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: November 17th to November 30th 2007
Nov 28th: Wine of the Week: Matua Valley Paretai Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Nov 25th: And the big Air NZ Wine Awards winner is .... drumroll please ....
Nov 24th: Collards not quite closed, just yet.
Nov 24th: Highlights from Wednesday's tasting
Nov 22nd: Just how influential is Wine Spectator?
Nov 21st: Vineyard Concerts
Nov 20th: The Missing Pinotage
Nov 19th: Three stellar Chardonays from three different regions
Nov 17th: V is for Vermentino
Nov 17th: Promoting your products and promoting your successes
Wine of the Week: Matua Valley Paretai Sauvignon Blanc 2007
What is it about tasting Sauvignon Blanc that is so unique? To me as well as the aromas the taste and the phenomenal length, it's also some kind of 'after flavour' that explodes in the mouth about 30 to 40 seconds after the wine is swallowed. I discuss this amazing "I'm baaaack" flavour that can be sensational when it fills the mouth with delicious passionfruit and tropical fruit with balancing acidity and all sorts of other interesting things. It is one of the quality traits I look for in Sauvignon Blanc. Wish I knew what it was called. Can anyone help me? Send an email please.
I also discuss what I'm looking for in Sauvignon Blanc, And I found it in this week's Wine of the Week, the Matua Valley Paretai Sauvignon Blanc 2007 from Marlborough. It's a wine of impeccable balance and power with a slippery texture and gorgeous ripe fruit expression.
Check it out on my Wine of the Week page.
And the big Air NZ Wine Awards winner is .... drumroll please ....
Trinity Hill 'Homage' Hawkes Bay Syrah 2006
Tasted at the Air NZ Wine Awards media tasting and later at home, I found this gorgeous sumptuous red to be big, concentrated, smoky, spicy and exotic with aromas of pepper - white, black and rose pepper tinged with nutmeg - proudly stating its varietal character. There's massive concentration to the sumptuous flavour that is filled with deep purple and black fruit, sweet oak and an earthy, mealy, marmite savouriness and although the tannins are youthfully tight, the wine is delectably spicy, creamy, succulent, seductive and just downright gorgeous with an afterglow of satisfaction that is all sweetness and spice, just - oooohhhhaaaa -nice.
At $140 a bottle, this is probably the most expensive 'Champion Wine of the Show', ever but in this case price definitely does mean quality. Superb quality and taste satisfaction. What a super Christmas present this would make (hint, hint)!
Here's the full list of Trophy winners -
Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show TrophyTrinity Hill Homage Syrah 2006
Bell Gully Champion Sustainable Wine TrophyCottage Block Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006
Air Sea Global Champion Pinot Noir TrophyKim Crawford SP Rise & Shine Creek Pinot Noir 2006
GlobalCap New Zealand Champion Sauvignon Blanc TrophyJules Taylor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Nissan New Zealand Limited Champion Sparkling Wine TrophyHawkesbridge Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle 2003
O-I New Zealand Champion Chardonnay TrophySacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay 2006
AMPM Marketing Champion Riesling TrophyFoxes Island Marlborough Riesling 2007
Bayleys Realty Group Champion Merlot TrophySileni Estate Selection "The Triangle" Merlot 2005
BDO Spicers Champion Other White Styles TrophyCoopers Creek Gisborne Viognier 2007
Carter & Associates Champion Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot/Cabernet Blend Trophy
Church Road Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2005
Corbans Viticulture Champion Exhibition White or Sparkling Wine Trophy
Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006
Fairfax Media Champion Open Red Wine TrophyRockburn Pinot Noir 2006
Fruitfed Supplies Champion Syrah TrophyTrinity Hill Homage Syrah 2006
Kapiti Fine Foods Champion Exhibition Red Wine Trophy
Esk Valley Reserve Syrah 2006
Label and Litho Champion Gewurztraminer TrophyForrest Estate Gewurztraminer 2006
New World Champion Open White Wine TrophyLawsons Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2007
The Huka Retreats Champion Pinot Gris Trophy
Saint Clair Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007
Wineworks Champion Medium Sweet or Sweet Wine Trophy
Forrest Estate Botrytised Riesling 2006
Collards not quite closed, just yet.
Late last month I reported that Collard Brothers in Lincoln Road, Henderson, in this historic Auckland winemaking sector, had closed its doors. Well, they haven't just yet because the cellar door is still open and will stay open until February. And they've some amazing specials as they clear the shop of stock.
Are you a fan of the "hopelessly underrated" Chenin Blanc. If so, take heed, because a case of the 2004 or the 2005 costs just $6 a bottle in unbroken case lots, or $7 a bottle at single bottle price or in mixed cases. Even their Viognier is only $109 per case in unbroken lots - and this wine (although I've never tasted it) has had some rave reviews. In you are into nostalgia, then Collards Shanty Block Malbec, at $109 a case, is the wine for you. From the Lincoln Road vineyard, this could be the last ever, wonderfully stellar, Lincoln Road wine.
Collards is at 303 Lincoln Road in Henderson and is open Mon to Fri from 9am to 5pm, and from 11am to 5pm on Saturdays. Best to approach it from the northwestern motorway end, because you'll never be able to turn right, if you are coming the other way along busy Lincoln Road.
Highlights from Wednesday's tasting
Twelve gold medal winner were tasted last Wednesday and I found it very exciting to retaste the Saint Clair Pioneer Block 11 'Cell Block' Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($26.99). This was the top savvy on my 26th August blind tasting, so I was disappointed to see it didn't impress the judges enough for a top gong at two wines that were held not long after that tasting. It is a little bit 'sweaty', so perhaps that was its downfall. But it earned its deserved gold, at last, at the Air NZ Wines Awards, where surprisingly, it was only one of two Saint Clair savvies to get a golden gong.
The Camshorn Classic Riesling 2007 ($23.99) from Waipara that I raved about last week after the Air NZ Wine Awards media tasting, pushed my buttons again. A gorgeous medium styled riesling that reminds me of the fabulous Melness Riesling from last year.
Loved The Crater Rim Omihi Rise Pinot Noir 2006 ($42.99), from Waipara. A big, gutsy Pinot, it was the 'Wine of the Night' at Wednesday's tasting, and even impressed Kingsley, who said he would enjoy drinking it. That's no faint praise from the mouth of a Shiraz-loving man who doesn't usually like Pinot Noir. When I tasted it at the media gold medal tasting the week before, I wrote, "Though it's powerful, it's sweet and fragrant. Pinosity plus! Yum, yum".
The other wine to really make me pay attention, was the Church Road Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($31.99) from Hawkes Bay. This is a beaut 'Wine options' wine, because the blackcurrant signature of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape just sings. It's rich and seductive, firmly structured and robust with beautiful use of smoky French oak, but fruit sweetness is definitely the key to its deliciousness. An outstanding Hawkes Bay blended red.
Detailed notes of these, in fact all the 12 gold medal winning wines that we tasted, are on my Wednesday's reviews page.
Scroll on down that page and you'll find last week's notes too, an interesting tasting of European and South American whites and reds. But it was an impressive Italian that stood out.
Farnese Edizione Cinque Autoctoni 2006 ($46.99) is a blend of Montepulciano (33%), Primitivo (30%), Sangiovese (35%), Negroamaro (7%) and Malvasia Nera (5%) and tastes rich, juicy and flavoursome and just so seductively delicious. I love the way the Farnese website calls this 'meditation wine'. What a great excuse to drink it.
This, like the Feudi di San Marzano Sessantanni Old Vines Primitivo di Manduria DOC 2004 , the Champion International Red at the New Zealand International Show, is impressive not only for the beauty that lies within the bottle, but also for the bottle's statuesque appearance. The bottle weighs a hefty 1.2kg when empty.
Just how influential is Wine Spectator?
Extremely, I would say. As soon as Wine Spec's Top 100 wines are announced, even before the announcement, it appears, and importers from around the world are taking advantage of the Internet, especially websites like wine-searcher.com, to find where the Number One wine, Clos de Papes Chateauneuf de Papes 2005, is stocked. They send off emails to the unsuspecting Antipodean wine shops, who have no idea of the just released / soon to be released result, and buy up all the stocks.
The results were announced 'to the public' Friday morning New York time, which is early Saturday morning local time.
Kingsley Wood of First Glass Wines in Takapuna said at the weekly Wednesday tasting, that he had received emails from buyers in the US and Korea who wanted countless cases of the wines. He didn't have the stocks they were asking for but the first in, who seemed to know of the result the 'moment' of the announcement, got the few bottles he had left. "Why not", said Kingsley on receiving the order, saying they had not been attracting much interest, at $NZ99, on the shelf all year, although someone came in and bought a bottle a couple of weeks ago for a special dinner, and returned it the next day because it was corked. "That bottle could have gone to the States," he said. "They wouldn't be coming back to me for a credit," he said.
So in this day of Internet globalisation, the people who have the inside knowledge and the know how, can get in first, buy up all the stocks, then no doubt sell it off for exorbitant prices, all because of a Number One Wine Spectator rating!
People here, who buy by the ratings, perhaps solely for investment purposes, will miss out. Boo hoo!
From the Wine Spec's Top 100 wines, three came from New Zealand. I have to say that the savvies they have picked, Drylands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (#36) and Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (#73) are straight forward, commercial and widely available wines. Of course 2007 is the current vintage here now. Amisfield Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005 is number 22 on the list. It's not so commercial and perhaps just a little bit harder to find.
Wine Spectator says the Top 100 wines were narrowed down from the 3,500 wines that scored 90 points or higher from the 15,000 wines tasted during the year. They used four criteria: quality (represented by score); value (reflected by release price); availability (measured by case production or cases imported); and an X-factor they call 'excitement'.Thirteen countries were represented in the list.
Get the full lowdown here.
If you are planning to plant or develop a vineyard, be sure to set aside an area for entertaining, and the bigger the better, because vineyard venues for outdoor concerts are now in vogue.
If you don't have the foresight you may end up like Villa Maria, who are having to pull out 1,000 vines at their showcase Ihumatao winery in Mangere, in order to accommodate more people at their popular concert events.
"It's not too much of a big deal," said Villa Maria's Ian Clarke, when I asked him about the vine pull. "It's just the short Gewurztraminer rows up by the cellar door," he explained.
In the photo (right), the vines are at the very top left on the vineyard view, below the tree line. The area is being cleared for the Joe Cocker concert on January 28th - he's also performing at Alana Estate in Martinborough and at Mudhouse in Waipara - details here.
Villa Maria will make good use of the new concert space as they are hosting the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) on 16 February 2008 and Hayley Westernra on 24 February 2008, plus they've more concerts waiting in the wings.
Mission Estate in Hawkes Bay started the vineyard concert trend in 1993 with NZ's own Dame Kiri te Kanawa, the star. Mission Estate has been attracting top international names ever since. This season's concert with John Mellencamp is on March 1st 2008.
Church Road Wines, virtually 'just down the road' from Mission Estate, added jazz concerts to their attractions in 1995. Nathan Haines is the star attraction for Church Road Jazz 2008 on 2nd February 2008.
So who else is having concerts - and when?
Bushmere Estate in Gisborne has a Gershwin concert on December 2nd 2007.
Ridgeview on Waiheke Island has Little River Band on December 29th and 30th 2007.
Gladstone Vineyard in the Wairarapa has Don McGlashan and local entertainer Warren Maxwell on January 4th. They also have 'Summer Sounds' on some weekends.
Mills Reef in Tauranga has 'Stars under the Stars' on January 26th & 27th.
Black Barn in Hawkes Bay host Dave Dobbyn and Hayley Westenra in their natural amphitheatre on February 21st.
Then there's the More FM Winery Tour in February with Brooke Taylor, Anika Moa and Golden Horse the attractions. They play at Ascension Vineyard in Matakana, Isola Estate on Waiheke Island, Mystery Creek Vineyard in Hamilton, Brunton Road in Gisborne, Waiau Estate in New Plymouth Alana Estate in Martinborough, Black Barn Vineyard in Hawkes Bay, Neudorf Vineyard in Nelson and Mudhouse in Waipara. No venues for Marlborough or Central Otago. Check out www.thewinerytour.co.nz for event details.
And don't forget that outdoor concert entertainment is an essential attraction for winery venues at Wine and Food Festivals.
Best thing about running a concert at your winery or vineyard, you have a captive audience. They can't bring their own alcohol in. They can drink only your wine.
The Missing Pinotage
When Karikari Estate in Northland sends wine by courier to customers in Wellington, a distance of almost 1,000 kilometres, the wine travels from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the North Island and it only takes a day. When Karikari Estate sends wine to Albany in the suburbs of Auckland city, just a little over 300 kilometres, it takes a week! So the Karikari Estate wine was missing from the big Pinotage tasting a week ago*, but I'm tasting it now.
Karikari Northland Pinotage 2005 is incredibly coloured, like a big juicy crimson edged boysenberry. It emanates dark, cedary, smoky oak and concentrated brambly fruit aromas and it is intense and concentrated to the taste with a 'wild' character to the wine; a little herbal, a little funky, savoury and cedary, full-bodied and powerful. There's sweet oak, sweet fruit, vanilla and chocolate, a hint of mint and mulled wine spices. Like a female bodybuilder, it has the beauty, yet it has the muscle and power. There's so much going on, it ripples with fascination.
This is one of the most expensive Pinotages - perhaps THE most expensive - that you will find in this part of the world. $45 a bottle is a serious price, but then it's a serious wine. It's closed with a DIAM super-critical cork and the bottle states 13.2% alcohol.
I can't even consider how it would have gone in the blind tasting because it's not on equal footing. I'll be interested to see Peter May's notes. Hopefully he will taste it on Saturday.
Tonight we are using left over Pinotage (not the Karikari but others from the tasting) to make red wine reduction. Supposedly you boil up 750 ml of wine with handfuls of herbs and a cup of sugar and let it reduce by a third. But let me tell you, you don't want take your eye off it when it gets to that serious reduction stage. At all times you want to smell the sweet fruit as the wine evaporates. You can't make a diversion to the computer to type up a tasting note, or head out to the back shed to find a screwdriver to fix the cupboard door that's been so annoying for the last six months. You have to watch it and taste it and make sure it doesn't burn. Set the timer on the stove to remind you it's reducing. Take heed!
Lucky we had plenty of leftover wine to reduce and the second wine reduction didn't over-reduce. It was served over spicy duck for an early mid-week treat.
*Update: All my notes from the Pinotage tasting now been posted to my Pinotage review pages or Pink Wines pages. They are annotated with "Peter May's Pinotage Tasting: 11Nov2007."
Three stellar Chardonays from three different regions
These three stellar chardonnays are the highlight of a weekend tasting of 'older' chardies - and they show the excellence of three different regions.
Distant Land Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2004 *****
Light golden coloured, with grapefruit on the nose and lovely, ripe, rounded mealy barrel-ferment flavours filling the palate, this is a chardonnay-lovers wine with plenty of toasty oak, plenty of winemaking complexities, good attack of peach and citrus fruit and a Burgundian nuance to the long, dry, spicy finish. Powerful, classy, stylish, and maturing beautifully with lovely integration and juiciness to the warm and mouthfilling aftertaste, we like this a lot.
This is made from Mendoza clone grapes, which were fermented and matured in French oak, 50% new, it has 14% alcohol, a screwcap closure and costs about $30. It's this week's Wine of the Week.
Mahi Marlborough Twin Valleys Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2004 *****
This glistening gold coloured wine Smells inviting with its rich toasty aromas and tastes rather good with its smooth, seamless palate. Fine, dry and warm textured, it's creamy and mealy, spicy and just a little spritzy with lovely grapefruit barrel ferment complexities, citrus and tropical fruit flavours, nutty oak and lemon butter. Rich, mouthfilling and long, very dry, very nutty, very classy. Call it stellar. There are not many wines made as well as this. A single vineyard wine from the western end of the Wairau Valley, this is Clone 95 that was fermented in French barriques with wild yeasts. It was aged in bottle before release. 13.5% alcohol. Screwcap closure. About $28.
Matua Valley 'Ararimu' Gisborne Chardonnay 2003 ****1/2
Deep gold with lovely sweet oak and juicy fruit aromas, it's creamy and buttery in the mouthfilling palate. Like the Distant Land, this is more in the Chardonnay drinker's mould, but it's just a little lighter in the context of the two - but is it, because there's some almighty underlying power. There's tangy lemon biscuit characters, zesty spice and loads of tropical fruit, just loses half a mark because it's showing its age a little on the finish, which is quite savoury and mealy with load of winey sweetness on the lingering aftertaste. This is from the Judd Estate in Gisborne. Some of the fruit was fermented in stainless tanks then transferred to French oak, the remainder fermented in barrel with wild yeasts. 10, or perhaps 11 months in oak altogether. Not sure because technical notes and bottle back label differ. 20% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Corey Hall made the wine. This has 13.5% alcohol, a screwcap closure and costs about $50 a bottle.
V is for Vermentino
Now for something completely, and I mean completely different.
The wine I'm tasting is a fragrant white. A bright, young, fragrant white with a dry nutty backbone, a delicate aura of freshly plucked apricot, a juicy quince richness and an evocation of a herbal twang - perhaps a nettle or a lemon grass, then later a suggestion of spearmint. It's dry and clean with a subtle silky texture and a sweet sherbet infusion, a hint of musk, strudel spices and a lingering aftertaste like after sucking on a lime . and then ethereal apricot and apple character lingers long after the wine is swallowed.
Tasting it blind I would have to probably plump for Viognier because of its exoticness. But when I'm told it's not Viognier, I'm scratching my head as to what it could be and I'm searching through my aromatic wine memory.
It's far too tasty for Pinot Gris, especially a dry Pinot Gris, but far too subdued for Sauvignon Blanc. It has the muskiness and spiciness of the most delicate Gewurztraminer but it doesn't have the richness or palate weight that the GW grape usually exhibits. It's not sweet and fruity enough for Muscat and has soft acidity, so can't be Riesling. I think about the exotics, the grapes I've little experience with, like Albarino or Arneis. But it's not as fleshy as the only Arneis I've tasted, so could it be Albarino, the great Spanish white?
It's Brown Brothers Vermentino 2007 (NZ$18.95) and it's made from such an obscure grape variety to drinkers like me in this part of the world, I had to resort to Google to find out more.
Vermentino is a grape that is thought to be of Spanish origin yet is most often associated with the island of Sardinia off the Italian coast. But these grapes were grown in the Murray River region in Victoria, Australia. It has 11.5% alcohol, a pH of 3.31 and an acidity level of just 5.4 g/l. It's sealed with a screwcap and is one of the best dry aromatic whites (apart from Riesling) that I've tasted from Australia. Who would believe they could make a wine like this?
According to the Vinodiversity website (where Darby Higgs expresses his passion for alternative grape varieties), there are nine ardent producers. He says Vermentino is being talked up by these enthusiasts and after tasting this exceptional example, I totally understand why. On a Saturday evening, before, dinner, watching the sun set, it's definitely 'Yum'.
Brown Brothers suggest freshly shucked oysters, drizzled with chilli and lime sauce to accompany this Vermentino. I don't eat oysters but my husband does. He thinks the chilli would overpower the oysters but oysters on their own would be just fine. Oh and this wine is good straight out of the wine box or straight out of the fridge. After we chilled it, the spiciness was more pronounced and there was a little more viscosity to the texture. Go on try, it, I dare you.
From out more from www.brownbrothers.com.au.
Promoting your products and promoting your successes
Seems to me a Wine Show gold medal is a reason for a recipient to celebrate, a reason to rejoice, a reason to let everyone know of their success. So after Wednesday's announcement of the gold medal winners in the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, I was expecting a flurry of Press Releases. But apart from the New Zealand Winegrowers press release, which gives the background to the show, the complete list of winners and a breakdown by region and varietal, I've received press releases from just the following companies.
Julicher Estate for the gold medal winning Julicher Estate 99 Rows Pinot Noir 2006
Distant Land for the gold medal winning Distant Land Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Highfield Estate for the gold medal winning Highfield Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007. It's 9 years on the trot for Highfield, with their savvy picking up gold at a show for every vintage since Alistair Soper took over as winemaker in 1999.
Rockburn Wines for the gold medal winning Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006, and mention of the silver and bronze medal winning wines.
Pernod Ricard not only mentions the 11 gold medals they won including two pure golds for wine form sustainable vineyards, but also the fact they won 56 medals in total including 14 silvers. The gold medal wines are
Camshorn Classic Riesling 2007 (Pure Gold)
Cottage Block Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2006 (Pure Gold)
Church Road Hawke's Bay Merlot Cabernet 2005
Church Road Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2005
Framingham Gewurztraminer 2006
Montana O Ormond Gisborne Chardonnay 2004
Montana T Terraces Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Montana Terroir Series Waihirere Chardonnay 2005
Montana Terroir Series Stuart Block Chardonnay 2006
Saints Noble Semillon 2004
Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
They also mention the two gold medal winners they distribute -
C J Pask Gimblett Road Merlot 2005
Lawson's Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2007
Villa Maria Estate won 12 silver and 12 bronze in addition to five golds. They are
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Rutherford Pinot Noir 2006
Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2006
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2006
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Syrah/Viognier 2006
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Gewürztraminer 2007
Esk Valley Estate won gold for the Esk Valley Reserve Syrah 2006 and silver for the Esk Valley Black Label Syrah. They explained that Syrah entries increased 25%, with a record 62 entries received in total.
Vidal Estate won three gold medals, four silver and two bronze. Gold went to
Vidal Estate Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2004
Vidal Estate Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2005
Vidal Estate Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006
Saint Clair Estate won five gold, eight silver and nine bronze. Glittering with gold are
Saint Clair Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 1 Foundation Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 11 Cell Block Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 12 Lone Gum Gewürztraminer 2007
Saint Clair Rapaura Reserve Merlot 2007
Saint Clair also mentions the award of No. 1 Sauvignon Blanc to Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007 at the TriNations Wine Awards, which were announced on Monday night. This is the only individual winery press release I've seen, even though New Zealand had six class winners as well as Wine of the Show, Champion Red and Champion White.
Otagowine.com mentioned all six Central Otago winners in their monthly email.
So either I'm not on the recipient list for the PR's or they are simply not being sent out. If the latter is the case, then why on earth, in this age of market saturation and competition, arent you telling the world about your excellent success? Or are you waiting until after the Trophies are presented on November 24th, in case there is more of a story to tell?
But what it boils down to at this stage, if I didn't have the Winegrowers Press Release and I didn't know about the awards websites - www.airnzwineawards.co.nz and www.wineshow.co.nz, theoretically I'd only know about 36 of the 83 gold medal winners - not even half.
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copyright Sue Courtney 2007