Archive for the ‘Kiwi Land’ Category

Sauvignon Blanc is In

July 6, 2010

When it comes to wine, nothing says summer like Sauvignon Blanc. Well, there is Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, Tocai, Moschofilero, and all those delicious whites. But talking about Sauvignon Blanc, what a wonderful grape it is. Regardless where the wine is made, it always welcomes your nose with a brushtroke, an aromatic draft of vegetable nature, be it freshly cut grass, rue, lemongrass, gooseberry or a myriad other herbs. Properly made it delivers on that promise, lightning up your palate with shiny acidity and more or less fruit, again, depending on the origin. Some make your eyes tear with citric, limey quality; others are apt at imparting fully ripened apples, pears and peaches, while others offer subtle -or blunt- tropical flavors like guava, banana, passion or even dragon fruit.

More minerally versions, where terroir is highlighted and fruit -though firm- is more subdued, come from the Loire Valley, in the heart of France. Sancerre -right guess- but not the only apellation in the area where you will get delicious Sauv Blanc.  Try Chateau de Sancerre, Pascal Jolivet, Levin. A little less mineral and also riding an deliciously acidic wave, Northern Italy can be home to lovely Sauvignon Blanc. One bottle of Bastianich B will send you looking for more good renditions from the top of the boot-shaped country.

There’s no need to say much about New Zealand’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, not much that haven’t been said already. Perhaps the most popular appellation for Sauvignon Blanc these days, the region’s wines are easy to drink, with a purity of fruit that is seldom found elsewhere. A Kiwi winemaker once told me that the high level of aseptique technique developed in the farm and dairy industries was behind this. Apparently, when New Zealand farmers lost some of their international markets due to competition, they redirected their skills at the wine industry. True or not, memorable whites come from the land of tongue-show-off warriors, unidentifiable national flag and bad soccer. Try the spark-studded  acidity of the Matua’s Paretai. Or the savory backdrop of the Wither Hills Rarangi. Or Jackson’s Stich. Not to mention the well known Kim Crawford, Scott or Villa Maria,plus all kind of  wines by names of critter and small mammals pissing on gooseberry bushes or monkeying around bays. Whoa, they sure  are taking after their Australian cousins when it comes to label originality.

Chile does a great job too. Their Sauvignon Blancs are second to none, except to Sancerre and Marlborough, and Pouilly Fume. And…just kidding.  Casas del Bosque is a gem of a finding at 17 dollars. Firm fruit, impeccable acidity (Impeccable. Im starting to sound like Bobby Parker) and 90 WE points make my point. Brilliant. Veramonte and Errazuriz make truly good stuff under 15 dollars. They will shine any night at any party.

Malbec comes next. Er, I meant to say, Argentina. Who would’ve thought they can make anything other than red? Well, think again. Mapema (the only thing going against this delicious wine is its name. And its price @ $21) is a big surprise. Ripe fruit weaved into the firm acidic frame, this Sauvingon Blanc is a sign of better whites to come from Mendoza. And from further north in the country. Paula is another solid Sauv Blanc, leaner on the fruit and with remarkable, kiwi-esque acidity. Trophee winner Pascual Toso, after delighting us with Cab Sauvs and Malbecs, makes a pretty decent SauvBlanc for 13 dollars. And a solid rose, although, that is another matter.

How to finish this without a mention of California? With a touch of oak, Grgich makes a simply beautiful Fumee Blanc. Beautiful, memorable, remarkable. The similarly lightly oaked Supery comes close. And for those with deeper pockets, don’t let the summer go by without trying the superb Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc. We’ll taste vicariously through you.

Salud!

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Playhouse Wine Festival 2010: Let’s the Games Begin

April 23, 2010

Wow! the new Vancouver Convention Center is really awesome. Great sweeping views of the North Shore mountains and the Burrard Inlet and spacious, huge hollow rooms that may feel cavernous if it was not by the skillful use of wood bricks covering the walls, giving it a warm maple syrup brown feel to this great indoors. Light years away from the warehouse feeling that the old Convention Center has. The first trade session was packed, with kilometric line ups to pick up tickets and to complete registration.

To the wines. I ignored the siren calls of Italian reds, elegant Champagnes, appealing Oregon whites. I went straight for the theme booths, Argentina and New Zealand. The latter country was very popular and many of its booths were beyond reach. Rant: C’mon Vancouverites. This city has been a wine city for over a decade now. When are you going to learn the most basic etiquette of wine tasting? Blocking spittoons, chatting endlessly with your pals blocking access to tables and wearing perfume are all no, no, no and no.

Ok, I got that out of my system. As a result, a limited tasting of New Zealand with two wines that stand out like two lonely stars in a dark southern sky. The Ostler 2008 Audrey’s Pinot Gris is a complete sensorial assault of pleasure. Starting with the nose. It was so intoxicatingly delicious that it made it hard to follow Jim Jerram, Ostler’s rep telling me about their terroir. Close to Otago but not as far inland, limestone soils and ocean breezes influence Ostler’s vineyards. The nose is intense, thick, a prelude to what is to come. Wow! I said after my first sip. It’s like a lady with curves. Chardonnayish. Jim agreed, with excitement. “Exactly, we make it like a Chardonnay, but on a diet.” A Chardonnay in a weight watchers program. A Chardonnay on a fast bike. There is a feeling of something that grows fatter and fatter on the palate but then whooosh! it’s gone and back to a leaner, trimmed up texture. “It’s the acidity, idiot.”  Brilliantly made, this Pinot Gris has a distinct spectrum of nose, flavors and texture and it may not be your accessible everyday wine at $38 but definitely one of those wine styles that set trends and change paradigms. Bravo for Ostler and thanks Jim and Gord for all the information.

The other white from Kiwi land that made my head turn was -not surprisingly- a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Matua Valley’s Paretai 2009 is as good as it gets for the grassy and minerally sassy style from South Island. At 29.99 this vibrant and fresh SB delivers all the goods one expects from the appellation.

Changing country, I expected a lot more whites from Argentina. The offer is still dominated by Torrontes. In my humble (not) opinion, there should have been a lot more quality Chardonnays. Anyway, less whining and more wining. I found one remarkable white by Bodega Lurton. The 2007 Gran Lurton Corte Friuliano, is a somewhat idyosincratic blend of Sauvignon Vert, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Torrontes, accomplished to notes of high delight. Aromatic on the nose, agile, playful and fruity on the palate, satisfying on the endless aftertaste. As in the case of the Ostler Pinot Gris, this Friuliano may have the limitation of price (29.99) to become popular. Nevertheless, an excellent effort by Lurton, which entry level $13.99 Pinot Gris is a promise of what this winery can do with the variety.

Red wines to follow on next post.

White Wine, Good Value and the Butterfly Effect

April 7, 2010

Not talking here of the white, fine hail that whipped me on my bike last evening, in Burnaby Heights, my hood. I want to feature a few whites that you should taste. Whites are ever more relevant in the market. I figure that, after a long time being sidelined by consumers, now that they are accepted by mainstream critics and writers, they start to shine. The more open you are  to enjoying something, the more you will enjoy it. Until last year I heard constantly “no, I don’t drink white” or “white wine gives me headaches” or even worse “they have lots of sulphites.” And lots of people still resist white wine; but a lot more are starting to appreciate it for what it is and for it can give to you. No red can exhibit the levels of refreshing acidity a good white can. And with good acidity, flavors are highlighted, focused, sharpened, delimited, underscored. Not to mention aromas. A red offering floral whiffs is like a few flowers, perhaps a bunch. A good aromatic white is like sniffing in the whole garden.

From the top.

Casas del Bosque 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. $17.99. Are you kidding me? 18 bucks for this Chilean gold medallist (Concourse Mondial du Bruxelles 08)? Geologists love minerals and critics love citrics and this one has both plus plenty of alluring fruit.

Jackson Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. You enjoy Sauv Blanc from New Zealand? This is the one you should pick. 20 dollars of pungent grass and persistent tropical, guava flavors that surf down your palate on a wave of shiny acidity. No wonder why the empty spots on the shelves.

Domaine de Grachies 2009. This blend from Cotes de Gascogne will turn heads –and open wallets- at 11.99. Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc join forces to render an impressive table white.

The Hermit Crab 2008 by D’Arenberg. $21.99. Oh yummy Viognier/Marsanne blend. Fleshy and refreshing, with solid pear fruit.

Fish Hoek Sauvignon Blanc. $10.49. When looking for a budget white, look at this cheapie. Tropical and limey, with vibrant acidity and  slight background “Southafrican” aromas. Another reason? Great label! Click on pic.

Two in the Bush 2008 Chardonnay. $20.95. Chardonnay lovers, rejoice. A basket of fruit led by ripe banana. Smooth, creamy and nicely oaked.

Claar Cellars Riesling. $22.99. A Southafrican sounding name for this Columbia Valley Riesling with checks in all the right boxes. Bright acidity, check. Lip smacking citrus, check. Sweet tropical fruit, check.

Go white. Have you heard of the Butterfly Effect? It works, its true. If all of us drink more white, the sun will show up more often. Serious.

New Zealand Red Wine Terroir

August 28, 2009

Better known by the tremendous success of its white wines,new zealand wine regions particularly Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand’s red wines are off the radar for the global market, with the obvious exception of Pinot Noir. The “heart break grape” has made its home in Martinborough, at the southern tip of North Island, and in Otago, in the southern end of South Island.

Central Otago has the only true continental climate in the country. Unlike the rest of New Zealand, its soils show heavy deposits of mica, schist and silt loams. Pinot Noir wines from this region have received accolades due to their purity of fruit, intensity and vibrancy.

Martinborough, in the Wairarapa region, also offers excellent Pinot Noir. Climatically is closer to Marlborough: maritime, cool and with less extremes of daily and seasonal temperatures. The top Pinot Noirs produced there exhibit richness and opulence.

Although little known, New Zealand also produces high quality Bordeaux and Rhone blends, mostly in Waiheke Island and Hawke’s Bay. The former is located in the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland. Its hilly terrain produces Bordeaux blends that have good reputation, though production is rather small.

Hawke’s Bay, on the eastern central coast of North Island, is the nation’s capital when it comes to Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. The Bordeaux blends produced there show finesse and restrain. Syrah is the new buzz, producing wines that are fresh, long and peppery, reminiscent of the northern Rhone reds.

Waitiri Creek, Pinot Noir from Central Otago

June 3, 2009

I missed the Vancouver’s New Zealand wine event of May 28, for which I am still kicking myself, but

waitiri creek

waitiri creek

fortunately, tasted this delicious Pinot by Waitiri. Rather Burgundian in style, this garnet broth smells heavily of barnyard, cooked red berries and earth. Full bodied, balanced and with soft tannins. Good structure and depth, a long finish, loaded with fruit and very pleasing. Great job by the Waitiri Creek gang, albeit, the 2008 product was not as exhilarating.

Product: Pinot Noir

Variety: Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2004

Winery: Waitiri Creek

Origin: Central Otago, New Zealand

Alcohol: x.0%

Price: 49.99 (www.everythingwine.ca)

Hans, Spirit of Marlborough Red Blend

May 30, 2009

hans merlot cabernetWe all know and love the Sauvignon Blanc that come from Marlborough. Grassy, aromatic, with tantalizing acidity, they have set a new standard for the variety. But, knock, knock, any reds from New Zealand? Only Pinot Noir comes to mind. However, a few wineries are making use of advanced viticultural techniques to extract the maximum from the sun and heat that this southern location has to offer. Herzog Winery offers a delectable Bordeaux-style blend with its 2001 Spirit of Marlborough. Inky purplish red, with poignant red fruit and capsicum in the nose, the palate is rich with good acidity. Tannins are rounded and the finale is persistent, expansive and satisfying. There is a streak of herbaceousness –perhaps from the not so hot conditions- that robs this fine blend from higher accolades. Nevertheless, shot through with quality.

Alcohol Percentage: 14.8%

Product: Hans, Spirit of Marlborough

Variety: Merlot 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon 15%, Cabernet Franc 15%, 10% Malbec

Vintage: 2001

Winery: Herzog Winery

Origin: Wairau River, Marlborough, New Zealand

Alcohol: 14.5%

Price: 69.99