WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

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New Zealand Wine Annual Tasting 2015

A tricky tasting with many wines appearing closed, a root day or are New Zealand’s maturing vines beginning to produce wines that behave just as capriciously in their youth as the best of the old world?

New Zealand undoubtedly produces some of the worlds premium wines and what makes this all the more extraordinary is that it does so from relatively young vines and in the context of a fair bit of climatic variation from year to year. At a tasting 18 months ago to celebrate 10 years of Craggy Range Te Muna pinot noir Steve Smith MW was confident that after a decade the vines were beginning to show their full character. So in theory the wines should just get better and better, no pressure then!

With 474 wines from 103 producers on show and only an hour and a half window I therefore thought the best thing to do was focus on a few old favourites to see how they were developing and what the current vintages are like.

Felton Road Central Otago

Felton Road Elms Chardonnay 2013.
Crisp citrus, ripe pear, lovely texture, this wine has substance but also great freshness & good length. Delicious & great value. (No oak but aged in old barrels to soften and round it out).

Felton Road Chardonnay Bannockburn 2013.
A captivating succession of citrus, lemon & lime, stoney mineral notes, a whiff of white flowers and just a hint of bakery and toast. Great complexity and length, at whole lot of wine for the price. (Again more Chablis than Cote d’Or with only 8% new wood).

Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay 2013.
My notes read: ‘OMG this is fantastic!’ so it was pretty good. Again citrus, ripe green apples, a good lick of minerals, very intense at this stage with great balance and long lingering finish. Thrilling and with plenty of ageing potential. Grand Cru in terms of quality, Nigel Greening founder of Felton Road believes that whilst NZ pinots are already internationally recognised the Chardonnays are now ready to sit at the top table too.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn 2013.
This wine strikes a great balance between forward tasty ripe fruit and a nice vegital backbone, finishing with lashings of spice and wood. Reliably delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point 2013.
True to this vineyard’s character this wine is spicy, seductive and forward. Ripe red fruits, cake spices and a lush mouth feel, nice long finish. I always wonder how this will age, having started out so delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert 2013.
Again the consistent character of this vineyard comes through, quite distinct from the Cornish Point, although the clones and vinification are exactly the same. More compact with great balance, clean fruit, perfume with a nice savoury core and great length. Fantastic. One to tuck away for a few years and great value when compared with premier cru Burgundy.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 2013.
A lovely delicate balance of confected strawberry, cinnamon spice, real depth and complexity & great freshness and length.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2013.
This has an earthy, meaty nose with ripe black cherry, intense and primary, fuller bodied with a caressing mouth feel and just enough freshness to lift the very long finish. Amazing.

Craggy Range

Craggy Range Avery Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough. 2014
A great fresh gooseberry driven SB with a touch of elderflower and cracking acidity.

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough.

This has more substance, stone fruit and a nice creaminess, but still all the crisp freshness that you would hope for, very satisfying.

Craggy Range Chardonnay Kidnappers Vineyard. Hawke’s Bay 2012.
Vibrant ripe citrus, touch of honey and a lovely saline whiff of the sea shore. Great balance and freshness, the tiny touch of oak very subtle.

Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough. 2012.
This seemed a little closed down and I have noticed that although they start open and inviting MZ some PNs seem to close down and become more reticent after a couple of years. Red fruit and a vegital base, good balance and nice finish. This is normally a real crowd pleaser with pure fruit and a heady floral perfume as evidenced by our 10 year tasting finishing with the 2011 two years ago.

Craggy Range Pinot Noir Aroha Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough. 2011.
A selection from the finest parcels with some whole bunch fermentation. Quite primal with earthy, vegital with black cherries wood and smoke, you can almost taste the stalk tannin which may need a bit of time to fully integrate. Again quite closed but with plenty of substance.

Craggy Range Syrah Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Black and white pepper, tight black fruit, quite austere at the moment , medium body with good balance, will hopefully fill out with time.

Craggy Range ‘ Le Sol’ Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Again quite closed overall but clearly an intense wine with a deep core of black fruit, black pepper and toast. Great balance and long length.

Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Gorgeous polished nose, perfumed wood polish, ripe blackberries, medium body, fine tannins, silky mouth feel and good length. Delicious.


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Ten Years of Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir

The line up

The line up

What a privilege to be invited to this vertical tasting of the very first ten vintages of the Te Muna vineyard Pinots.  Located in Martinborough on the southern tip of the North island Steve Smith MW feels that this is the home of pinot in NZ with its unique terroir of old cracked and fissured stones.

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The great Smithy in action

A fascinating tasting on several levels. One doesn’t often get to taste older vintages of New World wines party as this vertical demonstrates because often only a limited number of vintages exist, (although having recently tasted Aussie Shiraz from 100 year old wines this is not always the case)  and partly because older vintages are simply not available in the market.

This vertical told a story of a new vineyard developing over time, as the vines mature the vineyard’s character is revealed.  From 2002 to 2005 the wines showed more evolved vegetal and earthy characteristics the 05 particularly tasty.  I liked the 07 but this was from a tough year with low yield so perhaps uncharacteristic.  08 to 11 showed more consistent purity of fruit, mineral back bone and an increasingly perfumed characteristic.

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Amongst the great & the good of the wine world


I loved these wines which have to be some of the best value fine Pinots in the world.

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Craggy Range tasting at Frederick’s with Steve Smith, Master of Wine

One of only 300 Masters of Wine in the world, Steve Smith presented the wines of Craggy Range at Frederick’s restaurant in Islington to a sellout crowd. The event started with canapés in the reception room before moving upstairs to a private dining room.

Round 1

  • Te Muna Road Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Avery Sauvignon Blanc Marborough 2010
  • served with four rounds of canapés including prawn tempura and goats cheese crostini

Round 2

  • Kidnappers Chardonnay 2011
  • Te Muna Martinbourough riesling 2011
  • served with starter of smoked salmon blinis

Round 3

  • Te Muna Road Pinot noir 2010
  • Calvert, Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010

Round 4

  • Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu 2010
  • Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2010
  • served with medium rare lamb and aubergine caviar

Round 5

  • Sophia 2010
  • Le Sol 2010
  • served with a selection of cheeses

Round 6

  • Fletchers Late Harvest Riesling
  • served with a raspberry panacotta

The wines were excellent and are available widely: Majestic (look out for special offers), Waitrose & Slurp.

Frederick’s is a wonderful restuarant in the heart of the Angel Islington, great atmosphere and superb food and service.  Highly recommended. http://fredericks.co.uk/

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Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir 2010

If you like pinot this is for you. Ripe, summer pudding, strawberries and raspberries, then earthy, wet fur, fantastic New Zealand pinot, single vineyard Martinborough. The full selection will be shown at Fredericks at our September Craggy Range tasting – one for the diary.

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The Quarry Gimblett Gravels 2002, Craggy Range

Lovely savoury Chinese plum sauce, wood and damson on the nose. A rich mix of dark fruit, mocha and cocoa powder on the palette, again savoury, yet sweet and delicious. Develops a little in the glass, not hugely long but lots of pleasure. Age has rounded and softened the wine compared to the 2007 Sophia from the same winemakers. ***

Was available from the Wine Society but they seem to have run out. I’ve seen the 2005 from £40, which is a bit steep. Look out for Craggy Range Sophia, which is similar but more of a Bordeaux right bank blend for about £20, or the Te Kahu, a merlot and cab sav blend for everyday drinking.

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Farr Vintners Christmas tasting

Held at the rather grand Vintners Hall on Upper Thames St, this was a great tasting with over 80 wines on show being served by some great winemakers, including Antony Barton of Leoville Barton and Jean-Charles Cazes of Lynch Bages.

Best wine of the evening was either Krug 1998 (not usually a big champagne fan, but this is extraordinarily complex and delicious), or Lynch Bages 2000, which had a heady nose of wood, bakery and sweet fruit, and followed through with a concentrated, complexity and real lasting depth (sadly £1250 IB).

Disappointments for me were Palmer twofold, as the Alter Ego 2007 and 2002 were light and thin, and not nearly as good as the 2008s I tried at the April UCG tasting, where they so impressed me. And by the time I got to the table someone had nicked the last bottle of 1996, which others said was great!

Also the Pichon Lalande 2005, 2004 and 2001 were all a bit insubstantial (thin according to the lady I was standing next to). The 2001 was best, so perhaps they need time to develop?

All the Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton impressed me, including both 2007s at £340 and £280 in bond (IB) respectively, confirming the oft repeated statement that Mr. Barton manages fantastically high consistent quality. I would go for the 2001 Langoa at £275 IB, which was earthy and mushroomy with plenty of fruit and tannin, or the 2004 Leoville at £395 IB, which was tight, lots of cassis and should develop over many years.

Not only was the Lynch Bages great, but so was the Les Ormes de Pez 2003 and 2005 at £220 and £240. I overheard a group of gents busy telling Jean Charles what great value his wines were and had to step in and put a stop to it.

The CNDP Dom de Senechaux 2007 they own was also lovely, full of sweet sticky figs and long, delicious. But a slight fear it might be a bit one-dimensional, or perhaps just young from a great vintage.

I was impressed by the Verget white burgundies, having recently had a great trip there sampling lots of good wine. I have been feeling a bit stung by the general level of prices and the generally poor 2007 reds.

The various Chablis 1er Crus from £135-£195 were all of great quality, tight minerally and with depth. For me ‘Vaillons’ and Fourchaume VV de Vaulorens’ were the most tasty. But I would and may go for the Meursault ‘Tillets’ at £210 IB, which was tight, fresh, stone fruits with a light woody touch and core of minerals. I’d be interested to find out how it might age.

Top value for early drinking (this time confirming Adam’s general view) were the new world wines:

Kumeu River Estate and Hunting Hill Chardonnays at £130 and £150. Made to develop over 2-6 years. Exciting, oaky but totally balanced, and simply delicious.

Craggy Range, the Merlot Cab Te Kahu at £120 IB was gorgeous and will apparently age well (no chance of that at my house as it will be polished off pronto). The Merlot Cab Franc Sophia at £190 was also ***+ wine, and the Syrah Le Sol at £295 IB (so a £30 a bottle wine) was so refined and balanced that it concealed its 14% alcohol completely. It’s the heaviness of a lot of NW wines that I find hard to enjoy.

The mystery wine a Phelan Segur 2005 at £300 as case was also very good indeed.

More info from Farr Vintners.