jamie goode's wine blog: Two stunning kiwis, and a note on the power of terroir

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Two stunning kiwis, and a note on the power of terroir

To my mind, New Zealand is the new world country that is coming closest to making high-end wines with some of the complexity and interest of the best from the old world. [Maybe this is a bit unfair on California.] I'm hesitant to say this lest it be misinterpreted; I don't want people to think I'm an old fogey who thinks that Bordeaux and Burgundy have a monopoly on fine wine. But if you're honest, and you've tasted serious high-end wines from around the world, then you'll doubtless share my view that the new world can't yet compete at the very top end.
Anyway, New Zealand continues to make strides, and here are two wines that I reckon are pretty serious. The first is the latest release of Clos St Henri, the 2006 of which I tried a couple of weeks ago in Tate Britain. The second is a delicious Merlot (don't say that often...) from the Gimblett Gravels, a fantastic terroir in New Zealand's Hawkes Bay region. I'd say this wine shows as much Gimblett character as it does Merlot character; I reckon a Gimblett Syrah is closer to this wine than a Merlot from somewhere else, if you see what I mean.
Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Amazing stuff, this Sauvignon made by Henri Bourgeois of Sancerre. It's beautifully textured with good balance between the sweet, ripe pear and peach notes and the green grassy herby, gooseberry character. Real intensity and complexity here, with lovely focus and just the right amount of greenness to confer savoury freshness. I love the packaging, too - this is one of the few (5%?) of New Zealand wines that is still cork sealed. 93/100 (UK agent Les Caves de Pyrene)
Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2005 Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
This tastes so much of the Gimblett Gravels - it reminds me of the Syrahs that I've had from here, even though it's a Merlot? Is that terroir? I still think Syrah is the best variety for this patch of ground, but there's no doubting that this is a lovely Merlot. Deep coloured, it has a lovely fresh, bright peppery, gravelly edge to the well defined blackberry and raspberry fruit. The palate has lovely definition with lovely freshness, concentration and ripeness. There's some nice tannic structure. Pretty serious, especially for a Merlot. 93/100 (15.99 Waitrose, http://www.nzhouseofwine.co.uk/)

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At 8:53 PM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...

The latest Clos Henri is 2007? Is that a typo Jamie?

If you like that Villa Maria wine you should try and track down Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2005, it is even better. For those better located sites, 2005 was an excellent Cabernet year in the Bay. Sadly, it is a wine that a lot of people are going to miss out on trying...

At 11:04 PM, Anonymous colmanstephenson said...

Nope, its not a typo, as you can just make out in the photo.

There are plenty of 2007s from down under now available. They have a 6-month head start after all.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...

In my defence.

This blog post originally said "2006", but Jamie has changed it to "2007"...

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Doug said...

Paul - Jamie is quite right. He did try the 2006 at the Tate which was the only vintage available in the UK until the last couple of weeks. As you may know the Clos Henri is late released - it spends extra time sur lie and then a period in bottle to settle and then, after its long sea journey, we allow it to settle for another month. I think is why Clos Henri is comparable to a vg Sancerre - all the various elements are given time to harmonise and thus the wine shows development on the palate. Many new vintage NZ Sauvignons are rush released into the UK (in the Sept/Oct of the vintage year) which deosn't do them any justice.

At 9:16 PM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...

Yes Doug, Jamie is right, you are right. He did try the 2006 at the Tate. However when this post initially went up the date was wrong in the text (though not in the photo.) I was merely pointing out a typo.

This is not the first time that posts here have been changed, I remember some time ago Jamie posted something about Paul White and his dispute with the AWRI. As it involved statements that could be damaging to certain parties (among them Harpers), Jamie later changed his blog post.

As for the sur lie point, you ought to know that the wine sits on fairly light lees, in contrast to the Mount Nelson or barrel aged wines such as Te Koko. Hence the style is not too distant from the "traditional" Marlborough Savvy and not like the heavily textured Mount Nelsons that were made in 1998 and 2000 for instance.

At 10:36 PM, Blogger mrfroopy said...

Jamie, I just have to tell you that there are many many small artisinal producers in California, New York, Oregon and Washington which you don't get to see who are doing astonishing stuff. not the cult expensive stuff either, but really cool and focused wines. This wine does not get to the UK., but come over here and I will take you on a wine tour of some really cool wines.
Jason Carey DWS

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

The point about the lees is well-taken - the Sauvignon is still meant to be expressive of the grape variety, but gently enriched by extra ageing as opposed to vigorous batonnage. In fact, the intention is to create a wine similar in quality to the MD de Bourgeois, despite the obvious difference in terroir. All the Bourgeois wines, be they from France and Italy, undergo lees contact for aromatic lift.

If you look at the progression of vintages of Clos Henri from 2003 you can begin to taste some embryonic terroir character. The wine holds together remarkably well, testament to some excellent work in the vineyard.

At 5:59 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Sorry for the confusion I caused by my typo - yes, I changed the 6 to a 7, but then forgot to put a note here in the comments about it. Paul, apologies for this.

Jason, I confess to widespread ignorance of a lot of what I suspect to be excellent work done in this part of the world.

At 2:09 AM, Blogger Will said...

Hello Jamie,
I am very interested to hear you describe similarities between wines and the terroir of the Gimblett Gravells.
It is a brilliant spot for vines, which is very apparent by looking at the weather and also some interesting soil cross sections at some of the vineyards.
When trying to put your finger on it, what do you think wines from this area have in common? How do they differ from for instance the Havelock hills?

At 2:39 AM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...

I have been impressed with Clos Henri since their first release - and even before they stuck a vine in the ground!

Although the 2006 vintage did not wow me as much as either 2005 or 2007.

About eighteen months ago, I was conducting a tasting for a restaurant wine list and having finished all the 2006s the panel co-ordinator told us that he had a couple of 2005s to look at. The first was corked, not badly so, but it was by a long, long way the best wine we had taste that day (out of nearly sixty.) The other panel members were a bit non plussed because of the corkiness, but I insisted that they should put it on the list.

Later, as I was leaving, the co-ordinator asked if there was any bottle that I wanted to take. "Only one," I said, "the corked one, as it is actually drinkable and it is prety fine stuff." To which he replied, "Well it is only in a 500 ml bottle". And then I knew that it was Clos Henri as there had been a small run of 500 mls left over in the marketplace.

Took it home and enjoyed it.

Speaking of which, I opened Glenguin Pokolbin Shiraz 2000 last night and it was corked. Just bad luck, it was my third bottle out of four (actually one of the first two bottles looked VERY bretty, but I do not mind that.) My partner thought it was drinkable - it was, but I just could not enjoy the experience and as my upstairs wine rack is a bit bare at present (apart from a bottle of Chave Hermitage, but I was not going to open that to replace the Glenguin), I went and grabbed a beer.


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