Tag: NZ Wine Online

Sep 09 2012

Kumeu River: Masterclass on New Zealand’s finest Chardonnay

Posted on September 09, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

At last night’s New Zealand Wine Chardonnay Masterclass, hosted by NZ Wine Online at the Macleay St BistroKumeu River’s winemaker Michael Brajkovich began by acknowledging the contribution  of his mother, managing director Melba Brajkovich, to the business. At 75 Melba is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable women in New Zealand’s wine industry, still overseeing the management of a winery that was first founded by her late husband’s Croatian immigrant family in 1944.

Melba and her late husband Maté have also done an excellent job in nurturing the next generation to take over the business. Today their four children, Michael, Milan, Paul and Marijana, all work for Kumeu River in different capacities. Since the mid 1980s the siblings have focused on the winery’s strength –  high quality Burgundian style chardonnays.

Unless you’re new to New Zealand chardonnay, you could not help but be aware of Kumeu River’s reverered status as the leading producer of this variety. Sauvignon blanc and pinot noir may have led the way in establishing New Zealand’s reputation as one the New World’s leading wine producers, but the Kumeu River chardonnays have demonstrated that New Zealand can also create world-class chardonnays. And certainly at trade and press tastings Michael is not shy about comparing his wines to smart White Burgundies from illustrious producers like Domain Leflaive. Last night the elegant and complex Kumeu River 2009 Maté Vineyard Chardonnay did not disappoint when compared with the superbly balanced, richly textured 2009 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘La Maltroie’ Burgundy, which at $140 a bottle, is twice the price of the Maté!

The Maté Chardonnay is one of Kumeu Rivers three single vineyard bottlings, which also include the Coddington and Hunting Hill.

A vertical of the Coddington Vineyard Chardonnay was the third flight showcased … Read the rest

Nov 11 2011

Can you tell if a wine is any good just by tasting it? Impressions from a Craggy Range Tasting

Posted on November 11, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Have you ever been unimpressed with a wine on first taste, but then fallen in love with it over the course of a meal?

Well, according to a very interesting article by Decanter’s Andrew Jefford “digestibility is as much a hallmark of truly fine wine as is sensorial intricacy and harmony.” Jefford goes on to explain:

Twenty-five years of reading wine assessments, as well as providing assessments of my own, have convinced me that tasting without drinking is, in fact, a monstrous (if inevitable) flaw in all wine criticism. I’d like to see wine critics append a ‘D’ or a ‘*’ to any numeric score or tasting note for a wine which has been drunk rather than merely assessed by tasting. Any critic who claims that they have never had to adjust, after drinking, an initial assessment based on tasting alone is lying. (Jefford on Monday: Thinking about Tasting by Andrew Jefford, Decanter, 7 November 2011)

Jefford’s comments resonated with me when I attended a tasting last night of the Craggy Range lineup hosted by NZ Wine Online. The event was held at the Roof Top Bar of Coast, but the sun hadn’t set so I was hot and thirsty. Not the best state to be in when tasting wines! Fortunately the weather cooled and big plates of antipasto arrived in time to whet our appetites.

All the wines on show were excellent, but the Craggy Range Old Renwick Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (26.95) was definitely an example of a wine that opened up with food. I was initially perplexed by its unusually dry, stoney and mineral character, but over time its delicious lime and grapefruit flavours also shone through.

Initially struck by the dark rich purple red colour of the Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2009 (37.95), … Read the rest

Oct 10 2011

Masterclass with New Zealand’s Escarpment and Quartz Reef

Posted on October 10, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

On Wednesday night I attended a masterclass hosted by two of New Zealand’s leading winemarkers: Larry McKenna of Martinborough’s Escarpment and Rudi Bauer of Central Otago’s Quartz Reef. Organised by nzwineonline.com.au and held at the very picturesque Coast restaurant in Cockle Bay, the evening proved a wonderful opportunity to sample pinot noir from the two most acclaimed wine regions for the variety in New Zealand.

Both winemakers have drawn on Burgundy for inspiration for their pinot noir. Their winemaking practices reflect the very best of Old and New World traditions as characterised by complete respect for their respective terroirs and a willingness to experiment with new ideas to improve the quality of their wines. Austrian born Rudi did several vintages in Burgundy, as well as California and at Rippon in New Zealand before starting Quartz Reef in 1996. Larry grew up in Adelaide, studied at Roseworthy College and worked in Europe and New Zealand before co-founding Escarpment in 1998.


Larry talked about how the winemaking philosophy of the renowned Burgundy estate Domaine Dujac has influenced his own approach. Dujac vinifies its pinot noir with little or no de-stemming of the grapes, with winemaker Jacques Seysses being convinced that it gives the wines greater complexity. Larry explained that he includes whole bunches in the fermentation for his pinot noir. The fruit for the 2009 vintage, for example, was a little riper than 2008, so a slightly higher percentage of whole bunches (approximately 40%) were used to enhance the wine’s complexity and tannin structure. The fruitier and more savoury perfume aromas of the Escarpment Pinot Noir 2009 made it our table’s choice over the more subdued but still very good 2008.

The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown recently described Rudi’s winemaking style as “both understated and powerful.” Quartz Reef’s single vineyard … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Giesen August Sauvignon Blanc: ‘Pushing the Boundaries for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In yesterday’s post, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class,  I mentioned how New Zealand winemakers were experimenting with exciting new ways to make the country’s standard bearer sauvignon blanc.

One of the highlights of the evening was the inaugural vintage of the Giesen August Sauvignon Blanc 2009. This handmade wine had a richness and complexity of aromas and flavours that set it apart from the other wines we tasted on the evening. It reminded many of us of the exciting new style of sauvignon blanc exemplified by the sublime Cloudy Bay Te Koko and the acclaimed Dog Point Section 94 .

A look at the Giesen website shows that much thought, experimentation and care went into the making of this limited production wine. A product of the three Giesen brothers (Theo, Alex and Marcel) and their winemaking team, the idea behind this new wine was to “push the boundaries for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.”

Like the Cloudy Bay Te Koko and the Dog Point Section 94, the winemakers used wild yeast and barrel fermentation. The grapes were hand-harvested from low yielding vines grown in seven different areas of the Giesen’s Wairau Valley vineyards. Here the soil ranges from shallow and stony to deep sandy loams – each imparting their own distinct aromas and flavours to the wine.

Three days prior to harvesting each block, a bucket of grapes was picked and crushed to make a wild yeast starter. It was left in the warmth of the pump shed to get the temperature up, and after a couple of days of fermentation more grapes were added. When the vineyard was harvested these yeast starters, indigenous to the different blocks of the vineyard, were brought into the winery, drained off and added to the juice from their respective blocks.

After … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Last Friday NZ Wine Online hosted a Sauvignon Blanc Master Class at the Royal Automobile Club in Sydney. I always enjoy evenings when the winemakers are on hand to discuss the wine, so I listened with great interest to winemakers John Hancock from Trinity Hill of the North Island’s Hawkes Bay region and Glenn Thomas from Tupari Wines, which is situated in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough in the north of the South Island.

Of the nine wines we tasted that evening most were from the Marlborough region. Understandable, given that Marlborough is the one region of the world that seems to have taken the noble grape of the Loire and Bordeaux and made it its own. In her book Educating Peter, The Wall Street Journal’s wine writer Lettie Teague argues that Marlborough sauvignon blanc and in particular the iconic Cloudy Bay expression of the style “actually changed the way people thought about Sauvignon Blanc and the way winemakers approached the grape too…From California to South Africa, even in the Loire Valley, the home of Sauvignon Blanc, I’ve seen wine lists that feature ‘New Zealand-style’ Sancerres.”

Interestingly, the Hawkes Bay offering, the Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2010, is made more in the understated or restrained style of Sancerre, with citrus, melon and stone fruit flavours accented with Sancerre-like mineral notes. The wine spent extended time on lees to give it more body or texture, and the warmer climate of the Hawkes Bay region creates a wine that is slighly lower in both acidity and alcohol than its typical Marlborough peers.

Both Hancock and Thomas talked about the innovations taking place in New Zealand sauvignon blanc. While many of the wines displayed the familiar characteristics of bright fruity aromatics with zesty citrus and tropical fruit flavours … Read the rest