Posts Tagged ‘Kumeu River’
One of the quirky charms of Overton’s ‘Bring a Bottle Club’ is the practice – usually followed by one of the regular members – of bring a joker bottle to be tasted blind, like all the wine. There are not many other places where you could taste a 10 year old English rosé, a Maltese red or a white Nero (that’s the clue) di Troia. However, as there is no conferring before the tasting on what people will bring, the ‘joker’ factor will spread to the usually more conventional choices of others. When this happens, blind tasting becomes a somewhat random series of increasingly desperate guesses. It is still possible to comment on the ripeness of fruit, the weight of the wine and much more, but identification becomes mission impossible. And so it proved on a pleasant summer’s evening when the chance to be inside out of the rain belied the fact that this was the July meeting of the ‘BBC’. You could say that the most recognisable alcoholic beverage of the evening was the one in the first picture below. Plus a fine picture of post-Kilimanjaro beard …
|This first wine is a major classic and should have been recognisable. Slightly oxidised, pale gold, floral, sharp apples and honey, some sweetness. But there was a long debate over Riesling v. Chenin Blanc, the majority wrongly favouring the former: Le Haut-Lieu, Vouvray Sec, Huet 2002. When you don’t spot the most distinctive wine of the evening, you know you are in trouble.|
|Having started with Riesling on the mind, here was another perhaps more obvious Riesling. But there was still something strange about it – trying to locate it in the world’s Riesling zones was not productive … Edgy acidity, some mineral notes, but then ripe apple and stone fruit … What nobody had in mind is a Riesling /Albarino blend grown at 1000m of altitude in NE Spain: Ekam, Castell d’Enclus, 2010. Much praised by Jancis Robinson and stocked by Caviste.||
|OK, this one should have been easy and most got the grape correct: fairly austere if oaky nose, some concentrated citrus fruit, medium acidity, good length. It turned to be the oaked version of a fine NZ producer’s Chardonnay. But even those who drink Kumeu River regularly thought that the oak overwhelmed the fruit in this example: Maté’s Vineyard, Chardonnay, Kumeu River 2004.|
|On an evening of unusual wines, this was – deservedly – the official, full on, joker. And yes, it does say Barossa Valley Gewurztraminer on the label. My note says ‘light, quite floral, lime [fruit]’ but nothing that might suggest its grape variety as grown in more typical locations: Goldilocks would have needed more forensic questioning to lead her to 4 Bears, Gewurztraminer, Barossa Valley, 2008.|
|Another oaky number if again in a subtle and expensive way, then good rounded fruit, all pointing to barrel fermentation, but where? As Caviste has become something of a N Spain specialist, this would be a fair surmise but trying to place this blind was impossible: made from 100% Verdejo, Naiades, Naia Viña Sila, Reuda DO, Spain, 2007.|
|This was the Rosé which I brought, partly to make the point that there are pink wines that will stand up in this company. So the cloud of unknowing briefly lifted at least for me. Fragrant strawberry fruit, excellent structure, unusually for a rosé, fermented in a barrel, good length, most thought it was Provencal. In fact it is from further south: Le Rosé, Domaine Gardiés, Côtes-du-Roussillon, 2011.|
|Oh dear, seriously off-piste again. Dense colour, minty and a touch burnt on the nose, dried fruit and black cherry, medium tannins, medium length …. no idea. It was bought as a joker. I think it is fair to say that no one had tasted (a powerful and slightly clumsy) Cretan Syrah before: Diamantopetra, Diamantakis Winery, Crete, 2009. Made from Syrah and the local grape Mandilari.|
|My wine again and one that has been taking up a space in the rack for a few years. Quite dense in colour and texture, probably at its peak with delicious, perfectly knit together red and black fruit, some leather notes and the slightest touch of green leafiness. People were really surprised at the weight and density of this quality Cabernet Franc: Coteau de Noiré, Phillipe Alliet, Chinon 2003.|
||Petit Verdot … Sicilian Petit Verdot of course! PV to its friends is a minor but spicy Bordeaux variety which the adventurous experiment with in hotter climes. Here the nose was restrained and hinting at the powerful black fruit dominated palate. Chianu Carduni, Baglio di Pianetto, IGT Sicilia, 2004 is late picked at the end of October, and is the product of heat and long hang time on the vine in the Palermo district of Sicily.|
|To complete this mission impossible, another unusual wine: bold new world fruit, hugely extracted plus lashings of fine oak; chocolate, red and black fruit, but no one obvious varietal clue. This turned out to be made by Masi from the Veneto, northern Italy, produciing wine from Amarone-style semi-dried ripe grapes but with a blend of Corvina and Malbec … in Argentina: Masi Tupungato, La Arboleda, Argentina 2008, 14.5% abv.||
We are now looking forward to BBC2 on Austria (plus Germany as necessary) when at least there will be a theme – and no doubt a joker, but hopefully not five!
Saturday night’s fine wine supper was a chance to reassess some of the best wines now coming out of New Zealand courtesy of a selection from the Wine Society. Most UK consumers associate Kiwi wine with its own super-vibrant style of Sauvignon Blanc – but there is much more to it than that.
The evening started with two sparkling wines – a ‘pre-aperitif’ in the shape of the simple but drinkable Brancott Estate Brut Cuvée and then the much more sophisticated Quartz Reef Brut Sparkling Non Vintage – the slightest hint of pink in a basically pale lemon wine, then a fine well-integrated set of aromas on the nose (red fruit, subtle yeast, brioche) and a rounded palate of creamy fruit, excellent acidity and medium length. Great value at £14.
If this were an Italian meal, the primo was two starkly contrasting white wines – full of substance as a pasta or risotto might be, but subtle and full of flavour too. In contrast to the great majority of unoaked Sauvignon Blanc we had the barrel fermented Dog Point Section 94, Marlborough, 2009. This needed 10 minutes in the glass to rid itself of pronounced sulphur smell and for the oak to not be the most dominant feature. Once past the ‘burnt rubber’ phase, there was elderflower, apple, vanilla, spice and honey, a great deal of extract and a long rich savoury finish, a wine with layers of interest which needs more time yet. Rather more conventional – and a personal favourite of mine – was Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Auckland, 2009. This wine is barrel fermented too but doesn’t shout ‘oak alert’ at you. Subtle floral notes, ripe fruit and oak on the nose, rich apple, melon, and tropical fruit and some yeasty flavours, very long, an excellent combination of powerful fruit and refinement. On the whole I prefer the leaner style of white Burgundy but this is a text book wine in a fruitier but restrained style.
The next three wines, the secondo in Italian meal terms, were what attracted me to this case in the first place: three examples of Pinot Noir, one from each of New Zealand’s Pinot hot spots. First in a line was a very famous name, if for a very different grape variety. Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir, Marlborough, 2009, headily aromatic when I decanted it it, continued in this vein: attractive red fruit, light on the palate but so drinkable, good persistence, quite a subtle finish. Two heavier weights followed but with a real difference between them. Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martin-borough, 2009, is from low-yielding 30 year old vines planted on silt over gravel. The result is a wine rich in red fruit character with beautifully handled oak ageing. It had a bold palate of rich red fruit – though apparently not as full as in some, better, vintages. Finally, we tasted Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noir, Central Otago, 2009. Palest of the three in colour, this convinced with its sublime, succulent fruit and subtle tannins. Not as weighty as the Martinborough wine, but its equal in overall quality.
The last of the core six wines, hardly a dolce, was New Zealand’s new kid on the block, high quality Syrah, in this case from Hawkes Bay. This area was famous for its Cabernet, with a Bordeaux-like maritime climate, low rain fall by NZ standards and gravel, but Syrah is making serious inroads. Craggy Range Le Sol, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, 2009, is a big, deep ruby-red wine with purple edges. The red and black fruit palate, with a characteristic pepper note, was solid and slightly muted at the moment, but this will develop with a bit of time in the bottle with its great concentration of fruit and good length. For my money, it is a bit pricy at £38 – a premium for a fashionable wine?
The evening finished (digestivo?) with two bonus bottles, both aged for some time in the cellars of those who came to the tasting. On the right of the picture is a testament to the enduring appeal of the grape varieties of the (Italian) homeland – Montepulciano here teamed up with Merlot. Vin Alto Merlot Montepulciano, Auckland, 2005 showed civilised plum and prune notes, nice tertiary features and a soft, rounded palate. Also with an Italian name at least, La Strada, Merlot reserve, Fromm Winery, Blenheim, 1998 was on the ruby-garnet border in colour and pleased with its rich fruit-cake flavours and continuing freshness. Good length but beginning to dry out.
This tasting was a small sample of the good things coming out of New Zealand – we could have added very good Riesling, Pinot Gris and much more. New Zealand may be one of the minnows of world production in volume but it more than makes up for it in the quality of its best wines.