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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

September 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 - 24 September
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi.
Wines were tasted blind

Gapsted Ballerina Canopy Chardonnay 2001 - Victoria
A lightly toasted buttery chardonnay, creamy and mealy with figs, tropical and stone fruits, a spicy lifted finish and terrific length. Lovely integration, very easy to drink and a definite crowd pleaser. Unbelievable value on the night.
14% alc. now $17.95 special.

Hungerford Hill Chardonnay 2002 - NSW
Now this is oaky! Pale lemon in colour, new toasty French oak, toasted stonefruits, caramel, figs and melon, it's rich and full-bodied with a mealy caramel oak flavour on the finish and a long citrus and melon aftertaste.
13.5% alc. $19.95.

Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling 2002 (screwcap) - Clare, SA
Quite shy and just a little nutty on the nose tried immediately after the Chardonnay then the lemony citrus blossoms with its delicate honeyed fragrance. It's tight, dry, nutty, leesy and just a little earthy with a citrus oil texture, lemon citrus flavours and a subtle touch of tropical fruit. It takes a while to fill out but it does and the intense citrus finish is long and persistent. Classic Australian dry Riesling that can be safely cellared for many, many years.
12.5% alc. $17.95special.

Rosemount Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - SA
Opaque black red with garnet rims, it's a light-boded, fruity smelling wine with plums, leather, spice and seemingly little oak influence. Succulent red berries and black plums fill the palate with leather, spice, soft tannins, a creamy texture and a smoky finish. It's an easy-going fruity crowd-pleaser with enough structure to suit most people.
13.5% alc. $14.95 special.

Tatachilla Keystone Grenache McLaren Vale Shiraz 2001 - SA
A smoky smelling, sweet-fruited wine that's not quite opaque in its garnet red colour. Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, plums, cigar, spice, a touch of liquorice, a hint of chocolate and a slightly minty note on the soft finish make this a very attractive, easy-going proposition. I rate this as very good.
14.5% alc. $20.95.

Chapel Hill Shiraz McLaren Vale 1999 - SA
There' some development to the colour in this wine that smells like the leather on the well worn back seat of an old Jag. Slightly rustic with its savoury oak, barnyard (stables if you like), dusty oak, leather and earthy spice, the sweet black cherry and concentrated spicy plum fruit emerges with velvety tannins to linger on the bright lifted savoury oak finish with just a touch of mint. Good wine, already cellared, drinking very nicely now.
13.5% alc. $32.95.

Grant Burge Hillcot Barossa Merlot 2002 - SA
Bright in its opaque black-red colour, there's mint and smoky bacon on the nose and tons of berries - blackberries, blackcurrant and plums - in the palate. Very fine tannin structure, just a little chewy, ever so slightly stalky, some beetroot perhaps, it will fatten out as the wine matures. Smoky oak and powerful fruit flavours linger together with some eucalypt. Yes, Australia can make the odd good Merlot - this is one of them.
13.5% alc. $23.95.

Jacobs Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - SA
There's a terrific dense black-red colour to this juicy, opulent smelling wine that's unmistakably Australian. It's got big rich tannins and though quite forward at this stage they're well-balanced to the plums, cassis, leather, smoke, tar, mocha and spicy oak. Add to this a terrific persistent with plums, leather and black-berried fruit lingering together with a touch of mint, it makes you wonder how they make wines like this for the price!
13.5% alc.$16.95 special.

Ross Estate Barossa Shiraz 2000 - SA
Fairly developed in its colour, it's got a touch of Brett, just enough to give it a savoury complexity that just about everyone in the room loved. Plums, smoke, tar, leather, mint, liquorice, rubber and barnyard with a myriad of fruits from strawberry through to blackberry with integrated, slightly grainy, tannins and a sweet spicy succulent ripe fruit finish, there was no doubt that this was the Wine of the Night. And that was before people knew the price. Then it was also the Buy of the Night. Take it to dinner at your favourite BYO to enjoy with lamb shanks. "Of all the wines tonight this is the one I'd want to drink" said Kingsley.
Personally I found the Brett character dominating by the finish.
13% alc.$18.95special.

Howard Park Leston Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (screwcap) - WA
Youthful in its deep dense blackish-red colour, there's eucalypt and cassis on the nose of this big, dark, juicy, powerful wine with lots of grippy tannins and well integrated cedary oak. Even more powerful in its length with the plum, cassis and just a touch of mint lingering well on the lifted finish.
14.5% alc.$39.95.

Tim Gramp Reserve McLaren Vale Shiraz 2001 - SA
This dense black-red wine smells of chocolatey oak, a hint of mint and freshly picked berries just as they start to cook. It's a big meaty wine with terrific plum, cassis and blackberry fruit, spicy nutty chocolate and mocha oak, strong velvety tannins that build the structure and terrific length with just a touch of mint. Of all the wines we've had tonight, this has more of everything. It's opulence plus, right down to the bottle that is one of the biggest and heaviest 750ml bottles I've seen.Fantastic wine.
13.5% alc. $49.95.

Orlando Liqueur Port
Made in the style of a tawny port, this is pale clear orange/amber in colour, dry, salty and nutty in flavour with raisin, apricot and other dried fruit, flowing across the palate smoothly to leave a sweet raisiny aftertaste. A Port to drink when you don't want a hot spirituous Portuguese number. Well-priced too.
17.5% alc. $19.95.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 17 September
Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Potentially Different
Wines were tasted blind

Kim Crawford Boyzone Pinot Gris 2003 - Marlborough
Shy on the nose with faint lemon perfume, it's a little nutty with lemon sherbet in the palate, a warm creamy texture, soft acidity, a leesy backbone and lingering pear and apple. A medium-bodied wine that will match foods but also good for summer drinking when you don't want anything too pungent.
13% alc. $23.95.

Huntaway Marlborough Pinot Gris 2003 - Marlborough
Lemon hues, nutty aromas, creamed nut texture, it's a little phenolic perhaps. Spicy, slightly peppery, a little viscous, fat, oily, more textural than fruity, there's a touch of sweeter citrus that lifts the hot finish. People found pears, quince, pear drops, lemon and honeysuckle. Add to this a slightly toasty finish.
13.5% alc. $20.95.

Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris 2001
Lemon gold with a brilliant hue, this is toasty, nutty, slightly musky, and almost gewurztraminer-like on the nose. It's hot and oily in the mouth with slightly bitter lemon, roasted nuts, earth, white mushroom and a toasty salty lemony finish. It's more full-bodied and racy than the Kiwi examples with good persistence. I thought it quite interesting to the palate and a good food-match wine - mushroom, soup, mushroom tart, salmon or earthy trout and perhaps even sushi.. However others said it reeked of sulphur and smelt of old socks and rubber. Bottle variation?
13% alc. $30.95.

Kingsley says he has run out of patience with the variety in a tasting situation as it is clearly a wine that is better with food. So don't expect to see Pinot Gris heading a tasting for 12 months at least.

Millton Te Arai Chenin Blanc 2002 - Gisborne
Pale gold with greenish hints. Very shy on the nose at first with lemon and a slight suggestion of oiliness (as in handcream) then honey, apple, pear and apricot emerging as the wine opens up. A 'non-aromatic wine' that is textural and nutty with dried apricot and apples baked with honey, it's oily, smooth and slightly hot as it flows across the palate. The stonefruit really comes forth on the finish, which is lifted with sweet tangerine and honey and lingers with the flavours of baked apples. Great mouthfeel, excellent length and a terrific example of NZ Chenin Blanc. Certified organic.
14.5% alc. $25.95.

Millton Tjeitjen 'Growers Series' Viognier 2002 - Gisborne
Lemon gold, aromatic, slightly flinty with lime leaf, honey, apricot and white pepper on the nose, it's dry, rich and textural with a creamy palate, subtle stonefruit flavours and a slightly salty lemony note to the finish. A touch of oak adds complexity. It's very good. Try it with sushi. Not grown by Millton, therefore not certified organic.
14.5% alc. $30.95.

De Bortoli Noble One Semillon 2001 - Riverina, NSW
This deep gold amber wine smells and tastes of liqueur-soaked apricots. It's smoky on the nose and waxy in the palate with toffee apple, apricots, raisins and lots of oak. The sweet honeyed finish is full on and lengthy. Kingsley said it reminds him of baked apple crumble. One of Australia's great sweet wines.
10% alc. $32.95.

Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Pinot Noir 2002 - Marlborough
Medium body in appearance with the colour of ruby garnet, it's savoury and a little oily smelling on the nose with smoke, bacon, game, herbs, plums and cherries in the palate. It's savoury rather than fruity though the finish is fruit-sweet, spicy, slightly peppery and oaky. Lovely texture and good length, a lovely Stoneleigh pinot, one of the best I've seen.
13.5% alc. $26.95.

Akarua 'The Gullies' Pinot Noir 2002 - Bannockburn, C.O.
Medium to deep coloured ruby red with magenta hues on the rims, this is fragrant and sweeter smelling than the Stoneleigh with its floral, chocolatey and spicy oak scents. It's a big mouth-filling wine in the palate, rich and ripe with black cherries, berries, leather, spice, firm tannins and a smoky, slightly hot, finish with a citrus flare.
14.5% alc. $33.95.

Cape Campbell Pinot Noir 2002 - Marlborough
Medium-bodied, a similar colour to the Stoneleigh, there's smoky citrus and mulled wine spice aromas, smoky bacon, salami and gamey flavours with good fruit and texture. A well-balanced, tasty little savoury number with a hot, spicy, savoury, baked berry and lots of oak on the smoky finish. Affordable and drinkable.
14% alc. $19.95 special.

Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir 2002 - Nelson
Medium depth, deep garnet colour with a smoky nose that hints of herbs, citrus and rose petal. Strawberry, guava and herb flavours fill the palate which is savoury rather then sweet-fruited. Firm tannins build onto the soft velvety texture with subtle oak, gentle spices and a rich smoky finish. It's a beautifully balanced wine, persistent in its flavour with hot smoke and musky spices, the fruit fills out and herbs, roasted strawberries and red cherries linger. Typical of the Neudorf Moutere pinots, it's a legend of a wine and made to last. Cellaring is recommended.
14% alc. $59.95.

Selaks Founders Reserve Syrah 2002 - Hawkes Bay
Dense and inky in its brightly hued black-red colour, there's lots of pepper on the nose together with raspberries, blackberries and vanillin oak. It's rather exciting to the taste with a solid oak backbone, peppery spice, earth, leather, blackberry and bitter chocolate then spice, plum, blackberry and creamy vanillin oak lingering on the firm, dry finish. It's just another fantastic NZ Syrah and I highly recommend it.
13.5% alc. $28.95.

Noval Tawny Port - Portugal
Tawny hues of medium depth showing some development to the colour, it's dry and nutty with salty raisin flavours bolstered up by sweet liquorice and building to a rich porty flavour on the finish. It's full-bodied, spicy and hot enough to make the lips tingle, The finish is seemingly dry. It's good and more-ish, as ports usually are.
19% alc. $30.95.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 10 September
The Price is Right - Wines under $20
Wines were tasted blind

Main Divide Canterbury Chardonnay 2002
A big rich golden buttery Chardonnay that is smooth, spicy and mealy with toasty ripe stonefruit, white raisin and pineapple. A great crowd pleaser and a delicious way to start the evening. As Ivan says, 'A beverage wine'.
14% alc. $19.95 / $16.95

Serafino McLaren Vale Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2002 -
Not reviewed because my sample was corked. To get three drinkable bottles on the night, seven were opened, however the one poured to me had marginal corkiness as well. I think Serafino needs to talk to its cork supplier. It's such a shame because I loved the 2001 vintage of this wine and those that had a good 2002 enjoyed it too. But it's a risky proposition for the consumer.

Yalumba 'Y' Series Barossa Valley Viognier 2003
A pale wine that is aromatic, fruity, floral, a little nutty, spicy and peppery with a creamy texture, good mouthfeel, lots of delicate apricot, citrussy lemon and a nutty tangy finish that is dry. Margaret described it as 'Danish pasty with apricot custard in the middle and nuts on top'. Great food and beverage wine.
14% alc. $15.95.

Kaimira Estate Nelson Riesling 2003
Straw gold with citrus and honeysuckle on the nose, it's wonderfully fruity and refreshing with lemons, limes and tropical fruit salad. It's spicy, zesty and full of crisp citrussy and sherbet flavour balanced with a dash of honey. It's just off dry and the powerful fruit finish lingers well. Just off dry.
Gold Medal Bragato Wine awards 2003.
12.5% alc. $17.95 / $15.95

Canterbury House Waipara Riesling 2002
A little softer and sweeter than the Kaimira, this has a fruit juice texture, lots of white honey, citrus blossom, mandarin and tropical fruit that lingers deliciously on the finish. It's a terrifically balanced medium style with a big powerful, full-bodied flavour.
13.5% alc. $13.95

Canterbury House Waipara Pinot Noir 2002
This is a well-coloured, easy drinking fruity pinot with good density of magenta colour, a perfumed smoky, cherry, chocolate and brambly oak bouquet and lots of black cherry and plum fruit. It's spicy and a little earthy with a velvety texture, a pleasing richness and a juicy succulence to the finish that is long and savoury. Hard to believe the price as this delivers so much, it tastes like it should be twice the price. Double 'thumbs up'.
13% alc. $17.95.

Ashwood Grove Merlot 2002
It's deep red, smoky and a little extracted and oily to my palate when I first taste it but there a juicy underlying strawberry and cherry fruit sweetness together with musky spices, lots of tannins, cigar, earth, hints of leather, perhaps a suggestion of mint and just a touch of smoky oak. Fruit cake spices linger on the medium-bodied finish.
14.5% alc. $13.95.

Chivite Gran Fuedo 1998 - Spain
There's a savoury, marmite, salty, yeasty nose together with tar, leather, pepper, earth, smoke and donkey - someone in the room said this reminded them of the smell of donkeys!!! It's a dense blackish wine, not really fruity in the sense we are accustomed to from that island to the west but there are some juicy plum / prune-like flavours that come out on the full-bodied finish. The more you drink of this wine the better it gets, it actually becomes quite moreish. Like riding a donkey you become accustomed to it traits but keep in mind it's a savoury wine to enjoy with food rather than one to stand around and drink at 6 o'clock.
12.5% alc. $17.95

Domaine d'Andézon Cotes-du-Rhone 2001
It's a blackish-red dense looking wine with a savoury pongy nose. Liquorice dominates the palate that is smooth at first with terrifically concentrated blackcurrant jam and perhaps a touch of strawberry - think of the burnt sugary foam that you have to take off the top of strawberry jam when you are cooking it. Made in a New World style, it's incredibly fruity for a CdR and the finish is savoury, spicy and tannic. There was perhaps some bottle variation in the room, others described the wine as smelling of burnt rubber and marmite. It didn't worry me.
14% alc. $17.95

Step Rd Langhorne Creek Shiraz 2001
Purple-black colour, sweet fruited Aussie shiraz nose and a multi-flavoured palate with liquorice, chocolate, mocha, menthol, spice, tar, pepper and violet. There's heaps going on in here but there's also a ton of oak that dominates the grippy finish, however the sweet fruit wins over in the end. I recommend this be cellared or decanted to drink now. It's got lots of evolving to do.
14.5% alc. $22.95 / $19.95

Taylors Clare Valley Shiraz 2002
This tastes so different to the Step Rd, even though we're still on Shiraz. It's got great colour and downright accessible flavours with mint, tar, red fruits, raspberry liquorice, musky spices, smoky vanillin American oak, currants, cigar, mocha and pepper all bound together nicely to make a soft and easy drinking wine. Add to this terrific length. Buy this to drink while your are waiting for the Step Rd to mature. This wine was awarded the fantastic accolade of Best Value Red Wine in the World at the London International Wine Challenge 2003. Because Taylors is also the name of a famous Port, the wine is known as 'Wakefield Estate Shiraz' in the UK. It's the very same wine but with a different label.
14.5% alc. $15.95.

Selaks Founders Reserve Botrytis Riesling 2001
Laden with botrytis on the nose together with orange blossom and toffee, this light gold coloured, sweet, perfectly balanced sticky has a lovely honey and beeswax botrytis influence to the apricot and peachy fruit. It's, thick, luscious and delicious - what more can I say. If you love sweet wines, you'll adore this. So did the judges who awarded it Champion Sweet Wine at the NZWS Royal Easter Wine Show.
10% alc. Usually $26.95, though in keeping with the theme it was just $19.95 on the night.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 3 September
Meet the Judges from the Liquorland Top 100
Wines were not tasted blind

McWilliams Hanwood Chardonnay 2002 - Australia (pretaster)
A carefree quaffer that's a good starter when all you want to do is stand around and chatter about everything except wine. It's pale in colour with citrus and a touch of canned fruit on a creamy backbone with savoury oak and a full-bodied, rich, toasty finish. Great value at $11.95 a bottle of $10.95 on case buys.

Trinity Hill Back Label Gimblett Road Chardonnay 2002 - presented by John Hancock
The lift in quality is immeasurable when this is waved under your nose then passed through the lips. Golden hued, toasty, full-bodied, dry and nutty with a firm acid bite and underlying fleshy peach, there's a textural softness to the creamy palate and although the oak is quite dominant in this tight new release, it will settle with time. The 2002 vintage was terrific year in Hawkes Bay, especially for Chardonnay. John reckons this is the best he's ever made.
14% alc. $31.95.

Craggy Range Seven Poplars Chardonnay 2002 - presented by Steve Smith MW
A creamy smooth Chardonnay with all the bells and whistles superbly crafted into a seamless mouthfilling wine. Toasty oak, rich stonefruits and melon, a gorgeous texture and a creamy caramel toffee finish, it's fat and fleshy and just cruises across the tastebuds. I tasted this at the Craggy Range Winery in June and wanted to write about it then, but it was winery sales only. Steve made ten cases available to First Glass for this tasting.
13.5% alc. $29.95.

Bilancia Marlborough Pinot Grigio 2003 - presented by Warren Gibson
Pale in colour with pear and sherbet on the nose and fresh, zesty, apples, pears, lemon and honey in the mouth, it's a little nutty and quite spicy with a subtle undercurrent of oak and a mouthfilling fruit nectar texture. It's a dry-ish, low acid wine with good alcohol weight in balance to the fruit and simply an excellent example of NZ Pinot Gris. If this is what Warren and Lorraine can do with their 'standard' wine, I can't wait to taste the 'Reserve'.
13% alc. $29.95.

Mitchell Clare Valley Riesling 2002 - presented by Huon Hooke
It smells dry with its powdery fragrance of lemons and limes together with a character that some would call petrol, but it's subliminal and not overpowering. There's absolutely heaps of lemon and lime acidity with a toasty richness and zesty spice. Citrus peel and a citrus-pith earthiness linger.
13.5% alc. $22.95.
Huon Hooke, an Australian wine-writer and overseas guest judge at this year's Liquorland Top 100, rated this the best wine in his latest book giving it 5-stars for quality and 5-star for value. He said the great thing about Riesling is its
- price
- age-worthiness
- food-friendliness
- drinkability at any age

Main Divide Canterbury Riesling 2002 - presented by Ivan Donaldson
Lemons, limes, apples and orange marmalade characterise this ripe, sweetish, juicy, slightly viscous Riesling that is fringing on the cusp of Gewurztraminer in flavour. Where-as the Mitchell Riesling is definitely a food wine, Ivan calls this a 'beverage wine'. Though it's a perfect match for light and/or spicy foods, it doesn't really need it. It's made for social occasions. It will continue to improve for 2-3 years and can be cellared for much much longer.
11% alc. $14.95 special.

Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2002 - presented by Larry McKenna
A tarry, earthy savoury wine with a touch of leather, dark cherry, guava and plum fruit and a developing chocolate complexity, it has beautifully smooth though quite firm tannins and a flare of acidity that lifts the finish. Texture and richness is the key to this multi-layered wine that is made to be matched with food. A pre-release taste, the wine will be released in October.

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2002 - presented by Ivan Donaldson
A deep red wine with a fruity pinot aroma enhanced by violets, it's ripe, spicy, full, fleshy and mouthfilling wine with a firm velvety tannin structure to support it. Black cherries, plums, a meaty bacon-like nuance, tar, liquorice, damp earth and wood, it's a wine to be cellared right now to let the flavours settle and integrate.
14% alc. $49.95.

Alpha Domus Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 - presented by Evert Njzink
A soft refreshing, 'drink now' red with all the classic leather, plums, cherry, chocolate and cigar traits of Merlot. There's subtle oak underlying this fruity wine to which Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec have been added to give more structure and fleshiness to the finish. Made to drink this summer and priced accordingly.
13% alc. $17.95.

Leonard San Zio 2000 - presented by Raymond Chan
A dark coloured, earthy, leathery, high acid wine with juicy plums that try and tame the rich tannins that powerhouse the structure of this wine. There's an earthy barnyard character and a slight sourness on the finish. It's robust Italian wine made to go with robust Italian food.
13% alc. $33.95.

Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2001 - presented by Peter Cowley
55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and 16% Cabernet Franc
Fruit sweetness is the key to this black-red wine, especially after the Italian job. Opulent aromas are characterised by smoky oak, violets, leather and plum and though it's still fairly tight in the palate the tannins are fine. Concentrated cassis, plum and blackberries, tobacco, pencil shavings, exotic spices and classy French oak are just some of the flavours. It's a terrific wine with underlying depth and complexity, just one reason why it's one of NZ's best.
13.5% alc. $56.95 special.

Sue Courtney's Fine Wine Wednesday tasting notes were commissioned by First Glass Wines and Spirits in Takapuna and recorded at their Fine Wine Wednesday Tastings for publication on their website. These notes are archival and may have been deleted from their site by now.
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.

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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