Sunday, December 30, 2012


Not a lot of wine was drunk (by us) this Christmas as we have decided to eat and drink sensibly but with a house full of visitors on a rotating basis the recycle bins are full to overflowing.

The main drink of choice by us and guests has been sparkling wine. And why not with the excellent choices now of New Zealand Methode Traditionelles and the very attractive specials on Deutz.

We stocked up on Deutz Cuvee, Deutz Rose and surprisingly the previously unspecialled Deutz Blanc de Blanc ($20 off at Countdown).

Interspersed with the bubbles were bottles of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - nothing outstanding but some good bargains to be had in Church Road, Selaks Reserve and Huntaway. Excellent wine at giveaway prices in the supermarkets.

The real standout though was a French Chardonnay. Whether this was because we hadn't opened a really top-notch New Zealand or Australian Chardonnay or because the county of origin style was so different is uncertain and unproven. Nevertheless the wine was very good drinking.

The wine was Barraud 'Les Crays' Pouilly Fuisse 2008.

Now Pouilly Fuisse (Macon) is not representative of the best Chardonnay to come from France and this label is not top notch Pouilly Fuisse but the wine was excellent. It had ripe fruit that had been treated really well by a good winemaker. The rich creamy fruit was balanced by nice minerality, spicy oak flavours and an edgy leesy characteristic. The 'French stink' was subdued with only traces of complexity hinting that it wasn't a new world wine. The overall impression was of a soft and round wine but with a nice lemon/lime edge. Lemon meringue pie was mentioned.

The wine had been given to us by friends so I don't know the price of it but I'm guessing in the mid $30's. This makes it excellent value when comparing to (non special prices) the New Zealand equivalents.

I am always in danger of developing a 'cellar palate' in drinking so much New Zealand wine compared to other countries and this was a good wake-up call.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


We had a Deutz Marlborough Rose yesterday. This is Her Indoor's current favourite. Well the style is anyway as I'm sure that Krug Rose or Pol Roger Rose would be more to her liking but who the hell can afford that on a regular basis.

She 'discovered' the Deutz Rose at what was her favourite wine bar, the Crowne Plaza in Albert Street. She used to work in a building over the road and would occasionally meet friends there for a glass. The wine list is pretty good there and it's nice to see that they list a quality wine like the Deutz by-the-glass.

We are always on the lookout for this when it is specialled in supermarkets (not very often) but when it came down to $24.99 recently (down from about $45) we snaffled as many as we could afford.

There are quite a lot of good quality New Zealand methode traditionelle wines on the market now and ever increasing numbers of other sparklings see link here:   DRINKING STARS

It seems that winemakers are keen to move through as much wine as possible and will blend and carbonate anything. Look out for sparkling pinot noir, viognier, cabernet sauvignon, and even gewurtztraminer in the future. Yes, it will be a travesty but we already have the ridiculous sparkling sauvignon blancs and pinot gris in the market.

What I've noticed recently is a whole lot of sparkling roses. This is a good thing if made well and even better if made in the methode traditionelle (like champagne) way.

Te Hana, Sileni, Akarua, Toi Toi, Soljans, West Brook., Pelorus, Quartz Reef, Brancott Estate are just some of the labels out of dozens of new offerings I've seen.

With luck, and as I said with good winemaking  this style of wine will continue to please.
Still Rose has consistently been a disappointment. Amongst the many (too many) offerings there are only a few that are worth buying and drinking with most having a confectionery character that becomes cloying after a couple of mouthfuls. Bubbles certainly help to keep the wine fresh and deter the cloying character and bottle-fermented (methode traditionelle) manufacture provides a yeasty and leesy complexity that gives the wine 'guts'.

The Deutz Rose was the 2006 vintage. I'm not sure if this is the latest vintage release but certainly we only purchased it recently.
It had a nice (not artificial) salmon-pink colour. There were mouth-watering freshly baked bread aromas along with hints of strawberry and cherry. The flavour was full and leesy. Bloody good.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Winewriters talk about wines in terms of vintage, vineyards, terroir, taste and, invariably, ratings.
A wine is good or bad, is a Gold standard or a bronze, is 95 points plus or a low 80's etc.

But do they ever talk about time and place?

They taste wines in a sterile environment. This is at:
  • wine shows and competitions where hundreds of wines are on show
  • theme tastings for magazines or books where one or two varietals are being comparatively tasted with dozens of examples
  • personal/professional tastings with dozens of submissions from hopeful producers.
No time and place.

Most wine experiences that people remember fondly involve time. place and people.
For example:
  • the Frascati in Rome
  • the Pinot Grigio in Verona
  • the white Port in Lisbon
You know what I mean (and I won't even suggest the Retsina in Athens).

Often the experience is all even though the wine tried at the time might have got no rating at all in a wine competition or by a winewriter's evaluation.

Today we had our first taste of Summer here up North.
I swam, sat under a flowering Pohutakawa tree with lovely dappled sunshine (no wind) and read and towards evening sat on the deck with a nice wine.

The wine?

Pegasus Bay 2009 Riesling.

Time and place.

Sunny late afternoons need a matching wine.

I didn't want Chardonnay.

Reds didn't suit.

As I was on my own (Her Indoors had left for Auckland) I chose Riesling.

Pegasus Bay is one of our favourites.

The wine is always rich and full, bursting with peach and apricot flavours but cut with zingy lemon acid. It is never dry, being in the medium dry to medium sweet spectrum depending on the vintage.
Botrytis is a bad thing when talking Chardonnay and most varietals but with Riesling is an advantage.

In this 2009 the botrytis is not as pronounced as in other years but the slight touch is enough to round out the palate (kind of like the honey in a hot lemon drink).
There's no doubting that this is a quality New Zealand Riesling (in my view the best of them come from Waipara). It has minerality, a whiff of petroleum and a seam of fresh acidity that counterbalances the rich fruit. Nothing is extraneous. Without the fruit the acidity would be too lean. Without the acidity the fruit would be too plump. This is a lovely wine and at 3 years old is drinking well with a promise of many more years.

OK. Enough of the waxing lyrical.
The time? 6PM in December.
The place? By the sea in Northland.
The combination? Magic
The early evening Summer sun caught the bright and shiny light gold colours of the wine amazingly well.

I usually remember good wines that I've tried over the years. This will be one of them.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Good friend Mike gave us a bottle of Chinese wine recently. It was Xian King Youhuan Manor White Wine. I can't read Chinese so the back label apart from the name and the alcohol by volume is a mystery. 

The wine was in a small and tall blue bottle (blue glass not usually associated with wine or foodstuffs as historically the colour was reserved for containers of poison!)

The Company name seems to be Xian King and the label says the wine is Youhuan Manor white.

I tried to find some information on the web about Xian King Wine Company or Youhuan Manor but to no avail. While China has probably the largest internet usage in the world Google and other Western search engines don't rate like their own Weibu and others.

Wikipedia told me something about King Xie:

King Xuan of Zhou (Chinese周宣王pinyinZhōu Xuān Wáng) was the eleventh king of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. Estimated dates of his reign are 827-782 BC or 827/25-782 BC.[1] He worked to restore royal authority after the Gong He interregnum. He fought the 'Western Barbarians' (probably Xianyun) and another group on the Huai River to the southeast. In his ninth year he called a meeting of all the lords. Later he intervened militarily is succession struggles in the states of LuWey and QiSima Qian says "from this time on, the many lords mostly rebelled against royal commands."[citation needed] He is said[by whom?] to have killed an innocent man called Dubo and was himself killed by an arrow fired by Dubo's ghost.[citation needed] His son, King You of Zhou was the last king of the Western Zhou.

Sounds to me like a dodgy historical connection to link a wine company to. Mind you, any modern Chinese wine company rightly should be fighting the 'Western Barbarians' but should be careful of killing the innocents which obviously and rightly include the consumers.

So what was the wine like?

Well, it was a taste surprise.

The wine was sweet and viscous beyond what the alc/vol suggested.
Normally sweet wines, unless fortified, are lower in alcohol because the sugars haven't all been converted to alcohol in the winemaking process. This wine was a full 13% so I assumed that it would be medium to medium dry at the sweetest.


It had a sweetness and viscosity of a 'sticky' wine (above Auslesen and nearer to Beerenauslesen). 

The flavour was obtuse in that grape variety was indeterminable. Not the classic varietals that make up sweet wines like Semillon, Riesling, Chenin Blanc etc. It had more of a foxy/funky character like a hybrid varietal produces.

It wasn't unpleasant but a warning bell sounded in my memory.

Years ago I bought a Trockenbeerenauslen wine from (an importer/distributor/retailer) in NZ.
The wine name I have forgotten. It was in a 500ml format (unusual). It was cheap for a 'Trocken' (I should have been warned but the retailer had it in a yearly wine sale). On tasting the wine it tasted sweet as expected but unusually viscous for a wine that should be low in alcohol.
We both had a glass. We both developed massive headaches fairly rapidly.
My conclusion: diethylene-glycol (anti-freeze) had been added to boost must weight in a poor year. This has been done from time to time with German and Italian wines and nearly ruined the Austrian wine industry in 1985 (see here).

It can render the consumer blind, with brain damage and in extreme cases can kill.

The Chinese wine  had a taste that reminded me of this.

I only drank half a glass.

I have put the rest of the bottle in the freezer and will try from time to time to evaluate but not in large doses. 

I don't want Dubo's ghost firing an arrow through my eye.

King Harald should have stuck to the Chardonnay