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edited by Sue Courtney

Wednesday Round-up - the 2015 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

January 2015
[ 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', but were correct at the date noted for the tasting. Check out for current availability and pricing. New Zealand readers can purchase the wines online from there.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 28 Jan 2015
Summer Series Take 4
Wines were tasted blind.

Wairau River Marlborough Chardonnay 2013
Pale gold in hue with a subtle smoky allure to the honeyed oak and apricot scent and a zingy spicy vibrancy to the full rich mouthcoating flavours of apricot and peach with the oak understated and integrated and a long soft creamy finish that is very appealing. Value packed drinking.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Lochiel Estate Mangawhai Chardonnay 2013
There's a glossy lustre to the lemon gold hue, an evocative and very engaging nutty bouquet with a suggestion of butterscotch wafting through, then nougat, dried mango and mealy flavours fill the palate with creamy oak humming along harmoniously in the background and a lovely spicy flourish to the mouthfilling finish. We loved it.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Matua Valley Single Vineyard Hawkes Bay Albarino 2014
This straw gold wine is aromatic and fruity. It smells at first a little like Pinot Gris with its fresh orchard fruit scent but the flavours are so different … and exciting. There's spiced apples, juicy tropical fruit, touches of summer herbs – perhaps pineapple sage and basil – and there's even a twist of white pepper on the juicy mouthwatering finish. Served chilled, it is thirst quenching and fresh – a wine to serve as an aperitif.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $27.99.

Giesen Marlborough Riesling 2013
This straw gold wine has a pretty floral scent and while it is quite noticeably sweet, the refreshing acidity that keeps the wine in balance. Tonight it seems a little like Muscat with its soapy honeyed flavours and subtle suggestion of spritz, but just so fresh and refreshing with a tangy citrussy finish. Must be served chilled for sunny day drinking. A winner of six gold medals and two trophies in local and international competitions.
10% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Farnese Fantini Sangiovese 2013 – Terre di Chieti IGT, Abruzzo, Italy
Rich purple red in hue with chocolatey oak on the nose and mouthfilling savoury spicy flavours and supple tannins that are just so svelte and smooth. A tasty wine with plenty of oak, rich red berries together with plums and cherries, a meaty undercurrent, a touch of tobacco, a pleasing grip to the finish and a super succulent aftertaste. Seems quite modern in style, this silver medallist at the 2014 NZIWS is drinking like a gold medal winner tonight. Great value buying but does need to be accompanied with food.
12% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Charcoal Gully Sally's Pinch Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013
The colour is a medium dense black cherry and the aromatics are earthy and sensuous and while it seems like quite a dry savoury wine with a fine and still firm tannin structure, there is a fabulous juicy thread running through. Medium bodied for Central, but ticks all the boxes with its cranberry and bittersweet cherry fruit, a touch of chocolate and an anise note to the spices. A wine with satisfying length and presence at this stage it needs to be enjoyed with food to offset the tannins – I’m thinking whole mushrooms slowly braised with thyme.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $27.99.

Les Safres le Clos du Cailloux Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2010 – France
The purple red hue makes it look so youthful – the thinning pink edges the subtle visible clue to its age. There's a strong ribena / red cordial note to the aroma and while there is not really any predominant fruit character to the flavour a touch of redcurrant and glace cherry later comes through. It's quite an earthy, savoury wine with a firm tannin structure, some smoky cigar box notes and a flourish of red pepper and cake spices on the long lifted finish. A very clean wine for those who remember some of the famously Bretty CdP wines of the past.
15% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $87.99.

Saint Clair Premium Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2013
Dense dark purple red. Chocolatey oak on the nose is tinged with vanilla and mint, these traits carrying through to the firmly structured palate that has a juicy succulence and fruit ripeness that makes it so drinkable. The fruit is classic cassis with plums and cherries and a there's a lovely spicy brightness to the long creamy finish. Gold Medal NZIWS.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Menhir Quota 29 Primitivo 2011 – Salento IGT, Italy
There's a slightly brick-coloured edge to the dark red hue. Chocolate raisins on the nose recur in the palate but the first taste is a little herbal and savoury with tannins quite dry, then confectionary flavours kick in that give the impression of very ripe fruit, as expected from this region. Lots of chocolate and raisins, a meaty undercurrent and a very succulent juicy aftertaste with a touch of pepper.
14% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Zeppelin Big Bertha Barossa Valley Shiraz 2013
Vivid inky purple black with a full opulent aroma that simply oozes vinous seduction. Full-bodied, spicy and peppery to the taste with plush velvety tannins, black doris plums, touches of liquorice, creamy vanillin oak and bitter chocolate. It’s super concentrated and heady but finishes quite grippy and dry so definitely needs food to foil this effect– a simple serving of bread and cheese would be quite fine. Serious drinking for the price.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Wirra Wirra Church Block McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2012
Rich purple red with a vibrant red fruit aroma framed by cedary French oak and accented with mint. It seems like the wine is older than it is because it is so smooth and harmonious with fine but firm tannins, a peppery bite, mint chocolate and juicy red berries – although the fruit doesn’t dominate at all. This wine is just so easy to enjoy either with food or on its own; it is the complete vinous package and will suit the masses.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 21 Jan 2015
Summer Series Take 3
Wines were tasted blind.

Wairau River Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Unmistakably Marlborough as we like to know it, this is pungently aromatic and full of tangy vibrant flavours of passionfruit, mango, pineapple and sweet pea. Ultra juicy, fresh, thirst-quenching and delicious. 5 star value, 5 star quality.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Westbrook Marlborough Barrique Fermented Marlborough Chardonnay 2013
There's an alluring manuka woodsmoke scent and peach and tropical fruit fill the smooth creamy palate with the toasty oak integrating harmoniously and a touch of crème brûlée on the long juicy finish. Reminds me of one I liked years ago – perhaps the multi award winning 2007. Delicious drinking immediately, it fits the First Glass brief perfectly.
13.1% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Jules Taylor Gisborne Chardonnay 2013
Quite a nutty savoury wine with a funky nuance to the bouquet and a delicate wild yeast mealy character from the partial wild ferment in barrel coming through in the taste. A fruity wine rather than an oaky wine, the oak is like an frame around a still life picture of nectarines, lemons, pineapple and grapes.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2013 – Hawkes Bay
This is a gorgeous smooth creamy Chardonnay with an utterly beguiling smoky savouriness to the bouquet and a rich spicy character to the taste together with caramel coated grilled peach and an exciting expansive finish. You can taste the classy French oak but the tightly structured acidity could do with a little more integration. Buy knowing it can be cellared confidently for several years.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Crossroads Milestone Series Hawkes Bay Gewurztraminer 2013
Enchanting and delicate scent of violets, Turkish delight. Just off dry to the taste, it’s spicy and just a little peppery with sugar-coated violets. Gewurztraminer can often be overpowering but this one has delicacy. Tasted on release almost a year ago it was phenolic. It’s settled down and the chilled temperature on the night had it drinking beautifully. Perfect match for Thai flavours.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir Rosé 2014
The colour is like watermelon. The bouquet is like fresh berries / fresh raspberries and served chilled it tastes crisp and reasonably dry with a myriad of summer berry fruit and a harmonious savoury, lightly spicy undertone that brings a subtle suggestion of sweetness coming through on the finish in to balance. Refreshing and juicy, very easy to like.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Coto de Hayas Tempranillo Cabernet Roble 2012 – Campo de Borja, Spain
Inky boysenberry red with purple crimson edges. Woodsmoke and blackberries fill the bouquet and carry through to the succulent jammy palate that is tinged with liquorice and pepper. Succulent yet firm with plush textured tannins and a creamy finish, this had 3 months in new American oak. A wine to sip on while cooking chorizo sausages on the solid fuel BBQ.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Coto de Hayas Crianza 2011 – Campo de Borja, Spain
Cherry, chocolate, spice and creamy oak are the descriptors that come immediately to mind with this dark red hued, super juicy, silky textured vino that has a pleasing grip to the finish, a 'cherry ripe' brightness and a spicy zesty flourish. On the medium side of full-bodied, it is a blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo with 8 months in French and American oak. 13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $15.99.

Caravan Petite Sirah 2013 – South Eastern Australia
The bouquet of this purple black stunner is all sweet woodsmoke with hints of bacon and tar and it's rich, ripe, juicy and full in the palate. A wine of power and structure, yet velvety and succulent at the same time, the flavours are primarily red berries, fruit cake spices and chocolate. Super approachable already, another summer evening BBQ star.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $15.99.

Penfolds Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – South Australia
A reincarnation of a wine first produced in 1973, this is a deep, dark colour with fading purple black edges. The bouquet offers up a scent redolent of vanillin oak, mint, dried herbs and leather but in the mouth it is the tannins that make the most impression - firm, tight, tannins that will keep this wine in a holding pattern for possibly twenty years. Behind that you find Penfolds hallmark succulence with sweet red plum sand cassis, smoke, tar, savoury herbs and leather all brightened up by vibrant accents of mint and peppery spices.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $328.99

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Clare Valley Shiraz 2012
Vibrant purple in the glass with a touch of mint infusing the evocatively smoky aroma while the mouthfilling taste is smoky, spicy, juicy and succulent with mint, pepper, red fruits, some grip to the tannins, a touch of tobacco, a dark savoury undercurrent and a long full finish. Outstanding buy.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 14 Jan 2015
Summer Series Take 2
Wines were tasted blind.

Falconhead Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris 2013
The delicate bouquet hints of fresh orchard fruit with orange blossom and flower musk but the taste is much more powerful. It has a mouth-coating texture with nuances of marzipan-like almond together with apricot, poached pears and the heat of ginger and white pepper. A hint of sweetness to the soft fruity finish makes this very approachable. Trophy NZIWS. Trophy AirNZ.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $12.99.

Coopers Creek SV 'The Limeworks' Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
Golden in colour with toasty aromas and flavours, this is a full, rich, creamy wine with juicy grilled freshly picked Golden Queen peaches, a soft buttery mouthfeel, a fresh acid spine and lashings of spicy oak and salted caramel. Super approachable already, more so than many of the 2013s, and it can take considerable chilling.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Sacred Hill Rifleman’s Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
Straw gold in hue with a mealy, nutty, nougat and butter milk aroma and nutty and lean in the palate, like a very youthful Burgundy or Grand Cru Chablis. It opens up beautifully with citrus, white peach and spicy oak flavours compounding in the mouth and the lingering aftertaste is long and expansive. A stellar wine that should go in the cellar right now. It can be cellared confidently for many years.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $69.99.

Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2014
It's a light gold colour with a rich Nashi pear aroma and the taste is soft and just a little spicy. There are hints of vanilla poached pears with a savoury undercurrent while citrus zest adds a tingly brightness to the mouth-coating finish. An off dry style with oodles of concentration and flavour, it’s an all round pleaser.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2013 – Rhone Valley, France
This is a light pink colour with aromas of raspberries and strawberries and while the first taste seems a little edgy and stalky take a couple more sips and you will find it rather tasty and refreshing. It’s full of rose hips and bittersweet cherries with a tangy salty character and the finish is crisp and ultra dry. It looks light but tannins give this wine substance and the mouthcoating aftertaste is spicy and complex. A blend of Syrah and Grenache, it’s an ideal wine to serve very chilled for summer day al fresco dining. Trophy Spiegelau IWC
12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Julicher 99 Rows Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012
This velvet-like deep ruby-hued pinot has an inviting gamey infusion to both the earthy savoury aromas and flavours that are interweaved with smoky oak, spiced plums, bottled cherries and thyme. The reasonably firm tannin structure and meaty depth is one clue to the region despite the perceived ripeness and plushness. The balance of fruit and savouriness is quite divine and the finish is silky and long.
12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Greystone Waipara Pinot Noir 2013
The colour of this wine is vivid, a purple-tinged ruby with reasonable denseness. The bouquet is so evocative of woodsmoke, polished oak, mulled wine spices, black cherries and plums … all these traits following through to the rich, juicy palate that has a silky edge to the smooth velvety tannins. Underlying acidity inputs freshness to the finish and lingers with a tingly brightness. Pure Elite Gold AirNZ. Blue Gold Sydney International.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $32.99.

Elefante Tempranillo Shiraz 2012 – Castillo La Mancha, Spain
Inky red black. Quite tarry and savoury on the nose and the taste is meaty, savoury, spicy, tarry and creamy with juicy blackcurrant and raspberry fruit, firm mouth-coating tannins and a raisin-like sweetness to the mouthfilling finish that's accented with red pepper. It definitely needs food and seems like it would go well with a lightly charred, or even well-charred hunk of meat.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Pasqua Romeo and Juliet's Wall Passimento – Veneto, Italy
This bright crimson-tinged black-red hued wine is interesting. Made from Merlot grapes that have been dried in the sun after harvest (apassimento) then blended with Corvina and Croatina with just 3 months in older oak, this wine has an almost floral perfume. The fruity taste seems a little red fruit confectionary with a touch of thyme, mint and pepper and a pleasing tannin grip to the earthy, savoury, velvety-textured finish. We're told it is not about the wine, it's about the label that’s an image of some of the love messages on Romeo and Juliet’s wall in Verona, and has been released in NZ for Valentine’s Day.
14% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Torbreck Woodcutters Barossa Shiraz 2012 – South Australia
Dense black red in hue. A little tarry on the nose with a rich jammy vinosity intertwined with woodsmoke. Given the options of Cabernet or Shiraz, it has to be the latter because it is so peppery. It’s a deep, dark, meaty wine with profound raisin and blackberry fruit concentration, fruit cake spices and a touch of anise, and the opulent flow is silky and smooth. The complexity of this heady wine evolves as it opens up in the glass.
15% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $33.99.

Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – South Australia
A blend of Clare Valley and Coonawarra fruit, this is youthful black red with crimson edges. There’s something very likable and familiar about the red fruit, mint and cedar bouquet and the cassis, mint, cedar and chocolate that fills the palate. It’s absolutely brimming with primary red fruits and has a firm tannin structure, a bright clean finish and excellent length.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 7 Jan 2015
First of the Summer Wine
Wines were tasted blind.

San Marco Extra Dry Prosecco NV - Italy
The 2015 tastings are off to a good start with this light, fresh bubbles. Apple pie aromas follow though to the creamy palate that has a tangy brightness, a well-balanced toasty savouriness and finishes crisp and dry. Thumbs up from the tasters tonight.
11% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
Even better is this big rich toasty Chardonnay that's crammed with aromas and flavours of grilled peach, spicy oak, caramel and citrus with a mouthfilling finish that is quite superbly long. Lightly chilled for this summer night tasting, the temperature was perfect. We loved it.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Man O' War Valhalla Waiheke Island Chardonnay 2013
This is a grapefruit and nougat style of Chardonnay with leesy aromas and malt-like, nutty, funky wild yeast flavours that combine in harmony. It tastes serious and expensive, and it is! If you remember the deeply-coloured oaky Valhalla styles of the past you will find this elegant and restrained in comparison and the well-honed acid spine makes it an excellent wine to cellar for a while.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $34.99.

Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Waipara Riesling 2012
The freshly squeezed grapefruit aroma is so juicy and fresh, so summery, so bright and there's a tickle of ginger-like spritz when the wine hits the mouth. Lightly viscous with superb concentration and full of a myriad of zesty citrus and tropical fruit balanced by honey, it needs to be well chilled for maximum enjoyment this time of year.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $30.99.

Brancott Letter Series 'P' Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2013
The classical aromas and flavours of violets and rose musk make it so easy to pick the variety. Joined by just a light hand of Moroccan spices in the palate the flavours are not overpowering and the texture is almost luscious. Just off dry in sweetness level, with lingering flavours of pink musk (smoker) lollies, Gewurz fans will love this 5 star value, 5 star quality aromatic stunner.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Two Rivers of Marlborough L'ile de Beaute Rosé 2014
The delicate baby pink hue is clear and bright, and the bouquet of briar rose hips and red cherries is just a delight. The texture is tending towards oily and the sweetness level is off dry. There's a touch of pepper that comes through on the savoury finish to balance the fruit sweetness beautifully. Made from Pinot Noir, it must be served chilled to the bones.
12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Mount Difficulty Roaring Meg Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013
The bouquet is earthy and savoury with red and black cherry fruit, perhaps even a hint of fresh blueberry, all following through to the palate where a spicy richness comes through with a touch of chocolate and a crushed velvet flow. It seems a little stalky on the finish, which polarised many of the tasters, but that's a winemaking decision to hone in the voluptuous nature of Central grown Pinot Noir grapes.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $25.99.

Peregrine Saddleback Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013
Smoky and savoury with a smooth silky flow, creamy oak and fruit that is reminiscent of raspberries and cherries, a little confectionary maybe, but there's a well balanced spiciness with a touch of pepper momentarily on the finish that balances it nicely. An easy drinking style for summer nights.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Wooing Tree Beetle Juice Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013
This is the darkest in colour of the three and the aroma and taste hit the spot immediately. It's all black cherries, creamy oak, velvety tannins and spices with well-balanced earthy savouriness and a long, full finish with just the right amount of acidity imparting the peacock tail flare. Most of those in the room, including me, voted this as their favourite of the Central Otago trio.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $24.99.

Yalumba The Reserve Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2004
An inky red black wine with a voluptuous aroma of spicy vanillin oak, chocolate and the most subtle suggestion of mint, it is starting to develop some lovely vinous bottle age characters but the primary cassis and boysenberry fruit is quite remarkable and the distinctive Shiraz spice, pepper, is a highlight. Velvety and long with chocolate, mint, vanilla, cigar box and cedar, and a lasting and memorable finish, this magnificent wine is a blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon and 31% Shiraz. It’s 5 star quality and gets my vote for ‘Wine of the Night.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $105.

Two Hands Fields of Joy Clare Valley Shiraz 2013
This impenetrable pool of deep purple is peppery and spicy with a bounty of creamy chocolate, smoky oak, leather, toasted spices and the slightest suggestion of mint. A blockbuster in every sense, it's plush and velvety and while the heady flavours are so evocative and seductive already, it will benefit from lying down for a while.
14.8% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $31.99.

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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