New Zealand’s prime wine regions count cost of earthquake


From The Guardian:

Millions of dollars of wine have been lost along with storage vats amid concern for the forthcoming harvest.

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Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

By Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin

Some of New Zealand’s prized vineyards are counting the cost of the country’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake with millions of litres of wine lost and estimates that up to a fifth of storage vats have been damaged.

With the 2017 grape harvest only months away, the New Zealand government has stepped in to aid the affected wineries in prime Sauvignon Blanc country, and a NZ Wine Response Team has been established.

The north Canterbury and Marlborough regions in the north-eastern south island suffered the worst damage to roads, infrastructure and homes as a result of November’s quake. Two people also died.

Marlborough is world-renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc production, with 70% of the New Zealand wine industry located in the region. In the last year, New Zealand exported NZ1.6 billion dollars (£920m) worth of wine.

“The Marlborough wine industry faces some challenges,” said economic development minister Steven Joyce, who has twice met with affected wineries in the region since the quake, of which there are 140.

“The key impact has been damage to around 20% of the wine storage tanks in the region, and the potential that a lack of storage will affect the ability of the industry to process the full 2017 harvest, which commences in around 15 weeks.”

Yealands winery is located 6km inland from Seddon off state highway one, which remains closed more than two weeks after the quake. Yealands commercial manager Michael Wentworth didn’t want to go into specifics, but confirmed a quantity of wine had been lost, vats damaged and visits to the cellar door were down. Wentworth was unable to put a price on sustained and potential losses. Yealands employs around 100 people on their estate, and since the quake has had all its employees work in pairs due to aftershocks and the risk of another rumble.

“We are lucky the government has been very proactive in stepping in straight away and saying ‘what do you need?’,” said Wentworth.

“We are beginning to discuss fast-tracking working visas and possible solutions in case of a shortfall in worker number for the 2017 vintage. We are lucky it is not worse.”

A report on the quake damage from NZ Winegrowers puts wine losses at just over 2% for the region, which produces 200 million litres of wine every year.

But NZ Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan said he had begun talking to wineries who were concerned about the possible drop in tourist numbers to the region, as many tourists headed for Marlborough did so along state highway one after visiting Kaikoura.

Finding pickers for the 2017 was another potential issue, as many vineyard workers were backpackers or low-skilled migrants on work visas travelling through, who could potentially avoid the region while it was in recovery mode and aftershocks were continuing.

“The process of tank repair is already underway but it is going to be a big task which will continue for many months.” said Gregan.

Foley Family Wines, told the NZX they had sustained damage to the tune of NZ$1 million to their vineyards as a result of the quake, and the year ahead would be “challenging”.

The Story of New Zealand Wine


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My lovely L gave me the perfect book for my birthday, the brand new Story of New Zealand Wine – the Land, the Vines, the People by Warren Moran.

For half a century, geographer and wine enthusiast Warren Moran has followed the development of the industry, talked to the winemakers and tasted the wines. In this book, he provides an introduction to New Zealand wine: the climate, soils, and geography our winemakers work with; the grape varieties; and the personalities, families and companies who have made the wine and the industry. Illustrated with three-dimensional maps of regions and localities and photographs of the vineyards, the wines, and the winemakers, this is a must for all of those interested in understanding the extraordinary wines of New Zealand.

The opening para:

I had a ‘sophisticated’ introduction to New Zealand wine when, in 1957, I walked into Paul Groshek’s tasting room in Candia Road, West Auckland, to interview him as part of my Master’s thesis on the New Zealand wine industry. Before I asked any questions, Groshek proceeded to teach me a thing or two. Grasping an open, but re-corked, bottle of Corbans Dry Red table wine resting on a noggin of his unlined tasting room, he poured a small serving into the tapered 5-ounce beer glass o fthe time and passed it to me to taste. I sipped and commented circumspectly. From a half-gallon jar, he then glugged a larger serving of his own red table wine, Albonez, into my glass. Again I was circumspect. Unimpressed by my commentary on the wines, he poured some of the Corbans Dry Red into his own glass, took a mouthful and promptly sprayed it all over the room, exclaiming, ‘Jesus-a-Christ, boy, bloody vinegar!’, and threw the rest away. He refilled his glass with Albonez, appraised its robe and bouquet, and at the first sip extolled, ‘Jesus-a-Christ, boy, bloody nectar!’

Looking forward to deep-diving into this one!

MS Tasting – 2007 Brunello di Montalcino


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2007 Brunello di Montalcino

This was another style of Italian wine I have not had a chance before to try and appreciate. Again, an opportunity to taste, listen and learn, under the guidance of Italian wine fan and Society member DB.

Brunello di Montalcino, from Wikipedia, is a red Italian wine produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino located about 80 km south of Florence in the Tuscany wine region. Brunello, a diminutive of bruno, which means brown, is the name that was given locally to what was believed to be an individual grape variety grown in Montalcino. In 1879 the Province of Siena’s Amphelographic Commission determined, after a few years of controlled experiments, that Sangiovese and Brunello were the same grape variety, and that the former should be its designated name.

The wines we are trying tonight:

2007 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino – $60.00 (historical cost)

2007 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino – $100.00

2007 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino – $100.00

2007 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino – $100.00

2007 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino – $68.00

2007 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino -$80.00

There were some excellent notes compiled by DB to accompany the Society tasting:

“Brunello has been called “Classico on steroids”. In hot years like 2003, Classico can outperform Brunello at a much lower cost. But, putting the price difference aside, it is very easy to contrast Montalcino’s physical aspects with those of Classico, and when you come to taste the wine, the impact of those differences becomes clear.

The Montalcino region is lower in altitude, closer to the coast, more rounded in terrain, less wooded, more exposed to sea breezes, and is warmer. The vineyards seem larger today despite Montalcino having a history of small holdings. The plots have less variety in their aspects and their soils than Classico and mostly they achieve a higher degree of ripeness. Brunello can be richer, warmer and more powerful than Classico, (but this can be overdone) while Classico is usually fresher with higher acid.

Very simplistically, there are two basic terroirs in Montalcino. To the north, around the town, the vineyards are higher, steeper, and cooler. The soils are stony with lime and sand. The wines are very similar to Classico Riserva being more aromatic and elegant than other Brunello. In the South along the hills which slope down to the Orcia river, an area known simply as the Colle, the vineyards are bigger, more broad sloped, southward facing, with more clay in the richer soils, and produce more powerful, riper, heavier wines which can be harvested as much as two weeks before those in the north. In a good year, Montalcino will take advantage from all its terroirs. In a cool year, the Colle will do better, and in a warmer year, fruit from the north provides freshness and a foil to what can easily be over ripeness in the Colle. This latter point – potential over ripeness in the lower, warmer sited Sangiovese has proven on occasion to be Brunello’s bane.

 Brunello has three levels of classification:

Rosso: Aged for one year with 6 months in wood

Brunello (normale): Aged for four years, minimum of two years in wood and 4 months in bottle

Riserva: Aged for five years, minimum of two years in wood and 4 months in bottle.

We will not be able to contrast Normale with Riserva and form our own opinion, as all six wines are Normale. It will be interesting to consider, however, that if we see a spectacular wine (I’m sure we will see more than one!) just how it might have been “improved” if it had been given Riserva treatment. Another dimension for us to think about is the contrast between the northern and the Colle wines. We have two from the area around the town, and four from the south. Will we see a difference?

Regarding the vintage, this from Antonio Galloni:

Vintage 2007 is more than a worthy follow-up to 2006. It is hard to remember two consecutive vintages of this level in Montalcino. For most growers, 2007 was a warmer overall year than 2006. Temperatures remained above average pretty much the whole year, but never spiked dramatically as they did in 2003. Cooler temperatures and greater diurnal swings towards the end of the growing season helped the wines maintain acidity and develop their aromatics. Overall, the 2007s are soft, silky wines that are radiant, open, and highly expressive today. My impression is that most of the wines will not shut down in bottle and that 2007 will be a great vintage to drink pretty much throughout its life. I tasted very few wines that were outright overripe or alcoholic. Many of the best 2007s come from the centre of town where the higher altitude of the vineyards was critical factor in achieving balance. Overall, I rate 2007 just a notch below the more structured and age worthy 2006, but in exchange the 2007s will drink better earlier.

montalcino-map

Fuligni

2km east of Montalcino on quite open rounded hills facing east-southeast at elevations of 380-450 metres. 11ha under vine. An old Tuscan family but making wine since only 1923. Tending towards a traditional style: aromatic, elegant and subtle rather than fruit forward. Aged in 500lt French tonneaux for 4-5 months in an old convent on the vineyards, then for 30 months in large Slavonian botti deep underneath the family’s 18th century palazzo in the centre of the town.

Costanti

2km southest of Montalcino only a few hundred meters south of Fuligni above. A very old family property which first exhibited its Brunello in 1870. Vineyards face southeast on quite a steep slope at 310-400 meters. 12 ha under vine. Soils are blue-grey chalky marl. Costanti uses new BBS clones 5-25 years old. Wood ageing is mixed with 18 months in new and used 350-500lt French tonneaux, and 18 months in 3000lt Slavonian botti.

Lisini

Lisini is about 8km due south of Montalcino at 300-350 meters, just to the northeast of Sant’Angelo, down a dirt road through dense scrub. The soils are soft, sandy, volcanic with some stones and are exposed to sea breezes. 20ha undervine. Lisini is one of the region’s historical producers and remains one of the more traditional. The family has been farming here since the 16th century. Mainly massale selection with some vines up to 75 years old. There is one small block remaining of pre-phyloxera from the mid 19th century. Wines are aged in large 1100-4000lt Slavonian botti for up to 3 years.

Il Poggione

Another one of the Brunello pioneers of 100-120 years ago. This is quite a big estate with large blocks spreading down a long south facing slope above the Orcia river valley. Once, it was even larger but in 1958, half was split off to form Col D”Orcia. The vineyards are spread between 150 and 450 meters. They have made extensive use of new clones since the 1990s but the only major change in the cellar is to move from large Slavonian wood to large French. Typically, this wine spends 3 years in these 300-500lt formats. Belfrage calls Il Poggione archetypal because, as he says, it is the Brunello you go to when you want to demonstrate a benchmark. There are better wines, in his view, but none more authentic.

Uccelliera

We have two wines from this producer: their own normale Brunello and a regional blend called Voliero. Uccelliera, founded in 1986, is on the southern limits of the town of Castelnuova dell’Abate atop a series of gently undulating slopes which continue right down to the banks of the Orcia. The vineyards face south-southwest and are at 150-350 meters. 7ha are under vine and vine age varies between 8 and 35 years old.

Brunello di Montalcino – The wide altitude range does give some small variations in ripeness levels, and therefore winestyle which enhances blending options. This wine is aged for 36 months in Slavonian and French botti. It is known for its heady aromas, succulent fruit and density. A typical Colle example.

Voliero –  In 2006, Uccelliera started a new project along with some other producers, friends of theirs in the area, with the aim of taking advantage of the different aspects of each terroir. The contributing vineyards have various features but are between 250 and 450 meters high, and vine ages are between 10 and 20 years old. The resulting blend is traditional in style with the wine ageing for 30 months in large Slavonian and French casks. The wines are made at another winery but bottled at Uccelliera.”

ms-2007-brunello-tasting

And to the wines, all Normale:

2007 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino 14.5% alc. Tawny dusty carmine colour. An excellent start – perfumed hot and spicy, with vanilla and wood smoke. Bold. Scents of cut dates and blackberry. Minty. Bright fruit attack in the mouth, sweet and rich, good acid, fresh and powerful, with a long hot finish. Off young vines too. I scored this Gold.

2007 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino Tawny dusty carmine colour. Perfumed and floral. Higher in volatiles than the first, with scents of vanilla, pencil shavings and graphite. Hot. Bright fresh fruit and acid on attack. Fine tannins. Power and linearity. Minty. Hot finish. Very traditional in style I was told. I scored this Silver.

2007 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino Tawny dusty carmine colour. Lighter and dumber that the first two, from the cooler north was my pick, dusty and dry. Linear, less acid and intensity, earthy, more tannin and drying. Sweet up front, a taste of dried figs. I scored this Silver.

2007 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino Deep tawny dusty carmine colour. Funky and sweaty, but this blew off. Dominant warm fruit characters. In the mouth I loved the richness of the fruit, the complexity, the crunchy mouthfeel, the drying tannins and hot spicy finish. It was delicious with thw supper, and showed savoury, meaty, shroomy. Some lanolin also. I scored it Gold and my WOTN (wine of the night).

2007 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Tawny dusty carmine colour. Fruity bright and intense, with vanilla. Somewhat 1-dimensional after the Uccelliera, but showed drying characters, more wood, and high alcohol. Dates and dried fruit in the mouth. Blackberries, dried plums. Grippy and tight. Some thought austere. I saw depth and focus. I scored it Gold. A large number in attendance saw it as their WOTN.

2007 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Tawny dusty carmine colour. Light-ish, lean-ish and dumb-ish. Clean fruit, some cherries. Lighter and leaner to taste, drying, with attractive complexity and layers of flavour. Fine. Sweeter with food. Length went on and on. I scored it Gold. Lots of attendees saw it as their WOTN.

As a novice on all things Italian/vinous, my overall impressions were that the wines showed remarkable homogeneity of style. They were perfumed, with bright acid (after 9 years age), possessed a clean clear structure and had a deep underlying fruit intensity.

These wines retail for over $120 nowadays. It was a pleasure and instruction to enjoy them tonight. Thanks to the host and the cellarmaster.

 

Straight to the Pool Room – November 2016


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Another three wines for aging:

Haha Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015 – $ – drink 2018-2020. Decanter magazine Gold Medal awarded. I’ve been cellaring these for a few years now. Don’t disappoint. Super value.

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2014 – $$$ – drink 2019. A Kevin Judd wine. Oak ferment, wild yeasts. I have tried and loved this.

What’s in the glass tonight November 17th – Chardonnay


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Julicher Chardonnay Wairarapa 2012

Every year Medical Assurance, L’s insurer, hosts a family Christmas movie night for members and their families at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington. We always go. This year we got to see Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. It was fantastic! Moving and emotive, it explored themes about love,  racial tolerance, showing kindness, and the protection of animals. There were even real wizards in the audience….

While waiting for the show to start, we unwound with this lovely wine:

Reductive and funky, with interesting dried apricot citrus characters.

Rich ripe fruit attach, sweet mid palate, nice citrus line, shows the same reduction on palate. Engaging character.

89 points

What’s in the glass tonight November 13th – Sauvignon Blanc


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From the Cellar: Te Mata Estate Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc Hawkes Bay 2011 – $$$

Pale greenish gold. 13.5% alc.

This is consistently one of NZ’s finest wines, for the past half-dozen vintages at least. It is hard to approach tasting this wine dispassionately…

Sweet on the nose, aromatic and complex, with tropical notes of apples, gooseberries and ginger.

Flavours of ginger on the palate, apples and citrus. An excellent lightness of touch, a Hawkes Bay savvy that is softening agreeably, with oak complexity. Lots of fruit. Really splendid.

95 points

What’s in the glass tonight November 12th – Man O’War


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This was an interesting instore tasting. The pre-prepared notes offered up that Man O’ War is one of Waiheke Island’s “most exciting wineries, offering powerhouse reds and sophisticated, layered whites that offer fruit driven, terroir specific complexity”. They own 50% of the vineyards on the island, some 45 plots.

The producer makes a large number of wines in often small quantities, and they sell out quick. It helps that the large Auckland market is on the other side of the harbour.

I didn’t have too much time to make notes, and felt a bit self-conscious appearing too nerdy. I just enjoyed trying the wines and chatting to the rep…

Man O’War Exiled Pinot Gris 2015 – $$$ – very sweet, lots of flavour. Characterful too. Nice.

Man O’War Little Beast Chardonnay 2016 – $$$ – Lean, with a citrus bite, too young? 400 cases made. Expensive for what it is.

Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah 2013 – $$$+ – I loved this at the Game of Rhones wine event earlier this year. Luscious, whole bunch texture. Perfect ripeness and weight. A top wine.

Man O’War Ironclad Cab Franc/Merl/Cab 2011 – $$$+ – There was some Petit Verdot and Malbec in this blend too. A rich nose, cigar box, some age complexity, lovely.

 

What’s in the glass tonight November 10th – Pinot Gris


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Triplebank Pinot Gris Marlborough 2016 – $

Fresh off the fields, this. Another Awatere Valley wine.

Brilliant pale gold. 14% alc.

Nice fragrance, smells sweet and lifted, with notes of sweet apples and rock melon.

Fresh on attack, with sweet ripe golden fruit flavours up front. Lots of flavour, a creamy mouthfeel. Citrus line through the mid palate, and a slightly bitter finish. A nice spice catch on the back of the throat.

87 points

What’s in the glass tonight November 7th – Pinot Noir


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Triplebank Pinot Noir Marlborough 2015 – $

A new label for me. An Awatere Valley wine from the Pernod Ricard stable of brands.

Pinot ruby. 13.5% alc.

Lightly aromatic, moderately comples on the nose, sweet red cherries, lightly spiced. Hint of stalk/whole bunch.

Simple flavours, not a lot going on. Moderate ripeness and extract, what you would expect from a Pinot at this price point. A bit sharp and metallic towards the finish.

83 points