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edited by Sue Courtney

Wednesday Round-up - the 2016 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

January 2016
[ 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 – 27 Jan 2016
Holiday Selections
Wines were tasted blind.

Quartz Reef Central Otago Methode Traditionelle NV
The bouquet of this straw gold coloured 52% Pinot Noir and 48% Chardonnay blend that matured on yeast lees for 24 months offers up a delicate and refined creamy yeasty bouquet. It's crisp, apple steely and very dry to the taste with lemon foam, just ripe apricots and a touch of salinity to the long, tangy finish that's refreshing and long.
12.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $26.99.

Seifried Nelson Chardonnay 2013
Light yellow gold. Toasty oak and peach aromas are woven with lemon butter cream from malo and barrel ferment. Smoky and bold to the taste with polished spicy oak surrounding juicy stonefruit and citrus flavours and a fine seamless flow. This double gold medal winner (NZIWS & Spiegelau competitions) is very much in the First Glass #chardonnaylovers 5 o'clock drinks mould.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Church Road Grand Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
This brand new release offers up an exciting bouquet of flint, gunsmoke, grilled grapefruit segments and zest. And the taste delivers satisfaction in spades. It's full-bodied, rounded and creamy with a mellow savoury aura, nutty oak, nougat, grapefruit and melon flavours, a lingering stonefruit impression and a soft silky flow. A classy, elegant glassful with a medium gold glossy hue, it's been wild yeast fermented in French oak barriques and reminds me of the acclaimed Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006. Outstanding.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $31.99.

Kumeu River Mate's Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 – Kumeu, Auckland
Light to moderate gold in hue with a toasty, nutty, mealy aura to the bouquet with a hint of gunsmoke in the distance. The mouthfeel is soft and creamy with toasty lemon-polished oak, a touch of spice, a layer of butterscotch and a long, dry finish where spiced grilled stonefruit lingers delectably.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $69.99.

Lawson Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2015
A straw-hued wine with a brilliantly radiant and concentrated bouquet of pear drops and spiced baked apples that echo in the deliciously juicy palate where the orchard fruit is joined by tropical guava and musky spices. Served chilled on the night it presents as off dry with loads of flavour and texture. A very tasty, approachable and versatile white that could possibly convert non-PG drinkers.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Falconhead Hawkes Bay Viognier 2014
Spice biscuits, apricot and honeysuckle fill the heady bouquet of this light gold wine and it's wonderfully rich in the palate with the fruit ripe and sweet. There's an elegant aura to the complex & textural taste that has Viognier's classic apricot, spice and orange blossom flavours and it finishes with a silky flow. Partially barrel fermented but there is no obvious oak taste.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $11.99.

Le Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône 2011 - Rhone Valley, France
This rustic-hued wine smells soft and jammy with Throaties lollies, cranberry jam and leather an unusual sensory combination. Baked tomatoes, currants, Throaties, graphite, tar and liquorice combine in harmony with a sprinkling of pepper and a touch of cranberry and strawberry adding a juicy kick to the soft, smooth, savoury and fairly dry finish. Nice little quaffer with a point of difference.
14.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Saddleback Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014
Youthful purple red. Enticing aroma of purple fruit and black cherries with a nuance of thyme and woodsmoke in the distance. In the mouth this is full, intense and fleshy with velvet tannins, soft spicy oak, a fabulous juicy fruit profile of plums and black cherries, and a dry, spicy, herb-infused finish that whispers of its youth. And the aftertaste is satisfying and tasty. The second label of Peregrine.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Houghtons Red Classic Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2013 – Western Australia
Blackberry red. A little dusty and flannelly on the nose with hints of redcurrants and nuances of cigar box and cedar. In the mouth this soft centred blend shows off each grape's traits – currants and mint of the Cabernet; pepper of the Shiraz; and plums, pencils and cigar box of the Merlot. Easy drinking with dusty tannins and a soft finish, it doesn’t seem to be too heavily oaked.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $11.99.

Peter Lehmann Barossa VSR Orrick Shiraz 2009 – South Australia
Deep dark red with a concentrated nose of toasted spices, savoury oak and brambles, this is an opulent and full-bodied with firm assertive tannins, toasty French oak, sweet succulent berry fruit reminiscent of cherry, mulberry and blackberry, hints of mint and a bright flamboyant finish. Then, as the wine taste lingers in the mouth, the mint is enhanced and has a chocolate layer. Now starting to pick up some mellow notes with bottle age but will still develop in the cellar. Accompany with food right now to cut through the tannins.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $39.99.

Thorn Clarke Shotfire Barossa Shiraz 2013 – South Australia
Inky black red. Chocolate wheaten biscuits on the nose and quite deep and brooding in the savoury palate with sappy oak, a touch of mint and massively concentrated red and black fruit. A powerful wine with moderately grippy tannins and a dry finish that gives way to a long succulent aftertaste.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $21.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 20 Jan 2016
More Summer Holiday Sensations
Wines were tasted blind.

Astoria Treviso Lounge ‘Extra Dry’ Prosecco NV – Italy
This unusually shaped, clear, retro kind of bottle shows off the lemon gold hue of this tangy Italian sparkler that when poured has a froth white bubble necklace. The bouquet is creamy, the mouthfeel is foamy and the taste is apple fresh with tangy sherbet-like tingles, a touch of salinity, a subtle underlying fragrant herbaceousness and a whisper of sweetness. Light, smooth, creamy and refreshing.
11% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Te Awanga Estate Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
Light gold in hue with a butter caramel scent – it smells rich but is surprisingly on the medium side of full-bodied when you taste it and the smooth, seamless mouthfeel and flow makes it deceptively easy to drink. Fermented in barrel with wild yeasts, and with full malo imparting creaminess, the flavours are toasty and peachy with savoury French oak humming along in harmony and a fantastically long finish with peach and mealy notes lingering deliciously. Light chilling is all that is needed.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price $18.99.

Spencer Hill 'Tres Elegant' Nelson Chardonnay 2014
Light to moderate gold with a glossy sheen. Toasty on the nose with hints of citrus, stonefruit and melon then full-bodied, toasty, malty and savoury to the taste with juicy peach, youthful bubblegum-like esters and spikes of citrus zest giving side-of-the-tongue tingles. A dry wine with a long savoury finish, it definitely lifts up to its elegant name and could take more than the light chilling it had for this tasting.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price $24.99.

Alchemy Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
Abundant grapefruit, flint, gunsmoke and wild yeast barrel ferment complexities radiate from the glass to tantalise the nose and the flinty/gun smoke characters are also quite prominent in the palate. It’s a reductively made wine with struck match / sulphide characters – attributes that polarise winemakers and winelovers but if you like them you will find this wine very complex and layered. Served lightly chilled for the tasting I find flavours of nougat, preserved lemon and grilled pineapple with a touch of salinity to the long, full, finish that has a harmonious infusion of cedar. Silver NZIWS 2015.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price $25.99.

John Forrest Collection Marlborough Riesling 2007
The golden hue of this ravishingly scented Riesling gives an indication it may have a little age, as do the toasty notes infusing the honeyed citrus and tropical fruit bouquet. Beautifully toasty, just off dry, with touches of honey, flower nectar, tropical nuances and glorious lime and marmalade-like acidity that has had its edges polished by the bottle ageing. A stunning Riesling that at this moment is rounded and complete. Gold NZIWS.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price $24.99.

Michelle Leon Pinot Gris 2014 - Alsace, France
This light gold hued wine has a very mild and delicate bouquet of apple, apple blossom and pollen with subtle nuance of musk. It has low acidity and a medium sweetness level with fruit flavours reminiscent of apples and quince jelly, a steely quiver of herbaceousness, a layer of honey, a whisper of spice and a smooth finish. It enriches nicely over several sips with pretty musky floral/clover honey notes becoming more pronounced and the aftertaste very pleasing.
12% alc. Cork. First Glass Price $24.99.

Greystone Waipara Valley Pinot Noir 2014
Dark cherry hue of medium depth. Delightful savoury / toasty / manuka woodsmoke bouquet. Crisp, fresh, spicy and tangy on first tasting and although the tannins initially seem a little dry by the time the glass is finished the overall impression of this wild ferment wine with 11 months in French oak (30% new) is soft, full, generous and creamy with juicy cherry and plum fruit, touches of smoky bacon, beautifully proportioned woodsmoke, classical thyme-like herbs and a kiss of anise. When you get to the end of the glass you want another. Love it.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price $32.99.

Coto de Hayas Crianza 2012 - Campo de Borja, Spain
Dark pinky red in hue with the first impression on the nose being chocolate-coated berries with hints of woodsmoke and woody herbs. In the mouth it’s juicy to the core, not too big or overpowering, with supple tannins throughout. I find hints of mocha, a touch of cigar, loads of raspberry and cranberry fruit flavours and a dry finish that begs for some tapas to accompany it. Yet this blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo, aged in French and American oak barrels for 9 months with additional bottle ageing before release, is smooth and easy to quaff on its own if you have to.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price $16.99.

Ass Kisser Shiraz 2014 - South Australia
Dark red. Concentrated chocolate-cream bouquet with plums, cherries and cake spices that are so inviting. Ripe and fruity to the taste with chocolate, mocha and vanilla to the fore, firm but rounded tannins and a well-balanced underpinning of savoury oak - I believe both American and French used - while pepper bursts through on the finish. Made by the Barossa-based Rocland group who also make the Chocolate Box and Duck Duck Goose labels, this gimmicky, conversation fuelling Ass Kisser is of course named for a donkey.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price $15.99.

Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2012 - South Australia
Youthful purple red – saturated almost fully to the rims. A very alluring vinous bouquet wells up from the glass and the taste reveals a full-bodied, concentrated wine very tight, almost impenetrable, in its youth – coming up to four years is not old for this! A diverse vineyard blend that’s been aged in enormous 1460-litre old oak vats so there really is no taste of oak but it is definitely multi-layered and complex with currants, cake spices and subtle nuances of pepper with juicy plums, violets and leather emerging, and finishing with that wonderful vinosity introduced by the bouquet to take the wine full circle. An absolute treat to try but totally a wine that wants to discover your cellar to rest in a tranquil state for many years.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price $99.99.

Mt Monster Limestone Coast Shiraz 2013 - South Australia
Inky black red. Spicy oak, cedar, cigar box and pepper on the nose then full and fleshy in the soft, plump palate with mint, chocolate, cedar, blackberry and raspberry fruit and well-balanced underlying savouriness – perhaps even a little tar. Lots of flavour and a juicy quaffer to finish the tasting, it had both French and American oak used sparingly. Gold NZIWS 2014 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price $16.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 13 Jan 2016
Summer Holiday Sensations
Wines were tasted blind.

Ca' Bolani Prosecco Brut NV - Italy
Lemon gold with never-ending tiny bubbles creating a fine lacy rim. Fresh, clean, lemon sherbet aromas then fizzy and foamy in the mouth with crunchy tart apple flavours balanced by a whisper of sweetness. Most of the people in the room put their hands up to say they would categorise this fabulously fashionable fizz as medium dry.
11% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $21.99.

McManis Family Vineyards River Junction Chardonnay 2014 – California, USA
Light golden hued with the suggestion of caramel on the nose much more pronounced in the soft, rounded, creamy palate where there are lashings of ripe juicy tropical fruits, a well-balanced touch of spicy oak and a warm juicy finish. Needs to be totally chilled for maximum enjoyment so buy and store in the fridge. 93/100 Wine Orbit.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Leveret Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
Light yellow gold. Butter toffee and peach on the nose. Full bodied and concentrated in the palate with mellow buttery oak and juicy ripe grilled Golden queen peach flavours beautifully honed by grapefruit-like acidity that simply zings. Then a silky savouriness to the lingering aftertaste. Doesn’t need to be overly chilled and the bottle I tasted from was great!
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Vidal Legacy Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012
This glorious Chardonnay has smoky, toasty, gunflinty nuances tantalising the olfactory receptors, these traits following through to the full bodied, complex, savoury palate that has loads of grapefruit, malo, creamed nut and wild yeast complexities. Mouth-filling and concentrated, this to me is complete already, yet knowing how the legendary 2010 Legacy is developing this too will get continue to garner even more complexity with time. A wonderful wine to partner with seafood. Trophy Decanter New World Wine Awards. Gold AirNZ and Bragato Trophy 2014.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $47.99.

Mt Edward Central Otago Riesling 2014
The bouquet of this pale straw hued wine offers up citrus and honeysuckle, giving the impression the wine could be a little sweet but it is really is quite, dry – I would say almost bone dry. It’s actually quite tart and acid driven with green apple the dominant fruit at this stage of its life. But for those who like to cellar Riesling it has all the markers to develop into a rich toasty beauty – it just needs time.
11.9% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Mt Brown Grand Reserve Waipara Pinot Noir 2013
This deep maroon-hued wine has a inviting bouquet of cherry jam and earthy savoury complexities. Full of flavour in the palate, it's bold, spicy, warm, savoury and toasty with velvet-edged silky tannins and bittersweet red fruits – like poached tamarillo in mulled wine spices - and a citrussy brightness to the finish comes to mind. The fruit profile sets off the savouriness of the wine beautifully. I can see what endeared the judges to this when they awarded it three trophies at the Boutique Wine Awards in Australia. What a great buy!
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $26.99.

Real Compania De Vinos Garnacha 2014 – Castilla la Mancha, Spain
Vivid purple red with chocolate, mocha and juicy berries on the nose and silky in the palate with juicy, fruit-driven flavours underpinned by savoury, woody herb characters and little influence of oak. Soft, juicy and easy to drink. According to the back label it's an extremely versatile food wine – it matches almost everything!
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $12.99.

Tinazzi Ca' de Rocchi Montere Valpolicella Ripasso 2011 - Italy
Deep dark red with an enveloping chocolatey bouquet, it smells like it is going to be ultra smooth – and it is quite smooth once the firmly structured tannins melt into the luscious and juicy currant-like fruit with a beautifully balanced earthy savouriness and spicy oak imparting an harmonious aura. Impressively opulent and though the fruit is ripe and sweet, the overall impression on the lingering finish is dry. A blend of 80% Corvina 80%, 15% Rondinella and 5% Molinara made from ‘re-passing’ partially dry grape skins left over from the fermentation of Amarone or Recioto.
14% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $32.99.

Matua Single Vineyard Matheson Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010
Rich dark red. Cedar, chocolate biscuits and fruit cake on the nose then big, bold, opulent and juicy in the palate with dusty tannins, a touch of pepper and a zing of eucalypt and while showing some bottle maturity and meaty notes mid-palate, the finish is long and creamy. I loved it but it was a wine that polarised tasters on the night – okay, so maybe it has a bit of an old-fashioned leathery pong but as Sam Kim said when presenting the wine, it has 'character and attitude'. Gold Easter 2014.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $48.99.

Beresford McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014
Inky purple red, saturated to the edges. While a little shy on the nose the taste is soft, juicy and approachable and to echo Kingsley, ‘you don’t have to look for the flavours’. The chocolate-coated cherry, blackberry and mulberry fruit jump off a springboard of creamy oak and supple tannins, and the finish has a spicy savouriness that brings the wine nicely into balance.
% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Brown Brothers Patricia Shiraz 2009 - King Valley, Victoria
This dark red black wine that shows a little age-identifying burnishing on the edges has a very inviting bouquet of chocolate, mint and mellow cedar. A simply beautiful example of aged Victorian Shiraz with touches of raisins, bottled cherries, nuances of mint and a deep, savoury backbone with harmoniously integrated oak and pepper. Just hitting its straps and very succulent and delicious to drink right now. 5 stars Cuisine and No.3 in the 2014 Cuisine Top 10 Shiraz.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $48.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 6 Jan 2016
Happy New Year
Wines were tasted blind.

Sugar Loaf Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Perfumed aromas of citrus, gooseberry and green bean are more pronounced in the palate that seems soft before the powerful pungency and ravishing acidity of New Zealand’s most famous grape variety kicks in. With honey, tangelo, coriander, passionfruit, pineapple and lingering tingles of grapefruit and lime, it's a full on Sauvignon Blanc that must be chilled. Gold NZIWS 2015.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Chardonnay 2014
Light gold in hue with a gorgeous caramel cream, spice and biscuity oak aroma and a crème brulee and yummy fleshy peach lusciousness beautifully balanced by underlying citrussy notes and the long, toasty, savoury finish. Chilled for about 30 to 45 minutes before tasting, this deliciously juicy and super seamless wine hit the spot immediately.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Sebastiani Sonoma Chardonnay 2013 – California, USA
With a soft mellow fragrance and creamy notes, this elegant and silky flowing wine fleshes out superbly in the palate with beautifully integrated vanillin oak together with tropical fruit, apricots and a nougat richness to the long, smooth, rounded finish where a tantalising woodsmoke character comes through. Can take reasonable chilling.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2014
Light gold with a sweet scented woodsmoke bouquet and bold, malty, lemony, leesy flavours with integrated smoky vanillin oak in harmony with fruit that is reminiscent of grilled apricot, nectarine and tropical fruit. Finely elegant in its texture with a juicy fruit finish and a kick of acidity to remind us of its youth, this is a serious Chardonnay with a fabulously long finish and best accompanied with food. Chill no more than an hour before serving.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $30.99.

Matua Single Vineyard Hawkes Bay Albarino 2014
This fragrant light lemon gold wine is a lovely fresh style with aromas of freshly picked perfectly ripe apricot and a lithe body. Sweet grapefruit infuses apricot and tropical apricot fruit with a zesty vibrancy from the acidity that is still so alive while a touch of white honey brings it all into balance. Looking exceptionally good tonight it seems to be blossoming with time in the bottle. Can take reasonable chilling. Trophy NZIWS 2014.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $28.99.

Two Rivers L'ile de Beaute Marlborough Rose 2015
Don’t let the pale water melon hue and delicate berry fragrance fool you because this Rosé packs a punch with its strawberry and blackcurrant flavours, its peppery bite and its long, dry, savoury finish. Terrifically concentrated with lots going on, it’s a wine to drink in the sunshine served chilled to the bones. 5 stars and No. 1 in Cuisine's Christmas 2015 Rose tasting.
12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Alexander Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
This Burgundy-hued wine initially smells jammy with smoky oak but deep inhaling brings out bottled cherry nuances and there is a slight oxidative note too. The taste is earthy, meaty, spicy and savoury with rosemary, tar, tyre rubber and dry leathery tannins that will be tamed with food, perhaps lamb with rosemary and a fruity jus to balance the wine’s savoury disposition.
14% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $28.99.

Le Clos du Caillou Les Safres Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2010 – Rhone, France
Rich plum red. A little porty and raisiny on the nose with woodsmoke, liquorice and plum jam - these characters following through to the salty, savoury, spicy palate that has moderately firm, slightly furry tannins and a warm finish. Made from 95% Grenache with big flavours and high alcohol so a vintage cheese as an accompaniment could be ideal.
15% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $44.99.

Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Syrah 2013
Deep black red with quite a rich, meaty, savoury aroma – more European than Antipodean in style. The dry tannins dominate at first in the mouth yet the tannins are fine in their lasting impression with hallmark pepper, concentrated plum and mulberry fruit and a long spicy savoury finish. Trophy Easter Show 2014.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $33.99.

McManis Vineyards California Petite Syrah 2013
Deep dark red with a gorgeously appealing aroma of vanilla-infused woodsmoke, cherries and cake spices following through to the soft, plump, deliciously juicy palate that overflows with ripe cherry and berry fruit together with vanilla notes and spicy oak while the savoury undercurrent accented with pepper balances out the fruity sweetness and pillowy tannins extend the long, creamy finish remarkably. Extremely drinkable, no wonder fanatics of this varietal say “PS I love you”. 5 stars Wine Orbit & Cuisine Top 10.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Pepperjack Barossa Valley Shiraz 2014 – South Australia
Saturated purple red in hue with a brooding, savoury, dark fruited bouquet where woodsmoke and nuances of vanilla well up from within. The taste is concentrated and powerful with what seems like moderate acidity but could be a pepper/chilli heat, with touches of chocolate biscuit, firm tannins and a long dry finish. A new vintage that indicates longevity but right now I find it a little young and unresolved so I would buy to put away, or slosh decant the wine using two jugs, pour it back into the bottle and serve alongside a medium rare juicy BBQ’d steak right now.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $20.99.

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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