The nights are drawing in and those early morning starts are made even harder by the lingering darkness. Autumn has arrived and suddenly a cold glass of savvy or rosé doesn’t seem quite so appealing. It’ll soon be time to crank up that heat pump and drink a wine that warms our cockles.
A timely flying visit to Auckland by a Spanish winemaker reminded me there’s nowhere better than Iberia for a good value, gutsy red.
Telmo Rodriguez is renowned for making wines across Spain - from Malaga in the south to Galicia in the north. He is a pocket rocket, full of enthusiasm for wine and, boy, can he talk.
The Spanish wine industry has been transformed in the past 20 years by his generation. Previously, big business and local co-operative wineries dominated the Spanish wine industry, making vast quantities of plonk from potentially great vineyards.
Most New Zealand producers would kill to have the 30, 40 or 50-year-old vines the Spanish were mistreating and it took the likes of Rodriguez and other renegades to realise the vines could be returned to greatness with a little bit of tender loving care.
The industry in Spain also has a wealth of native varieties to play with, including tempranillo (which tastes like “merlot with nuts”, according to Spanish wine importer, Steve Bennett MW), garnacha, graciano, verdejo and albarino. These varieties help it stand out from the crowd.
The country’s most famous wine region, Rioja, produces medium-weight Tempranillo-based wines with a lick of vanilla oak - but there are also fantastic areas like Ribera del Duero making Tempranillo on steroids: deeply coloured, alcoholic, structured wines. Toro is also a good value option for people who love Rioja.
There are many other regions making great value reds, from Calatayud to Jumilla. You could say there’s never been a better time to discover a whole new world in the old world.
2008 Armantes Old Bush Vine Garnacha, Calatayud ($17.99, fine wine stores including Fine Wine Delivery Co La Vino, Wine Vault, Point Wines)
Intensely juicy and full-fruited garnacha, produced by Master of Wine Norrel Robertson.
Bursting with fresh red cherries, herbs and spices, it’s as smooth as Barry White. Better still, you get change from a twenty.
2007 Bodegas Arrocal Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero ($23.99, La Barrique stores)
This is a hulk of a wine: dark and concentrated with ripe blackberries, liquorice and lashings of vanilla.
Firm tannins give massive structure and mouth-watering freshness.
2008 Telmo Rodriguez LZ, Rioja ($28.99, Caro Wines, Point Wines, Wine and More, The Fine Wine Delivery Company, Moore Wilson & Co)
This tempranillo-based rioja combines pure damson and blackberry fruit with the spice and smoke of chorizo.
It’s not a massive wine but it is deeply satisfying at the price, and also has a gentle savoury tannin.
This article was originally published in my NZ Herald on Sunday column. To see the article click here
Didier Mariotti wanted to be a brewer but ended up as chief winemaker at Mumm Champagne. I guess they’re not too dissimiliar: yeast, sugar and bubbles. But the Corsican-born Mariotti was perhaps always destined for wine. His grandmother’s brother was Burgundy winemaker Charles Rousseau of the great Domaine Rousseau and his cousin is Eric Rousseau, current winemaker at Domaine Rousseau with whom he swaps Champagne in exchange for Grand Cru Burgundy. We all need cousins like that.
Didier was on holiday in New Zealand but gave up one of his precious days to launch the 1999 Cuvee Lalou, Mumm’s prestige cuvee, in Auckland. The poor guy had to sit next to me badgering him with technical questions with just eight weeks to go until the Master of Wine exam. He said he was going to go for a nana nap after the lunch – I must have worn him out.
While the organisers of the tasting had decided to centre the tasting around how the wine changed in structure between two different serving temperatures, I was keen to know more about rosé Champagne.
Rosé Champagne is the only European wine permitted to blend red wine with white wine to make a pink. Everyone else has to use the saignee a.k.a bleeding off method.
Most houses add a proportion of red wine to their ‘normal’ NV brut cuvee to make rosé. The more red wine you use, the greater the colour, structure and red fruit character. Bollinger uses just 5-6% red wine in its rosé and it is pale – a tinted white as opposed to a red fruited rosé. Mumm has 12% red wine in its rosé and, one-quarter of Piper Heidsieck’s Rosé Sauvage is actually red wine making a deeply coloured, powerful and aromatic pink.
So, why don’t more people use the saignée method in Champagne? Mariotti explained: “It is difficult to control the colour with saignée. It’s ok for making small volumes of wine but with larger volumes you need to maintain the consistency of the colour through the blending of the red into weight.”
The first ever female on Unfiltered (apart from me, of course) is Anna Flowerday, co-owner of Te Whare Ra in Marlborough, formerly known as Beavertown (yes, really). She takes a break from the 2011 vintage and her two sets of twin daughters (yes, two sets!) to star on Unfiltered.
Waipara winery Muddy Water has been sold for an undisclosed sum to fellow Waipara producer Greystone.
Jane East, co-owner of Muddy Water told rebeccagibb.com: “The reality is that our children do not want to go into the wine business so we didn’t have a line of succession.”
Greystone was looking to build a winery and after initial talks with the Easts decided to make an offer.
Muddy Water is certified organic and Greystone’s Angela Clifford confirmed it would remain organic and separate to the non-organic Greystone brand.
It is unclear if there will be any job losses at this stage with overlaps between the two producers inevitable but East indicated “most of the staff will be staying on”.
It’s an interesting time to be expanding after the February 22 earthquake devastated Waipara’s main, and most profitable, market. Its loss of the Rugby World Cup games will also have a significant impact on winery visitor numbers.
Yet this is a positive move by Greystone in a difficult period. This acquisition could be a sign of things to come in the industry: are the banks now more willing to lend money to wineries to expand and go on the acquisition trail?
William Hoare, GM of Fromm in Marlborough, takes a break from the 2011 vintage and has his turn on Unfiltered. Why are they making Syrah in Marlborough and what is his fascination with Martinborough winemaker Larry McKenna?!