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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: October 2009
Oct 29th: Hob-nobbing with the A-listers
Oct 26th: Coleraine 1998 crushes opposition
Oct 24th: Holiday weekend books, movies and Riesling
Oct 20th: Amazing Felton Road whites
Oct 17th: Oh how I am impressed
Oct 15th: 2009 Hawkes Bay Wine awards announced
Oct 14th: Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer
Oct 13th: New wines from new regions
Oct 9th: How much Sauvignon Blanc is too much sauvignon blanc?
Oct 7th: They're drinking our wine where?
Oct 5th: Here are the Liquorland winners?
Oct 4th: Where are the Liquorland winners?
Oct 2nd: New Zealand Pinot Gris still has a long way to go
Oct 1st: First Roses of Summer
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 29th 2009

Hob-nobbing with the A-listers

Last week I was mixing with A-list celebrities. It was the launch of No. 1 Rosé from New Zealand's number one sparkling wine producer, No. 1 Family Estate. The family is Daniel and Adele Le Brun and their children Virginie and Remy and with Virginie currently one of the actors on the nation's favourite soap, Shortland Street, the Shortie stars were the A-list celebs in the crowd. But this was a night about wine, the star being the No. 1 Rosé - and it was launched in style with Remy and Virginie performing a traditional sabrage, in unison. Read more about this on this week's Wine of the Week.

This weekend, starting this evening, I'm mixing with A-list wine writers from around the world - well the UK and Australia anyway. I'm a guest of Winegrowers of Ara for the second Marlborough Wine Weekend.

I was a guest of Marlborough Winegrowers the first time around, two years ago, and I'm delighted to be back because the inaugural event was simply terrific. So my expectations are high. But will the weather co-operate?

Sauvignon Blanc is what has made Marlborough and Winegrowers of Ara, of course, produce a savvie.   Tonight I tasted Winegrowers of Ara Composite Sauvignon Blanc 2008 and you could say it is a 'little different' to what most people would think of as typically Marlborough.  It's distinctly Sauv on nose and straight away you know that is a kiwi rendition, but it is atypically bone dry and the flintiness of the texture is a feature,  There's an underlying herb and 'green veg' note - green bean comes to mind - and apple acidity bursts through on the finish.  A touch of stonefruit adds complexity.

Match this wine to the right food and it really comes into its own.  In this instance it was freshly picked Marlborough asparagus with a prosciutto wrap, served warm with a lime infused aioli dip.  Simply perfect.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 26th 2009

Coleraine 1998 crushes opposition

A group of us met for dinner last night, each with a bottle of 1998 Hawkes Bay red to accompany the meal. The theme was meant to be Flagship 1998 Hawkes Bay Reds and I offered to bring the Esk Valley Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc, which my database said there were two of in the lock-up. But the two wines were nowhere to be found. I knew we had consumed a bottle last year to celebrate ten years of and looking back at the review I realised the wine we drank then was the last of our Esk Valley stash. My husband commented, "Well, I am not the only one capable of updating the database, you know".

Beside the Esk Valley Reserve isn't the flagship, the Esk Valley The Terraces is - and I never ever bought any of that anyway. Our other flagship wine, the CJ Pask Merlot 1998, an Air NZ Wine Championship wine and predecessor to the Declaration, was also missing. However a few flagships, being the best a winery produced, were put on the table and the question was asked, "Did the 1998 Hawkes Bay reds deserve the hype?"

98reds.jpg (62373 bytes)Te Mata Coleraine 1998 simply crushed the opposition. This rich, deep, sumptuous full-bodied red deserves all the accolades that have been poured upon it. I rated this wine 19.5/0.

Unison Selection 1998 (19/20) was my next favourite wine, just ahead of Alpha Domus The Aviator 1998 (18.5/20) and by consensus these three wines were the most preferred of everyone, although one taster placed the controversial Te Mata Awatea 1998 in his top three. I thought the Awatea marginally corked - not detectable on the nose but just enough interference to flatten the wine. Others commented it was not as good as 1998 Awatea's they had tasted before.

Stonecroft Ruhanui 1998 was my 4th placed wine with Te Mata Awatea 1998, despite its marginal corkiness, in 5th place and Thornbury Merlot 1998 in 6th place. The Thornbury polarised the crowd however I loved the minty eucalypt on the nose and the vanillin oak - although an underlying brettiness was a downpointing factor for me. It was the debut wine for Steve Bird and cost me $25 in 1999 - of course now Villa Maria owns the label and it no longer has the status it had when I bought it - although some very excellent wines are still being dressed in the Thornbury livery.

In 7th place was Church Road Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, which I found quite Bretty with cedar and dried herbs a feature. Funnily enough this tasted exactly as I expected it too. And bringing up the rear was Trinity Hill Gimblett Road Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1998, quite browning and thin in appearance and the most dried out of all the wines.

It should be noted all these wines had corks and a better cork in some of the wines would have made a difference - most notably the Awatea. The Trinity Hill cork wanted to split on opening while the Thornbury cork simply crumbled out of the bottle.

As for the question, "Did the 1998 Hawkes Bay reds deserve the hype?" the answer is "Most definitely." Well most of them, anyway.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 24th 2009

Holiday weekend books, movies and Riesling

A holiday weekend and finally, finally, there's sunshine.  I'm feeling revitalised, not only the weather but reading Hemingway and taking time out to see the Julie and Julia movie today. It's a movie that is more than just cooking.

On the Julie side it's about setting a goal, setting a deadline, persevering through the high and lows, the low and highs, the meltdowns - gee, the way Julie was portrayed I could so see some of me in my relationship with the husband when the blog must .... get .... written.  Then you wonder why you are doing it at all. How he puts up with my meltdowns, I'll never know.

On the Julia side it's an intimate insight into her private life and her development into the iconic American chef with the distinctive voice that comedians (and others) love to imitate. Julia Child has never been an icon of mine.   I grew up with the Edmonds cookbook and then when television came, it was the local chefs that were screened on New Zealand television that we came to know.  I've only seen Julia on television since subscribing to the Food TV channel and watching a program called 'Kitchen Legends' that was aired. But I loved Merryl Streep's portrayal of this ambitious woman who simply loved to eat delicious food.

Food that makes your mouth water, like the wine we poured when we arrived home late this afternoon -  wine that makes you mouth water after it's been popped in the freezer for half an hour, to chill.   It's a delicious Nelson Riesling - light, bright, fresh and zesty - like freshly squeezed orange, mandarins and limes with a touch of ginger and honeysuckle sweetness.   Most of all the exciting tanginess to the finish and old-fashioned yellow skinned apple the lasting memory.  Apple as a descriptor is  appropriate too because this wine is Greenhough Apple Valley Riesling.  It's from the 2009 vintage and is made in the high sugar / high acid / low alcohol style that is becoming increasingly difficult for me to refuse. This rendition has 32 g/l residual sugar and just 10% alcohol by volume. It has a screwcap closure and costs around $19 a bottle. Check out

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 20th 2009

Amazing Felton Road whites

Hear the words Felton Road even in whispered tones, if you are a wine buff you will immediately think of Central Otago's most iconic Pinot Noir producer.  The name is taken from the address, a dead end road in Bannockburn, Central Otago. Old gold mining country. After the gold was viably exhausted, farmers arrived and then the orchardists. Now it is grapevines that dominate the landscape. And not only pinot noir grapevines. At Felton Road's vineyards, Chardonnay and Riesling vines grow too. This story is about them.

Don't like unoaked chardonnay, but like a wine of status on your table, then you will like Felton Road Elms Chardonnay 2009, an oak free zone but so rich and textural it doesn't matter. It is the mealy, yeast lees influence that adds a richness and spiciness to the stonefruit, apple and pear fruit flavours that brim with character in this lightly chilled wine. Is this one of the best "unoaked" ever made in New Zealand?

In contrast, oak makes its presence known immediately on the nose of this spicy, savoury smelling, barrel fermented Felton Road Chardonnay 2008. It's rich and full-bodied with sweet peachy notes coming through and a savoury finish. A gorgeous chardonnay with great mouthfeel, richness and presence.

Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay 2008 is an altogether different style. Although quite chilled when tasted this is a bright fruit driven chardonnay with lovely balance of understated oak and mealy nuances. It is spicy and creamy with a harmonious texture. If this wine was a little warmer it would be rich and fat. Love the mouthfeel in this wine.

I've always had a passion for the pure, racy, send-quivers-down-the-spine Felton Road Rieslings. I wrote years ago that I believe it is because the vines think they are going to die each winter. But they survive the cold and the next crop they producer is the best they can give because the vines think, maybe, it could be their last. The dry and medium Rieslings have been produced since 1997. The Block 1 was introduced in 2002.

Felton Road Dry Riesling 2009 has 4.5g/l residual sugar and 8.2 g/l total acidity. It's classically Riesling on the nose with honeysuckle and limes and hints of its dryness. Served chilled it is a little astringent in the palate at this stage of its life. Quite a piercing dry style with a honeyish finish.

Felton Road Riesling 2009 has 47g/l residual sugar and 9 g/l total acidity. Classical lime and honeysuckle again but weighty and rich. This is a bee magnet with everything that is good about riesling - well balanced sweetness, some viscosity, delicate yet intense, beautifully balanced, long and exciting.

Felton Road Riesling Block 1 2009 has 69g/l residual sugar and 8.9 g/l total.   Is this the most perfect New Zealand Riesling yet? It smells sweet, honeyish and then, in the palate, it's like honeycomb on steroids. Served chilled, this is mouth-wateringly delicious with honeysuckle, lime and piercing acidity that cuts the sweetness. FR - Fantastic Riesling. FR - Felton Road. This 2009 Block 1 gets a very rare 20/20 score.

These are moderate to low alcohol wines (I'll add that info when I know).

So what about the reds?  Well, they are equally as stunning.  They deserve the revered hushed tones. And so they are written up as this week's Wines of the Week. Click the blue link to read those reviews.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 17th 2009

Oh how I am impressed

On Tuesday I mentioned Ohau Gravels, a 'new' wine region on the lower west coast of the North Island just north of the Kapiti Coast. As fate would have it, samples of these wines arrived in my letterbox the day after that posting and with a little more research I found the vineyards are about 5 kilometres south of Levin and about 70 kilometres north of Wellington. So after a long day at work yesterday (crikey, I didn't finish until 7pm) and with Neil having put a pork fillet stuffed with apricots into the oven (and gosh, it was so tender when we finally got round to eating it), I suggested he open those two wines. And they were good.

I chose to taste the Pinot Gris first, in case the Sauvignon blanc overpowered the palate, and what a ripper of a wine - this will firmly shut the mouths of any Pinot Gris slammers.

ohaugravels.jpg (34276 bytes)Ohau Gravels Pinot Gris 2009 ($22.95) is a big, rich, concentrated, creamy, almost oily style. It has a powerful presence of gala apples, pear, quince, a hint of honeysuckle, a touch of mandarin and the bitterness of bright, tasty, freshly grated zest to balance the flavours that are just on the dry edge of sweetness. It's a fragrant spicy wine and tasting it later, after the Sauvignon, nuances of pineapple come through too. This in particular was excellent with the pork and apricot dinner.

Ohau Gravels Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($20.95) is an earthy, flinty, gravelly style with an edgy point of difference to the masses of Sauvignon that come out of the South Island - dare I say it even has a Sancerre-ish quality. Lots of herbaceous nuances, nettles, dandelion, feijoa and apples - apple flavours reminiscent of some of the lovely Sauvignon Blancs that come out of Martinborough. This is a cat-free, sweat-free zone - a beautiful Sauvignon - one that I can (and did) drink more than one glass of. I am very impressed. The notes say there's 5% wild ferment in barrels - I can't taste any oak but perhaps this is what is adding the textural qualities.

Delicious wines - perhaps the best Pinot Gris I've tasted from the vintage (also the Bragato Trophy winning Pinot Gris) and a beautiful, textural Sauv Blanc - both wines from first crop vines so the next vintage will be a point prover.  But also rather thought-provoking packaging too - I wondered who carved the 'Woven Stone'  (a kind of Celtic weave) that adorns the labels of the Ohau Gravels wines.

The vineyards at Ohau Gravels are planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and St Laurent. Kate Gibbs is the viticulturist and Jane Cooper makes the wines. Actually I have some of Jane's Matahiwi wines here and I am going to taste them tonight.

You can find out more about the region at - a premium lifestyle development amongst the vines or (when it comes online).

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 15th 2009

2009 Hawkes Bay Wine awards announced

The 2009 Hawkes Bay wine Awards were announced last night.

Champion Wine of the Show - Balthazar Syrah Gimblett Road 2007
Reserve Champion Wine of the Show - Esk Valley Winemakers Chardonnay 2008
Winery of the Year - Villa Maria Estate
Best Sustainable Wine of the Show - Sacred Hill Brokenstone Merlot 2007
Best Export Wine of the Show - Morton Estate White Label Pinot Grigio 2007
Hawke’s Bay Cellar Door of the Year - Salvare Estate
Best Student Wine - Jon Musther & Stu Kennedy for The Amulet Merlot
Hawke’s Bay A&P Society Young Vintners Scholarship - Brad Frederickson

Class trophies were awarded to the following wines.

Alpha Domus Viognier 2008
Babich Gimblett Gravels Gewurztraminer 2007
Balthazar Syrah Gimblett Road 2007
Corbans Private Bin Hawke's Bay Pinot Gris 2008
Esk Winemakers Chardonnay 2008
Sacred Hill Brokenstone Merlot 2007
Squawking Magpie Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2005
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Noble Viognier 2008
Vidal Reserve Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Full results are on the Hawkes Bay Wine Awards website

I counted 26 gold medals, 55 silver medals and 127 bronze medals in total.

IWSC awards two top Trophies to New Zealand

At the UK-based International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC), the IWSC Trophy for Sauvignon Blanc was awarded to Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and the Bouchard Finlayson Trophy for Pinot Noir to Mount Dottrel Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007.  These make these two wines the best of their varetials in the competition.

Other NZ gold medal winners were

Brennan Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008
Stoneleigh Marlborough Riesling 2008
Wither Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Domain Road Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
Remarkable Gibbston Pinot Noir 2007
Wooing Tree Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007

Find out more from the IWSC website.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 14th 2009

Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer

Yesterday I reported on the Pasquale Alma Mater 2008, an unusual blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer from the promising-looking Hakataramea Valley in South Canterbury. Well, just to ensure I wasn't giving any wine any favours, I tasted blind.

The other wines were -

Distant Land Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009
Fragrant, pretty, gris-like aromatics of vanilla-infused pear with a squeeze of lime and a lovely smooth rounded texture with an enveloping mouthfeel. Sweet but not sweet with white flowers, bready savoury nuances and a brightness of apple and lime lingering gently on the finish. A lovely Pinot Gris - well-balanced, textural - exactly what it should be. I gave it 18.5/20.

Riverby Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008
Sweet earthy aromatics of freshly harvested button mushrooms with nuances of citrus, then surprisingly off dry to the taste, with almond / marzipan to the fore then fleshy nectarine and juicy sweet pears with a sweet citrus zest infusion to the lingering finish. Tasted at room temperature I thought the wine would benefit from a little chilling and it definitely did. There was a 'coolness' running through the wine and the fruit was crisp and crunchy. Chilling makes it a much more juicy and mouthwatering wine. I gave it 17/20.

Amisfield Central Otago Dry Riesling 2009
Fragrant pretty floral aromatics with some gris-like pear and zesty lime adding brightness and freshness, and a well-balanced palate where orange and limes play in harmony. Just a touch of sweetness with residual sugar that would make you think off dry, but the finish is dry, crisp and racy with a tsip-tsip-tsip finish (do you know what I mean). I gave this wine 16.5/20.

Montana Reserve Gisborne Gewurztraminer 2008
Quite rich and deep on the nose - savoury and spicy with a hint of musk - not flamboyant as some GW can be. Just off dry in sweetness and smooth in texture, this wine has a beautiful, delicate expression of varietal character - crystallised violets, rose petal muskiness and a lovely infusion of aromatic Chinese spices that linger on the finish. There's some sweetness there - more obvious without food - and the wine can take gentle chilling. 18/20.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 13th 2009

New wines from new regions

When a wine is released from a new wine region, I am immediately interested. What will it taste like? Will it be exciting? Will the new region have on-going potential. Most of all, will it be the next Marlborough? I guess that is what everyone who grows grapes in an untried place wants to know.

A few years ago I wrote about grapes on the West Coast of the South Island way inland on the gravel terraces of the Grey River. I've never heard anything more so I 'm thinking that pioneering attempt was a failure.

Similarly grapes grown at Te Araroa on the North Island's East Cape. Went there for a wine tasting diversion on a car club trip. That wine has never hit the radar again.

We discovered the Pukawa Vineyard at southern end of Lake Taupo in the North Island almost eight years ago. This region has had some success, albeit in a small kind of way because now several more vineyards have been established at the southern end of New Zealand's biggest lake and Pukawa is still going strong, although there are new owners now.

Five years, ago a friend bought a bottle of Ohui Syrah for us to taste. Ohui is on the east coast of the North Island in what is technically the Coromandel district of the Waikato. It's north of Gisborne, the East Cape and the Bay of Plenty but south of Auckland. It's good to see they are still producing although are solo fliers of the viticulture flag in this location.

A couple of weeks ago a press release introduced Ohau Gravels just north of the Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington, as New Zealand's newest wine region, although grapes have been grown a little further south at Te Horo, on the Kapiti Coast, for quite some time. The Pinot Gris won a gold and a Trophy at the Bragato Wine awards and the Sauvignon Blanc won a silver at the NZ International. I guess that's a great result for the variety that Marlborough claims to be its own.

But one of the most exciting new regions in recent times is the Waitaki Valley in the South Island where vineyards are planted from Kurow to Duntroon on the southern side of the river valley. The Waitaki has attracted big names like Craggy Range, John Forrest and Michelle Richardson.

But now there's another new region on the scene - and that's the Hakataramea Valley. It's close to the Waitaki and I've heard it talked about recently as if it is part of the Waitaki, perhaps because the vineyard owner has vineyards in both valleys - or perhaps because the reporter on the TV3 news item got it wrong. There are number of reasons why the Hakataramea Valley should not be lumped in with the Waitaki, not least the different valley orientations and the climate. Really, they couldn't be more different.

So this week's Wine of the Week is from the Hakataramea Valley, not only a brand new viticulture region, but also an uncommon blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. It is Pasquale Alma Mater 2008 - click here to read that review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 9th 2009

How much Sauvignon Blanc is too much sauvignon blanc?

No, I'm not talking about the amount of sauvignon blanc produced in New Zealand, I'm talking about my own capacity for consumption. In the weekend I found one glass was too much. It's the difference between tasting and drinking.

I was sipping on the gold medal winning Sea Level Awatere Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 - a wine I first tasted in early July (July 5th) and on a second tasting in August I tipped this would among the medal lists. And indeed it did go gold at the NZ International last month. I could see how it would wow the judges. But in the social situation I was in last weekend it was so wow, so kapow, so punchy and in your face, it was an explosion of pungent and powerful tastes, it was loud and brash like the girl with pink hair in the bright orange dress. You are drawn to it in the first instance, but after a while you are so dazzled, you have to look away.

Half a glass was enough for me. But it was a great wine to take to pre-dinner drinkies and share with everyone. 

The weekend before I was at my brother's place and he had a couple of sauvs opened. There was another bright punchy Marlborough number, Dashwood Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009,  but the one I actually preferred for the time of day was Whitecliff Sauvignon Blanc 2009 - made from New Zealand fruit, region not known. Bright, fresh and fruity but without the flamboyancy. This would not win a gold medal but it suited the occasion perfectly. And in the end, that's what really matters.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 7th 2009

They're drinking our wine where?

1.  Moscow

In September the Polo Club in the Royal Marriot Hotel in Moscow dedicated a menu to the winemaking regions of New Zealand. The set menu was designed by the head Chef, Thomas Keller.

Hor d'oeuvres: Carpaccio of Octopus with tuna tartare and a herb salad bouquet
Main: New Zealand lamb with dry fondue tomato and red wine jus
Dessert: Vanilla pannacotta and fresh kiwifruit

Wines included:

Sileni Estates Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Mount Riley Pinot Noir 2007
Kumeu River Melba Merlot/Malbec 2000
Nobilo Orca Bay Rose 2007

I've translated this from Russian, so forgive any errors.  Source article is here.

2. Stockholm

My Internet friend in Sweden, Cathy and Anders Anders Källberg, attended the New Zealand wine fair in Stockholm last week and caught up with Cathy Hicks and other kiwis who had hot-footed it over to the other side of the world to show off their wines. Anders is a  NZ Pinot noir fan and I warned him that the 2008's would be different from the 2007's.

He replied, "As you wrote, the 2008 Pinots were very different from the fully loaded, concentrated 2007s. Definitely restrained and sometimes reminding me of the Pinots from Burgundy. I found that I wanted to taste several of them after some years of maturation, but also that I found it difficult to say how they would be as mature wines."

He's familiar with the wines of Felton Road and Craggy Range from previous tastings and knew they would impress him but added ....:"The major new discovery was Paddy Borthwick's wines .... in particular I liked his Chardonnay and SB, but also the Pinot noirs."

And what was his overall impression?  "A great event and very well organized. I look forward to next year's NZ Wine Fair." 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 5th 2009

Here are the Liquorland winners

The Top 100 was finally posted to website sometime late this morning.

From 1487 entries, 82 gold (about 5%), 183 silver and 514 bronze were awarded. The surprise in the trophy line-up was that there were no Australian wines and New Zealand was awarded the Syrah trophy. Actually, there were not many Australian gold medal winners at all. Interesting to note that the Australian and New Zealand wines are judged separately in this International competition, as are Champagne and Methode Traditionelle and presumably other sparking wines.

Champion Chardonnay...Villa Maria Barrique Fermented Gisborne Chardonnay 2007
Champion Sauvignon Blanc...Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Champion Pinot Gris...Lamont Central Otago Pinot Gris 2008
Champion Riesling...Brightwater Nelson Riesling 2009
Champion Gewurztraminer...Askerne Hawkes Bay Gewurztraminer 2007
Champion Viogner … Villa Maria Omahu Gravels Viognier 2008
Champion Champagne...Lanvin Champagne Brut NV
Champion Methode Traditionelle...Deutz Marlborough Cuvee Blanc De Blancs 2006
Champion Pinot Noir...Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007
Champion Shiraz/Syrah...Corbans Cottage Block Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007
Champion Cabernet Sauvignon (or predominant). Church Road Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2007
Champion Merlot (or pred). Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2007
Champion Varietal Red... Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2007
Champion Sweet Wine...Alluviale Anobli 2008
Champion Fortified ... El Candado Valdespino Pedro Ximenez
Champion Wine Producer....Villa Maria - 3 trophies, 9 gold, 15 silver and 29 bronze medals
Champion Wine of the Show...Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009.

Some double-ups from the Bragato Wine Awards and the NZ International. I've now created a new Gold Medal Wine Summary for the 2009-2010 season - New Zealand winners only. Check out the progress here.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 4th 2009

Where are the Liquorland winners?

It's Sunday evening and I've been looking for the Liquorland Top 100 results. The awards were announced on Friday evening (2nd Oct). But it's now Sunday evening and I can't find them on the Top 100 official website, or on the Liquorland website, or on Liquorland's Twitter page - or the Competition Convenor's Twitter page. The staff must have taken the weekend off and perhaps the results will be posted come tomorrow (Monday).

But surely someone, somewhere, must have posted something by now, given all the instantaneous 'new media' applications?

Ok, I'll google "Twitter + Liquorland".

Thank you Sasha D'Entremont - and the batteries in her Blackberry didn't run out before she posted the news that Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 was awarded Champion Sauvignon Blanc and overall Champion Wine of the Show, and in the picture that Sasha posted, it has a "BEST value" sticker too.

I can see the top of the logo for Champion Wine Producer of the Show - distinctly Villa Maria. Well done Sir George.

Like the New World wine awards, the Liquorland wine competition and its Top 100 is run as a promotion for stores of the same name. But some of the wines will be widely available.

With a gold medal awarded at the NZ International too, this is the second gold medal for the Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009. Now that's consistency, for you.   Check out

I'll be checking out the Liquorland Top 100 site again tomorrow - Monday - a real working day.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 2nd 2009

New Zealand Pinot Gris still has a long way to go

We are seeing more and more NZ Pinot Gris with flavour rather than just the sought after textural qualities that the grape can produce. But are we there yet? Or is there more to aspire to? At the First Glass tasting on Wednesday night, we tasted the NZIWS Trophy winning Greystone Waipara Pinot Gris 2009, then a ring-in for the tasting - the Schoffit Pinot Gris Tradition 2007 from Alsace.

I guess whether a wine producer considers they are 'there yet', or not, depends on the style of wine they are trying to make. There are, of course, the more Italian 'Grigio' styles as well. But I, for one, know the style I like to drink and the 'Grigio' style is not at the top of the list.

That trophy winning Greystone is pretty good. It was served chilled at the tasting on Wednesday night and there were some Gewurz-like notes coming through - something I didn't pick up when I tasted the wine at room temperature immediately after the wine had been judged.

Anyway, you can check out the notes from the tasting on the 'other' part of my website in the September Wednesday Roundup. Click here to read the reviews. The notes from the previous week's tasting, mostly Trophy winners follow on the same page.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 1st 2009

First Roses of Summer

The first roses of summer are out already. The deep red Dublin Bay (my Syrah spice rose) and the pretty, pale pink button hole-sized Cecile Brunner (my Gewurztraminer rose). Early roses. What does this mean?

The fruit blossoms were early too, the peach bursting bud early August and the pink blossoms in full splendour most of the month. Now the pear outside the back room window has just about finished flowering. Last week, when it was grey and gloomy, the tree was totally covered in white blossoms - it looked like it was covered in snow.

The first Rosé wines of the vintage are starting to arrive as well. I had three from the 2009 vintage to taste and three from 2008, one from the latter vintage a sparkling but the less said about that, the better, considering there was a clove-like sensation that numbed my mouth.

Rose winesAmisfield Central Otago Saignee Rosé 2009 is a vivid cerise in colour with a fluorescent glow. Served chilled it had the most body and texture of all six wines and a bright fresh flavour, with strawberry and cherry and some herbaceous notes slightly reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc. But this, I believe, is a 100% Pinot Noir bled off from fermenting Pinot Noir juice. I like this best when chilled to the bone - and it can handle chilling too. When it warms up a little, it seems just a little too sweet. This is ice bucket wine. 17/20.

Kina Beach Nelson Merlot Rosé 2009 is a rich pinky red. It initially seemed like a sweeter wine with a brightness to the cherry fruit, softness to the texture, and the finish all strawberry and cream. But this was even better as the chilled edge wore off and the well balanced acidity came through. A good food style of Rosé - if you want to actually want to eat with this style of wine. 16.5/20.

Butterfish Bay Northland Paewhenua Rosé 2009 doesn't state the grape varieties it is made from. Vivid in colour, like the Amisfield, and seemingly quite dry to the taste with a slightly savoury nuance to the wild red berry fruit, a suggestion of herb and a touch of zest to the finish. But once the chilled edge came off it, it as actually quite sweet and the finish is tart. 15/20.

Bald Hills Friends & Lovers Rosé 2008 doesn't really give out any clues that it has already had a year in the bottle. This Central Otago Pinot Noir rosé smells fruity and there's a delicate citrussy infusion to the pretty strawberry flavour. Juicy, just off dry - a lighter, or should I say 'delicate' style - and quite a pleasing drink. 15.5/20.

Dolbel Estate Hawkes Bay Rosé 2008 was the darkest in colour of them all - transparent pinky red with an orange-y glow. Like cake cherry on the nose, and rich and savoury in the palate with a sweetish disposition to the savoury backbone and a citrussy finish. It's like a light red wine with the earthiness of Merlot and a plummy backbone - and not tasting like it is one-year-old Rosé at all. 16.5/20.

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copyright Sue Courtney 2009