Vino

Joelle Thomson's online wine guide

Category: In the cellar (page 1 of 3)

Champagne and New Zealand – likenesses and differences

Every silver lining has a cloud… said a friend at our three yearly catch up dinner last year. It’s not that we only want to catch up every three years. We live in different countries. It’s just how it pans out.

And it pans out that we weren’t drinking champagne, but the silver linings  analogy sprang to mind at a tasting of Champagne Mumm late last week in Auckland. There we were, two of us writers faced with six high priced sparkling wines, 45 minutes to taste them and one travelling winemaker-marketer – Didier Mariotti from Champagne G H Mumm in France.

It wasn’t the limited time we had to taste the wines but, as often occurs to me, the price of the wines in question. Many tasted outstandingly complex but are about as affordable as a Prada suit would be to most of us right now. Still, the flavours are intriguing, especially as all of the wines go through 100% malolactic fermentation to soften their acidity and add creamy richness, which has yet to come through – showing these wines have plenty of time up their sleeves for those willing to age them to watch their development.

The wines we tasted were

Champagne Mumm Cordon Rouge $66.49
Champagne Mumm Rose $103.99
Champagne Mumm Millesime $102.99
Champagne Mumm Blanc de Blancs $210.99
Champagne Mumm R’Lalou 2002 $390 (20 cases in New Zealand)

Prices  are recommended retail and may vary.

My pick… Mumm R’Lalou 2002 $390 (20 cases in New Zealand)

There is a quantifiable step up in this wine compared to the others and Lalou was my pick, which is about to be released in New Zealand after 8 years on lees and disgorgement in 2013. This wine has high acidity, fresh creamy flavours, pastry aromas and a long finish. It is high priced, in small supply (only 20 cases for the entire country) and definitely one for the collectors.

Comparing New Zealand to Champagne…

  • The Champagne region has approximately 34,000 hectares of grapes compared to New Zealand with 36,192 hectares in total.
  • The big difference between the production of sparkling wines in both countries is, says Didier, how champagne makers manage their reserve wines. “The quality of the still wine is very good from New Zealand, as it is also from cool areas in Australia, South Africa and California where sparkling wines are made. For me, the big difference is the lack of understanding of reserve wine. I would say that reserve wine is an insurance against frost, to be able to respond fast to market demand and to increase the quality of the wine to make more consistent wine over the years. It costs a lot of money to keep back reserves. always have nearly one vintage in advance in the winery.”
  • The entire range of Mumm Champagnes contains 6 grams per litre of sweetness (dosage) apart from Mumm NV Cordon Rouge, which contains 8 grams.
  • Mumm Cramant has a super fresh taste, noticeably higher acidity and less pressure (less CO2) because it is bottled at 4.5 bars of pressure compared to 6 bars, which all the other (and most champagnes) contain. This provides the wine with its fresher taste, says Didier.

A new Champagne Mumm Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noir are being launched in New Zealand within the next couple of years.

The history of Mumm and Lalou

René Lalou headed up Maison Mumm for over half a century from 1920 until his death in 1973 and on two separate occasions he breathed new life into this well known Champagne brand. He rescued the vineyards after they were destroyed by phylloxera and, later, by World War Two.

For nearly 50 years, he travelled up and down vineyard rows, pulling up, re-grafting and re-planting vines, so that he reorganised the entire Champagne Mumm vineyards that, under his supervision, grew from 50 hectares to almost 100 just before WWII.

‘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.

Cellar it or drink it?

Five top wines to cellar

For more on cellaring wine, go to www.whiterefrigeration.co.nz/wine-cellars/

The man behind Jacob’s Creek has retired after 40 years of turning one of the world’s biggest wine brands into a household name. And in his wake, Bernard Hickin has made a wine that he hopes will last  another 40 years.

Wine 1

The 2010 Jacob’s Creek Limited Edition Shiraz Cabernet costs  $75 and with fewer than 900 bottles made, it’s in short supply. Does the wine live up to the words?

Here’s my review on a wine I think is worth cellaring.

The 2010 Jacob’s Creek Limited Edition Shiraz Cabernet is an unconventional blend of two deeply coloured black grapes, unless you’re in Australia where Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon regularly rub shoulders in full bodied wines, such as this big, bold red. For every powerful aspect to this full bodied, high tannin, high acid red, there is a balancing smooth (soft tannins), velvety (mellow nature due to oak aging) and and juicy character (vibrant acidity), all of which suggest that this wine will stand the test of time and age for up to 20 years, potentially longer.

I was one of 12 New Zealanders to receive a bottle of this wine to taste. The limited bottles of 2010 Jacob’s Creek Limited Edition Shiraz Cabernet are available for purchase solely at the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre in the Barossa Valley.

Footnote

Bernard Hickin studied grape growing and winemaking at a degree at the Roseworthy Agricultural College in Adelaide in the mid 1970s and began work for Pernod Ricard Winemakers (then G Gramp & Sons) in 1976 – the same year Jacob’s Creek was officially launched. He was appointed chief winemaker of Pernod Ricard Winemakers’ Australia in 2006 and was succeeded this year by winemaker Ben Bryant, who began making wine in the small Australian town of Mudgee in New South Wales.

Wine 2

2015 Vidal’s Legacy Hawkes Bay Chardonnay $59.99

In many wine drinkers minds, Chardonnay is a white to drink now, as in, right now, but that is to forget the great aging potential of top Chablis and other cool climate wines, such as this one from Hawke’s Bay. It was released this month in Wellington and its full body, noticeable zesty acidity and intense stone fruit flavours all give it the power and backbone (the acidity) to last and improve in the bottle for 8-9 years, in a cool, dark cellar.

Wine 3

2014 Vidal’s Legacy Hawkes Bay Syrah $79.99

Now we’re talking about a wine that seems to say ‘cellar me rather than drink me right now’ because its deep purple colour, dry, full body, powerful but smooth tannins and intense black fruit flavours all bode well for a wine which will gain in complexity with time in the bottle. How long is ideal to age this wine? I suggest a decade. It’s high priced but also high quality.

Wine 4

2014 Vidal’s Legacy Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon $69.99

Cabernet Sauvignon has shrunk in New Zealand to less than 300 hectares today, despite being more than double that as recent as 11 years ago. This may seem a sad state of affairs for fans of powerful French reds from Bordeaux (the home of the Cab’ Sauv’ grape), but it means that the few New Zealand wines made from this grape are better than ever before. It’s one of the world’s latest ripening grapes and even with climate change now apparent, Cabernet Sauvignon usually demands more warmth than New Zealand can deliver, with a few recent exceptions – such as the 2013 and 2014 vintages. This is my pick of the new Vidal’s Legacy trio for its powerful style and firm, youthful, dry flavours, which will, I believe, transform into complex dried herb and black olive flavours with up to a decade and beyond in the bottle.

Wine 5

2015 Sileni Estate Selection Springstone Pinot Noir 14.5% ABV

Hawke’s Bay has more than one white wine string to its bow, so why not allow it the leeway with red wine too, provided it is made from grapes grown (as this Pinot Noir is) from suitable climate zones. While you’re pondering that question, pour yourself a glass of this outstanding new Sileni Pinot Noir, made from grapes grown on a vineyard on elevated river terraces, 150 metres above sea level at Mangatahi. This is inland Hawke’s Bay so the climate is significantly cooler than many other areas in the region. The grapes were divided when picked into two different portions, 30% were fermented as whole bunches while 70% were completely destemmed. The wine stayed on skins four weeks to maximise colour from a relatively light coloured grape and the wine was then matured for nine months in 225 litre French oak barriques; in the final blend only 5% of the wine has had new oak. This refreshing, silky smooth, medium bodied red drinks well now and can further improve for up to 5 years in the bottle.

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