Rosé. It’s in the Pink.

The oh-so trendy rosé that seems, at the moment, to be imparting a breezy pink haze over everything, is not quite as shiny and new as you might think. In fact, the woman who drop-kicked champagne into the next century – the Widow Clicquot – made what is believed to be the first rosé champagne a lengthy 200 years ago. And she was born in 1777, so there you go. Not a new thing at all. However, the volume of rosé in general being consumed these days is somewhat off the charts, and we in New Zealand are valiantly doing our bit to contribute to that record-breaking effort.

Let’s consider what makes a great rosé. Basing your choices on colour alone is not all that useful. For instance, the pale pink, almost washed-out hues to be found in the French Côtes de Provence rosés might suggest that they have little weight, but nothing could be further from the truth. Having said that, beware the wash of cheaper Provençal offerings; it’s a very large area, and they are a minefield of inconsistency. The overall quality has increased of late, in part thanks to a new wave of producers, led by the likes of La Mascaronne’s Tom Bove, and the best of the Côtes de Provence rosés are some of the world’s finest expressions, displaying delicate hues, stunning aromatics and sublime textures.

New Zealand is experiencing its own surge in excellence, with a veritable horde of new rosé options coming onto the market as our winemakers have come to the realisation that this is a legitimate and highly popular category that requires serious commitment. The various regions, too, from Marlborough to Central Otago, Hawkes Bay to Waiheke Island, have channeled the distinctive characteristics of their terroir to put their own distinctive stamp on the pink drink. Magnums and 3-litre bottles are also increasingly sought after.

These things are always subjective, and what works for you is what you should drink. For us, a good rosé will have an attractive aromatic nose: some pretty florals with a touch of herbal spice. On the palate, we would hope to find fresh fruit flavours, lively acidity and a full mid-palate, with plenty of texture and interest. Ideally, the finish will tend towards dry and be very refreshing.

Our top picks for April:

International

New Zealand

Sparkling

The Naked Hop: Garage Project

A new monthly publication coming to you from the Glengarry team of beer experts, where we explore everything beer related. Here you’ll find an in depth look into the beer world and what makes it tick. View the full issue online here.

Garage Project

The ‘unofficial’, albeit ‘official’ cool kids of the New Zealand craft brewing world. Nestled in Te Aro, Wellington, Garage Project started life in 2011 in an old petrol station, where Pete’s, Jos’s and Ian’s brain-child saw them set up a nano-brewery, not realising at the time just how fast it would take off, and how popular the beers would become both locally and internationally.

Fast forward a few years, and production is well under way. A range of beer with rather impressive labels (they say don’t judge a can by its cover, but clever marketing does work), with new production lines and spaces taking over Wellington CBD and tasting rooms and bars popping up across the country, who wouldn’t want to get on the Garage Project band wagon. Many an avid beer drinker will have their favourite Garage Project beer, but will never admit to which one it is. The range of beers is second to none. From your everyday lager, aptly named Beer, to your more adventurous ones, such as the Barrel Aged Riesling Juice or the Strong Blonde Ale known as Twilight of the Gods, there is something for everyone. The beers themselves are a conversation starter, whether you’re chilling out in our fridges talking to staff, lounging in the lingering sun with a few mates while the sausages sizzle away on the quintessential Kiwi barbeque, or perhaps putting your feet up at the end of long day at the office, the beers speak for themselves. Garage Project are willing to take risks in the constantly expanding and competitive craft beer world, and it clearly shows they know what they’re doing, both inside and outside the bottle.

Glengarry has been a stockist of Garage Project for a while now, and the shelves in our fridges look like more like an art gallery with a line of masterpieces. We are always excited to see a new release come in (and then fly out), but also sometimes slightly annoyed that we weren’t quick enough to get our own hands on them. Our team are always happy to lend a hand when you’re choosing your tipple, with their wealth of knowledge around everything beer-related (and wines and spirits). So pop into any of the Glengarry stores or browse online from the comfort of your couch while sipping on your current Garage Project in search of a new one.

Release after release, award after award, there’s no slowing down for these guys. Which is good for everyone, right?

Scott Wilson

Riesling (My Passion Project) Tasting

There was a time when I thought that this tasting would not go ahead. Thankfully, there were twelve other Riesling lovers that were just as keen as I was to taste through some of New Zealand’s finest Rieslings. The key to a good Riesling is balance, and as luck would have it, every wine we tasted had achieved just that – perfect balance.

I did two flights of four. The total line-up was stunning and there was not a bad wine in the bunch. We tasted in order from dry through to extremely sweet. The first flight started with the Jackson Estate Dry Riesling 2015. This was a perfect beginning, as it still has some fruit presence. The Martinborough Manu 2016 was enjoyed by the attendees, with just about all agreeing that it was the wine of the flight. There was a hint of sweetness, but it was beautifully balanced against the fruity acidity. Greywacke 2014 was more of a dry style, but again we found perfect balance between the fruit and acidity. The final wine of the flight was Tongue in Groove 2012 from Waipara, and that wine was stunning, it is just starting to show its secondary flavours.

The second flight consisted of Pegasus Bay, Millton Opou, Rockburn Tigermoth and Fromm Spatlese. The Pegasus Bay 2015 is classic – nicely weighted and a must for every cellar. The Millton 2014 is always a delight, making me think of the smell of honey in the bush. The Rockburn Tigermoth 2016 is exceptional; this is a wine that will age gracefully in the cellar – but good luck not drinking it! The Fromm 2017, at only 7% it is ethereal in its lightness. As it opened, it displayed lovely fruit concentration and a streak of minerality. We finished with a Lake Chalice Sweet Beak 2010; it has a lush palate evoking stone fruit and marmalade flavours. At only $18.99, it is a steal.

All in all, the sign of a good tasting is how it finishes up at the end of the night and in this case, everybody left with a smile on their face, and that is for me what it is all about!

Te Mata 2016 New Releases Tastings

Te Mata 2016 New Releases Tasting – with Toby Buck (Auckland, Tuesday 13th March)

“Toby Buck has so much passion and pride in his family’s winery. Presenting the wines to us on Tuesday evening in the Jervois Rd Cellar, you can tell how much these wines and this industry has impacted on his life. The Te Mata 2016 release was everything I expected it to be, amazing.

We started with the Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc, albeit this was a 2017, we then moved on to try the Estate Chardonnay and the Elston side by side. Toby described an interesting flavour that he picks up in these chardonnays, grilled pineapple. It’s weird when you hear someone describe a flavour and then it’s all you can taste, but he was right.

The reds were outstanding, as per usual. We tried side by side first, the Estate Merlot Cab and the Awatea Cabernets Merlot. Then the Bullnose, wow, what a treat. 2016 was a cold December followed by a long hot summer, this has left the Bullnose bursting with nuances of dark cherries, allspice, ripe rich fruit, and long illustrious tannins. The length of the palette is astonishing; the flavour just carries on and on.

Last but not least, the much awaited 2016 Coleraine. Coleraine is only made in the best of the best vintages. Drinking incredibly well for such a young wine, one that has been considered one of the great Bordeaux styles of the world. Toby told us a story of another tasting he held once, when a consumer who was born and raised in the Hawkes Bay told him that Coleraine just smells like Hawkes Bay. How right he was, from a region that produces some of the best cabernets and syrahs etc this far south in the world, the Coleraine just immediately reminds you of Hawkes Bay. Bright red fruits, raspberries and strawberries, thyme and cedar wood, tight acidity indicating the incredible longevity of this wine, and mouth round silky tannins.

Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday night, thanks to Toby and your family for producing such amazing wines and sharing them with us.” – Hannah Beaumont

Te Mata 2016 New Releases Tasting – with Nick Buck (Wellington, Wednesday 14th March)

“One of the great things about our annual Te Mata Showcase tasting is that we get to have a family member presenting the wines, last year we had Toby and this year we had Nick. Nick is an awesome speaker as he speaks from the heart and held everybody’s attention for 2 hours, no mean feat! Nick and Toby are very different in their presentation but the common thread that that binds them is the passion they share for the wines they produce. As they say on their website they are “large enough to be well resourced and small enough to concentrate on detail” and this certainly shows in their wines.

We tasted through some of the Estate wines as well as the 2016 releases. The Estate wines offer true value for money and are in a drink now style and I have no hesitation in recommending these wines for everyday drinking.

The Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc is a wine that had me recalling the White Bordeaux tasting that we did last year. It is a stunning wine. The Elston this year is very approachable but it will benefit from a little time resting in a cellar. The Bullnose Syrah was one of my favourites this year, soft plush and luscious and complex. The Awatea as always is fantastic value with lifted rose petals, violets and dark plums on the nose and bright red and black fruits intertwined with spices. This wine had a firm tannin structure and will age gracefully over the next 5-10 years. But the reason everyone was there is of course the Coleraine and it did not disappoint. The 2016 is different to past vintages in that it is not better or worse just different. It is more in the style of a Super Tuscan wine, fine grained but offering superb depth and complexity. We also tasted the 2000 Coleraine as a reference and at 18 years old was drinking incredibly well. Coleraine is fantastic wine and over delivers for the price tag that is attached.

All in all it was lovely evening and enjoyed by everybody that attended.” – Meredith Parkin

View our upcoming tastings here…

Malt-teasers

During DramFest 2018 we saw several distilleries taking the opportunity to release new and exciting expressions to the hard-core whisky lovers who attended. Three such malts caught my attention, mostly due to their individual uniqueness as well as their stunning expressive natures.

Teeling Brabazon Series 2 Port Cask

The eagerly awaited second release in the Brabazon Series, this time highlighting the influence of Port casks. With Ruby, Tawny and White Port casks all used in the maturation process, each providing vastly differing characters. The Tawny Port brings a rich nuttiness with dark chocolate and spice, the Ruby Port a clean ripe fruit and candied apple, whilst the White Port lightens the palate with citrus notes of Orange alongside peach and plum.

Teeling Revival Volume IV 15 Years Old Muscat Cask Finish

Volume IV and the penultimate release in the Revival Series celebrating the opening of the Teeling Distillery in Dublin, and with it the reawakening of the rich history of whiskey in Ireland and Dublin specifically. This Single Malt was aged for 14 years in ex-bourbon barrels before resting for a further 12 months in ex-Muscat casks.  2017’s “Best Irish Whiskey of the Year”, the malt delivers peach, pineapple and mandarin with a hint of Chantilly cream.

The GlenDronach Peated Port Wood

A somewhat unusual release from the team at GlenDronach, but one that I am certainly glad they have produced! The rich and ripe fruits and berries from the Port Pipes layers perfectly over the smokiness of the peated malt. I’ve previously described this malt as reminiscent of homemade smoked plum barbeque sauce, with the rich smoke, sweet malt and ripe berries combine for a stunning malt that sits outside the sherried expressions associated with GlenDronach.

It is the exciting malts like these three that keep me coming back for more. We are now seeing the foresight and creative outlook of the distillers, with choices made a decade or more ago only now coming to fruition.

Tonci Jakicevich

DramFest 2018

On Friday 2nd of March, Jak, Aroha and myself made our way to Christchurch for the 2018 edition of DramFest. Our first evening in the garden city started … in the Botanical Gardens … with a rousing game of Whisky Quiz with the traveling whisky experts.

Held every second year, DramFest has fast become New Zealand’s (and possibly the Southern Hemisphere’s) premier whisky festival, attracting the highest calibre of brand ambassadors, master distillers, blenders and journalists. Taking place over two days in Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena, the event plays host to over 1000 avid whisky lovers each day, giving them direct access to the producers and ambassadors of their favourite elixirs.

This year included a special guest spirit, Rum! With Mount Gay, Diplomatico, Plantation and the Scottish Independent bottlings of Kill Devil sitting alongside the mainstay spirit category of Whisky (and Whiskey) produced in Scotland, Ireland, USA, Japan, India and New Zealand. The rich, sweet and aromatic spirit sits well alongside the whiskies, as the spirit starts to get taken more seriously we are seeing seriously special releases entering the market.

Whilst the prime reason for our journey south was to represent a brand we here at Glengarry proudly import ourselves, Wemyss, a producer best known for their top-notch Single Cask releases and now making waves with their great quality but also vastly affordable blended malts (previously known as Vatted Malts) range, we took advantage of the opportunity and explored the vast range of products on show. Our malts on show were:

  • Wemyss ‘The Hive’ 12 Year Old Blended Malt: This is a blended malt made using the Malt Whisky from 16 distilleries across the Lowland, Highland and Speyside regions. To get the desired honey and floral notes of ‘The Hive’ Wemyss use a majority of Speyside malts.
  • Wemyss Single Cask ‘Frost Molasses Tart’ Invergordon 1988: A ‘Single Grain’, rather than a ‘Single Malt’, this single cask bottling was possibly the best malt on offer at the show, and we had many repeat customers telling us so. The malt was divine, with a rich molasses vein running through the centre with hints of spice and roasted almonds.

DramFest is a great opportunity to try the new and exciting expressions from many of your favourite producers. Cardrona Distillery had several intriguing items including; a Gin aged for 6-months in an ex-bourbon cask, and two sneak peaks at their Single Malt spirit. Not yet old enough to be called a whisky, these two expressions were aged for 2 years, one in ex-bourbon the other in ex-sherry casks and served at a whopping 66% alcohol.

The two five-hour long sessions were over far too quickly, with many drams left unsampled and waiting for my visit in two years time! Until then, join us at one of our Monthly Malt Clubs and experience the rich fabric and stories that whisky and its producers provide!

Tonci Jakicevich

The Whisky Adventure Part V: Tonci’s tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland

Glengarry Wines‘ Operations Manager, Tonci Jakicevich, was lucky to participate in a tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland during February. Here Tonci recounts his experiences of Glenglassaugh, BenRiach, GlenDronach, The Speyside Cooperage, and Slane in a five part series.

Slane

Upon arrival into Dublin we were quickly whisked north to Slane on what is touted the straightest road in Ireland, built to give King George IV the quickest route (no pun intended) to his mistress the Marchioness of Conyngham of Slane. Our accommodation for the night was the Conyngham Arms Hotel, three doors down from the jovial Boyles Pub, host to the talented Wednesday Gang, a session band that returned on a Thursday for our group especially. Boyles was an absolute classic of an Irish pub, where the bell for “Last Call” didn’t really mean anything except “You want another round yet?”

After the loud and joyous night in Boyles, our group was a little ginger the next morning as we made our way to Slane Castle, the stables of which now house the state-of-the-art and incredibly energy savvy Slane Distillery. Our tour guide was Alex Conyngham, an Earl and son of the 8th Marquess of Slane Henry Conyngham.

The distillery is not yet fully operational, although they hoped to be up and running a week or two following our visit. The Conyngham family have merged projects of rebuilding and renovating the original stables complex and the developing a new source of income for the Conyngham Estate at Slane Castle, with the commissioning of their new distillery, done in partnership with Brown-Forman. Using the heritage listed complex has added a complexity to this project, and influenced the design of the system including the shape of the three stills, which are narrow and deeper than commonly seen. The swan-necks of the stills are pushed through the walls of the building, with the condensing units outside due to the buildings limited internal space.

Slane currently has only one expression on the market, made using a mixture of Grain and Malt whiskies purchased at various stages of maturation. These whiskies were then blended to create the base which was then vatted into three forms of cask; Virgin American Oak barrels (made with a medium char and heavy toast), Ex-Bourbon & Tennessee Whiskey Barrels, and Olorosso Sherry Puncheons. A unique offering, this whiskey is bursting with ripe orchard fruits, caramel and butterscotch with brown sugar and spice. Well suited to being enjoyed neat or on ice, this whiskey also provides a good base for many classic cocktails including the Irish Coffee.

Slane has long been famous for the music festivals hosted on the grounds, making full use of the natural amphitheatre at the base of the castle itself. Since 1981, the famous acts to play have include Thin Lizzy, The Foo Fighters, U2, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Oasis.

Although production has yet to begin, I look forward eagerly to trying the Slane Whiskeys as they plan to produce a wide range including Single Grain, Single Malt and the Irish specialty of Single Pot Still Whiskey made using a large portion of un-malted barley. This is a style of whiskey the Irish developed to avoid taxes on malted barley, but resulted in a unique flavour profile.

A tour of Slane Castle proper only served to highlight the unique footprint that the Conyngham family have left on their country, a rich tapestry of stories and history that will only be emboldened with their latest project.

Slane Hill, which rises above the town itself, is the site St Patrick lit the first Paschal fire, a sign of Christianity and the start of the annual celebration St Paddy’s Day. A visit and cheeky dram on the hill was consumed before we made our way back to Dublin. Two nights of pub and bar visits, taking in the Friday and Saturday nights of Dublin then a repeat of our 36-hour odyssey home.

With the whisky (or whiskey) adventure now complete, I’m left with a raft of lasting memories highlighting the rich history behind Uisge Beatha, the characters that carry forward the traditions or look to lay the foundations for new traditions. Until next time, Slainte!

Tonci Jakicevich

Alvaro Palacios – Rioja & Priorat

Last week our general Manager Liz Wheadon, and Fine Wine Manager Regan McCaffery, hosted a special tasting of the wines of Alvaro Palacios. The host of innovative winemakers operating within Spain has been a significant factor in the country’s success in recent years, hardy individuals unafraid to challenge centuries-old tradition, or preserve it where there is benefit in doing so. Leading the pack has been the charismatic and talented Alvaro Palacios, a perfectionist with a boundless energy for both retaining the knowledge of the past, and forging new vinous pathways.

Alvaro was Decanter Magazine Man of the Year in 2015, and the recipient of the 2016 Winemakers’ Winemaker Award. The latter is awarded by the Institute of Masters of Wine and The Drinks Business; bestowed upon someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of winemaking. The winner is chosen by a panel of winemaking peers including all winemaking Masters of Wine as well as past winners of the prestigious award. Previous winners include Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus (2011), Peter Gago of Penfolds (2012), Paul Draper of Ridge (2013), the late Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive (2014) and Egon Müller from Egon Müller Scharzhof (2015).

Alvaro’s family were the owners of Palacios Remondo in Rioja and he was one of nine children. He was brought up working with the vines, and by the age of ten was selling flagons to passing truck drivers. His father sent him to Bordeaux to study Oenology, and he worked at the famed Chateau Petrus under Jean Pierre Moueix. His father always expected him to eventually return home and continue with Palacios Remondo, but instead he chose to head out on his own in the obscure region of Priorat. Here he began to apply his winemaking knowledge to revive the largely abandoned, ancient vineyards in the mountains inland from Barcelona. He bought his first vineyard (Finca Dofi) in 1990, and in 1993 he identified a very special Garnacha (Grenache) vineyard on well-drained schist that was planted between 1900 and 1940. Palacios named it L’Ermita, and it’s now regarded as one of the finest and most expensive wines of Spain.

When his father died in 2000, Alvaro returned to Rioja to finally take over the family winery, situated in Rioja Baja. The area of Rioja is very hot, and was known for big alcoholic woody wines made primarily from Tempranillo, often mixed into regional blends. One of Alvaro’s first steps was to begin painstakingly grafting over it all to Garnacha, as he thinks it is much better suited to the climate and soil there, retaining more acidity and freshness. Traditionally Garnacha was the major variety in the region, but the advent of commercial irrigation in the 1970s allowed Tempranillo to be planted en masse on the flats. Alvaro refers to them as “industrial and artificial wines”.   Like his vineyards in Priorat, Alvaro’s plots are dry farmed organically as bush vines and ploughed by horse.

We tasted four wines from Rioja and four from Priorat; the quality across the entire range is simply outstanding. Alavaro Palacios is one of the world’s great winemakers, able to elicit emotion and capture great finesse and elegance, right across the price range. The $25 La Montesa Rioja is a perfect example of this, regularly receiving scores in the mid 90s from some of the world’s top wine critics.

The highlights of this tasting though were his new premium releases, two extremely rare wines that are highly sought after in Europe. From Rioja we tried the 2015 ‘Quinon de Valmira’. Only 2045 bottles were made from this 3ha vineyard planted high above the village of Alfaro in 1985 at 615m. This is pushing the limits of where Garnacha can ripen. The soil is extremely thin here, just 20cm of red clay over a hard limestone base. It is also the location of an 11th Cistercian monk settlement, the first in the Iberian peninsula. The grapes from this special site had previously gone into his ‘Propiedad’ Rioja, but he had been experimenting with a single vineyard wine for a decade. Almost 100% Garnacha (there is a small % of Tinto Velasco planted); this was raised in 600L Oak casks called bocoyes for 20 months. We tried this after 8 hours of air, and it is like no Rioja you have ever tried. It’s hard to describe the extreme elegance of this wine, so incredibly light and delicate with no signs of wood, like drinking a fine old grand Cru Burgundy. At $500 this is also one of the most expensive Rioja available; we received a mere 12 bottles for New Zealand.

From Priorat his new wine is the fantastic 2015 ‘Les Aubaguetes’. This is another example of Alvaro’s ability to identify some incredibly special vineyards. This sits between Dofi and L’Ermita in quality and price at $390. The grapes for this first vintage come off a north facing, steep plot with a shady exposition.  ‘Les Aubaguetes’ literally means ‘the shadiest’. The tiny 1.34ha vineyard is located near the village of Bellmunt and has exceptionally old vines, planted in 1901. This vineyard always produced the greatest fruit of all the vineyards that formed the purchased component of his ‘Les Terrasses’ blend. After the grower retired, Alavro was able to finally buy the site himself in 2013. Composed of 80% Garnacha, it also contains Samso (Carignan) and 1% white grapes. This again shows the hallmarks of Alavro’s light hand; it has beautiful elegance and finesse, but with much darker and deeper structured fruit than the Rioja. The yields from these old vines are very small, only 1200 bottles of this exceptional wine were produced. We are extremely lucky to have a small allocation here.

The New Traditional: Orange and Pet-Nat Wines, and Gluten-Free Beers

Orange Wines

Normally with white wine, the juice is immediately pressed from the grapes and the skins discarded. They can, though, be made in exactly the same way as red wines, keeping the juice in contact with the skins. This is how orange wines are made. Their origin lies in the classic wines of Georgia, and in Italy’s Fruili region, where fermentation and extended maceration on the skins creates a unique character. Orange wines acquire a deep hue and have a phenolic grip to them, with additional tannins derived from the skin contact. They often exhibit a dry, austere nature, and tend to partner very well with food.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES MILLTON
Millton

Pet-Nat Wines

Short for pétillant-naturel, aka méthode ancestrale. A traditional method of making sparkling wine that is, in fact, the world’s most ancient. The wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished, delivering a lower pressure, lightly sparkling wine in the pétillant style. The wine is finished without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. Pét-nat wines can manifest as cloudy, unfiltered and capped with a crown seal, and they can be white, rosé or red in colour. They are a rare item in New Zealand, and don’t have a particularly long shelf life. Tip: do not leave them in the boot of your car in the heat of summer.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES FRAMINGHAM
Andrew Hedley

Gluten-Free Beers

Wine, sherry, port and cider are all made from fruit and don’t contain gluten, while gin, brandy, rum and tequila are made from gluten-free ingredients. There is debate as to whether a tiny amount remains in vodka, bourbon and whisky, however, most research concludes that any gluten is removed through the extensive distillation process. If unsure, select vodka made from potatoes, corn or grapes and avoid single-distilled spirits and those made from wheat, barley or rye. All beers are produced using varying quantities of barley or wheat malt. Those claiming ‘gluten removed’ require investigation. So we did.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES KERERU
Kereru

Read more from our March Wineletter here

Chilean Fine Wine

The history of the Chilean wine industry does remind me a little of our own and, in fact, I do ponder whether Chilean wine recognition is set to grow beyond expectations in the not so distant future. This is certainly what drove me to visit in February, and to say I was excited with what I saw is an understatement. My visit did also highlight for me one of the biggest challenges that Chilean wine has to overcome; that being the perception of Chilean wine, particularly Chilean Fine Wine. In discussing with friends where I was heading, the most common response was, ‘there’s great value wine made in Chile’, which there certainly is, but what has me excited are the fine wines, the diversity of grape varieties being grown there and the focus on microclimates. Chile is a very long country with an extensive range of climates. Historically it was the central Maipo where most of the attention was focused. There’s still great wines coming from there, as there should be; without phylloxera, Chile has some exceptionally old vines. The viticultural extremes in the south, north and at altitude are now being explored and championed, which adds many dimensions to Chilean wine.

Viñedo Errázuriz barrel hall

Two of the most iconic Chilean Fine Wines are Almaviva and Seña, wines that we have just recently landed in New Zealand. Almaviva was launched in 1998, a joint venture between Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and Don Eduardo Guilisasti Tagle, Chairman of Viña Concha y Toro. The grapes are grown in the Puente Alto sub region of Maipo, which over 20 years ago now was acknowledged for its ability to produce world class Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s here that the 85 ha Almaviva vineyard is located. Almaviva is only one wine, a blend of classic Bordeaux varieties with Cabernet dominating. The name Almaviva comes from French literature: Count Almaviva is the hero of The Marriage of Figaro. The label pays homage to Chilean history, the image representing the design that appears on a ritual drum used by the Mapuche civilization. The word Almaviva on the label is in the Beaumarchais’ (who wrote the Marriage of Figaro) own handwriting. The label designed to symbolise the joining of two cultures, which is what Almaviva is all about; a French inspired wine from exceptional old vines in Chile.

The original house in the centre of the Almaviva vineyard

The vintage that has just arrived is the 2015 vintage: a blend of 69% Cabernet, 24% Carmenere (a variety rarely found in Bordeaux now, though is permitted), Cabernet Franc 5% and Petit Verdot 2%. This wine spent 18 months in new French oak. There’s an impressive bright red fruit and floral note on the nose, the palate is full of unctuous sweet red fruit with a firm tannic structure and a long fine elegant finish. It’s very youthful right now and has great ageing potential. I tried this alongside the 2007 for comparison at the winery. The 2007 was showing signs of ageing, with a lighter rim, though not a distinct change in colour. There were dried fruit characters on the nose and the tannins had integrated beautifully into the wine. The 2007 was gorgeous; this level of maturity was just right for Almaviva.

Almaviva Barrel hall

Seña is another joint venture, this time between Eduardo Chadwick and Robert Mondavi. Seña was Chile’s first international joint venture; Eduardo Chadwick, from Viña Errázuriz, joined together with the Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi and in 1997 released Chile’s first Icon wine, the 1995 vintage of Seña. Whilst of excellent quality right from the beginning, Eduardo was frustrated that the international recognition was not as he thought it should be. So, in 2004 he held a tasting in Berlin, inspired by the 1976 Judgment of Paris which put Napa’s Cabernet’s against the best in the world. The tasting in Berlin involved a stellar line up of tasters, who produced this set of results:

1 – Viñedo Chadwick 2000

2 – Seña 2001

3 – Château Lafite-Rothschild 2000

4 – Seña 2000

4 – Château Margaux 2001

6 – Château Margaux 2000

6 – Château Latour 2000

6 – Viñedo Chadwick 2001

9 – Don Maximiano 2001

10 – Château Latour 2001

10 – Solaia 2000

Viñedo Chadwick in this line up is Eduardo Chadwick’s wine. Dom Maximiano is named after the founder of Viña Errázuriz, who established the impressive property in the Aconcagua Valley in 1870. So, essentially Viñedo Chadwick, Don Maximiano and Seña all sit together. We have Seña in stock now, with the other two wines due later in the year.

Since 2005 Seña has been converted to biodynamic farming; the resulting wines continue to be spectacular. The tasting first held in Berlin has been repeated with similar international benchmarks; each time, the results have been impressive.

Sena ageing at Viñedo Errázuriz

Just last week Eduardo Chadwick was named as Decanter Man of the Year for 2018, this story just the tip of the remarkable contribution he has made to the world of wine.

Viñedo Errázuriz winery