Dessert rules

26 April 2014

This column was first published in Your Weekend magazine in The Dominion Post, The Christchurch Press and The Waikato Times on Saturday 20 May 2014.

Dear Joelle

I have four bottles of dessert wine and wonder if any are still drinkable. They are: 1998 Alpha Domus Leonarda, 1997 Seifried Gewurztraminer Ice Wine, 1996 Crab Farm Winemaker’s Collection Vinito and 1998 Framingham Reserve Late Harvest Riesling. They have been stored upright and moved to new addresses twice.
Allan, Napier

Dear Allan
Lie those sweeties down fast. They might not mind moving house with you, but wines sealed with cork need to lie on their sides to allow the cork to stay moist, which prevents air seeping in around its edges, which can oxidise wine. The logical order to drink these sweet treats in is fertile ground for a robust debate, but I would approach (I mean, drink) the 1998 Alpha Domus immediately because that year was warm all over New Zealand. Then I would reach for the Crab Farm followed by the 1997 Seifried Gewurztraminer, which may be fresher because it comes from Nelson; a cooler region than Hawke’s Bay where the grapes generally have naturally higher acidity. This can preserve freshness. And last, but not least, the 1998 Framingham Riesling should be consumed soon too, preferably with a really good mild aged cheddar, if you can find one that takes your fancy. A wine friend who made a living from driving tourists to wineries discovered a half bottle of 1997 Yalumba Heggies dessert wine rattling around in her car boot last year. It was sealed with cork in clear glass and was dark amber when she suggested we open it. After 20 minutes in the fridge, we tentatively tried to extract the crumbling cork, which fell into the bottle in fragments of dust. So we got out the tea strainer and guess what? The wine was a beauty.
The moral of the story is: old wines can be great but there is no accurate prediction if they have not been stored well (lying down, in the dark in a stable temperature). So, lie yours down but plan to drink them soon.

Wines of the week

Shoestring sensation

2014 Crush Pad Sauvignon Blanc by Moana Park $14.99
It’s official; a Hawke’s Bay winery has beaten Marlborough to bottle the first sauvignon blanc of the year. This is the wine and it is a fresh, fruity young white with nectarine-like flavours. It comes from Moana Park winery, whose owner, Dan Barker, is happy to bottle wine again after vandals broke in last year and emptied $165,000 worth of his merlot down the drain. This is available from New World, Pak n Save or mail order: www.moanapark.co.nz

Calling chardonnay lovers

2013 Crazy by Nature Shotberry Chardonnay $22
“Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it,” said the philosopher Dan Dennett. He could have been talking about James Millton; the first organic wine producer in this country. Millton now grows grapes biodynamically (the extreme end of organics). This is a big, creamy, biodynamic chardonnay to which he added a judicious, delicious dash of two other white French grapes; viognier (10%) and marsanne (4%). They adds zest to this wine and highlight the innovation taking place in Gisborne’s vineyards. From Countdown supermarkets and www.millton.co.nz

Sweet-natured

2011 Chateau Coutet Sauternes-Barsac $105 (375ml)

Misty mornings and sunny afternoons are the story of this wine and its golden colour, treacly texture and white honey flavours. It is made from semillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle, a portion of which were affected by the botrytis fungus, which develops with morning mist followed by sun. This shrivels grapes and lowers their acidity but it also raises their sugars and intensifies the rich, apricot aromas. This wine comes from Barsac, a small French appellation wedged between its larger, more famous neighbour, Sauternes and the little known Cerons, in Bordeaux. It is also available in 750ml bottles for $200 from Decant, Christchurch; Regional Wines, Wellington; Maison Vauron, Auckland or online from mvauron.co.nz