated in the palate but finishes and lingers well. Good value for money. I've had this before with bacon and mushroom pasta in a garlic and tomato sauce and it was really good. 13% alc. $14.95 special. ***

Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz 2000
Medium depth, deep red coloured wine with a dark, tarry, bitumen-like aroma that has an aromatic lift of roses and spices. Biscuity sweet fruit, chocolate and spice with a dark tarry note then a sweet and juicy peppery finish. Ready to drink now. 14% alc. $18.95. ***1/2

Woodstock Shiraz 1999 - Limestone Coast & McLaren Vale
Vibrant red berries and chocolatey oak on the nose. Sweet juicy purple fruit, oak, tar and spice in the mouth. Musk and rose petal on the long smooth finish. The inky red colour does not disclose its age. This is what we expect from Shiraz - pepper and spice and all things nice. A rich serious wine with big meaty tannins adding mid-palate grunt and grip. A smattering of Petit Verdot adds lots of colour and interest. "Better with food" says Kingsley but I'd be happy to drink it anytime. 18 months in American oak. 14% alc. $15.95 special. ****1/2.

Ross Estate Barossa Shiraz 2000
A dark brooding wine with dark chocolate, ozone, vanillin, mocha and smoky bacon on the nose; cigar box, smoke, tar, oil, leather and crushed black pepper in the mouth. Dry and savoury with concentrated dark plum and cassis-like fruit lingering on the finish. 12 months in American oak. 13% alc. $18.95 special. ***1/2.

Browns of Padthaway T-Trellis Shiraz 2001
A big blackish red wine with sweet, vibrant aromas of cherry and chocolate, cherry-ripe, vanilla and spice. There's a little, tar, a little leather and lots and lots of creamy chocolate, mocha and ripe fruit flavours. Smooth, soft and easy to drink, it's simply delicious. Two years in American and French oak. 13.5% alc. $17.95 special. ****1/2

Beresford Highwood McLaren Vale Shiraz 2001
Looks great with its deep dark blackberry coloured hues and spicy oak on the nose. But what's that faint aroma of Chicken stock? This is a dry wine, drier than all the others so far, dry and savoury with lots of pepper and perhaps even some herbs de Provence. A thick chewy tannic wine with malt, toffee, plums, currants and tarry oak lingering. 'Particularly satisfying with beef or kangaroo' according to the back label. 15% alc. $16.95 special. ***

Rosemount Show Reserve Shiraz 1998 - McLaren Vale / Langhorne Creek
Showing development in its deep dark garnet rimmed colour, this has meat, marmite, oxo and biscuity oak on the nose and delicious ripe sweet fruit in the palate. This is a huge, huge wine, smooth and seamless with mint, mocha, blackberry, plums, spice, liquorice, tar, currants and a port-like character on the finish. Lovely development with some terrific secondary Shiraz characters, this is drinking extremely well but still has years of life ahead of it. 24 months in American and French oak 14.5% alc. $26.95 special. *****.

St Hallet Blackwell Barossa Shiraz 1999
Deep, inky red black with a little development showing on the rims, this has interesting aromas of bitter chocolate with a hint of mint. But there's not really any chocolate flavours in the palate. It's a big spicy, leathery, savoury, smoky, meaty wine with pepper, liquorice, mocha, plum, blackberry, vanilla and a sweet, warm oak finish. Lovely grainy tannins. Liquorice flavours linger. Definitely a food wine and one that would benefit from cellaring. Matured in American oak. 14% alc. $25.95. ****1/2

Browns of Padthaway Ernest Shiraz 1999
Showing some development in the colour, this reeks of cherry chocolate on the nose. A big, multi-layered wine with flavours of liquorice, cherries, blackcurrants, blackberries, fruitcake spice. Sweet and juicy with a warm, rich, spicy finish and a dark, tarry nuance. Good development and drinking very very well now. Two years in French and American oak 14% alc. $22.95 special. ***** Gold medal and Trophy for Best Commercial Red Wine - Liquorland Top 100 2002

D'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz McLaren Vale 2000
A big dense red wine, inky, impenetrable in it colour. There's big fruit and oak tannins in this opulently scented wine that is full of concentrated dark plum and currant fruit with loads of spice, mocha, leather, tar, liquorice and spicy French oak supporting it. And just a faint suggestion of mint. Hot, mouthfilling, full bodied and rich with a lovely thick creamy texture and flavours of malt and caramel lingering on the finish, this is serious stuff, a 'big grunter' in every sense, with years of life within. 22 months in American and French oak 14.5% alc. $65.95. Serious Buy. Top stuff. Excellence plus. *****

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 4th June 2003
A Little Different - Varieties and Blends
All wines except the last one were tasted blind.

Canterbury House 'The Good Times' Pinot Gris 2002 - Waipara
Very pale straw. Pungent and perfumed with pear, talc and subtle musk on nose. Warm leesy and oily with pears, apples, grassy herbs, gooseberries, tropical fruit and a touch of honey and spice. Ripe and fruity with a clean, crisp finish. Fantastic value, a lovely Pinot Gris for the price. 13% alc. $13.95

Chard Farm Pinot Gris 2002 - Central Otago
Showing a little more colour this smells like a Pinot Gris but the taste gives a momentary suggestion of Gewurz. Warm and oily textured with lemon and pear on the nose, and hot spicy peppery flavours with leesy vanilla, pears and summer herbs lingering. Tank fermented and lees stirred. 3.5% alc. $24.95

Margan Verdelho 2002 - Hunter Valley
Pale yellow. A hint of sulphur at first together with ginger spice, overripe oranges and grapefruit. Kingsley says it's like 'a dry version of a NZ Muller Thurgau but with more body'. It's dry, spicy and a little nutty with a zingy finish that lingers with an oily richness. 13% alc. $19.95

Stonecroft Gewurztraminer 2002 - Hawkes Bay
Distinctively varietal with sweet musky rose petal and lychee juice aromas, this is rich and oily textured with Turkish Delight, spices, nuts, icing sugar and excellent fruit weight. Very long and flavoursome. Good wine. 13.5% alc. $39.95

Leonardo Chianti 2001 - Tuscany, Italy
Deep dark red colour and dark smoky flavours with cherries, raspberries, biscuity spice, leather, game, earth and pepper. Dry, clean and tasty with lingering juicy berries and a subtle hint of cocoa. Value Italian. 12.5% alc. $15.95 special.

Falesco Vitiano 2001 - Umbria, Italy
Sangiovese / Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot
A deep red black, savoury and succulent wine with liquorice, mocha, blackberries, barnyard, firm furry leathery tannins and a bitter chocolate finish. Rich, dense, powerful and flavoursome. 12.5% alc. $26.95

Tatachilla Keystone Grenache Shiraz 2001
Bricky red with sweet musky, raisin and strawberry fruit, tar, licorice, fruitcake spices and just a hint of milk chocolate. Medium-bodied with a fine silky structure and good length. Succulent, juicy and dangerously drinkable. 13% alc. $20.95

Fagus de Coto de Hayas Selecion Especial Garnacha (Grenache) - Campo de Borja
Blackish red. Leather, smoke, tar and oil, sweet vanilla, honey, molasses, caramel, sweet dark berry fruit and a smoky spicy finish, this beautifully balanced, creamy wine has a fine tannin structure that disguises it bigness. Lovely wine, lovely texture, smooth and sweet with lingering chocolatey oak. 13.5% alc. $49.95

Trentham Petit Verdot 2001 - NSW, Australia
Ripe blackberry colour. Chocolate and mocha on the nose, spice, nuts, raisins, caramel and lots and lots of smoke a bit reminiscent of a backyard fire. Sweet ripe minty flavours and lots of ripe fruit tannins. Rich, juicy and succulent with a hot spicy finish, smoke and sweet tarry flavours linger. 13.5% alc. $19.95

Cape Mentelle Zinfandel 2001 - Western Australia
A deep red wine with seductive sweet berries, spicy vanillin American oak and floral aromas that are immediately appealing to me. Quite sappy oak at first in the mouth, this is spicy and meaty, rich and powerful with cherries, plums, blueberries, leather, cigar, chocolate, anise and Chinese 5-spices. Ripe and juicy yet sophisticated, this is one of the best Cape Mentelle Zins yet. Terrifically balanced, the power of the wine sits well with the hot alcohol. 15% alc. $33.95

Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah 2001 - Hawkes Bay
A deep red wine with French oak aromas and concentrated white pepper and spicy plum fruit. Lots of oak influence in the mouth with charcoal, burnt pencil, sheep poo, tar, leather and old spice, currants, plums and white pepper. The texture is fine and silky and the flavour is long, concentrated and dense. 13.5% alc. $44.95

Brown Brothers Reserve Muscat
Amber gold. Salted nut, muscatel and raisin aromas with honey, toffee and molasses. Sweet and savoury with dried fruits, nuts and lots of fruit cake flavours. It should be the perfect match for fruitcake after a Mid Winter Christmas Feast. Brilliant value as this is a 750ml bottle. 18% alc. $23.95.

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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