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Joelle Thomson's online wine guide

Category: Acing & cellaring (page 1 of 2)

Hawke’s Bay Syrahs growing… and worth cellaring

One minute you’re standing on a cool, inland vineyard looking at Pinot Noir. The next, you’re seeing robust Syrah vines on warmer, stony soils closer to the coast. That’s Hawke’s Bay for you. And this week two top Syrahs that appeared in our  staff tasting at Regional Wines supported the assertion that the Bay is the most diverse wine region in this country.

It stretches from cool coastal areas to chilly inland vineyards, with the majority of the vineyards being on significantly warmer, stonier soils in between.

  • I now lead weekly staff tastings at Regional Wines & Spirits, which is Wellington city’s largest, oldest and best known independent wine retailer. I am an independent wine writer. It’s a win-win. As were these two top Syrahs.

The two Syrahs that were our top staff wine picks this week are:

2014 Sileni The Peak Syrah $32.99

Winner of Platinum at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards in London, this Syrah was made with grapes grown in the Bridge Pa Triangle in Hawke’s Bay where river gravels absorb, retain and reflect the sun’s warmth onto red grape varieties such as Syrah.

Big, bold, juicy and smooth; don’t let the medium ruby colour of this winning wine deceive you into thinking it’s just a big softie. This spicy little number drinks very nicely right now but will age for a further five to six years+ too.

Sileni Estates has 75 hectares of vineyard in the Bridge Pa Triangle, over half of which is planted in the reds – Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc.

Fewer than 1% of the 17,200 wines entered won platinum awards at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards.

The other wine is the new Le Sol Syrah from Craggy Range. Here’s the gist of it.

New Le Sol Syrah

2015 Craggy Range Le Sol $135

A cool spring provided plenty of nervous anticipation to the Craggy Range wine team but a warm dry spell in mid to late January saw temperatures rise over 30 degrees Celcius and the result is this lovely wine that’s intense in every way from its deep purple colour to its full body, high but balanced tannins and acidity and its long, smooth finish.

The 2015 Le Sol was aged for 17 months in French oak (30% new oak).

It drinks… well right now and has strong aging potential for 9 to 10 years +.

Craggy’s new top shelf reds launch…

It was frosty, clear, cold and intense start to the week at Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay, but in the upstairs wine lab at Craggy Range, the following trio of reds shined a warmer light on the third strong New Zealand vintage in a row – 2015. Like all top shelf reds, this trio have been mellowing in barrel prior to their official release onto shop shelves and into our glasses this week.

Craggy’s top trio of 2015 reds

Craggy Range’s new Prestige Collection reds launched in June this year and represents the third consecutive strong vintage in a row, says winemaker Matt Stafford, who says yields were down 50% for 2015 Craggy Range Aroha Te Muna Pinot Noir and also, to a lesser extent, for 2015 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah, due to a cool start to vintage but a warm dry summer resulted in these beauties.

New Craggy Sophia

 2015 Craggy Range Sophia $115

Three grapes vie for attention in this top new red – made from 73% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Cabernet Franc, all contributing body and fruit weight. The soft richness comes from the hefty Merlot component while the two Cabernets provide dark fruity notes.

The 2015 Craggy Range Sophia was aged for 19 months in French oak (45% new).

It drinks… well right now but will further age for 9 to 10 years; possibly longer.

 

New Le Sol Syrah

2015 Craggy Range Le Sol $135

A cool spring provided plenty of nervous anticipation to the Craggy Range wine team but a warm dry spell in mid to late January saw temperatures rise over 30 degrees Celcius and the result is this lovely wine that’s intense in every way from its deep purple colour to its full body, high but balanced tannins and acidity and its long, smooth finish.

The 2015 Le Sol was aged for 17 months in French oak (30% new oak).

It drinks… well right now and has strong aging potential for 9 to 10 years +.

 

New Pinot

2015 Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir $135

First made in 2006 and produced every year since, with the exception of 2010, this Martinborough Pinot Noir is made 100% from grapes grown in the Te Muna area; 9 kilometres west of the township. A higher proportion of whole bunches are used than in the past – now 50%, which add what Stafford describes as a spicy note. And there has also been a significant reduction in the use of new oak (now at 30%).

The 2015 Aroha was aged for 9 months in French oak (30% new).

It drinks… well now with smooth full body, and can age for 9-10 years.

 

These wines are in store now at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington where I spend a portion of my week working on tastings and all manner of other fascinating, tasty wine related things.

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

It’s a keeper…

It was the night before Christmas and quiet in our house, so out came our presents and our photos of the big one that hadn’t yet arrived… a new wine cellar.

The cellar in question is a large Vestfrost wine fridge which theoretically has the capacity to hold 143 bottles on their sides to keep their corks moist (so they don’t dry out), the wine at optimum humidity (again, so the corks don’t dry out) and a smoked glass door so the light doesn’t oxidise the contents of the precious bottles inside.

A week after Christmas, it arrived. It was duly wheeled into its new home downstairs where it fits snugly into a corner of the laundry (which is gradually becoming more of a cellar than a laundry, but that’s another story).

Most of the bottles have now been carefully stored in their new home on their sides and even standing up to maximise every possible corner of the new cellar. Those ones standing are sealed with screw caps so there is no problem about corks drying out or allowing air in. There are many wines in the new fridge sealed with cork and even a few with the classy looking glass Vinolok but most are sealed with screwcaps.

This may offer a clue as to the type of wines that make up most of my personal wine collection in the cellar: fresh, high acid whites made from Chenin Blanc, Riesling and (oak-influenced) Sauvignon Blanc.  There are also top shelf sparkling wines which are, literally, on the top shelf. These include a magnum of Bollinger, among others.

There are, of course, shelves devoted to reds from here (New Zealand Pinot Noir and Syrah, mostly), there (France, Syrah and blends containing it, mostly, with a small number of Italian stallions) and everywhere (Argentinian Malbec also features strongly).

The new Vestfrost is not the only place I store wine but it is the best place.

It offers space, portability and reliability. It was bought for me, but the brand name is worth mentioning as there are a greater number of manufacturers focussing on wine fridges these days. And that’s important in a world where a growing number of people live, like us, in a basement-free apartment. Ours a little different – in fact, it’s a lot different because it’s a two storey apartment, and one day we may even devote an entire room to wine, in which case we will touch base with the designers at White Refrigeration.

In the meantime, our wine cellar is a vast improvement on the over heated cupboard under the stairs in the place I used to call home in Avondale, Auckland.

The new fridge is one of the best presents I can think of – a keeper, as are the wines inside it.

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