Vino

Joelle Thomson's online wine guide

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Aromas, awards, accolades in Auckland this August…

It’s a big month at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine where a bunch of the best will compete for this year’s New Zealand Sommelier of the Year and Junior Sommelier of the Year .

The competition is on Sunday 20 August and the winners will be announced later that day at 7pm at the awards dinner – a Lebanese styled meal from Samir Allen at Gemmayze Street.

And for those who don’t feel up to competing, there are other reasons to attend the event because it also includes New Zealand and Aromatic Wine Tastings, which are being led by yours truly and wine importer Michael Jemison of Macvine International as well as  masterclasses on sake and wine by Wayne Shannon and Master of Wine Bob Campbell.

The school’s annual Wine + Food Celebration highlights outstanding wine and food from all over New Zealand as well as championing top notch service for those working with it.

Find out more and book tickets to the event and its tastings here: http://event.foodandwine.co.nz/Buy_Tickets.html

My weekly blog… Waitaki wine goes en primeur

In news this week…

It’s fun, decadent and delicious to work with wine (Chilean Malbec – tick, Chianti Classico Extra Virgin Olive Oil – tick, Spanish Mencia – tick, Bollinger for my birthday – tick… this week has been busy).

But like most of life’s fun, decadent and delicious pursuits, it’s not always easy to make a living from, which is why so many small wineries are owned by people with day jobs to fund their winemaking. And it’s also why many wine writers do other things on the side – namely, talk, teach and sell wine; of all of which are among the many ways that we scribes sing for our suppers these days. In my case, I count myself fortunate to have the newly created role of Wine Programme Director at a place we call ‘Regional’ in Wellington city.

It’s the oldest independent wine store still in existence in this city today and it’s having a new lease of life under new owners for the first time in its 30 year history and it’s also home to some outstanding staff, who I count myself lucky to work with. But that’s another story.

The reason for this one is to mention a wine of the week from a forgotten corner of this country – the Waitaki Valley, on the border of North Otago and South Canterbury.

The wine of the week is…

2016 Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir $45 

And… it is now available (from this week) en primeur (this is not an ad’)

It’s the 14th year this wine has been made by the brother-in-law duo of Jim Jerram and Jeff Sinnott, who planted some of the first grapevines in the challengingly cool climate of Waitaki in New Zealand’s deep south. The wine was aged in oak for 15 months prior to bottling and it tastes sensational. Here’s what I wrote about it…

North Otago is the newest wine region in New Zealand and also one of its most promising for high quality Pinot Noir, such as Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir, made by Jeff Sinnott and Jim Jerram, who together established some of the first vineyards in the Waitaki Valley in the early 2000s. This wine is an elegant style of Pinot Noir with great concentration of flavour (think: cherries and ripe dark plums), a full body and velvety smooth texture. Its hallmark is its ‘Pinotesque’ high acidity, which bodes well for its long term aging, as does its pedigree of very good quality wines since the mid 2000s. Its young history shows an outstanding ability to age and its fruit flavours remain faithful to what great Pinot Noir is all about.

Find out  more or buy it here… https://www.ostlerwine.co.nz/page/caroline-s-pinot-noir-2016/

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.

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