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

You'll find links to other wine blogs on my Vinous Links page.

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Archive: May 17th to May 31st 2007
May 31st: The Carbon Footprint furore
May 30th: 2007 preliminary harvest report
May 29th: Screwcap Initiative gets vocal on the radio
May 28th: The scented garden in May
May 26th: Weekend Trivia with a Grey Ghost
May 25th: Argentina's National Day
May 23rd: New Zealand wines shine in London
May 22nd: Summer at the Bach in Autumn
May 21st: 2005 Mahi and 2007 Coopers - savvies rule!
May 20th: A vinous detour between Auckland and Hamilton
May 19th: Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Malbec 2005
May 18th: Jacob's Creek, Johann and Centenary Hill
May 17th: Beetroot Risotto and William Thomas Pinot Noir
Other Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 31st 2007

The Carbon Footprint Furore

What is being seen as a campaign against New Zealand wine has been published in the book, "The Low Carbon Diet", by Polly Ghazi and Rachel Lewis, and serialised in London's The Times newspaper. Like other books and articles on the topic, they say their diet is not for making your body slimmer and fitter, but to reduce your carbon footprint. Click here for the 'Master Plan Outline'.

However, what has raised the hackles of New Zealand wine producers is the 'line' in the diet plan where Ghazi and Lewis say to "buy a bottle of French wine, instead of a New Zealand vintage". But if the authors really believe their theories, then they should be recommending their readers to forsake all other country's wines, except British wine. After all, they say in the same piece …

  • Buy British food rather than food flown from abroad (for a monthly weight loss of 60kg of CO2)
  • Buy British strawberries rather than Californian (for a monthly weight loss of 13kg CO2 per kg)
  • Buy British Green beans, not Kenyan (for a monthly weight loss of 10kg CO2 per kg)

As for choosing New Zealand wine (for a weight loss of 0.068kg / bottle - that is 147 bottles of New Zealand wine to 1kg of Kenyan beans), I believe they chose it to make a point. They chose it to glamorise wine. After all, New Zealand wine has to the sexiest, the most tasty and one of the most high profile of all overseas wines available in Britain, particularly Sauvignon Blanc. Also, it is the furthest most away. But the cost of getting a 17 tonne container of wine from Dunedin to Tilbury in England costs 2.5 tonnes of CO2. The cost of trucking 15 tonnes of wine from Italy to England is the same, according to an article on the Stuff website.

The idea of forsaking New Zealand wine for French is quite honestly just another bit of attention seeking literary fluff. After all, 'carbon diet' is the latest buzz phrase. And just how many carbon conscious shoppers are there?

Drink New Zealand wine and don't feel guilty about it. Just enjoy it!

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 30th 2007

2007 Preliminary Harvest report

With new vineyards coming on stream for the first time this year, a record grape harvest of 205,000 tonnes was in line with expectations and up 11% on the record harvest of 185,000 tonnes set in 2006, New Zealand Winegrowers said in a press release today. The preliminary 2007 harvest report, compiled from a voluntary survey covering 66% of wineries but an estimated 98.9% of the total vintage, has been extrapolated to produce the vintage estimate of 205,000 tonnes.

New Zealand Winegrowers say that many wineries will be frustrated by shortages despite a lift in production because two thirds of the wineries harvested a smaller crop than in 2006. However reports from growers and wineries are universally enthusiastic about the harvest quality.

Marlborough continues to be the most productive area with 60% of the vintage (121,888 tonnes), followed by Hawkes Bay (41,963 tonnes), Gisborne (26,034), Nelson (5190) and Central Otago (3,434).
Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne had increased yields and contributed to 93% of the vintage but all other regions dropped production with Waipara (minus 44%) and Wairarapa (minus 35%), the worst off.

Sauvignon Blanc was once again the most popular varietal accounting for 102,426 tonnes (just over half the vintage), but with only a 6% increase over last year.
Chardonnay remained in second place with 38,792 tonnes, a 44% increase over last year, mostly due to a return to normal cropping yields in Gisborne and Hawkes Bay.
Third-placed Pinot Noir (20,699 tonnes) was down 6% on last year while fourth-placed Merlot (11,714 tonnes) increased only by 5%.
Pinot Gris, in fifth place, had the most dramatic increase, with the 6,053 tonnes harvested up 65% on last year.  Pinot Gris relegated Riesling (6017 tonnes and an 11% decrease) into sixth place on the most popular varietals list.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 29th 2007

Screwcap Initiative gets vocal on the radio

A new radio advertising campaign, just been embarked upon by the Screwcap Initiative, has high profile winemakers talking in favour of their preferred wine bottle closure. Wine maker Michael Brajkovich of Kumeu River Wines in Auckland is one of them.

In the advertisement he says, "We were one of the first to export wine in a screwcap wine bottle. The Old World wine trade didn't like the idea - at first, they liked the romance of the cork. But a few of us New World winemakers knew it fixed the problem of cork taint and once the public twigged to it, it was their seal of quality. It's another example of New Zealanders going with what works for us and then finding out that the rest of the world agrees."

The advertisement is backed by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and their website "We are right behind the exporters," says a spokesperson.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 28th 2007

The scented garden in May

Filled with the heady scent of loquat blossom for most of the month, the pungent scent of the first earlicheers and paper whites and the bouquet of the roses exhibiting their last flush of the season, the perfume of the garden in May is to be cherished before the onset of winter. I lock in the scents that I liken to wine. Not so much the pungent bulbs but the delicious scent of the loquat and the musky scent of the rose. scented plants

I've just picked up Scented Plants, A New Zealand Growers Handbook from a second hand bookshop. Written by Margaret Liddell, it was published in 1994 by David Bateman. I am engrossed in the introductory chapter on the sense of smell - an essential sensory aspect of wine appreciation. I find that the flower fragrances are grouped by the chemical compound of the perfume and it's not surprising that some of the sweet scents are related to wine. Liddell explains the following seven.

Geraniol is an alcohol found in roses and geraniums and while the oil from geranium is used as a cheap substitute for rose oil, "an astute nose would be able to tell the difference," writes Liddell. Geraniol is also one of the five major turpenes found in wine, one that exhibits, not surprisingly, floral characters.
Citral is the primary agent in lemon-scented flower and leaves. It is also what one gets when geraniol is oxidised.
Ionone is the key compound that gives violets and mignonettes their distinctive scent.
Eugenol is an essential oil found in many herbs.
Indole is found in plants like lily of the valley and honeysuckle.

The compounds mentioned above are almost always good scents but Indole should not be confused with Indoloid - a compound that gives off smells that attract blowflies while another nasty compound is Aminoid, which reeks of ammonia and is found in privet and hemlock.

Liddell summarises floral perfumes as fruity, animal or honey scented and points out that scents also come from leaves.  I think of boxwood (buxus), which Liddell describes as "producing an elusive tangy scent, hard to define and even stronger when brushed against". When I pass this shrub or crush a leaf between my fingers, I am often reminded of the catpee-like scent of sauvignon blanc.

loquat blossomShe describes my heady scented loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) as a member of the rose family (no wonder it smells so gorgeous). It's an old fashioned ornamental but in the Auckland climate it grows like a trifid. The flowers in autumn are prolific and even the tuis are attracted to them while the yellow fruit in spring is a magnet for the wood pigeons. I liken the fruit to an exotic flavour I sometimes find in Chardonnay. More on the fruit in November. By then the heady wisteria will be flowering.

The book is a treasure trove of scented plants and one I wanted to find out more about was Boronia - a favourite floral descriptor of fellow wine scribe, Geoff Kelly. "Famous for its delicious fragrance, the Boronia is small shrub from Australia with a good range of flower colours and foliage," writes Liddell.  I must look for it next time I am at the garden centre.

Wine and roses - wine and flowers - they are natural companions. I feel that using 'floral' as a wine descriptor is a cop out but I will no doubt continue to generalise unless the heady scent of the loquat, the musky scent of the rose, the piquant scent of the citrus blossom, the perfume of the honeysuckle or some other immediately identifiable fragrance of a flower leaps out. But I'll definitely try harder in the future.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 26th 2007

Weekend Trivia with a Grey Ghost

Ponder these questions, then read on

  • Who has a winery cat called Jancis?
  • Where is Merlot banned?
  • Who or what is Sweet Agnes?
  • What do you do with your left over wine?
  • What or where is Marlborough's Grey Ghost?feltoncat

Who has a winery cat called Jancis?
Felton Road Winery in Bannockburn, Central Otago, does. The latest Felton Road newsletter says, "A full time member of the team, Jancis the winery cat joined us just before Christmas and has been delighting both visitors and terrorising vineyard mice and rabbits ever since." Jancis is of course named after the Queen of winewriters, Jancis Robinson. Read the newsletter on

Where is Merlot banned?
On a license plate in Utah. The owner of a dark red Mercedes with the personalised plate 'Merlot', has been told to remove it because the state of Utah does allow words of intoxicants to be used on vanity plates.  Funny they haven’t realised this until now because the owner has had the plate on his car for the last 10 years. Good to hear he is going to appeal the order.
Source MSNBC.

Who or what is Sweet Agnes?
It is a sweet wine made by Seifried Estate in Nelson and named for winemaker Hermann Seifried's wife, Agnes. Sweet Agnes 2006 has just won the "Regional New Zealand Sweet Over £10 Trophy" at the Decanter World Wine Awards and is the name that the wine is sold under in the US market. In New Zealand, it's a dear old favourite, the Seifried Riesling Ice Wine 2006.

What to do with your left over wine?
If you are Teri Hatcher from Desperate Housewives, you will pour it into your bath water and bathe in it. Evidently the health benefits of wine work externally too. From various sources.

What or where is Marlborough's Grey Ghost?
It's a giant gum tree planted in 1867 on the old family farm of the Stichbury and Jackson families, on what is now Jackson Estate's homestead vineyard. The tree was planted by the great grandmother of Jackson Estate's founder, John Stichbury. Now Jackson Estate has named a wine in honour of the tree.

Grey GhostJackson Estate Grey Ghost Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 is one of the new wave 'alternative' styles of sauvignon blanc with wild yeast ferments and barrel work, in this case 80% barrel and just 20% tank. The result is a rich, ripe, powerful, flavoursome wine. It's a little savoury on the nose with a hint of soft oak and a suggestion of grilled peaches, and it's soft and rounded in the mouth with the pungency of the sauvignon fruit softened by the richness that the barrel work and wild yeasts have added. In the flavour department there's peach, passionfruit, melon, summer herbs and even a touch of honey with a spicy savouriness to the creamy backbone and a mouthfilling and pungently long finish where tropical guava flavours emerge. Rather moreish, if you like this style, it has 13% alcohol, it's sealed with a screwcap and costs about $29.95 a bottle.

As a footnote, I had a chance to revisit the Jackson Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005, two years after vintage. But I never would have guessed it was that old because it is crisp, bright and lemony with counterbalancing sweet citrus and tropical fruit with a hint of vibrant gooseberry strumming along like a backup chorus. There's another surge of acidity to add further brightness then summer herbs, such as basil and lemongrass lingering together with crisp apples on the long, flavoursome, soft, almost creamy finish. 13% alc. Screwcap. $19.95.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 25th 2007

Argentina's National Day

If you travelled over the Auckland Harbour Bridge today you may have noticed there was only one New Zealand flag flying at the top of the span. Argentina's flagThe other flag, a light blue, white and light blue striped flag with a smiling sun face in the middle of the white stripe, is the national flag of Argentina and it's flying today because the 25th May is Argentina's National Day. So it seems like a jolly good excuse to open up a bottle of Argentinian wine.

When it comes to Argentina, I immediately think Malbec, but they grow much more including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Bonarda and Sangiovese red grape varieties while Torrontés leads the way in the whites followed by Chardonnay, Chenin, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, Viognier and Gewürztraminer. Yet despite the huge selection, you will probably only find Malbec and the rare Torrontés lingering unlovedly on the local wine shop shelves. Pity, because some of the Argentinian wines I've tasted have been rather exciting.

Wines of Argentina lists six main regions. They are Mendoza, Patagonia, Salta, San Juan, La Rioja and Catamarca and they all nestle in the lea of the Andes on the western boundaries, with altitudes from 300 to 2400 metres above sea level. Go to this impressive flashy website to find out more.

chanarmuyo malbecTop wine recommendation for the day is the Chanarmuyo Malbec 2005 from La Rioja, grown at 1720 metres above sea level. I've blogged this wine before but it's jovial bueno and downright tasty, that I tipping it again. Strikingly coloured with an inky crimson purple depth, the voluptuous aromas and flavours of cherries, berries, raisins, mint, charry oak and ripe, smooth tannins make it pretty darn easy to drink. A gutsy wine with 14.5% alcohol, expect to pay around $19 in fine wine stores and it's reasonably available too. Go to the Chanarmuyo website to find out more.

The Argentines are voracious meat eaters and a big juicy gaucho style steak with a spicy sauce seems the way to go. This recipe came from Montana Wines and accompanied their Graffigna Malbec about four years ago. I haven’t tasted the latest release of the wine, but the food is always good. In the recipe tsp = teaspoon and tbsp = tablespoon.

Argentinian style Gaucho steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Place 1 cup Italian parsley, 4 cloves garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp chilli pepper flakes, 2 tbsp of diced spring onions, 3/4 cup olive oil, 3 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar and 3 tbsp lemon juice into a blend and pulse until well chopped but not puréed.

Run four thick porterhouse steaks with 3 tbsp salt. If you like really hot stuff, then add a tbsp of cayenne pepper to the rub.

Place the steak directly over a hot grill or barbecue and cook until the meat is done to your liking, basting often with the Chimichurri sauce. Remove steak from grill, slice into long strips and serve on a baquette.  Accompany with the wine.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 23rd 2007

New Zealand wines shine in London

It is wine show time in London, with the International Wine Challenge, the International Wine and Spirit Competition and Decanter Magazine's World Wine Awards all being recently judged. New Zealand wineries enter all of these competitions and now the press releases from the successful wineries are rolling out.

First trophy success is Bald Hills Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005 from Bannockburn, whiich has won the over £10 Trophy at the 2007 Decanter World Wine Awards. It has also won a gold medal at the 2007 International Wine Challenge (IWC). Well done!

Nelson winery Waimea Estates took two of the seven gold medals awarded to New Zealand sauvignon blancs at the 2007 IWC. They were Waimea Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2006 and Waimea Bolitho SV Nelson Sauvignon 2006. "Stocks are now very depleted," says winemaker Michael Brown, who is looking forward to releasing his 2007 savvies, an equally comparable vintage, in late July.

Searching the website allows me to find other golden wines from New Zealand.

They are

Cape Campbell Limited Edition Reserve Chardonnay 2006
Montana Letter Series Ormond Chardonnay 2004 (Gisborne)
Fairleigh Estate Single Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2005 (produced by Wither Hills)

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ballocdale Sauvignon Blanc
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Graham Sauvignon Blanc
Kemblefield The Vista Sauvignon 2006
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004
Matariki Hawke's Bay Pinot Noir 2004
Wooing Tree Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005
Tesco Finest Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004 (produced by Highfield Estate).

As a side note, it's good to see that the IWC gold medals are being released now, instead of four or five months after the affair, as has been the case in the past.

The London competitions are large events compared to our competitions in New Zealand. The 2007 Decanter World Wine Awards saw a total of 7,642 wines evaluated from every major international winegrowing region over a week in April. Of these wines 1% were awarded a Trophy, 1.5% Gold Medal, 11.3% Silver Medal and 25% Bronze Medal.

The 2007 International Wine Challenge had an entry total of 9,358 wines from 35 different countries. 260 gold medals (2.8% of entries) were awarded. IWC Trophies will be announced at Vinexpo in Bordeaux on the 18th June (which, incidentally, New Zealand is not attending this year).

Meanwhile at the London International Wine and Spirits Fair, which started yesterday, Hawkes Bay winery Te Mata Estate opened the seminar sessions with invitation only Circle of Winewriters' members and their guests in attendance. Te Mata's Executive Chairman John Buck and Technical Director, Peter Cowley put on an exclusive tasting of an 11 wine vertical of Te Mata Coleraine, tasting through vintages spanning the last 25 years. That was preceded by a showing of 2004 vintage cabernet merlot wines from Babich, Church Road, Craggy Range, Hatton Estate, C J Pask, Ngatarawa, Te Awa, Te Mata Estate, Trinity Hill and Villa Maria.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 22nd 2007

Summer at the Bach in Autumn

The daylight hours are shorter, the nights are much much cooler, but that's no reason to stop drinking summer wines. And one that went down really well at a family party on Sunday was the distinctly summery Bach 22 Chardonnay 2005 from Gisborne, (in this context 'bach' is pronounced 'batch').

bach 22The back label says "The Bach is the essence of the kiwi dream. Long summers spent playing beach cricket, bbq dinners lasting long into the evening, or simply sitting back in your favourite deck chair and enjoying a good book. Kick off your jandals and watch the clouds go by with this easy drinking wine."

It's a light fruity wine with little oak influence but it's vibrant in its melon and juicy tropical fruit flavours with a creaming soda backbone, a soft, full texture and a bright, fresh finish. Perfect in autumn as an aperitif, lunchtime or first course wine but it doesn't want to be over chilled at this time of year.

It's a cheapie at $11.95 a bottle full price - probably cheaper on promotion. I recommend it because it's a clean, well-made, tasty wine, it has an attractive label and it's great for family parties where the only wine geeks there are you and your other half. It got a silver medal at the Air NZ Wine Awards last year, too.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 21st 2007

2006 Mahi and 2007 Coopers - savvies rule!

This week's Wine of the Week is the Mahi Ward Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from Marlborough. Crafted by Brian Bicknell, this is one punchy, vibrant scintillating sauvignon blanc made from first crop fruit from a new vineyard about 40 kilometres south of Blenheim, near the little town of Ward. Go to my Wine of the Week page to read the full review of this delicious wine and two other tasty Mahi savvies.

But it is now well into 2007 - late May - so not surprisingly the first of the 2007 savvies are hitting the shelves and one of the first out of the blocks - if not the first - is Coopers Creek Early Release Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007.

Talk about punch and vivaciousness - talk about grabbing your tonsils - Coopers Creek Early Release Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 has it all. It has the vibrant fruit that made Marlborough sauvignon blanc a world wide benchmark. It has gooseberry, feijoa, lime and passionfruit playing on a backbone of fresh, grassy herbaceousness with a long, long mouth-filling flavour that lasts long after the wine has been swallowed. It is just delicious. It has 13% alcohol and costs about $17.

What a precursor for the wines of the vintage to come. When it comes to sauvignon blanc - Marlborough rules !!!!!!

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 20th 2007

A vinous detour between Auckland and Hamilton

When travelling south from Auckland to Hamilton it is easy to miss one of the country's most historic wine stops. That's because the upgrade of State Highway One now literally whisks you past the side road that takes you there. So unless you know about it, and concentrate on the turn off, you will drive right past. I'm talking about Te Kauwhata, a town that hit the news this week as the new home town of David Bain (freed on bail after 12 years in jail). But Te Kauwhata was once famous as the premier grape growing region of New Zealand. This is the town that New Zealand's first government viticulturist, Romeo Bragato, also made his home. This is the place in New Zealand where vast quantities of grapes were once grown.

rongopai.jpg (43818 bytes)A government experimental farm was established in Te Kauwhata in 1886 to research different vegetable crops, fruits, berries and grapes. It became known as Wairangi (later Te Kauwhata) Horticultural Research Station and Bragato was appointed in 1901 to run it. One of the first things he did was build a winery, which was completed in 1902. The much expanded buildings still stand today.   But while there are still grapevines growing in and around Te Kauwhata, they have all gone from the old research station. It's in private hands now, owned by Rongopai Wines. They've restored the winery but they source grapes from elsewhere.

On a trip to Hamilton today, I thought a vinous detour to Te Kauwhata and the Rongopai Wines was warranted. But despite the road signs on State Highway One and the sign outside the winery saying it is open 7 days, it is no longer open on weekends. winecask.jpg (79591 bytes)It is open Monday to Friday only, except on public holidays.

Here is what could be a fabulous winery destination, a class 'A' historic winery with historic grounds and 'notable' trees. It could be pitched to the week day workers of Auckland and Hamilton as a get away weekend destination, but currently in the weekends no one is there. What a bit of marketing and visitor attractions could do to make this historic place come alive again.  Meanwhile, if you're in the vicinity on a weekday, pop in and take a winery tour and try the range of wines. Be sure to try the 'stickies' and their new Viognier. I was wanting to buy a bottle today, but unfortunately I was out of luck.
Check out - at least the opening hours on the website are correct. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 19th 2007

Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Malbec 2005

The wine was a deep inky black red, youthful with flashes of cherry red under the halogen light. It looked young and bright with colour saturation right to the rims. The aroma was smoky, cedary, rich and juicy and when tasted, the jammy, juicy fruit exploded in the mouth. A full bodied taste of blackcurrants and purple jubes with a firm backbone of spicy, creamy oak. Yum.

I was playing wine games with our hopeful wine options team, practicing for the big day on June 10th.  We had already ascertained the wine was made from Bordeaux varieties but now I was confused because the next question was, "Is it from Australia, NZ or France?" 
Well, I had never tasted a French wine quite like this - so that option was eliminated straight away. Bill and Tinkerbelle had no hesitation in going Australia. Jo was firmly in the NZ camp. But I was stuck in the middle of the Tasman Sea wondering whether I should steer my boat east or west.

"If it's from Australia, where part of Aus is it from?" I asked.
"Barossa," said Bill.
"Barossa," said Tinkerbelle.
"No," exclaimed Jo and I in unison.
But the final decision was made before I could position the tiller. The vocal Australian camp won. They were wrong. Jo was right. I was still floundering, wondering who could make red wine like this. It was rich and ripe without any green leaf, cigar box or leather and the tannin structure was so velvety and seductive for such a young New Zealand red made from traditional Bordeaux varieties. But as the wine continued to stimulate my senses with its profundity, an earthiness emerged to balance the upfront fruitiness together with florals that gave such beauty to the finish. I suddenly realised what the grape variety could be.

"There's Malbec in this wine, I'm sure". Yes, purple fruit and earth and flowers are definitely key tones for Malbec.

elspeth malbec labelAnd so the questions went on. We established it was from Hawkes Bay, from the 2005 vintage and that the wine producer was Mills Reef. And it all became so clear when the last question asked was, "Is this Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Franc, Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot or Mills Reef Elspeth Malbec?"

Hah! Malbec! Bill just look at me and nodded. We went Malbec. We were right! So now I'm locking in the key tones once more. But thank goodness South America was not in the options, because this juicy wine, is definitely in the Argentinian Malbec style.

Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Malbec 2005 was one of the stars at a tasting of Mills Reef wines at the end of January. So nice to taste it again in a blind situation and find it is still very much a star - in fact a super star of Malbec in New Zealand. It has 14% alcohol by volume, it's sealed with a cork and costs about $39.95 a bottle.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 18th 2007

Jacob's Creek, Johann and Centenary Hill

A press release email arrived in my inbox today from the public relations people at Pernod Ricard. It was about Jacob's Creek's "formidable icon red" - Johann. This is the wine that we used to know as Jacob's Creek Limited Release Shiraz Cabernet. But with the Shiraz component of the wine coming from the vines at Jacob’s Creek, close to the site of the original vineyard that Johann Gramp planted in 1847, they have decided to rename this wine after the man who planted those vines. So the press release goes on to tell me how fantastic the Johann Shiraz Cabernet is - and I suppose they want me to relay their words, to you, my readers. But I can't do that unless I taste the wine. While Pernod Ricard do not send me samples or invite me to their tastings for wine writers (if indeed they have them), fortunately I go to public tastings where icon wines like this one are not out of the ordinary. So at the Wine Spirit tasting last Wednesday, where Philip Laffer from Pernod Ricard hosted the tasting, the formidable Johann from the 2001 vintage caressed my lips.

jacobs.jpg (20052 bytes)But first I looked at the wine and saw a deep purple black pool of colour in the glass - fantastic colour saturation for its six years of age. It is distinctively Shiraz on the nose with aromas of chocolate, cherries, a touch of earth, violets and lots of vinous intrigue. It's rich and ripe to the taste with the soft Shiraz exploding in a spicy mouthful of juiciness while the Cabernet adds structure, length, a red fruit profile, a leafiness, acidity and tannins. With great depth and concentration throughout, the wine is evolving …. developing …. with some interesting secondary, earthy, mushroom characters coming through on the complex finish. Drinking beautifully now but there is plenty of life ahead of it too. Jacobs Creek Johann Shiraz Cabernet 2001 has 14% alcohol and costs about $60 a bottle. 
PS - The Cabernet component comes from Coonawarra.

But this 'flagship' wine was rather eclipsed on the night by the Jacobs Creek Centenary Hill Barossa Shiraz 2002. This wine is from possibly the best vintage ever seen in the Barossa in the last 25 years. It is deep, inky, black red with blood red rims and enthrals with its opulent aroma of mint and cedar and its deep concentrated richness. Ripe, rich and full-bodied to the taste with gorgeously smooth tannins and texture, it's very minty with lots of cassis, chocolate, cherry, blackberry, tobacco, mocha, liquorice and peppery spice - a totally seductive wine with power to go. Centenary Hill is the peak of Shiraz in the Jacobs Creek range and Philip Laffer says this is the best Shiraz they have made in yonks. It's a grunter of a wine with 15% alcohol by volume and costs about $45 a bottle.

All my notes from the Jacob's Creek tasting can be found on my May 16 Wednesday tasting review. Click on the underlined link to read it.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
May 17th 2007

Beetroot Risotto and William Thomas Pinot Noir

The shining dark red beetroot caught my eye. Pick me up, caress me, take me home, it seemed to say. I knew exactly what I would do with it. I would peel it and grate it and make risotto. brookerbest.jpg (45142 bytes)I had seen the recipe in Margaret Brooker's book, 'At Its Best', which is about selecting and cooking produce when it is in season. This is a great little book and highly recommended.

If you like cooking risotto, the recipe is simple. The only hard thing is getting the crimson stains off your hands after peeling and grating the beetroot. As I was only cooking for two, instead of the three beetroot stated in the recipe, I used just one - that clocked in at about 350 grams. I also made my own chicken stock - as I believe home made stock is best. You will need about a litre of stock in total.

Melt 20 grams of butter in a frying pan. Add one, small, finely chopped onion and saute, then add the peeled and coarsely grated beetroot. Cook for a few minutes then add 200 grams of short grained risotto rice, stir until evenly coated then do the risotto thing with the stock, ie. add a cup of liquid at a time and stir all the while, until it evaporates. Repeat four or five times until the rice is cooked and creamy and all of the liquid has been absorbed. At the end of cooking remove from the heat, stir in the shredded rind of an orange and squeeze in the juice. Lastly stir in 2 tablespoons of walnut oil.

We accompanied the beetroot with Ostrich Fan Fillet, which you can now buy at some supermarkets. This was cooked fast, sliced and served rare atop the risotto.

willthomas.jpg (20382 bytes)Pinot Noir was the only consideration when it came to a match for this meal and the one we chose was quite savoury, which was good because it offset the sweetness of the beets and went very well with the gamey flavours of the ostrich. The wine that was opened was William Thomas Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005. Deeply coloured with hints of black to the extracted dark red hue, the wine seduces the senses with its fleshy, full aromatics that hint of chocolate and creamy berries with a savoury, smoky intrigue. It's a generous yet complex wine with an earthy richness and underlying acidity with a touch of orange zest to complement the zest in the food. A big wine, a rich velvety textured wine - it really needs a big glass to let it sing. A good cellaring proposition too, it has 13% alcohol, it costs $32 and is sealed with a natural cork.
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copyright Sue Courtney 2007