Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I went to a wine tasting last night the theme of which was 'Coopers Classics' being a selection of New Zealand wines that have been labelled as 'Classics' by wine writer Michael Cooper in his wine atlas.
As a group we taste these wines 'blind' with only the cellar master knowing the identity of each. The challenge for this tasting was to identify varietal, region and if possible the producer of each wine.
We always have a pair of pre-tasters (not tasted blind) before each tasting and this time it was a pair of Rieslings (also rated as classics by Cooper).
These showed the diversity in NZ winemaking and styles. Both were superb examples of Riesling at different ends of the spectrum. The first was Dry River Craighall 2007 from Martinborough. This was a mineral and rich Riesling, almost austere in its structure and finish. At 12.5% alc. it was rich and strong somewhat like an Alsatian wine.
The second wine was Felton Road 2008 from Central Otago. Also rich and full this wine had a lemon meringue character and finished sweet but with a delicious acid edge. The low alcohol (9.5%) gave it a Germanic character.
These two wines were faultless and a superb illustration of what NZ can deliver.
The next flight of 6 wines were all served blind.
First was a Chardonnay which I immediately thought was a good Hawkes Bay style. It was rich and round with good butterscotch characters. It turned out to be from Nelson and was Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2007, their top label. I rated this my second equal best wine of the night at 18.5 points (92.5 on the Parker scale). Oh well, at least I recognized it as a good Chardonnay.
The second wine I crashed and burned on. I (and others) thought that it was a Viognier. It was slick and almost unctuous. I guessed it as Gisborne fruit. It turned out to be Odyssey Iliad Chardonnay 2007 from Gisborne. I rated this my lowest wine of the night at 17.5 (88). Odyssey Iliad is the wine that was rated a classic and has dropped off the list. This may be a reflection of the difficulty in maintaining consistency year to year with Gisborne Chardonnay due to rainy harvest times.
The next wine I am pleased to say I nailed as being Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2007 from Martinborough. This is a dense berry and herbal tinged wine. Firm with a slight medicinal character (microbiological?) this is a stunner. I rated it my top wine of the night at 19 points (95).
Next was a wine I guessed at Hawkes Bay Syrah. I thought it could have been Te Mata Bullnose or Craggy Range. It turned out to be the Te Mata Bullnose Syrah 2007. It had a sweet, caramel fudge aroma. It was a bit green and young but may develop into something quite good. I gave it 18 points (90).
Next was what I picked as a Merlot predominant Hawkes Bay red. I didn't have a stab at the brand but guessed it to be from the Villa Maria stable. This turned out to be correct as it was Esk Valley (owned by V/M) Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2005. It had a dense nose and a rich, plum pudding character. It was a bit light in the mid=palate but finished sweet and nice. I gave it 18.2 (91).
The last wine was very good. It was my second equal wine at 18.5 points (92.5). I correctly guessed it as a Hawkes Bay Bordeaux blend but was unsure of the label. It was Esk Valley 'The Terraces' 2004 Malbec/Merlot/Cabernet Franc. It had a lifted almost peppermint nose mixed with chocolate and a solid structure. Lovely.
This was a good tasting. Those who are familiar with serious blind tasting know that we can be very, almost overly, critical of wines when we are dissecting them and applying scores. Some of the best and most expensive wines in the world can be given low scores. When the same wines are tasted with the labels shown or with food, they can seem superb. These New Zealand wines, under harsh evaluation all showed up brilliantly to high silver or gold standard. They are 'Classics' and fortunately we have a lot more of them on offer.