Glengarry’s Sunday ramblings of all things vinous, grain and glorious. A tour of Italy – Part 1 comes from The Sunday Sediment Issue 5.
Veneto is home to the glorious sinking city of Venice and the romantic jewel that is Verona. Here, you’ll find great value Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino wines. Less than half of the wine produced in Veneto is able to be labelled with the Italian quality mark of DOC, with large quantities of IGT (table wine) produced there, making it an important region for quantity. It is also home to the superstar Amarone, and to the sparkling Prosecco wines made in Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
Piemonte produces some of Italy’s most long-lived wines. A treasure trove of culinary delights, it is home to Barolo, Barbaresco, truffles and hazelnuts. The predominant red grapes are the indigenous Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, the whites, Arneis and Moscato. The wines are distinctly regional and oozing with flair. Lovers of Pinot Noir will feel right at home with Nebbiolo, which is bottled in its own right as well as being the variety behind the famed Barolo wines. Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
A long with Piemonte, Toscana (Tuscany) has the highest percentage of top-tier DOCG wines, and is home to the scarlet giants Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. It is here that the new meets the old head-on, giving rise to the so-called Super Tuscans. The main variety in Tuscany is Sangiovese, used to make Chianti, with the variety’s greatest expression derived from the legendary Brunello clone developed by Montalcino’s Biondi-Santi family.
Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
June is always a challenging month for arranging a wine tasting as the weather can be adverse and once we get home, often means that we can be reluctant to leave again. Last month’s tasting was like that with a really unpleasant Wellington day.
Still, 28 hearty souls made it to our tasting that night and were rewarded with an excellent presentation from Richard Macdonald. Richard’s knowledge of Giesen and their product was insightful as he led us through 3 whites, 3 reds and a Rose.
This Rose was delightful, even on a cold wintery night with good fruit and a soft lingering taste. Interestingly it was also the wine most ordered on the night. Other wines enjoyed, if the orders are anything to go by, were the 2014 Brothers Gewürztraminer and 2013 Brothers Pinot Noir. This latter wine also provided a reminder that Marlborough vineyards with a touch of age are now beginning to provide pinots that a real value for money as their quality begins to match their cousins from Martinborough and Central Otago.
Another wine to surprise on the night was the Organic Sauvignon Blanc that was used as our meet and greet wine. This had great fruit flavour without that aggressive grassy nose that many other SBs from this region often have, well to me anyway, and consequently, I very much enjoyed it as our starter for the evening.
The whites ended with the much celebrated 2014 Fuder Clayvin Chardonnay. Fuder, refers to the type of barrel used. It’s much larger than what we normally see in NZ and its purpose to evolve the texture of the wine without overpowering it with oak. It certainly did this for me and with its full body and slightly citrus notes, it was a wine that I had been really looking forward to tasting, given it had won Elite Gold at the 2016 Air NZ Wine Awards. The only disappointment was that I could not afford the $50 order form cost, despite its discounted value, as I decided to purchase the 2012 Eight Songs Shiraz instead.
Giesens are also the NZ agent for a small range of Peter Lehman reds. Richard ended our tasting with two of these, the 2014 Hills & Valley Shiraz and the 2012 Eight Songs Shiraz. The latter, if I’m not wrong, was probably the most expensive Shiraz the club has tasted, although last year’s 2013 Elderton Neil Ashmead Grand Tourer Shiraz did come close.
The 2012 Eight Songs was named after one of Peter Lehman’s favourite vocal ensemble musical works, loved for its soft harmonies. Apparently, this inspired Peter Lehman to emulate that artistry in a wine and it has resulted in a very soft stylish wine that is quite foreboding with its very black core, yet elegant with its lovely integration of mocha chocolate and dark plum characteristics. A great tasting from Richard Macdonald and one that I think many would be sad that they missed.
Despite a last-minute hitch over the presenter for this tasting (a family bereavement intervened), we were able to arrange for Keith Tibble, Eurovintage, to present, at very short notice, what transpired to be a wonderful tasting.
The wines presented were great wines and Keith has said that he would be available to present other tastings. It is very useful to have someone like Keith who can step in at comparatively short notice. On this occasion, we were lucky enough to have the Ata Rangi wines on hand. Great effort from him and from Murray who was organising the tasting.
Hundreds of wine growers, buyers, and aficionados from around the world have descended on Wellington for a three-day celebration of New Zealand pinot noir.
Wine exports in New Zealand are a billion-and-a-half dollar industry and since 2008, the amount of pinot noir New Zealand has exported has more than doubled from just under 6 million litres to just over 12 million.
To consolidate that increase, Wine New Zealand hosts an annual pinot noir celebration, consisting of meetings and taste-tests.
These allow local wineries to rub shoulders with international buyers and connoisseurs, make connections, and explain their offerings.
Roger Jones is a Michelin-starred chef and wine conisseur who runs the Harrow restaurant in Little Bedwyn – one of the UK’s top restaurants.
He said the explanation for the pinot renaissance was simple.
“Food has got much lighter, less cream, and New Zealand delivers amazing – and very light – food. That’s what people are after nowadays, so equally, wines change.
“10 years ago everyone in Britain was drinking big, heavy shirazes – boxing matches in your mouth – and we were eating food to go with it. Now, food has changed.”
Misha Wilkinson, who owns Misha’s Vineyard on the shores of Lake Dunstan, said the grapes’ thin skin made them very disease-prone, and notoriously hard to cultivate.
However, she said Central Otago’s unique climate lends itself to the task perfectly.
“It is the only region in New Zealand that [has a] continental climate. We’re between these mountain ranges, so this continental climate gives us some unique features: hot days and cool nights.
“[Those] diurnal differences… are something that pinot loves.”
Because of the difficulties in producing it, pinot noir will likely never surpass sauvignon blanc as New Zealand’s main viticultural product.
But the boutique crop is highly valued by wine connisseurs, and that brings big profits – if your name carries enough weight.
Mr Jones said among those in the know in the UK, Kiwi pinots enjoyed an unrivalled reputation.
“In the UK, if people want a pinot noir, they think of New Zealand – and first of all, Central Otago. It works. It’s a prestige wine.”
But what actually makes a wine good?
Emma Jenkins is a wine expert and journalist who has been writing – and imbibing – for nearly twenty years.
While the wine community is sometimes accused of pretentiousness, she said it was like reading a great work of literature: appreciation takes time, and knowledge.
“This is where events like this are really great, because you get to taste the wine along side the winemaker: what was that winemaker doing? What’s their sense of time and place that’s being communicated through that glass there? You can understand where they were coming from, and why that wine tastes that way.”
Ata Rangi, meaning “dawn sky” or “new beginning” is a small New Zealand winery with a big reputation for serious Pinot Noir. Located at the southern end of the North Island, it is owned and managed by a family trio – Clive Paton, his wife Phyll and his sister Alison.
Clive planted his first vines on a small, stony sheep paddock at the edge of the Martinborough village in 1980 as one of a handful of people who pioneered winegrowing in the area. Ata Rangi Pinot Noir is undoubtedly the flagship wine, and in 2010 was honoured with the inaugural Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa or “Grand Cru of New Zealand”.
With a skilled team in place, including dynamic winemaker Helen Masters, Clive now has more time to focus on his commitment to conservation and to the Ata Rangi alliance with Project Crimson. More event details early next month.
The evening went very well and what a great turnout.
Jane Hunter presented well and at the right level for the club. The turnout included some members from Western Hills Wine Club, and it was lovely to be their hosts for the evening. The wines were good and at a good price resulting in a very high number of orders. Jane enjoyed the evening and commented that next time she would present bubbles and a Gewürztraminer as part of the programme. Feedback from members indicated that they enjoyed the evening and it was a great tasting. It was useful that although a bit reluctant, and there was an issue of the batteries having flattened, Jane used the microphone headset and we were all able to hear what was being said.
The wines presented on the night included; Hunters Pinot Gris – 2016 (quaffer), Hunters Riesling 2012, Hunters Chardonnay 2015, Hunters Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Hunters Rose 2016, Hunters Pinot Noir 2014, and the Hukapapa Dessert Wine 2014.
Wine experts have settled on a list of close to 50 wines, some costing more than $100 a bottle, for Air New Zealand to select from for its business class passengers.
Six of the nation’s leading independent wine experts have selected “The Fine Wines of New Zealand” – to serve in planes from September.
A selection panel comprising Masters of Wine Alastair Maling, Michael Brajkovich, Sam Harrop, Simon Nash and Steve Smith along with Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas has agreed on the list for 2016 which includes 47 wines representing seven varietals.
One of the key criteria was consistency, with a wine having had to have been produced to an ”exceptional standard” for a minimum of five consecutive years.
Air New Zealand chief operations officer Bruce Parton says the airline had been a longstanding supporter of New Zealand’s wine industry.
It spends about $6 million a year on wine for passengers throughout aircraft.
“We believe we can help further build awareness and appreciation of these world class wines with international travellers and propel leading New Zealand wineries to even greater commercial success,” Parton said.
The wines would be promoted through its inflight entertainment system, at offshore events and using contacts internationally to help open up key export markets for the wineries should they need this support.
The airline’s specialist inflight wine consultants, who are based in New Zealand, China and the United States, will select wines from the list for serving in business premier cabins. Not all on the list of 47 would make it on board as some do not react well to high altitudes or are available in sufficient quantities.
Parton said it was important that the wines were selected independently of its existing wine programme.
”We look forward to working closely with the wine masters in the coming years to compile this list annually.”
In 2014 Air New Zealand moved to a three-year deal with a single supplier, Villa Maria, in its economy section which upset some in the wine industry, but which the airline said had been part of simplifying the supply chain.
The Fine Wines of New Zealand for 2016:
Aromatics Felton Road Dry Riesling 2014 Felton Road Block 1 Riesling 2015 Framingham F series Riesling Kabinett 2015 Johanneshof Cellars Gewürztraminer 2014 Stonecroft Gewürztraminer 2015 Te Whare Ra Toru SV5182 2014 Millton Vineyards Clos de Ste Anne Chenin Blanc 2014 Prophet’s Rock Pinot Gris 2014 Dry River Pinot Gris 2014
Pinot Noir Felton Road Block 3 2013 Burn Cottage 2014 Valli Bannockburn 2014 Rippon Vineyards Tinkers Field 2012 Bell Hill 2012 Ata Rangi 2013 Dry River 2013 Craggy Range Aroha 2013 Kusuda 2013
Bordeaux style Te Mata Coleraine 2014 Craggy Range Sophia 2013 Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013 Esk Valley The Terraces 2013 Stonyridge Vineyard Larose 2014 Church Road Tom 2013
Sauvignon Blanc Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2011 Astrolabe Province 2015 Dog Point 2015 Greywacke 2015 Saint Clair Reserve Wairau 2015 Vavasour 2015
Chardonnay Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard 2014 Neudorf Moutere 2011 Sacred Hill Riflemans 2014 Dog Point 2013 Felton Road Block 2 2010 Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard 2014
John Belsham was a very interesting speaker and presented a great tasting. The wines were excellent, especially the aged Sauvignon Blanc La Lapine. Although low numbers attended (27 members, 1 guest) John enjoyed the event and was very pleased with the level of wine orders arising. A top tasting for the Club. To repeat the wines offered were;
2014 FOX Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Foxes Island Dry Riesling 2014 Foxes Island Sur Lie Aged Sauvignon Blanc (new release) 2012 Foxes Island Icon La Lapine white 2011 Foxes Island Chardonnay 2014 FOX Pinot Noir 2009 Foxes Island Pinot Noir
John Belsham founded Foxes Island in 1992 to focus on exquisitely made, regionally expressive wines; exactly what he had learned to do in France. He initially made the wines for Foxes Island from his Raupara vineyard on the Wairau Plains and produced the very first Foxes Island wine; Chardonnay, vintage 1992.
In search of a Pinot Noir site, Belsham identified the overgrown and neglected 20-hectare Awatere property in 1998 and envisaged the Belsham Awatere Estate. With seven distinct terraces and exceptional soil profiles the land was planted primarily to Pinot Noir.
There were also select blocks dedicated to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, 24 Years on Belsham’s passion for producing exceptional wines has yet to wane.
Limited in production and genuinely hand crafted, all the wines hold pride of place at the Fox House.
Not sure of the wines to be presented yet but rest assured, this will be another quality tasting.
Caleb Harris/Fairfax NZ | Last updated February 10, 2016.
After 113 years in a farmhouse cellar, a bottle of wine believed to be the oldest ever opened in New Zealand has astonished critics by still tasting great.
“It’s superb. Amazing, really … It’s still hanging on, shaking its fist at you out of the glass,” was how wine writer John Saker summed up the 1903 Landsdowne Claret opened in Wairarapa on Wednesday.
Early Wairarapa settler William Beetham made the wine on land the family owned in Masterton, after his homesick French wife Hermance planted vines.
The 1903 blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and syrah is poured at Brancepeth Station in Wairarapa.
The vineyard stopped producing around 1908, but some bottles have been cellared ever since in the Edwardian homestead at Brancepeth Station, east of Masterton, which Beetham’s descendants still own.
On Wednesday, Saker convened a panel of 12 other local and international wine writers at Brancepeth to sample the valuable vintage, a bottle of which once sold for $14,000.
Beetham’s Masterton vineyard was revived under new owner Derek Hagar in 2009 and won an international pinot noir award, so the tasters compared Beetham’s 1903 wine with a contemporary bottle produced by Hagar on the same land.
Brancepeth’s current custodian, Edward Beetham, said seeing his forebear’s pioneering role in Wairarapa winemaking acknowledged was “a great occasion”. “We’ve always sort of dreamt of doing this.”
Although called a claret, the wine is actually a blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and syrah.
Breaths were bated as the crumbling cork was pulled, but once the venerable wine was swished, sniffed and sipped, the consensus was that age had not wearied it.
“This wine is like … a 100-year-old human which is still not ready to die,” German sommelier Markus Berlinghof said.
“There was this sort of dried citrus-peel acidity that just made it feel alive, still, and that completely shocked me,” American wine writer Sara Schneider said.
Saker found the wine not only surprisingly fault-free for its age, but also redolent of an “Edwardian summer” at the dawn of New Zealand’s wine industry. “That’s what makes it wonderful.”
BETTER WITH AGE?
1. John Saker, Wine editor Cuisine magazine
Tasting notes: “Slight faded rose, a hint of reduction … that lovely elegant passage across the palate, just a suggestion of sweetness. This is a Wairarapa pinot to be proud of.”
What about compared with the 2009 Landsdowne wine? “I thought there was a family resemblance … both have a finer, lighter, red fruit notes and a steely acidity.”
Rating (1903): 5 out of 5
2. German sommelier Markus Berlinghof
Tasting notes: “A lot of dried fruit character, dried orange zest. Elegant, a very feminine mouth feel. The colour is still in very good condition, a deep garnet, very fresh.”
What about compared with the 2009 Landsdowne wine? “I wasn’t a friend of drinking the other wine afterward, I don’t want to compare them.”
Rating: Doesn’t believe in ratings, but in a word: “Superb”.
3. American wine writer Sara Schneider
Tasting notes: “That first red fruit is really gone by now, but has sort of turned into a dried fig character, kind of an earthy tang, with the tannin texture … dried rose petals … a terrific wine.”
What about compared with the 2009 Landsdowne wine? “There’s a wet loam, forest floor, mushroomy, savoury character in both wines.”
Rating: High 19 out of 20 (1903); low 19 out of 20 (2009).
We are moving from Central Otago all the way to Argentina for our next meeting. This will be an interesting tasting and we hope you will give the evening your support.
Members may remember that in March 2013 we had a presentation including Lansdowne Estate in Masterton. Please have a look at the “In the News” item. Lansdowne continues to receive international accolades for their wines and the opening of a bottle produced from the same land in 1903 has further enhanced their reputation.
Also noted that Lowburn Ferry, featured in the Artisan collection last month, have won an award for their Pinot Noir in Sydney. The industry continues to shine internationally.