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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings.  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 2008
Sep 28th: NZIWS Trophy wines announced
Sep 26th: Four Auckland wineries win gold
Sep 23rd: Exciting Austrian white
Sep 22nd: NZIWS tallies and exciting 'Other Reds'
Sep 21st: Wild man of the Loire, Didier Dagueneau, dies
Sep 18th: Still madly writing tasting notes
Sep 16th: My 'Professional Wine Taster' apron
Sep 15th: Being a Wine Judge for a Day
Sep 13th: North versus South at the Wednesday Tasting
Sep 11th: Spring into a season of tastings
Sep 10th: Oh my gosh - another mindblowing Savvie
Sep 9th: A handful of tasty 2008 savvies and more
Sep 8th: Another trophy for the Man for All Rieslings
Sep 5th: NZ scoops Best Red Wine at IWC and other news
Sep 4th: Wine New Zealand 2008 - Part Two of Day Three
Sep 3rd: Wine New Zealand 2008 - Part One of Day Three
Sep 2nd: Wine New Zealand 2008 - Part Two of Day Two
Sep 1st: Wine New Zealand 2008 - Part One of Day Two
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 28th 2008

NZIWS Trophy Wines announced

It was all glitz and glamour last night at the Crown Plaza Hotel where the New Zealand International Wine Show awards dinner was held. The 166 gold medals were presented and the 17 trophy winners were announced.  I had the honour of presenting the Trophy for the Champion Other White Varieties and it was like being at a film or television or sports awards reading out the four contenders and then  - after the imaginary drum roll - announcing the winner.  Margaret Semillon

The Trophy for Champion Other White Wine Varietals went to Peter Lehman 'Margaret' Semillon 2003.   This is a gorgeous Semillon, a little spicy on the nose with summer fruit and hay, an earthy lime infusion and a zesty tang. With its five years of age it is picking up some lovely honey and bottle aged characters.  Long and rich, a real treat.

Matt King and Marion Seyb from Lone Goat in Canterbury were at our table and I was delighted when they picked up the Sweet Wine Trophy for the Lone Goat Botrytis Selection 2007. I've written about this wine before both on the blog earlier this month after tasting it at Wine New Zealand on Day One (see the last part of the August 31st entry) and it starred as a Wine of the Week earlier in the year when it had its old Canterbury Vineyards label, which has been now been superseded by the much more trendy  Lone Goat.  

The other highlight of the evening was the Champion Chardonnay, which also turned out to be the Champion Wine of the Show - it was the Church Road Reserve Chardonnay 2006  and was utterly delishimo. I've reviewed this wine as my Wine of the Week.

All of the Trophy winning wines are listed on the New Zealand International Wine Show website -

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 26th 2008

Four Auckland wineries win gold.

When I went through the gold medal list from the NZ International Wine Show the other day I saw that four Auckland wineries had won Chardonnay golds. So I made that my focus of my focus of my Rodney Times wine column this week as the four wineries are all based in the Rodney district. But what would I use for a photo? In the end I made a digital composition from my archives, of the five winemakers involved. rt080925.jpg (17335 bytes)

Simon Nunns from Coopers Creek was responsible for the Cooper's Creek Reserve Gisborne Chardonnay 2007. Full of flavours of smoky French oak  infused with cream, spice, delicious tropical fruit and hokey pokey caramel.

James Rowan from West Brook was responsible for the West Brook 'Blue Ridge' Marlborough Chardonnay 2006.  A seamless wine with creamed nut aromas that carry through to the full-bodied, creamy palate full of peach, nougat, vanilla and caramel.

Sarah Heyward and Peter Munro from Matua Valley were responsible for the Matua Ararimu Chardonnay 2007.  This is Matua's top label made only in exceptional years, the 2007 being from the Judd Estate in Gisborne.  It's a full-bodied, silky smooth wine with creamy rich spice and tropical flavours.

Richard Robson from Matakana Estate made the Goldridge Estate Premium Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007. This wine is fat and creamy with yeast lees and barrel-aged complexities and juicy sweet apricot, peach, grapefruit and butterscotch.

Click on the link below or the image above to read the full story.

Rodney Times
25 Sep 2008

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 23rd 2008

Exciting Austrian white

One of the exciting things about working an international wine show is getting to try wines that are truly international from a New Zealand perspective - wines that I don't usually have the opportunity to try, in fact wines I didn't even know I could buy. I wrote about some of the amazing international reds yesterday but there was one white that was every bit as exciting - in fact, to my palate, more so. It was a Gruner Veltliner from Austria and although it was only rated of bronze medal standard at the wine show, I definitely rate it of gold medal / five star quality.

It was Sepp Moser 'Breiter Rain' Gruner Veltliner 2006. A clear and quite deep gold with a lightly oily lustre. On the nose subtle hints of toasty oak and perhaps what we would call ‘kero’. There are no obvious oak flavours in the palate, it just tastes rich and hedonistic with its slightly viscous texture and flavours of honey and apricot with a hint of apple strudel and an underlying salty, gravelly tang that lasts and lasts. It’s so honeyed and concentrated I wonder if there is some botrytis. Love that long, salty tangy aftertaste, a touch of pepper emerges too and then lime zest on the 'burp'. It’s rich and luscious, yet is absolutely dry. From the Sepp Moser website I find out this is from the Kremstal subregion of Niederosterreich in east Austria near Vienna where the vineyard has broad, exposed, south facing terraces. A portion of the wine was matured in 500-litre oak casks and while dry it has extremely low acidity that perhaps could add to that perception of sweetness. It has 13.5% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a screwcap ('rah, 'rah). Expect to pay $40 in New Zealand.

I've been reading about Gruner Veltliner for years on the wine boards where it has been especially popular amongst the New York wine drinking fraternity. Years ago, wanting to know what all the fuss was about I sought out a bottle from Scenic Cellars - at the time the only one they had - but whatever that wine was, I really was underwhelmed. Then a couple of years ago at the Court of Master Sommelier's seminar, a Gruvee, as it has become affectionately known, was poured. That was more impressive.

But Sepp 'Moser Breiter' Rain Gruner Veltliner 2006 was a wine of a completely different class. If anyone wants to give me a Christmas present, I'll have a bottle of this, please.

Gruner Veltliner is said to excel in a cooler climate and it has been planted in New Zealand - I'm eagerly looking forward to tasting what our country can produce. May the winemakers hold the Breiter Rain as a hallowed example.

I also tasted the Salomon Undhof Hochterrassen Gruner Veltliner 2007 - pale straw gold and showing a little spritz in the glass. Aromatic, like Arneis or Pinot Gris with an earthy pithy scent, it is bright and zesty with apple and lime and some weight to the palate. Floral on the finish and a touch peachy, it's has that delicious salty tangy with crisp acidity and lemon/lime zest joining in the lingering finish. It has 12% alcohol and a screwcap closure. I'd rate it bronze medal standard. More from

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 22nd 2008

NZIWS tallies and exciting 'Other Reds'

The medal results are up and it is confirmed, the New Zealand International Wine Show had 118 entries more than last year, making it far and away the biggest wine competition in New Zealand. The 2008 competition had 2273 entries which saw 166 gold medals, 350 silver medals and 927 bronze medals awarded.

Compare these to the last three shows ....

In 2007 the 2155 entries resulted in 163 gold medals, 360 silver and 886 bronze.
In 2006, the 2150 entries resulting in 121 gold medals, 423 silver and 934 bronze.
In 2005, the 1910 entries resulting in 107 gold, 336 silver and 789 bronze.

What I found most exciting to taste when I was writing the gold medal descriptions for the soon to be released Champions List, was not the ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc (15 golds), Chardonnay (22 golds), Pinot Noir (19 golds) and copious amounts of Shiraz (20 golds) and other Aussie reds, but the gold medal winning wines in the 'International/Other Reds' Category.  

If you are going to the Pick the Trophies Challenge this Wednesday, do be sure to taste these.  I don't think it will be easy to pick the trophy winner as all of the wines are so fantastically good - but different in their own special way.  I am sure whatever has been awarded the Trophy will have come down to the judges personal preference, in their trophy vote, in the end.

There are four Italian wines and two are in the most ridiculously heavy bottles - they feel like they are full even when they are empty.  They are Sessantanni Old Vines Primitivo Di Manduria 2005 - the new vintage of last year's trophy winner and Farnese Edizione Edition 8 NV, made from a blend of five 'indigenous' grapes from Puglia and Abruzzo. Both massive blockbusters yet divinely succulent. 

There's also the remarkable Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico 2004 and Banfi Cum Laude 2004 - a juicy blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah from Montalcino.

Spain makes an appearance in the list with the Papa Luna Ganarcha Syrah Monastrell 2006 -  a oaky, earthy, savoury wine in the context.

But it is was two South Americans that most fascinated me most, not only for their taste, but when I looked them up, also their price. One is Cheval Del Andes 2005 from Mendoza in Argentina - a collaborative wine between Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de Los Andes and made from at least 50% Malbec with, according to the back label, Cabernet Sauvignon and a dash of Petit Verdot. Purples abound in this saturated plummy, smoky wine, which really would reward some cellaring.  Caro's sell it for $93 a bottle, which seems quite cheap considering that sells it for US$69.99.

The other is the voluptuous Montes Purple Angel 2005 from the Colchagua Valley in Chile and made from 92% Carmenere and 8% Petit Verdot. Compared to the Cheval des Andes, the tannin structure is far more approachable and the wine seems much smooth and sweeter.  It's one of those 'oh .... my .....' luscious, sensual mouthfuls - and enjoy every mouthful you taste because this one is super expensive too.

Some of the more predictable highlights from the Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir categories, are included in this week's Wine of the Week review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 21st 2008

Wild man of the Loire, Didier Dagueneau, dies

It was a huge shock to hear that Didier Dagueneau, the wild man of the Loire, died tragically in a plane crash the other day. I didn't know him, and rarely tasted his wines, but he starred in my wine classes when I taught them, thanks to Jancis Robinson and her BBC Wine Course video (and now DVD). Didier Dagueneau was a Sauvignon Blanc man, but his Sauvignon Blancs were so different to the abundantly fruity wines we know from New Zealand.  Jancis did this part of the video so well - contrasting the difference in winemaking rules and regulations between New Zealand and France. 

I found just how different Didier's wine was when I tasted his cult Silex at the International Sauvignon Blanc Tasting at the Marlborough Wine Weekend last year - a wine so taut and steely with an insight as to how it could age.   

silexPouilly-Fume Didier Dagueneau 'Silex' 2005 - France
Bright, light citrine. So reserved and restrained on the nose, it hardly wants to let you it is there. Shy in the palate too with initially only a hint of citrus character while oak adds textural complexity but little oak flavour. Then a touch of stonefruit emerges. What I would call a "very elegant' style but as with all good sauvignon, it has remarkable length. Starting to open up it becomes richer and richer with every mouthful with stonefruit and even some herbs and a mealy richness that adds some funk to the finish. 13.5% alc. Cork.

The man may have gone, but his name will love on forever.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 18th 2008

Still madly writing tasting notes

Well, the NZIWS judging finished late yesterday afternoon although my wine description writing task is still ongoing with about 90% of the gold medal wines completed.

I think there must be a few more golds than the 163 that the show produced last year - there were about a 100 more entries and if the average show gold medal percentage is around 5 or  6 per cent, then there should possibly be 5 or 6 more golds.  I'll know when I get my final check list tomorrow and the official announcement will be on Monday.

"Are you typing the descriptions straight into your computer," someone asked the other day. The answer was no.  I like to use a hard covered exercise book. I find it easier to hand write my tasting notes then type them in later. One reason is that my typing is so bad and often, on my notebook computer, I don't hit the space bar hard enough so when I spell check my work I often find there is complete gibberish to be deciphered. By checking the notes in the book I can retype the gibberish into words. The other reason is the flakiness of the notebook's software.  Even though I have an AutoSave every few minutes, if the word processing program crashes, I do lose some work. The hard covered exercise book also adds stability to the writing surface, especially when I am walking around and checking stuff off.

I find it quite easy to write descriptions, but my notes are, by nature, quite long. So the next job is to go through the long notes and condense them into meaningful descriptions of about 17 and definitely no more 20 words. And it all has to be finished by 1pm tomorrow!

I had a wee article on the show, featuring Matua Valley winemaker Sarah Heyward, in the Rodney Times today. The paper will be archived on the Fairfax Digital Service for about 6 weeks. If you click here, I think you will be able to read it.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 16th 2008

My 'Professional Wine Taster' apron

A few years ago Neil gave me a 'Professional Wine Taster' apron for Xmas. apronIt was probably meant as a bit of a joke, especially with the '…hiccup!' on the bottom, but at last, today, I could professionally wear it.  Because today I really was a professional wine taster.

I have been charged with writing the descriptions of the gold medal wines awarded by the judges at the 2008 New Zealand International Wine Show. I've done it in previous years and was elated to be asked to do it again this year, but it meant limiting my judging stint to yesterday only, so I could get on with the task of writing the gold medal descriptions first thing today.

After a day at my new 'office' - that is in the 'secret room' at wine show headquarters, I've completed the descriptions for Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Sauv predominant blends - 70 wines in total so far and some were extremely exciting. But don't ask me what, because my lips are sealed right now.

Tomorrow it's Pinot Noir and Shiraz/Syrah from today's judging to start. Then, during the day, as judging of other classes are completed, there will be other wines lining up for their descriptions too. It's all very exciting.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 15th 2008

Being a Wine Judge for a Day

It was the first day of judging at the New Zealand International Wine Show today and I was one of the 20 Senior Judges putting the wines through the tasting test. There were six 'panels' of judges evaluating the wines with three Senior Judges in each panel, and two Chief Judges (Larry McKenna and Peter Cowley) who were called upon for their input once we had sorted out the best from the rest.

Flight of winesFirst up was three flights of Sauvignon Blanc with 25 wines in each flight. There were some absolutely delicious wines that our panel rewarded well - but there was a great chasm dividing the stars from the also rans with about 85% of the wines our particular panel was presented with being awarded bronze medals or nothing at all.   The scoring in our panel - which included Simon Waghorn (Astrolabe Wines) and Martin Carrington (Waimea Wines) as well as myself, was amazingly consistent. Simon, who doesn't enter his own wines in the show, said he had never come across such consistent judging before.  

After lunch we had a treat of 34 Geuwurztraminers - with some rather delicious wines.

Last flight of the day was Cabernet Sauvignon predominant blends. These tannin-rich reds would not be top of my list to judge if I had a choice and they stained my teeth purple as well.

The judging will be completed on Wednesay and the medal results available early next week.

Meanwhile, back in land, I've written up the Bladen Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008 as my Wine of the Week - click here to read that review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 13th 2008

North versus South at the Wednesday Tasting

It was back to a Wednesday tasting this week and now that they are no longer held weekly, I find I am really looking forward to them. This week's theme was Northern Hemisphere versus Southern Hemisphere and in my opinion the Northern Hemisphere won.

The tasting started beautifully with a Gewurztraminer. "We should have wines like this more often," I said.  It was Villa Maria Cellar Selection East Coast Gewurztraminer 2007 from New Zealand (17/20). It was pitted against Albert Mann Gewurztraminer 2006 from Alsace (18.5/20) and the latter had that kind of intensity that we rarely see in New Zealand examples - the kind of intensity that many GW makers aspire to.  Just delicious and a highlight of the evening.

Another highlight was Deutschherren-Hof Deutschherrenberg Riesling Auslese 2004 from the town of Trier in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany.  Low alcohol, sweet, luscious nectar with a racy edge of acidity. Dreamy wine.

There was Marc Bredif Vouvray 1986 - a bright yellow gold colour with a green glint and a lifted zesty brightness to the taste, so even the slight touch of oxidation (some bottle variation unfortunately) did not prepare for the revelation the wine was 22 years old.

Also totally fascinating was Domaine Baptise Boutes Minervois 2005 from the Languedoc Roussillon - don't know what is in the wine but the appellation allows up to 40% Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and the rather obscure Lladoner Pelut. Rich and full-bodied, meaty and savoury, even a little bit seaweedy, just loved it because it had a point of difference.

Notes of all 12 wines tasted are on my Wednesday Roundup page - click here.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 11th 2008

Spring into a season of tastings

I've just updated my 'What's On' page and there are lots of opportunities for consumer wine tastings coming up in next couple of months.

Eurowine hits the road next week with public tastings in Auckland on the 15th Sept and in Wellington on 16th September - this is a portfolio of some of New Zealand's glamour labels including Ata Rangi, Fromm, Muddy Water, Neudorf, Pegasus Bay, Seresin, Stonecroft and Te Mata as well as some Australian brands. 

The New Zealand International Wine Show has the 'Pick The Trophies' Challenge on Wednesday 24th October. Being held from 6pm to 9pm at the Central Hotel in Auckland's CBD, this is a tasting of all the wines awarded gold medals at the show, which is being judged next week.  The 'challenge' is to pick just four of the 15 trophies that have been awarded. Those who are successful will have their name in the draw to win a 5-day trip for 2 persons to Adelaide, Barossa and McLaren Vale with rental car is included and at last 6 VIP visits to selected wineries arranged. The draw takes place at the Awards Dinner on September 27th, when the trophy winners are announced.

Central Otago Pinot Noir is visiting some of the smaller towns with their 'Pure Inspiration Tour'.  They will be at Tauranga on the 29th September, Hamilton on the 30th September and Palmerston North on the 2nd October.   I'm told they'll be doing the major cities early next year.

Fine Wine Delivery Company is holding full day 'Passion for Pinot' events, including tastings, winemaker debates and a dinner, in Wellington on the 4th October, Christchurch on the 11th October and Auckland on the 18th October.

Nelson Wine Art is combining with Gourmet Seafood for new release tastings from WineArt members, including Waimea, Rimu Grove, Richmond Plains, Kahurangi, Seifried, Kaimira, Anchorage, Woollaston, Brightwater, Neudorf , Te Mania, Moutere Hills, Redoubt Hill and Torrent Bay. The dates are 14th October in Auckland, 21st October in Nelson and 29th October in Wellington.

Lastly an afternoon of fun is coming to Marlborough with the First Glass Wine Options on 19th October. Teams of four people will compete to identify the wines that are served blind and at least two members of each team must be from Marlborough. Each member of the winning team will receive a bottle of Penfolds Grange and the team will have free entry into the National Final next year. In addition, Wine Marlborough is providing the return airfares to Auckland for the winning team.

More details and booking links for the above are on my What's On page.
A calendar of international tastings of New Zealand wines are available from the New Zealand Winegrowers events page.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 10th 2008

Oh my gosh - another mind blowing Savvie

This week's Wine of the Week is the eyebrow raising, jaw dropping, amazingly fantastic Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 'Oh' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - the best I've tasted so far from the season.  I rated it 19.5 out of 20. Click here to read my review.

And, oh my gosh, how did I forget to blog the other recent Wine of the Week's, especially, the previous week, which is a wine I would consider to be one of my wines of the decade.  It is the Esk Valley Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 and it was opened to celebrate the ten years of my domain name -   Is scored this particular wine (but obviously not the particular bottle) a 19 out of 20 when reviewed in March 2000.  How did it fare this time? Click here to read the review.

Marlborough savvie and Hawkes Bay reds have been the theme, it seems, the last encompassing month, as the Soho Wine Co Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 was the Wine of the Week, the week before that. Then a standout example to show that some New Zealand winemakers can indeed produce fantastic examples of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines  - the rather impressive Mills Reef Elspeth Trust Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from the Gimblett Gravels subregion of Hawkes Bay. Click here to read this review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 9th 2008

A handful of tasty 2008 savvies and more

Popped into the Glengarry Hancocks trade tasting (Auckland edition) late this afternoon for a couple of hours to try out some of this distributor's wines, in particular some new release sauvignon blancs. As expected there are some outstanding savvies from the well recognised labels and the following wines, probably in the order stated, were the highlights.

Fairhall Downs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - a rich textural style without taking anything away from the punchy flavours that have a full array of juicy tropical fruit, passionfruit and lime. Mouthfilling, fulfilling and long. They had another label "Torea" which is more upfront and racy - it is originally an export wine but is now available here too and recommended. 

Jules Taylor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is a rich, armpitty style - full-bodied with an oilyish texture, load of racy-edged tropical fruit and herbs. Vibrant, juicy, pungent and fresh.

Waipara Hills Marlborough sauvignon Blanc 2008 is rich sweet and juicy with a lovely seam of gooseberry, honeyed lime, a touch of oiliness to the texture and a lime-infused fruit salad finish with a pungent racy undercurrent.

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is perfumed, musky and almost floral in its perfume while the palate is packed with sweet and rather exotic tropical fruit, underlying citrus, a touch of fennel and a long, juicy finish.

Lake Chalice Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is sweet fruited with passionfruit, kiwano, a touch of armpit and a great underpinning of juicy greens.  It has mid palate complexity and a long juicy finish. 

Other outstanding wines from the portfolio that I tasted included Rimu Grove Nelson Pinot Gris 2008, Ti Point Hawkes Bay Viognier 2008 and the Gisselbrecht Riesling 2007 and Gisselbrecht Gewurztraminer 2007 from Alsace.    Oh I also liked the dry and tasty Arrrogant Frog Ribet Rose 2007 made from 100% Languedoc Syrah.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 8th 2008

Another trophy for the Man for All Rieslings at IWC and other news

Just in from the Sweet Wine Challenge held last week in Griffith, the sweet wine capital of Australia, another gold medal and trophy has been awarded to Forrest Estate Botrytised Riesling 2006 - this time the Trophy for Best Sweet Wine Floral Style.

Last week, when I attended John Forrest's Man for All Rieslings tour, Dr John proudly announced that this particular wine had it received its 5th trophy and 12th gold medal at San Francisco earlier this year. This Sweet Wine Challenge result came after that tasting and now takes the number of gold medals awarded to this wine to 13 and the number of trophies to six. It is surely New Zealand's most awarded sweet wine, ever.

At the Man for All Rieslings Tour, held in Auckland on Sep 1st, a complete stylistic range of John Forrest's Riesling were tasted - from the ultra dry to this super sweetie Forrest Estate Botrytised Riesling 2006.

The wines were

  • Forrest Wairau Valley Dry Marlborough Riesling 2007
  • Forrest Estate "The Valleys" Dry Marlborough Riesling 2001
  • Forrest Estate Marlborough Riesling 2007
  • John Forrest Collection Marlborough Riesling 2005
  • Forest Estate Doctor's Marlborough Riesling 2007
  • Forrest Estate Late Harvest Marlborough Riesling 2005
  • Forrest Estate Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2006
  • Forrest Estate Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2003

A full report is on my pages - click here to read the reviews.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 5th 2008

NZ scoops Best Red Wine at IWC and other news

Wild Earth Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 has taken the Trophy for Top Red Wine at the 2008 International Wine Challenge. It beat 31 other red wine trophy winners from around the globe in the final judging round, announced on Wednesday night (3 Sept) in London. What a coup. Well done and congratulations. They had previously scooped four Trophies at this event -  Central Otago Pinot Noir Trophy, the New Zealand Pinot Noir Trophy, the New Zealand Red Wine Trophy and International Pinot Noir Trophy.

At the same competition, Matt Thomson of Saint Clair Wines was awarded White Winemaker of the Year, edging out Villa Maria's Alastair Maling MW and another international contender.

Corey Ryan, senior winemaker at Villa Maria Estate, is leaving after six years in the role to return to his homeland, Australia, where he will take up a chief winemaking role with McWilliams Wines. Corey's successor is Nick Picone, who has been with the Villa Maria Group for 11 years.

Claire Mulholland, winemaker at Martinborough Vineyards from 1999 to 2006, has returned to her roots in Central Otago where her first vintage was at Chard Farm in 1992 and then assistant winemaker with Gibbston Valley until 1999. Now after two years with Anthem Wines, she has crossed the road to join Amisfield Wine Company as winemaker. Jeff Sinnott, who has been Amisfield’s winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 2002, has taken on a new role as the company’s consultant winemaker.

The Central Otago Celebration in Queenstown on January 30th and 31st next year has confirmed the attendance of the world's most sought after wine critics - Jancis Robinson MW and Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate.  It is lucky that Central Otago is so beautiful and these busy people keep wanting to come back.

Trinity Hill winemaker Warren Gibson is off to Sancerre for the Northern Hemisphere vintage in a joint venture with Pascal Jolivet, growing Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc to be made in the French style for the overseas market.

From Central Otago - vineyard manager Isobel MacKay of Pisa Range, Felton Road viticulture supervisor Sam Woods and Philippa Batley, cellar supervisor at Amisfield Wine Company are the three lucky people to take part in the year's Burgundy exchange program. They will explore the history and culture of pinot noir during the six-week educational trip. Students from a viticulture technical institute in Beaune will make a return visit to Central Otago for the harvest in April.

Christine Kernohan of Gladstone Vineyard has stepped down as chair of the Wairarapa Wines group after three years in the role. Gladstone winegrower, Joe Ryan of Dakin's Rd, has been appointed chairman and Liz Pollock of Gladstone is to be responsible for marketing.

Wooing Tree Blondie, a white wine made from Pinot Noir grapes, won the Trophy for Innovation in Wine Making at the Wine New Zealand this week. Judges were looking for a wine that was unique in the market place yet still maintained the quality expected of New Zealand wine. Odyssey Wines won the Trophy for Innovation in Wine Marketing for the 'Behave' brand. The branding is obviously inspired by the Beehive matchbox.

Pegasus Bay Winery wins Best Restaurant Winery in the Cuisine Magazine's Restaurant of the Year Awards. Terroir at Craggy Range is runner-up.

The International Riesling Foundation is working towards more consumer-friendly labels on Riesling and have come up with a technical chart of parameters involving the interplay of sugar, acid, and pH which helps determine the probable taste profile of a particular wine. After extensive deliberation, they have come up with the terms "Dry", "Medium Dry", "Medium Sweet" and "Sweet" to describe the relative dryness or sweetness of a wine. They recommend these terms be complemented by a back label graphic. Click here for a comprehensive article.

Bob Campbell MW has launched a new website where he already has over 10,000 reviews on line. He will keep the site updated with his ever expanding database of notes - and it is free.

Jeff Barber of Pond Paddock Vineyard in Te Muna Road in Martinborough has sold a part of his vineyard to Napa Valley-based Cobblestone Vineyards, who are excited about making world class Pinot Noir from this part of the world.  Mr Barber will stay on as vineyard manager.  Alana Vineyard in Martinborough is also on the market.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 4th 2008

Wine New Zealand 2008 - Part Two of Day Three

Continuing on from yesterday's entry, where I highlighted the Sauvignon Blancs in various guises that I tasted at Wine New Zealand on Day Three, here are the other notes, including two extremely palate pleasing highlights.

You will notice I've 'star' rated these wines out of five. "People want points," says Mike Eaton of Terravin - and while I didn't give ratings to his reds that are mentioned below - it really was not warranted given the attention I gave to those particular wines - I've rated the rest. But I'll add I am not sure what points or rating mean from a stand-up, walk-around, trade tasting situation when you are on your feet for hours and at times jostling to get near the spittoon.  Yet, despite excuses from the producers, the most common one being, "this wine has just been bottled", some wines are standouts, others are so poor that it's not worth lifting pen to paper, some - as noted - are temperature affected while others need more than a passing sniff, spit and spit to let their intricacies evolve in the glass.

At the Vynfields stand I was told their Martinborough vineyard, and consequently the wines, are now certified 'organic'; and that the Riesling is 'drier' than before and a reflection of the vintage conditions. Thus Vynfields Dry Classic Martinborough Riesling 2007 (***) is a very racy, crisp, appley style -quite earthy and pithy with a stoney (licking a riverstone) undercurrent. It's far too tight and austere but this style of Riesling is the style that will blossom beautifully with age. It has 13.5% alcohol and 5.4 g/L residual sugar.

Tatty Bogler is John Forrest's new branding for his Central Otago and Waitaki Valley wines, although the label says 'produced by Bannock Burn Creek Vineyard'. Tatty Bogler Otago Pinot Gris 2008 (***1/2) is rich both on the nose and in the palate where it is quite floral and musky with loads of pear in the fruit department, textural richness, alcohol weight (14% on label), some residual sweetness and bubble gum esters (pink bubble gum) on the finish. I think this wine would have shown better if ever so slightly chilled - it was hot in the hall under the lights. Tatty Bogler is Scottish for scarecrow and pays homage to the early settlers of the region.

Surveyor Thomson has vineyards in Lowburn in Central Otago. Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir 2005 (****1/2) emits a pretty perfume and has a lovely silky / gravelly tannin structure with savoury fruit infused with thyme. It is medium-boded in style but I loved its subtlety and finesse. In comparison the 2006 was bigger and richer - and a little more brutish. The 2005 got the big tick.

Closer to Cromwell is Mount Michael and Mount Michael Bessie's Block Pinot Noir 2007 (****) shows off the opulence of this well-regarded Central Otago season. It's a deep colour with a smoky, black cherry perfume and bold flavoured with spice, cherry and a touch of chocolate. It's long in flavour with a bite to the finish. It also goes very well with Blue River Cheese's Pecorino, a sheep's cheese from Invercargill.
I raved about Mount Michael Bessie's Block Chardonnay 2005 when it was released and that went on to win gold medals. Mount Michael Bessie's Block Central Otago Chardonnay 2007 (****) follows that mould with its rich, full-bodied, lees-stirred and peachy characters.

Charcoal Gully is a new label with vineyards on Wanaka Road in Central Otago. Charcoal Gully Sally's Pinch Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 (***) is light in colour but pretty and floral with savoury earthy notes, fruit of the forest fruit and richness to the finish, no doubt from the 14% alcohol.
Charcoal Gully Sally's Pinch Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 (****) is a much deeper colour with much stronger thyme-infused aromatics - you could call it a fat style in the scheme - upfront and generous with loads of savouriness coming through in the palate.
Charcoal Gully Sally's Pinch Central Otago Gewurztraminer 2008 (***) is much better than the previous vintage, which didn't even taste like GW. The 2008 is fragrant and citrussy with a touch of rose petal to the scent. It is quite crisp yet has fruit sweetness, loads of spicy ginger and zest, a slightly oily texture and typical GW length - but needs to develop some fatness.

Domain Road Central Otago Rose 2008 (*****) is a gorgeous wine with a candyfloss pink colour and delicate, off dry flavours of strawberry and spice, it is so fresh and juicy it will be a delicious thirst quencher. It reminds me of the gold medal winning Wooing Tree a couple of years ago - Carol Bunn made both wines too. This wine was on the Charcoal Gully stand because it is made from Charcoal Gully's Pinot Noir grapes.

Pam and Dave from Kina Beach Vineyard in Nelson, halfway between Richmond and Motueka, were making their debut appearance at Wine New Zealand.
Kina Beach Nelson Merlot Rosé 2008 (***1/2) has 15% Cabernet Franc in the blend. This is quite a rich wine for the style with a touch of sweetness, strawberry and cherry fruit and a hint of leather keeping it true to variety. Tasted a room temperature sample (i.e warm) and a chilled sample to find that chilling dumbs down the nose, accentuates the citrussy undercurrent and brings out a more lush, juicy strawberry flavour - just perfect for summer quaffing.
Kina Beach Nelson Chardonnay 2006 (****) is quite smoky with loads of barrel ferment and lees stirring evident, sweet fruit that hints of melon and peach with a graininess to the texture, nuances of figs and nuts, underlying citrus and plenty of juiciness.13.8% alc.
Kina Beach Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 (****1/2) is earthy and savoury with a touch of ripe plum in the fruit profile, a hint of musk and a lingering finish. It has 14.5% alcohol, but I did not pick this, as the wine is so beautifully balanced. They are not allowed to say who their winemaker is - it must be someone very good.

Tasted quickly through a range of Clayridge whites- mentioned the Sauvignon Blanc yesterday but also special mention for the Wild Riesling and the Gewurz.
Clayridge Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008 (****) is exotic and spicy, powerful and concentrated and also a little earthy and deep. There's 30% wild barrel ferment in this wine, which makes it so different. I rate it very good.
Clayridge Marlborough Wild Riesling 2008  (*****) is amazingly juicy, like squeezing a pineapple. Mike Just says it is tight, but to me it was juicy and expressive with exotic tropical fruit and underlying limey citrus. I did have the last pour from the bottle and I guess it had opened up a little from the time it was originally opened. I'm looking forward to seeing this again. It has 11.5% alcohol, 6.5g/L acidity, 22 g/L residual sugar and very low pH.

Terravin Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006 is a medium bodied savoury style that is all about subtlety and texture.
Terravin 'J' 2004, a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% merlot and 5% Malbec is quite savoury too with plushness and length and sweet fruit on the expansive lasting finish.

Rua Whenua Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2005 (****) is a ripe style, quite toasty, sweet fruited and spicy but also seemingly a little mellow. There are intricacies that evolve with time - like dried herb flowers, hints of liquorice and a touch of dark chocolate- just let down by a hardness to the finish. Not that this can't be overcome by decanting.

Rene FischAnd so to the Find of the Show, which was Rua Whenua Reserve Merlot Cabernet Franc 2005 (*****). An 84:16 blend of Merlot and CF grapes from Te Awanga (Hawkes Bay coast) fruit with 22 months in barrel, all older French oak. Deep dark creamy pink red in colour; beautifully aromatic, sweet oak and perfumed berry scents; again sweet oak in the creamy lush palate with toast, vanilla, blackberry, plum fruit and remarkably smooth tannins, it opens up beautifully to leave a cherryish fruit cake sweetness. It has 13.5% alcohol and costs just $27.50. This brand is the baby of Rene Fisch (pictured right) and the wines are available in Switzerland as well as locally. Oh, the winemaker was Rod McDonald (ex Vidals), by the way.

Last but not least, and leaving a delicious flavour in my mouth, was Bladen Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008 (*****). Very pale, gorgeously fragrant, perhaps a little ginger spice and flowers like carnation or stock. Rich and luscious, very varietal but with a delicacy to it, so not overpowering at all. Look forward to tasting this one again sometime- perhaps in a gold medal line-up at a wine show - who knows?

So that was Wine New Zealand for another year.  Some of the new producers in the program I couldn't find, others producers I wanted to taste wines of - like Olssens recent trophy winning Pinot Noir, somehow got missed. I met the new Unison owner in the loo but still didn't get to their stand and the rest, quite frankly, is a blur. 

After match reports will follow over the next few days.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 3rd 2008

Wine New Zealand 2008 - Part One of Day Three

Arriving about 2pm in the afternoon, I had just two and three-quarter hours to finish my 2008 visit to Wine New Zealand. "Perhaps I should taste a few savvies," I thought. Yesterday I had promised Charles Wiffen I would call by his stand. So that seemed a logical place to start.

Charles Wiffen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is dry and crisp with grassy herbaceousness and a touch of pineapple. Lots of drinkability but I did prefer the Charles Wiffen Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008- a rich, full weighty style with a tropical fruit lushness. Liked the 2007 version of this wine very much too.

Firmly on my radar was Astrolabe - one of my Top Ten Sauvignon Producers from the last 10 years. Would the challenging 2008 vintage deliver from this label, I wondered. The answer, I found on tasting, was most emphatically "yes".
Astrolabe SB bottlesAstrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is rich, pungent and powerfully scented, racy on the nose yet soft in the palate, making it very approachable with nary a hint of tartness - just juicy, juicy, juicy and full of tropical fruit.
Astrolabe Awatere Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is shy on the nose - a little flinty with a hint of tomato. Again that palate softness with a lovely apple and tropical fruit profile, underlying capsicum and herbs and a long, full fleshy finish with hints of white peach.
Astrolabe Kekerengu Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is more of an edgy style, almost boney dry with a touch of salinity, a firm gravelly texture, a lovely lime lift to the finish with perhaps just a hint of nectarine. Cool, refreshing and different.

Winemaker Simon Waghorn sent me across the aisle to try the Lime Rock savvies from Hawkes Bay. The vineyard in is south west of Hastings, inland from Waipawa.
Lime Rock Wines Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is a very different style to the just tasted Astrolabe wines and while the mid-palate is grainy textured and dry, it evolves into a sweeter tropical fruit / melon spectrum with hints of apricot and a honeyed overlay.
Lime Rock Wine Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is fresh, grassy and crisp, with underlying savouriness and a passionfruit juiciness to the finish - I actually preferred this wine of the two.

Kine Beach logo - photo by Sue CourtneyTo continue on the savvie theme from elsewhere in the hall, Kina Beach Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008 has upfront grassiness, a rich melon and tropical fruit mid to end palate and a powerful pungency to the cool, refreshing finish.
Kina Beach Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is far more passionfruity and seems quite fruit sweet but the limey undercurrent balances it. A slow wine to evolve but once it opens up you realise it is very good.

Clayridge Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is gorgeous as usual - not an in-your-face-style as there is 13% wild barrel ferment. This is all about texture and classically varietal fruit combining in harmony. Love it.

Odyssey Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is a richly herbaceous pungent style with defined herbaceous, and apple crispness and a strong lingering finish.
There is a second label 'Homer' from Odyssey, which I liked the concept of, but the 2008 savvie inside the bottle was to me rather dilute. They call it their 'café style' and I guess the under-$15 price reflects somewhat the lesser quality.

Terravin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006 is wild tank fermented. A dark straw gold colour, it is earthy, savoury and thought provoking with its rich weighty palate. It seems to me a Graves-inspired style. Unfortunately they have not made a subsequent vintage of this wine. I much preferred this to Mike Eaton's baby, Terravin Marlborough Te Ahu 2006, a 50/50 co-fermented blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with 11 months in new oak and 10% malolactic fermentation.

At the end of the day I finished on with sweet Sauvignon Blancs.

Terravin Marlborough Noble Sauvignon 2006 is citrine in colour and although there's a touch of volatile acidity on the nose - "It did have a 21 month ferment," said Eaton - it is choc full of passionfruit, pineapple and other tropical fruit with beautifully balanced acidity to the lustrous sweetness and botrytis fascination. And then that hallmark Sauvignon pungency appears and lingers on the finish. It has 171 g/L residual sugar, 10.5 g/L acidity and 12.5% alcohol.

But the delicious Terravin was trumped by Margrain Botrytis Selection Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008, with an amazing 285 g/L residual sugar and 9.7% alcohol. Intensely concentrated, decadently sweet and honeyed, complex botrytis and delicious - a superb and outstanding wine.

Not tasted at Wine New Zealand, but a chance here to incorporate some of my recent 2008 vintage Sauvignon Blanc notes -

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - gorgeous tropical fruit and sweet pea perfume, a hint of tarragon herb and fleshy fruit flavours accented with pineapple, pawpaw and lime.
The Ned Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - a real crowd pleaser, perhaps a little sweeter and full of lime and passionfruit with a nice touch of orange zest, bright fresh summer herbs and a long pungent finish.
Soho Wine Co Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - full of bright, fresh, zesty fruit and just a little grassy - I highlighted this recently as a Wine of the Week.
Richmond Plains Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - wow, this is a vibrant, fresh little number - strongly herbaceous with a zest, citrus undercurrent, a touch oily in texture, it fills the mouth with juicy fruit and is all power, power, power. Impressive and so much more exiting than last year's - it's also 100% organic.

More highlights from Day Three to follow tomorrow.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 2nd 2008

Wine New Zealand 2008 - Part Two of Day Two

Continued from Part One, below, Hudson Wines was next to cross my radar. This is a new Martinborough region wine company owned by Jude and Peter Hudson but the branding made me think of the Hudson car and the Hudson aeroplane. They are south of Martinborough town square on the undulating road that leads to Lake Ferry, about two kilometres past Dry River Road. Actually I liked their rich grassy, powerful Hudson Sauvignon Blanc 2008 best with Martinborough's signature ripe apple fleshed out with stonefruit.
The Hudson RPM Riesling 2007 (the RPM is for children Rebecca, Paul and Marise) is made in an off dry style with 12.5% alcohol. I thought it floral and light with loads of exotic tropical fruit- cherimoya perhaps, and honey, but it fell quickly away on the finish. The hall was hot and the wine was too warm. It needs chilling to enhance the acidity.
Hudson Martinborough Pinot Noir 2006, subtitled 'John Henry' after a WWII pilot, is savoury but also seemed a little sweet, however the finish was long and tasty and lingered pleasantly as I wandered off.
Chris Buring made the Riesling and Jane Cooper made the other two wines I tasted. There is no website yet.

Mt BeautifulMt Beautiful is a new producer with vineyards in the Cheviot Hills, about halfway between Waipara and Kaikoura in North Canterbury. The vineyard is hard to miss when you are travelling State Highway One. It is on the eastern side of the road and fairly large. Owned by the Teece family, they have given their brand a beauitful name - and oh such beautiful debut wines.
Mt Beautiful North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2007, with savoury aromatics and a lovely silky, lightly grainy texture, lives up to its name and leaves a sweet, lingering aftertaste.
Mt Beautiful North Canterbury Riesling 2007 is cool, crisp and full of juicy fruit with apple and tropical guava and a touch of pineapple on the aftertaste - a 12% alcohol wine with beautifully balanced acidity to the 11.5% residual sugar.
Sam Weaver makes the wines.

Last stop on Day Two was at the West Brook stand - the only producer from my stamping ground - the Rodney district. I was hoping to do a photo essay of my 'local' exhibitors but where were the Rodney-based multinationals, like Matua Valley (part of Fosters now) and Constellation New Zealand (with Nobilos, Selaks and associated brands), the medium companies like Coopers Creek and the many boutique operations? Maybe Wine New Zealand is a forum that just doesn't work for them. Also the Matakana Wineries had a presence at the Food Show - perhaps they want to get their wines in front of the consumers rather than the trade, despite last year's small contingent saying they would be back.

James Rowan of West BrookI limited my West Brook tasting to their Auckland wines because they would be the focus of a wine column. Well, I have to tell you, I was impressed. I've long been saying that Auckland makes some of the best Chardonnays in New Zealand and with West Brook now producing Chardonnay grapes from their Waimauku Vineyard, that regional excellence is widening.
West Brook Ivicevich Waimauku Chardonnay 2004 is from first crop fruit. It is a rich leesy style, full of sweet fruit with a firm acid spine. Wine making complexities adding sophistication to this wine and it is drinking really nicely now.
West Brook Ivicevich Waimauku Chardonnay 2006 has a smoky theme tunning through the wine. This baby version of the 2004 is full, dry and rich and very exciting. Even at $38 it is highly recommended.
West Brook Waimauku Pinot Noir 2006 raised many eyebrows among the stand's visitors, I'm told. Although it is light in colour, it has earthy, savoury, and more Burgundy-inspired aromas and flavours than many of the fruity pinots we see from further south. It is rich and full on the palate with classically varietal cherry fruit, a touch of smoky bacon and a juicy infusion to the long lasting finish.
Also exciting was a sneak preview of the West Brook Waimauku Pinot Noir 2007. It is richer and deeper in colour than the 2006 and bigger, richer, savoury, spicy flavours with well-weighted fruit and a long savoury finish. It shows what Auckland can do with Pinot Noir in a really good year and if tasting blind, you would never pick as Auckland region, even if given the option, I'm sure. You just wouldn't think Auckland could make Pinot Noir this good. Resident winemakers, Anthony Ivicevich and James Rowan make the wines.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 1st 2008

Wine New Zealand 2008 - Part One of Day Two

Just another quick splash and dash at Wine New Zealand today. Interviews with two of the exhibitors were my main agenda because I have this little weekly wine column I write for the Rodney Times and hopefully the columns will provide 'local' content to readers of that paper.

Simon Beck - Winegrowers of AraFirst I met with Simon Beck, a former long time employee of Matua Valley and now Marketing Director for Winegrowers of Ara. They had a secret room beside their stand with plush red velvet chairs and decanted new release Pinot Noir wine on the table. There were two Sauvignon Blancs and two Pinot Noirs - very impressive French inspired wines. The 'Composite' label is the cheaper of the two with the grapes coming from a composite of sites on the vineyard. The 'Resolute' label is a single site wine. The 2007 vintage Sauvignon Blancs are out of the ordinary for Marlborough. - not punchy upfront fruit numbers but bone dry and made to go with food. The Resolute, in particular, was a total taste treat and will appeal to followers of the Pouilly Fume style.
The Composite Pinot Noir 2007 is a great advancement on the first release. A lighter style that I likened to a Burgundy Villages wine. In comparison the Resolute Pinot Noir 2006 was bigger, richer and sweeter and while quite savoury, more in keeping with the ripe fruit profiles that Marlborough can produce.

Opposite Winegrowers of Ara was the Villa Maria Estate stand with all of the brands for tasting. I made a beeline to Esk Valley Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, with my Wine of the Week, the 1998 version, still very foremost in my mind, the 2005 just didn't have the grunt of that super vintage wine.
I loved the Esk Valley Merlot Malbec Rose 2008 - delicious as normal, a dry full-bodied Rosé and another gold medal in the making.

That reminds me, I had a Stolen Kiss from Rockburn when I walked in the door. This is a 100% Pinot Noir Rosé, 2008 vintage and pretty candy floss pink with a bright crisp palate full of earthy strawberry notes and a lovely crisp, almost apple-like, balancing freshness. I liked this.

Then I passed Andy Nimmo at the Hihi stand and stopped to tasted the deeply coloured Hihi Lock, Stock and Many Barrels 2006 - a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 35% Pinotage and 14% Merlot. Deeply coloured, this is full of juicy Gisborne fruit with a sultry layer of sweet vanillin oak from older oak barrels, gutsy tannins, a dried herb rosemary infusion and a long, sweet finish - the earthiness of the Pinotage was lifted by the fragrance of the Cabernet Franc.
Andy also had the Hihi Gisborne Malbec 2007, a recent gold medal winner at the Bragato Wine Awards, for tasting. On the table beside it was a copy of his front page article in the Gisborne Herald. A lovely crimson purple so deeply translucent it is almost opaque, this is a big earthy wine with a juicy savouriness, a flourish of blackberry and spice, well-integrated savoury oak (50/50 French /American, all new), big gutsy tannins, rich and rounded yet quite dry and really in need of more time.

But back to Villa Maria and the stunning Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihuamtao Chardonnay 2006. It is full of gorgeous sweet fruit, sweet nutty oak, cashew and nougat and is simply and utterly yum.  Did I say this was Auckland fruit!

David Evans lured me to his Passage Rock stand where I tasted the 2007 Syrah - very good but not as big as the opulent 2006 - and a rather fruity Passage Rock Waiheke Island Sauvignon Blanc 2008 that was more like an unoaked Chardonnay - ripe and tasty nevertheless.   

Johanneshof poured me their 2008 aromatics - I really think they need more time because on all except the Johanneshof Medium Pinot Gris 2008, which was my favourite, the aromas really are rather shy. An aged 2005 vintage shows what the wine can do with heaps more time - concentrated, rich and honeyed, full of quince and orange peel and a touch of botrytis adding complexity too.

I'm so tired right now, I can't write any more. I'm just back from an after-match function - or rather a tasting of John Forrest's Rieslings at Point Wines - a stunning line-up, but like yesterday's Sensational Syrah Seminar, there will be more on this later.  

So right now, from me, it's goodnight. "Goodnight".

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