Wood on Wine (and Beer)
Simon Wood - Fairfax Media
One of the great ways to challenge your palate is to go to wine tastings where you are guaranteed to try something you may not usually try.
I was recently invited to a trade tasting by The Wine Seller International – a Hamilton based negotiant whose portfolio runs from top-flight Otago Pinot Noir to cheap and cheerful Chilean reds, and everything in between.
I was, naturally enough, keen to get amongst the big beasty chardonnays and the rich perfumed pinot noirs, and they didn’t let me down. Tiki KORO Chardonnay 2014 from Hawkes Bay was a lovely, toasty, savoury example with dollops of vanilla oak flavours from its fermentation in barriques. At around $33 a bottle it holds up very well against most other chardonnays in that range. (Contact Chris Telford, firstname.lastname@example.org for stockists).
Beso, meaning ‘kiss’ in Spanish, make a nice range of well -priced Chilean red wines, and are available at some New World Supermarkets in the Waikato. Their 2015 Gran Reserve Carmenere is a rich, powerful red with some hints of black pepper and currants and a long finish. At around $25 a bottle it is a good example of a rising star. (Contact email@example.com )
My wine of the night came from an old school, under-rated variety, and from a country whose wines are often unfairly maligned. Grape Grinder Pinotage 2014, from the South East Cape of South Africa, was an absolute revelation. A massive, muscular, intense and savoury red wine with an astounding aroma of coffee, it is a wine that sits up and demands attention. At a retail of the low $20 mark it is incredible, and worth seeking out at Primo Vino or St Andrews Liquor Centre in Hamilton.
Running a close second to the Pinotage, was a special Riesling from Central Otago. Until this tasting, I had never heard of Two Sisters, from the Lowburn Valley. Their 2008 Riesling changed all of that. At 9 years old, this wine is still youthful and energetic, but showing some beautiful back-palate notes of age such as hints of beeswax. One of the best New Zealand Rieslings I have tried of late.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is, to me, usually fairly predictable. While I certainly don’t dislike it, it isn’t usually a wine I consider buying very often. Every now and then, one comes along to challenge that. Spencer Hill from Nelson had two examples at this tasting, and neither were the ‘usual suspects’. Their 2014 Fume (a term usually used to denote a barrel fermented or aged Sauvignon Blanc) was cold fermented and went through a partial malolactic fermentation to produce a lovely, balanced white wine that tastes of neither wet cardboard or elderly asparagus that a bit of age can often do to this variety. Unusually for a Sauvignon Blanc, it was released after a couple of years of aging, and is rich and creamy with nice almond notes. At around $24 it represents good value.
Spencer Hill also produce the ‘Latitude 41’ range, which included a beautiful ‘Sur Lie’ Sauvignon Blanc. Sur Lie is the French style of letting the wine sit on the lees (the dead yeasts and other bits and bobs) for some time to extract maximum flavour. This wine is then aged in French oak, which has produced a full bodied, fruit driven wine with considerable depth.
While you may have to hunt to find these wines, it is well worth contacting Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org for stockists, or by viewing www.thewineseller.co.nz.
As a life-long proponent of the little guy and the underdog, it was a pleasure to be able to try wines from smaller producers and from different parts of the wine world. Based on the examples I tried, it is well worth seeking out any wines you can find from Spencer Hill/Latitude 41 in Nelson, Two Sisters from Central Otago, Beso from Chile, Tiki wines, and Grape Grinder from South Africa.