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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 which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.

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Archive: December 17th to December 31st 2007
Dec 31st: Signing off for the Year
Dec 24th: Wine of the Week: Fromm Marlborough Spatlese Riesling 2006
Dec 22nd: First Glass Favourites
Dec 21st: It was the best of years, it was the worst of years
Dec 18th: Exclusive Bremertons eat at Bruschetteria
Dec 17th: NZ Wines reviewed in Taste Food and Wine 2008
Other Entries

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

Signing off for the Year

I can't believe how quickly the year has flown. In fact I can't believe how quickly the last week has flown.  What was meant to be a couple of days off turned into a whole week off.  It's going to be a strange New Year this year at our house, the first time in I don't know how many years that we are celebrating it on our own. Right now I'm still in holiday mode so there are just a couple of items for the last entry of the year.

Congratulations to Ross Lawson of Lawson's Dry Hills Wines in Marlborough for being honoured in the 2008 New Years Honours List with a New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the wine industry and the community.  Ross has been a Marlborough winegrower since 1980 and founded Lawson's Dry Hills with his wife Barbara in 1992. Ross was also on the founding committee of the New Zealand Screwcap Initiative and says on his website that he believes Lawson's Dry Hills was the first winery in the world to seal all their bottles with screwcaps.

What I'm looking forward to in 2008 is New Zealand wine consumers becoming more adventurous in what they drink. It seems that locally we are going to grow more and more Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Shiraz - but I'm a huge aromatic fan myself and love Gewurztraminer and Riesling as well as the hopelessly underrated Chenin Blanc and of course Pinotage.  But there are so many 'interesting' grape varieties in the world and there are hundreds of  'different' wines to discover, like the delicious Brown Brothers Vermentino from Australia that I tried a couple of months ago.  Some of our winemakers are experimenting, particularly with Italian varieties.  But I'd so love to see more New Zealand winemakers being more adventurous, showing more diversity, instead of putting all their efforts into producing the same old, same old, primarily for export. But it's a money making business after all and I'm only a drinker, not a winegrower, so what do I know.

Til next year ........

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

Wine of the Week: Fromm Marlborough Spatlese Riesling 2006

This week's Wine of the Week dissertation started out with "Tips for the Drinking Driver" and what I'd be drinking if I was the nominated driver.  I'm not, however. I'm not driving anywhere on Christmas Day but I'd happily drink any of the choices I've recommended - if I hadn't already drunk the wines in research for my column.  

Pohutukawa in flower (Sue Courtney photo)The Wine of the Week is the Fromm Marlborough Spatlese Riesling 2006 - a  gorgeous, gorgeous, low alcohol Riesling just 7.5% alcohol by volume and yes it's sweet when you look at the 89 grams per litre of sugar, but also look at the 9.9 grams per litre of acidity and the phenolics of the wine and wow - what a nervy balance - chill it down and the wine seems dry. Click here to check out the review.

I've got some other numbers lined up for the big day, so check back in a couple of days and I'll tell you all about it.  Another Fromm wine may just feature, one that is really sweet. A late harvest gewurztraminer.  I'll be opening it to see if it goes with my duck confit.

The pic above is of a Pohutukawa - some say it's the New Zealand Christmas tree because it flowers at this time of year and as I look out my back window, the one in the back paddock is flowering, as if on cue.

Merry Christmas, or as it's said in Maori - Mere Kirihimete. Drive safe, be safe and have a good one.

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

First Glass Favourites

Last Wednesday night was the last tasting of the year at the  Wine Spirit. The theme was 'Our Favourite Wines of the Year', and because I write the tasting notes, I was asked to select a couple of wines for inclusion in the line-up. I was chuffed and it wasn't hard to make my selections. 
"I'd love to do a Gewurztraminer, " I immediately said.
My second choice was a sweet wine. I had been so impressed by the sweet wines when judging at the New Zealand International Wine Show this year, some were so delicious and what could be better than a gorgeous little sweetie for a Christmas Day treat.

What I didn't know was that I would have to present my wines, still it wasn't hard to prattle on about these two beauties.

Johanneshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2006 (12% alc. 21g/l rs. $39. Diam closure).
One of my favourites from both 2006 and 2007 and tasted several times since release, I think this wine is getting better, if that is possible. So absolutely enchanting with floral and spice scents and soft pungent flavours of violets, rose petals, Turkish delight and musk with Asian fruit, spiced orange, five spice and a tingle of ginger. An incredibly opulent wine with a gorgeous texture and just a little chilling to keep the medium sweetness in check. I'm marinating Duck Breasts in Five Spice, Fennel and Orange, and preparing a pork fillet Char Sui style (lots of five spice powder) , for a Christmas treat to accompany this wine.

Waimea Estate Bolitho Reserve Noble Riesling 2003 (11% alc. 181g/l rs. $44/375ml bottle. Cork closure).
Sweet wines don't get much better than this incredible little number and such a treat to try it now with four years of age. Like a citrine gemstone in appearance, it smells tantalisingly gorgeous with apricot, candied orange peel, honey and toffee scents that carry through to the creamy, nectar-like palate that has extra complexity from barrel fermentation. Add a touch of beeswax and spicy citrus to balance the sweetness. Just delicious.
Someone asked me when to serve this wine. So I said perhaps as an aperitif with candied fruit and nuts, after the main course as a palate cleanser to prepare for the Christmas Pud, with the fruit salad, Pavlova and trifle course, or after the meal with cheeses, candied fruits and nuts. It even goes well with Christmas cake, as we found out on the night.

Sharon and Tony, who are regular 'pourers', got to choose a couple of wines each, too. Kingsley and Sam chose the rest.

All the reviews on my Wednesday Roundup page - the last round up for the year.

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

It was the best of years, it was the worst of years.

Pernod Ricard New Zealand has been riding the wave of top success this year, firmly asserting its stamp on the New Zealand wine show circuit winning numerous gold medals, trophies and accolades of 'Winemaker of the Year'.

The show successes followed a 2007 vintage that was described by the winemakers, "as good as the best ever", the result of great weather and clean grapes with outstanding flavour development. In particular, the winemakers in Gisborne described the season, "the best vintage they’ve ever seen".

But the wave finally crashed during last night's earthquake in Gisborne. Pernod-Ricard New Zealand has three large winery complexes in the Lytton Road area of Gisborne. They are the old Montana, Corbans and Penfolds wineries that were built in the 1970's and interconnected by underground pipes after the three wineries came into Montana's ownership. Pernod Ricard bought Montana, then part of Allied Domecq, in 2005.

Pernod Ricard reported today that all their staff who were working on site at the time the earthquake jolted, and rattled and rolled, are safe although there has been damage to the wineries. The New Zealand Herald reports that up to 15 vats of wine had been cracked or damaged and there had been loss of wine from tanks. There are over 450 vats of wine in the thee wineries. The Gisborne Herald reported that six large tanks of Chardonnay had ruptured and staff were unable to stop the flow of wine.

It appears that the vineyards themselves are not damaged.

Bars, restaurants, wine shops and supermarkets in the Gisborne area all reported extensive wine damage when the contents of shelves fell to the floor.

Tony Taylor, producer of Goldenvines Wines and owner of the Works restaurant and winery, says the future of his building is threatened. A large part of the brick façade of the old abattoir, collapsed and cracks are running through the remainder of the building. He says it was lucky it was raining, otherwise people may have been sitting outside, right in the path of the falling bricks.

Reference to these articles, and more, on the Gisborne Herald website.

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

Gewurztraminer with or without the umlaut

Q: What's the difference between gewurztraminer and gewürztraminer?
A: The umlaut over the u in the second.

Q: Shouldn't there always be an umlaut over the u?
A: No.

Q: Why not?
A: The umlaut is German, but it is rarely seen on French wines and very rare on Gewurztraminers from Alsace. This is because the sound of the u with the umlaut, in German, is the same as the sound without the umlaut, in French.

Q: So what is preferred in New Zealand?
A: There are no rules. It is up to the producer to decide.

Q: What do you think Sue?
A: Personally I prefer the French spelling. That is because my keyboard doesn't have a u with the umlaut over it. I have to fiddle around with inserting a special symbol, then copying it and pasting it for every subsequent usage.

Interview with myself over, I raided the recycle bin and found bottles from recent tastings and checked up a couple of others from images on the Internet to see what the preference is. (Looking at the bottle's label is very important as the umlaut, or lack or it, in the text on a producer's website, may not actually reflect what is on the label).

Johanneshof (in Marlborough) uses the German version. That's not surprising as Edel Everling, one of owners of Johanneshof, is German. Her business partner, Warwick Foley trained in Germany too. Kemblefield, Montana, Cloudy Bay, Lawson's Dry Hills, Saint Clair, Distant Land, Spy Valley, Seifried and Blackenbrook also use the German version.

Lincoln uses the French version, as does Vinoptima, Dry River and Matawhero, the last one being the label that inspired so many passionate producers, Dry River among them,to plant the grape.

Interestingly, the back label of the Saint Clair Pioneer Bock 12 Lone Gum Gewürztraminer 2007 says it's made in a Tardive style, but that's contradictory to the German spelling of the varietal name, because 'Tardive' is a French word. 'Vendage Tardive' is used, in Alsace, to describe a late harvest style wine. 

So now we know the difference between gewurztraminer and gewürztraminer.  And after all that discussion, would you believe it's an Italian-origin grape?

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

Exclusive Bremertons eat at Bruschetteria

What a super little venue the Bruschetteria at Elliot Stables (in Elliot Street, Auckland City) is, especially on a Sunday when the Elliot Stables complex is closed to public and the Bruschetteria opens especially for your private function. It was the occasion of Christmas lunch for the Exclusive Bremerton's (my wine options team) and it was an intimate affair with just six of us around the Bruschetteria kitchen table. It was like being in someone's own home.Bruschetteria Table

While we were waiting for two stragglers to find parking, we ordered a bottle of San Simone Il Concerto Prosecco. Dry, crisp and fresh with tingly bubbles and sweet musky fruit, this thirst quenching aperitif leaves a creamy, crisp apple aftertaste and really gets the taste buds working. We could have gone seconds on that.

Francesco, our Italian chef, was making the table groan with antipasto delicacies. There was melon and prosciutto; a cold meat platter with half a dozen cured Italian meats; soft white cheeses like I had never tasted before including gorgonzola, buffalo mozzarella, caprino, stracchino and something else; a selection of amazing olives and breads and biscuits including delicious 'La Spiga' with fennel seeds.

Bottles were opened, wine flowed and we were finding it hard work to get through the copious amounts of antipasto. "Pace yourself, there's more," said Tricia, who had chosen the venue and food. Three of Francesco's 'brushettes' followed. I simply loved the 'Classica', made with fresh tomatoes, basil and oregano. Tomato BruschetteBut that was surpassed by the 'Delicata', topped with prosciutto cruso, stracchino cheese, walnuts and rocket. A 'Valdostana' with speck, fontina and marinated mushrooms topped with rocket followed - probably the least wine friendly because of the powerful mushroom marinade.

Magnificent wines, among the highlights, this week's Wine of the Week, Clearview Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006, which was perfect with the melon and prosciutto, some of the cured meats and most of the cheeses. Keeping with the Italian theme we also had Falseco Merlot 2000 from Umbria and Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 1997 from Tuscany -- both very special and lovingly cellared reds. The Merlot, once the cork had finally been extracted from the unforgiving bottle, was like liquid chocolate on the nose with a rich, dark, savoury, thick-textured palate full of chocolate, cedar, spice and tar. The Castelgiocondo was thought, on blind tasting, to be younger, so fine was its texture and silky powerful flavours. A super elegant wine that gets richer and richer with savoury, tobacco and dried herb notes and a chocolatey richness emerging on the finish.

A gorgeous Punt Road Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2005 quickly disappeared and last of the reds was a voluptuously coloured and savoury flavoured 2006 Ake Ake Chambourcin Syrah blend from Northland.  Bruschetteria's Cassata

Time for dessert which was Cassata alla Siciliana, with liqueur soaked Savoiardi (ladies fingers) enclosing a ricotta, pistachio, chocolate, cherry and dried fruit mix. Decadence on a spoon accompanied with a heady Askerne Botrytis Semillon 2005 from Hawkes Bay. 

Last but not last, a shot of Castello D'Abola Grappa then espresso and amaretti biscuits to end the slow lunch Italian feast.

Bruschetteria is open Monday to Wednesday from 11am to 7.30pm and Thursday to Saturday from 11am to 10.30pm. I hear it's tremendously popular at lunch times. They are fully licensed as of last Friday and are available for private functions. Ph. Francesco on (09) 365 1173.

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

NZ Wines reviewed in Taste Food and Wine 2008

Lorraine Leheney of Bilancia emailed to say that the Bilancia Pinot Gris was one of the four Bilancia wines out of 365 wines in total that were reviewed in Taste Food and Wine 2008, one of the books I reviewed in the Dec 16th entry of this blog.
Sorry Lorraine, I read the book about four or five weeks ago when it arrived and when I was dong the review in the weekend I tried to remember off the top of my head which New Zealand wines were in there. Three that I immediately thought of, were, and the other (Dog Point) caught my line of vision.
Lorraine points out that in fact both Bilancia PG's were included in the same entry but it was the Bilancia Pinot Grigio 2006 that had the headline. The author's comment about the Bilancia Reserve Pinot Grigio 2006 included with it, is that "it has enough room in its bulking hull to hold a Sherman tank". Does anyone know what a Sherman tank is? Something seen in an old war movies, perhaps. Anyway, it is a pretty interesting analogy for 'big'.  
I went to the index and got my magnifying glass to read through the alphabetical list of entries, just to see what other kiwi wines I had missed and see that the Bilancia La Collina Syrah 2005 and the Bilancia Syrah / Viognier 2006, each with individual entries, are there too. With the inclusion of four wines in a 365 wine list, you obviously ultra-impressed the authors. Well done!

So there are quite a few Kiwi wines mentioned including more what would be considered predictable labels of the wines that don't enter competitions but always seem to attract incredible hype. But it's good to see others out of left field, like Southbank Hawkes Bay Chardonnay and one of my personal favourites, Auntsfield Cob Cottage Marlborough Chardonnay 2006.

But I'm not going to mention every single wine otherwise it just becomes a partial reproduction of the index and an extended advertisement for both the book and the wines the book reviews, and ruins for a potential reader of the book, an element of surprise. And the more I write what other reviewers say about wines, the less time I have to concentrate on my own reviews. And to review them, I have to taste them, one way or another!

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