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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

March 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 March 2003
All wines except the white and the last red were tasted blind.

With a name like this it is not surprising the tasting room was full to overflowing - there must have been about 100 people there for a teeth staining, tongue staining session with wines would give some people dry mouth syndrome by the end of the night.
But first we started with a token white to clean the toothpaste residue from the mouth.

Domaine Georges Michel Golden Mile Chardonnay 2000 - Marlborough
Metallic gold in colour with rich, buttery oaky aromas, this full-bodied, creamy textured chardonnay has a ton of oak, citrus, canned pineapple and strong melon flavours and a ripe fruit finish. It's a big fat blowsy Chardonnay that would stand out in a line-up with its grunty flavours.
Gold Medal Air New Zealand Wine Awards. $22.95.

Then the reds started to flow -

Beresford Highwood Shiraz 2001 - McLaren Vale
Red black with purple rims, it looks good and it smells good too with mellow oak, a hint of tar and warm berry and raspberry jam. In the mouth the attack of creamy cheesy American oak, coarse tannins and hot alcohol gives way to good fruit flavours, crisp spices, bitumen, tar and dusty oak and the finish lingers like Black Forrest chocolate. It's long, warm and fruity and at the price offers fantastic value.
15% alc. $16.95 special.

Ingoldby Shiraz 2001 - McLaren Vale
Huge blackberry colour and mocha, chicory, tarry, biscuity aromas. Strawberry and raspberry flavours with tarry charcoal-like oak at first then some more substantial black fruit, chocolate, white pepper and a hint of menthol. Soft tannins, warm integrated American oak and a long warm finish makes this the kind of wine you could stand around and drink at one of those social occasions.
14% alcohol. $17.95 special.

D'Arenberg Custodian Grenache 1999 - McLaren Vale
A developed garnet red colour with pale rims this wine, with its aromas of tar, smoke, old spice, cedar and worn leather, smells a bit like walking into a tobacconists shop. In the mouth it's predominantly savoury with mint, leather, smoke, cow pats and long ago opened strawberry jam. It has a sweet, thick-textured spicy finish with firm and slightly furry tannins.
14.5% alcohol. $28.95.

Ross Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - Barossa Valley
Dense red/black with red rims. Brett overpowers the nose with its stinky, leathery, dirty farmyard characters. I get past my phobia to find that underneath the yeast-derived character it's quite minty with lifted aromas of cassis, chocolate and brylcream. There's absolutely nothing lacking in the flavour that is chock-a-block full of blackcurrants making it easy to pick the variety - which most people did. It's dark and savoury, spicy, perhaps a little salty with a fine texture, fine tannins and a beautiful combination of French and American oak that is terrifically integrated. It's a sweet and juicy wine with a jammy finish but with plenty of grip. Drinking very well now but obvious cellaring potential, at the end of the evening this wine was voted best red of the night when value was taken into consideration. I liked it too.
I tasted the wine again two days later from a newly opened bottle. Absolutely none of that funky yeasty character on the nose this time, just dense deep opulent fruit aromas of plum jam and cassis. 12.5% alcohol. Gold Medal Liquorland Top 100. $19.95 special.

Ashwood Grove C.P.M. (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec) 2000 - Victoria
Deep red. This seems a terrifically fruity wine and is almost overpowering in its sweetness after the previous wine. Blackberries, plums, lots of tannins, plenty of grip, savoury, oaky and slightly peppery. Good texture, good concentration and a long meaty finish that goes on and on. Fantastic value, the bargain price due to a label change.
14.5% alc. $12.95 special.

Peter Lehmann The Mentor 1997 - Barossa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Shiraz, Merlot
Deep dense red black, this is an excellent colour given its age. The sweet and spicy American oak aromas with terrific berry fruits are so typical of the refined aromas of great Australian red wine. And the wine in the mouth lives up to the anticipation. It's creamy, voluptuous, spicy and juicy and full of flavour with redcurrants, plums, blackberries, pepper, tar and leather and a concentrated spicy, peppery, tarry, meaty finish. This is a terrific wine - the creamy American oak is beautifully integrated, the wine is not too alcoholic, it has terrific balance and with its fine tannins the mouthfeel is just divine.
13.5% alcohol. $54.95.

Wolf Blass Blass Shiraz 2000 - Barossa Valley
Dark, savoury and spicy with musk, smoke, tar and berry fruit aromas. Juicy sweet black cherries and ripe mulberries, chocolate, spice, biscuity, nuggety oak, a hint of leather, firm integrated tannins, very savoury in its length with some mocha and chicory on the jammy finish.
14% alcohol. Gold Medal. $17.95 special.

McGuigan Genus 4 Shiraz 2001 - Hunter Valley
Blackberry red. Smoky burnt berry nose, earthy with hints of blood and iron. Savoury, a little salty, dried herbs, plenty of spices, warm, a little chocolatey, sweet juicy berries, leather, tar and biscuits. Huge in flavour with a long savoury finish and very very drinkable.
13% alcohol. 2 gold medals. 2 Trophies. $26.95.

Charles Melton Nine Popes 1999 - Barossa Valley
Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro
Garnet red, showing more development in colour than the others, though not as developed as the D'Arenberg Grenache we tasted earlier. Red berries, brambles, strawberries and cherries, lots of spice - the spiciest wine so far - this wine has a feminine elegance to it whereas several of the others are big brutal masculine numbers. This is aging gracefully having lost is youthful edge. There's a hint of mint, milk chocolate and leather and a finish that hints of flowers, strawberries, tar, spice and musk with dusky oak. One of Australia's great cult wines, this was quite serene tonight with its subtle complexity and power.
14% alcohol. $46.95.

Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz 2001 - McLaren Vale
Huge colour, black as they come but with bright purple red hues. A totally impressive aroma and then in the mouth a lovely vinous complexity. Chocolate raisins, spice, liquorice, vanilla and then more waves of flavour - cherry ripe chocolate bars, dark fruits, violets, boysenberries, blackberries, warm 'cuddly blanket' oak. Wow. This is an awesome wine. It's wonderfully balanced, full-bodied and powerful with a terrific integration of fruit, oak and tannin and the smoky, spicy flavour lasts for absolutely ages. My wine of the night.
14.5% alcohol. $77.95.

Wild Duck Creek Springflat Shiraz 2001 - Heathcote, Victoria
Another dense blackberry coloured wine with a powerful grapey nose reminding me of newly fermenting grapes in a winery. It spicy as heck with loads of white and black pepper, juicy Omega plums, black (or blood) peaches, violets, chocolate box, smoke and tar. It is a wine that can only be described as opulent but the alcohol is overpowering to me. "A masochist's wine" said Kingsley. Definitely not one for 5 o'clock drinkies. There is plenty of potential ahead of this wine - 10 years easy, perhaps even 20.
15.5% alcohol. $51.95.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 19th March 2003
Gold Medal wines from the 2003 New Zealand Wine Society Royal Easter Wine Show judged on the weekend of February 22nd and 23rd 2003.
Wines were tasted blind

Clifford Bay Riesling 2002 - Marlborough
Served chilled, this refreshing wine has a full rich nose of toasty limes that promises much. It's reasonably dry, crisp and spicy with tons of lemon and apple acidity, a hint of earthiness and a ripe fruit finish that tends towards tropical fruit. For a Riesling it's quite fat in the palate and the honeyed citrus flavours linger well.
Champion Riesling of the Show. $18.95.

Kim Crawford 'Flowers' Sauvignon Blanc 2002 - Marlborough
Talk about sweaty armpits, this wines absolutely reeks of it. It's very tart and crisp with flavours of green gooseberries and 'just ripe' apples but this zingy, zesty grassy and herbaceous wine has a huge fat body and is mouthfilling and warm with toasty hints of passionfruit and roasted red peppers lingering on the long pungent finish. An 'in your face' Sauvignon Blanc that you will either love or hate. $23.95.

Charles Wiffen Chardonnay 2001 - Marlborough
Bright gold in colour with big buttery oatmeal-rich aromas, heaps of butter, citrus and spicy mealy oak flavours, this full, rich wine has a long powerful finish that lingers well with honeyed fig flavours. A crowd favourite. $21.95.

Clearview Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2001 - Hawkes Bay
There is even more oatmeal in this bright gold wine together with opulent vanillin oak, fruit salad and custard aromas. There's lots of oak on the palate. "About much oak as you would find in any Chardonnay in New Zealand" said Kingsley Wood. But the oak is so well polished and balanced to the full on peach and apricot stone fruit, the underlying fruit acidity and the leesy flavours, it tastes just superb. $41.95.

Mount Riley Seventeen Valley Chardonnay 2001 - Marlborough
This wine smells so refined - there's oak but it is subtle and so in sync to the fruit leesy scents. It tastes just gorgeous with a multitude of leesy, mealy, peachy and spicy flavours, vanillin oak, hokey pokey and a long dry finish. There's good underlying acidity, making it a good cellaring proposition if you can restrain yourself to put it away. A super fine wine. The judges got this right by awarding this wine the trophy. If you don't like this you may as well give up on Chardonnay!
Champion Chardonnay. Voted wine of the night. $32.95.

Lawsons Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2002 - Marlborough
The giveaway aromas of Gewurztraminer on the nose just hit you after the mellow scents of Chardonnay. It's pungent, musky and spicy with limes and lychees galore. The nose on this wine would have given it maximum points, I'm sure. Spiced orange citrus in the palate, cloves and ginger, rose petals and lychees, it's reasonably dry with an intense spicy flavour and lots of alcohol that gives a flush of heat to the juicy finish. Very long in flavour with a honeyed richness. A must for people who love Gewurz. $21.95.

Grove Mill Pinot Gris 2002 - Marlborough
Pale in colour with aromas of ripe pear, this smells sweet and lush. It's a little sugary on the palate with the grainy texture of pears and flavours of honeyed pear / pear liqueur. It's a little earthy and creamy with terrific body and balance and a long lingering fruity finish that is lifted with a touch of lemon. A touch of malo fattens the wine. I can imagine enjoying this with fresh pears and Camembert. $25.95.

Fiddlers Green Pinot Noir 2001 - Waipara
Terrific colour, deep purple red with bright ruby rims, this is so New Zealand pinot on the nose. Subtle cedary oak, lots of clove-like spices, strawberries, black cherries, hints of mushrooms and a rain forest mossy earthiness. A little savoury on the finish with dried herbs and lingering pinot fruit flavours with perhaps a touch of chocolaty oak too. Lovely texture, lovely depth. Very good indeed.
Champion Pinot Noir. $39.95.

Nautilus Pinot Noir 2001 - Marlborough
Following on immediately after the Fiddler's Green, this is lighter bodied in comparison. Nor is it as dense and dark in its colour. It's a fruit forward pinot with cherries, boysenberry and stewed plum flavours, a touch of spice and hot chocolate on the finish. It's soft, light and flavoursome and very easy to drink. We loved it last time and it came up well again tonight too with almost unanimous approval. $35.95.

Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2001
What a great colour. It's dense and dark, almost black with bright crimson rims. The plush creamy oak is a smoky on the nose and nuggety in the mouth. Sweet black plums, leather, spices, smoky bacon, creamy texture, lots of tannins, classy oak and a very dry finish. World class wine. Champion Merlot Trophy winner. $39.95.

Matariki Quintology 2000 - Hawkes Bay
A blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 10% Syrah, and 7% Malbec, this has a super deep dark blackberry colour too. Barnyard, yeasty, chicken poo and sweaty saddle on the nose, as the Brett blows off the rich, ripe plummy flavours come through. Purple fruits, blackberry, blackcurrant, plums, this is an intense, rich, robust and masculine wine with stacks of oomph. Long and flavoursome with creamy vanillin oak lingers on the finish. It begs a big juicy meaty beef or venison steak. This wine has now won gold at 5 shows. $36.95.

Te Kairanga Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2001
Red black in its dense bright colour this powerful, creamy, oak driven Syrah is spicy, ripe and fruity. Upfront red berry fruits, lots of zingy black peppery spice, finely ground white pepper, tar, balsamic vinegar, a little meaty and very very creamy with charcoal notes, it's full-bodied, grunty and flavoursome with good tannin structure and a zingy lifted finish. Would be great with peppered eye fillet steak cooked rare. Champion Syrah and Champion Wine of the Show. We voted it Red Wine of the night. $47.95.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 12th March 2003
The wines of Jean Greiner and Rolly Gassmann from Alsace, France
Presented by Nicolas Dirand

All the Jean Greiner wines were fermented and matured in old oak vats that ranged in size from 800 to 5000 litres. The Rolly Gassmann wines were fermented and matured in stainless steel.

Wines were not tasted blind

Jean Greiner Riesling 2000
Green gold in colour with an oily, limey, mineral salt aroma that has a faint whiff of kerosene. Very dry, steely and slightly yeasty with lemon biscuits, spice, salt, good acidity, good body and good length. A refreshing wine to start the evening. Nicolas expects the wine to stay like this for another three to four years then the acidity will drop out and the kerosene character will become much stronger. Would have been terrific with the mountain pawpaw salsa I had made for dinner. Nicolas recommends seafood. $20.95.

Rolly Gassmann Riesling 2000
Pale gold with a fresh, floral fruity aroma, this is much sweeter in the mouth with honey, spices and good lemon acidity that balances the sweetness. It is a delicate wine that is fairly light in palate weight but is long in flavour with a sweet fruit and honeysuckle flower finish. Nicolas said that kerosene flavours will probably not start developing for 5-6 years in this wine. $39.95. Of the first two wines, most people the preferred the Rolly Gassmann to the very dry Jean Greiner Riesling 2000. This 'off-dry' style is the style that most NZ producers prefer.

Jean Greiner Riesling 1999
Bright gold in colour with a honey, mineral and floral oily scent that reminds me of Pond's face cream, this is a dry steely wine that becomes rich, full-bodied and creamy in the mouth with strong citrus, lime and slightly cheesy flavours and a very long finish. The acid is starting to integrate in this wine and the finish is dry. Excellent aging potential. $21.95.

Jean Greiner Riesling 1996 Mandelberg Grand Cru
From an unusual, late Alsace vintage, this is made in a Moselle style and has 10 grams of residual sugar. It's quite toasty and smoky on the nose with gunflint and fine limey, kero aromas and although the smell hints of a dry Riesling, it is quite sweet in the mouth. It's very smooth in texture with lots of earthy, limey acidity, flowers, lemon zest, honey, spices and a hot steely character on the finish. The delicate sweetness and the floral citrus flavours are very long and the balance of acidity to sweetness is just terrific. This is a fantastic example of a sweeter Alsace Riesling and will easily last for another 10 years. $55.95.

Jean Greiner Sylvaner 2000
Quite an oily, musky smelling wine, it is just off dry in sweetness with good acidity but lower acidity than the Rieslings. It is a fairly rich wine with flavours of musky grapes, ripe Pacific Rose apples and an oily, sweet fruit finish that lingers with a hint of apricot and something that reminds me of Viognier. In fact it is a grape that is related to Viognier said Nicolas when I asked him about it later. He also said it is atypical Sylvaner, richer and more flavoursome than many examples, which can be quite bland. $25.95.

Jean Greiner Muscat Grand Cru Schoenenbourg 2000
Gold in colour with really bright, fragrant, fruity aromas with hints of apricots and a nuance of spiced orange honey, it is vibrant and intense in its musky flavour. Apricot and fresh peach flavours linger on the spicy, musky, slightly toasty dry finish. Bright, refreshing and a terrific palate awakener. Jean Greiner is the only producer of Muscat in this Grand Cru. $58.95.

Jean Greiner Tokay Pinot Gris 1999
Deep gold and bright in the glass, there's gunsmoke on the smoky toasty nose together the scent of freshly gathered field mushrooms that have sprouted after the early autumn rains. 'The earthy flavours in the wine are from the heavy clay soils', say Nicolas. It's a dry, tight wine that does not emit much in the fruit spectrum at first but there's a brightness to the finish and apricot and peach flavours emerge to linger. This would be simply fantastic with a creamy mushroom soup. $38.95.

Rolly Gassmann Tokay Pinot Gris 1999
Bright gold in colour, there's lemon and grapefruit peel and tropical fruit scents on the nose. Rich and sweet in the mouth with flavours of golden raisins, passionfruit and stone fruits, it's waxy with a slightly viscous (thick) texture. The fruit profile is just lovely and the flavours are very juicy. This is a terrific wine that is appealing from the outset. 'Very yummy' said Neil. Nicolas recommends Blue cheese as an accompaniment. $54.95.

Jean Greiner Gewurztraminer 2000
Bright yellow gold with spicy aromatics, there's a fresh intensity of flavour in the mouth with musk and cardamom and clove spices. It's a very ripe with low acidity and the flavours seems a little diluted mid-palate however the finish is long and spicy with flavours of orange peel and Turkish Delight coming forth and ripe stone fruit flavours lingering on the dry finish. Drinking now with shorter term cellaring potential, try with Thai food, or drink as an aperitif with foie gras and cheeses. $30.95.

Jean Greiner Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Mandelberg 1998
A golden coloured wine with gunsmoke aromas and lots of oily lemon flavours at first, it is very tight but as the wine unfolds the pure Gewurztraminer flavours come through. It's a little talc-like in texture with terrific spice and riper citrus, like orange, filling out the palate and the flavour is long with musk and rose oil lingering on the hot dry finish. This wine has good acidity, the acid will integrate and the wine will become more intense with time. It has an easy 20-25 years of cellaring capability. $58.95.

Rolly Gassmann Gewurztraminer Stegreben 1996
Light gold in colour, this is a fragrant wine with delicate floral and sweet pungent scents. A riper, fatter wine with traditional lychee flavours together with rose petal, citrus peel and delicate spices, it seems so luscious and easy to drink. The texture is gorgeous and the finish is long and spicy with a lingering flavour of old English roses and a touch of honey. Rich, ripe and really good. $74.95.

Rolly Gassmann Riesling Silberberg Vendages Tardives 1997
Bright gold with greenish hues and aromas of limes, cheesecake and mineral salts. Citrus flavours abound in the palate. It is very obviously Riesling with its steely acidity, smoke and honey. It's like a lime sorbet, a palate refresher, with a very fine texture and a stony minerality to the finish. It's sweet but the acidity just balances it so well and the length of this wine is just fantastic. Capable of aging 20 to 30 years, perhaps more. $110.00.

This was simply a fantastic night and for a tasting fee of just $15 it was incredible value for money

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - Wednesday 5th March 2003
NZ versus the rest of the world
Wines were tasted in pairs and all wines were tasted blind.

Mills Reef Reserve Chardonnay 2001 - Hawkes Bay
Yellow gold - looks quite golden for its age. Smoky nose, lots of melon flavours amongst the spicy buttery oak with a hint of tropical fruit leading to a creamy finish with smoky nutty oak flavours lingering. Served chilled, this is a lively tasty wine to start the evening and it was well received.$19.95.

Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2000 - Barossa Valley
Gold in colour but a little more pale than the previous wine and a little more subdued on the nose too. Rich and oily in texture, there is lots of acidity at first but the wine becomes quite creamy with figs, nuts, lemon honey and a biscuity finish. A classy well made wine that is smooth, elegant, non confrontational and easy to drink. $21.95.

Taittinger Brut Premier Champagne NV (yellow label)
Pale lemon in colour with biscuity, yeasty aromas and warm creamy fresh bread flavours, this is nutty and citrussy with delicate peachy stonefruit flavours that emerge to linger. Good acidity, dry, long and sophisticated. Very Champagne-like. Very good. $97.00 / $59.95 special.

Cloudy Bay Pelorus Vintage 1998 - Marlborough
Gold in colour. Very leesy, lemony, woody flavours. It seems an older wine than the terrific wine that preceeded it. Oily with lemon thyme flavours at first, the rich mouthfilling flavours fill out well. Complex and earthy with a long full, rich finish, this is an interesting wine to try but based on the pairing the Champagne is the one I'd prefer to drink. $41.95.

Carrick Riesling 2002 - Central Otago
Pale Lemon. Floral, talcy, limey aromas. Ripe, grapefruit, lots of acidity, well-balanced, tasty. Riesling the way I like it. Lemons, limes, apples, honey, lychees and a lovely 'sucking on a river worn greywacke pebble' finish. Terrific pure unadulterated Riesling flavours with a grainy, talcy, limey finish. $19.95.

Bishof Kaseler Kehrnagel Riesling Spatlese 1999 - MSR, Germany
What a delicious Riesling. Gunsmoke and flowers on the nose. Lemons and spiced honey in the mouth. A soft low alcohol wine with a texture that just glides across the palate. Full of sweet flavour with terrific viscosity. Simply delicious. $31.95.

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2001 - Marlborough
Burgundy red in colour. Meaty oak with hints of smoky bacon and vanilla on the nose. The oak is spicy in the mouth and is joined by herbs and cherries that are a little tart at first. The wine takes a while to open up but rich chocolate cherry and black fruits emerge. The finish is savoury with a touch of tar and firmly tannins. It lingers well with a velvety richness. $39.95.

Joseph Drouhin Beaune-Greves Premier Cru 1999
Well-coloured garnet red. Barnyard, earth, tar and old mushrooms on the nose. Savoury with spicy oak, firm tannins and good acidity in the mouth, this is quite herbaceous yet well balanced to the sweet fruit. It very youthful, needing time for the tannins and oak to integrate but there's a lot going on in this complex Burgundy and the flavours are hard to shake from the mouth, the sweet winey velvety flavours just hang around for ages. $74.95.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet 2000 - Hawkes Bay
Deep dense red. Biscuity oak, tar, blackcurrants. A big juicy flavoursome wine, lots and lots of chocolate, plums and black fruits and a flavour that reminds me of moist Christmas cake with brandied fruits. Good tannin structure. Meaty oak on the finish. A very good wine that is very ripe and easy to drink. $23.95.

Smith and Hooper Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2000 - Wrattonbully, S. Australia
A dark dense red wine with spicy vanillin oak aromas together with leather and tar. Sweet fruit, spicy oak, pencil shavings, tobacco, cigar box, tar, oil, blackcurrants and a fine tannin structure leading to a smooth jammy finish. Very popular. $23.95.

Vidal Estate Soler Syrah 2001 - Hawkes Bay
Quite opulent on the nose, there's creamy chocolate galore with a touch of peppery spice, smoke and roasted coffee. There's plenty going on in the palate with nutmeg, white pepper, black pepper, lots and lots of pepper, blackberry and plums. It is very fine in its tannin structure with a lovely integration of French oak and good acidity giving the wine terrific balance. It shows the class of top quality NZ syrah. "Why didn't we just have 12 glasses of this?" asked Chris. Why not indeed! $33.95.

Wolf Blass Blass Shiraz 2000
Blackberry red in colour, this has a sweet-fruited minty spicy Shiraz nose. It's hot and spicy in the mouth with fine tannins, sweet black juicy mulberry-like fruit and tar, mint and spice on the meaty finish. Very typically Aussie Shiraz. $21.95.

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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