Vino

Top drops under $20 (and over) and wine news from Joelle Thomson

Category: Chenin Blanc (page 1 of 2)

Vineyard tales of great whites in Marlborough

Big wine regions often get a bad rap but where would we be without them? Last week I visited Marlborough with a group of New Zealanders who work with wine (from the Hamilton Beer & Wine Company and Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington). And we were all staggered by this region’s heavy reliance on Sauvignon Blanc. Even when you do expect it,  the stats can be a tad overwhelming. Here they are…

Marlborough in a snapshot

85% of Marlborough’s wine production is Sauvignon Blanc

3 subregions account for plantings of this white grape

45% of grapes grown in the Wairau Valley

25% of grapes grown in the Southern Valley

30% of grapes grown in the Awatere Valley

Pinot Noir… there’s of it in Marlborough than in Central Otago

Chardonnay… there’s plenty and it’s very good but totally eclipsed

 

So, there we were visiting Astrolabe, Whitehaven Wines and Nautilus Estate, marvelling at the outstanding taste and modest prices of the Chardonnays ($26, $22 and $35, respectively) only to discover that these wines account for less than 5% of the overall production at both Whitehaven and Nautilus. Percentages weren’t discussed at Astrolabe, but winemaker Simon Waghorn’s firmest focus is naturally on Sauvignon Blanc and he makes a wide range from different vineyards, sub-regions, single vineyards and blends.

There are good reasons for this a focus. New Zealand wine is now the fifth biggest export earner for the country, and Sauvignon Blanc makes up about 85% of this.

But still, it’s surprising how good New Zealand Chardonnay is today and how small its profile is.  So, why is Chardonnay overlooked?

Is it because of the big buttery numbers that ruled in roost back in the 1980s and ’90s? Or the heavily oaked versions that followed? Or the easier, non oaky charms of Pinot Gris, which is nibbling at Chardonnay’s heels in New Zealand’s national vineyard today?

Ten years ago, I remember a blind date telling me unequivocally that there was no way he would drink a Marlborough Chardonnay because they simply weren’t any good.  I tried to persuade a little open mindedness because back then there were some exceptional Marlborough Chardonnays, but he wasn’t having a bar of it. Needless to say, he didn’t last longer than five minutes.

Today, Marlborough is emerging as one of New Zealand’s most promising Chardonnay regions, even if it’s still only making a relative trickle of wine made from this perennially popular white grape. Large oak puncheons (500 litres) are favoured by Whitehaven winemaker Sam Smail and large 3000 litre cuves are often used for fermentation by Nautilus Estate winemaker Clive Jones, who has reduced the amount of Chardonnay he makes in order to focus on better quality. When opening old Nautilus Chardonnays a couple of years ago, Jones was as amazed as the rest of us at the youthfulness and consistency of these wines under screwcap. They might have been nudging eight years of bottle age, but they were as fresh as a daisy and looked like they had only been in bottle for about two years, due to their pale lemon colour.

It’s nearly the weekend, or perhaps yours has already started, but sitting on my desk are two Chardonnays from another great, under rated Chardonnay region – Margaret River in Western Australia. As we in print media, watch this space for notes on Vasse Felix Chardonnays, made at a winery which turns 50 years young this year. You don’t need to convince me that 1967 was a good year to be born.

 

 

 

 

Wines for milestones

How many laps around the sun have you done?

This weekend, I’ll be celebrating 50 of mine, or rather, a large number of friends will be helping me not to think too hard about what five decades may or may not signify.

We’re having a party, which triples as a house warming for my boyfriend and I, and a double-50th for another wine loving friend.

The only prerequisites are to bring a person you love and a bottle of wine you love – oh, and to be invited, of course.

It’s a great excuse for me to crack open some of the wines I love, which includes this top list.

5 life changing wines

Bolly…

Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee

Bollinger was the first bubbly ever to make me sit up and smell the hot buttered toast on speed deliciousness of what great Champagne is all about. And I’ve loved it ever since.

A minuscule 1% of all Champagne sold is Bollinger and the non vintage (made from a blend of grapes grown in different years) is the most challenging and difficult wine that the family makes each year because consistency is key. Their focus is on growing at least 60% of their own grapes so that they can control and maintain the high quality of this well known wine, which is aged for three years (double the legal French minimum) and this gives the wine its instantly recognisable deliciousness – like fresh sour dough toast with truffles on the side… it’s the warmth, the full body, the savoury ness of this bubbly that really rocks. And its consistent fantastic flavours are why I bought a magnum to celebrate this milestone. PS: It’s Pinot Noir-dominant, which also accounts for its rich savoury flavours.

 

Sauvignon with bells on…

2014 Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon

One of my favourite New Zealand wines and one that I buy extremely regularly and love even more every time I open it – again, it’s all about savoury flavours rather than upfront fruity appeal, which is still present and counted in each glass of this stunning South Island white made with grapes grown in North Canterbury by the Donaldson family. Both the Sauvignon Blanc and the Semillon spent time fermenting in old oak, which adds complex creamy notes and softens the zingy acidity. Every sip lingers, every bottle I’ve ever tried has aged brilliantly. The screw cap rocks in preserving this year – earlier in the year I tried one that was 10 years old on the shore at Kaikoura after fishing with the family who made the wine. It was still fresh and zesty.

Hot Spanish red…

2014 As Caborcas Single Vineyard Valdeorras 

Mencia is an old grape variety with a new lease of life – both in Spain and in my glass. Winemakers such as Telmo Rodriguez are at the forefront of pioneering new ways with this historic grape, which is mostly grown without trellising wires – en vaso (in the shape of a vase). Vines grown this way, as mini bush vines, can maximise heat from the granite soils because they are low to the ground, which aids ripening, leading to powerful flavours of wild berries, black fruit (plums, cherries) and licorice here. The flavours suggest a wine from a warm area, but its fresh zing comes from bright acidity which adds length of flavour, thanks to sensitive winemaking and great care in the vineyard – which is at 550 to 600 metres altitude on slopes above the Bibei River.

The grapes in this wine were hand picked, fermented with native yeasts and then aged for 15 months in old large oak casks. It’s actually a blend too – Mencia is the leading grape in this wine with fellow native Spanish grapes in supporting roles – these are Merenzao, Souson, Garnacha, Godello and Brencellao.

 

Riesling rocks…

2010 J J Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese

I love Riesling. And this one is 8.5% alcohol by volume, so it’s probably going to come out later on in the evening… And this is a very special wine made from one of the world’s great vineyards – Wehlener Sonnenuhr, which means the sun dial above the village of Wehlen along the Mosel River Valley, home to many of the world’s greatest Rieslings. It’s a cool climate, so the acidity in the wine is high which makes it taste incredibly refreshing. This wine is medium sweet and tastes of honey, limes, green apples, red apples, with aromas of peach and fresh flowers. It’s all about decadance. Need I say more.

 

Saucy Sicilian…

2014 Zisola Mazzei Noto Rosso

The name ‘nero’ means black and this wine lives up to its moniker with its intense aromas of blueberries, liquorice and even very ripe fruit such as peaches and blood oranges. This is intense, full bodied, long on the finish, velvety and smooth… like the party it’s going to be enjoyed at.

An unusual tasting in Wellington… discover a great white

The world of… (insert name of white grape here), Tuesday 18 July, 6pm to 8pm, Regional Wines & Spirits, Elice Street, Wellington…

If you had to name a wine that is rare as hen’s teeth these days but was once one of the brightest stars in the New Zealand wine galaxy, what would it be?
It’s white, it originally comes from France and it used to be one of the most planted grapes in Gisborne and the biggest clue: It’s not very well known by name.

It is Chenin Blanc. And it’s the theme of one of our most complex, wide ranging tastings that we have planned this year at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, where I am spending a significant portion of my week, working on tastings, among other aspects of wine.

This tasting will highlight 13 different wines from 3 different countries, 3 different French appellations and will feature bone dry, full bodied wines through to off dry, medium dry and lusciously sweet, kicking off with a fizz made from Chenin Blanc before we travel the world, one glass at a time, from warmer to cooler regions, younger to older and drier to sweeter wines. Here’s the line up.

2016 De Morgenzen, Reserve Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch
2015 Astrolabe, Wrekin Vineyard, Chenin Blanc, Marlborough
2015 Marc Bredif, Vouvray
2014 Baumard, Clos St Yves, Savennieres
2013 Forrest Estate, Chenin Blanc, Marlborough
2012 Astrolabe, Wrekin Vineyard, Chenin Blanc, Marlborough
2007 Forrest Estate, Chenin Blanc, Marlborough
2005 Baumard, Clos St Yves, Savennières
2004 Baumard, Clos St Yves, Savennières
1999 Marc Bredif, Vouvray
2015 Baumard, Carte d’Or, Coteaux du Layon
2010 Baumard, Clos Ste Catherine, Coteaux du Layon

Bookings are essential and this tasting is already filling up as it is limited to 20 people, so please email to confirm your spot and organise payment ($40 per person represents pretty stellar value, in my view, for such an amazing bunch of wines, the majority of which are still available to buy afterwards, should the fancy take you).
Email bookings to: john@regionalwines.co.nz

Older posts

© 2017 Vino

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑