Westmere Wine Club: Rockburn with Rebecca Poynter

Last night we held our April Wine Club at the Glengarry Westmere store and were delighted to host Rebecca from Rockburn who presented a fantastic line up. Everyone was pleasantly surprised by the Sauvignon Blanc, stunned by the Tigermoth Riesling (which we learnt has an interesting naming history) and the favourite of the night was Rockburn’s delicious Seven Barrels Pinot Noir. The night also included many entertaining stories of the wine industry from over the years, from both Rebecca and our customers! Thank you to everyone for coming along and braving the Auckland weather for a wonderful night of wine, cheese and stories. We look forward to seeing you at the next one!

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:

Syrah. Rhodanien Treasure.

Syrah and Shiraz: are they the same? Yes, they are indeed, but you know how it is with wine: one person’s lean and refined Loire Sauvignon Blanc bears little resemblance to the tastebud-tingling fruit-bombs that emanate from Marlborough. However, we digress; we’re meant to be talking here about the legendary red grape, Syrah.

Many grape varieties and their wines have a spiritual home, and Syrah’s benchmark location is the Hermitage appellation in France’s northern Rhône Valley. The famed Hermitage hill, complete with iconic chapel atop its crest, sits as a backdrop to the village of Tain l’Hermitage, the home of Valrhona chocolate. Indeed, a session involving well-matured Syrah and Valrhona chocolate is not easily forgotten. Around the globe, winemakers pay homage to the legendary Syrahs of Hermitage, for they are indeed the world’s greatest. Lavish and haunting aromatics accompany intricate, smoky layers of blackberry, black currant, liquorice and coffee interwoven in a near-perfect union.

New Zealand’s Syrahs have far more in common with those from the northern Rhône than they do with our Australian neighbours and their ubiquitous Shiraz wines. The Aussie version of Syrah tends to conjure up an abundance of warm, juicy red fruits, voluptous tannins and a rich, creamy palate, descriptors that are far from what New Zealand’s expressions are all about. American wine critic Stephen Tanzer categorizes our Syrah wines thus: ‘In weight and level of ripeness, think of Crozes-Hermitage or Saint-Joseph rather than Côte-Rôtie or Hermitage … fresh, firm and food-friendly.’

While Syrah only constitutes 0.5% of the total wine produced in New Zealand, it is creating a bigger name for itself than that volume might suggest. If you’re a Syrah grape residing here, Hawkes Bay is the place to be, with 70% of the plantings found there. Excellent wines, though, are also coming out of Waiheke Island, and Marlborough’s Fromm winery is leading a resilient if somewhat solitary charge in those parts. While Syrah is not new to our shores, the international reputation our expressions are amassing and a recent string of brilliant vintages means there has never been a better time to jump on in and try them.

Our top picks for April:

New Zealand

International

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

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…

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

The New Traditional: Natural, Low/Non-Sulphite, and Vegan-Friendly Wines

Natural Wines

Natural wines are more difficult to define, and are not certificated in the way biodynamic wines, for example, are. They are farmed organically or biodynamically, hand-harvested and ‘transformed’ without the addition or removal of anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and intervention in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. Neither fining nor filtration are employed. The result is a wine full of naturally occurring microbiology. Essentially, it’s about using what one was given, with the wine evolving naturally to be whatever it will be.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES ESCARPMENT AMPHORA
Escarpment, Photo Credit Raymond Chan

Low/Non-Sulphite Wines

In NZ, the presence of sulphur dioxide is required to be noted on the label. Sulphur is produced naturally from the grapes through the fermentation process, so all wines will contain a certain amount. The other way you’ll encounter sulphur is in its addition as a preservative, used to inhibit oxidation and microbial spoilage. The amount used varies, and therein lies the difference: between those who adhere to the formulaic approach and those who do everything they can to reduce their sulphur content. Some wines have no sulphur added at all, the Seresin and Araucano wines below being prime examples.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES HACIENDA ARAUCANO
Hacienda Araucano

Vegan Friendly Wines

The reason not all wines are vegan- or vegetarian-friendly is down to the way a wine is clarified (i.e. made clear and bright) via a process called ‘fining’. Young wines naturally contain proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are in no way harmful, and most wines will eventually self-clarify. However, to hasten the process, many winemakers use fining agents. The most commonly used are casein (milk protein), albumen (egg white), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). When it comes to assessing what’s in there, it’s worth noting the label is generally not going to be of much assistance.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES AKARUA
Akarua

Read more from our March Wineletter here

The New Traditional: Organic and Biodynamic Wines

These days, out on the borders, some people like to build walls. It’s all part of a trending push to adopt a more conservative, inward-looking stance, and it’s often self-serving in nature. You might think that this has little to do with your bottle of wine, but you’d be wrong. There are individuals out there who are bucking the status quo and questioning the sometimes rigid behaviours associated with today’s wine production. As with other human endeavours, this doesn’t always go down well.

This is particularly true in some of the European countries, where appellation, and its protection, can, in some minds, be everything. Hence, some very good wines there that travel a less frequented path (biodynamic wines, natural or unfined wines, for instance) can cop a wall’s worth of rejection as they are ‘cast into exile’ by those policing the regulations. The result? These wines are unable to state their provenance as they fall outside strict guidelines around what constitutes an appellation. But they do it anyway.

The irony is, of course, that in many instances, these hardy souls are in fact turning back towards older, now discarded traditions and questioning the original reasoning behind their abandonment. Or, sometimes, they are just heading off Stage Left to see what’s over there. While logic dictates that this can only be healthy, it is also perceived as threatening in some quarters. The line between craftsmanship and creativity can be a hazy one, expecially when it comes down to definitions.

However, many of us are excited about what’s happening out around the edges. After all, for things to flower and progress, experimentation and rejuvenation is what it’s all about. And so, this issue casts a light on those viticulturalists and winemakers shedding some of the more insidious aspects of the wine industry as it corporatizes itself, as they go in search of greener, more meaningful ways of doing things. These wines and their creators are forging new paths, often into old, forsaken territories, and we should be encouraged by their energy, their initiative and their sheer audacity, to cheer them on.

Organic Wines

Organic grape cultivation eschews the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers and other artificial processes. The wines themselves are regulated through legislation that can vary from country to country. One of these certification challenges is derived from the USA, where wine and food are conflated under organic regulations. There, in order to protect various food products, the term ‘organic wine’ can’t be applied because of the sulphur present, resulting in the designation ‘made from organic grapes’. We encounter that in NZ when the producer labels both their domestic and exported product with the one label.

We recommend:

GLENGARRY WINES LOVEBLOCK
Loveblock

Biodynamic Wines

Biodynamic winemaking and viticulture draws its philosophy from the premise of Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner, that the Earth (and thus the vineyard itself) is a living organism. In order to keep everything in balance, the rationale is that vinicultural practices need to be timed to coincide with the rhythms of the earth, a philosophy embracing the whole ecosystem, that requires environment, plants, animals and people to be in complete harmony. As with organics, there is a certification system, but it’s a global standard, known as Demeter and named for the Greek goddess of grain and fertility.

We recommend:

Read more from our March Wineletter here