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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

January 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 - 30 Jan 2008
Chardonnay, Italian Reds and NZ Syrah
The first eight wines were tasted blind. The Syrahs were not tasted blind.

Amante Central Otago Riesling 2006
Pale lemon-lime in colour, this sweetish aromatic wine is full of apricot and stonefruit with a spicy yeast lees undercurrent, hints of custard and cream and a bright seam of citrus zest. A light, fresh, summery wine that can be well-chilled - but not immediately identifible as Riesling. I was thinking unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and even Viognier at one stage. Gold Medal – NZ International Wine Show
12% alc. $22.99 special. Screwcap.

Vavasour Awatere Valley Chardonnay 2006
Green-tinged light gold in colour, this spicy, savoury, creamy, leesy, full-bodied, barrel-fermented chardonnay is oily, toasty, nutty and citrussy with hints of butterscotch, a rich, spicy finish and excellent length. Chilled for four hours before tasting, yet still very stylish.
14.5% alc. $19.99 special. Screwcap.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 Sawcut Chardonnay 2006 - Marlborough
Light yellow gold with savoury, nutty, mealy aromas and toasty oak flavours with stonefruit, tropical fruit and citrus. Quite dry and zesty with the chilling - but it becomes quite lusciously rich as it warms up in the glass, which I endeavoured to speed up by cupping my hands around the glass and swirling. It was chilled for four hours and I didn't like this wine chilled as much as it was.
14% alc. $27.99. Screwcap.

Astrolabe Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
A sweeter, ripe, creamy style of chardonnay with loads of stonefruit and spicy oak, and even though chilled for four hours before tasting, it came across as fresh, bright and vibrant with a long, tasty and very juicy finish.
13.5% alc. $30.99. Screwcap.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2005 - South Australia
Now this is Riesling! Classically aromatic, with limes and a touch of papaya on the nose and dry, crisp flavours with loads of lime, honeysuckle and talc. A rich, weighty, earthy Australian style with spicy zest that tingles the taste buds. A powerful expression of Riesling with great cellaring potential. But very surprising to see it did not have a screwcap.
13% alc. $24.99. Cork.

The Crater Rim Waipara Riesling 2007
Water pale, sweetish and youthful with bubble gum and citrus aromas, this low alcohol style is light and clean with honey baked apples and a delicate infusion of lime. Very pure and focussed with a long, piecing finish, this wine that has all the potential to become a classic.
9.5% alc. $19.99 special. Screwcap.

Rocca delle Macie Vernaiolo Chianti 2006 - Tuscany, Italy
Deep black red boysenberry colour, fine in appearance. Smoky, savoury aromas lead into a succulent medium to full-bodied palate with bitter chocolate, prunes, brambles, dried herbs, spice, liquorice and smoky mellow oak. A little rustic and tarry with slightly dusty tannins but a gutsy flavvouful wine with good length.
12.5% alc. $19.99. Cork.

Cantine Due Palme Salento Primitivo 2003 - Italy
Fine textured in appearance, opaque with a black core and fading brownish red edges, the smoky, savoury, earthy almost salty aroma belies the juicy, plush, succulent flavours. Quite peppery, smoky and meaty with juicy raisin and cherry fruit and smooth tannins, there's also a slightly sweaty foot character and the rustic finish is powerful and long with some apparent sweetness.
13.5% alc. $17.99. Cork.

Cottage Block Hawke's Bay Syrah 2006
Concentrated black crimson, vibrant and shiny in appearance. Wow – smell the pepper on the nose - freshly crushed black pepper and wild rose scents that carry through to the spicy, savoury palate. Tight-knit and concentrated at this stage of its life with loads and loads of spice, juicy blackberry fruit, cherry chocolate, hints of anise and a succulent, savoury finish, it was matured in French oak, 40% new.
13% alc. $33.99. Cork.

Coopers Creek SV Chalk Ridge Hawke's Bay Syrah 2006
Inky black red, shiny in appearance, this aromatic, bright-scented wine has upfront flavours of creamy oak, chocolate, juicy blackberry and sweet black cherry fruit with the signature pepper of Syrah strumming gently in the background until exploding like fireworks on the vibrant finish. Co-fermented with 2.5% Viognier, which makes the tannins slippery in texture, there's a pleasing jaffa-like allure throughout. Elite Gold – Air New Zealand Wine Awards. At the special price, it is one of the great buys in New Zealand Syrah.
13.5% alc. $23.99 special. Screwcap.

Passage Rock Waiheke Island Syrah 2006
Deep, purple black in colour, this wine exudes opulence with its spicy, pepper-infused savoury oak aromas and it big, rich, ripe, creamy oak, juicy purple fruit and sweet, spicy flavours. A sumptuous wine made with a combination of French and American oak, the pepper signature of Syrah is prominent throughout. Stunning as always. Gold Medal – New Zealand International Wine Show.
14.5% alc. $52.99. Screwcap.

Trinity Hill Homage Hawke's Bay Syrah 2006
Deep boysenberry red, opaque and deep. Dark, rich, succulent and savoury on the nose with exotic spices and concentrated berry fruit - peppery spices introduce the palate of this exciting wine. It's succulent and savoury, dark and intriguing with purple and black fruits, youthful velvety tannins, leather, spice, musk, rose, a creamy richness and a density and weight that is rarely seen. Mostly French oak with some American, the best grapes from the vintage were selected and just 310 dozen bottles were produced.
14% alc. $122.00. Cork.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 23 Jan 2008
Summer Series - Just Delicious Tasty Wines
Wines were tasted blind

Haselgrove Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2004 - Lobethal, South Australia
A deep, rich, golden coloured wine with toasty, buttery mellow oak aromas and typically brash aged-Aussie chardonnay flavours with spicy oak, warm alcohol, hints of pineapple and a long, juicy, butterscotch-filled finish. Lots of upfront Chardonnay flavour and stunning value at the price. A double gold medal winner too.
13.5% alc. $12.99 special. Screwcap.

Ngatarawa Silks Chardonnay 2006 - Hawkes Bay
Full of tropical fruit with hints of caramel and passionfruit this rich, weighty, mealy, creamy and lightly oaked chardonnay has a slightly sweetish fruit salad aroma and bright fruity flavours reminiscent of apricot, tropical fruit and pineapple with a toasty, creamy, nutty layer and butterscotch. Super drinking this summer.
13.5% alc. $17.99 special. Screwcap.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 - Marlborough
Zingy and vibrant with a ton of crisp, fresh, grassy flavours and razor sharp acidity balancing the ripe, sweet tropical fruit with melon, capsicum and hints of pineapple playing around in the background. It slips down nicely and the finish is pungent and long. A somewhat 'retro' style for Cloudy Bay - but that's a good thing because lots more people liked it this year.
13.5% alc. $32.99. Screwcap.

Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2005 - Alsace, France
Pungent, floral and spicy with soft acidity, this is a delicate, earthy, dry expression of Gewurztraminer but with great expansion and length, which really sets it apart from the more upfront, local styles. There's Asian fruit with a lemony undercurrent, sweet ginger-infused tangelo and a white pepper liveliness to the lasting finish. Complex and fascinating.
13.5% alc. $33.99.

Spy Valley Gewurztraminer 2007 - Marlborough
In the typically kiwi upfront style, this will tantalise Gewurz-lovers with its pink smoker lolly musk and rose essence scents. Medium sweet with soft acidity but a piercing seam of pungent grapefruit adding verve and balance, this deliciously juicy wine has mouth-coating viscosity and a spicy richness with hints of anise. Gold Medal – NZ International Wine Show. Blue Gold Sydney Top 100.
13.5% alc. $20.99 special. Screwcap.

Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2006 - Waipara Valley
Light golden in colour, perhaps influenced by a touch of botrytis, there's toasty lime amongst the sweet citrussy and honeysuckle aromatics. Sweetish, weighty and viscous with a gentle suggestion of spritz, the flavours are full of tropical fruit and sweet citrus with a hint of grapefruit, a honey infusion and a lasting luscious finish that you just want to savour all night. Incredible wine. Just yum!
7.5% alc. $37.99. Screwcap.

Trinity Hill Montepulciano 2004 - Hawkes Bay
With some depth to the Burgundy colour, it looks a little like a full-bodied Pinot Noir but that's where the similarity ends. Most of the tasters thought this wine was from Europe. I did too because it has an Italian-like character with earthy, savoury, smoky, dried herb and cherry jam scents that carry through to the creamy palate which has meaty tannins, nutty oak, smoky herbs and a juicy vibrancy from the underlying acidity. Developing nicely and a great food wine.
13.5% alc. $21.99. Screwcap.

Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2006 - Abruzzi, Italy
Black, opaque right to the purple red edges, this concentrated, powerful red has a berry jam sweetness and a savoury, spicy backbone with rubbed velvet tannins and sweet cherry fruits. Full-bodied with supple fruit sweetness, it's a bigger wine than the Trinity Hill and great to be able to compare the two.
13.5% alc. $19.99.

Coto de Hayas Reserva 2003 - Campo de Borja, Spain.
Made from 100% Garnacha, this deeply translucent dark cherry red coloured wine has smoky vanillin oak scents and concentrated cherry and plum fruit flavours with hints of chocolate and liquorice, a savoury undertone and just a little bit of grip to the velvety tannins. With soft acidity and juicy flavours, this clean, modern style has had 14 months in American oak. It reeks five star quality and is sure to be a winner with almost all and sundry.
13.5% alc. $22.99.

Preece Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - Victoria, Australia
Deep shiny red black, this succulent savoury wine has the lifted bright cassis fruit of cabernet with a very slight suggestion of mint and a touch of cedar. Fleshy, juicy and creamy, it's medium-bodied in style and ready to drink now.
14.5% alc. $13.99 special. Screwcap.

Thorn Clarke Shotfire Shiraz 2006 - Barossa Valley
Deep purple black in colour, youthful and bright, this rich, powerful wine is aromatic, cedary, savoury and spicy with sweet vanillin oak, blackberry fruit, liquorice, mocha and a lovely, subtle grippy grainy tannin texture. It's succulent and mouthfilling, rich yet balanced and downright seductive.
14% alc. $25.99 special. Screwcap.

Shirvington McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003 - South Australia
Whoa! Deep, impenetrable black-ink colour. Smoky sweet oak aromas with spice and liquorice. Powerful full-bodied, spicy flavours with dark black and red fruits, supple velvety tannins, sweet oak, liquorice and chocolate and great length with allspice lingering with smoky sweet oak. A wine of textural complexity and mouthfilling savouriness, this is still very youthful with masses of primary fruit and no signs of bottle development at all apart from the integration and class. Simply outstanding!
16% alc. $89.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 16 Jan 2008
Top Rated Cuisine Sauvignon Blancs and others
Wines were tasted blind

Vavasour Redwood Pass Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Bright and tasty with a ton of passionfruit and lime on the nose and a rich juicy, vibrant flavour with tropical fruit to the fore and a fresh grassy herbaceous backbone. Served chilled, it's a perfect summer drink.
5 Stars & 3rd equal in Cuisine Magazine.
13.5% alc. $14.99 special. Screwcap.

Highfield Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Citrus and just a hint of musky sweat on the nose and summer herbs to the fore in the oily palate. With grapefruit initially the dominant fruit it seems 'austere' to start but opens up beautifully with delicious sweet melon, stonefruit, tropical fruit and a touch of sweetness on the rounded mouthfilling and pungent finish. 5 Stars & 3rd equal in Cuisine Magazine.
13% alc. $20.99 special. Screwcap.

Jules Taylor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
A sweeter smelling savvie with crisp lime, gooseberry, green melon, cut grass and apple flavours, it's juicy, fresh, bright and tasty with a spritzy tingle adding liveliness and a touch of oiliness adding a lovely slipperiness to the mouthfeel. Long and pungent with pineapple and basil adding excitement to the finish. 5 Stars & No. 10 in Cuisine Magazine. Gold and Trophy Air NZ Wine Awards.
13% alc. $17.99 special. Screwcap.

Montana "B" Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
There's a hint of 'sweat' joining lime and gooseberry on the nose and sweet tropical fruit, lime and pineapple in the palate with a herbal twist. Long and tasty, and despite the sweet fruit entry, it finishes crisp and dry with a spicy, zesty freshness and a lasting finish. 5 Stars & No.2 in Cuisine Magazine. 14% alc. $33.99. Screwcap.

Coopers Creek SV The Limeworks Chardonnay 2006 - Hawkes Bay
After the savvies, this beautiful balanced, fresh style smells so inviting with its toasty, peachy chardonnay scent and hits the spot instantly with its creamy, savoury and toasty vanillin oak flavours. With nuts, figs and juicy peach it's a great prospect with or without food and good drinking this summer and beyond.
13.5% alc. $19.99 special. Screwcap.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2006
With juicy citrus and savoury, toasty French oak on the nose, this rich, fuller-bodied chardonnay seems elegant and refined with a creamy texture over a spicy, nutty backbone and tropical fruit, pineapple and peach. Showing good underlying acidity, it's a powerful wine for the price point and made to last. Gold Medal – NZ International Wine Show.
14% alc. $17.99 special. Screwcap.

Coopers Creek. Gisborne Viognier 2007
Served slightly chilled, this pale gold wine is not overly expressive on the nose but it’s bright and juicy in the soft, creamy, nutty palate with apricot and rock melon and a flourish of alcoholic warmth on the fruity finish which just expands with its exquisitely pure Viognier flavour. Brilliant New Zealand example of the variety and excellent value. Gold & Trophy – Air New Zealand Wine Awards.
14% alc. $19.99 special. Screwcap.

Finca Monte Carrascal G4 Garnacha 2006 - Carinena, Spain
A medium purple-red, almost transparent, it is savoury and earthy with jammy berries on the nose and little suggestion of oak. The light to medium-bodied palate has a hint of cherry, dusty tannins, a touch of spice and liquorice and a refreshing juicy finish with good length. This youthful wine is ready to enjoy for lunch or a beach BBQ.
13% alc. $19.99 special. Cork.

Castillo de Monserran Old Vine Garnacha 2004- Carinena, Spain
A deeply translucent black red in colour, there's a spicy edge to the rich raspberry and blueberry fruit flavours with thick textured grainy tannins and a pleasing touch of vanillin oak. A weightier wine, sweeter on the palate with a touch of chocolate and a savoury earthiness balancing the fruitiness on the lingering finish, this wine, which has had 12 months in new oak, is good value.
13% alc. $16.99 special. Cork.

Taylors Clare Valley Merlot 2006
Deep shiny black red. Intense concentrated ribena, mint and savoury vanillin oak on the nose and spicy and toasty in the juicy palate with cigar, chocolate box, plum and boysenberry and a touch of underlying acidity keeping it fresh. Juicy, soft, approachable and memorable. Gold Medal – NZ International Wine Show.
14.5% alc. $16.99 special. Screwcap.

St. John’s Road Blood and Courage Barossa Shiraz 2006
Shiny black with a purple/crimson edge, this fabulous Shiraz has smoke, spice and 'old fruit cake' aromas and a powerful palate crammed with mocha, red fruits, biscuity oak, tar, spice and grainy tannins building in harmony to a rich, succulent finish. "A majestic wine" says Kingsley. Gold Medal – NZ International Wine Show.
14.5% alc. $29.99 super special. Screwcap.

Two Hands Max’s Garden Heathcote Shiraz 2005
There’s a luminescent glow to the rich purple/black/red colour of this concentrated, sweet Aussie Shiraz that has a touch of mint, silky integrated tannins, a hint of chocolate, plum and blackberry fruit, classy oak and lashings of peppery spice. Rich, round and smooth with balance and flow, there's some underlying acidity and a tarry savouriness to keep the jammy sweet fruit in check. Creamy and long. Absolutely gorgeous drinking. A real treat.
14.5% alc. $55.99. Cork.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 9 Jan 2008
Variety, Value and Vintage Releases
Wines were tasted blind

Triplebank Awatere Pinot Gris 2007 - Marlborough
Full of crunchy summer stone fruit, this fruity, flavoursome wine is medium-bodied with a nutty backbone, a touch of creaming soda, juicy apricot and tropical fruit and lots of characteristic ripe pear on the warm, spicy finish. Chilling brings out a burst of refreshing, bright acidity to balance. Gold & Trophy – NZ International Wine Show. 13% alc. $19.99 special. Screwcap.

Bilancia Pinot Grigio 2007 - Hawkes Bay
Aromatically fruity with stone fruit hinting towards apricot, it's crisp, dry and noticeably weightier, perhaps because of the higher alcohol that adds extra heat to the warm, spicy finish. It's firm and full with a nutty complexity, a touch of citrus, a nuance of candied fennel seed, musky pear and a white peach finish. 14% alc. $29.99.

Penfolds Reserve Bin 00A Chardonnay 2000 - South Australia
Yellow gold with a bright oily appearance, it looks older - and the aroma and taste confirms it. It's big, bold and buttery with hints of rubber bands on the nose and mealy and rich in the full-bodied palate with rancid butter, toasted nuts, caramel-coated popcorn, golden peaches and pineapple that harmonise into the spicy oak. While it initially seems flabby and past it, the multi-faceted, long, dry finish shows the true pedigree of this highly awarded wine. Unfortunately there is rampant bottle variation and the bottle I tasted was not one of the best, but lovers of older, bottle-aged chardonnay will enjoy it. 13.5% alc. $55.99 special. Cork.

Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard Chardonnay 2005 - Hawkes Bay
A light yellow-gold coloured wine with a savoury, mealy, toasty oak aroma and youthful, dry, crisp, leesy-dominated flavours with lots of toast, hints of grapefruit, grilled peaches, melon, tropical fruit and a nutty, savoury finish. Like the previous wine, it opens up and reveals its creamy richness and power, but in contrast to the previous wine, it is still evolving and has a long, life ahead of it. Gold Medal – Royal Easter Show Wine Awards. 14.5% alc. $37.99. Screwcap.

Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2007 - Marlborough
Pale in colour, this pretty perfumed, juicy smelling wine is full of the scent of lusciously ripe Asian fruits, the perfume becoming more pungent and perfumed with time in the glass. There's lovely balance and flow in the palate with oiliness to the texture, high toned gingery spices, ground coriander exoticness, abundant fruit sweetness and it finishes dry with excellent length. Gold Medal – Air New Zealand Wine Awards. 14.5% alc. $24.99. Screwcap.

Akarua Cadence Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006
A deep maroon red with youthful brightness, there's a freshly baked cherry pie nose and ripe, juicy, savoury flavours infused with stewed cherry, spiced plum and chocolaty oak with supple tannins, underlying acidity, earthy mushroom notes and a sprinkling of wild thyme flower. Full-bodied with moderately high alcohol, this youthful wine, which has had 11 months in French oak, is still evolving. Right now it's very powerful just on its own. 14% alc. $39.99. Screwcap.

Cote de Hayas Crianza 2004 - Campo de Borja, Spain
Deep red. Savoury, very Euro-centric aromas with a bottle stink that blows off to reveal hints of liquorice on the concentrated berry and earthy barnyard nose and a sweet-fruited palate with raspberries, blueberries, musk, spice and a chocolatey depth. Savoury and juicy with chewy tannins and moderate length, this medium-bodied blend of Garnacha (60%) and Tempranillo (40%), has lots of appeal for summer drinking. It would be great for the barbie and it would complement a bit of 'char' on the food. 13.5% alc. $12.99 special. Cork.

Aragus Garnacha Cabernet 'Old Vines' 2006 - Campo de Borja, Spain
A deeply translucent raspberry jube colour, with a hint of menthol or camphor to the earthy, smoky oak aroma while the reasonably smooth, firm-tannined palate is full of sweet jammy red fruit and cedary spice with underlying acidity adding 'bite' . It's moderately rich with a savoury earthiness, hints of musk, liquorice and nugget and although the finish is dry, it leaves a brightness to the aftertaste in its wake. 60% Garnacha, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.5% alc. $12.99 special. Cork.

Fromm La Strada Reserve Syrah 2003 - Marlborough
Inky blackish red showing a little fading on the more transparent, thin edges, it emanates peppery spice on the nose with hints of old rose and a boysenberry / blackberry depth - classically and varietally New Zealand Syrah. Very dry to the taste - dry, savoury and marmitey with loads of pepper and silky tannins. A meaty style that still seems to be evolving. The long, expansive floral and red fruited aftertaste shows great potential. 14% alc. $56.99. Cork.

Orlando Jacaranda Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - Coonawarra, South Australia
Inky purple black with brownish-red edges, this big, rich, sweet-fruited red is deceptively primary even though some lovely bottle-aged characters are creeping in. There's menthol on the nose with hints of cedar and chocolate and big blackcurrant and blackberry fruit flavours in the smoky, savoury and oak-sweet palate that flows with velvety tannins. Rich and powerful and still years to go, this multiple gold medal winning wine had 22 months in new oak with a further 41 months in bottle before release in 2004. 13.5% alc. $54.99.

Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - South Australia
Bright purple black, this is tarry and savoury at first with warm alcohol and spice and mint emerging on the nose of this massive wine. Rich and velvety to the taste with creamy mint chocolate, cedar and spice, sweetish plum and blackberry fruit, dusty tannins and a long, powerful finish, it's made from a blend of Clare Valley and Coonawarra fruit. 15% alc. $19.99 special. Screwcap.

Rolling Shiraz 2005- Central Ranges, NSW, Australia
Pinky purple black, it's quite savoury with just a hint of barnyard on the nose and spice, tar, earth, dried herbs and blueberry and boysenberry fruit fill the palate. More of a 'cool climate' style, the tannins are smooth while white pepper adds a spicy kick to the juicy finish. A brand of Cumulus Wines. Gold Medal – NZ International Wine Show. 13.5% alc. $17.99. Screwcap.

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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