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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.

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Archive: July 17th to July 31st 2007
Jul 31st: New Zealand Wine Pure Discovery
Jul 30th: Wine of the Week: Awaroa Organic Vineyard Syrah 2006
Jul 29th: An intriguing Barolo
Jul 28th: Three Central Otago Rieslings from Rippon and Wild Earth
Jul 27th: Montana Poetry Day
Jul 26th: The John Forrest Collection
Jul 25th: Two Sexy NZ Syrahs separated by a Strait.
Jul 24th: High New Zealand dollar hell for exporting winemakers.
Jul 23rd: Two top blended reds - Schubert and Alpha Domus
Jul 21st: Wine Judging Seminar proves worthwhile for Cath
Jul 21st: Highlights from the Wednesday tasting
Jul 19th: RRP and Sale Prices
Jul 18th: Six Chardonnays: Nelson vs Marlborough.
July 17th: South Africa's Pinotage Top 10 goes international
Other Entries

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

Wine of the Week: Awaroa Organic Vineyard Syrah 2006

Check out this week's Wine of the Week, the Awaroa Organic Vineyard Syrah 2006 from Waiheke Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf. You'll also found out how you can watch a video of the 'Country Calendar' program that recently featured the vineyard, which is part of the Orapiu Organic Farm.

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

New Zealand Wine Pure Discovery

pure discoveryNew Zealand Winegrowers has unveiled a new brand for their wine exports - 'Pure Discovery' - which was launched at the Wine Exporters Forum in Wellington yesterday. The stylised logo has the Silver Fern with grapes rather than leaves on its underside. It's a result of 12 months research from Australia, Britain and the United States where importers, retailers and restaurateurs were ask to rate the performance and perception of New Zealand wines in their markets. While there were differences between the three markets, there were strong common findings including the perception of exceptionally high quality and value for money.

"Our latest research confirms that ‘Pure Discovery’ is the next stage for New Zealand wine," says Chris Yorke, the global marketing director for New Zealand Winegrowers. "It is an invitation to experience something exceptional and reflects our expanding reputation for innovation and our intense natural experiences including the sensory experience of wine."

The research also showed that the wine drinker’s profile is shifting with younger people, woman and couples purchasing and taking an interest in New Zealand wine.

The new Pure Discovery brand encourages new wine drinkers in the key markets to continue learning about New Zealand wine and the quality it represents.

  • Australia, Britain and the United States account for 80 % of New Zealand's wine exports.
  • Exports are forecast to reach NZ$1 billion by 2010 and trending to $2 billion by 2015
  • Tesco, a supermarket giant in the UK, has just announced they will list a broader range of single varietal wines from New Zealand as part of its latest category review doubling the New Zealand wine offerings to over 44 wines. As well as sauvignon blanc, whites include gewürztraminer, pinot gris and riesling while reds include pinot noir, syrah, zinfandel and cabernet/merlot.

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

An intriguing Barolo

The Wednesday tasting this week was a tasting with a difference because there were no New Zealand wines nor were there any Aussies. For a change everything came from the Northern Hemisphere, from countries we call the 'Old World', in particular France, Italy and Spain. However most of the wine styles were familiar, even the Verdichhio because it's made an appearance at least three times this year. There were wines from Rhone, Bordeaux and Southern France, from Tuscany in Italy and from various regions in Spain, including the Ribera del Duero where an old favourite, the brilliant Condada de Haza in its 2004 label, received a hearty welcome. But there was one wine style that has become a stranger to my tasting table and although I picked the country correctly I couldn't name it. Some options may have helped.

bussia.jpg (20473 bytes)It was the Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia 2001 a wine made from Nebbiolo grapes from Piedmont in Italy and it was so different to all the other wines tasted on the evening, it came as a shock to some of the tasters around me.  But as I inhaled the wine deeply and let the aromas stir my senses and the flavours in the mouth evolve beyond the initial assault of tannins, I shut my ears to their vocal protests and enjoyed this classic wine.

It had a deep translucent orange red appearance and on the nose I found fragrant, complex, old fruit cake, worn leather and spiced orange zest scents. It was very dry in the mouth, so much so that on the first taste it seemed a little thin but it developed a lovely vinous richness and a full-bodied intensity and as soon as my mouth adjusted to the powerful tannins, I tasted old fruit cake flavours with a savoury saltiness, nutty oak, a rich spiciness and bright acidity with an evolving winey sweetness to the ever-increasing succulent finish.

I remember when I was studying wine styles, a key indicator was the one-liner, 'Barolo smells like tar and roses'. Well, this definitely has a floral fragrance and a tarry depth. And even though it looks old and has no primary fruit flavours, possibly because it had over 2 years in big Slovenian oak barrels and a further 12 months in bottle before release, it is a wine that will only get better with age.  If you do get to try this wine, I recommend you use a decent sized glass to let those aromas and flavours evolve to really appreciate what is going on. You would want to if you were paying almost NZ$100 a bottle.  It has a natural cork closure and the label indicates 14% alcohol by volume.   Read more about this wine from the producer's website.

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

Three Central Otago Rieslings from Rippon and Wild Earth

After talking yesterday about the hoar frosts in Central Otago that inspired my poem, an email comes from with their latest newsletter showing the extent of the frosty deep south winter and pictures of frosted grapevines. Be sure to take a look.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, over and over again if necessary, there's something about the winters in New Zealand's deep south that do something to the grapevines, particularly Riesling - it seems to make the vines think that every season is going to be their last. Thus the Riesling vines produce amazingly pure, high acid berries which transform into the most incredible wines. I'm not sure yet if it happens in every vineyard, but one consistent location where the wines are proving to be at the upper echelon of New Zealand riesling, with wines full of the most intense and piercing flavours, is Felton Road. This of course is the road that gave Felton Road Wines its name and the family of Rieslings produced by this company is always stunning. But there's also the incredibly seductive Mt Difficulty Target Gully Riesling - you pass the Target Gully vineyard on your left, the more elevated south side (north facing) side of the road on route Felton Road Wines. But if you carry on further to the end of the road, you'll find the home of a new star, Wild Earth.

Wild Earth Riesling 2005 was the first for Wild Earth and I loved it so much, it played a leading role as a Wine of the Week before it went on to endorse its top status with wine show gold's.

Gibbston Valley is also doing great things with their Riesling, now produced from a new site in Bendigo. I reviewed the latest vintage in my blog last month. It was fabulous with Citrus and Coriander Chicken.

The other location that has really hits its straps is on the edge of Lake Wanaka - and of course the vineyard is Rippon, where perhaps the Central Otago region's oldest Riesling grapevines, planted in 1987, are grown. A change of direction by winemaker Nick Mills, a change to biodynamic practises, has really seen the Rippon Lake Wanaka Riesling come into its own. I loved the Rippon Lake Wanaka Riesling 2004, also reviewed as a Wine of the Week. But the latest release, the 2006, is the best yet.

Rippon Lake Wanaka Riesling 2006 - Central Otago
Wild Earth and Rippon Rieslings - photo by Sue CourtneyLight lemon gold in appearance, this is dry and taut smelling with pithy, lemon peel scents and hints of clay. It tastes crisp, fresh, bright and juicy with a lightly honeyed viscous texture that coats the tongue and the sides of the cheeks with a vinous deliciousness. Surging flavours of lime, lemon and orange - pure, powerful, clean and long join flavours fromthe earth, from the clays that have formed from the weathering schist rocks. Then floral nuances emerge as the wine lingers. The gorgeous texture and weight makes this wine stand out in a blind tasting. It's a high acid wine (8g/l acidity) with medium sweetness (15 g/l sugar), 11.3% alcohol and sealed with a Diam closure. It costs $28.50 a bottle from

Rippon Jeunesse Young Vines Lake Wanaka Riesling 2006 - Central Otago
Perfumed, with lightly honeyed, floral and lemon biscuit scents. Dry, crisp, bright, zesty, and spicy with a spritzy tickle as the wine flows across the tongue, the fruit is juicy with lime, lemon and mandarin peel and hints of honey on the lingering finish which is clean and cleansing. A lovely balance of sweet and dry, it's called 'Jeunesse' because the vines are young - planted in the year 2000. This is a high acid wine (8.5g/l acidity) just off dry (8g/l sugar) with 10.5% alcohol. Sealed with a screwcap, it costs $22.50 a bottle.

Wild Earth Central Otago Riesling 2006 - Felton Road, Central Otago
Earthy on the nose with lime, this has great mouthfeel, presence and length. It dances across the palate, swirling and twirling with its freshness. Crisp, lemony and brightly zesty, it has a gorgeous balance of honeysuckle sweetness, citrus acidity and a ginger spritziness - and as it lingers and evolves there is juicy ripe apple, a hint of pineapple and 'just ripe' Central Otago apricots leaving a bright fruity aftertaste as a memory. This is another high acid wine (8.7g/l acidity) with medium sweetness (28.3g/l sugar) and moderate alcohol (11%). Sealed with a screwcap, it costs $25 a bottle.

The wines were brilliantly matched to Hoki, oven baked with orange and fennel. Fennel bulb was sliced and placed in a shallow baking dish. The fillets of Hoki were laid on top and a mixture of freshly squeezed orange juice and riesling (a leftover from a previous tasting) was poured over them. After about 30 minutes in the refrigerator, the fish was seasoned with salt and pepper, dotted with butter and orange zest and baked in the oven for about 25 minutes. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 27th 2007

Montana Poetry Day

Today is Montana Poetry Day - an annual celebration of poetry and verse sponsored by Montana Wines, which most of us still think of as New Zealand's biggest wine company, even though it's now part of Pernod Ricard.
I thought I'd out one of my own poems, inspired by the season, by the hoar frosts in Central Otago and by a photograph from Vineyards on the Edge: the story of Central Otago by Dave Cull.  Sue Ellen Boag, who just happens to be the wife of Quartz Reef winemaker Rudi Bauer, was the photographer. I've called the poem 'Preservation'. Can you see what I see?

By Sue Courtney

Winter in the vineyard
early morning
naked vines
stand in rows
like soldiers at attention
at a dawn parade.

Fallen leaves
dried and brittle
pile up in a corner
carried there before
by the wind.

Frost touches the leaves
and crystals form
on imperfections
tatting an exquisite lacy pattern
along the edges
and down the veins.

The beauty is preserved -
before the thaw
before the leaves become
a wet soggy heap of humus -
in a photograph
and also in this poem.

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

The John Forrest Collection

John Forrest 0707I was walking through the wee car park in Mairangi Bay (Auckland, New Zealand) heading to the fish shop when a car swings into the only space left in the car park, just ahead of me. Out jumps winemaker John Forrest from Marlborough, not exactly who I was expecting to see in a sleepy little North Shore suburb on a Thursday. But he was on wine marketing trip and was heading to Mairangi Bay Fine Wines, just four doors along from the fish shop. He was going to give the owner a taste of his new John Forrest Collection wines. "We're putting more emphasis in retail this year," said John, inviting me to tag along and taste the wines too. It was an offer I couldn't really refuse.

The owner of the shop gave me one of those neat Zerutti tasting glasses to taste from, a glass that worked well for the John Forrest Collection. There were seven wines to taste and they all had a little bit out of the bottles, opened for the previous retailer that John had visited that morning. Here are my notes.

John Forrest Collection Marlborough The White 2006 ($50)
Made from seven different varieties, the assemblage is Viognier from Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay Chenin Blanc and Gewurztraminer from Marlborough and Pinot Gris from the Waitaki Valley, so not surprisingly this wine is complex in its flavours. I remember tasting last year's version and depending on the time of the day and the warmth of the wine, different flavours kept coming into play. Today it exhibited itself as a crisp, clean wine with apple the dominant fruit at first, then exotic tropical fruit mid palate and melon on the finish. Warmly textured with richness from the Chardonnay component, this has a freshness to the finish and a hint of honey emerges to linger. Just off dry with 5.4g/l residual sugar (rs) and 14% alcohol, it has lots going on.

John Forrest Collection Marlborough Chardonnay 2004 ($50)
Immediately appealing with its honeyed oak aromas and creamy palate filled with luscious tropical fruit, a touch of spice and a warm, toasty, bready finish. Gorgeous. I could drink a big glass of this. It's made with one and two year old oak and has 5g/l rs and 13.9% alcohol.

John Forrest Collection Marlborough Riesling 2006 ($50)
Aromatic, with the classic purity that John Forrest attains in his Rieslings - it's a lemon and honey wine with crisp apples, a juicy sweetness underpinned with taut acidity and great length. Much more expressive than the 2005 was on first tasting last year - but this could be because the bottle had been opened for a while. I'm a great fan of Forrest rieslings and this one gets a great big tick for taste. It has 8 g/l acidity, 14.7g/l rs and 12.5% alcohol.

John Forrest Collection Waitaki Pinot Noir 2006 ($60)
Lovely perfumed aromatics of spiced cherries and violets and earthy, sweet mushroomy flavours with strawberry and black cherry fruit. Medium to full-bodied, silky textured, supple and savoury with a crispness to the lingering aftertaste, it's very appealing. I've noticed a deep spiciness to previous vintages of Waitaki origin pinot noirs, but I'm not getting it in this wine - the spiciness is there it's just more subtle and integrated. 14.1% alcohol.

John Forrest Collection Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Syrah 2005 ($70)
Vividly coloured - a boysenberry, crimson-edged red. Musk and pepper on the nose, juicy red fruits in the palate, quite grippy, velvet-edged tannins and gorgeous aromatic spice. Oak is warm and toasty and the finish is very dry. It looks very good but I'd like to give it more time. Decant if drinking now. 14% alcohol.

John Forrest Collection Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($70)
Deep black red. Fragrant cassis and vanillin oak aromas. Warm textured concentrated, full-bodied flavours with dusty tannins, cedar, dried herbs, tobacco and cigar. The blackcurrant fruit is nicely integrated and underlying acidity makes an appearance on the finish. Nice to see another pure cabernet sauvignon  - it shows how good this vareity can get when the conditions and winemaking are right. 14% alcohol.

John Forrest Collection Marlborough Noble Riesling 2005 ($50 / 375ml)
Lovely pure limey Riesling on the nose, which is unusual for a wine made from noble rotted grapes because often botrytis dominates the nose and overpowers everything else with a honeyed apricot scent. This wine evoked an 'OMG' exclamation when I tasted it. It's Riesling through and through with apricot and honey from the botrytis clearly apparent in the taste with orange toffee, marmalade and an underpinning of Roses lime juice all carried across the palate in a thick viscous texture of harmony. A stunning sweet wine with 8.4 g/l of acidity, 220 g/l rs and just 9% alcohol. I swallowed this one.  The aftertaste lingered deliciously.

All fantastic wines - with my top picks, i.e. the ones I'd most like to drink - the 2004 Chardonnay, the 2006 Pinot Noir and that gorgeous 2005 Noble Riesling. Prices, however, are not so fantastic but that's where some of the top tier wines are heading. If you're flush you can buy from Mairangi Bay Fine Wines on Auckland's North Shore and other selected fine wine stockists or from the website -

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

Two Sexy NZ Syrahs separated by a Strait.

Gunn Estate Hawkes Bay 'Silistria' Syrah 2005 from the North Island
Deep dark red. Voluptuous creamy vanillin oak and cherry chocolate on the nose - floral notes and flower musk emerge with deep inhaling. Rich, savoury and meaty in the palate, intense and concentrated with a spicy undercurrent, a crisp blackberry fruitiness, a cherry-filled Shrewsbury biscuit backbone and chocolate and mocha on the full-bodied finish. Ripe and voluptuous with reasonably grunty fine textured tannins giving the wine power, there's an elegance to its delivery and with its sweet oak, it's appealing throughout. 
From low yielding vines on the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay, the hand harvested fruit is small batch fermented with about 30 days on skins and aged in French oak barriques for 12 months. It has 13.5% alcohol and has an RRP of $29.95.

William Thomas Marlborough Syrah 2005 from the South Island
Saturated colour of ripe blackberries picked straight off the vine. Deliciously varietal with its distinct Syrah aroma of freshly ground black pepper and liquorice. Full-bodied and bright in the palate with red fruits, chocolate, cherries, dried herbs, tar and leather, it goes from rich and spicy to dry and savoury to creamy to smoky as it swathes a tasty path across the palate. Mouthfilling and long with fruit brightness on the velvety aftertaste, this is quite sensational for its Marlborough origin. In fact it comes from the Brancott Valley where high density planted low yielding vines are planted on clay rich soils. Hand picked fruit was destemmed and crushed and allowed to cold soak until spontaneous wild yeast fermentation started, taking about 10 days to complete. The wine was then pressed off before going to one year old French oak barriques to age for 16 months. The wine is sealed with a Diam cork and costs $50 a bottle.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 24th 2007

High New Zealand dollar hell for exporting winemakers

As the New Zealand dollar continues to rise against the greenback it the best time in years for Kiwis to take a holiday overseas, in fact the best time in years for wine lovers to visit wine regions in USA and Europe. But while it is good for holiday makers and importers, it is hell for exporting winemakers as profit margins on their export wines continue to tumble. Today the New Zealand dollar continues to rise against the greenback after last night hitting 0.80c for the first time since the dollar was floated in March 1985. Then it was valued at US$0.44c. It reached a low of US$0.3895 cents in October 2000. The turnaround came after 911 and between 2002 and 2007 the New Zealand dollar has risen 94 per cent. Today it continues its heady climb, reaching US$0.81c this afternoon.

Ambitious American investors into New Zealand vineyards have also been bitten by the turnaround of the New Zealand dollar, most notably Gypsy Dancer's Gary Andrus who bought property in Central Otago in 2002 when the New Zealand dollar was still low. His Central Otago vineyards were placed in receivership last year, the devastating 2004 frosts as well as the soaring New Zealand cited as reasons.

But there is a good side for winemakers. Equipment manufactured overseas - and those hideously expensive French oak barrels, are now cheaper (or should be) than ever.

History of the fall and rise of the dollar

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

Two top blended reds - Schubert and Alpha DomusAlpha Domus Navigator 04

A tasting in the weekend of ten New Zealand 'blended reds' found two top wines - one, the Schubert Wairapa Cabernet Merlot 2003 ($40) has been reviewed as this week's Wine of the Week. It's deep in colour and smooth, round and full-bodied in flavour with smoky oak, blackberries, cassis, dried herbs and underlying tobacco with chocolate and mocha making an appearance as well. Click on this underlined underlined link to read more.

But the other also deserves special mention. It is Alpha Domus The Navigator 2004 ($27), a blend of 42% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 8% Malbec from Hawkes Bay. Deep garnet red, almost opaque and showing a little development to the colour in the glass, the wine has a very expressive aroma with a lovely purity of blackcurrant fruit, a subtle backing of vanillin oak and mint. Then the palate delivers what the nose promises, which is always a good sign. It's ripe, juicy, full-bodied and flavoursome with firm fine tannins melting into the blackberry and plum fruit, mid palate fleshiness and a dark savoury finish with a little flourish of spice and a hint of chocolate. Great length too. It's been matured in 70% French & 30% American oak (70% new) for 20 months, it has 13.5% alc and is sealed with a cork.

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

Wine Judging Seminar proves worthwhile for Cath

Cath Oates, the Senior Winemaker at Spring Creek Vintners in Marlborough, came top in the New Zealand International Wine Show wine judging evaluation / seminar held in Auckland on Thursday.  Thirty one hopefuls were shown how to judge wines by Bob Campbell MW - Chief Judge for the New Zealand International Wine Show and for the Royal Easter Wine Awards, together with John Hancock from Trinity Hill in Hawkes Bay and Larry McKenna from Escarpment Vineyard in Martinborough.  Flights of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, moderated by Bob Campbell, John Hancock and Larry McKenna respectively, were put in front of the hopefuls.

Kingsley Wood, the competition convenor, says that last year the New Zealand International Wine Show had 2150 entries and they are expecting at least that number of entries this year.  Consequently, the number of judging panels has been expanded to six for the 2007 NZIWS.  However, a number of established wine judges are cutting back on the days they are now available for wine show judging and so it is important to find new people find people who have the ability and enthusiasm to make it onto the competition circuit. The judging / evaluation seminar fulfilled the role of finding new talent and the top five placegetters have won themselves Associate Judge positions at this years NZIWS.

Cath Oates wins two days of associate judging. The other placegetters from the day, who each get one day of associate judging, are

2nd: Andrew Parkinson from Negociants NZ
3rd=: Bill Hird from Hoop Labels
3rd=: Richard Robson, winemaker at Matakana Estate
5th: Tracey Larsen from Liquor King

It's interesting to note only two of the top five are winemakers.

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

Highlights from the Wednesday tasting

A $16 gewurztraminer proved to be one of the highlights at the Wine Spirit tasting on Wednesday. Crossroads Destination Series Hawkes Bay Gewurztraminer 2005 was the wine and tasting it blind, it was immediately likeable. Little did any of us know while we were tasting that this was Cuisine Magazine's Number 1 Gewurztraminer out of 41 entries in the April 2007 magazine. And, according to the Crossroads website, the RRP is $18.99 so $15.99 on special is a steal of a price for lovers of good gewurztraminer. The website also gives more details about the wine including the residual sugar of 25.75 grams per litre and a low acidity of just 4.51.  But it's so well balanced it doesn't taste flabby at all.  

I thought the Crossroads wines went into a bit of a lull after former owner Malcolm Reeves sold the winery he started from scratch, but I have to say that since winemaker Matthew Mitchell joined the team, the lull period is over and the wines have really moved up several notches on the ladder of quality - that was proved also on the night with the pre-taster wine, the Crossroads Destination Series Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006.

Also tasted on the night three New Zealand Syrahs - each one matched to an Aussie Shiraz.  I keep saying, Shiraz is a variety the Aussies do so well.  However the NZ Syrahs did themselves proud (even though I thought one was a Garnacha to start with). The three we tasted were the Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Syrah 2005, the Passage Rock Waiheke Island Syrah 2005 and Vidal Soler Hawkes Bay Syrah 2004.

My tasting notes for all these wines are on my Wednesday Roundup page.

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

RRP and Sale Prices

RRP, an acronym for Recommended Retail Price, is, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Consumer Affairs, a price suggested by the manufacturer or the distributor. They say a trader doesn't have to sell at the 'recommended retail price' or RRP and in a competitive market goods may never sell at RRP. This is quite obviously the case with some wines and some producers, like Penfolds, will not supply winewriters with RRP's because they say the wine will probably never sell at those prices. With Penfolds, that seems to be true.

The Rosemount Estate Diamond wines reviewed in this blog last week, with an RRP of $13.99 a bottle, are example of varying RRP's. This week they are being advertised for a mere $7.99 a bottle as part of the New World Supermarket's 'Wine Extravaganza' sale.    Fantastic buying I have to say.  But my attention was drawn to the RRP of $12.50 listed in the advertisement - $1.50 cheaper than my supplied RRP.   So I looked up the Rosemount Diamond Shiraz on the Foodtown supermarket website and there I found it listed for $16.49 a bottle - $2.50 more than my supplied RRP. Work that out!

Foodtown Supermarket has the Morton Estate Mercure on special this week for $10.99 a bottle - another fantastic buy at the price.  But they say in their brochure 'save from $5.61', which implies they sell it normally for $16.50 when in actual fact the price listed on the Foodtown website is $18.99 a bottle which is pretty similar to the $18.95 RRP supplied to me. 

You have to wonder how much profit the supermarkets make on these wines when they sell them on these incredible specials.  Have they screwed the producers or are the wine specials simply a 'loss  leader' marketing strategy to gain competitive advantage - are the supermarkets selling the specialled wines below cost?  Whatever the answer, the consumer is the winner and they don't even have to pledge loyalty. They can pick up one wine special at one supermarket, drive around the corner to the opposition and pick up the other super special from there.   Then they can go back to their favourite specialist wine store for the wines with a point of difference.

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

Six Chardonnays: Nelson vs Marlborough.

A mini taste-off of three Nelson Chardonnays and three Marlborough chardonnays had the two of the Nelson wines coming out on top, but the other lagging away at the bottom. The top two Nelson wines were definitely the crowd favourites on the day although one taster picked the Riverby from Marlborough as his top wine. However it is worth pointing out that another Marlborough wine, the Nautilus Estate, was a changed wine when tasted the next day! It had really blossomed into a beautiful drop. The best of the wines went admirably with a winter warming, slow cooked beef stew - winter warming because you have the oven on for so long, it's adds an extra radiance of heat to the house - thus not the not the kind of food to cook in summer. The wines, however, are multi-season friendly.

Nelson vs Marlbrough Chardonnays

The Nelson Wines

Te Mania Reserve Nelson Chardonnay 2005
Bright yellow gold, there's copious amounts of vanillin oak, lanolin, butterscotch and stonefruit on the nose that carries through to the rich, full-bodied, mouthfilling palate that brims with ripe stonefruits, tangelo zest and spicy cedar. This is truly a Chardonnay lovers wine and gets better and better as it opens up. With decanting. the boisterous oak flavours meld seamlessly into the wine as a whole and the finish is long, creamy, sweet-oaked and powerful. It was fermented and aged for 10 months in French (58%) and American oak (42%), it is the American oak that is imparting the flamboyance. One vote for favourite, and three votes for second favourite. 14% alc. $28. Diam closure.

Rimu Grove Nelson Chardonnay 2004
Light citrine gold with a gemmy depth, there's fleshy fruit on the slightly, oily, savoury aroma and full-on spicy, smoky oak flavours with fleshy ripe stonefruits and hints of pineapple adding a lovely, lifted tang. A full-bodied, powerful wine, seemingly soft and savoury but with a crisp acid and spicy yeast lees undercurrent, it fills out well with lingering flavours of stonefruit with the initial dominating oak slips quietly away into the background. Clean and lifted, savoury and long, mouthfilling and moreish. Aged on lees for 11 months in French oak, of which 35% was new, this very tasty wine scored two votes as Wine No. 1 and two votes as Wine No. 2. 13.9% alc. $28. Screwcap.

Anchorage Nelson Chardonnay 2004
Pale lemon gold. There's some lovely exotic fruit aromas with hints of guava but it is lollyish and confectionary in the palate - there's sulphides in there as evidenced by the struck match character that leaves a burning sensation and overpowers all other flavours on the finish. It seems quite fruity without too much influence of oak. 13% alc. $18. Screwcap.

The Marlborough Wines

Riverby Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Light yellow gold, this is softly savoury on the nose with a lovely perfume of stonefruit out of the glass. It's soft and creamy in the palate with tropical fruit, stonefruit, yellow plums, milky yeast lees flavours, toffee and spicy grainy oak playing a supporting role in the background. It's creamy and peachy with the oak so well-balanced to the fruit and a long, clean, seamless finish. Some tropical fruit, bubble gum-like nuances linger on the slightly hot, spicy savoury finish. 14.5% alc. $24.95. Screwcap. Neil voted this as his number one and it was unanimously the most preferred Marlborough wine of the three, on the day.

Nautilus Marlborough Chardonnay 2005
Light yellow gold with creamy oak, citrus and nectarines on the nose, this is a crisp, high acid wine with apple-like flavours mixing in with citrus and stonefruit. It's a high-toned wine with a hint of butterscotch in the background, milky Burgundian-like oak and a spiced lemon leesy backbone and the finish is long and savoury. Very closed and a little dull when first opened, it benefits from decanting at this stage of its life because it had blossomed when retasted the following day. 13.5%. $25. Screwcap.

Jackson Estate Shelter belt Chardonnay 2005
Light lemon gold, with appealing savoury oak and hints of butterscotch on the nose and spicy, full-bodied, citrussy flavours with hints of toffeed peaches and caramel. Milky / creamy flavours resulting from malolactic fermentation are quite evident and the finish is dry, savoury and biscuity with plenty of spicy cedar and a high-toned, fruity aftertaste. Unlike the Nautilus, this doesn't need any decanting to show its best. 13.5% alc. $22.50. Screwcap.

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

South Africa's Pinotage Top 10 goes international

South Africa's annual Pinotage Top 10 Competition enters its second decade by inviting entries from wines made outside South Africa to join in and that includes Pinotage wines from New Zealand.

The competition, run by the South African producers Pinotage Association and sponsored by ABSA Bank, is unusual in that it selects 10 winners, enabling different styles of Pinotage wine to be equally recognised.

The first competition in 1997 had just 49 entries while last year attracted 130.   ABSA is now part of the Barclays group and winning wines and their winemakers have been flown to London, Hong Kong and Singapore to showcase their wines to Barclays international clients, giving the wines even wider exposure.

The judges for the 2007 competition will be Duimpie Bayly, Charles Hopkins, Chris Roux, Dave Hughes, Neil Pendock, Michelle Cherutti-Kowal (wine lecturer in England) and Julian Brind (Master of Wine from England). They will taste all the wines, then retaste the 20 highest scoring wines  to choose the final Top 10.

Closing date for entries to the 2007 competition is 30 August, and rules and entry forms can be downloaded from The competition will be judged in the second week of September.

Thanks to Peter may, for sending the information through because New Zealand wines definitely do have a chance if they enter. Babich Winemakers Reserve Pinotage from Hawkes Bay was one of the top wines in an informal tasting held in the Cape a few years ago. Te Awa Pinotage from Hawkes Bay also did well, coming in the Top 5 in the same informal competition.

So come on New Zealand Pinotage producers - get your entry in and sock it to 'em.

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