edited by Sue Courtney
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Wairarapa, New Zealand
by Sue Courtney
Sometimes you realise there's a new star in the sky. It appears in the dusk of the evening and as the sky gets darker the new star shines so bright that it pales the others around it into blurry insignificance.
But not all shining lights in the sky are starry objects. Take the bright shining light that I saw in the dusky western sky as we drove home from our Easter holiday outing. "Venus is bright tonight" I said to Neil. "Where?" he asked. I pointed to the light in the sky. "That's not Venus. It's not even a star". D'oh. Sure enough the light got bigger and closer. It was a plane descending into Auckland's international airport at Mangere and soon I could see the red light on the port wing flashing.
The same analogy can be made to wine and the 'stars' that sparkle in the vinous sky. There are the lights that come and go but every so often a new star rises and stays shining bright for what seems like eternity.
But how is the wine star born? It not just a single success at a wine show although a gold medal sure helps to pinpoint the spotlight. It is continued success, a portfolio of great wines and unanimous critical approval.
Let's look at New Zealand wine shows, a launching pad for many stars. When you consider our country's size and the amount of wine produced, we sure have a lot of wine shows. There are now four 'national' shows (Air New Zealand Wine Awards, Liquorland Top 100, Bragato Wine Awards and the Easter Show) and several smaller shows that limit wines to regional origin, a particular variety and now there's a new show that limits wines to within a particular price bracket. Add to that the New Zealand entries in shows such as the Sydney Top 100 and the UK International Wine Challenge and the various local and international magazine tastings, the opportunity for a producer to get at least one award of some kind or other for a wine are plenty.
The stars are the ones whose names keep popping up for the gold medal awards and magazine top gongs.
This was the case at the New Zealand Wine Society Royal Easter Show, judged at the Auckland Showgrounds in February. It was no surprise to see names like Villa Maria, Vidal, Esk Valley, Kim Crawford, Saint Clair, Wither Hills and Spencer Hill amongst the 60-plus gold medal winners (see www.wineshow.co.nz).
Every so often a new name grabs one's attention. Unfortunately many turn out to be one-wine one-show wonders.
However, this year's Easter Wine Show spawned a new star and its name is Schubert.
Schubert Wines is no aeroplane light shining bright as it races across the sky only to land and never be seen again. Schubert Wines has all the hallmarks to become firmly etched on the vinous star chart of New Zealand wine.
Why? Well, with a 2003 Easter Show gold medal and trophy for Cabernet Sauvignon, a gold medal for Syrah and a silver for the sweet wine Dolce (reviewed as a Wine of the Week last month), the quality across the board is there. My brief reviews of these wines are as follow
The gold medal winning Schubert Hawkes Bay Syrah 2000 ($45) is deep blackberry in colour with ripe jammy fruit, lots of peppery spice, ripe tarry tannins, creamy oak and a long mouthfilling finish.
There's some lovely sultry characters in the charming Schubert Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 ($45), a bright and creamy fruit-driven red with spicy oak, smooth tannins, power and length. It was a deserving gold medal and trophy winner.
Schubert 'Dolce' 2000 ($25 for 375ml), made from a blend of Wairarapa Muller-Thurgau and Sauvignon Blanc, is one of the sweetest wines I've tasted but has lots of bright acidity to balance it. It is extremely luscious and rich, a wine that one just needs to sip very slowly on after dinner.
But it is not just my favourable reviews. If you go to the Schubert website and check out others' reviews, the critical acclaim is firmly established. I also found that the Schubert wines had already won gold and silver medals at the 2002 Easter Show for the previous vintage Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, respectively and there are international awards as well.
So how would the Schubert Wairarapa Cabernet Merlot 2000, that only received a bronze medal at the Easter Show (many winemakers trump their sole bronze medal successes) fare in my own wine line-up of ten Cabernet and Cabernet dominant wines to match the Easter lamb? Well what do you know, it turned out to be my favourite.
First of all, the dark red colour with its brilliant glow set the senses alight in anticipation. The smoky oak aromas followed through to promise a fruity wine of great vinosity and richness with savoury Bordeaux-like insinuations. Then the richness and intensity of flavours filled the mouth with sweet ripe juicy red and black fruit, ripe fruit tannins, hints of smoke, tar, menthol, licorice, spice and a long broadly flavoured finish in which French oak presided with authority.
The following day the wine that was drinking so well the first night had evolved even further. The wine was bright and interesting and with its lovely balance of fruit, oak, tannins, tar and spice it was just so delicious to drink there and then.
I scored it 18.5 out of 20, a gold medal in my book.
The grapes for this wine were sourced from Martinborough and harvested on the 14th and 28th April 2000. After handpicking, fermentation and maceration, the wine was aged in 75% new and 25% used French oak for 24 months. It was bottled in June 2002 and the label states 14% alcohol by volume.
Schubert Waipararapa Cabernet Merlot 2000 costs $38 for a 750ml bottle from the winery. It also comes in 375ml, 1500ml and 3 litre formats.
Schubert Wines is the result of a dream for German born and Geisenheim trained winemaker, Kai Schubert and his partner Marilyn Deimling. They searched the world to find the ideal grape growing location and chose Wairarapa over sites in Australia, France and Oregon. With a developed vineyard on the Martinborough Terrace, a new vineyard at Dakins Road a little south of Masterton and grapes sources in Opaki and the Gimblett Gravels region of Hawkes Bay, their future looks bright. Their dream is to produce premium pinot noir and a pre-release sample indicates they are certainly on the right track.
Find out more from www.schubert.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
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