As Winter nears, it must be time for a Barolo

Well it looks like the winter weather is upon us earlier than expected. With this cold snap we have started to open some of our favourite Barolo, from the most famous wine region in all of Italy. Situated in Piedmont in Northwest Italy, these 100% Nebbiolo wines are some of the finest and most long lived in the world.

Barolo Riserva, the highest classification level, requires a minimum of three years in oak, and five years of total aging before they can be released. We have three stunning producers to present, all of which have significantly older offerings than this. All of these wines are also from the heralded commune of Serralugna d’Alba, which is known for having the darkest and most structured wines in the region.

The first wines are the very traditional style from Mirafiore. This is the original name of the famed royal estate Fontanafredda, when it was first established in the 1870s. That historic name now graces a new range of wines sourced from those first vineyard plots and crafted in the original style with long macerations and wood aging in large oak.

Mirafiore Barolo Riserva DOCG 2007

Whilst legally a Riserva must be kept for 4 years, Mirafiore takes it a bit further of course with 5 yesrs ageing. The best of the best is put aside for the Riserva, which is only made in exceptional years, of which 07 was most clearly. Complex aromas, perfrumed and fragrant with lively acidity. Still youthful in character though with aged characters and complexity evident. The finish long, lingering and inspiring. A wonderful wine.

Mirafiore Barolo Riserva DOCG 2005

What a complete wine; whilst definitely showing its age, it does so with such grace and finesse. There’s many more years ahead of this wine. Wonderful, an absolutely amazing wine. Whilst legally a Riserva must be kept for 4 years, Mirafiore takes it a bit further of course with 5 yesrs ageing. The best of the best is put aside for the Riserva, which is only made in exceptional years.

 

Also from this commune is the Tenuta Cucco Estate. This sits near the 14th Century castle that dominates the area.  They have produced here since 1967 and have moved towards being fully biodynamic since 2015. Their Riserva is made entirely from the highest plots of the Cerrati Cru, one of the greatest vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba.  With 36 months in French Oak barriques, this is a more modern style of Barolo.

Tenuta Cucco Barolo Vigna Cucco Riserva DOCG 2007

Cerrati and Cucco are linked arm in arm, the only producer to produce this cru. This then their Riserva from the gorgeous 2007 vintage. Bright ruby red colour with slight orange hues greets you and a complex enveloping bouquet with hints of wild rose, cocoa, tobacco and spices. Sensational Barolo, showing some evolution though with plenty of life ahead.

Tenuta Cucco Barolo Vigna Cucco Riserva DOCG 2010

92/100 | Wine Spectator / Bruce Sanderson: “This is fresh, with a beam of submerged cherry and strawberry fruit. Earth and tobacco flavors add depth. Has all the elements in the right proportions, but the tannins gain the upper hand for now. Just needs time. Best from 2020 through 2036. 400 cases made. – BS”

Finally we have the legendary Barolo Riserva 2011 from Bruno Giacosa. The Falleto vineyard has been a mono cru of the Giacosa family since 1980 , and this special version is from the Falletto Vigna Le Rocche subplot.  For many, a Giacosa Red label is the equal of any red wine made in the world. Produced only a few times a decade, these red labels are not only fantastically complex, rich, powerful wines capable of decades of development, they are also endowed with that rare and magical extra dimension found only in the greatest wines. Those who attended our Barolo tasting last winter will attest that this is one of the finest wines they have ever drunk.

Bruno Giacosa Falleto Rocche Barolo Riserva DOCG 2011

A Giacosa wine with a red label signals that it is the best from that year, something truly special. Rare and highly sought after. Vine age 38-40year old vines, natural yeast, 33 months in large oak and then 27 in bottle. 8,000 bottles made, 1000 magnums. The nose is sensational, dried red fruits, exotic and captivating. The palate is super concentrated, rich and with very ripe fruit, amazing balance; the tannins fine, persistent and elegant all at the same time. There’s a vibrancy and brightness to this that drives right through the long finish.

East Imperial Gin Jubilee – Masterclass Tasting

On Wednesday evening we enjoyed a fantastic and unusual tasting, hosted by Tony Burt and Mikey Ball from East Imperial. They are a NZ company producing some of the world’s finest and most authentic Tonic Waters.

Tony and his business partner Kevin, first came up with the idea after their regular premium Gin buying trips to Glengarry Parnell. They realised what was really missing was a premium Tonic water to go alongside. They started with an authentic 1903 Tonic recipe from Kevin’s family, and began sourcing the best Quinine from the original Dutch plantations in Java. All the tonics have totally natural flavours from ingredients sourced across Asia.

In front of us on the table, were 4 different Tonic waters and a Ginger Beer (in their specially designed 150ml bottles), alongside 5 fantastic Gins. The tasting consisted of first trying the tonic on its own, then the Gin. Each of the Gin Producers were there to explain their philosophy, production and style. We then combined the two along with a garnish, for the ultimate G&T experience. These final combinations were designed by mixologist Mikey Ball and really elevated both products.

The matches were:
East Imperial Old World Tonic with Blush Rhubarb Gin and a piece of ginger.
East Imperial Burma Tonic with Hidden World Floral Gin and a lime wedge.
East Imperial Yuzu Tonic with Sacred Springs Gin and an orange slice.
East Imperial Grapefruit Tonic with Scapegrace Gold Gin and a slice of grapefruit.
East Imperial Mombassa Ginger Beer with The Botanist Gin and spearmint leaves.

Introducing Smith & Sheth

We are very excited to be the first in New Zealand to present the stunning Smith & Sheth wines.

You are likely to recognise the first name, Steve Smith MW who was instrumental in founding Craggy Range Winery. He has now left there to pursue other ventures in collaboration with Brian Sheth. Together they have made a number of high profile vineyard purchases recently, but these are the special CRU wines from their personal project.

The idea behind the CRU collection is for Smith & Sheth to work as contemporary negociants, using their over 35 years of experience with the best growers in the country.

Steadfast relationships with the land, growers and makers who form the DNA of the CRU.

Exceptional vineyard parcels from around New Zealand have been hand selected and nurtured. Each wine has the Maori designation that relates to its whenua (land) origins.  The beautiful labels have a unique design embossed within that represent the genomes sequence of the grape varieties we are working with. This is the DNA that is natural to the vine and vineyard ecosystem, that is reflected in each and every wine they make. These are wines of real class and pedigree, exceptional offerings from their respective sub regions.

This is the first time these wines have been offered to the public, with the first showing yesterday at Didas Wine Lounge. They are produced in extremely small quantities. The names Steve Smith and Brian Sheth are the assurance of a wine that will share the inordinate pleasure, culture and craft of their passion. Be the first in the country to get your hand on these special offerings.

Watch  Steve Smith MW present the new label here:

Watch our ‘Quick Fire Five’ interview with Steve Smith MW here:

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.

St Nesbit Vertical Tasting

On Tuesday night we were very privileged to host Dr Tony Molloy QC, and his son Sam for a spectacular vertical tasting of St Nesbit, one of New Zealand’s finest, and most interesting wines. The line-up spanned an impressive 11 vintages, from the inaugural 1984, through to the final 2011 vintage.

The vineyard was established in 1980 by Tony and his wife Petra, on 11 hectares of land on the Hingaia Peninsula. It lay in the shelter of the Drury Hills at Karaka about 30km south of Auckland City. Almost completed surrounded by an estuary of the Manukau Harbour and incredibly free draining, they originally found the site after a gilder pilot friend had said he couldn’t fly over due to the intense thermals.

The intention was to produce a Bordeaux style wine of a quality level well above anything seen in New Zealand at the time. Tony had no formal winemaking training, he was armed only with a 5000 page, multi volume winemaking guide in French, which he found in an old bookshop during a trip to Bordeaux.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

Right from the beginning they employed techniques unknown in New Zealand. Wide and short open topped fermenters that were cooled by bore water. Fermentation was entirely through indigenous yeasts. A wooden lattice grid was designed to keep the cap totally submerged, meaning no need to plunge the skins and reduced oxidation. Therefore he used no sulphur at all during the process, to the great surprise of other winemakers. An unheard of 100% new French Oak was employed, and extended time in barrel of 2-3yrs.  At the time they were the largest importer of new barrels in the country, with around 80 a year. Montana was the second biggest, with two barrels! This was at a time where most wineries were still using barrels that were brought over from Europe 40yrs prior.

They only made one wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend which Tony named after his late Grandfather, NZ cricket Captain Nesbit Sneddon.  As Tony explained, “In the canon law of the Catholic Church three miracles are required of a prospective saint. We got things a little back-to-front, in that we canonised Nesbit and then waited for the miracles to turn up by way of confirmation. They duly did as our first three vintages produced two gold medals plus the trophy for the top high-priced red wine at the Royal Easter Show.” Only around 3000 bottles were produced of each vintage, so it has always been a rare treat to come across one of these wines.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

The iconic label, with its picture of the family home, had its layout and typeface shamelessly stolen from Bordeaux Chateau Pontet-Canet. The classic design has stood the test of time and changed little over the years, something other NZ wineries should take note of. They also kept them back, not releasing a vintage until they felt it was starting to drink well.

We were lucky enough this evening to taste many of the wines from the original vineyard. 1984, 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1991. The 1984 and 1987 were both well past their peak but still enjoyable, and would be lovely with dinner if you like mature wines. 1989 had more fruit remaining, interestingly this vintage was Merlot dominant. The 1990 and 1991 were drinking very well. None of the older vintages fell over and were still looking very nice at the end of the night.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

Unfortunately at this time leaf roll virus had spread across the vineyards, and they were forced to remove them entirely. Deciding that Cabernet Sauvignon was not the right variety for the site, they took the opportunity to replant with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. These were low vigour rootstock and planted in very high densities. St Nesbit was in fact the first to import Petit Verdot into New Zealand, an extremely frustrating and time consuming process dealing with government departments.

After a decade long hiatus, the first vintage from the new vines was the fabulous 2002. This was 60% Merlot, 25% Petit Verdot and 15% Cabernet Franc. For me this wine is now drinking fantastically but will continue to hold. It shows all the elements that makes St Nesbit so special, Soft and elegant with warm savoury fruit, beautiful texture, lots of complexity, and even more character.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

We also tried the 2003 which was never released by the family, as they didn’t think the quality was high enough. Yet in one of the mysteries of wine, this came around in the bottle years later and is now looking very good.  The final vintages tasted were the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. All were looking excellent, 2011 still needs plenty of time before I’d approach this for drinking at home. There is very little of the 2011 in the market as the family kept around half the production for their own future enjoyment.

They did make a 2010, which Sam described as being the greatest harvest they had ever seen. Having tasted it earlier this week, the wine is magnificent. With over three years in new oak it reminds me of a great Gran Riserva Rioja. It’s still a bit closed and the oak needs more time to integrate, so it will not be released until 2020 when it should really be hitting its stride. A fitting end to the St Nesbit story.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

Unfortunately urban sprawl had finally made its way to Karaka. For twenty five years the Molloy family were the third house from the motorway off ramp, now there are over 2000 in between. With neighbours who didn’t appreciate birdshot landing in their washing, and skyrocketing rates, it was unsustainable to continue. For those lucky enough to have vintages of St Nesbit in their cellars, these wines will thankfully continue to bring enjoyment for decades to come.

Champagne Dom Pérignon Masterclass

Hosted by our Fine Wine Manager Regan McCaffery. He is likely New Zealand’s foremost expert on the wine, having drunk every vintage  produced back to 1964.

On Wednesday evening I presented an wonderful tasting of Dom Pérignon, the world’s most famous Champagne, and one of my personal favorites. It is named after the Benedictine Monk Dom Pierre Pérignon, who produced his famous wines at the Abbey of Hautvillers from 1668 until 1715. Under him the wines of the Abbey flourished, reaching twice the price of any other and being drunk by Louis XIV himself. The Abby and it’s famed vineyards were purchased by Moet & Chandon in 1823 after the revolution and Dom Pérignon is still made from the same sites to this day.

It was the world’s first Prestige Cuvée, the 1921 vintage in its replica 18th Century bottle, was released to huge acclaim in 1936. Dom Pérignon is always a perfect blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in roughly equal proportions, the grapes coming from all 17 Grand Crus in the region, as well as the famed 1er Cru of Hautvillers. When young, it’s hallmarks are a soft citrus creaminess and exquisite balance, it’s almost too easy to drink.

For this Masterclass we looked at three different expressions of Dom Pérignon, starting with the new 2009 against the previous 2006 release. This is the first time ever that they have released a vintage out of order, deciding that the much anticipated 2008 still needed more time resting in the cellars under Epernay. The 2009 comes from quite a warm vintage and is already rich and expressive, a really showy flamboyant Dom. 2006 is a more classic year, despite being a little reticent now it will blossom and impress if you can manage to keep your hands off it for another ten years.

We then moved on to the stunning Dom Perignon Rosé, 2005 v 2004. A different blend entirely, this is around 60% Pinot Noir, with a full 27% of it being Red Pinot added to the blend in 2005!  Again the personality of the vintages showed clearly here; 2005 is beautiful now, incredibly elegant and delicate, the perfect Summer drinking. 2004 was much darker and more brooding, the sort of thing to drink with Lamb or Duck at a stunning dinner. Either way make sure you use a large Pinot Noir glass to see it’s full personality.

We finished with the  rare opportunity to taste two vintages of Dom Pérignon P2, from the 2000 and the 1998 vintages. P2 is a proportion of each vintage of Dom (around 10%) that is held back for extended aging in their cellars of 15-20 years before release. These were formerly known as Dom Pérignon Oenothèque (The library where the older wines are stored).

P2 refers to the second plénitude’ of the wine, a term Dom Pérignon uses to describe when in its lifespan the wine is showing best. The first plenitude would currently be the 2009. All the P2 wines are aged on cork and hand disgorged for a quality check. This provides an opportunity to try a perfectly aged bottle of Dom that is still fresh from being recently disgorged. P2 has much more power and intensity, it’s richer and more harmonious, complex and textured, a real pleasure to drink. Though for me, nothing beats a well stored original release bottle.

 

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Extra Brut Extra Old

Back in June this year I was in Sydney for the evening, just to attend a very special tasting. Veuve Cliquot cellar master Dominique Demarville, was in Australia to launch a very exciting new wine, Extra Brut Extra Old. This is a premium Non Vintage Champagne, made entirely from older Reserve Wines, and the first Extra Brut cuvée made by the house. Since Dominque started as the 10th Cellar master of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin in 2009, he has been gradually improving the quality of the famous Yellow label by holding back a lot of top quality wine to increase their reserves. These add depth, complexity and richness. The idea behind this new cuvee, was to showcase the importance of those Reserve wines to the House. Extra Brut Extra Old is comprised entirely of Reserves spanning six vintages, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 1996 and 1988. The Reserve Wines are all stored on their lees in a mix of Stainless Steel and Concrete vats, with the 1988 being the oldest still in their stocks, with only 50hl of this precious liquid remaining.

We were privileged enough to be able to taste all of the actual reserve wines that make up extra Brut Extra Old, and see how time gives a real concentration and creamy silky nature to these. Being a Pinot dominant house, we see that in 47% of the blend. 2009 Grand Cru Ay, 2006 Grand Cru Verzy and 1996 Loche sur Ource from the Cotes de bar. Then we have 27% Chardonnay, 2008 1er Cru Villers Marmery and 1988 Grand Cru Cramant. We finish with 26% Pinot Meunier which is all 2010 1er Cru Ville Dommange from the Montagne de Reims. The proportion of the two oldest wines is fairly small, there is just 1% of the 1988 Cramant in this blend. Trying the base wines you can see why, it had such a saline intensity up front, a real butter cream mid palate, and a powerful finish that still has strong acid. Dominique explained these older wines are like spices in a dish, you need just a touch or they overwhelm the flavour. But most surprising was just how fresh they still were.

Unlike any other Champagne this is then double aged, first the base wines are blended, and then aged together on their lees in vats for 3 years, up to 5% oak is used. They then go into bottle for 3 years of secondary fermentation and lees aging. At this stage the wine is produced with a lower pressure than usual, just 4.5 bars compared to the usual 6. This is to produce a very light effervescence, smaller and finer bubbles to emphasise the creaminess on the palate.  The wine was then disgorged in June of 2016, and given an Extra Brut dosage of just 3g/l, the lowest in the history of the house. Dominique explained that Extra But is a direct consequence of Extra Old, thus the name. Because of the richness of the older reserve wines, it requires much less sugar to keep the balance. He tried a number of different possibilities, from 5g/l all the ways down to zero dosage. He found too much sugar tended to cover the purity of the wine, and no sugar at all was too extreme, you lost some of the creaminess and silkiness of the texture.

The result of all this is a gorgeous wine of purity and finesse with a lot of complexity. Despite the name, Extra Brut Extra Old starts out very light and fresh, soft and creamy in the mouth before it builds in concentration and intensity as the older wines start to show. Finishing with just a hint of that salinity from the 1998 Cramant Chardonnay. This interesting and exciting Champagne is beautiful drinking now, but I believe also has a long life ahead, ten to fifteen years should be no problem in a good cellar.

Trinity Hill | Homage 2014 – with John Hancock

Trinity Hill is an iconic New Zealand winery, the idea for which was formed in London in 1987. John Hancock was meeting in the restaurant Bleeding Heart, owned by Robert and Robyn Wilson. Over a bottle of John’s Morton Estate Chardonnay, the Wilson’s expressed their desire to produce their own world-class wines in the Hawkes Bay. John had already recognised the outstanding potential of the Gimblett Gravels district, and they began planting in 1993 on the barren former bed of the Ngaruroro River. Since those early days, this sub-region has become one of the most expensive and important wine growing areas in the country. We were lucky to have John himself here this week to talk us through that history, and taste their Black Label Gimblett Gravels wines from the 2014 vintage.

 The highlight of the evening was the two vintages of their flagship wine ‘Homage’. The 2014 has only just been bottled and will not be released until the end of the year. This was a real treat to be able to taste these two outstanding years side by side now. Homage was first produced in 2002, and is named as a tribute to the late Gerard Jaboulet of Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine in France’s Rhone Valley. They produced one of the world’s greatest Syrah in the form of the famous ‘La Chapelle’ Hermitage. Gerard was also a great friend of Robert and Robyn Wilson and had hosted many legendary dinners at the Bleeding Heart. John Hancock also worked alongside Gerard at Jaboulet’s cellars during the 1996 harvest, and when he left was presented with cuttings of Syrah from the La Chapelle vineyard, and Viognier from Les Jumelles in Cote Rotie. It was these cuttings that formed the basis of the plantings that now make up Homage.

2013 and 2014 are arguably the finest back to back vintages Hawkes Bay has ever seen. I haven’t tried the 2013 since last year and it is now looking much more integrated, while the 2014 is still trying to find its feet. If you prefer rich opulence, then the 2014 is the wine for you; the 2013 is a little darker and harder in character, but both are outstanding wines. Unlike some of the other ‘super premium’ Hawkes Bay Syrah, I find Homage less polished and refined on release, it just takes a lot more time to settle down into itself. This is a wine that demands at least 10 years of cellaring to really show what’s it’s made of. It’s more brutish, edgier and has tons of character. A few years back John and I also hosted a tasting where we compared 4 vintages of ‘Homage’ directly with ‘La Chapelle’ and La Petite Chapelle and they really do have a very similar character. Time and vine age will only serve to improve what Trinity Hill is producing down there. I’ve got a number of bottles in my own cellar, and so should you.

The wines tasted were:

Gimblett Gravels Marsanne / Viognier 2014, Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2014, Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2014, Gimblett Gravels ‘The Gimblett’ 2014 (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc), Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2014, Homage 2014 (Pre Release), Homage 2013.

Grant Burge of Barossa Valley – Glengarry Tasting Review

Grant Burge is one of the Barossa Valley’s most respected producers. The Burge family’s winemaking history in the region can be traced back to 1855, when tailor John Burge, immigrated from England to the Barossa. John worked as a winemaker at Hillside Vineyards and his love of viticulture was passed onto his son Meshach, who continued the tradition making his first wine in 1865. This week we were privileged to have chief winemaker Craig Stansborough here with some of their premium range. He has just completed his 23rd vintage with the company, after Grant Burge himself offered him the job of cellar manager in 1993.

Grant Burge Cellar Door – Barossa Valley, South Australia

It’s been many years since Grant Burge had hosted an event in New Zealand, and it was extremely pleasing to see such high quality displayed across the entire range. These are also some of the best value wines I’ve tried in some time. Extremely affordable but with the capacity for good medium to long term cellaring. I was especially impressed with the pure expression of Cabernet displayed in the Cameron Vale 2013 for around $20. If you wanted something a little more mature then it was well worth stepping up to the 2010 Corryton Park, one of the highest and coolest sites in the entire Barossa. The Cabernets suit French Oak whereas the Filsell Old Vine Shiraz has a combination of French and American Oak. This wine is where Grant Burge originally made their mark in this country, and the 2013 vintage would make another great addition to a budding wine cellar. Craig commented that over time they have gradually been reducing the % of American Oak across the entire range, if you remember the wines from a decade or more ago.. these are very different.

Craig also hosted an event down at our Hutt Road store in Wellington and Meredith summed up the wines nicely.  “Looking back at my tasting notes, the words elegant and refined kept cropping up. They were also not overtly ‘Australian’ in the old sense which was very refreshing. The overwhelming impression in each of them was clearly one of great balance, and that’s what we are looking for in all of the great wines of the world. It’s a sense of harmony, where all the elements of fruit, tannin and acidity come together.”

The finest wine of the night was their icon Meschach Shiraz 2009, a great demonstrating of beautiful balanced power. Most of the fruit for this comes from small parcels around 100 years old that bring great intensity, but Craig explained that when they are tasting the lots, it is balance not concentration that is their primary concern. We double decanted this about 5 hours prior to the tasting and it really is showing well right now with beautiful complexity and great length. 2 days later it hasn’t skipped a beat, which match Craig assertion that it easily has 20 years ahead of it. For a wine that is acknowledged as one of Australia’s greatest Shiraz, it’s also great value at under $150.

The wines tasted in the night were: PinotNoir/Chardonnay Methode NV, Filsell Shiraz 2013, Distinction Balthasar Shiraz 2013, Cameron Cale Cabernet 2013 Distinction Corryton Cabernet 2013, Holy Trinity GSM 2012, Meshach Shiraz 2009, 10yr Tawny, 20yr tawny.

 

American Beauty – A vertical of Opus One

This was a very special tasting of one of the world’s greats,  the very first ultra premium wine in America.  Opus One was founded in 1980 as a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Bordeaux 1st Growth Château Mouton Rothschild, and American icon Robert Mondavi, to create a single Bordeaux style blend based upon the finest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

French in style but Californian in execution, Opus One is produced with uncompromised attention to detail and this was an extremely rare opportunity to taste six vintages together, 2003 to 2008. We were even contacted by Opus One themselves as they don’t often hold this large a vertical. At over $600 a bottle most of the attendees had never tried the wine and thus there was a lot of anticipation. We started with the vintage 2004 from Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin which is their best value wine by far. Stunning quality for only a slightly higher price, everyone should be drinking vintage champagne! Though just to show it can happen to the best, we did had a corked bottle which had to be hastily replaced.

The two older vintages showed a lot more maturity than the others, that is to say they were approachable now.. Bear in mind I double decanted all the wines at 11am and they then sat in the bottles with the corks out until 8pm!  These wines can handle a lot of air and have significant aging potential. Both the 2003 and 2004 were very Bordeaux left bank in style with a fine slightly earthy grain. The 2005 Opus One came out the consensus wine of the night with its dark blackcurrant and cassis intensity. For me the 2006 needed the most time with all the complexity sandwiched together in very tight layers that were saying “Come back in twenty years”. I loved the open elegance of the 2007, a real outlier, a Burgundian Opus One. So refined and impeccably balanced this what I’d buy for myself. The 2008 was the hardest to assess, this only arrived from Bordeaux (Where it is sold worldwide through the negociants there) a few weeks ago. It seemed a little simple and one dimensional in comparison to the others, but really this is just too young to make a call on right now. From a very hot vintage the fruit is just swamping everything else and was the most Californian in style.  Overall this was an extremely impressive tasting, the wines are very much left bank Bordeaux in style rather than ‘traditional’ Napa. Though with richness of fruit that you only see in years like 2009 in Bordeaux. In fact, all the wines showed a lot of similarity with Mouton itself in their refined flamboyance. These are built for the long haul and in my opinion, 10-15 years is the minimum for getting the best out of them. For my palate I think the sweet spot would be around 20-25 yrs of age.