It’s less than a week but seems like half a life time ago that this new reality took hold. As recently as last Thursday, I felt slightly detached from the threat of the virus, but that changed when I woke up on Friday morning to a city starting to lock down. Hardly anyone was sitting at the innumerable restaurants, cafés and bars lining the streets of Wellington city. They were open but there was barely a soul in sight.
In circumstances like these, wine can seem completely frivolous or utterly essential, so it was a mixture of both that propelled me to finally unpack my wine cellar into its new home here in Martinborough. A home I moved into three months ago, I might add, but the wine fridge didn’t join us until last weekend and among the quirky collections of bottles and boxes, I found an old Chenin Blanc from Marlborough winemaker Simon Waghorn, who is one of this country’s few devotees of this great white. Seeing the six year old bottles of 2014 Astrolabe Wrekin Chenin Blanc reminded me not of the COVID-19 pandemic, but of a tasting that Simon and his team held in Wellington three weeks ago. Those heady days of life as we knew it.
So, here without further ado, are two top wines of the week, both from Astrolabe, which is one of Marlborough’s older wine brands and was founded by Simon Waghorn and his partner in life and in wine, Jane Forrest-Waghorn, in 1982.
They have since won an embarrassingly long string of wine awards, trophies, accolades and high scores in wine competitions. Not to mention the respect of their peers and of wine lovers in New Zealand. They have been busy honing the quality of their wines and have now decided to give their label presentation an overhaul too, which I will write about in the blog to follow this one.
Today may leave us all feeling weighed down, but these two wines can be a reminder of light refreshing relief – and complex food for thought.
Keep safe and keep in touch.
I will be writing more vicarious wine musings than usual over the coming days and weeks.
Wines of the week
2019 Astrolabe Kekerengu Sauvignon Blanc $22.99
The most Sancerre like Sauvignon in the stable of Astrolabe, incorporating a portion of barrel ferment (in old oak) with wild yeast fermentation and solids, which make this wine complex and fascinating. Astrolabe is the only winery making wine from Kekerengu, an area on the coast south in southern Marlborough. This wine drinks beautifully now and can age.
2018 Wrekin Chenin Blanc $23.99
Wrekin Vineyard is a gently sloping, north facing, organically certified slice of wine real estate in Marlborough’s southern valleys. It’s named after an historic English hill and it’s home to the Chenin Blanc grapes that go into this crisp, refreshing, dry, zesty white. It has less than 2 grams per litre of residual sugar (making it bone dry) and it’s medium to full bodied, thanks to being made from hand harvested, whole cluster pressed grapes, which were fermented on lees, with about 30-40 per cent of the barrel ferment in old barrels. Winemaker Simon Waghorn is still on the fence about the use of barrels in Chenin Blanc since he loves the tight focussed purity of fruit that characterises the Chenin grape, but what can I say? I am a long term fan of this wine for good reason – it’s a stunner, thanks to its fresh vibrancy, barrel or not.