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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings.  One day I'll update it to proper blogger software but right now I haven't the time to research which blogging software is best, nor do I have the time to teach myself how to use it.  I'll stick to archaic html to record my daily events.  It's my on line journal and an adjunct to my website which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.

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Archive: September 1st to September 15th 2007
Sep 14th: Church Road Cure Kids Dinner
Sep 13th: Hedonsitic Sweeties
Sep 12th: Wine Boggling Wednesday
Sep 11th: Wine, wine everywhere still not a drop to drink
Sep 10th: Wine, wine everywhere but not a drop to drink
Sep 10th: Wine of the Week: Seifried Pinot Gris 2007
Sep 9th: Pasha-ionate matches to new Terroir Series Pinot Noir
Sep 7th: Chardonnay, Shiraz and Spanish Reds
Sep 6th: Sparkling Wine Seminar
Sep 5th: NZ Sommelier of the Year 2007
Sep 5th: Wine New Zealand finale
Sep 4th: VIP Wine Tasting reveals some stunners
Sep 3rd: A Gris Day Out - Wine New Zealand Day One
Sep 2nd: Whitebait Heaven
Sep 1st: Spring Fever
Other Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 14th 2007

Church Road Cure Kids Dinner

Novotel Ellerslie and Church Road Wines are hosting a winemaker's dinner with Church Road winemaker, Chris Scott on Thursday 27th September starting at 6.30pm with dinner commencing at 7pm. It's a 5 course set menu with matching Church Road wines and is a fund raising dinner for Cure Kids, which is the face of the Child Health Research Foundation.

Jessica Carlson, the Conference Sales Coordinator at Novotel is organising the event so she and 3 of her colleagues can enter the Accor $10 Queenstown Race  - from Auckland to Queenstown with $10 in their pockets. So in effect, 100% of the proceeds from the dinner go to the charity.  Well done Church Road and Novotel.

For reservations contact Jessica on 021 523 4731 or by email.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 13th 2007

Hedonistic Sweeties

After three days of wine judging, suddenly it's all over. But what a last day. Was I on the luckiest panel - or what? With two flights of Pinot Gris to start, some people may think not. But Pinot Gris is now a popular wine of choice amongst the punters and as wine growers come to grips with a style that suits their grapes from their terroir, the quality shines. No longer are there myriads of sauvignon blanc or riesling look-a-likes, or wines that simply have no taste. More and more winemakers are achieving flavours that speak of the pinot gris grape.

Four top Sweet WinesBut highlight of the day was the 'Sweet Wine' class, the stickies. They set the scene late morning and turned the afternoon into one of hedonistic pleasure. Our judging team were all very aware as to the variety of styles that may be presented - from the oak-treated to the pure fruit expressions, and judged each wine in its own particular context. I found wines that were like a spoon in a honey jar and others like liquid toffee, wines where botrytis was the dominating feature and others that were all about fruit and varietal character. It was the sweet wine class, so the wines had to have lush sugar, but it was balance of sugar to acid and alcohol with clean botrytis above all else. It was largely a stunning line-up and with the very top wines all of the judges were in agreement about the quality without any discussion. It was a sweet wine lover's heaven.

The New Zealand International Wine Show has entries predominantly from New Zealand and Australia but wines from other countries are entered too. They are not separated out by country for judging, the division is by varietal (eg. syrah/shiraz) or by style (eg sweet wines) instead. This is different to shows like the Decanter World Wine Awards, which is like a series of mini regional shows with the wines judged separately by country. Adam LechemereAdam Lechemere from Decanter was here for Wine New Zealand and talked about the Decanter awards in context of the discussion at one of the seminars. He reported that with sauvignon blanc, 'no wine merited a gold medal' and with pinot noir, 'with the expectation that has been built up …. our disappointment was the greatest'.

I wondered if the wines would have fared better if they had been judged as they are at NZWIS - and at the Sydney International Wine Show, with the same varieties from different counties together. How many gold medals would New Zealand savvies have received if they had been judged against savvies from Chile or South Africa? And how would our pinot noirs have fared against the same varieties from Oregon and Burgundy?

But there is no doubt about how our sweet wines would have fared, because word has just come through from the Decanter World Wine Awards that the Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2006, has taken out the International Sweet over £10 Trophy. After winning the 'regional' New Zealand trophy in the sweet wine category, it was then eligible to be judged against sweet wines from other countries - including Canada's top Ice Wine and France's top Sauternes - and Sweet Agnes came out top.

If you are looking to buy this in New Zealand and New Zealand, it's called Seifried Nelson Riesling Ice Wine 2006 - check out

Seifried in Nelson are on a roll in wine competitions this year. They've already picked up a Trophy in the recent Bragato Wines Awards. And with the New Zealand International Wine Show and the Liquorland Top 100 results being announced soon,and the Air New Zealand Wine Awards later in the year, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they pick quite a few more.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 12th 2007

Wine Boggling Wednesday

pinotjudging.jpg (22995 bytes)The call for this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday has come right in the midst of judging at the New Zealand International Wine Show. After a full day judging two flights of seriously good chardonnays and three flights of some quite astounding pinot noirs, it should perhaps be Wine Boggling Wednesday. Unfortunately chardonnay and pinot noir are not the theme. I need to choose something a little more obscure, a wine that comes from an indigenous grape variety, from a place it calls home. If only it had been tomorrow, when the classes for obscure wines are judged - the classes they call 'other whites' or 'other reds'. Then I could have asked the competition convenor to find me really off the wall.

Now if this topic had come up forty, thirty or even twenty years ago, I could have picked a wine made from a grape that is perhaps 'indigenous' to New Zealand, a grape called 'Albany Surprise'. It was cultivated in Albany just outside of Auckland - actually not very far from where I now live - by an orchardist called George Pannill. The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966 has a page on viticulture written by government viticulturist, Frank Berrysmith, in 1964. He says, "The most extensively grown grape in 1960 was Albany Surprise. It occupied 145 acres and was mainly grown for table use and for grape juice. The variety originated as a mutation of the American grape Isabella in a vineyard at Albany, near Auckland, hence the name."

But let's face it, the wine it made was awful . Thank goodness that sauvignon blanc was 'discovered' and serious viticulturists started planting that and other vitis vinifera instead. So while Albany Surprise is till grown and some hobbyists still make home made wine from it, it's primarily for eating and thus it's now found only in garden centres and in people's back yards.

So for WBW, I'm picking 'Flora'. Not really indigenous as such, but certainly off the beaten track.  It's a cross between gewurztraminer and semillon, developed in the USA by Harold Olmo in 1938. Flora made her debut in New Zealand in the 1970's, but with her aromatic headiness and lush curvaceous body, she was far too sophisticated for New Zealanders' tastes. She was forgotten and lost her name tag when hiding away. She resurfaced just recently as Pinot Gris but with DNA testing, her true identity was revealed. Now she's making a comeback - and Matakana, north of Auckland, seems to be the place.

Ascension 'The Rogue' Matakana Flora 2006 ($29) is fragrant and fruity on the nose, a little like Muscat perhaps, and quite muscatty to the taste as well.  It's like fresh juicy grapes joining pear flavours that are a little reminiscent of Pinot Gris, it's dry, and crisp with hints of mandarin zest and white pepper on the spicy finish. Full-bodied and flavoursome. 13% alc. Screwcap.

Omaha Bay Vineyard 'The Imposter' Matakana Flora 2006 ($27) has soft lemony notes on the nose, a little spicy and biscuity. A sweetish wine to the taste, warm textured with spicy pear and stonefruit and a touch of citrus zest which nicely balances the sweetness. Soft and creamy yet bright, crisp and clean with a savoury finish and a juicy burst of fruit. 14% alc. Screwcap.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 11th 2007

Wine, wine everywhere still not a drop to drink

Judging RedsNew Zealand's largest wine competition, the New Zealand International Wine Show, got underway today with entries this year breaking last year's record of 2150 wines. Six panels of judges with three senior judges and one or two associate judges on each panel meant the glass washing people were kept busy all day.   As for 'still not a drop to drink', while glasses and glasses of wine passed my lips to taste, each mouthful of wine passed my lips a second time - destined for the spit bucket.
The panel I was judging on started the day with two flights of sauvignon blanc, the second flight annoyingly interrupted by a full scale stadium fire alarm, which meant evacuation. After the sauvignon blancs were completed, my panel had a flight of gewurztraminer and then two flights of cabernet predominant blends. There were some absolutely gorgeous wines and I can't wait until the results are released on the 21st September to find out what my top scoring wines were. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 10th 2007

Wine, wine everywhere but not a drop to drink

NZIWS BottlesIt was set up day for the New Zealand International Wine Show today. This is New Zealand's largest wine competition and it takes up almost the whole of the first floor at the North Harbour Stadium on Auckland's North Shore. About 9,000 bottles are set up ready for to be poured for judging over the next three days. Although competitors have to send in more than one bottle of each wine they enter, not every single bottle is opened.  But if a wine does well, it is possible that four bottles will be opened - one for the initial judging, one for the recall judging, one for the trophy judging and lastly, if it makes it that far, one for the 'Champion Wine of the Show' judging.  What that will be, we won't know until the Trophies are announced on the 29th September.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 10th 2007

Wine of the Week: Seifried Pinot Gris 2007

This week's Wine of the Week is the Seifried Pinot Gris 2007, from Nelson. Read all about it on the 'Wine of the Week' page at this link
Also, don't forget to check out my Wine Review pages.  There are already 35 reviews of 2007 vintage sauvignon blanc, for example.  The tasting notes are continually being added to  - and every review is (or should be) date-stamped. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 9th 2007

Pasha-ionate matches to new Terroir Series Pinot Noir

"I love my job," says Phil Bothwell, the fine wine man from Pernod Ricard New Zealand. Phil was sitting opposite me as we dined on some of the most incredible food and washed it down with some of Pernod Ricard's excellent new Terroir Series pinot noirs.

Simon Gault (right)We were at Pasha Restaurant on Princes Wharf in downtown Auckland and Phil explained that he had spent a whole afternoon with celebrity chef Simon Gault to find some of the most delicious food matches to best portray the wines. All I can say, is they succeeded. It also was an eye-opener to the ongoing innovation in food cooking and plating presentation that is keeping chefs like Simon Gault right at the top.

As for the wines, us wine geeks know of the ongoing innovation at Pernod Ricard with their flagship New Zealand brand, Montana. They released their first Pinot Noir in 1996 and they've been learning about Pinot Noir ever since. The first of the flagship Letter Series pinot noirs, the Montana Terraces "T" Pinot Noir, came out in 2002.

The Terroir Series was introduced in 2005 with sauvignon blanc, gewurztraminer and chardonnay produced to show sub-regional differences. "Now," says winemaker Patrick Materman, "we have the confidence to release this Terroir Series of pinot noir". Rather than subregional expressions of place, the pinot noirs are about regional differences. There are only three wines at this stage - from Marlborough, Waipara and Central Otago. They would have liked to have included Martinborough as well, but land on the favoured Martinborough Terraces has basically run out.

Many of us think of Montana as commercially orientated with their large volume runs of sauvignon blanc and unoaked chardonnay. But the Letter Series and the Terroir Series are small production wines. The latter are small parcels from individual blocks that speak of the land. They should never be loss-leaders in supermarkets.

But to start, the new Montana Brut Cuvée NV, of which I was a little scathing the other day (see 6th Sept blog, below). As I explained to Pernod Richard New Zealand's Managing Director, Fabian Partigliani, it was out of place in the tasting. Today, on its own, without pricier wines to compare it with, it was better. The most intriguing starter to match to this wine was Thyme White Chocolate and Caviar served on the side of the hand, between the thumb and index finger, Tequila salt lick style. The chocolate was warm and sensuous on the hand before being topped with the cold caviar. The taste was a yin-yang of warm sweetness and cold saltiness.

Seared WagyuSeared firstlight wagyu on harissa orange with bacon froth was melt in the mouth with bacon froth adding a smoky savouriness and orange harissa adding spice and acidity. It was the perfect match to Montana Terroir Series Waipara Corbett’s Legacy Pinot Noir 2006 , a wine that tasted deep and dense, earthy and savoury, with brooding plummy flavours and a sweet flourish of spice on the finish with hints of rose petal florals as it lingers. The food coaxed out a fruit brightness and sweetness in a most complimentary way.

Mushroom Polenta & Sous Vide EggSlow poached egg on soft mushroom polenta was a dish of richness and earthy flavour, especially as it was enhanced by a generous slice of black truffle. The egg had been cooked 'sous-vide' in its own shell vacuum for over an hour at a constantly even low temperature. It was like jelly. Montana Terroir Series Central Otago Gabriel’s Gully Pinot Noir 2006 was the chosen match.
This Central Otago wine is aromatic with ripe cherry and a pretty floral infusion to the nose while in the palate it has a velvety edge to the silky texture and a spicy allure. Grapes come primarily from Bendigo and the Gibbston Valley.

Juniper & Orange encrusted VenisonVenison crusted in juniper & orange crush on fennel & onion with citrus jus was a stunning match to the Montana Terroir Series Marlborough Forgotten Valley Pinot Noir 2006, a silky savoury wine with bright fruit aromatics, a meaty juiciness and hints of tamarillo and bacon. There's a lovely sultry sweetness to the finish with hints of citrus zest - and it was the underlying acidity of the wine that was a catalyst for the orange and juniper crust, while the meatiness of the flavour worked magnificently too. The wine comes from a side valley vineyard off the famous Brancott Valley.

Spoons of 2010The meal concluded with a futurist dessert called Spoons of 2010. They included Black truffle ice cream with fig & marsala, an incredible organic yoghurt & gorgonzola honey egg which burst in the mouth with an exhilirating squirt of flavour, a lemon apricot tea sphere and melon & passionfruit caviar. The desserts went from strong flavoured to a palate cleansing mouthful of subtlety. A perfect end to an amazing meal.

This was a preview tasting and luncheon. The wines are due for release on 1 October in New Zealand and mid November in Australia. RRP is stated as $32.95. Find out more from

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 7th 2007

Chardonnay, Shiraz and Spanish Reds

The Fine Wine Wednesday tasting was advertised as an exciting line-up of wines and it certainly delivered, although I wouldn't want to be driving home after the three 15% alcohol grunters at the end. There were five Chardonnays, two Spanish reds and six Syrah / Shiraz but we didn't have 13 wines because one of the Spanish wines and one of the Syrahs overlapped. But what a different style the Spanish wine was to any I've tasted from Australia, New Zealand or France. I don't think I would have guessed the grape without some prompting.

The list of wines reads like this

Wednesday 05Sep07Saint Clair Vicar’s Choice Marlborough Chardonnay 2006 ($14.99) - an easy going starter wine that really hit the spot.
Sacred Hill Rifleman's Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006 ($51.99) - smooth, creamy, sophisticated, impressive.
Seifried Nelson Chardonnay 2006 ($16.99) - the buttery, fruity, all round crowd pleaser.
Vavasour Anna’s Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2004
($39.99) - Awatere Valley fruit with wild yeast ferments in a full-bodied, Burgundian mould.
Marsden Black Rocks Chardonnay 2006 ($30.99) - sophisticated, decadent, tantalising and harmonious. Who would have believed Northland? But last year's vintage had a hat trick of golds and this vintage has one already too.

Infinitus Cabernet Sauvignon Tempranillo 2005 ($17.99) - from Castilla in Spain, it's full of blackberries in a blend of cabernet sauvignon structure and tempranillo juiciness.
La Multa Syrah 2005
($17.99) - from Calatayud in Spain, it's sweet, soft, juicy and floral with the Syrah signature finally signing the dotted line

Grant Burge Barossa Vines Shiraz 2005 ($15.99) - jam packed with sweet fruit - too sweet for me.
Wyndham Estate Black Cluster Hunter Valley Shiraz 2003 ($64.99) - a far more serious red and it should be at the price. Tasted on its own a few weeks ago, the oak was overpowering. After a few reds before it, it's far more forgiving.
Grant Burge Filsell Old Vines Barossa Valley Shiraz 2005 ($26.99) - radiating fragrance and flavour with seductive chocolatey oak and spice and all the other things nice, including the price.
Kalleske Barossa Shiraz 2005 ($55.99) - a stylish 'grunter' that takes times to open up but evolves magnificently in the palate.
Mr. Riggs McLaren Vale Shiraz 2005 ($49.99) - rich, powerful and ultra seductive with an earthy, deep, brooding nature to its bold and powerful physique.

Read the full notes on my Wednesday pages by clicking here

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 6th 2007

Sparkling Wine Seminar

The seminar on sparkling wine at Wine New Zealand was interesting in that although it only showcased four wines, those wines covered a range of styles and methods. The wines were all from New Zealand, of course, but so often when we think of sparkling wine, Champagne immediately comes to mind. But we have to remember that the term 'Champagne' can only be used for saprkling wines that come from a certain region in France. People tend to forget, or just plain don't know, that New Zealand is making some brilliant sparkling wines too. The fact that the some Champagne producers are investing in New Zealand for sparkling wine production, speaks for itself. While some are silent backers, Deutz is the most instantly recognisable with its name on the label of a Marlborough cuvée.

New Zealand has been producing sparkling wine since 1840.  Around the world explorer, Dumont d'Urville, commented on a sparkling white wine he tasted when he stopped at James Busby's estate at Waitangi that year. But the production of quality 'Champagne-style' sparkling wine by 12th generation Champagne winemaker, Daniel Le Brun was the real turning point.  Daniel visited New Zealand in 1975 when the Marlborough wine region was still in its infancy. He instinctively knew that Marlborough was the ideal place to grow grapes for his family's traditional style of wine. He returned to establish Cellier le Brun two years later and his achievements attracted international interest. After Cellier Le Brun was sold and Daniel found he was no longer allowed to use his now 'trademarked' name, No. 1 Family Estate was founded by Daniel and his wife Adele for the sole production of 'methode traditionelle' wines. 

Grapes for sparkling wines are now grown predominantly in Marlborough and Gisborne, thanks to the large volume Montana Lindauer range of bubbles, ironically now owned by French giant Pernod Ricard. But Hawkes Bay, Martinborough and Central Otago also produce some very fine drops.

There were four wines in the tasting.

Cuvee No1Cuvée No. 1 NV - Marlborough (NZ$38)
A Blanc de blanc, ie 100% Chardonnay, this non-vintage bubbles seems to have a slightly pinkish hue to the colour in the light of the room where the tasting was held. Perfumed and bright with yeasty / bready nuances on the nose, it's rich and flavoursome with a well-balanced steely crispness running through the palate and a touch of stonefruit emerging on the concentrated finish, with just a touch of sweetness. I love the packaging of Cuvée No. 1 and as for the wine, it's an all round crowd pleaser. It was held on yeast lees for two years and has 12% alcohol.

Montana Brut Cuvée NV (NZ$20)
A blend of 80% Gisborne Chardonnay and 20% Marlborough Pinot Noir, this pale coloured bubbles is slightly toffeeish on the nose with a creaming soda richness to the palate but it's quite coarsely spritzy in texture and the lemon acidity is so dominating, it's almost unpleasantly metallic. In quality level, this seems out of place between the wines either side of it. Reading the notes, I find this is a product of the 'transfer' method. After the cuvée was blended, the wine had secondary ferment in one bottle and was held on yeast lees for 12 months, it was then transfer filled to a new bottle for release. It caries 12.5% alcohol by volume.

Quartz Reef Chauvet 2002 (NZ$37)
Rich, savoury, bready and powerful is the only way to sum up this most 'Champagne-like' of the four. A blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay from Central Otago, the colour is rich with a golden lustre to the straw yellow hue; the bready, yeasty scent is alluring and there's a lovely roundness to the concentrated creamy palate with a smooth, nutty, brioche character persisting. Tangy, almost salty in its savouriness as it lingers, and with bubbles that rise continuously from the bottom of the glass, there's a real finesse about this wine today. The bottle fermented wine was aged for 3 year and 10 months on lees before being riddled and disgorged by hand. 12.5% alcohol.

Morton Estate Black Label Methode Traditionelle 2000 (NZ$33)
This is what's known as a Blanc de Noir, as it's made from 100% red grapes - in this case Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Young, fresh and pale in colour for its age, it's quite frisky and fizzy to the taste and though it is high acid and linear in its attack, it becomes quite rounded and bready on the finish with a touch of spice and a hint of lavendar. Fermented in the bottle with at least four years on lees, it was disgorged in March 2005 and has 12% alcohol.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 5th 2007

NZ Sommelier of the Year 2007

The word has just some through on the winner of the title of NZ Sommelier of the Year 2007 - or should I say NZ Sommeliers of the Year, because this year, for the first time, the competition ended in a tie.

Congratulations to the joint winners, Mat Judd from Terroir Restaurant at the Craggy Range Winery in Hawkes Bay, and Joss de Gesincourt from Bracu Restaurant at the Simunovich Olive Estate in the Bombay Hills, just south of Auckland.

The result is a hat trick for Mat, who took out the title in 2005 and 2006. Joss was runner-up to Mat last year.

A rigorous, full day event, the competition for Sommelier of the Year involved three parts. Firstly a wine tasting; secondly a written exam and lastly a practical service exam.
In the practical service exam, competitors were tested on four disciplines - White Wine service, Red Wine service, Sparkling Wine service and Wine and Food Matching.

I was involved in the judging of the Wine and Food Matching, but it wasn't purely wine and food. As we were simulating a restaurant situation, competitors had to show their knowledge of cocktails and other drinks.  From where I sat it was clear that Mat and Joss were by far the outstanding competitors in the competition, especially Mat for his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of not only wines, but also cocktails, spirits and even Japanese sake. As for Joss, the way he talked about the wine and food matches was so provocative, so enticing, I wanted to really taste the wines he matched to my imaginary food. So two very deserving winners.

Next year, Mat will not defend his long standing Sommelier of the Year title. He will be on one of the judging panels of the practical service exam instead.
I've also been told that next year, 2008, the competition will be changed in several ways including making each class an open and separate competition with an ultimate prize for the candidate who achieves the most points across all three classes.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 5th 2007

Wine New Zealand Finale

With only three hours to conclude my visit to Wine New Zealand, the heat was on and trying to say hello to everyone I hadn't seen the last two days was difficult. But as I sit here laboriously typing up my tasting notes, I wonder if it was worth the effort because so many of these people seem to forget that the World Wide Web is major outlet of views and opinions and the reach is far wider too. Yet the 'elite' wine writers are perceived as the ones who write for the major dailies or the glossiest magazines, and those that dish out points and stars instead of expressing in words what the wine is all about. That way, producers can put on the 'accolades' page of their own websites - 'Michael Cooper - Five stars', 'Bob Campbell - 91 points'. These two writers do express their opinions in words but often the words are omitted on accolade pages and shelf talkers - and by producers who proudly inform me that so-and-so gave it a 91, five stars, high silver or whatever.

Nevertheless, I continued the search for new producers, to introduce myself to them and to acquaint myself with their brands and wines.

kate haywardKate Hayward from Sugar Loaf was like a breath of fresh air and so were the wines. The brand is named for an island off the Taranaki Coast and the Taranaki vinous connection continues with her parent's vineyard at Okurukuru just south of New Plymouth. Kate makes those wines too, when the marginal vineyard yields fruit, but all the Sugar Loaf wines come from Marlborough and next year Kate will be processing the fruit in their own new winery in Rapaura Road.

Sugar Loaf Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 has gooseberries and limes on the nose and a lovely rich palate with melons, herbs, citrus and a surge of tropical fruit. Ripe and pungent, it exudes palate richness and flavour. At $16-$17 in supermarkets, this is a winner.

Sugar Loaf Marlborough Rosé 2007 is delicate in colour but vibrant and fresh and deliciously juicy with flavours of strawberry and yellow fleshed early season plums. Predominantly Pinot Noir with 8% Riesling in the blend adding vibrancy and a zesty citrus lift.

Kate was sharing a stand with Steve Farquharson from Wooing Tree, what better wine to use as a Rosé benchmark, after all Wooing Tree Central Otago Rosé 2006 was my favourite pink wine from last year.

Wooing Tree Central Otago Rosé 2007 continues the mould of excellence. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, there's more ruby pink to the colour and an earthy, varietal pinot noir depth to the flavour with red and black cherry fruit and those yellow fleshed plums along with a fleshy peachiness emerging on the aftertaste.

While we're on pinks, just a mention of the Askerne Merlot Rosé 2007 from Hawkes Bay. Love the abundant strawberry and cherry aromas and the soft, ripe, juicy, spicy flavours. The fruit is sweet but the wine is dry and the taste lingered beautifully as I wandered around the stands.

Gunter and SteveWay on the other side of the hall was newcomer Elephant Hill from Hawkes Bay. Their huge vineyard and winery development in coastal Te Awanga has caused interest and debate amongst the locals, but the wines were only attracting interest from visitors to Wine New Zealand.

Elephant Hill Te Awanga Viognier 2007 is aromatic and clean with hints of apricot kernel on the nose and a bright, creamy palate with just a wee touch of oak and a citrus infusion to the honeyed finish. The richness, weight and texture of the wine leaves a lasting impression. A barrel sample of the 2007 Syrah, showed wonderful potential.

Apologies to the Central Otago winemakers, whose stand I just ran out of time to get back too, and to other newcomers, Clos Henri and Hihi Estate, whose stands were always busy every time I passed.  I was definitely impressed with the labelling and presentation from Winegrowers of Ara, but didn't have time to take notes on their wines.

Just a mention of a couple of highlights from established producers.

Schubert Wairarapa 'Tribianco' 2006, a blend of chardonnay, pinot gris and muller thurgau, was one of my favourite wines of the day. There's a medley of exotic tropical and stone fruits backed up by soft buttery oak with a fruit salad and bread pudding aftertaste. Just texture, richness and all round niceness.

TW CV NV, a non vintage Chardonnay (70%) and Viognier (30%) blend from TW Wines in Gisborne, is a little cracker. With all the traits of a soft, rich, leesy unoaked chardonnay with a full bodied palate and melon the dominant fruit, the fragrance and prettiness of the viognier component comes through on the lightly spicy, apricot infused finish. It's all about softness, approachability and all round friendliness. It's non-confrontational with lots of flavour and ready to drink. Look for it soon.  It's on the verge of release.

Time was up for me at 2pm when I had to run away to the Culinary Fare to judge the Sommelier of the Year.  I did, however, grab a taste of a delicious Kennedy Point Syrah 2006, as I dashed out the door.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 4th 2007

VIP Wine Tasting reveals some stunners

Bob Campbell MWThe late invitation to a VIP tasting, hosted by Bob Campbell MW at Wine New Zealand, was a fitting finale to Day Two of New Zealand's biggest Wine Trade Show. Some of the wines poured were simply outstanding. Like Framingham Marlborough Select Riesling 2006, a low alcohol, low pH and high acid wine in the German Auslese style. A wine of outstanding tautness and purity yet deliciously juicy. To use Bob Campbell's words, a 'tension of sweetness and acidity'.

Framingham was represented twice with Framingham Noble Selection Marlborough Riesling 2006 also in the lineup. Delicious, honeyed botrytised nose and all lightness and brightness to the taste with a distinct varietal definition of the Riesling grape. Loved it.

Morton Estate Coniglio Chardonnay 2002 from Hawkes Bay has been acclaimed by many of my wine drinking friends as one of best New Zealand Chardonnays ever made. And that point was proved by its inclusion in this tasting. But is it a contradiction of a wine because at the emerging trends seminar earlier in the day it was stated that people are pulling away from the big, oaky, buttery styles. But why - when that style can produce an age-worthy blockbuster like this? Broad, nutty and buttery with sweet toasty oak, rich stonefruit and honeysuckle, this is a Chardonnay-lover's fantasy come true.

Amisfield Rocky Knoll Central Otago Pinot Noir 2003 was an expression of deliciousness. I've always loved the 2003's from Central Otago as they seemed more true to variety than many of the upfront, immediately seductive 2002's and this wine is a classic example. Dry to the taste, becoming quite lush in texture as it travels across the palate. Deep fruited with exotic anise-like spices, a chocolatey richness and a long savoury, earthy finish with thyme flowers adding fragrance.

Lastly the Astrolabe Kekerengu Sauvignon Blanc 2007 - which was the first wine tasted. The delicately pungent yet tantalising aroma of tropical fruit, lime and gooseberry has a chalky nuance and juicy, fresh, crushed fruit flavours have a silk-coated, fine-grained chalky undercurrent. Sweet herbs, lime, melon and tomato, stonefruit, then passionfruit fill the mouth with deliciousness and a saltiness comes through on the long, dry finish.   I looked up Google Maps and also the Marlborough District Council area map to find out exactly where Kekerengu is and found it on the Kaikoura Coast, on State Highway 1, almost exactly halfway between Blenheim and Kaikoura. But the Blenheim District Council Map shows it is actually south of the Marlborough boundary. 91% of the fruit in this wine comes from this new vineyard, which yielded its second crop for this wine. The remaining 9% comes from the Awatere Valley. Only 200 cases made. Be quick.

Clos MargueriteTalking about the Awatere, it seems that many of the 'new' Marlborough producers are based in this area. As well as O:Tu mentioned yesterday, there's Clos Marguerite, a small family owned single vineyard on the south bank of the Awatere River. They even have their own boutique winery on site and Jean Charles Van Hove makes the wines..

Clos Marguerite Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was just a little cold when tasted, but the chilling enhanced the sweet fruited passionfruit and pineapple nuances.  I could sense the layers in the wine and dry, crisp, steely finish had a delicious tang.

Clos Marguerite Pinot Noir had and also layers of complexity and a sophisticated earthy savouriness. But gosh, I didn't write down the vintage. I hope to taste it again.

Moving further south I came across Tresillian Wines from the West Melton district of Canterbury. I loved the juicy Tresillian Canterbury Riesling 2006 (11.5%) alcohol. A totally consumer friendly wine with a touch of sweetness and well balanced acidity.

Tresillian won a gold medal for the 2005 Pinot Gris, a first vintage crop. I'm not sure if the 2006 will attain that status but Tresillian 'Cox Block' Canterbury Pinot Gris 2006 is an interesting wine, nevertheless. It's a bit like a steely Italian Grigio at first, but there's underlying rich, lusciousness and juiciness that's akin to a wine from Alsace. Perhaps this is distinctly Canterbury.

More on the Show tomorrow.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 2nd 2007

A Gris Day Out - Wine New Zealand Day One

Day One at Wine New Zealand, the biggest exhibition of New Zealand Wine under one roof, was a little overwhelming to start. With so many producers and 175 wine brands, where does one start. My plan of attack was to suss out the new producers, the ones whose wines I had never seen before. But it's hard walking past stands where people know you and want you to try their new release wines. So I started with by tasting Viognier and Pinot Gris, wines that would not overwhelm the palate before the first of the seminars I was attending - 'The Emergence of Regional Character - Riesling and Pinot Noir'. There'll be an extensive write up on this later in the week.Katherine Jacobs - Big Sky

All of the Pinot Gris wines tasted from the 2007 vintage are just lovely. Aromatic on the nose, weighty in the palate, well balanced underlying acidity. I asked a few of the producers if they had added Gewurztraminer. All of those I asked answered 'No," but one did admit to adding a small percentage of Riesling. It is legal to add up to 15% of other wine into the blend without declaring it. Brief notes follow

Clayridge Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007 (13.5%) - fragrant, hint of smoke, raisin bread influence, bright citrussy flare to finish and hints of orange blossom.
Brunton Road Gisborne Pinot Gris 2007 (13%) - Neutral on nose, oily textured, green apple and just ripe pear, slightly herbaceous with a dry, steely finish. First crop fruit.
Koura Bay Sharkstooth Awatere Pinot Gris 2007 (13%) - bright fat style, weighty palate, rose petal, crunchy pear, hints of stonefruit. Delicious.
Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris 2007 (14%) - Aromatic, full-bodied, subtle pear and hints of stonefruit, citrussy sweetness to finish. Long, clean and rich.
Takatu Matakana Pinot Gris 2007 (13.5%) - Bone dry with fruit weight and concentration, hints of rose petal and a honeysuckle nuance to finish. Exciting.
Two Rivers Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007 (13.5%) - Aromatic, a little honeyed with a rich, spicy palate and a floral finish. Clean, full-bodied. This is the one with Riesling in the blend.
Rimu Grove 'Bronte' Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007 (13%) - pears, hints of stonefruit and spice, with a touch of residual sugar adding lusciousness and an apple strudel finish. Awatere fruit.

As for new producers, Big Sky from the Te Muna Road area of Martinborough impressed with their delicious Big Sky Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2005 2006 - lovely smoky cherry on nose, ripe and savoury in the palate, earthy, savoury, red and black fruit, spicy oak, silky tannins. Katherine Jacobs (photo above) and Jeremy Corban are behind this wine. Love the branding too.

I was very impressed with Takatu from Matakana. As well as an exciting Pinot Gris, the Takatu Merlot Franc Malbec 2005 ($38) is outstanding. It has an unusual floral fragrance with lavender and dried herbs, but it's all balance and harmony in the palate with fine silky tannins and deep earthy red and black fruit flavours. All class, class, class.Antonia Davison - Otu

Top marks to Otuwhero Estates with the catchy 'O:Tu' branding. A specialist Sauvignon Blanc producer - they only produce one Sauvignon Blanc at the moment from their southern Awatere near-coastal vineyard. O:Tu Marlborough Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($21) is bright, fresh, crisp and tasty with tropical guava and gooseberry purity, a richness to the exotic tropical fruit finish with a lovely, salty tang to the lingering juicy aftertaste. - but even with broadband the website takes a long time to load.

I finished off the day by attending a second seminar - on Sparkling and Desert Wine. Here I found the Day One Wine of the Show. It's my Wine of the Week.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 2nd 2007

Whitebait Heaven

I was watching a quarter final episode of UK foodie program, Master Chef, the other day where the contestants were given a food knowledge test. They focussed on fish identification and in particular a plate of very small fish, which the viewers were told were 'whitebait'. But these small silvery fish were actually tiny herrings or sprats. They were not 'whitebait' as we know it from down under, which I've talked about often on, including at this link.

Whitebait in New Zealand is one of the great seafood delicacies, even more so as the price escalates to $99 a kilo and beyond. So the opportunity to have a 'whitebait omelette' at a restaurant last night, when the 'gang' got together for a night of wine indulgence with great food, was too good to pass up. The chef at Art Ducko in Torbay (the original Art Ducko) had whipped up the lightest and fluffiest omelette and the tiny white fish were abundant in the bed of yellow. Everyone had bought a bottle of wine but the Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Riesling 2001 was the most sublime match to this decadent entrée. The wine had garnered lovely aged characters of toasty lemon and lime, with hints of tropical fruit on a crisp acid spine.

Also quite good was the Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 1995 from the Hunter Valley. It too exhibited toasty characters of age with hints of 'kero', a fat broad oily textured palate and a bright acidic spine that gave it so much freshness. A little stronger flavoured than the Riesling, which, if you were being fussy, could overpower the seafood.

Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Chardonnay 2005 had been opened before we arrived. Fresh and peachy with a little bit of sherbet spritz and very little influence of oak, it's bright and easy - a great conversation starter or a mid meal sorbet.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2006, oily textured and pungent with faultless balance and spice, it was perfect with my sister's Duck Liver paté starter and my main later on.

Three reds on the table, including Te Motu Waiheke Island Cabernet Merlot 1994, which was at a stage of perfection. Fruit had integrated into the perfumed cedar and liquorice with lovely florals coming into play. Full-bodied and rich to the taste and evidently perfect with lamb fillet and a red wine jus.

Mills Reef Elspeth Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2000 was firm structured and full-bodied with a lovely red berry fruit definition, creamy oak and a dark, earthy finish. Perhaps starting its downhill slide, but nevertheless an excellent dinner wine.

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 1998 was the stand out red of the evening and sublime with my Roast Duck garnished with ginger and orange zest with a citrus and port glaze, which also was delicious with the gewurz. This particular bottle of 389 has to be one of the best from the vintage - a year when bottle variation was rife. The nose emitted gorgeous cassis, cherry and sweet oak which carried through to the full-bodied, mellow, spicy palate. It tasted so youthful, more like a five year old wine.

The finale was Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2001 from Waipara in the South Island. What a lovely expression of late harvest, spatlese-style Riesling. It's picking up some honey aged characters with a nectar-like texture, limes and flowers. A perfect balance of sweetness to acidity - light and fresh with low alcohol (8.5%), a great end to a terrific evening.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 1st 2007

Spring Fever

Spring Leaf - photo by Sue CourtneySeptember 1st - the first day of the Southern Hemisphere Spring. This morning the first of the peach blossoms burst out from the swelling buds on the tree outside my bedroom window. Elsewhere, already the early ripening grape varieties are coming alive with the opening of pale green almost transparent leaves rimmed with a frame of delicate pink.

Spring is action time in the New Zealand Wine Industry, not only in the vineyard but also in the market place with the new seasons wines arriving in abundance - 2007 vintage aromatic whites and rosés and 2006 full-bodied oak-aged whites and reds.

Wine New Zealand, the biggest trade show of New Zealand wines in one place, takes place in Auckland on Sunday and runs until Tuesday with 165 wine brands on show. The distributors are doing the rounds too, taking their portfolios of wines to the trade in separate events. One benefit of distributor tastings, for the New Zealander, is that you get to taste overseas wines too.

In Kiwiland the new vintage wines have been trickling on to the market for some time, and already I'm hitting on twenty 2007 vintage sauvignon blanc reviews. There'll be more on the site after Wine New Zealand, no doubt.

September is a busy month and I've just posted an exhausting number of events to my What's On page - thanks largely to the Kumeu Heritage Wine Festival, and the Nelson WineArt new release tastings. Certainly, for Aucklanders, there is at least one wine event that should be a 'Must Do' in September.

If I was eligible, my Top Pick would be the "Pick the Trophies Challenge" from the New Zealand International Wine Show on Tuesday 25th September. All of the gold medal winning wines will be put up for tasting and all one has to do is pick the 'Trophy' winner in each category. The Trophy winners will be announced the following Saturday (29th Sept) and the winner of the "Pick the Trophies Challenge" will be announced that night too. The lucky person will win a trip for 2 to Adelaide, 5 nights accommodation, a rental car and V.I.P visits to selected wineries. What an exciting prize. Make sure your passport is up to date. I can't compete because I am one of the judges. It just wouldn't be fair. Check out

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