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edited by Sue Courtney

Wednesday Round-up - the 2011 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

March 2011
[ 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 Mar 2011
Easter Show Trophy winners and others
Only the standup options wines were tasted blind.

Nautilus Estate Cuvee Marlborough Brut NV
Savoury marmite notes on the bouquet and nutty, savoury with acidity adding brightness to the bready Champagne-like flavours. Time in the bottle since we last tasted in December has added an extra degree of complexity. Three gold medals and two Trophies this wine show season – Champion in Sydney. Champion at Easter Show.
12% alc. Cork. $29.99 special.

Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Aromatic with herbs, gooseberry, guava and musk melon and flavours of Royal gala apples, herbs and tropical fruit. Not an overtly flamboyant savvy, it is the lovely slippery texture and the rounded mouthfeel that sets it apart. Even people who don't usually drink this variety said they like it. Gold NZIWS. Gold Easter. Trophy for Champion Sauvignon Blanc.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. $17.99 special.

Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2009
Light gold in colour with mealy, malty, barrel ferment scents, the palate shows serious concentration and weight. Served chilled the flavours are grilled peach, citrus and, malt biscuits and well-integrated savoury oak on the finish and a flourish of zest and spice. A lovely wine and irresistibly already. Trophy for Champion Chardonnay.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. $26.99 special.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Viognier 2010
Fragrantly aromatic and full-bodied and flavoursome with a Gewurz-like spiciness, smoky oak, bubble gum, apricots and a savoury bready note to the finish. It's a powerful wine with a touch of oiliness to the texture that is texturally pleasing. Trophy for Champion Viognier.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $17.99 special.

Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg Central Otago Pinot Gris 2010
Golden in colour with musk and fresh pear aromatics, the flavours are full and bright with concentrated pear and a tinge of apricot and orange zest. Off dry (11 g/L rs) with a long, tasty finish. Trophy for Champion Pinot Gris.
14% alc. Screwcap. $19.99 special.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Riesling 2008
There's a touch of gold to the hue and an abundance of lime and kero on nose - the scent whisks you immediately to South Australia but the bright, zesty, juicy tropical fruit flavours immediately bring you back across the Tasman to Marlborough. A weighty, moderately dry Riesling with power and richness, and a touch of lime on the finish. Trophy for Champion Riesling.
12.5% alc. Screwcap. $18.99 special.

Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009
Deep intense ruby in hue with inviting aromas of plum, earth and savoury oak, the generous flavours are reminiscent of bright red fruits with anise-like spices, smoky oak, a touch of chocolate and acidity adding brightness. It's succulent and approachable yet has a structure that demands respect. Trophy for Champion Pinot Noir
14% alc. Screwcap. $31.99 special.

Frizzell Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007
Deep black red colour with a plum and dark cherry aroma and intriguing savoury, gamey flavours with cherry, earth, tobacco and liquorice. A meaty wine with ballsy tannins, it was included in the tasting as a standup options wine.
14% alc. Screwcap. $21.99.

Church Road Cuve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008
A deep rich densely-coloured wine with a rich, creamy, red and black fruit aroma, and sumptuous flavours caressed by supple sensuous tannins. Smoky oak is creamy and well-integrated, and hints of chocolate and liquorice linger with berries on the lasting finish. A delicious Merlot that's sure to please. Trophy for Champion Merlot.
14% alc. Screwcap. $24.99 special.

Saltram Mamre Brook Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Shiny red black in colour, the aromas that are infused with mocha and tar seem quite high-toned and nutty and you notice the alcohol. But it shows its provenance with concentrated cassis-like fruit, moderate acidity and an element of richness and seduction with a touch of chocolate coming through too. It could be one of the greats from this label. A standup options wine.
15.5% alc. Screwcap. $17.99 special.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2008
Dense, shiny black red, this intensely concentrated blend smells and tastes plush, lush, creamy and spicy with mocha, chocolate, cassis and blueberry and a nice touch of acidity balancing the deep savouriness that wells up from within. Trophy for Champion Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot
13.5% alc. Screwcap. $43.99 special.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2009
This black-red hued wine has an intriguing floral-like perfume infused with smoky oak, pepper and allspice. With its meaty flavours it's the driest wine of the night and the tannins are still quite tight but chocolate adds succulence and chicory, pepper, spice and rose petals add a flourish of brightness. A wine that needs to be cellared, or decanted for drinking right now. Trophy for Champion Syrah. Champion Wine of the Show
14% alc. Screwcap. $59.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 23 Mar 2011
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz
Wines were tasted blind.

Clearview Beachhead Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2010
Moderate gold in colour with stonefruit and toasty savoury oak scents and spicy oak flavours with rich flavours of apricot and citrus with toast on the rounded full-bodied finish. Good wine. Great value.
14% alc. Screwcap. $16.99 special.

Sacred Hill Halo Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2009
Light gold coloured with a smoky, savoury, mealy scent. Malolactic milky creaminess is the dominant feature of this more elegant, restrained style with fruit more in the pip fruit (apple/pear) spectrum and a dry, savoury finish. Served chilled, some people described this as one dimensional, so do not over chill. Gold Medal Easter Show.
13% alc. Screwcap. $18.99 special.

Lake Chalice The Raptor Marlborough Chardonnay 2009
With grapefruit and mealy barrel ferment scents, this light to medium gold coloured wine smells classy, sophisticated and smooth. The texture is creamy and buttery and the fruit is delicately peachy with a lovely lemon infusion. Now this is a Chardy that takes chilling well and with a bit of chilling, it's ready to enjoy now, yet will integrate nicely with a couple more years cellaring. Matt Thompson is listed as the winemaker. A top class wine for this label. Gold Medal Easter Show.
14% alc. Screwcap. $24.99 special.

Church Road Cuve Series Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2009
This bright gold coloured wine is a creamy smelling, malolactic style with savoury oak and a touch of peach infused into the bouquet. A rich, full, mouth-filling wine with a dry flinty backbone and a citrus nuance to balance the powerful stonefruit flavours, and smoky oak that adds an element of sophistication and leaves behind a lingering smile.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. $26.99.

Church Road Tom Chardonnay 2009 - Hawkes Bay
Citrine gold in hue with classy mealy-infused savoury oak scents. Tight and restrained to start, it's dry, flinty and savoury with a lactic character from secondary malolactic fermentation. But this wine shows what it has to offer, compounding in flavour and the taste expanding in the mouth with nougat, nuts, apricot, a creamy sweetness and richness of fruit. A very young wine - it doesn't have the bottle age that the 2006 had on release, so it's a wine for the cellar right now. Yet the flavours that linger on the lasting finish is a key indicator that this could become one of the greats.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. $65.99 special price until the end of March only.

Fairmont Estate Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2009
Ruby garnet, translucent in appearance, with bottled cherry scents, this seems like a lighter styled Pinot with firm tannins and a tickle of acidity, yet this earthy savoury wine with its bittersweet profile has a sensuous richness that evolves and a satisfying conclusion. Firm, dry, Burgundian in style. Gold NZ International Wine Show.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $19.99 special.

Waipara Hills Equinox Waipara Pinot Noir 2009
Dense ruby with a maroon-like hue and an aromas that is expressive and powerful with spice, savoury oak, and macerated mulled-wine fruit. The power carries through to the palate where a fruit driven sweetness balances the deep, gamey, earthy savouriness. With its silk-edged velvety tannins and succulent richness, it has a funky sexy allure. Andrew called it an excitement machine! Gold medals Air NZ and Perth.
14% alc. Screwcap. $29.99.

West Brook Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009
Moderate depth of garnet ruby hue and an aroma that is savoury yet chocolatey too. With a fine texture, yet also with a meaty richness, this is a beef consommι wine with a herbal edge and a savoury depth. Then a plush, chocolatey richness comes through with mocha and cherry. It finishes quite fruity while retaining the quintessential savouriness. On TV3's Great Food Escape program, this was successfully matched to Chocolate Layer Cake. Gold Medal Easter Show.14% alc. Screwcap. $24.99 special.

Jip Jip Rocks Padthaway Shiraz 2009
Dense red black in colour with spice, chocolate and nutty oak scents, but a little dry and ribena-ish on entry to palate with brambly fruit, herbs, spice and dry-edged tannins. Medium-bodied, easy going style.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $16.99 special.

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2008
Shiny black red with creamy oak, pepper and wild berry scents, the taste is pure concentrated wild blackberries with creamy French oak, pepper and toast. With its succulence and velvety tannins it seems to have a vinous generosity that is left field of Coonawarra, perhaps a reflection of the vintage this year.
14% alc. Screwcap. $21.99 special.

Chocolate Box 'Dark Chocolate' Barossa Shiraz 2008
Magenta black in colour with aromas of blackberry-filled Cameo cream biscuits, pepper, spice and all things nice. The taste lives up to the evocative name with layers of chocolate, coconut American oak, vanilla, berries, cherries, blackberries and fruit cake spices and the opulence is a balanced by a deep savouriness and sumptuous velvety tannins. A delicious wine.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $19.99 special.

Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008
Striking purple black in colour with chocolate aromas and chocolate flavours – it's rich, smooth and creamy, like chocolate garnache with blackberry jam, cake spices, vanillin oak and loads of pepper. A deep, rich, juicy Shiraz that totally delivers. Gold medal NZ International Wine Show.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $29.99 special.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 16 Mar 2011
Wines from around the Globe
Wines were tasted blind.

Pierre Andre Rully Chardonnay 2006 – Burgundy, France
There's a hazelnut character and a hint of caramel to the aroma of this golden coloured wine and it's dry to the taste with salted nuts and a creamy citrussy richness that fills the lingering finish. Quite different from what we are used to.
13% alc. Cork. $46.99.

Matua Valley Judd Estate Gisborne Chardonnay 2009
From a little closer to home, this is a medium-bodied, savoury-styled Chardonnay with melon, tropical fruit, citrus, nicely seasoned oak and spiciness to the lingering finish. From the same estate as the Ararimu we tried a few weeks ago but rather more affordable.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. $20.99 special.

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett 2006 – Mosel, Germany
This has abundant bright-fruited aromas and the taste is pure unadulterated sweet tropical fruited Riesling with a lovely infusion of lemony zest, a tickle of spritz and some slatey nuances on the finish. A very ripe vintage and sweeter than you’d normally think a Kabinett would be it's the kind of wine to sip on before a dinner party. German Riesling fans will simply adore this. 8% alc. Cork. $43.99.

Lucien Albrecht Reserve Gewurztraminer 2009 – Alsace, France
Light gold in colour with beguiling orange water, exotic spice and rose petal scents, this is dry in style with a lightly oily texture and flavours of smoker lollies, musk, Turkish Delight and violets with port wine magnolia on the lasting, delicately spicy finish. Gold Medal NZIWS.
13% alc. Screwcap. $29.99 special.

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Gewurztraminer 2006 – Alsace, France
Bigger, richer, fatter, longer – this waxy-edged Gewurztraminer has a much sweeter disposition and a spicy finish with a touch of orange and coriander. It's got everything in there you expect, but there's a ton of honey too and that makes a point of difference.
13% alc. Cork. $30.99 special.

Heredad del Baron Monastrell 2009 – Yecla, Spain
Medium dark red in hue with a slightly earthy rustic aroma that's slightly reminiscent of boiled red lollies, the confectionery character carries through to the palate too. It's juicy and easy-going with an earthy richness and a spicy brightness, the supple tannins adding a dry character to the end.
13.5% alc. Cork. $12.99 special.

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico 2008
Dark dense ruby (like Pinot Noir in hue), this has much more juice and power. The perfume is floral with hints of dried roses and dried herbs and in the palate a subtle peppery spice comes through. It's smooth and generous with firm tannins and warmth to the dry finish where a rustic savouriness comes through.
13.5% alc. Cork. $25.99.

Kaapzicht Pinotage 2007 – Stellenbosch, South Africa
Shiny black red in colour and a very appealing aroma of chocolate, red fruits, vanilla, smoke and spice. A full, rich, generous wine, quite savoury in many ways, with super ripe raisins and blueberry fruit, chocolate, smoky oak, spice and a green leafy note too. With it succulent flavours and smooth, sensuous tannins, it was an absolute star on the night and also the biggest surprise when the provenance of the wine was revealed.
14.5% alc. Cork. $26.99 special.

Deen De Bortoli Vat 4 Petit Verdot 2008 – NSW, Australia
Purple black in colour, impenetrable in its hue. Quite savoury yet also ultra-juicy and succulent with juicy red and black berries and vanilla underpinning the smoky cigar-box-like oak with game and leather and noticeable, suede-like tannins. Tasty and long. Gold Medal NZ International Wine Show.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. $15.99 special.

Chakana Yaguarette Malbec 2009 – Mendoza, Argentina
Dark red with a tinge of pink, but not as impenetrably deep as we often expect Malbec to be. It's savoury and herbal with smooth silky tannins that caress the palate and a pure cassis flavour that pushes its way through. While at first it seems a little lightweight, it has intensity, richness and opulence and is quite deceptive in its power.
14% alc. Cork. $13.99 special.

Piano del Cerro Aglianico del Vulture Riserva 2004 – Basilicata, Italy
Dense black red, impenetrable and shiny and incredibly youthful in appearance for its seven years of age. With wild berry aromas, hints of eucalypt, dusty sweet vanillin oak and big berry flavours, you wouldn't be the only one if you thought it from Australia, but this voluminous wine is from southern Italy, between the toe and the heel. A star on the night, it's succulent, spicy and incredibly delicious. Made by Farnese. Gold medal NZ International Wine Show.
14% alc. Cork. $38.99.

Alpha Zeta Amarone Del Valpolicella 2007 – Verona, Italy
A fading brownish red that, as it turns out is not indicative of its age but of the way the wine is made. When the grapes are picked they are laid out on mats to dry and shrivel into raisins before being made into wine. With sumptuous aromas and flavours of woody herbs, raisins and super ripe red berry fruit, it seems almost porty, but without the alcohol port attains.
15% alc. Cork. $67.99 special.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 9 Mar 2011
with Nicholas Buck
Wines were tasted blind.

Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2010
This is a rich Sauvignon with a sweet mealy, slightly funky and oak-tinged lemon scent and bright, powerful, zingy flavours of citrus and stonefruit with a creamy undercurrent to the French oak flavours. A serious style with a long full finish.
13.5% alc. Diam. $26.99 special.

Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Showing a little less of those 'leap out of the glass' scents, but more richer, rounder and spicier flavours with salted lemon, stonefruit and a mealy, honeyed richness. The oak seems more integrated; the wine seems more complete. It has a creamy buttery edge and fragrant citrus-infused herbs linger on the finish.
13.5% alc. Diam. N/A.

Te Mata Zara Viognier 2009
Fragrant, lifted, floral and apricot skin scent. There's a high-toned salty nuance to this wine too and youthful chewing gum esters with an ethereal halo to the beautifully balanced flavours of apricot, flower musk and exotic spices. The fine texture is creamy, almost oily, and the finish is tight (rather than flabby as some V's can go). We tried this last year and it has evolved beautifully in the bottle. Nick says their Viogniers age extremely well.
14% alc. Diam. $26.99 special.

Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2009
Creamy oak is quite forward on the nose and it's smooth and buttery in the palate with a funky malty influence from the native yeasts and again a touch of salinity, which Nick later explains comes from the work they do in barrel on the yeasts lees. Mouth-filling apricot, nectarine and Golden Queen peaches are infused with grapefruit and savouriness from the oak and yeasts. Starting to open up nicely, it has a subtle honeyed veneer.
14% alc. Diam. $29.99 special.

Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2007
Rich and toasty, it smells like Chardonnay and we instantly love it. Seemingly a bigger, richer, stronger wine with similar flavours to the 2009, but amplified intensely. With slightly higher acidity, the wine has zip and zing and some underling flinty characters come through too. Holding together nicely, there's no hurry to drink this if you have it in your cellar, other than the sheer enjoyment. However, Nick informs us that if we have the 2006, it's time to start drinking that now.
14% alc. Diam. N/A.

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2005
35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot
Blackcurrant, plum, bramble and cedar on the nose and concentrated bramble flavours with a hint of liquorice. There's a freshness to the fruit and an underpinning with cedar, cigar box and sous bois. This is so youthful in appearance and so bright in its fruit flavours, I had to question if the right vintage had been poured. Of course after tasting the others, it is the fine, melt-in-the-mouth tannins and the silky structure that are the pointer to the bottle age. "Beautifully resolved tannins," said Nick. Outstanding right now, and should hold at this level for another 5-6 years.
13.5% alc. Cork. N/A.

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2007
40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot
Deep crimson red with intensity and brightness to the hue. On the nose there's brambles, cigar box, chocolate box cedar and leather and the palate is filled with . concentrated fruit, cake spice and perhaps a smidgen of pepper that is reflective of the cooler vintage. A four year old wine that doesn't look that old at all, the tannins are still firm, the palate is creamy and there's a lingering fruit sweetness. Underlying acidity is an indication (given the heritage of the label) that it will magnificently age.
14% alc. Cork. N/A.

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2009
45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc (no Petit Verdot this year)
Dense dark ruby in colour with a lifted, aromatic bouquet of violet-like florals, red fruits and tantalising cedar. The brightness of the opulent blackcurrant fruit is intense with hints of liquorice and violets coming through together with chocolate box and cedar. And while the tannins are tight, they are coated with chocolate and sweet fruit that initially mask their power and make them seem supple and silky.
13.5% alc. Cork. $27.99 special.

Te Mata Coleraine 2005
43% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc
Dark red black in colour and invitingly aromatic with chocolate box, cedar and a hint of leather. Outstanding intensity in the palate and, like the Awatea, the tannins are resolved, silky and smooth. Currants, cherry, hints of chocolate and raspberry leaf tea fill the palate with integrated cedar and an overall savoury, meaty, Bordeaux-like complexity. A higher proportion of Cabernet Franc fives a lovely floral lift both on the nose and in the palate. Deliciously enjoyable right now.
13.5% alc. Cork. N/A.

Te Mata Coleraine 2007
52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc
Deep red black in colour with an aroma that hints of smoke, cedar, blackcurrant, leather and violets. Violets fill the finely textured palate together with concentrated fruit, cake spice and hints of anise. Fruit and savoury notes are very much in sync, there's a touch of acidity, the tannins are rounded and velvety and a succulence comes through on the mouthfilling finish. From a cooler vintage and expected to be one of the longest-lived Coleraines every seen.
14% alc. Cork. N/A.

Te Mata Coleraine 2009
52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc
The colour is intense, deep purple ruby. The aroma of chocolate, rose petals and fruitcake is complex and intriguing. A huge wine, yet soft from the beginning, it's youthful with noticeable underlying acidity, liquorice, concentrated primary fruit, florals, leather and cedar. A monumental wine with powerful mouth-coating tannins but the huge whack of fruit somewhat tames their grippiness and makes them seem deceptively smooth. There's lovely oak spice coming through and the finish is savoury and long with a fruit sweetness lingering. Outstanding.
14% alc. Cork. $64.99 special.

Note: The New Zealand wines listed on this page should have been cross-catalogued to my wine reviews by grape variety - check out my Wine Review Index.

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