Malt Club: Glenglassaugh and BenRiach New Arrivals

On Thursday 12th of April, Kenny Ariaens presented his first Malt Club; Glenglassaugh and BenRiach New Arrivals. Kenny is the Spirit Ambassodor at Hancocks Wine, Spirit and Beer Merchants Limited. He has recently been over in Scotland visiting these great whisky distilleries; we thought there would be no better person to host this night. Kenny’s style of presenting effortlessly fitted our Malt Club regulars (like how well the Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish matched alongside our Mahoe Blue cheese); someone who can create an open atmosphere embracing our “Lloyds” and “Craigs” as well as the new comers. We tasted our way through 4 whiskies from each distillery, exploring their use of different wood finishes. Some favourable mentions of the night: Glenglassaugh Revival, Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish, Glenglassaugh Pedro Ximenez Wood Finish, BenRiach 22-Year-old PT. PX Albariza and BenRiach 21-Year-old.

The Veuve Clicquot Story – Tasting

You know it has been a good tasting when you go to empty the spittoons and there is nothing in them to empty! I have long been a fan of Veuve Clicquot, so I had a good feeling going in to this tasting and it did not disappoint. We were lucky enough to have Nicola here (our local rep) to walk us through these wines and her passion and knowledge is palpable.

Clicquot is all about firsts. When Madame Clicquot took over the running of this illustrious Champagne House at the tender age of 27 in 1805, she was the first woman to run a Champagne House. Her contributions to the world of wine are still being used to this day. She invented riddling to get the dead yeast lees out of the bottle, making the wine less cloudy in a much speedier fashion. Madame Clicquot was also the first to make a blended Rose Champagne; now most Grande Marque houses make Rose in this fashion to this day.

These days, Veuve Clicquot continues to be on the cutting edge of innovation. Their marketing is second to none and the bright orange/yellow livery (another first from Madame) stands out from all the other labels. Luckily for us, it is not just bells and whistles. They lavish care and attention on their product and it shows.

The NV was well balanced and shows great finesse. There is a reason it is always in our top 2 when we put it in a blind tasting! The Rose on Madame Clicquot’s 200th anniversary was conducting herself with aplomb, this was one of my favourites of the night. We then followed with the 2008 Reserve and 2008 Reserve Rose and what a treat they were, still very much in the Veuve Clicquot style but deeper and richer and meant for a longer life. We finished with Extra Old and the jewel in the crown La Grande Dame 2006 the extra old consists of six different vintages from 2010 back to 1988, the wine is then double-aged, three years on lees in vats, then three years secondary fermentation in the bottle. Fresh, creamy, concentrated, refined. The Grande Dame was exceptional a silky classic. 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay in sublime balance, the refined palate of honeyed, toasty stonefruit, almond and brioche checked by vibrant acidity. Great length from an opulent vintage.

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!

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.

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

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.