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Wednesday Round-up - the 2015 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

November 2015
[ Click here for index to other months ]

Some of the prices are 'special' prices. Check the First Glass website for current pricing.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 18 November 2015
Gold Medals Wines
Wines were tasted blind.

Starborough Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Bright, zingy, full and fleshy with sauv’s distinctively fruity aroma and brilliantly exuberant flavours. It’s full of passionfruit with a deliciously juicy citrus and pineapple vibrancy and a soft roundness to the finish. Gold AirNZ Wine Awards. Gold Marlborough Wine Show. Gold International Aromatic Wine Competition. Michael Cooper's White Wine Buy of the Year.
% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
The toasty oatmeal and vanilla-poached peach on the nose is inviting in this bright fresh wine that initially seems like it has a forest of spicy oak and fruit in the apricot spectrum. It rounds out quite nicely as the flavours linger, the oak integrating nicely and the flavours lingering with a soft, easy feel. Fabulously priced for gold medal summer sipping and it can take plenty of chilling. Gold AirNZ.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $15.99

Whitehaven Marlborough Chardonnay 2014
There’s a touch of gunflint to the nutty, malo-influenced bouquet that also offers up hints of tropical fruit and crème brulee and it’s spicy and zesty in the palate that seems quite steely to start with a nutty savoury oak backbone but the tropical fruit comes to the fore and the wine intensifies beautifully with a really lovely lifted lemon cream finish that is long and fulfilling. Gold AirNZ. Gold NZIWS.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99

Kim Crawford Small Parcels 'Wild Grace' Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
The creamy, mealy bouquet of this wine is simply gorgeous and it has a lovely, rich, full-bodied palate full of beautifully honed toasty oak, melon and fleshy tropical fruit cream with the smoky/woodsmoke nuances in the wine quite mesmerising. Utterly seamless as it traverses the palate and the lingering deliciousness has suggestions of grilled peach and hokey pokey. Top pick and hard to resist. Gold AirNZ.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99

Brightwater Vineyards Nelson Pinot Gris 2015
Beautifully perfumed and refreshing, this is tangy and juicy with oodles of juicy pear and peach fruit salad and perhaps heritage apples. A flinty undercurrent and a touch of salinity add crispness but the juiciness is just a delight. There’s also a touch of spice and a subtle nuance of lychee in this off dry to medium style – the vinous sweetness fleshing out the finish beautifully while adding concentration and intensity. Michael Cooper 5 stars. Gold AirNZ.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99

Whitehaven Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2014
With the opulent aroma of exotic spices, rose water, candied violets, lychees and Moroccan boudoirs how could this stunner be anything other than Gewurztraminer? It is rich and concentrated with moderate sweetness yet has a delicacy that stops it from being overpowering. Silky with a rounded mouthfeel, wonderful aromatic lift and a soft finish, with its spice and musk characters it is a classic expression of the variety. Gold NZIWS. Gold AirNZ.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99

Johanneshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2014
A little restrained on the nose tonight – more like an Alsace expression, similarly so in the soft unctuous palate with all the hallmarks that point to Gewurztraminer. Beautifully balanced, not too overpowering, a harmony of musk and exotics spices as it traverses the palate with a heavenly silky mouthfeel and flow, and accents of ginger as the expressive flavours linger. Gold NZIWS. Gold AirNZ. Gold & Trophy Marlborough Wine Show.
12.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $27.99

Altacena Tempranillo 2014 – Manchuela, Spain
This vibrant purple maroon-hued wine has quite a spicy, savoury aroma with a hint of chorizo and cherry and it’s peppery and spicy upfront in the palate with firm tannins, a meaty depth, hints of tar and graphite and a juicy plum and berry sweetness. Made from 90% Tempranillo with 5% Syrah and 5% Garnacha, this great little summer BBQ quaffer is medium-bodied, easy going and juicy, and has an NZIWS gold medal accolade as well.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99

Soho Havana Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014
While the translucent ruby violet hue is lighter than many, when you taste it you find a charming, silky textured pinot with a lot more savouriness and complexity than you may expect. There’s a touch of cigar box on the nose and while it initially seems quite dry in the palate with perhaps noticeable acidity, it unfolds and balances out nicely as it traverses the palate with lovely smoky nuances, plum and bottled cherry fruit and a touch of dark chocolate emerging on the finish that becomes quite intense as the flavours linger. Pour into a big glass to swirl, sip, savour and enjoy. Gold NZIWS. Gold Australia Small Winemakers. Gold China Wine & Spirits Comp.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99

Elephant Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2014
Luminous deep dark blue red with crimson edges, this is full-bodied, creamy and savoury with brooding smoky oak on the nose and firm meaty tannins in the palate with smoky char-grilled nuances, nicely balanced pepper notes, roasted spices and juicy fruits that are blue-black – like the colour. Deep, complex and tarry in a way – a contrast of dry tannins and succulence with suggestions of vanilla berry cream on the long juicy finish. A super expression of the variety to drink now with food or cellar. Gold AirNZ.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $27.99

Serafino McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013 – South Australia
A full-bodied, succulent, deeply coloured Shiraz with bright juicy red and black fruits, masses of spice and pepper and lashings of chocolate. Just so ultra smooth and creamy with a brooding savoury undercurrent, a touch of tar, and just the right amount on grip, it’s developing beautifully and hard to resist. Gold NZIWS.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 11 November 2015
Villa Maria with Nick Picone
Wines were not tasted blind.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Viognier 2014
This glossy light gold wine has inviting aromatics that hint of freshly-baked baguette, apricot and orange blossom. It’s mouthfilling and spicy with an upfront zesty zing becoming quite soft and creamy with a nutty richness, classic apricot fruit flavours and a warm finish. Use of wild yeast and barrel fermentation adds structure and texture. Drinking beautifully now, Nick suggests matching to lightly spicy foods.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Gisborne Albarino 2015
This lemon straw wine has a delightfully fruity bouquet – a fruit salad in a glass. In the mouth it’s all apples, pear and peach with a salty, flinty undercurrent and a touch of zingy spice that has accents of ginger and white pepper. It initially seems light but increases in richness with every mouthful to become quite mouthfilling and intense. Bright, fresh, juicy acidity makes this wine sing. Nick suggests matching to seafood.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Marlborough Chardonnay 2014
Light gold in hue with a bouquet brimming with toasty, mealy, barrel ferment aromatics that are overlain with a beautiful savoury allure. Lifted in the mouth with bright acidity infusing the wine’s malty mealy characters and the fruit hinting of nectarine and toasted lime, it’s deliciously rich, complex and mouthfilling yet has an elegant disposition with its beautiful fine lines. This will evolve beautifully in the cellar over the next few years – if you can wait that long. 3 golds and 3 trophies including overall Champion Wine at the 2015 NZIWS.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
This lustrous light gold wine is heady from the outset with the bouquet offering up a tantalising toasty savoury complexity immediately. In the mouth the taste is spicy and savoury with juicy white peach, nectarine and tree-ripened apricot and toasty barrel ferment and wild yeast flavours in harmony. The fruit sweetness wells up as the flavours linger with tinges of citrus and melon. A complex multi-layered chardonnay with fruit, flint and savoury notes interweaving beautifully. Gold Bragato.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
Glossy lemon gold with a beautifully inviting bouquet of toasted brioche together with whispers of butterscotch and a smoky, funky, struck match fascination. In the mouth it’s luxurious, silky and textural with creamy mealy leesy characters, sweet smoky oak, melon and tropical fruit, and funky sulphides that add an exciting intrigue and complexity. The finish is mouthfilling and long with toasty oak coming to the fore as the flavours linger. Simply superlicious. Gold NZIWS and overall Champion Wine at the 2015 Hawkes Bay Wine Awards.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $27.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Auckland Chardonnay 2013
Light gold hued with lemony leesy aromatics, it’s spicy and zesty on first tasting with a crisp, dry flinty undercurrent then white peach and honeyed oak softens the wine and nutty, creamy, nougat-like nuances come through. Toasted oak loiters in the background and the expansive savoury and citrussy finish has a touch of wild yeast funk. Developing beautifully, it’s ready to accompany seafood right now. Two golds and overall Champion Wine of the Bragato Wine Awards 2015.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Southern Clays Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013
Deep maroon with a ruby-edged brightness. Gorgeous toasty oak and cherry conserve aromatics are embossed with an enticing savoury demure. Full-bodied, spicy, deeply savoury and textural with moderately firm tannins for the variety – this is a great indicator of the ageing potential and having tasted verticals of Southern Clays it definitely has the heritage to develop beautifully in the bottle. Full of purple plums with black cherries and red-currants, this is a stunning pinot with concentration, power and intricacy. Gold NZIWS. Gold AirNZ.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $46.99.

Vidal Estate Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2013
Deep purple red with a satin sheen. Inviting creamy oak aroma with perfectly ripe Black Doris plums then in the palate attractive cedary oak enhances the Bordeaux character of the wine with spice, leather and a beautiful black- and red-currant intensity. The tannins, while still showing their youth, are velvety and smooth and the finish is bright and long. Fantastic buying, a wine to enjoy now with food or cellar for several years – and why not at this bargain price. Two gold medals in 2015.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $15.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Braided Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013
Rich blue red. The bouquet is overflowing with sweet smoky oak, fruit cake spices and bright, juicy, ripe red berry fruits. Firm and powerful in the mouth with the assertive tannins tamed by ultra juicy fruit that is simply oozing super ripe mulberries and golden sultanas – it evokes memories of Griffins ‘Golden Fruit’ biscuits – and the smoky finish is beautifully balanced with the flavours never losing their intensity. It seems already complete but with a multitude of years ahead of it it will evolve quite magnificently. Made from organically grown grapes. 4 gold medals and Trophy at Bragato 2015.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $50.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Grenache 2014
Rich blue red with a ruby purple depth. The spicy aromatics hint of tobacco and it’s bright and spicy in the palate with firm tannins that are quite assertive – yet they are offset beautifully by the super succulent, creamy nature of the wine with juicy plum and raspberry fruit and a subtle peppery brightness to the savoury finish where some harmonious herbal/woody notes come through. Gold Medal NZIWS.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Syrah 2014
Inky dark red with a concentrated creamy oak bouquet and a beguiling floral allure that reminds me of the heavenly red dianthus named ‘Passion’. The taste is bright and juicy with chocolate biscuits (Cameo Cremes come to mind), hints of violets, an enticing savoury depth and a smoky oak finish. There’s something rather beautiful and elegant about this youthful wine and while the biscuity tannins are fresh the overall impression is succulence and drinkability. This new release punches well above its price point. Silver AirNZ 2014.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2013
Inky purple red with amazing saturation to the hue. The bouquet is dark fruited with hints of vanilla infusing sweet smoky oak and Syrah’s lovely signature floral notes adding its attractive allure. A mouthfilling, opulent, full-bodied, spicy, concentrated Syrah with a perfectly honed dash of pepper that adds zing and bite together with a game meat richness and lovely dark fruit concentration. A touch of chocolate springs to mind and the tannins are firm yet succulent at the same time. Gold Hawkes Bay and No. 1 in Cuisine’s 2015 NZ Syrah tasting.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $52.99.

* * * * * * * * *

I like the Fine Fine Wednesday Tastings held at First Glass Wines and Spirits in Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore. All the wines are served blind and unlike the blind tasting assessments I conduct at home (which are usually from producer's samples or, more rarely, wines I have purchased myself), I usually have no idea in advance of what wines are being included in the Fine Wine Wednesday tasting line-up. Exceptions have been the Cuisine Top 10 tastings, 'Super Tastings', or producer-hosted tastings where the line-up of wines is advertised to attract the tasters. All I know is that with Kingsley Wood choosing the wines, anything goes and the wines being tasted may cost from under $10 to over $110 a bottle, though they usually average somewhere in the $15 to $55 price range.

I have continued to attend the tastings over the years as I feel it gives me a good insight to wines currently available in the market place and the general reaction compared to my own. Not everyone likes the searingly dry rieslings that I love, I've found.

It also provides an opportunity to taste some wines I otherwise wouldn't get to see and to retaste those that I have.

Footnote: Prices listed are the retail and or special prices at First Glass Wines and Spirits at the time of tasting (date is at the top of each week's section). Check out for current availability and pricing and New Zealand readers can purchase the wines online from there.
Sue Courtney's recent Fine Wine Wednesday tasting notes can also be found on the First Glass website.

Wednesday Wines index
2015 Tastings
January 2015 tasting notes.
February 2015 tasting notes.
March 2015 tasting notes.
April 2015 tasting notes.
May 2015 tasting notes.
Jun / Jul / Aug 2015 tasting notes.
Sep / Oct 2015 tasting notes.
Nov / Dec 2015 tasting notes.

2014 Tastings
January 2014 tasting notes.
February 2014 tasting notes.
March 2014 tasting notes.
April 2014 tasting notes.
May 2014 tasting notes.
June 2014 tasting notes.
July 2014 tasting notes.
August 2014 tasting notes.
September 2014 tasting notes.
October 2014 tasting notes.
November / December 2014 tasting notes.

2013 Tastings
January 2013 tasting notes.
February 2013 tasting notes.
March 2013 tasting notes.
April 2013 tasting notes.
May 2013 tasting notes.
July 2013 tasting notes.
July / Aug 2013 tasting notes.
September 2013 tasting notes.
October 2013 tasting notes.
November/ December 2013 tasting notes.

2012 Tastings
January 2012 tasting notes.
February 2012 tasting notes.
March 2012 tasting notes.
April 2012 tasting notes.
May 2012 tasting notes.
July 2012 tasting notes.
July 2012 tasting notes.
August 2012 tasting notes.
September 2012 tasting notes.
October 2012 tasting notes.
November/December 2012 tasting notes.

2011 Tastings
January 2011 tasting notes.
February 2011 tasting notes.
March 2011 tasting notes.
April 2011 tasting notes.
May 2011 tasting notes.
July 2011 tasting notes.
July 2011 tasting notes.
August 2011 tasting notes.
September 2011 tasting notes.
October 2011 tasting notes.
November 2011 tasting notes.
December 2011 tasting notes.

2010 Tastings
January 2010 tasting notes.
February 2010 tasting notes.
March / April 2010 tasting notes.
May 2010 tasting notes.
July 2010 tasting notes.
July 2010 tasting notes.
August 2010 tasting notes.
September 2010 tasting notes.
October 2010 tasting notes.
November 2010 tasting notes.
December 2010 tasting notes.

2009 Tastings
January 2009 tasting notes.
February 2009 tasting notes.
March 2009 tasting notes.
April 2009 tasting notes.
May 2009 tasting notes.
July 2009 tasting notes.
July 2009 tasting notes.
August 2009 tasting notes.
September 2009 tasting notes.
October 2009 tasting notes.
November 2009 tasting notes.
December 2009 tasting notes.

2008 Tastings
January 2008 tasting notes.
February 2008 tasting notes.
March 2008 tasting notes.
Apr / May 2008 tasting notes.
Jun / Jul 2008 tasting notes.
Aug / Sep 2008 tasting notes.
October 2008 tasting notes.
November 2008 tasting notes.
December 2008 tasting notes.

2007 Tastings
January 2007 tasting notes.
February 2007 tasting notes.
March 2007 tasting notes.
April 2007 tasting notes.
May 2007 tasting notes.
July 2007 tasting notes.
July 2007 tasting notes.
August 2007 tasting notes.
September 2007 tasting notes.
October 2007 tasting notes.
November 2007 tasting notes.
December 2007 tasting notes.

2006 Tastings
January 2006 tasting notes.
February 2006 tasting notes.
March/April 2006 tasting notes.
May 2006 tasting notes.
July 2006 tasting notes.
July 2006 tasting notes.
August 2006 tasting notes.
September 2006 tasting notes.
October 2006 tasting notes.
November 2006 tasting notes.
December 2006 tasting notes.

2005 Tastings
January 2005 tasting notes.
February 2005 tasting notes.
March 2005 tasting notes.
April 2005 tasting notes.
May 2005 tasting notes.
July 2005 tasting notes.
July 2005 tasting notes.
August 2005 tasting notes.
September 2005 tasting notes.
October 2005 tasting notes.
November 2005 tasting notes.
December 2005 tasting notes.

2004 Tastings
Jan-Feb 2004 tasting notes.
Mar-Apr 2004 tasting notes.
May 2004 tasting notes.
July 2004 tasting notes.
July 2004 tasting notes.
August 2004 tasting notes.
September 2004 tasting notes.
October 2004 tasting notes.
November/December 2004 tasting notes.

2003 Tastings
January 2003 tasting notes.
February 2003 tasting notes.
March 2003 tasting notes.
April 2003 tasting notes.
May 2003 tasting notes.
July 2003 tasting notes.
July 2003 tasting notes.
August 2003 tasting notes.
September 2003 tasting notes.
October 2003 tasting notes.
November 2003 tasting notes.
December 2003 tasting notes.

Other Wine Reviews.
Wine of the Week archives.

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