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edited by Sue Courtney

Wednesday Round-up - the 2008 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

April / May 2008
[ 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. These notes are archival and may have been deleted from their site by now.
Some of the prices may be 'specials'. Check out for current availability and pricing. New Zealand readers can purchase the wines online from there.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 28 May 2008
Return of the Grunters

Plantagenet Omrah Shiraz 2005 - Western Australia
Deep plummy red coloured with a hint of cherry fruitcake to the appealing red liquorice and vanillin cedary scents, it tastes spicy and liquoricy with upfront sweet, succulent raspberry and blackberry fruit, smooth silky tannins, underlying ‘bite’ and a dry savoury cedary finish. Easy going in the context of the theme.
14.5% alc. Screwcap.$15.99 special.

Haselgrove Reserve McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003
Showing a little browning on the rim, this deep garnet-coloured red is a little earthy and hints of some age on the smoky savoury nose. Spicy to the taste with fine tannins, plenty of pepper and a sweet / savoury fruitiness a little reminiscent of old redcurrant jelly this long, smooth wine was matured in American oak for 18 months and is ready now.
14% alc. Screwcap. $17.99 special.

St. John’s Road Blood & Courage Barossa Shiraz 2006
This vivid black red wine with bright crimson edges has complex aromas with a floral overtone to the deep, savoury biscuity scents. Big and juicy to the taste, full of bright sweet jammy fruit flavours, all upfront, it grabs your attention with a spicy flourish while toasty oak adds a charry note to the finish which is concentrated and long. Hints of liquorice and mocha and nice grip to the finely textured tannins complete this classy package. Gold Medal – NZ International Wine Show.
14.5% alc. Screwcap.$32.99.

Mitolo Jester McLaren Vale Shiraz 2006
Fine textured in appearance with a deep black red colour in the core of the glass and thinner ruby red on the rims, this smells savoury and vinous and has a fine textured, spicy savoury palate with a concentrated depth to the plum and blackberry fruit. Perhaps a little briary, even a little briny with hints of dried herbs and underlying acidity adding lift to the peppery finish, this was tasted with hazelnut chocolate, which unfortunately didn't match the wine.
14.5% alc. Screwcap.$28.99.

Wolf Blass Grey Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - Langhorne Creek, SA
Dense black red, youthful and bright. Fresh vibrant, eucalypt and cedary oak scents and succulent flavours of concentrated red and blackcurrant fruits, chocolate and mint. This is a powerhouse of a cabernet sauvignon - mouthfilling and delicious with ripe fruit tannins, creamy oak, a smooth delivery and a lasting finish. Absolute 5 star and gold medal quality, it is simply yum and hard to resist.
15% alc. Screwcap. $29.99 special.

Zema Estate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Showing the slightest development in its dark red colour, at first it's quite closed on the nose but soon reveals a purity of blackcurrant / cassis fruit mingling with eucalypt and cedar. A brooding wine, quite tight, savoury and herbal with a creamy texture, red and blackcurrant fruit, mint and cedar with an earthy undercurrent, quite grippy tannins and a red fruit aftertaste with brightness as it lingers. 14% alc. Cork. $34.99.

Elderton Friends Barossa Valley Shiraz 2005
Dark reddish black. Smoky and savoury on the nose with a hint of rubber tyres, it seems to be developing quite quickly in the context of its age. A sweeter wine with a creamy texture, jammy blackberry fruit, chocolate, pepper, spice and a hint of mint, there's some dried herb notes and a meaty undercurrent - not overly complex but loads of drinkability for the price. Gold Medal Top100.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $15.99 special.

Wyndham Estate George Wyndham Shiraz 2004
A blend from South Australia and the Hunter Valley, this deep red-black coloured, concentrated, youthful wine shows no indication of its age. Opulent from the outset with creamy oak, red fruits and spicy liquorice scents that carry through to the full-bodied, succulent palate that's crammed with pepper, spice, black liquorice, hints of tar, abundant chocolate, mint and cedary oak. Totally juicy and smooth in nature, it's looking really good right now. For under $20, I though this the 'Buy of the Night'.
15% alc. Cork. $19.99 special.

Petaluma Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2005
A deep concentrated black red coloured wine with some fading of the vivid red on the edges. Smoky aromatics with dried herbs, chocolate and tar. In the palate there's loads of pepper and tar amongst the plum and blackberry fruit but it also tastes savoury and just a little salty - like the saltiness of roasted rosemary - with firm, finely textured dry tannins and underlying acidity. Perhaps not as immediately appealing as the previous wine, because this is a 'cool climate' wine with a distinct Rhonish character. It unfolds beautifully in the glass with power and length and even reveals a hint of chocolate. Matured in French oak for 18 months, decant for best results.
14.5% alc. Screwcap.$33.99.

Wyndham Estate Black Cluster Hunter Valley Shiraz 2003
Deep red black, youthful, but not intensely opaque. Appealingly fragrant with mint and chocolate among the concentrated, opulent vanillin oak scent. Smooth and succulent to the taste yet with some grip to the fine tannin backbone, redcurrant and juicy black fruit, tar, herb and spice all building to a vibrant and succulent finish with hints of liquorice and an earthy depth as the lasting flavour lingers. Aged in American oak for 18 months, it seems even more luxurious than when tasted 8 months ago.
13.5% alc. Cork. $64.99.

Wolf Blass Grey Label McLaren Vale Shiraz 2005
Concentrated, saturated purple black, as deep as wine tonight, but just starting to dissipate on the very edge of the pinky-red rims. Perfumed, sweet smoky oak and red berry aromas with just a hint of tobacco, it is smooth, seamless and already approachable with blackberry, cherry, chocolate, peppery spices and a savoury backbone adding all the qualities that we love. Vibrant, delicious, spicy and long. A great cellaring proposition too.
15% alc. Screwcap. $29.99 special.

Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2004 - South Australia
Aged in enormous (1460 litre) old oak vats that basically impart no oak character, this deeply coloured multi-regional South Australian red is perfumed, fragrant and vinous with chocolate raisin scents that emanate more and more chocolate on every sniff. A wine of finesse, character and the Penfolds 'luxury wine' signature, it's quite lifted in the palate with firm tannins adding a pleasing contrast to the succulent bright fruit and a long savoury finish that lingers with a subtle flare.
14.5% alc. Cork. $70.00 special.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 14 May 2008
Not So Common
All of the wines were tasted blind.

Brown Brothers Zibibbo Rosa NV - Victoria, Australia
This is a light fruity bubbles made from the perfumed Muscat grape. Light salmon pink coloured with lots of foam as it is poured, the bubbly foam fills the mouth with gusto then dissipates to reveal a crisp steely citrus zest backbone to balance the strawberry sweet fruit. A light-bodied fruity aperitif or desert accompaniment but be careful because the kids will love this pretty wine too.
8% alc. $15.99 special. Cork.

Coopers Creek SV "The Little Rascal" Arneis 2007 - Gisborne
Pale straw coloured with nutty, almost chardonnay-like butterscotch aromas and ripe stone fruit flavours supported by taut lemon acidity, which keeps the line on a linear track. But it branches out on the finish with hints of florals, fascinating sweet/dry connotations and an aromatic honeysuckle finish. An old grape variety from Piedmont in Northern Italy, and now in Gisborne. Trophy & Gold Medal – International Aromatic Wine Competition 2007.
14.5% alc. $21.99. Screwcap.

Moreau & Fils Chablis 2005 - Burgundy, France
Light gold coloured with a rich, slightly buttery aroma with fresh custard and hints of apricot, butterscotch and lanolin flavours that fill the palate with a spicy, slightly gingery undercurrent and a mellow softness to the dry nutty finish. There is no oak but the creaminess from the malolactic fermentation adds richness and complexity. Seems less flinty than when tasted in November last year.
12.5% alc. $15.99 special. Cork.

Escarpment Kupe Chardonnay 2006 - Martinborough
This light gold coloured nutty, leesy, slightly buttery style is immediately more complex than the Chablis, no doubt from the well proportioned spicy oak which emanates class, class, class. Rounded in the palate with a hint of apricot, a citrussy undercurrent, a butterscotch richness and some heat to the spicy oak finish, this powerful wine is very restrained and tight at this stage of its life but evolves beautifully in the glass. Personally, it reminded me of a Neudorf.
13.9% alc. $56.99. Diam.

Trentham Estate Viognier 2005 – NSW, Australia
A big oily textured, yellow gold coloured wine with plenty of upfront attack, it has a delicate apricot infusion and a hint of lime and is distinctively Australian with its dusty, sunscorched earth finish. Unoaked and clean, a little blousy upfront but the blouse is short and the flavour fades away too quickly on the finish. "Nice without being special," says Kingsley. Gold Medal – Royal Melbourne Wine Show.
13.5% alc. $17.99 special. Screwcap.

Pyramid Valley Growers Collection Lebecca Riesling 2005 - Marlborough
Bright gold with a sunshine lustre. Aromatic and bright with lemon oil, green apple and potter's clay on the nose, the taste is sweet and ripe but the upfront sweetness is perfectly balanced by a taut, crisp limey acidity with a hint of marmalade creeping in. Just a little grainy in texture, it is low alcohol and oh so dangerously drinkable.
8.5% alc. $35.99. Screwcap.

Pierre Andre 'Clos de Guettottes' Savigny-les-Beaune 2005 - Burgundy, France.
Translucent cherry garnet with some depth to the colour, this distinctly youth 'Old World' Burgundy has a beetroot aroma intermingling with muddy earth, farmyard, smoke and dried herb and a very tight-knit hard-tannined palate that is earthy and slightly metallic on first tasting. It needs to open up to let the cherry fruit emerge and it does with time in the glass (I left the wine until the end of the tasting) and finishes with a pleasing vinosity to the texture. From a very good vintage, decanting is absolutely recommended.
13% alc. $51.99. Cork.

Campo Alto Rioja Tinto 2006 - Spain
Deep garnet with pink hues and a black core, it's quite rich and winey smelling with savoury spicy nuances and a hint of orange peel. Ripe and sumptuous in the rounded, generous palate with chocolate, plums and savoury oak it finishes dry, savoury and spicy with underlying acidity keeping it taut but vinous sweetness rounding it out for a pleasing aftertaste. More reminiscent of Merlot than the sweet American-oaked Rioja we used to know.
13.5% alc. $26.99. Artificial cork.

Banfi Chianti Classico 2006 - Tuscany, Italy
Deep burgundy red with smoky aromas and dry, rustic, savoury, earthy flavours with very dry puckery tannins, orange tea and a cherry sweetness. The fruit is well balanced to the underlying acidity, it's a touch spicy and leaves a smoky savoury, slightly tobacco aftertaste with a hint of pencil lead.
13% alc. $32.99. Cork.

Trentham Estate Petit Verdot 2006 – NSW, Australia
Deep red with blackish core, it so Australian on the nose with lush, vibrant, vanillin oak aromas and the flavour is luscious and succulent with rich, ripe, jammy fruit, tobacco, violets and an ever so slight hint of mint. Full-bodied and powerful with firm but smooth tannins and loads of juiciness from the berry fruits that are bursting with flavour yet still has an earthy savouriness to the finish, which has phenomenal length. It's very very good.
13.5% alc. $17.99 special. Screwcap.

Menhir Primitivo Manduria 2004 - Italy
Deep dark red in colour, just starting to pick up some bricky-brown tones. Sweet tasting, almost porty, it's full-bodied and succulent with rounded tannins, liquorice, currants, earth and barnyard and a spicy almost peppery flourish to the finish, which is long and savoury. Lots of user appeal.
14% alc. $26.99. Cork.

Chateau Gravas Sauternes 2005 - Bordeaux, France
Golden yellow with a hint of beeswax, apricot and rose petal on the nose, it is definitely sweet but there’s a grainy dryness to balance it. Delicate honey, apple, subtle apricot and a suggestion of saltiness to the finish, I like its subtle attack and its length of flavour. Good without being complex. Kingsley says, "Not a great Sauternes but nice and drinkable". 375ml bottle.
13.5% alc. $26.99 special. Cork.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 30 Apr 2008
Cuisine Top Ten Chardonnays and others
The first two wines were not tasted blind, nor was the last (as the options had run out).

Twin Islands Marlborough Chardonnay 2007
Bright light gold with sweet-fruited aromas studded with peach and oatmeal. Fresh and young yet already creamy with bright flavours of apricot and tropical fruit supported by spicy oak, zesty acidity and a rounded finish. Five stars and No. 8 in Cuisine Magazine.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. $15.99 special.

Dashwood Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
There's a hint of lime to the light gold colour of this smoky, bready-scented wine. Mealy flavours fill the palate with a touch of butterscotch, a bright citrussy undercurrent and a warm, rounded, creamy finish. It's rather sophisticated for the price. Five stars and No. 3 in Cuisine Magazine.
14% alc. Screwcap. $15.99 special.

Cloudy Bay Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Bright gold in colour with aromas that are full, fat and mealy with tempting smoky savoury oak, the initial taste impression is a broad, fat, leesy barrel-fermented style with a fine seam of citrus and a touch of caramel sweetening the savoury oak. Gorgeous nectarine-like fruit fills the full-bodied, powerful palate and the rich fleshy flavours last and last. A remarkable wine. A meal on its own. Five stars and No. 6= in Cuisine Magazine. – could easily be rated higher. 14% alc. Screwcap. $35.99.

Black Barn Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006
Light yellow gold with a malty aroma, the flavour is high-toned, phenolic and quite steely to start, with immediately more noticeable acid and bite making it somewhat reminiscent of a Chablis. It's a little slow to unfold but when it does it rounds out beautifully to a long lasting, lightly oaked, buttered peach and melon finish. Five stars and No. 6= in Cuisine Magazine.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $20.99 special.

Crossroads Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006
Deep straw gold with a glint of lime and a bright citrussy aroma with the lime theme infusing the scent and carrying through to the palate. Deliciously juicy and fresh with perfumed fleshy stonefruit balancing the flinty backbone, it builds to a long creamy finish. Five stars and No. 5 in Cuisine Magazine.
14% alc. Screwcap. $16.99 special.

Kim Crawford SP Tietjen Vineyard Gisborne Chardonnay 2007
Golden bright with savoury, smoky, nut and oatmeal scents and full-bodied, rich, savoury, spicy oak flavours. A little bit funky, a little bit rock and roll, there's grilled peach and a touch of honeyed cream in this simply gorgeous, big, fat, seamless wine. It whisks us back to a main course with its power and richness. Wow! The First Glass tasters loved this. Five stars and No. 9 in Cuisine Magazine.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $26.99 special.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2007
Light straw gold - quite pale in comparison to the previous wines. Initially it smells quite light and fruity and a little Chablis like, but later youthful nutty oak scents emerge. However the taste belies the light aroma because it is sweet oaked and peachy fruited with a touch of butterscotch and lovely roundness and harmony to the texture and flow. Call it subtle or "shy and understated" because it is has deceptive power and length. (Not in Cuisine).
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $26.99 special.

Sileni EV Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006
Bright lemon gold with funky, smoky, savoury and ever so slightly earthy aromas - it warns you there is a powerful wine inside the glass. Right now it is a very tight expression of a rich, powerful wine - quite citrussy, mealy and spicy to start then filling out with lanolin and big sweet nutty oak and a full, rich, malted cream finish. Give it a bit more time to integrate and unfold. (Not in Cuisine).
14% alc. Cork. $68.99

Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay 2006
Pale straw gold with zesty, citrussy aromas and a steely, flinty backbone to the bright tropical fruit flavours with biscuity nuances and integrated oak. An interesting wine with lots going on, there's a purity of fruit and a fleshy juiciness to the finish. Five stars and No. 9 in Cuisine Magazine.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $27.99 special.

Selaks Founders Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006
Bright lemon gold with a warm biscuity mealy aroma and loads of opulent toasty oak flavours with peachy fruit, butterscotch, spice and well balanced acidity. It is savoury and powerful with a spicy infusion that adds the x-factor to this bold generous wine that has all round appeal for avid Chardonnay drinkers. Five stars and No. 4 in Cuisine Magazine.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. $25.99 special.

Auntsfield Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Light lemon gold with smoky, malty, leesy scents - the first taste tells you this is a classy, sophisticated Chardonnay in the Burgundian style. Although tight and mealy, there is delicious ripe tropical fruit and stonefruit with an infusion of pineapple typical of the Mendoza clone and the bready finish is long and seamless. It seems quite subtle but there is power and a creamy richness that comes out of the closet and claims the finish. A stunning Marlborough Chardonnay. Five stars and No. 2 in Cuisine Magazine.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. $31.99

Ata Rangi 'Craighall' Martinborough Chardonnay 2006
Lemon gold in colour, this is smoky and savoury with sweet smoky oak scents. Spicy sweet oak fills the palate with fruit in the juicy fresh peach spectrum and savoury, malty nuances to keep it all in balance. With brightness to the lingering savoury aftertaste, this is gorgeous ripe Chardonnay with a perfect creamy texture and waves of flavours that change with every mouthful. A brand synonymous with top class Pinot Noir - this Craighall is simply top class too. Five stars and No. 1 in Cuisine Magazine.
14% alc. Screwcap. $45.99

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 16 Apr 2008
Four German Rieslings, Four Shiraz/Syrah and Four Gold Medal Wines
The Rieslings were not tasted blind. The others, including the pre-taster, were.

Thornbury Gisborne Chardonnay 2007
A big bright rich toasty style served slightly chilled, which accentuates the butterscotch aromas and flavours. It is long and creamy and full of ripe peach and melon fruit with butterscotch richness and a spicy depth. A great wine to start the evening.
14% alc. $13.99 special. Screwcap.

Gunn Estate Skeetfield Chardonnay 2006
A rich, mealy style, full of oatmeal and malt with spicy oak, crunchy stone fruit and a hint of citrus. It's still very tight and doesn't want too much chilling, but all the pointers to its class are there in the expansive, mouthfilling finish. Warning: This is not a "Kingsley style". Gold Medal – International Chardonnay Challenge 2007.
14% alc. $31.99. Screwcap.

Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2004
Deeper gold in colour with lemon oil and lanolin-rich scents and oily, burnt oak, buttery flavours, it seems to have lost its youthful flair as it fatten outs with age. Think Burgundian funk and mealy malo characters over a spicy mellow backbone with peachy fruit and something reminiscent of milking sheds and hay. Gold Medal & Trophy – Royal Easter Show Wine Awards 2007.
14% alc. $28.99 special. Cork.

Dr. Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2006 - Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
This pale coloured wine is just so aromatic it tantalises the senses with passionfruit and fresh apricot scents. Light and fruity and just off dry with a tongue-tickling spritzy texture, it's slick and clean and a real crowd pleaser. AP Nr. 2 576 162 18 07.
8% alc. $32.99. Screwcap.

Kerpen Bernkasteller Bratenhofchen Riesling Spatlese 2003- Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Light yellow gold, this richer Riesling shows some maturity with its lime pith scent. It's crisp and bright to the taste with piercing acidity cutting through the oily, slightly viscous texture and lingering flavours of citrus, melon and ripe green grapes with a touch of matchstick. Drinking beautifully now yet with years ahead of it. AP Nr 2 576 562 07 04.
8% alc. $28.99. Cork.

Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Spatlese 2005 - Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Fresh aromas of tropical fruit and custard apple with oily nuances, it's full of bright fruit that mingles with a slightly sulphury funk. A rather complex, thinking wine with a pleasing light viscosity, a spicy and ever so slightly spritzy backbone and bright tropical fruit (tending towards passionfruit) filling the long lingering finish. Lovely balance of acidity to sweetness. AP Nr. 3525781-10-06.
9% alc. $43.99. Cork.

Bischofliche Kanxemer Altenberg Riesling Auslese 2005 - Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Crisp and cutting with a yin-yang tug of bracing lime and sweet curd, and an oily scent of floral spice and apricot that is mesmerising and intriguing. Sweet and ripe with an unctuous richness of citrus and tropical fruit perfectly balanced by a piercing acidity that leaves a drying impression to the long, juicy finish. AP Nr. 3 561 012 1 29 06.
9% alc. $59.99. Cork.

Bannock Brae Goldfields Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006
Deep Burgundy red with bright purple-plum edges, this generous pinot noir is full of the sweet scents of vanillin oak and ripe plummy fruit with savoury nuances and hints of chocolate. The juicy ripe taste lives up to the promise. It is sweet, spicy and savoury with macerated plum and cherry fruit and a sprinkling of herbs. An opulent, velvety textured Central Otago style. Gold Medal – Royal Easter Show.
14% alc. $26.99 special. Screwcap.

Vidal Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
A lighter, transparent, Burgundy red, this is the complete opposite of the Bannock Brae in style and taste. It's oily, earthy and funky and seems almost Burgundian with a delicate salty savouriness, silky tannins and a mushroom-like intrigue, but states its New World origin with a mouthfilling fruit-sweet finish. Gold Medal – Royal Easter Show. 5 Stars – Cuisine Magazine.
13.5% alc. $23.99 special. Screwcap.

La Puerta Syrah 2007 - Famatina Valley, Argentina
A little like an intense pinot noir in colour but with more crimson on the edge, this is not overly complex but light and drinkable. There are raspberry scents on the nose and flavours of raspberry, vanilla and spiced plum jam with an earthy savoury backbone and creamy oak filling the finish. It seems like a cross between the Barossa and the Rhône.
14% alc. $14.99 special. Synthetic cork.

Yalumba Barossa Shiraz Viognier 2005
A deep dark red with crimson rims, this is full of juicy cherry and red jelly-baby lolly flavours, with plenty of deliciously juicy red berry fruits and a touch of pepper on the long, chocolatey finish. It seems like a lighter than usual style for Barossa but that's perhaps of the Viognier component which adds an overt sweetness.
14.5% alc. $18.99 special. Cork.

Corbans Cottage Block Hawke's Bay Syrah 2006
Deep purple black colour with vivid crimson rims, it's screams 'New Zealand' with its profound cracked blacked pepper and spicy oak scents that carry though to the big rich palate with cow pats, blue berries, dusty tannins, dried herbs, moderate acidity and an earthy finish. Totally impressive! Gold Medal – Royal Easter Show Wine Awards.
13% alc. $29.99 special. Cork.

Two Hands Angels Share McLaren Vale Shiraz 2006
Deep purple red with mellow chocolatey scents, it's so different to the three wines just tasted. Sweet oaked, salty and savoury with a soft smooth attack, it's a big wine that's full of juicy blackberries, pepper and allspice with a touch of liquorice and a fruit cake richness with loads of dark chocolate on the lingering, silky textured finish.
14.8% alc. $26.99 special.

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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