Wednesday night, Westmere.
A bunch of people turned up just before 7PM and swiftly walked the stairs that took them to our tasting room upstairs. Waiting for them, a long wooden table neatly set up with champagne flutes and plates already filled with entrees.
Liz, our Champagne Guru and General Manager, and Serena, Westmere’s store manager, were the two hosts for the event.
The night cracked on with a taste of J Lassalle Preference 1er Cru Brut and a quick introduction of the reality of Grower Champagnes.
After that, the wine and food matching began.
The whole night swirled around extremely informative and captivating speeches from Liz quickly followed by notes on the flavours regarding both the wine and the food matched with it from Serena.
Lilbert-Fils Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut, Andre Jacquart & Fils Blanc de Blancs Brut, Paul Bara Brut Reserve, Serge Mathieu Tradition Brut and, last but not least, Henri Giraud l’Esprit de Giraud Brut were the grower champagnes starring the tasting. Liz entertained everyone with interesting facts, bucket loads of knowledge, juicy details about her trip to Champagne and the discovery journey of these absolutely wonderful grower Houses.
Food wise, Serena went through a long research process and cross referenced tasting charts, wine tasting notes, food blog reviews and personal notes and came up with a unique menu that enhanced and completed the overall experience. Veggie sushi, coriander chicken and prawn skewers, Emmental du France cream vol-au-vent were some of the dishes served to those lucky customers who attended.
Words by Serena Cappellini | Retail Manager, Glengarry Wines Westmere
If there was ever a living icon in the wine industry, the title would surely have to go to Joe Babich. Joe joined the family business in 1958 and has achieved much over his career – he was awarded Winemaker of the Year in1994 and in 2014 both Peter and Joe were awarded the Sir George Fistonich Medal in recognition for services to the New Zealand wine industry. Babich is still a family-run company and are currently celebrating their 100th year anniversary. To celebrate this achievement Babich have been running a number of tastings with us, including the Irongate vertical tasting we had here at Hutt Road with Joe.
Irongate Chardonnay has been produced from the Gimblett Gravels since 1985 and for this tasting Joe decided to treat us to four vintages of this fabulous wine. It was extremely interesting to see the development of this wine over several vintages. The 2002, although still an elegant wine, was starting to show signs of attenuation; the 2008 was my favourite – this was pungent and rich and had a fabulous silken texture; the 2011 was more restrained but had beautiful balance and incredible length. The current vintage, 2014, was also elegant but a little more closed and tight; this is a wine to put away for a short time (3-5 years) and will reward handsomely.
Following on from the Chardonnay we did four Irongate Reds. These wines are composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc – the Cabernet content stays pretty much the same but the Merlot and Franc varies slightly depending on vintage. For this tasting we went from the youngest wine to the oldest wine. The first off the starting block was the 2014 and what a little charmer this wine was – lifted florals and mulberry on the nose, the palate was voluptuous and rich, it had a lovely sweetness, and deserved some time to rest before consuming. Following the 2014 we had the 2013; another stunning vintage from the region. This was every bit as good as the 2014 but surprisingly different in character – it had deep rich black fruits and was a little more closed at this stage in its life. The 2008 was drinking well right now! It was dark and showed dried fruits and spices, and finely integrated tannins. The 1990 was a treat and was older than three of our staff members that attended the tasting! It had a very old nose and was the a bricky colour, but remarkably the wine was holding incredibly well and had excellent length. It was more on the savoury side now as most of the obvious fruit had fallen away but it still retained a freshness and its life was by no means over.
The tasting was an absolute treat and it was an honour to meet Joe Babich, a man that has contributed so much to the New Zealand wine industry. Here’s to the next 100 years!
Posted by Meredith Parkin | Fine Wine Account Manager, Glengarry Hutt Road, Wellington.
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.
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.
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.
I’m so excited I can barely contain myself! I am finally able to start tasting some of the 2010 Burgundy’s that have arrived. As we are still basking in sunshine I am going to kick off this round of tastings with Vincent Girardin white wines on Wednesday March 13th – details on the Glengarry web site
I did a tasting of Vincent Girardin white wines just over a year ago and they were stunning every sip was a delight. Vincent’s origins date back 11 generations so his roots are buried deep in the hallowed soils of Burgundy and he knows every vine and parcel of land. The white wines that Vincent produces find their essence in their finesse and extreme purity. He manages to find the perfect balance between acidity and richness and while the wines are a delight to drink early they will benefit enormously from some time just laying about in a cellar.
I am going to open nine wines in total starting with a generic Meursault and finishing on a high with a Corton Charlemagne and his Quintessence Corton Charlemagne.
Watch this space for the summary of these wines I am certain that they will not disappoint!
To say that Anne Gros makes good wine is like saying Valerie Adams can throw things.
Every time I have the very great privilege of tasting Anne’s wine I am surprised and delighted all over again. One of the great things of course about the last tasting that I did was that all of the wines were from the great 2009 vintage. This vintage has proved itself again and again and while Anne Gros has established herself in the challenging vintages the rewards in a stunning vintage are undeniable.
We went through and tasted all of the 2009 Anne Gros wines that we have in stock here and they were all spectacular from bottom to top and even though they were approachable now the group thought that most would benefit further from a bit of age.
We started with the Bourgogne Chardonnay as a little palate cleanser it showed some lovely white floral notes and hint of toasty oak. We followed with the Bourgogne and Bourgogne Hautes Cote de Nuit both showed well and offered extremely good value although most thought that the Hautes Cote de Nuit could do with another year or so bottle age the Bourgogne was on the whole pleasurable now. We then moved in to the Chambolle Musigny La Combe D’Orveaux and Vosne Romanee Les Barreaux and both of these are a step up from most village wines and her skill in getting the most out of her grapes shines here. Anne gets a wonderful depth of flavour in her wines but without massive extraction just sublime.
But wait there’s more! (This by the way is the part of my job that doesn’t feel like working at all!) We did the Clos Vougeot, Echezeaux and Richebourg. Just for fun one of the group suggested that we did them blind this was great as it took away any preconceptions that we may have had. I am happy to say that I did guess them correctly when it came to the reveal –phew reputation intact! They were as expected all remarkable and a delight to taste the Richebourg stood out from just the sheer power of the wine, this is a massive wine and would be a worthy addition to the cellar of a serious Burgundy collector. With that said the star of the night was without a doubt the Clos Vougeot it was elegance personified and enjoyed by all. The Echezeaux was a star in its own right it had lovely spice notes and fantastic structure it was another five star wine but just slightly overshadowed on the night by the Clos Vougeot
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.
This was a really interesting tasting to host and one I’d been especially looking forward to. Clos Vougeot (Or Clos de Vougeot) is one of the most famous Pinot Noir vineyards in the world, and the largest of the Grand Cru vineyards on the Cotes de Nuits in Burgundy. Being so large (50.96ha) and having such a long history (The wall around it was finished in the year 1336) it now is divided amongst almost 80 different producers. The goal of the evening was to try and get an idea of the vineyard style by tasting seven different cuvees from some of our top producers, all from the great 2009 vintage.
We ‘warmed up’ with a Grand Cru Chardonnay, the Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne 2009. Bonneau du Martray is one of the greatest producers from this vineyard and we have recently started importing these wines into New Zealand again after a long absence. It didn’t disappoint with exceptional power, rich phenolics and stunning length. Then it was on to the 2009 Clos Vougeots. In order of tasting. Francois Lamarche, Gros Frere et Souer, Vincent Girardin, Faiveley, Michel Gros, Anne Gros, and Alex Gambal. What came across most strongly this evening was that 2009 is a sensational vintage for Burgundy. Some of the richest and lushest fruit we have seen in many years, giving the wines a very sexy ‘New World’ appeal upfront, but with great structure behind, ensuring they will continue to improve over the long term. The next most interesting aspect for me was that there was no one wine that really stood up as significantly better than the others. The quality was extremely high across the board and it really came down to stylistic preference as to where the favourites lay. The Gros family came through well with Gros Frere and Anne Gros both being very popular. I think there were also many people pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the Girardin, a producer famed for his whites but not well known for his excellent reds.
I honestly enjoyed all of them fairly equally, but if I had to go home with just one it would have been the Alex Gambal. This is a wine that can be enjoyed now (Make sure it sees some air) but has is still aromatically restrained with such a tight core of dense fruit that it will only blossom over the years. This deserves to be allowed time to show it’s best and I can’t wait to see what this is like in another decade or so.