Barolo is not a wine for the elderly or terminally ill. It takes a good 20 to 30 years before the tannins become approachable and you’re going to have to stick it in the cellar (or under your bed) until it comes around.
And if you don’t like tannins or acidity, you’d better walk past the Barolo section.
At an Ascheri dinner with Squisito Fine Wines, we were treated to a vertical of Barolos as far back as 1996 and cor blimey, they are still babes in arms. Most wines are dead as dodos by the time they hit 5 or 10 years but not these bad boys.
The likes of Ascheri are from the ‘traditional’ school of Barolo, leaving the wine on its skins for up to 40 days after fermentation completes (that is a loooooong time) and then putting it in oak for 2 ½ years. The modernists take it off the skins much earlier and like plenty of new oak to give more fruit and vanilla flavours.
Wine of the night has to be the 1996 Ascheri Barolo. It’s still as tight as a pair of speedos with lovely mid palate weight, incredible concentration and drawn out, finally-woven tannins. A really elegant wine that’s got lots of life left in it.
I took a moment out from tasting Barolos with MD of Squisito, Alberto Cenci, who tells me about his Italian-Kiwi romance and his love of Aerosmith….!
Playing classical music when you are number 31 in the queue to speak to an immigration officer does nothing for your stress levels.
It’s been five months since I applied for residency and they’ve just started processing it. I can’t imagine how hard it is for those whose first language isn’t English - yet that hasn’t deterred many from setting up homes and businesses here.
The wine industry has welcomed plenty of newcomers to New Zealand. The first vineyard in Marlborough was planted by a Scotsman and, most recently, Hawkes Bay’s Paritua Vineyard was purchased by a Milford-based Chinese investor, backed by shareholders in Shanghai, Beijing and Chicago.
China is getting a taste for fine red wine: five Bordeaux chateaux have been bought by Chinese firms in the past year.
Europeans and Americans have already made their mark on the country’s wine scene. Dalmatians were pioneers, particularly around Auckland, founding wineries such as Villa Maria, Nobilo and Kumeu River.
Today, Marlborough’s Fromm is Swiss-owned and nearby Clos Henri is very much a French venture. Austrians established Central Otago’s Quartz Reef and Nelson’s Seifried, the Schuberts said Auf Wiedersehen to Germany for a new life in Martinborough, and Americans are behind the artisanal Pyramid Valley and Craggy Range (mistakenly referred to as Shaggy Peak by a friend).
Attracted by New Zealand’s freedom from rigid wine-making laws, this melange of cultures makes the country’s wine scene richer and more exciting. Thank goodness they weren’t put off by the immigration department’s music.
2009 Petit Clos sauvignon blanc, by Clos Henri Marlborough ($19, Maison Vauron)
A gentle Marlborough savvy that doesn’t jump out of the glass and whack you around the chops. Elderflower, passionfruit and wet stone combine with a ripe, but not searing, acidity making you want another glass. And that’s not something you often get from $19 Marlborough wines. Allez les Francais!
2010 Schubert rosé, Martinborough ($25, Martinborough Wine Centre)
Made by German-born Kai Schubert, his latest rosé release is dry, poised and restrained. If you like a dollop of sugar in your rosé this ain’t for you, but it remains one of my favourite rosé in New Zealand.
2007 Fromm Vineyard pinot noir, Marlborough ($64, Glengarry, Fine Wine Delivery Co, Scenic Cellars)
This Swiss-owned producer really surprised me with its top pinot noir. Unadulterated and delicate, it reminded me of the top wines of Rippon Estate and Mt Maude. It’s kind of funky and has an offbeat smoky bacon and stilton nose, but that’s what rings my bell. Ding dong!
This article was originally published in the NZ Herald on Sunday 17 April 2011. To see the article on the NZ Herald site, click here
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.