I've been drinking bubbles
Delicious bubbles in a glass
They fill my mouth
With a foamy high
Then like my dreams
They burst and die
Ah bubbles, what better tipple for the festive season. Mind you, I love bubbles at any time of the year. But bubbles are so much more enjoyable at this time of the year, not only because of the festivities but also because juicy ripe strawberries are so readily available. Strawberries have to be one of the best matches for a light fresh champagne style of wine.
So here starts the lesson
. wines can only be labelled as 'champagne' when they come from a defined area in France. It's a stringently protected name. Not even the people who make wine in the Swiss village called Champagne can use the name. Neither can we. So when winemakers in New Zealand make wines using the traditional champagne method, which involves a secondary fermentation in the bottle, they usually call the wine 'methode traditionelle'. Usually, but not always. Hunters, for example, call their wine 'mirumiru'. This is a word that comes from the Maori language and is literally translated to mean bubbles.
Here endeth the lesson.
I mention Hunters specifically because Hunters MiruMiru Reserve 2002 was the top sparkler in my recent tasting of locally produced bubbles. What set this wine apart from the others was its delicate champagne-like character and its powerfully long and lingering creamy finish. I love the packaging too. All silvery and tinsel-like - just perfect for the season.
Hunters MiruMiru Reserve 2002 is pale straw gold in colour. Froth factor-wise it performs well and when the foamy mousse subsides, a bead of tiny bubbles rises endlessly from the bottom of the glass. The appealing aromas are fresh and citrussy with hints of lemon bread and honeysuckle. It smells dry with a steely note and a lightly oxidative character too. Put this all together and the aromas can only be summed up as complex.
In the palate the bubbles attack the mouth with zest while the flavour is broad and leesy with complex yeast autolysis characters to the fore. There's a leesy toastiness, a nutty creaminess and a savoury lift from the underlying acidity but the texture is delicate as the wine radiates through the mouth. The finish is long and powerful, a delicate strawberry sweetness comes through and the impression lasts for ages. It's beautifully fresh and very smart indeed.
Made from a blend of 48% Pinot Noir, 47% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier, it was stored on its yeast lees for over three years before disgorging earlier this year. It carries 12.5% alcohol by volume and is reasonably priced at $26.95 from the cellar door. Perhaps a little more from elsewhere. Check out the website www.hunters.co.nz.
According to winemaker Gary Duke's cellar chart, this wine can confidently be cellared until 2008. But why cellar when it's so delicious now? Especially when matched to strawberries.
Strawberries and Hunters MiruMiru Reserve 2002 are a match made in heaven. Try them simply on their own, or with ricotta cheese in a filo tart, or stuffed with cream cheese and sprinkled with black pepper, or sliced atop a piece of soft creamy camembert. Simple solutions for easy entertaining.
© Sue Courtney
10 December 2006