WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

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Best Pinot Noir of New Zealand – Suze restaurant, Mayfair

35 people attended this seated tasting in Mayfair. A great evening showing the best pinots in New Zealand based on Matthew Dukes 5-star pinot rating table. Nicola Greening of Felton Road presented Calvert and Cornish Point, Mike Herrick was over from New Zealand presenting Pipeclay and the Estate from Mount Difficulty and Abbie Moulton of Liberty wines showed Ata Rangi.

Venue Suze restaurant in Mayfair is owned by passionate, wine-loving Kiwis. Matching canapés were served with the wines.

Welcome wines:

  • Kumeu River Estate, 2007, Chardonnay, Auckland New Zealand.

This is a firm favourite of the WanderCurtis duo since I hit upon the 2006 vintage. At about £15 a bottle it is not strictly every day drinking but so reliably delicious and morish that it is hard to resist reaching for it after a long day at the office. The 2007 is fresh with wood and citrus notes on the nose. It is quite tight to begin with and really benefits from decanting for an hour or two. It is even better the next day if there is any left. The oak softens and leaves a very nicely balanced and persistent wine which sustains the interest.  Available from The Wine Society £16, Farr Vintners and Swig. (The Wine Society Exhibition NZ Chardonnay is produced by Kumeu River and is almost as good at £12.50).

  • Kumeu River Coddington Vineyard, 2007, Chardonnay, Auckland New Zealand.

Kumeu produce a number of single vineyard chardonnays which, when tasted side by side, show an impressive variety of styles from the taught and steely Hunting Hill to the complex and creamy Mates vineyard. The Coddington is at the luscious, buttery and toasty end of the spectrum. Again although there is again smoky wood on the nose to begin with. This wears off and is replaced by citrus and biscuit, on the palette creamy and buttery but balanced with mineral tones. Complex and delicious. Available from The Wine Society for£18, Farr Vintners £20.

Round 1:  Felton Road, Central Otago. (introduced by Nicola)

  • Felton Road, Calvert  Pinot Noir 2010.

On the nose tight with cherries and red fruits to begin with, on the palette again very closed and delicate however ten minutes in the glass brings a revelation. On the nose a huge range of spice, chocolate, liquorice scents rolling one after another and on the palette it broadens out and gains weight and complexity. Obviously very young, but a tremendous wine. Available from http://www.uncorked.co.uk £36.95.

  • Felton Road, Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2010.

On the nose more open, spicy and voluptuous and immediately approachable than the Calvert. The Cornish Point also develops in the glass, a savoury and tasty wine. Also needs time. Available from http://www.uncorked.co.uk £36.95.

Round 2: Martinborough Ata Rangi wines (introduced by Abbie)

  • Ata Rangi, Martinborough Pinot Noir, 2009.

On the nose tight and a bit closed, cherries and a bit of smoke on the palette. Very young with plenty of acid and some tannin, a big wine but in its infancy.  In this primal state, a bit hard to judge and rather unfair in comparison to the forward Te Terra. Available from Bordeaux Index for £372 per case or £31 per bottle.

  • Martinborough Vineyard, Te Terra 2010.

On the nose, fruity and spicy, on the palette plums, savoury notes, tasty and quaffable and ready to drink already. Available from Majestic at £12.99 for 2+ bottles.

Round 3: Mount Difficulty, Central Otago
(introduced by Michael Herrick of Mount Difficulty and Helena Westcombe of Ellis of Richmond)

  • Mount Difficulty Estate, 2008.

On the nose delicate fruit, volatile floral scents, still quite compact, a nice mix of freshness, fruit and some savoury notes in the mouth. The Central Otago wines seem to be a bit crisper and more tightly wound than the two Martinborough wines tasted so far. The Estate blended from six different vineyards slowly evolves in the glass and sustains one’s interest seemingly confirming Mike’s recommendation to keep 6-7 years. Available from Waitrose for£23.74. and http://www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk for £19.95.

  • Mount Difficulty Pipe Clay Terrace, 2007.

A single vineyard wine only made good years, this is a darker, bigger wine, with a nice complex nose of earth, dark fruit and spicy tobacco notes, more fruit core and earthy flavours on the palette with some obvious tannin.  Also wine follow as it ages. Available from http://www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk for £40.45.

Round 4:

  • Ata Rangi, McCrone Vineyard Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2008.

Rather closed nose, red fruit, and floral scents, crisp acidity and tight structure in the mouth, overall bright fruit opening up a bit in time with some savoury flavours. Compact and long couldn’t be more of a contrast to the Henri Gouges Burgundy! Available from http://www.harrogatefinewinecompany.com for £44.99.

  • Henri Gouges, Nuits St Georges, Villages 2008, Burgundy.

The nose dominated by dirty, savoury scents, nappies, lamb chops, compost etc.  In the mouth these notes again, but underscored by ripe fruits. This wine elicited differing opinions and was a huge contrast with the NZ pinots. Available: Justerini & Brooks £330/case. 2009 vintage http://www.lhkfinewines.com en primueur £240/case In Bond.


The New Zealand wines lived up to their reputation of offering clean crisp bright fruit and minerals. However it was great to see that a number promise to develop and offer that much sought after pinot noir experience of fragrant fruit contrasting with barnyard characteristics. Mike Herrick described this nicely as a walk through his grandmother’s rose garden with the scent of the flowers mingled with that of the compost and earth below.

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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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Christmas shopping at Bennetts Fine Wine – Chipping Campden, Cotswolds

It was with great delight that I fell upon Bennetts Fine Wine in the lovely town of Chipping Campden. Whilst the family were  busying themselves way buying Christmas presents and coffee drinking, I luxuriated in the fantastic collection.

One of WanderCurtis’s favorites Kumeu River was represented in abundance as one of the first importers. I tried a 2008 Kumeu River pinot noir – smokey, rich, fruity and gorgeous with Christmas day roast beef and chicken in sherry and mango! Also went for Shaw and Smith M3 chardonnay 2008 –  highly rated. This shop has a superb collection, and highly recommended to anyone passing through this truly unspoilt area of green rolling hills of our beautiful country.

Boxing Day evening was complemented by ‘The Caracal’, a South African Bordeaux blend – shared with my brother and washed down with Muga 2007. Another slightly blurry, very merry, antioxidant packed festive season.

Off to Bistro d’Aix in Crouch End tomorrow to investigate venues for our January ‘Four Decades of Bordeaux’ tasting.

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Felton Road pinot noir, Bannockburn 2009

Blair Walters winemaker believes this could be the best vintage ever at Felton Road. One sniff of this and you can see why. Lush perfume, flowers, rose petals, violets. Very precise, clean, beautiful finish, an absolute gem, as are the others (Cornish Point/block 3), but harder to find here. I tried the range at Felton Road two weeks ago. Available at Farr Vintners. Some stock at Tesco fine wine for £25 per bottle – one for a special occasion.

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Pinots of Central Otago New Zealand wine tasting trip – December 2010

I can’t imagine a more beautiful place in the world to have a vineyard – just awesome. Steep mountain ranges, valley floors, gorges, glacial waters of the Kawarau river, a fusion of light and landforms.

Aaron, Kiwi wine lover and psychologist and I started on our quest for the finest pinot in Central Otago at Bald Hills in Cromwell. Owner Blair Hunt showed us his lovely collection, after a long day on the road from earhquake hit Christchurch, via lunch at Riverside Kitchen.

The newly opened wine trail bike route in the Gibbston valley provided the ideal oppurtunity to explore Perigrine wines and Amisfield. More examples of superbly made beautiful, fruit filled sensuous pinots.

Alan-BradyDay 3 was the highlight. We met Alan Brady, who planted the first vines in the Gibbston valley over 30 years ago and was the instigator for the wine boom here. After the initial embarrassment of not having his recently released book ‘Pinot Central’ but the one by John Saker, we were treated to a delightful tour. First of Gibbston Valley Winery then Mount Edward, followed by lunch in the sun. Surprised myself by ordering a rosé. Not normally much of a fan, these are 100% pinot and just delicious, with the most vibrant floral nose and supremely balanced palate that I am at last a convert to these rather unpopular numbers.

Alan is a true gent, humble for a man who has achieved so much here. He also rang ahead for us to arrange a tour of Rippon Valley wines in Wanaka the following day.

Off then to Felton Road and unfortunately just missed much talked about charismatic owner Nigel Greening. However had a tour and tried the wines.

The Holy Grail was found after four days of searching and 20,000km with four flight changes. All had been worth it. The passion/organic/biodynamic/terroir all came through to deliver a palatal treat – a real assault on the senses – wines gushing with fruit, flowers and complexity and something unquantifiable. The sense that a perfect harmony was present – bottled beauty!

jane-dochertyWhile Block 3 was particularly good, we loved them all. Well done to Felton Road, and after this nothing really mattered (except Man Utd seeing off Arsenal the following day!) We still had some stamina, and well worth it too as Jane Docherty from Carrick was a great hostess to the fine wines of Carrick.

A great trip and now have the ammunition for a “Best of Kiwi Pinot” WanderCurtis tasting in the early summer!

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Concha y Toro winemakers lot 105t Pinot Noir 2008

Another fine effort from talented Chilean winemaker Ignacio Recabarren.
This is a great value pinot. In fact you won’t find a better quality pinot for £6. Available from The Wine Society and other outlets. We tried the Concha y Toro Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon the same evening and all are amazing for the price.