What’s in the glass tonight June 21st – Riesling


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Off Topic – Wynns Coonawarra Riesling, by the glass, on Circular Quay

No sooner was I back from Fiji, but I had to fly to Sydney to inspect a new client’s office premises.

After a whirlwind morning and afternoon session of meetings, walk-arounds, note-taking and photograph-making, I found myself back on the street outside the client’s building, finished, and with a couple of hours free before I was due to check-in at Kingsford-Smith Airport for the sleepy-eye back to Wellington.

So I headed for Circular Quay. I took the usual touristic pictures of the bridge and Jørn Utzon’s famous sails. I watched a piano accordion player accost the ears of passers-by with his (deliberate, I think) atrociously out-of-key playing.  I watched the yellowing and green passenger ferries come steaming headlong in to crash-stop at the docks, and watched the heavy wash from their reversing propellers heave and surge against the massive timber barriers that bulwarked the quayside. I watched meandering groups of aimless Maroons stink the place out, filling in their own time before Origin Game 2 kicked off.

Finally, I settled down at City Extra, below Circular Quay Railway Station, with a glass of Wynns Coonawarra Riesling, and watched the local world walk on by for a bit. I don’t recall anything about the wine. The waitress offered to go find out for me about the vintage, but I said, it’s ok, no worries.

What’s in the glass tonight June 9th – White Burgundy


Olivier Leflaive Les Setilles Bourgogne 2013

Off Topic: Olivier Leflaive Les Sétilles Bourgogne 2013 – $$$+

I bought this bottle to take to a friend’s 70th and share with L. I thought it was a bit funky at first, and perhaps faulty, but friends who have a good nose tried it and agreed that this wine was pretty good. Fine minerality, a steely austere quality, and crisp acidity. Delish!

Unfortunately L didn’t like it much. I have my eye on a Marsanne/Rousanne Northern Rhone blend for next time – she might like that better!

Highly recommended 90 points

What’s in the glass tonight April 18th – Shiraz


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Off Topic: Take It To The Grave Shiraz Barossa 2016 – $$

How’s the serenity?

Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of my favourite movies – The Castle.  In it, a working-class family from Melbourne, Australia, fights the city council after being told they must vacate their beloved family home to allow for infrastructural expansion. This comedy film became a cult hit, and spawned endless quotes – “it’s the vibe”, “suffer in your jocks”, and my personal favourite, “ this is going straight to the pool room”… Sound familiar?

I love it. And my darling L has never seen it, and she’s Australian!

So, in honour of the occasion, we opened a Shiraz. L bought it. I asked her to get me a Brown Brothers Heathcote Shiraz down the supermarket but they didn’t have any, so she bought this one on the strength of the striking label.

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Inky black plum colour. 14 % alc.

Smells soft and fruity, simple. Quite Rhone-like for an Aussie.

Soft rich fruit flavours. Simple and uncomplicated. White pepper, dark chocolate, fine tannins to finish. A classic BBQ quaffer..

Commended 85 Points

What’s in the glass tonight April 9th – Châteauneuf du-Pape


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Off Topic – Barton & Guestier Châteauneuf du-Pape 1978

When L was helping her folks tidy up their place recently, she unearthed an old bottle of CdP that they didn’t know they had! I was dead keen to try it, so we arranged a dinner at their place as an excuse to pop the cork. And pop it did, with a bit of encouragement.

And the wine was absolutely splendid. Still showing plenty of fruit and freshness. A real mark of quality of the terroir and winemakers, and careful cellaring. It was a pleasure and a treat to enjoy such a piece of oenological history.

This took me back to a tasting of 1978 reds I attended a few years ago hosted by Geoff Kelly. I recall being thrilled by a Vieux Télégraph Châteauneuf du-Pape 1978. While not as powerful or refined as that wine, today’s bottle shows the quality of the appellation, and just adds to my regard for the wines of the Rhone valley.

What’s in the glass tonight March 21st – Cotés du Rhone


Dom Les Grands Bois Les 3 Soeurs 2015

Off Topic: Dom. Les Grands Bois les Trois Sœurs Cotés du Rhone Rouge 2014 – $$

Named for the three sisters of the producer.

Inky carmine colour. 14.5% alc.

This wine smells soft and savoury and gracious. Ripe plums and red berries. Cardboard box.

Full and fleshy, ripe and luscious to drink. There are chewy raspy tannins, a sweet finish, and pleasant heat at the death. Lovely!

Recommended 89 Points

What’s in the glass tonight March 15th – Cotés du Rhone


Famille Quiot Jerome Quiot CdR 2014

Off Topic: Famille Quiot Jerome Quiot Cotés du Rhone Rouge 2014 – $$

I am off on a Rhone Rouge bender…Deep carmine. 14% alc.

A rustic fruit nose, with a little savoury note.

This was a cheapie. It showed simple and thin at first opening. It softened on standing to show some fruity lusciousness, but not enough. Continued to improve with air. Best for French barbecues, or beef with wine.

Commended 83 Points

MS Dinner 2017


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L and I went to the wonderful Matterhorn for the annual dinner with fellow members of the Magnum Society. Encouraged to raid our cellars for suitable bottles of wine to bring along for sharing, we would be assured of a taste or two of some very good drops from fellow diners. And so it was.

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I brought a brace of older Craggy Range wines, along with an aperitif Prosecco. The Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay 2011 was amazing and totally delicious. It lived up to GK’s billing as one of NZs best Chards. The Aroha Pinot Noir 2007 was less good. It had not aged well, and was showing thin and confected.

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Of the wines I got to taste, the Volnays stood out as very good. I don’t remember much of the rest. I must say one table had a very impressive selection of Gevrey Chambertins. Not jealous, much.

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The meal was fabulous, and I hope we eat there again next time.

What’s in the glass tonight February 22nd – Nebbiolo


GD Vajra Nebbiolo Langhe 2013

Off Topic: GD Vajra Nebbiolo Langhe 2013 – $$$

Dark carmine. 13.5% alc. From a Barolo producer, tho this isn’t one of those stellar wines. Bought from a new Wgtn supplier (for me) – Truffle Imports.

Savoury and spicy, aromatic, chunky and big. Meaty and expressive, with scents of dark plums and cherries.

The wine was smooth and sweet on the palate, with ripe, rich and vivacious fruit flavours. A fresh finish. Really delightful and delicious.

Highly Recommended  – 90 points

What’s in the glass tonight January 6th – Chardonnay


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Off Topic – Evans&Tate Butterball Chardonnay Margaret River WA 2015 – $$

Gold colour. 13% alc. My L likes a buttery Chardy on a sunny summer weekend afternoon. And this fitted the bill.

Ripe and flavoursome, not too heavy, with pleasant butterscotch and caramel characters, and tropical fruit flavours, with enough citrus underpinning not to have the wine collapse into a flabby mess of oak

Recommended  – 87 points

MS Tasting – White Burgundy


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2011 White Burgundy

The first white Burgundy I ever drank was while having lunch with my sister at Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous Michelin three-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Hospital Road in London in 2010. It was a Meursault, possibly the house wine, and sold by the glass. They don’t sell muck: it blew me away. This remains, along with the 2007 Sacred Hill Rifleman, one of my two touchstone Chardonnay wine experiences…

So to have the chance to try a horizontal of white Burgundies, including two Meursaults, was not to be passed up. And I wasn’t alone, the tasting was packed out….

The wines we were to try:

2011 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Clos de la Mouchere

2011 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne

2011 Latour Giraud Meursault Genevrieres

2011 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Combettes

2011 Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Caillerets

2011 Roulot Meursault Charmes

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

Chardonnay

“By nature, this great grape is non-aromatic to the nose, full-bodied by mouthfeel, and lively in acidity. Chardonnay is relatively easy to grow, and to make into ordinary wine. These features leave scope for many things to influence the character of the finished wine, from first glimpse through to finishing resonance, and perhaps even to produce extraordinary wine. These factors include: the nature of the vintage, the character of the soil and site, and methods of vinification and maturation. Especially as expressed in white Burgundy, chardonnay has a natural tendency to produce wines of some power. In good hands, it can also produce wines of finesse and complexity.

Issues & Trends

The stellar reputation and high price of a good white Burgundy depends partly on its track record of maturing and developing long and gracefully. This reputation has been complicated and somewhat qualified by the premature oxidation (a.k.a. ‘pre-mox’ or ‘pox’) that has afflicted too many bottles from the late-20th century to the early 21st century. When this affliction began, how prevalent it still is, and what its causal specifics are, remain frustratingly ongoing points of uncertainty and controversy.

One consumer response to premature oxidation has been to mitigate risk by drinking white Burgundy younger than previously. One producer trend, part response to premature oxidation, but perhaps also partly of independent stylistic origin, is to increase the levels and prevalence of reductive sulphides in bottles. These sulphidic notes, with their flinty notes of struck match – ‘le matchstick’, some call it – are associated with ‘reductive wine-making’, where exposure of wines to oxygen is deliberately limited during ageing. Techniques amenable to this style of wine-making include: minimizing new-oak influence, limiting lees-stirring or dropping it altogether, minimizing movement of wine from one barrel to another or making such moves in the absence of oxygen, and completing ageing in tank rather than in barrel.

Some wine-makers claim that reductive character is simply delivered to them by their soils. Other commentators share Jancis Robinson’s view that: “It is only very rarely shaped by what goes on in the vineyard … but usually it is the decisions a wine-maker makes in the cellar that make the difference”. Here is the summation of Jean-Marc Roulot, whose much-admired Meursault wines feature in tonight’s line-up: “there has definitely been a change in the way that producers, and consumers, view reduction, which, thanks to premature oxidation, is now seen as something more positive. There are also some widely admired producers of white Burgundy who have opted for marked reduction so that reduction has come to be perceived by consumers as a sign of quality”.

Jancis Robinson counts Domaines Leflaive and Coche Dury amongst the most influential producers that have moved, through a series of small steps, in a more reductive direction. The trend is widespread, both in Burgundy and throughout the wider world of chardonnay.

A traditional complaint against reduction in wines is that it tends to deaden freshness and flatten or even obliterate natural fruit character, producing wines that are boring and wearying to smell and taste. This line of criticism has been renewed or continued by some current commentators. Perhaps with a mix of empirical observation and wishful thinking, for example, Jancis Robinson claimed in early 2015 to: “sense the creak of a pendulum beginning to swing in the opposite direction”, especially in the most influential producers. There are also influential producers who actively oppose to le matchstick in wines. Dominique Lafon puts this into a rhetorical question: “Why should I start making reductive wines just to avoid the premox problem?”.

These notes do not comment on where tonight’s producers sit on matters of oxidation or reduction, but please do attend closely to what the content of each glass tells you.

Vintage 2011

The white Burgundy vintage of 2011 was more challenging than the ripe 2009 or the more classical 2010. Here is Jancis Robinson’s two-sentence summary: “Less ripe than the previous two vintages, needing chaptalisation in many cases. Chaotic weather made this a tricky vintage overall”. As always, even a glance at thoughtful reviews of particular wines by leading writers confirms that many able producers handled this tricky vintage beautifully. Let us hope our senses deliver this message to us also on the night, through this tantalizing set of wines.

Producers:

Domaine Henri Boillot. This domaine was formed in 2005, when Henri bought out shares of his father’s domaine from other siblings. According to Henri, his “white wine is all about vinification”. The grapes are whole-bunch pressed, clarified fairly thoroughly, then vinified without any batonage. Elevage is in 350-litre barrels from Francois Freres, using a balance of new and one-year-old barrels. Morris comments (2010: 367): “The white wines are very pure, with a little crisp toastiness … but no sense of being over-oaked. They are supported by good acidity – an essential part of great white burgundy for Henri”.

Domaine Guy Roulot. At this outstanding Mersault domaine, Jean-Marc Roulot has been in charge since 1989. Morris (2010: 412-413) comments: “he has since brought a fine domaine into the very top league. He is one of the few producers who has managed to move from heavier to purer wines but not lose anything of the potential quality and complexity”. Where grape skins are healthy, Roulot prefers to crush before pressing, saying he finds a greener juice that way, with a degree more acidity without changing the pH. No more than 20 percent new wood is used for village wines, and 25-30 per cent for the crus. About the Charmes bottling, Morris comments: “Rich yet pure and balanced: a classical lower-slope Mersault”.

Latour Giraud. Apologies: no information sourced. Knowledgeable members – please fill the gap here verbally on the night.

Domaine Blain-Gagnard. Most of the premier cru whites are from Chassagne Montrachet. The grapes are crushed then pressed, debourbage, fermentation in barrel, lees-stirring, one racking, and blending in tank. Jean-Marc Blain pursues elegance rather than power, and selects his coopers and forests carefully (Minier in Chagny is a favourite). He uses just 10-15 percent new barrels for village and premier cru wines, and 30 percent for grands crus. About the Chassagne-Montrachet bottling, Morris comments that the (2010: 456): “plot runs the full length of the vineyard: the marl above gives weight to the wine, the white soil lower down provides elegance and finesse … a very complete wine, with subtleties of flavour despite its evident power”.

And to the wines:

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2011 Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Caillerets – Pale gold colour. Honeyed, rich, with notes of caramel and light florals. Sweet entry on palate, crisp acidity and freshness, lean & minerally. Good plate weight. A lovely wine to start. One taster smelled Acacia flowers. I scored this Gold, and it was my 3rd Wine of the Night.

2011 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Clos de la Mouchere– Pale gold colour. Oaky, soft and round, with spice and ripe stonefruit characters. Some reduction/ touch of sulphur. Tight acid on entry, salty and sharp. Fine mouthfeel, freshness, balance and length. A lovely leanness to this wine. I scored this Gold, and was my 2nd Wine of the Night

2011 Latour Giraud Meursault Genevrieres – Pale gold colour. Somewhat mute to start, then showed light fruit, butter & lemons, and white peaches. Minerality, lemons, ginger  and spearmint in the mouth. Piercing acid is underlined in my notes. It finished sweeter and softer. I scored this Silver. This wine lacked a bit of age.

2011 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Combettes – Pale gold colour. Reductive, flint on the nose. Flat, steely and fresh in the mouth. Salty, linear and crunchy. Apple seed finish. Interestingly angular this wine, with great length and persistence. I scored this Gold.

2011 Roulot Meursault Charmes – Pale gold colour. Complex, beguiling, perfumed and opulent. Poised and tense, layered, and  fleshy with a touch of spice. In the mouth was depth and power and finesse. Showing lemon freshness and acidity and lingering persistence. Fruit cake! And showed TIME. I scored this Gold and my WOTN (wine of the night).

2011 Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne – Gold colour. This is what we all came for. The heavyweight on the bill. Serious, heavy, complex, burnt matchstick reductive and chalky characters. Great palate weight, fruit and sweetness, huge and long. The biggest and richest Chardonnay of the flight. A true Grand Cru. I scored this Gold. A majority in attendance saw it as their WOTN.

My impressions over the flight was that the wines started off quite mute, but opened up over time. And when they did, I saw quite a beguiling perfume. Another feature over the flight was the piercing acidity. More than what I was expecting, and I think masked any great complexity (with the exception of the Charmes). Meausault wins again!

A wonderful opportunity to try some rare wines with a hefty price tag on this side of the world. Many thanks to our guide and host and our cellarmaster.

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And as it was our last meeting for the year, we finished with a piece of Christmas Cake and several sweet wines to taste. Yum:

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