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Improve your blind wine tasting skills.

WanderCurtis Wine, Tasting Tips: Improve your blind wine tasting skills.

 

Celebrating the first tasting in person after 3 months of Zoom tastings!

 

These last few months of forced isolation have provided the perfect opportunity to hone our blind wine tasting skills while enjoying a brief weekly escape from the tedium of lockdown..

Kiran, Stuart and I have taken turns to drop off decanted blind samples of wine to our doorsteps (carefully sanitising the bottles and minimising any contact, of course) then analysing them via Zoom with each other. More recently we have been doing this outdoors in each other’s gardens – all with minimal hints and desire to fool the others using various techniques such as decanting into the completely wrong bottle and glass shapes for the type of wines being tasted!

We want to share our notes with you as well as some of our learnings about how to find the ‘tells’ for some of the wines that gave us trouble.

 

After all, wines with friends is always better than wine alone!

 

The wine notes and learning points are detailed below:

 

Tasting 1 – April 26th 2020  – First Zoom tasting

 

Adam’s – deep ruby red, fruit forward, mainly black and blue fruits, compact a bit tight at this moment, nice touch of oak. Opinion was a new world wine probably Cabernet, still tight so age given as quite young 5-10 years.

Torres Mas La Plana 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – an early killer blow dealt given that this was a wine at one of our tastings. Challenge set.

 

Stuart’s -Burnt smoke, spice, black fruits, complex, thoughts were Syrah given fruit profile and spice, we narrowed down to old world and Rhone Syrah. Age was thought to be very young, around 5 – 8 years.

Cote Rotie Guigal d’Ampuis 2010 Rhône – A good piece of deduction by the boys

 

Kiran’s – tertiary notes definitely old vegetal, compost, urine, pale colour. Could not distinguish varietal as too old all tertiary, but smelled of an aged Bordeaux. We were very close on age and left bank Bordeaux blend (Stuart said 1995)

Chateau Langoa Barton 1996 – pretty much nailed this one

 

Learning points

 

Don’t forget all the places around the world producing quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Italy, France (Bordeaux of course), Chile, California, South Africa not to mention Australia! Spain had us fooled despite having conducted one of our wine dinner tastings at Frederics with this wine!

See the excellent Wine Folly website for more details

 

Tasting 2 – May 3rd 2020 – Zoom

 

Adam’s – lemon citric petrolic nice mouthfeel length, but not oily! Kiran and Stuart believed this to be Semillon based, new world, and fairly old like 10 years.

 2012 ‘Margaret’ Peter  Lehman Sémillon Barossa – spot on with the detective work

 

 

 

Kiran’s – delicious, red fruits perfume, wild strawberry, earth, floral, violets, mixed spice

We thought classic NZ Pinot and likely Central Otago given perfumed red fruit in abundance and quality. Stuart and I both though of C Otago Pinot Noir, and thought Felton Road Bannockburn, about 6-8 years old.

2010 Mt Difficultly, Bannockburn Pinot Noir , central Otago. This was at a great drinking age and showed how well NZ Pinot’s can be a decade on, unfortunately Kiran’s last bottle!

 

Stuart’s – complex, herbal, cinnamon, spice, savoury, blood meat, good acidity and  tannins, thought Italy because of structure. Kiran and I had a lengthy discussion about whether it was Nebbiolo or Sangiovese, and then correctly landed on Sangiovese, a younger wine, like 5-8 years old.

Brunello di Montalcino 2010 Argiano – a tough one but we landed on our feet

 

Learning points

 

Ageing potential of New World wines is often underappreciated.

If stuck between Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, think about the tannins. The merciless tannins in Nebbiolo will be the tell.

 

Tasting 3 – Sunday May 10th 2020 –  Zoom

 

Stuart’s – White, lots of colour, golden, oxidative hazelnut texture ++ full body Med  acid more like a red re:body, lees, wood, drying tannin slight salty savoury after taste whisky. Stu says floral orange blossom. Guess was Rhone varietals and a blend.

St Joseph Blanc 2015 Vins de Vienne Roussane/ Marsanne – excellent work!

 

Kiran’s –  red. full of raspberry’s very ripe, blueberry with medium drying tannins and med + acid. Reminded of Italy savoury blood meat kept thinking of beef Florentine? Possibly Barolo or Brunello but not coal tar roses and not mixed spices of Brunello, not harsh enough tannins

Key was blood savoury after taste liquorice. Then we thought possibly Brunello.

It was actually a GSMC mix, which fits G red fruits ++ M savoury blood salty, liquorice spice great wine and in retrospect there wasn’t enough acid and tannins for Barolo/ Italy and red fruits much too overt, almost new world,

Coudolet de Beaucastel 2009 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah, 20% Cinsault – what a delicious wine, we were all very animated about how enjoyable this was

 

Adam’s cocoa, coffee, chocolate, wood ++ , Kiran cola, black fruit, floral, Stuart Balsamic vanilla coconut wood, delicious drinking beautifully.

Stu got Rioja but I asked him what else it could be and diverted him to GSM mix. Correctly guess Rioja, and approximate age (10-15 years, possibly 09)

Contino réserva 2007  – missed out on which maker despite having tried it on numerous occasions so a little disappointed

 

Learning points

 

Italy and Spain laterals of Sangiovese v Nebbiolo

GSM blends can be like Chianti/Tuscan but Italians are more acidic and tannins a bit harsher.

Noted that Coudolet de Beaucastel is an EXCELLENT wine, and I (Adam) went on to buy a case of 2016 which is delicious, moreish and nearly gone already!

 

 

 

Tasting 4 – Sunday May 17th  – Zoom

 

Adam’s – Blackberry pepper Med + acid, drying tannins a little austere poor year tasted more old world thought GSM Rhone blend. The wine had that garrigue character, and a lightness with good acidity so thought potentially a higher altitude wine but Stu and Kiran dismissed Malbec

Zuccardi Mountain vineyards Uco valley, Argentina,2014 Malbec  – fooled by this one

 

Kiran’s – med acid ++ pickled lemon, floral, Stu apricots, flowers. long (no petrol). Very full body, a more heavyweight wine. Stu and I got aromatic varietal, were torn between Gruner, Riesling and possibly Albarino.

Riesling FX pichler 2013 smaragd Austria –  a beautiful fuller bodied style of Gruner

 

Stu’s –   Wow wish I hadn’t dropped my bottle on the pavement!

Big nose+++ polished wood, floral, pot pourri, tar, liquorice, in the finish sandalwood caramel acid ++ tannin++ drying

Awesome wine very complex nose and well-balanced palate – thought aged Barolo, around 15 years old.

Azelia 2001 Barolo Bricco Fiasco – this was in such a beauty

 

Learning points – Laterals to GSM think Malbec as red plum and black fruits similar structure, medium tannins and med low acidity. Malbec, weak spots need better strategies to identify it, and most definitely drink more high-altitude Malbec!

 

Showed just how great Barolo ages over many decades. Other great vintages include 1999 2001 2004 2006 2010

 

Tasting 5 – May 24th – Zoom

 

Adam’s – lots of fruit, leather. Medicinal, cough linctus, menthol eucalyptus liquorice. Kiran and Stu both got Shiraz, Stu thought it was Shiraz Cab blend, about 15-20 years old.

Henshke  Keyneton Euphonium 2001 Shiraz-based blend. Such a pleasure to drink!

 

Kiran’s – Honey poss. Botrytis, ginger. Old feel, me honey and hay, phenolic feel slight bitterness on the finish and some tannins – surprising.

Med + acid not high, Stu bruised apple thought possibly aged Chablis, too honeyed, about 10 yrs old.

Domain Huet Chenin Blanc 2012 – this one got us, although we both thought about Chenin at some point

 

Stu’s – pot pourri ++ light colour ? Pinot soft powdery tannins salty savoury aftertaste

Kiran wood ++, nutmeg clove spices, balsamic character. Final thoughts – Kiran – very clearly Rioja

Rioja Alta 890 Gran Reserva 2001 (95%Tempranillo) – experience counts!

 

Learning points – Remember laterals for very old wines, age brings soft elegance colour fades like old Rioja resembling a Pinot.

Australian wines 20+ years old can age beautifully

If find botrytis in white wine think Chenin, Gruner

Must drink more Chenin!

 

 

 

Tasting 6 – Adam’s Garden

 

Kiran’s – Initially Gewürztraminer nose terpenes floral ripe stone fruits

Glycerol thick oily lovely mouthfeel medium + acid

Not floral enough for Gewürztraminer no bitter finish acid a bit higher thought viognier poss Gruner did not get white pepper

Stu found mineral seashell herbaceous wood. Didn’t get this one.

Emmerich Knoll smaragd 2010 Reid Shutt Gruner Veltliner known as a floral site, fantastic wine ++

 

Adam’s – Tarry medicinal spirity initially closed. Later floral cherry in alcohol

Stu complex Coca Cola violets flowers

Kiran complexity spirity spices development ? Uccelleria Brunello 2010

Barbaresco Produttori di Barbaresco Riballa 2007  – absolutely lovely and changed a lot as evening went on tannin++

 

Stu’s – Adam initially Pinot old excellent quality turmeric nutmeg cinnamon spices tea dried flowers pot pourri not much fruit, compost+ manure earth tertiary

Tannin+ drying and acid high

Thought could not be Pinot re tannins ? Chianti? Age about 10-15 years.

1999 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru “Clos des Epeneaux” known for tannin profile. Missed this wine which was in a fantastic place

 

Learning points.

High quality Burgundy from certain sites can have firm very present tannins also wood age adding to tannins, so don’t rule out Pommard when you get these characteristics

 

Tasting 7 – Zoom

 

Stu’sClassic toast smoky buttery Malo nose, Chardonnay, honeysuckle, caramel, lemon tart, lovely good acidity but not cleansing or laser like sharp linear (Burgundy)

Both thought Chardonnay

Kiran – Kumeu River? me on reflection NZ too, slightly richer than Burgundy but very close. Landed quite firmly on NZ Chard

Vidal Legacy Hawkes Bay New Zealand 2014 – – great score for Kiran and me!

 

Kiran’sVery pale brick red, nose dried roses hint of tar liquorice some herbs tannins medium soft sl drying Med + acid

Thought Nebbiolo re nose and colour, quite perfumed.

 Sesti Rosso di Montalcino 2013  – In retrospect tannins too soft for Nebbiolo

 

Adam’s Very fruit forward blackberry possible cassis

Eucalyptus medicinal herbs Stu and Kiran thinking Aussie Cab/ Shiraz re fruit.

Stu didn’t like tannins slightly bitter and poss out of balance with alcohol

Revealed that it was French

Corbières Serres de Mazard 2017 50% Syrah, 25% Carignan, 20% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre.

 

(After notes probably some carbonic maceration as fruit a little confected/esters) Decanter outstanding in April 2020 edition

 

 

Learning Points

Which region In France produces such fat ripe fruit forward wines akin to New world? Languedoc

New world vs. warm climate Languedoc wines – look for old world techniques like carbonic as a possible differentiator

Tasting 8 –  Stu’s garden

 

Kiran’sInitially smokey toast oak vanilla aftertaste caramel some lemon rind but predominant 2y Oak

Nice texture and balance Med +acid alcohol texture

Oak predominated

Stu and I both thought Bordeaux semillon sav blend, lacked florality and prettiness of Sauvignon mix. Fruit was missing on this wine.

Château Bouscaut Semillon Sav Graves Pessac Leognan 2012 – the oak and pyrazines were the giveaway on this one

 

Adam’sKiran and Stu instantly said Rioja

Balsamic coconut American oak chocolate bounty bar spice turmeric clove cinnamon nutmeg red fruits. Plush anything you want it to be open and giving

Thought réserva Rioja about 10 years old

Protos Gran Réserva Ribera Del Duero 2004

 

Stu’sAlcoholic. Double tiers of legs! Full body

Closed, struggled to get much

Smokiness perhaps red fruit

Acid medium

Tannins medium/ low

Hard to gauge soft tannins Med acid high alcohol bit of spice red fruits ? Hint carbonic/ esterification. Thought southern Rhône blend Grenache predominant

2013 Chapoutier Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem Grenache Syrah Carignan

 

Tasting 9 – Adams garden

 

Kiran’sTerpenes variety, white flowers peach aromatic nose

Same palate, acid medium to med + not searing acidity

Something petrolic on nose implies age thought poss Riesling but detected some texture from lees or oak not done in Riesling

Difficult one to nail aromatic variety warmer climate possibly Riesling,Gruner, Albariño ,Viognier, Stu thought maybe pepper

Blank Canvas Gruner Veltliner 2013 New Zealand  – this one fooled us and had some new French oak to make it even harder. The next day Kiran’s NZ Gruner even better, really textured with botrytis honey petrol smoke mandarin smaragd like but I still don’t find white pepper!

 

Stu’s – initially nose of glue dope ? VA heady potent

Once that blew off violets blackberry black plum cocoa chocolate baking spices 5 spice wood tannins Med + soft acid medium, high alcohol body high

Thought 14.5% Adam getting a bit drunk

Probably Rioja possibilities Brunello but not acidic or red fruit enough new world Syrah too much oak not obvious black pepper or burnt rubber smoke

 Alion 2003 Ribera del Duero  – A big glamourpuss of a wine, drinking beautifully. Shame that was the last bottle…

 

Adam’s – All tertiary old, mushrooms earth leather

Stu clearly bell pepper and cedar

Thought 20 yr old + left bank initially then to Right bank

Fruit dropped away

1998 Pomerol Chateau Taffellier  –  a wine Stu gave me a few years ago

 

Bonus wine – Kiran

Prunes raisins alcohol full sweet residual sugar almost a port

Adam reminder of trip to Puglia, thought Primitivo

Other possibilities Amarone or Ripasso bit too raisinated and sweetness

San Marzano 62nd Anniversary Primitivo di Manduria

 

Tasting 10 – Kiran’s house

 

Adam’s – First Rosé of the tasting events

Kiran instantly reminds me of strawberries and cream like a Pinot based champagne

Stu red fruits smells like Pinot acidity not that high

Adam smoke toast oak aged sl some red fruit nice texture and mouthfeel

Other possibilities Grenache Shiraz Carignan Cinsault

Became more complex Floral herbaceous

Sylvain Pataille le fleur de pinot 2016 Rose from Pinot oak aged. We tasted this in Sylvain’s cellar last summer and yet we missed it. Shows how hard blind tasting can be.

 

Kiran’s – Huge whiff of cassis pure black fruits later cedar chocolate some hints of pyrazine picked up by Stu ripe, explained as yellow pepper by K

Adam definitely Cabernet based wine very ripe either excellent year Bordeaux or new world toying on Sophia Craggy Range. Stu def Bordeaux, but A not really getting the classic Bordeaux green pepper herbaceous pyrazine notes

Adam, could not put it down for 30 mins and needed top ups. If not New world then is it favourite BDX red. Pontet Canet?

 Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac 2005 – Good shout here!

Stu’s –  Freaky wine very dark colour

Initially blood meat savoury

Then coffee ++ chocolate

Than some red fruit floral

Kept changing on us

Hardest wine yet like a schizophrenic high risk patient, constantly changing character

Dark colour black fruit. Obviously barrel aged possibly Syrah Rhône blend but admittedly no confidence with this

Galatrona Petrolo  Merlot 100% Tuscany – made in the style of the great Pomerols like Le Pin and Petrus, 100% Merlot. A crazy wine.

 

Learning points

Don’t forget Merlot, it can make the most sensuous and serious wines ! Merlot is also still the most planted grape variety in France with a lot planted in Italy and many other countries below:

  • France (~280,000+ acres) Bordeaux, Languedoc-Roussillon
  • Italy (~93,000+ acres) Toscana, Campania
  • United States (~55,000+ acres) California, Washington
  • Australia (~39,000 acres) South Australia
  • Chile (~25,000 acres) | Argentina (~13,000 acres

Remember more red fruits, raspberry, plum, black cherry and others Mocha ( strong coffee/chocolate in this wine not necessarily wood but from the grape variety) vanilla clove tobacco graphite cedar

Tasting 11 – Stu’s house

Adam’s –  wine white, oak toast, smoke, coconut, vanilla, also ripe stone fruit peach
Nice balance oak alcohol body a bit oak dominated.
Stuart instantly California Chardonnay
Au Bon Climat Los Alamos Santa Barbara 2018

Kiran’s – Nose cheap red, Stuart instantly disliked.
Adam confected pear drop ? Carbonic esterified red and blue fruits some smoke
One dimensional initially then – violets smoke more tannins changed over time
Thought GSM Rhône re low tannins red fruit Med acid

Zaha Toko Vineyard Malbec 2016 Paraje AlteMira Mendoza – fooled yet again by Malbec!

Stu’s – Bretty nose horses leather band aid all tertiary
Can’t find fruit –  Brett/spoiled?
Not much came through poss. green pepper capsicum poss cassis but mainly tertiary thought old BDX
Château Feytit Clinet 2012 – bottle was clearly not in good condition or the wine was just in a dumb funk

Then tried the 2005 Feytit Clinet over cheese and ManuU v. Southampton

This was more Pomerol-like – Liquorice possibly plums coffee chocolate plum soft round tannins

Learning Points – Don’t forget Malbec if getting a GSM (red fruit, med/low acid medium tannin profile)

Other Blind wine tasting thoughts:

  • White wines low acid – Gewurztraminer, Marsanne, Viognier
  • Whites with phenolic bitterness – Gruner Veltliner, Albarino, Pinot gris
  • Oak aged whites Chardonnay -Sauv/Semillon Bordeaux, Marsanne, Viognier Rhone, Rioja Viura
  • Whites with botyritis (ginger, honey bitterness glue) uneven ripening – Chenin Blanc, Gruner Veltliner
  • Aromatic whites – Gewurz, Torrontes, Muscat, Viognier
  • Minerality – Chablis (?phenols,acidity,sulphur compounds) – Chardonnay is a master transmitter of terroir

 


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New Zealand Wine Tour February 2020, Part 4, Waiheke Island

Back in 1995 I tried one of the early 1990 vintages of Goldwater Estates Cabernet blends. It was clear then that Waiheke Island had great potential as a wine producing region.
A quarter of a century later wine is a thriving industry with around 30 boutique wineries bringing many tourists over from the mainland for tastings, dinners and weddings.
The hilly terrain, with a warm maritime climate and generally poor well drained soils provide many perfect sites for viticulture. It is possibly slightly warmer then the mainland with less rainfall as there is some sheltering from the Auckland isthmus.
Cabernet Merlot blends are still shining however there is some excellent Syrah.
I was fortunate to have arranged a house swap for a week and based myself in the lovely beach area of Sandy Bay, Enclosure Bay and Palm Beach.
With so many excellent wines to try options the most difficult decision was where to start tasting.
Stonyridge was a must, being one of the earliest pioneers and producer of one of the world’s top Bordeaux blends.

Stonyridge Estate

Stephen White Founder and owner of Stonyridge Vineyard

Stephen White, founder of Stonyridge is quite a character. He was sporting a T shirt with Mick Jagger and Bob Marley and appeared to be in very chill mood. He was preparing his speech for his son’s wedding the following day but still made time to come and meet me. I asked him what he was going to crack open on the big day, ‘A 3 litre bottle of one of our earlier vintages of Larose, and it’ll be staying on my table!’

He is into yoga and has previously sailed around the world. His life experience and passion has led to   some great Mantras displayed on the walls of the property, such as ‘We are very serious about what we do….but what we do is not very serious’

‘The time to be happy is NOW, the place to be happy is HERE, the way to be happy is to make someone else HAPPY’

Stonyridge is the second vineyard on Waiheke, starting in 1982 after Goldwater Estate (now Goldies) They are renowned for their Larose a Bordeaux blend which is only sold en primeur through members. It is a sheltered site protected from winds by Stonyridge. Stephen had great vision to buy the land for a tiny fraction of today’s price, and identify ideal sites for Bordeaux blends.

I tasted their 1 barrel production of Chardonnay 2018 which was oak influenced. I was only the 10th person to try the 2019 which had more elegance, stone fruit and subtle oak. The Larose 2018 was fruity, appealing and had soft tannins. I was then ushered into the wine cellar which was full of purple hydrangeas ready for the wedding day to try a barrel sample of the 2019. This was big, brooding, intense with excellent structure and length and was clearly a magnificent vintage.

Stephen said he’d like to keep 50 cases of the 300 to himself for this one!

I was so impressed that I joined the VIP club and ordered a case en primeur. Roll on November when it will arrive in the UK and I’ll have to try and keep my hands off it for a decade or so!

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New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020, Part 3, Hawkes Bay, Gimblett Gravels

 

Vidal wines

I was looking forward to seeing Hugh Crichton again. We had done a dinner together in London a few years ago and his wines really impressed. He trained as a winemaker at Plumpton College, then gained experience in St Emilion, Central Otago, Gisborne and Italy and has been Vidal’s winemaker since 2006. They are renowned for their powerful Legacy Chardonnay. Vidal wines are some of the oldest in New Zealand, started by Spaniard Anthony Joseph Vidal who bought an acre of land in 1905.  They were bought by Villa Maria in 1976. Vidal’s winemaking facility has just been moved to the Te Awa Estate in Gimblett Gravels, bringing new challenges however Hugh also sees advantages of having several winemakers under the same roof.

The wines are  tiered from  Estate, Reserve, Soler to Legacy

 

Wines tasted-

Vidal Sauvignon Blanc 2019

From fruit in Awatere Valley more grassy herbaceous cool than warmer Wairau Valley fruit which can give  more tropical flavours Gently pressed and cool fermented lees ageing, Lovely texture, passion fruit, acidity,  classic Marlborough style

Vidal Estate Chardonnay 2018

Citrus stone fruit and vibrant acid

Vidal réserve Chardonnay 2018

From premium Hawkes bay sites, Keltern, Kokako and Lyons. Flinty smoky buttery partial Malo, partial wild yeast lees, aged lovely soft texture.

Vidal Soler Chardonnay 2018

Fruit from Ohiti valley low crop 10 months on lees with regular stirring, reduced nose, Full bodied Chardonnay, oak toast brioche smoke minerality butter 100% wild yeast great length full body + lovely Chardonnay

Vidal Reserve Syrah 2018

Gimblett Gravels 800 hectares Omaha And Twyford alluvial gravel with silt and sand free draining low vigour low yields natural and green harvesting keeps warmth in the night. Floral red fruit nose loganberry perfumed (2% Viognier co ferment)

Vidal legacy Syrah 2014 from decanter

Black pepper, blackberry spice, perfume soft dry tannins, fresh natural acid good balance delicious wine

 

 


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New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020, Part 3, Hawke’s Bay, Esk Valley

Gordon Russell winemaker at Esk Valley for 25 years

We were hosted by the winemaker of over 25 years Gordon Russell. Esk Valley like Vidal are under the umbrella of Sir George Fistonich’s Villa Maria brand. They have recently moved their wine production  to Te Awa in Gimblett gravels. Esk valley vineyards are some of original plantings 10 km North of Napier and amongst the first to plant Verdelho and Malbec and Merlot. They maintain Gordons philosophy, a specific concrete vat was made for the new winery at Te Awa.

Wines tasted

Esk Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Marlbourough fruit, sites from 69% Wairau Valley, mix of gravel and clay warmer than Awatere ValleyPlenty of texture here from lees ageing and richness is obvious, Aromatic gooseberry fresh wine good balance and length

Esk Valley Verdelho 2018 ( only 7 hectares nationwide)

Planted in 1998 and 2002 first Verdelho vines in New Zealands history, 1 hectare in Gimblett gravels low cropped, on stony soils,oak barrel fermented, wild yeast lees stirring, Citrus slight, orange full bodied  fresh acidity.

Esk Valley Pinot Gris 2019

Slight rose tint, tank and old barrels ferment lees ageing and stirring, Pear citrus lovely texture and finish

Esk Valley Chardonnay 2018

Tropical fruit subtle oak butter vanilla 27% Malolactic 75% barrel fermented, minimal intervention

Esk Valley winemakers réserve 2016

lovely smooth fresh ripe tannins blackberry plum, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Malbec one of First New Zealand Merlot producers, oak aged 17 months 40% new

 

Esk Valley the terraces Malbec Merlot Cabernet 2016

Co-fermented together 40/33/27 one hectare site above Esk Valley winery originally planted in 1940.

Concrete vat ferment hand plunging 50% new oak 17 months unfined, unfiltered, Velvety tannins fragrant black fruit

Interestingly for a New Zealand wine this is sold en primeur.

Esk Valley wines appear to be excellent value for money especially the entry level range. They reflect  Gordon’s   wine making talent and experience.

 


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New Zealand Wine Tour, Hawke’s Bay, January 2020

The Hawke’s Bay is perfectly placed as New Zealand’s second largest wine region.  Known for being one of the hottest and driest regions of New Zealand, it is the fruit basket bay on the East coast of the North island – producing tonnes of delicious fruit, especially apples for international export on a small flat coastal plan and surrounding hill terraces.

The region might not yet be as world renowned as its NZ Southern wine neighbours and their international successes (Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough, Pinot Noir in Central Otago), but it is New Zealand’s oldest wine region and steeped a rich wine growing history from the late 1800s.  Each of the vineyards we visited had current links to early New Zealand wine pioneers (Marist religious brothers, Anthony Vidal (1905), Tom Macdonald) and late 19th  century established plantings (Esk valley terraces, Te Mata estate).  After a period of settling and experimentation, the region has now focused on what it grows and produces well – Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends.

There are now over 200 vineyards planted over  about 5,000 hectares mainly on the Heretuanga plains which includes the famed Gimblett gravels and Bridge pa triangle which are essentially terraces left behind by Ngaruroro River. The Gimblett gravels pure gravel beds arise from the changed course of the river in 1867. The ground is ideal for top quality viticulture, good drainage and the vine roots have to struggle through the gravels for nutrients.

 

 

 

Mission estate

Mission Estate is steeped in history being New Zealand’s oldest winery dating back to 1851, the first commercial sales began in 1870.

It was set up by Missionaries, Marist priests left who France in1836 landing in 1838. It is still owned by the order of St Mary Church. Their current winemaker is Paul Mooney, the first non priest to have this role. Fruit is acquired from lots growers in Hawke’s Bay including Marlborough and Central Otago.

Categories of wines go from Estate, entry level volume: Vineyard selection cellar door only, Reserve wines low crop fruit thinning, more concentrated wine more in barrel more new oak. Jewelstone top wine only in most exceptional parcels in great years

My friend Aaron remembers when he was brought here on a school residential in 1987. They offered him the opportunity to train to be a priest which he politely declined.

 

Wine tasting hosted by Phillip Van Der Walt

Mission Estate fête Hawkes Bay

Pinot Gris 94% Chardonnay 6% charmat method pear nutty almond

Mission Estate Old vine 40 years semilon small block

Likes heat too cool generally in nz Hawkes bay warm enough to produce tropical pineapple characters

Citrus moderate acid, I didn’t find classic semillon characteristics

Mission Estate Jewelstone Rose  2019

First ever jewelstone Rose 2019 only 3 barrels made Gimblett Gravels 80 Merlot 20 can sav plenty fresh red fruit, really good rose

Mission Estate Jewelstone Pinot noir 2018

Red cherry straight fire nice balance from Central Otago

Mission Estate 2018 Syrah Gimblet gravels

Spice pepper mod tannins lighter style Ground black and green peppercorns

Mission Estate Late harvest Riesling 2018

Sometimes botyrtis tiny amount blended with Viognier and arneis 106 g l,Juicy ripe apricot

Mission Estate Barrel sample Huchet Chardonnay

2018 sl nutty a bit oxidised almond hazelnut nice texture Dry texture barrel older barrels


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New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020, Part 3, Hawke’s Bay, Te Awanga Coastal Region

Tim Turvey owner of Clearview demonstrating his new wiring system

Te Awanga is on the coast, south of Napier and benefits  from the moderating effects of the Pacific ocean. It is ideally situated for white, cooler climate varietals. We visited Elephant Hill and Clearview Estate.

Clearview Estate

 

From the moment of meeting the owner of Clearview, Tim Turvey, it was obvious that he knows how to grow stuff (pineapples, pine trees, avocado, juniper berries, olives basically everything you can think of) He has the determination and stamina to both work hard and play hard to make his success.   Tim purchased a small plot of bare land in the mid 1980 with a view to doing what he knows best, and it wasn’t long before he used his skills to grow grapes and producing wine from this bare patch. Looking around the olive and avocado shaded restaurant, the name “Clearview” no longer suits the heavily planted property. Tim has literally dug every post hole and strained every new wire. He discovered a small plaque whilst digging which revealed that this was the second site of the original Vidal vineyard.

Tim’s enthusiasm and commitment to his endeavour was obvious. He was quick to show us his recently innovations including a new steel post system to replace hours of back breaking hole digging. His best recent story was the accidental discovery that sheep let loose in the vines, leaf strip to the perfect height without eating the berries (and saving the cost and boredom of employing humans to do this)

He now has a small product of typical styles of the region and other more experimental follies. We enjoyed lunch in the shaded gardens while Tim brought out pairs of wine for us to try. I was too focused on the delicious the 28 day aged ribeye to make formal tasting notes.

 

Wines tasted

Tim makes six Chardonnays we tried 3 of these and the highly rated top of the range endeavour chardonnay made with extremely low yields, they were fruit driven wines with lovely balance. The Rose had good colour and lovely red fruits, more traditional style rather than the newer vogue for more subtle barely coloured Rose. Interestingly it is made with Chambourcin an unusual hybrid grape with red flesh.The Endeavour red 2016 is only made in exceptional years revealed the quality of fruit here.We finished with Sea Red – a lightly fortified red wine made from cane cut grapes to increase the sugar content. None of the wine is cellared and mostly sells to the NZ market or at the cellar door, at reasonable prices given the high quality of wine.

Tim was too generous and passionate to leave it there. We were taken went to his authentic winery to taste a selection of barrel samples. I noticed an unusual brown cladding to some of his fermentation tanks which is a material derived from his surf board making days. Tim said it’s the best insulator he’s found. We finished with a sample from a tiny barrel of botrytized Chardonnay painstakingly made from very small quantities of noble rotted fruit. It was phenomenal and a fitting end to one of the best wine experiences I’ve had over the years.

Elephant Hill

The magnificent no expense spared winery at Elephant Hill

Elephant Hill is a new comer to the region with high tech new facilities officially opened in 2008. The focus is on low yield from top quality sites. It was originally set up by the late founder Roger Weiss  and is now led by his son Andreas.The winery is stunning, designed by architect John Blair. It is Bauhaus, clean lined  covered with beautiful turquoise coloured copper which during a  four and a half year process it was oxidized in Germany to give this effect. It blends in seamlessly with the colours of the sea off Cape Kidnappers.

They have 62 hectares  including holdings in the Bridge Pa triangle and Gimblett Gravels and Te Awanga on the coast, and are one of the top 5 Syrah producers in New Zealand. Categories of wines go from Estate to Reserve to Limited edition and Ultimately Icons

 

Wines Tasted

 

Elephant Hill Estate Chardonnay 2016

pickled lemon, citrus, fresh, some smoke barrel influence texture

Elephant Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2017

More smoke flintiness wood vanilla possible salinity r(ight by the Pacific and sometimes the sea washes up to vineyard) No or minimal malo, hazelnut almond on the palate not overtly buttery Very nice length

Elephant Hill Icon Salome 2017 after Maria Salome family history dating to 1700’s

Rich well seasoned barrel, First year T5 Malo 35% pineapple, mango,, nuttiness saltiness long long on plate and sides mouth

Elephant Hill Stone 2016 Syrah

Black fruit lovely soft ripe tannins flinty stony good acid ,1% Viognier

Elephant Hill Airavata Syrah 2015

70 Gimblett gravels 30% Te awanga, fruit, soft silky tannins, floral soft fruit tone cherry and spice black pepper

Elephant Hill Hieronymus 2015

Full bodied delicious black fruit tannin and chocolate 41 cs 22 merlot 17 cab franc Malbec 8 Tempranillo, smoky leathery Structured tannins. Needs a few more years

 

Special thanks to Aaron O’Connell for his help writing this post and his companionship during many days of hard work in Hawke’s Bay

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New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020, Part 3, Hawke’s Bay, Taradale

Church Road

 

 

We reached Church Road winery via a lovely, easy, flat, dedicated bike trail from Napier which hugs the coast, initially going past the harbour full of commercial logs ready for export to China. It then goes via the wetlands created when the ground rose by over 6 feet during the devastating earthquake of 1931, it was initially the harbour. Church Road has a long history dating back to 1897 when a former member of the Mission founded Taradale Vineyards on a 2 hectare site. Tom McDonald who worked since age 14 on the vines and in charge of property aged only 19. It later became McDonald wines. Tom pioneered some of New Zealand’s earliest wines receiving an OBE in 1976. Now owned by Pernod Ricard the range is diverse including unusual varietals such as Marzemino and Sauvugnon Gris. The Grand Reserve and flagship TOM are only made in the best years.

 

Church Road Pinot Gris Gwen 2019

Smooth textured sl tropical fruit guava

Church Road 1 Chardonnay 2018

Smoky flinty Chardonnay Juliette said smells of twiglets I think reflecting the lees ageing smoky savoury texture

Church Road Gwen Rose 2019

Merlot 92% Tempranillo 7% Malbec 1% more subtle Provence style Rose

Church Road Rose 2019

Californian style, red cherry raspberry fruit forward

Church Road Marzemino 2018 (grape from Trento Alto Adige, Italy)

Nice soft tannin dry good acid back bone

Church Road Tempranillo 2017

3 other growers of Tempranillo in Hawkes bay, blue fruits hint mocha

Church Road Grand réserve Syrah 2017

Lighter elegant style Syrah floral red fruit, as a few people have commented this is our Hawke’s Bay pinot.

Church Road Tom Syrah 2015

Flagship Syrah named after  Tom McDonald.  black fruits but tasted Slightly Porty ?oxidised

Church Road TOM Cabernet Sauvignon  Merlot 2015

Grand Reserve Cabernet from Bridge Pa site 66%  Merlot 23% from Gimblett Gravels TOM +++ best wine yet of Hawke’s Bay tastings but $220 per bottle! Only at cellar door or duty free.

Brilliant…Just after telling Aaron these super premium wines are wines not worth it I took a swirl of this in my mout and told him I take back everything I just said!. Amazingly concentrated long complex plum black cherry violet cedar vanilla with beautifully integrated fine grained ripe tannins fruit oak and intensity, long long on palate one to age for a long time


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New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020, Part 3, Hawke’s Bay, Havelock North

Craggy Range

My visit to Craggy Range was well overdue. Their wines have long been one of my favourites. My first experience of them was a Craggy Range Le Sol back in 2004 at a wine society tasting in London with my French brother in law Seb. We were instantly struck by the concentration and intensity of this wine. So good was the Le Sol, we acquired a bottle that same evening and took as a BYO to the nearest Steakhouse. Kiran and I have long been fans of their excellent Bordeaux blend, Sophia, and have enjoyed many vintages over the years. The overall commitment to excellence shines through in their wines which we know well having hosted wine dinners over the years with Steve Smith MW. Steve has now left and set up his own business with American Brian Sheth (Smith and Sheth)
Craggy Range is owned by The Peabody family who have put it in a 1,000 year trust so it can never be sold, with the intention of creating a true legacy. The winery is a no expense spared tome to wine, set in magnificent gardens at the foot Te Mata peak.
The modern beautifully designed  winery is purely for Sophia. The other wines are made in a different site. We had the wine tasting in the garden enjoying the Hawke’s Bay summer.

Wines Tasted

Craggy Range Chardonnay 2019 kidnappers bay
Lemon citrus good acid fresh minerality
Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux 2017
This has not been made for a few years due to lead roll virus destroying the vineyards which have since been replanted.
Mineral soft textured smoky with beautiful balance. Pete the head somm rubbed together the stones found in the vineyard. The resulting aroma reflected some of the smoky minerals flinty nature of the wine. I couldn’t help myself in licking the stones which had a salty smoky taste, surprisingly delicious!
Craggy Range Te muna Road 2016 Pinot Noir
From Vineyards in Martinborough, Lovely ripe fruit cherry plum soft tannins
Craggy Range Te muna Aroha 2017 Pinot Noir
Sources from Vineyards in Martinborough Rich ++ complex perfume gamey wild berries could splash it on soft silky tannins ++ fantastic quality Pinot Noir displaying why this grape is so intoxicating.Aroha means love a very fitting name for this wine.
Abel clone gumboot clone ? origin from DRC clones smuggled back to NZ and confiscated.
Craggy Range Le sol 2016
100% Syrah20% whole bunch rich smooth blueberry long lovely tannins
Unidimensional at this stage, needs time to develop
Craggy Range Sophia 2011 and 2016
2016
Merlot dominant cab sav cab franc
Tannins beautiful acid lovely fruit beautiful wine+  mocha
2011 more complex but hint of oxidation
As expected the wines were fantastic reflecting the philosophy and investment here. Peter explained that after years of research based on blind tastings of screw caps, Diam and cork that everything from now will be bottled with screw cap. A trend that is understandably becoming more universal.


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New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020, Part 2- Northland – Doubtless Bay

 

Dancing Petrel Wines

Whilst sitting enjoying coffee at Waterfront bar in Mangonui, I spotted some beautiful vineyards on the slopes at the far side of the harbour. These are the vines of the newly founded Dancing Petrel Wines named after the Storm Petrel, which pirouettes across the waves. I was hosted by the very welcoming owner, Kim Gilkinson who has lived here since 2012 and bought the vineyards in 2018. She says the vines were not in the best condition. However she has put a lot of work in since. The plantings include a small planting of Tannat and recently Gewürztraminer. The wines are made at Marsden winery.

Wines Tasted

Dancing Petrel Viognier 2018

Carbonated, fresh apple apricot floral nice balance easy drinking

Dancing Petrel Viognier 2018

not overtly floral, apricot in the finish, dried apricot chews nice balance length sl saltiness

Dancing Petrel Viognier 2018 (Oaked) slight nutty on the nose

Dancing Petrel Pinot Gris

some fruit pear subtle

Dancing Petrel Rose

Syrah and Cabernet Franc hints of red fruits

 

This is not the easiest place are to produce grapes given the high rainfall and predominantly clay soils. However, given the amount of warmth and the North facing slopes, there is some potential. The stunning location on Paewhenua Island with 360 degree panoramic views over Mangonui harbour and the tourism should aid a new wine business.


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New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020, Part 2- Northland – Marsden Estate

Marsden Estate, Kerikeri, Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand

 

 

Rod Macivor founder of Marsden was preparing for his earliest harvest on record. So early that he was having trouble acquiring the yeast supply. Never in the 27 years since commencing Marsden has the harvest been this early. It had been a particularly dry few months. How much may be down to global warming is unknown, but this felt like an ominous sign. I had travelled to Marsden in Kerikeri near The Bay of Islands having heard about Marsden’s quality and the award winning Black Rocks Chardonnay. I was lucky enough to be hosted by Rod despite him being immersed in work. They had one of their grape growers field day/workshops today. Marsden works a bit like a Co-op with Rod making wine for over 40 individual growers. This reflects the scattered nature of Northlands wine growing areas over a large distance, the remoteness and low volumes produced. It’s not the easiest place to grow grapes with the high rainfall and humidity increasing risks such as fungal disease.

I was lucky enough to meet Mark Nobilo who with his many years of knowledge and wisdom advises local growers and winemakers in his own time. I also met Ben Byrne, winemaker at the expansive and heavily invested property; The Landing, which is making quite a name for itself.

 

Wines Tasted

Marsden Pinot Gris 2019

Floral pear textured slight spicy finish

Marsden Black Rocks Chardonnay 2018 +

Lovely buttery malo nose vanilla toasty peach. lees contact, smooth toasty oak long vanilla finish 30 % new oak lees few months

Marsden Viognier 2019

apricot tinned peach, bitterness good acidity

Marsden Tempranillo 2015

Red berry, chocolate yoghurt oak soft tannins 12 months oak cellar savoury

Marsden Chambourcin 2015

 American French hybrid recently commercial, salami nose peppery

Cured meats spice smooth good acidity

Marsden Syrah Vigot 2015 +

Mixture ripe blackberries spices turmeric pepper, lovely wine. I had to buy a bottle as well as the Chardonnay and Pinot Gris!

Barrel sample tannat

Blueberry and good tannin excellent development and approachability despite being a barrel sample.

 

The wines are made very well. I particularly enjoyed the Syrah and it was good to try a wine with 5 years of age.

It was interesting to try the Chambourcin, something more unusual which is adapted for the climate up here.

I enjoyed meeting Rod who exudes generosity, passion and ability which is reflected in his excellent wines.

 

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