Sue Courtney's blog of Vinous Rambling's
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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 www.wineoftheweek.com which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.
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Archive: August 17th to August 31st 2007
Aug 31st: Two from Shaw and Smith in the Adelaide Hills
Aug 30th: Wine Industry Pioneer mourned
Aug 29th: Te Awa and Clearview Oaked Sauvignon Blancs
Aug 28th: Follow the Blind Trail and smell the Wild Earth
Aug 27th: Weekend Winners
Aug 24th: The best line-up of New Zealand reds ever?
Aug 23rd: Helen Clark opens Bragato Conference
Aug 22nd: Strange Bedfellows - Nottage Hill and Dry River
Aug 20th: Wine of the Week: Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999
Aug 20th: A billion glasses of New Zealand Wine
Aug 19th: Brothers In Arms
Aug 17th: Who is on the Rich List?
Two from Shaw and Smith in the Adelaide Hills
Imagine my surprise (again) when a couple of wines from Australia turn up on my doorstep. They were from the Shaw and Smith in the Adelaide Hills, just east of Adelaide City in South Australia. Now this is a winery I have actually visited - but that was back in 2002 just after it had opened. It wasn't in my 'wine guide' and so a real surprise find when we saw the 'open' signs on the road. It was well worth the detour as the visit was most memorable, both for the setting as well as the wines. That old review is at at this link.
These two new wines extol the quality that cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith are attaining, in particular the Chardonnay, which we tasted in our Mikasa 'Oenology' universal tasting glasses.
The first impression of the Shaw and Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 (NZ$38) is of a rich, spicy, wine with the 'Kwarx' glass adding an extra depth of brilliance to the already brilliant lustre of the light citrine hue. Rather subtle smoky French oak, toasted brioche and melon waft reluctantly out of the glass and it tastes dry and spicy with lemon, hints of pineapple, a mealy richness coming from the partially wild fermented yeast lees, a savouriness from the oak and a creamy slipperiness to the silk-edged texture. It's very tight and quite sophisticated, emanating class from all its facets and the oak plays a lovely partnership with the fruit which progresses to peach on the clean, bright, lingering finish. A wine that will only improve with a little more time in the bottle. This barrel fermented wine spent 10 months in French oak and 25% of the wine had a spontaneous wild fermentation.
Shaw and Smith Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (NZ$25) is a sweeter citrussy style of savvy with zesty lemon on the nose and crisp apple and lime acidity in the palate with a chalky minerally texture, a dry, racy finish and hints of tropical fruit emerging on the aftertaste. Medium-bodied in style with the touch of sweetness making it quite quaffable, it seems to be screaming for a seafood accompaniment and later, when tasted alongside pan-fried, crispy skin flounder, it proved to be a very good match. There was also roasted fennel on the plate, and while this did not work with the young Wairau Valley Marlborough wines, it worked okay with the Shaw and Smith.
I've always thought of the Adelaide Hills as one of the best places in Australia for the production of Sauvignon Blanc and this 2007 savvie does not disprove that theory. I noted back in 2002, when I tasted the 2001 savvie, that it was 'not herbaceous as we know it'. I would say the same of the 2007 wine too.
The grapes for both these wines come from a vineyard at Woodside in Adelaide Hills. It is about 420 metres above sea level. Find out more from www.shawandsmith.com.
Shaw and Smith have a distributor in New Zealand, so you'll probably find the wines in fancy restaurants and in fine wine stores.
Wine Industry Pioneer mourned
Nikola Nobilo, founder of Nobilo Wines, died yesterday, aged 94. Although the company he started in 1942 is now owned by Constellation Wines, his name lives on. Nobilo Wine Group is now the second largest wine company in New Zealand and heritage labels such as House of Nobilo and Nobilo Icon can be found in UK/Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and Asia. His winemaking heritage also lives on. Son Nick Nobilo has the Vinoptima label in Gisborne and grandsons Stephen and Mark Nobilo are producing wines under the Waimarie label in West Auckland, not too far from the founding company in Huapai.
Click here for the TVNZ news item and video.
Te Awa and Clearview Oaked Sauvignon Blancs
Why do winemakers oak their sauvignon blanc wines? I'm told by some, who use a little oak, say 5 per cent, that it adds some richness and complexity without distracting from the fruit profile. And often the wine taster will never know that that oak has been used.
But why do some winemakers use so much oak that it overpowers the fruit purity that the pungently aromatic sauvignon blanc grape variety can produce? So much oak that the bright acidic profile and signature pungency is toned to a mere glimmer. I'm sure I don't know. But what I do know is that when you are conducting a blind tasting of sauvignon blanc, and you come across an oaky one, it stands out like a sore thumb.
Although some stalwart Marlborough producers will probably disagree with me, as a drinker I find there is nothing wrong with oak in sauvignon blanc - it's just an expression of winemaking, an expression of stylistic variation. But when tasting a blind lineup of sauvignon blanc and coming across an oaky one, it's a bit like finding an unoaked chardonnay in a line up of traditionally oaky chardonnays. The odd one out doesn't really stand a chance.
These two 'oaky' sauvignon blanc wines were in a tasting last Sunday, so I pulled them out to taste them again later. And when you consider them as a 'drink', they are rather deliciously nice.
Te Awa Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006 has lovely creamy, fruit salad, citrus and sweet herb flower aromas and slightly smoky, savoury, spicy flavours with grilled stonefruit, guava, gooseberry and herbs. There's 50% barrel ferment in the wine which has added a powerful texture and complexity without over powering the flavour, all in all it's clean, bright and interesting with a fantastic persistence of length. Nice to drink on its own or to match to smoked seafood or chicken. Not for the unoaked sauv blanc purists, but if you like the alternative style, I do recommend this. Made from 100% Gimblett Gravels grown fruit, part of the stainless steel fermented portion went into specially designed 220 litre stainless steel 'barrels'. The wine has 13.5% alcohol and is sealed with a screwcap. RRP is NZ$22.00. www.teawa.com.
Clearview Hawkes Bay Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006 has toasty oak and lemon bread on the nose with a hint of butterscotch while the creamy, powerful flavour is full of bright citrus, nectarine and pineapple with smoke and wild yeasts adding an intriguing savoury complexity. Orange zest and a sprinkling of coriander adds brightness to the fragrant finish. A powerful, alternative style of sauvignon blanc, more powerful than the partly oaked Te Awa, this rich, full-bodied, grainy textured, well made, well balanced, 100% oaked style would suit the more traditional chardonnay drinker although the crisp sauvignon fruit firmly stamps it varietal statement on the finish. From the Te Awanga (coatsl) area and aged in oak for 11 months, with 9% semillon in the blend, the wine has 13.5% alcohol and is sealed with a screwcap. RRP is NZ$24.00. www.clearviewestate.co.nz.
Te Koko by Cloudy Bay is probably the most famous 'alternative' style sauvignon blanc (wild yeast barrel ferment and even malolactic fermentation), and Dog Point in Marlborough also makes a wine in this style. Hunter's Wines were the first in Marlborough to produce an oak-aged style - recently they've resurrected it and called it 'Kahu Roa'. But I see more of the traditionally oak aged styles from Hawkes Bay. I've always been a fan of Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay 'Sauvage' as well.
I think it would great to taste a line-up of oak-aged sauvignon blancs, and judge them based on that style alone. Unfortunately when I do get to taste one, they are weeks or months apart.
Follow the Blind Trail and smell the Wild Earth
More than one miner's track in Central Otago was christened Blind Trail as the diggers trudged back from an abandoned goldfield - or so the story goes. But this particular Blind Trail has not gold, but pinot noir rubies and garnets. The trail leads the taster to the Wild Earth Vineyard in Bannockburn near old gold fields overlooking the Kawerau River.
These two wines, from the same company, both deliver value for money at their price points.
The semi-opaque, purple garnet coloured Blind Trail Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 is sourced 100% from the Bannockburn vineyard and spent 8 months in oak, 30% new. It's hauntingly smoky with spiced cherry on the nose and ripe and juicy in the palate with a velvety texture, tart red fruits, hints of plums, spicy oak, dried herbs and a suggestion of rose petal on the perfumed finish. There's a lovely earthy savouriness to this wine, which delivers exceptional quality and amazing complexity for its $23 price tag. Try it with bangers - beef, herb and garlic sausages are sensational.
Wild Earth Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005 ($38) is deep cherry pink with flashes of violet. Heavenly aromas of cherry and rose petal with hints of orange zest tantalise the nose then ripe, juicy flavours with chocolate, oak spice, cherry, cranberry and hints of red guava seduce the palate. Beautifully balanced with a fine silky, slightly grainy texture, this medium to full-bodied style is earthy and intriguing with the orange zest detected on the nose emerging again to linger with hints of chocolate and spice on the persistent, fruity finish. Just 55% of the fruit came from the Bannockburn vineyard, the remainder from Lowburn a little further to the north. The wine spent 10 months in oak, 40% new.
Both wines have 14% alcohol and sport screwcaps. Check out www.wildearthwines.co.nz.
Kim Crawford Doc's Block Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006 took out top honours in the Romeo Bragato Wine Awards announced on Saturday night, winning the Bragato Trophy for Champion Wine of the Show as well as the Bill Irwin Champion Chardonnay trophy.
Tirohana Estate Pinot Noir 2006 from Martinborough, which won the Mike Wolter Memorial trophy for Champion Pinot Noir also won the Richard Smart Trophy for being the runner-up.
Other top wines in their respective categories, winning either trophies or plaques, were
- Waimea Bolitho SV Noble Riesling 2004 - Nelson
- Charles Wiffen Marlborough Riesling 2006 - Marlborough
- Seifried Estate Winemakers Collection Gewurztraminer 2007 - Nelson
- Stafford Lane Pinot Gris 2007 - Nelson
- Blackenbrook Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2007 - Nelson
- Mills Reef Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2006 - Hawkes Bay
- Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2006 - Waiheke Island, Auckland
- Obsidian Weeping Sands Montepulciano 2006 - Waiheke Island, Auckland
Full results from www.wineshow.co.nz.
In the practical vineyard competitions, Hawkes Bay viticulturists cleaned up all the awards.
Emma Taylor won the title of 2007 Young Viticulturist of the Year.
In the Silver Secateurs competition, Matua Valley won the Team Trophy while Aranna Paul won the Bahco Individual Pruning Trophy and Andrew Stove of Matua Valley won the Pernod Ricard Tying Trophy. The event was held at Villa Maria winery in Auckland on Saturday.
And talking about Villa Maria, it seems they have just won a two year contract with the 16 Scenic Circle hotels throughout New Zealand. Wines from the Villa Maria range of labels, i.e. Villa Maria, Esk Valley, Vidal, Thornbury and Northrow, will form the mainstay of the hotels wine lists but they will be supplemented by regional wines specific to the hotel's location. Chard Farm wines will feature at Scenic Circle hotels in Queenstown, Gore, Dunedin and Franz Josef; Matariki and Mission Estate wines will feature in the Hawkes Bay while Omata Estate gets the nod in Northland. The only overseas wines to feature will be Champagne.
The best line-up of New Zealand reds ever?
Perhaps the best line-up of wines ever from a Cuisine Magazine tasting, is how the tasting of the Top Ten New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot dominant wines from Cuisine Magazine Issue 124 (September 2007) has been described. Ten five star rated wines, and after tasting them I can say they all deserved the rating.
Tasted blind, in random order, my 'Wine of the Night' was Craggy Range Sophia 2005, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the Gimblett Gravels sub district of Hawkes Bay. I've raved about this wine twice before, so it's nice to taste it blind amongst such esteemed company and come to the same conclusion about its excellence. My second rated wine was from the same stable, the Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2005 ($25.99), is rich, ripe and concentrated but just so drinkable already. Check out my tasting notes here.
But nothing can be taken away from the Cuisine No. 1 wine, the Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2005 - sold out by the time the tasting took place thanks to pot hunters scooping in on the wine once the result was announced. At least some wine was held back for the tasting.
But not to worry that the 2005 has sold out because the Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2006 has been released and with the announcement of the Romeo Bragato Wine Awards medal winners last night, this new vintage wine can now proudly boast a gold medal next to its name.
448 medals were awarded at the Romeo Bragato Wine Awards with 38 gold, 104 silver and 306 bronze. Results can be found on www.wineshow.co.nz.
Trophies will be announced on Saturday night.
Helen Clark opens Bragato Conference
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, The Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, opened the 2007 Romeo Bragato Conference, which began in Auckland today. This is the 13th year the three day wine industry conference has been held, with this year's theme being 'Trading Lightly - Our Sustainable Footprint'.
A major session on Friday is 'Climate Change' and the Bragato Address will be delivered by Dr Greg Jones, a professor and research climatologist in the Geography Department at Southern Oregon University, USA. He will talk about the potential impacts of climate change on viticulture.
The Romeo Bragato Wine Awards are held in conjunction with the conference. These awards are for growers to enter wines sourced by vineyards they own, manage or operate. The gold, silver and bronze medal results are due out tonight and the presentation of the awards and Trophies will take place on Saturday night.
Strange Bedfellows - Nottage Hill and Dry River
Who would have thought that the cheap commercial Nottage Hill Riesling 2004 from Australia and the exclusive and glamorous Dry River Craighall Vineyard Riesling 2007 from Martinborough, New Zealand would be sharing the same bed? I never would have, that's for sure, but at a blind Riesling tasting with my wine options team, 'The Exclusive Bremertons', in the weekend, these two wines were the only two wines that received gold medal scores from me. Strange, perhaps, but true. So what was it about the wines that made them taste so good? Perhaps my tasting notes will reveal all.
The light straw-gold coloured Hardys Nottage Hill Riesling 2004 smells like a dry Riesling with talc and limes on the nose - and petrol nuances emerging with time. Very dry to the taste with crisp acidity, a salty tang, a touch of kero and a fresh, crisp, long, lean finish, it's a lovely varietal expression of the Riesling grape in the traditional Australian style and it's drinking beautifully now. The wine has 13% alcohol and is sealed with a screwcap and at NZ$11.95 full price, this is one of the great Riesling bargains. The origin of the wine is simply stated as 'Australia', just where in Australia, I really don't know. All I can find out is that it is "harvested from 15-25 year old vines blended from premium grape growing regions renowned for growing the Riesling grape."
This got the concensus of 'overall top wine' on the day.
The pale lemon coloured Dry River Craighall Vineyard Amaranth Riesling 2007 is overtly fruity on the nose with sweet citrus, juicy apples, flowers and sherbet - an aroma so enthralling, it scored a perfect 7 out of 7 for the 'nose'. It's the essence of Riesling in the palate - crisp, fresh, spicy and zesty with hints of a ginger-like spritziness and while it seems quite dry there's the perfect amount of residual sugar to balance the taut acidity that expresses itself like apples, grapefruit and limes. There's a touch of honey on the finish and earthy, river stone nuances too that leave the palate dry. Quite tight but deliciously tangy on the first day, when tasting the wines again the following day this has become so much richer - it has become the unparalleled star of the line up. The wine has 12% alcohol and is sealed with a cork. It's not cheap at $40 a bottle and very hard to find unless you are on the Dry River mail order - but check your fine wine store because the Riesling has been found in retail, in vintages past.
Incidentally, Nottage Hill Riesling 2004 was a gold medal winner at the 2006 Liquorland Top 100 judged almost a year ago. Dry River does not enter wine shows. But it does get rave reviews!
Also in the tasting
Mills Reef Hawkes Bay Riesling 2006 ($16.95) 17.5/20
Villa Maria Marlborough Riesling 2006 ($16.95) 17/20
Timara Winemaker Selection Riesling 2005 ($10.95) 17/20
Cockfighters Ghost Clare Valley Riesling 2005 ($29) 16.5/20
Deutschensherrenhof Riesling Kabinett 2005 ($25) 16.5/20
Montana Reserve Riesling 2003 ($19.95) 16.5/20
Timara Winemaker Selection Riesling 2006 ($11.95) 15.5/2
Chard Farm Central Otago Riesling 2004 ($22) 14/20
Corbans White Label Johannisberg Riesling 2005 ($8.95) 13/20
Wine of the Week: Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999
Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999 from Central Otago is this week's Wine of the Week.
Click here to read the review.
A billion glasses of New Zealand wine
New Zealand Winegrowers is toasting a year of success which has seen more than one billion 125ml glasses of New Zealand wine sold in 95 countries around the world in the past year. Highlights of the annual report for the year ended 30 June 2007, are -
- Exports lift 36 per cent to a record 76 million litres of wine valued at $700 million
- 51 million litres of wine sold on the domestic market with domestic sales exceeding $500 million
- Projected $1 billion of exports by 2010 on track
- A record crop of 205,000 tonnes in 2007, up 11 per cent on last year
- The launch of the 'Pure Discovery' branding
- Sustainability policy targets 100 per cent adoption by 2012.
Exports to the United Kingdom increased by 36 per cent (to $227 million) in a crowded market while exporters continue to make in-roads into the vast United States market with sales of 20 million litres ($176 million), an increase of 27 per cent on the 2006 year. Australian exports were up 47 per cent to $180 million.
New Zealand Winegrowers Chair, Stuart Smith, says the industry is projected to reach its 2010 target of $1 billion and is working towards $2 billion in exports by 2015. He said the the message from overseas markets for the continued popularity of New Zealand wine was "quality, quality, quality."
Brothers In Arms
The other day I received some wines from Australia for review - now that's not an uncommon occurrence as I do receive Australian wine from time to time. But the difference was that these wines had been sent direct from Australia instead of coming from a distributor here. They were from Brothers in Arms, a fairly new producer from the Langhorne Creek area in South Australia. But although their debut wines came from the 1998 vintage, brothers Guy and Tom Adams (Dire Straits fans no doubt) are the fifth generation on the family property. Their 'Metala' vineyard, which was first planted in 1891, is without doubt the most famous in Langhorne Creek and has been the source of many acclaimed drops - perhaps the most legendary being the Metala Shiraz Cabernet 1961, the very first Jimmy Watson Trophy winner in 1962. The vineyard has also supplied fruit for wines such as Penfold's St. Henri, Wolf Blass Black Label and Grey Labels, Saltrams Metala and on a number of occasions parcels of Metala fruit have even made their way into Grange.
The two wines in the package, the Brothers in Arms Shiraz 2002 and the Brother in Arms No. 6 Shiraz Cabernet 2004, were opened in the kitchen by my trusty helper. When he brought the glasses into the room, I could smell the delightful vinous fragrance long before he set the glasses down. Once placed on the desk beside me, the winey richness wafted out of the glasses in even more abundance. I could smell chocolate, cherries, smoky vanillin oak and some florals. It was like being in a red wine garden and was a rather exciting and totally seductive scent. But with two wines on the table, the aroma was a combination of both.
I smell them individually and find the first glass is full of red berries with freshly crushed cassis and mint-infused cedary spice, which seems to indicate it is the one with the cabernet component. The second glass is more dark fruited - it seems deeper and more concentrated on the nose, it smells more like Shiraz. But when I taste the wines I am confused because the second one tastes of reds fruit with hints of mint, cedar and underlying acidity. But it turns out that my initial assumptions were correct. It reaffirms that the very first impression is incredibly important when trying to identify blind wines.
Brothers in Arms No. 6 Shiraz Cabernet 2004 (NZ$22-24) has soft tannins and is dark and chocolatey to the taste with pepper, rose hip and cinnamon spices. It's a deep red black colour and tastes soft, creamy and juicy with red fruits galore, a black fruit richness - like wild blackberries - emerging together with leather while underlying acidity adds lift to the finish. Later, going back to it, I find old leather, dried herbs and tar on the nose and while not as powerful and complex as its brother, there's lots going on. A blend of 85% Shiraz and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, it has 14.5% alcohol and is sealed with a screwcap. It's very smart and well worth a four star rating.
Brothers in Arms Shiraz 2002 (NZ$45) is vibrant, lifted and youthful, full of red fruits with underlying cedar and hints of mint. It's a deep black-red, purple edged colour and tastes mouthfilling, full-bodied and gutsy with big, juicy, comforting, brotherly-like tannins, red fruits, chocolate, cherries, tons of peppery spice (much more so than it's little brother) and after the wine has been swallowed, a crushed velvet cloak leaves behind a comforting memory. Later, going back to it, mint and cassis are dominating the nose and it still seems so youthful, despite its age. This is monumental wine with a long life ahead of it. It was consumed over two weeks in total, and never showed any sign of deterioration. Sealed with a cork, it has 15% alcohol but you would never know. It's a masterful stroke and I rate it 5 stars.
Recommended food matches for the Brothers in Arms No. 6 Shiraz Cabernet 2004 are beef casserole, beef goulash, osso bucco and chicken yakitori - but I matched it to Rachel Allen's Sweet and Sour Pork with a Chocolate and Red Wine Sauce - click here for the recipe. This was a surprisingly successful and very exciting match. I used a cheap Shiraz Cabernet in the cooking and where it called for red wine vinegar, I substituted red wine and a couple of tablespoons of rich Balsamic. The pine nuts were omitted altogether (because I didn't have any) and mashed potatoes were substituted for rice.
Recommended food matches for the Brothers in Arms Shiraz 2002 are venison and roast beef, but it is a fitting match for fillet steak cooked with bacon and mushrooms, and delicious with a shank end of lamb braised in red wine.
There are several retail outlets in New Zealand. Click on www.brothersinarms.com.au to find out more.
While Langhorne Creek has long been an established grape growing region in South Australia, today there is an emerging band of wineries, and as well as Brothers in Arms, there is Bremerton, Lake Breeze, Heartland, Zonte's Footstep, Gipsie Jack/John's Blend, and Step Road. Several of these labels have found their way to New Zealand too.
Who is on the Rich List?
The National Business Review 'Rich List' of the most wealthy New Zealanders was announced today in a special, glossy, 'Rich List' issue of the weekly business paper. But the bar has been raised because one has to have at least NZ$50 million, instead of the measly NZ$25 million of last year, to make it on to the list. $25 million is just too easy to achieve these days, it seems. The rich list is a celebration of success, says NBR editor, Brett Thomson who adds that it is the 22nd year that the 'Rich List' has been published in their paper. There were 222 listings last year. This year only 176 make the list.
Nine wine connections are on the 'Rich List', with one emerging wine connection, the Warren Robinson family, who are currently developing a vineyard on Waiheke Island. With their cool $211 million have plenty of bucks to sink into viticulture.
Top of the wine list, in position No. 20 on the list, is toilet paper magnate John Spencer. His Stony Batter Estate and newly relaunched Man o' War label is on his expansive farm at the elevated eastern end of Waiheke Island. Valued at $350 million.
Also on the list, in order of value are ..
- 58= Jim and Rosemari Delegat, owners of Delegat Wines and Oyster Bay. $150 million.
- 62= George Fistonich, owner of Villa Maria Estate, Esk Valley, Vidal Estate and Thornbury Wines. $140 million.
- 78= Geisen Family of Geisen Wines. $110 million.
- 112= Babich Family, whose Babich Estate brand is over 90 years old. $75 million.
- 112= Peter Yealands, a long time Marlborough grape grower whose name came to prominence in the battle for Oyster Bay, $75 million.
- 130= John Coney, Morton Estate Wines. $65 million.
- 130= Marris family, who made their way onto the rich list after selling their Wither Hills brand to Lion Nathan. The Marris's and Wither Hills have now gone their separate way and the new Marris venture is called 'The Ned'.
157= Graeme Avery, owner of Sileni Estates. $55 million.
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copyright Sue Courtney 2007