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31 December 2013

S Africa, Italy, France, Chile: "whites of the mo" - Chenin, Fiano, Sauvignon...

Following in the red-tinted wake of my previous "New Year-y Italians of the mo" type posting, here are a few gratuitous and varied white recommendations sampled recently hailing from the deep Italian south (Puglia, Sicily), South Africa, Chile and France...
The Garden Route Chenin blanc 2013 Western Cape (13% abv) – the latest vintage of this popular favourite "round my way" gives you lively zesty yeast-lees edged style with 'sweeter' honeydew melon flavours coming through, has some weight (is perhaps a tad lighter than previous years though) vs crisp zingy finish making it a good seafood in a sauce white, e.g. mussels in garlic butter and white wine were a tasty match. A fiver on offer at Asda (which it often is, “usual” price is £8). For the real CB aficionados out there, Asda's 'Extra Special' Fairtrade Chenin and De Bos 'sur lie' Chenin are pretty good as well.
Carmen Stevens Angel's Reserve Chenin blanc 2013 Western Cape (14% abv) – closed up at first (I over-chilled it though), developing fairly rich honeyed flavours with yeasty/buttery touches, full-bodied and rounded/oily with a bit of oomph vs crisp bite on the finish. Nice style Chenin. Naked Wines £9.99 or £6.99 'Angel' price. Photo of Carmen pinched from their site...


Dominic Hentall Fiano 2012 Puglia, Italy (12.5% abv) – enticing apricot with spicy yellow flower notes, ripe and juicy with crisp dry bite and nutty flavours vs 'sweeter' fruit side, attractively light yet has a nice richer mouth-feel too with hints of pine/nutmeg (almost like a touch of spicy wood texture, although you wouldn't expect it probably?). Obviously a hit with Naked's customers as it's now "sold out"!
A couple of other southern Italian dry whites – from Sicily in fact – which are also worth mentioning and widely available: Inycon Pinot grigio - Grecanico 2012 and Tesco 'Finest' Vermentino 2012, both made by the very reliable Cantine Settesoli co-op.

Sancerre Villebois 2012 Loire Valley, France (Sauvignon Blanc) - nice classic style but softer, elegant and less acidic than some Sancerre, lots of moreish gooseberry and citrus fruit though showing good depth, tasty mouthwatering finish vs softer very approachable side. £11.49 @ Naked Wines (don't imagine anyone would pay the 'normal' £15.49 though).
Casas del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2012 Casablanca Valley, Chile - I've tried various vintages of their Sauvignon before but not recently, good to see they're keeping up a high standard. Really aromatic grapefruit, gooseberry and "white blackcurrant" (if you see what I mean...), lively refreshing and crisp with a softer ripe green fruit side too, quite intense finish and flavour. £8.50 - £10 independents.

30 December 2013

Italian "reds of the moment"

Featuring a couple of well-known names from northeastern Italy and a slightly more senior one from Tuscany (another Tuscan will follow too), all suitably red, full-flavoured and New Year-y...
Le Tobele Valpolicella Ripasso 2011 (13.5% abv) – 'volatile' balsamic notes on the nose, turns to very Italian morello cherry and almond aromas/flavours, floral and fruity with peppery edges; nice ripe cherry fruit with dry yet soft tannins vs fair acidity adding freshness, kirsch notes and perfumed crunchy fruit with attractive bite vs maturing savoury flavours. Nice 'sweet and sour' thing going on, fruity vs savoury balsamic, has good depth too. Went well with a creamy mushroom risotto. €10.99 Lidl Wine Cellar (Ireland, will confirm £ price in UK).
Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010 (15.5% abv) – the initial nose is a little heady/porty, chunky and austere when first opened too; turning to dried plum with balsamic meaty gravy notes even, thick tannins with a touch of oak texture/flavour, that alcohol's quite punchy vs lush cherry and olive fruit; it's still pretty firm powerful and 'porty' vs attractive sweet/savoury fruit. Quite good, the other dearer Amarone (links to note on that) Lidl 'wine cellar' has is better and finer (and dearer of course); this one's more in your face but is still attractive. Good with chocolate pudding. £15.99, €17.99
Casato dei Medici Riccardi 2008 Brunello di Montalcino (14% abv) – surprisingly herby/earthy tones at first (for its age, this went with airing though) vs mature smoky notes, dried fruits (morello/kirsch) with savoury 'cheesy' edges, balsamic and black pudding too! Smooth mature palate with dried cherries and meaty flavours, melted-in tannins although still has a bitter twist of grip and structure too, a bit of oomph vs balanced finish. Nice old-fashioned red, not 'top top' but reasonable quality and authentic style for £19.99 – Brunello can be mega expensive.

23 December 2013

Roussillon and Languedoc: "festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate" (part 2)

Further to these recent words of wisdom on my WineWriting.com blog: Spain v Australia: festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate (goes there naturally), which also includes a little insight into fine chocolate making and the different types... Here are some more "festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate," this time sourced from the Languedoc and the Roussillon. When talking about "wine with chocolate," many people - okay, wino people rather than normal people at least - think of rugged Roussillon country and its sometimes sublime red vins doux naturels or fortified sweet reds based on Grenache, especially Banyuls from the southeastern corner bordering Spain or Maury in the region's northern flank nudging up against the Corbières hills.

Those famous demijohns, slightly predictable target for a photo, outside at Mas Amiel: mostly empty as this type of traditional 'oxidative' ageing is now only used for a small proportion of their Vin Doux Naturel (VDN) production. Photo: Vi Erickson.
Mas Amiel is arguably the most famous name in the Maury area (with suitably celeb prices to match, you might be tempted to add) and particularly well known for its old vintages. We were treated to their 1980 (in magnum no less, a special millennium bottling aged for nearly 20 years in demijohns and large casks beforehand; 16.5% abv) at the 'wine with chocolate' tasting event featured in the post mentioned at the top of the page (follow that link for more info). I've tasted this vintage before in situ (goes to profile and notes on MA penned in 2007, 2009, 2010 and updated earlier this year), although not sure if it's exactly the same wine, as that 1980 had one of their regular 'Millésime' labels, implying vintage style i.e. aged for a relatively short time in cask and the rest in bottle. In any case, the 1980 "millennium" was delicious and a fine match for the Co Couture chocs in front of us, especially the chilli flavour actually. Browning in colour with intriguing meat gravy vs liquorice nose, rich and concentrated with lush mouth-feel vs nice bite and developing savoury flavours; still alive with complex long maturing finish. Yum. £85 magnum.
Also from Maury, made by the worth-visiting Vignerons de Maury co-op winery found in the village, comes their Cuvée Centenaire (specially brewed in 2010 to celebrate 100 years, obviously; 16% abv), which was quite orangey brown with 'volatile' red-Madeira notes and sweet dried fruits vs meaty mature cheesy palate; particularly good with the ginger chocolate. About £23. More of their wines are HERE (St-Bacchus Awards) and probably elsewhere on the blog too. Banyuls was well represented by one of its top VDN producers Domaine du Mas Blanc with their 2000 Vieilles Vignes label (old vines; 16.5% abv): oxidised intricate mature-cheesy nose, lush vs savoury palate with complex toffee and dried raspberry flavours, long smooth finish. The plain choc and sea salt flavoured one almost freshened up the wine, not so good with the ginger though funnily enough. £27 approx. More on DMB HERE.
Moving on to a few 'regular' Roussillon and Languedoc reds, not deliberately tasted with chocolate (but might have been unintentionally) in recent weeks. Firstly, a pair from Naked Wines. Benjamin Darnault's 2012 La Cuvée Réservée Cotes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah; 14.5% abv, bottled in the Aude though?) is deep purple black in colour, a 'modern' style big fruity and spicy red; peppery blackberry with firm grip vs 'sweet' rounded palate, nice dry texture vs ripe berry fruit, liquorice and spice with punchy alcohol on its lively finish. Attractive good+ co-op level red, okay at £8.49 ('Angel' price) but not worth £11.49 ('normal': more here about Naked's pricing). Same could perhaps be said about their 2012 Le Petit Train Syrah (£8.25 or £10.99) made by Katie Jones, although this wine was apparently specially commissioned by Naked after Katie was sabotaged by some jealous thug, who broke in and poured away an entire vintage of her white wine. So, there's an "investment in people" type story behind it (as is Naked's self-acclaimed style generally). Anyway, it's a very nice red showing touches of sweet coconut oak layered with really ripe black cherry/olive even, soft fruity and rounded mouth-feel with a hint of herby spice vs a light bitter twist of tannins/acidity and blast of warmth. Kept well after opening too, turning softer with the oak less obvious and nice sweet black cherry/olive fruit vs light grip.
Finishing off in Saint-Chinian in the Languedoc back-lands, I've picked out just a few of my favourites from a trip last month, which were winners in a "Grand Cru selection" competition I was on the tasting panel for. CLICK HERE for my full-monty St-Chinian special supplement, which costs £3 (about €4/$4.50) as it's not viewable on this blog (emailed as a PDF). Features several leading estates (and places to eat and stay), including Domaines Canet Valette, Cambis, Jougla, Cazal Viel, La Madura, La Femme Allongée, Boissezon Guiraud, Milhau-Lacugue and more! In the meantime then...
Laurent Miquel Bardou 2008 (100% Syrah) – still quite toasty coconut with spicy dark fruit vs nice meaty edges, the oak melts into it adding a touch of chocolatey texture/flavour, nice tannins and concentration for a 2008; still quite young and structured with substance. Good stuff. €19
La Grange Léon D'une main à l'autre 2011 (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache) - herbal red pepper, liquorice and perfumed white pepper; quite lush with ripe berry fruit, soft and approachable with bit of weight, freshness and length. Nice now. €16

Domaine la Linquière 310 La Sentenelle 2011 - lovely wild garrigue notes (= reminds of heathland flora!) plus sweet liquorice vs peppery fruit, soft tasty and quite elegant finish. €18
Borie la Vitarèle Les Crès 2005 (Mourvèdre, Syrah) - savoury touches vs dark cherry, nice 'chalky' tannins with a touch of freshness, tight and elegant, still relatively young really, lovely savoury vs liquorice and spice finish. €18.50

Above prices are cellar door in France, so these are all towards dear wines although among the producers' top cuvées; or would be in the UK, Ireland or US once you slap on eye-watering taxes!

21 December 2013

Spain v Australia: festive sweeties and reds, with or without chocolate

Well, not exactly one against the other, but a way of introducing five very different wines from these two diverse wine-lands ranging from essentially dry red to sweeter to very very sweet, started as white ended up brownish. First off, an aged dry red from Penfolds, the 2006 vintage of their Bin 28 Shiraz (about £14 in the UK). This was one of a few stars sampled with different types of chocolate at a recent Northern Ireland Wine & Spirit Institute 'wine with chocolate' tasting, with Deirdre McCanny of Belfast chocolatier Co Couture (a tad more about chocolate making etc. follows the wine blurb). This particular Penfold's 'Bin number' has been going since 1959 apparently, and the 2006 wasn't really showing its age that much. Powerful spicy nose with eucalyptus tones even, sweet blackberry and maturing savoury notes, has a fair kick still vs attractive spice and richness vs meaty flavours and softening tannins. Nice with the 'plain' Madagascan chocolate and the 'smoked sea salt' flavoured one even (read on...); or have with the usual red meat suspects I'd imagine.


Moving on to the Rutherglen region in northeastern Victoria, which is famous for producing one-off sweet Madeirized style wines - deliberately oxidized by a special maturation process - fortified with alcohol (like Port and Sherry) and keeping hold of a large dose of natural sugar. Two different types are mentioned here, a 'Tawny' (the Portuguese won't like that) and a Muscat. Jen Pfeiffer is one of Naked Wines' bespoke winemakers, who's come up with a quirky little number called The Diamond 10 Year Old Rutherglen Tawny (19.8% abv). This showed cooked raisins and pecan nut on the nose, caramel fudge and toffee, oxidized Madeira notes but redder fruit, tangy toasted nuts vs sweet raisins vs punchy alcohol; quite balanced in the end despite all that going on (for a long time). £11.99 'Angel' price, £15.99 'normal' (more about their pricing here). I tasted this one at home recently (still am, a couple of mouthfuls at a time is enough, and it keeps for weeks) rather than at that choco event; try it with a selection of cheeses or mince pies.
Campbell's is a name almost synonymous with this particular style of sticky fortified wine, especially their legendary Rutherglen Muscat (17.5% abv - £13.99 Direct Wine Shipments and generally available in many specialist shops). Probably even sweeter than the tawny, with around 190 grams per litre residual sugar, this had a full-on cooked sultana and marmalade nose, very sweet and lush palate with treacly vs aromatic fruity flavours, the Muscat character does come through all that in the end lending a fruitier, dare I say 'fresher' side. The chilli chocolate worked well giving it a bit of bite; and similarly, the ginger choc also fought back! Was a bit weird with the sea salt one though.
Carrying on with the intense sticky theme, Sherry country in southwestern Spain is responsible for a variety of tasty styles of this fortified aged wine, from very dry (Fino, Manzanilla) to super sweet, such as Gonzalez Byass' extraordinary Matusalem (20.5% abv). Their press blurb describes it thus: "Matusalem is a premium cream sherry aged for 30 years in the Gonzalez Byass bodega in Jerez, Andalucia. Fine Oloroso sherry is blended with Pedro Ximenez (that's a variety not some bloke who works there, whose bunches are dried out lying on mats after picking, massively concentrating the natural sugar) and aged in American oak barrels where the flavours and aromas concentrate."
This is what I scribbled down after trying it a few times at home over a period of days with and without food (makes a nice dessert just on its own, or with dried fruit and nuts perhaps) - again good with mince pies, could be a substantial match for Christmas pudding or smooths the edges on blue and hard mature cheeses; and what about pouring some over vanilla ice cream too? Powerful 'volatile' Madeirized nose with cooked/oxidized and really toasted walnuts and molasses tinged with an almost extremely reduced wine/meat gravy edge! Caramelized soy sauce too vs mega dried fruit sultana/raisin cocktail, huge palate with the same array of flavours plus very nutty sweet walnut/pecan, nice kick/bite cuts through it a little, very intense tangy vs sweet finish. Wow, extreme wine or what. Tastes the same a few days later, another one that will keep for a week or three probably. Luckily comes in half-bottles - £19.99 from Ocado, Waitrose, Tesco, Majestic, Fortnum and Mason, Harvey Nichols, Cambridge Wines and other independents and sherry specialists.
Staying in Spain, I'll come back to an unusual slightly sweet Merlot from Priorat, found down the coast from Barcelona and inland a little on the hills, made by Joseph Puig called Dolc de Lluna 2006 (15% abv, £22.50 DWS). Nicely wacky mix of maturing meaty leather notes and dark vs savoury fruit, had a bit of grip still vs rounded mouth-feel with some sweetness and kick. Different for a Merlot. Again stood up well to the stronger flavoured chocolates even, ginger and chilli, as well as a nice match with the 'plain'.

Talking of that Co Couture chocolate, it seems like a good way of ending this post with a few facts and figures about making fine chocolate gleaned from Deirdre's introduction (hopefully accurate, as it was all scribbled down in a hurry). Cocoa beans are bigger than I'd imagined, although shrink when roasted turning them brown too, as are the pods, which resemble elongated coconut shells without the hair crossed with a shrivelled melon! There are three different varieties used for making choco: forastero, the biggest pod mainly grown in western Africa; Trinitario, a hybrid of the latter and Criollo that's smaller with rounder ends and more susceptible to weather and disease. Criollo is considered the finest, and there's a resurgence in growing this one, Deirdre said, although it's difficult to grow. There's no sugar in the beans but is in the pulp around them, so they're fermented together imparting more flavour into the beans. These are then dried and roasted.
We tasted three pieces of raw beans, all different with bitter vs sweet profile. It should have intensity and tannins but not particularly bitter; if a bean tastes heavily roasted, it means it's poor quality. The final roasted bean is about 50-50 cocoa solids and cocoa butter, which is pressed and separated. The butter is a fat, which does smell like cocoa-infused butter and melts in your hand. For dark choco, they then take 70% cocoa solids (any fine chocolate should be minimum 70%) and add 30% cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla (best fresh). There shouldn't be any other kind of fat, although you can add the useful soya lecithin nowadays. For milk chocolate, you need the cocoa solids blended with milk powder then the rest of the ingredients as above. And white chocolate is just cocoa butter and the rest without the cocoa solids. The solids are first refined to make a smooth paste with no particles. Typically, the darker the colour, the higher the amount of solids although this isn't always the case, e.g. from Madagascar, which can have lovely reddy brown hues.
Rubbing your thumb on the back of the chocolate helps release the aromas. Snap it - a nice 'clean' snap means it's high in cocoa butter. Let it melt in your mouth on your tongue to get more of the flavours. We tried four different types with various origins and styles, although it's not totally clear from my notes what they were each called, so I'll just say I was surprised how different they all looked and tasted (they were all 70% dark), and no real bitterness there either. There are essentially two production styles though, French and Belgian/Swiss (plus everyone else). The French like to taste the chocolate and use less sugar and more butter (better for cooking chocolate too for melting) than the Belgian/Swiss makers.

Look out for sort-of 'part 2' of sweetie wine and chocolate on my other FrenchMediterraneanWine.com blog (links to it, with a touch of Maury and Banyuls), plus more southern French 'reds of the mo' that have come my way from the Roussillon, Languedoc and St-Chinian in particular...

13 December 2013

Spain: Cava guide

Cava mini-guide
"Creative Catalan bubbles..."

"I'm not going to over-bore you with the full-monty geographical or technical stuff, as the Cava region is quite vast and extends beyond Catalunya actually (but there is some of that in it, a hint of winemaking talk and fascinating export stats)... This gradually expanding wee guide, originally published in 2008 and updated a few times a year since, is more about bringing your attention to a few lesser-known sparkling gems and hopefully also encouraging you to explore beyond Barcelona and the region's nice beaches and coastal towns, out into real Cava country... head for those green hills!" Includes wines from these featured stand-out Cava wineries: Llopart, Carles Andreu, Perelada, Parxet, Raimat, Bach, Lavernoya, Mont Àrac, Blancher, Parató, Loxarel, Enric Nadal, Vallformosa, Chozas Carrascal and many many more...
Updated August 2015 - buy this mini-guide for just £3 - click here for more info and to buy it with Paypal...

09 December 2013

Champagne & sparkling wines: festive fizz

Cava - Catalunya
Updated 11 December:
Conde de Caralt Rosado (Trepat, Monastrell, Garnacha) - lightly yeasty nose with milk chocolate biscuit edges, ripe red fruity palate with oily texture vs quite crisp and off-dry. DWS (Belfast) £9.25, Cases Wine Warehouse (Galway) €14.95
Enric Nadal (Torrelavit) 2007 Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Parellada, Macabeu, Xarel-lo, 12% abv) - rich toasted yeast and chocolate cake aromas, maturing nutty savoury flavours with still fresh and fizzy contrast, tangy finish with dry bite vs plenty of lush flavours. Yum. £15 / €25 James Nicholson
Juvé y Camps Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009 (12%) - same trio of Catalan grapes as above, similar in style although a bit less rich and toasty perhaps, nice nutty honeyed flavours and crisp dry finish. Wasn't hugely fizzy, perhaps it didn't enjoy sitting in the warm duty free shop at Alicante airport and the flight home! €13.50
2010 Mas Miralda Rosado Vintage Brut (Monastrell, Trepat, Garnacha and Pinot Noir; 12%) - one of Asda's own label "extra special" range, nice and red fruity with light biscuit touches and frothy off dry finish. £6 on offer.
Loads more Cava HERE (links to intro to my 12-page mini-guide, now available for £2.50 or free to subscribers).

Prosecco - northeast Italy
La Jara organic rosé (grape variety = Glera, 10.5%) - attractively light and delicate, fruity rosé fizz with nice frothy lively mouth-feel and sweet vs crunchy red fruits, fairly crisp and medium-dry. Swig Wine £10.95 (9.95 if you buy 6).
Col de l'Utia 2012 Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene, Spumante Extra Dry (Prosecco grape, 11.5%) - similarly light and refreshing, has background yeasty biscuit notes and light almond and apple flavours, crisp and off-dry finish. Not massively exciting but a good example of elegant easy-drinking Prosecco. Naked Wines £10.99 (Angel's price: see here for more about that).

South Africa
Cape Fairtrade Sparkling Brut Rosé 2009 Du Toitskloof (12.5%) - good value with lots of flavour for the money: quite toasty with chocolate and aromatic ripe red fruits, rounded and easy-going vs fresh bite, nice style. The Co-operative £7.99


From facebook.com/DigbyFineEnglish
England - Sussex, Kent, Hampshire
Although made at this winery in West Sussex, the fruit is sourced from selected growers across southeastern England (not unlike how most Champagne houses operate) by winemaker Dermot Sugrue. Watch out for my in-depth supplement on English sparkling wines, including a fuller profile on Digby.
Digby Fine English 2009 Vintage Rosé Brut, Wiston Estate Winery (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay; 12% abv) - Delicious mix of ripe strawberry/raspberry vs toasty and chocolate biscuit, lush rounded and fruity vs fresh acid structure, showing depth and class. Yum. £38-£40 from their on-line shop or at Selfridges, Vagabond Wines and Wine Pantry; which is fairly dear, obviously, but no more so than other similar quality English rosé sparklers or rosé Champers for that matter.
Digby 2009 Reserve Brut (two-thirds Chardonnay + the two Pinots; 12%) - Elegant mix of citrus vs buttery fruit vs yeasty oat biscuit flavours vs crisp and refreshing, quite tight and structured still with nice fruit and light toast. A tad drier and crisper than the rosé with apple and citrus vs yeasty notes, good stuff again with a touch of class, more vintage Champagne like. £31.49

Champagne - France
Louis Chaurey NV Brut (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier; 12%) - tried this last year (goes there) on a similar "half price" deal at Marks & Spencer, and it's just as good this year too. Pretty classic non-vintage Champers with nice fizz, a bit of creamy body vs crisp refreshing bite vs yeasty oat cake flavours, quite long. Good for £16, I wouldn't pay £32 though.
Franck Bonville Prestige Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs Brut (Chardonnay, 12.5% abv) - Made from 100% Chardy grapes from top-rated vineyards in the village of Avize; shows some real class with lovely creamy buttery fruit, delicate mouthwatering length, nice depth of flavour, rounded and toasted oat-y vs structured and quite serious food-demanding style. Marks & Spencer: £28 at the moment, usually £39.

Australia
McGuigan Black Label Premium Release Sparkling Shiraz (13.5%) - Just for fun and oddity factor, sparkling reds like this take a bit of getting used too (some won't), with lots of spicy ripe berry fruit, tannin and alcohol; has a more refreshing side though with ripe dark fruity finish. Try with chocolate desserts or mature cheeses. Wine World / Wine Flair £9.89

I've added / might add more good fizz to this post before the end of December. In the meantime, here are some links to even more fizzy posts HERE.

02 December 2013

New Zealand: TerraVin, Lay of the Land, Rod Easthope

TerraVin
TerraVin was acquired by a partnership of "Pinot enthusiasts," as their blurb puts it, in 2011 including "several British businessmen." They humbly describe themselves as a "boutique Marlborough winery with a dedicated focus on growing and making world-class hillside Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc." My notes below would suggest they're on the right track by the way. This 29 hectare vineyard site was planted 10 years ago in "an isolated valley in the back of the Southern Wither Hills," and apparently was once an early Maori settlement prized for its sheltered location. The "gently sloping north-facing vineyard" runs from 130m to 200m elevation and enjoys a maritime micro-climate. Gordon Ritchie is winemaker here and keeps an eye on vineyards too.
TerraVin UK office: 020 8876 9656. Available from Clark Foyster Wines who sells to the London area on-trade and by the case. These posh eateries list them: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Chelsea; The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal; Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, Knightsbridge; Pied a Terre; Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Mayfair; Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons; Hotel TerraVina, Gerard Basset's place in the New Forest, Hants. Elsewhere: L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Paris; Jacob Hotel, Hamburg; Jean-Georges, Shanghai; Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong; and also in Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, New York and Sydney. www.terravin.co.nz

2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (13% abv) - Some complex maturing notes adding a savoury touch - and "a portion is fermented in seasoned French oak barrels," according to the blurb, which probably partly explains these characters and its more rounded mouth-feel - to otherwise ripe greengage / gooseberry fruit, still quite lively (for a 2011) and intense with crisp acidity and green fruit vs that rounder and tasty savoury side. Good wine, better than, and different from, a lot of NZ Sauvignon... and dearer too at £12.75.
2011 Pinot Noir (13% abv) - made from "parcels of grapes from three low-yielding north-facing hillside vineyards in Marlborough's southern valleys," to be more precise. Quite complex developing nose, savoury and earthy vs 'sweet' dried red fruits, lightly toasted vanilla tones vs elegant perfumed floral characters and intriguing 'volatile' matured cheese edges. Quite silky and soft with a touch of freshness still vs weight, maturing and tasty 'sweet/savoury' fruit, elegant and delicious now actually yet with underlining subtle structure. Very good Pinot, seems fairly expensive at £21.75 although this isn't outrageous compared to other high-class NZ Pinots (link goes to PN report scribbled in May).


Lay of the Land
One of UK online specialist Naked Wine's 'Angel-funded projects' if you like, Lay of the Land was created by winemaker Mike Paterson (pic. above) who was "head winemaker for 10 years at a leading Marlborough winery..." as the story goes, before Naked and their customers helped him get his own thing off the ground, an understandably "beyond scary" prospect otherwise cash investment wise. This is apparently the thinking behind Naked Wines' pricing - Angels pay £20 a month, which you can spend any time (and presumably sits in Naked's bank account gathering interest in the meantime) getting "25% to 50% off" their 'normal' prices. Seems like a good idea perhaps, if you buy cases of exclusive-label wines fairly regularly, although, as I've said before, who would pay these 'normal' obviously inflated prices anyway? (Not unlike the big supermarkets' famous 'half-price' type offers). So it feels like you're paying them to buy wine at the price it's worth, although there's that added novelty factor of sort-of investing in new winemaking projects and 'part-owning' tailor-made wines...

2012 Ben Morven Farm Pinot Noir Marlborough (14% abv) - perfumed, quite sexy 'sweet/savoury' Pinot nose with lively berry and hints of chocolate/vanilla, lightly herbal side too (or 'reductive'? went away with air in any case) and intriguing 'volatile'/balsamic edges. Punchy palate vs fresh acidity too, bitter-sweet finish with a touch of grip vs silky perfumed 'sweet/savoury' fruit vs vanilla and coconut texture; smooth and "drink now" vs quite structured with oomph underneath, that vanilla oak coating is a tad 'sweet' perhaps but the wine has nice Pinot character and bite too. Second day: weirdly seems a bit more closed up and touch firmer and tighter perhaps vs lovely floral and spicy cherry fruit vs savoury earthy notes. Made using "organic wine-growing principles," which probably means it isn't 'officially' but is in philosophy and practice... Angels' price £12.99, 'normally' £18.99.
2012 Destination Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (13%) - ripe gooseberry and asparagus with melon and grapefruit too, lively zingy and crisp still vs a rounder oilier side, similar fruit flavours as on the nose, 'chalky' acidity vs a bit of weight, quite concentrated and lively upfront style vs more elegant mouthwatering finish. Odd perhaps that they've shipped a 'premium' wine in bulk and bottled it in Germany. 'Normal' price £13.49, Angel £9.49.

Rod Easthope 2013 Pinot Gris Hawke's Bay (12% abv) - aromatic, almost Sauvignon/Semillon like nose and character to start, although has zingy Pinot Gris/Grigio style and flavour too with light crisp vs rounder off-dry palate; attractive quaffer with zesty 'chalky' and lightly peppery finish vs honeyed sweeter fruit. Nice but kinda dear - you can get similar Italian Pinot Grigio or simple Alsace Pinot Gris for less. Also bottled in Germany. £11.99 or £8.99 if you're a Naked Angel!


Much more on New Zealand HERE.