jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, January 28, 2010

NZ: from Central Otago to Martinborough

Finished my Central Otago leg with two great appointments: Peregrine (top image) and Gibbston Valley. Peregrine's 2008 Pinots are brilliantly fresh and elegant, with lovely poise. Gibbston are making great wines across the board, and Chris Keys, the young winemaker here seems on top form. The 2009 Pinots will be something worth waiting for if the barrel samples are anything to go by.

Then it was off to Wellington via Christchurch. Internal flying in New Zealand is as painless as flying can be. It's just so low stress; I guess the whole country is pretty low stress.

I picked up a hire car and drove to Martinborough, a 90-minute journey that gets winding and pretty in places. Wellington is a bigger city than I'd realized.

I'm staying for one night at Peppers Martinborough Hotel, a beautiful period-style hotel that has been beautifully restored. I managed to get here in time to get a feed in the bar, while watching Murray's semi on the big screen. The food was fantastic: a beautiful belly pork on a bed of asian slaw, washed down with a couple of Emersons (the red wines were at room temperature, which was about 25 C, which put me off).

Now for some winery visits. Dry River first, then Ata Rangi, then Martinborough, then Gladstone, then a long-ish drive to Napier for the Syrah Symposium.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Zealand, day 3 - Central Otago

Another really good day today. Began with a helicopter flight over the region to get a good sense of where everything is, together with some other journalists. We landed at Carrick for a masterclass on the various varieties and subregions, as well as a vertical tasting led by Rudi Bauer. This was followed by lunch. It was a brilliantly informative morning, and there was a good buzz - relaxed but we got plenty of work done, too.

Jo Mills then picked me up and took me up to Rippon, in Wanaka. It's a beautiful vineyard, run along biodynamic lines (not certified). Jo and Brett (who's no. 2 to Jo's husband Nick, who wasn't there) were great hosts, and the wines were really good.

Final appointment of the day was at Amisfield, where I had a tasting and dinner at the restaurant just outside Queenstown. The wines are interesting across the board, and it was another really nice, relaxed and enjoyable visit.

Images from top to bottom: distinctively labelled barrels at Rippon; Gibbston sub-region; Rudi Bauer in full flow; aerial landscape; Rippon view; compost heaps at Rippon

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Zealand, day 2 - Central Otago

I'm sitting on a bench outside my room at the Carrick Lodge, a Motel in Cromwell in the heart of the Central Otago wine growing region. It looks set to be another beautiful day, which is great because I'll be meeting up with some other journos in a while for a helicopter ride over the region.

I was on my own yesterday, with appointments at Felton Road, Mount Difficulty, Pisa Range and Carrick. It was a wonderful day; the wines were really good; the people were interesting, generous and fun. I'm beginning to get a handle on this young wine region, with its raw, moving, almost unfinished scenery and piercingly intense light.

Some photographs. The three at the top of the page, top to bottom: Felton Road winery in their Elms vineyard; cover crop growing between the rows of the Calvert vineyard; a view of Cornish Point vineyard.

Pisa Range, the vineyard, with the Pisa Range, the mountain, in the background.

Mount Difficulty: one of the hillside vineyards

Mount Difficulty: vineyard in front of some rather distinctive relics of the gold mining era in the 19th century. This environmental vandalism is now protected!

A vine shoot at Carrick.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Quick post from the road - day 2 NZ

Just waiting for my pick up to visit Felton Road. Slept all through from 8pm to 7.30am, after drifting off to sleep watching the first of the 10 hour-long episodes of Mondovino uncut. Very entertaining, but I was horridly jetlagged.

Yesterday evening I had one of the best burgers of my life at the famous Fergburger. Fergberger and fries is too much for one person, though: I was defeated.

I then took a bottle of Pinot Noir, walked along the lake, and sat down and read my book, taking in the beautiful views, even though I was by then feeling pretty out of it. It's a beautiful place, Queenstown.

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In Queenstown - a beautiful place

Arrived rather jetlagged in Queenstown at noon today, but I was shaken from my stupor by the view as we walked down the steps from the plane. Just remarkable: the best quality light you can imagine, and some incredibly raw, vivid mountains surrounding the town.

I spent a couple of hours wandering around town and taking in some of the views. It's very much dominated by thrill-seeking outdoor tourism. I'm spending the afternoon taking it easy; I'll try to stay up late-ish tonight, and then I'll be up early with my first appointment at Felton Road in the morning; a nice way to start.

I tried to buy a cheap mobile for using here, but they don't have cheap mobiles in NZ, it seems. In the UK you can get a pay as you go mobile for £15; here the cheapest I could find was $149, and you even have to pay $30 for just a SIM card. So I'll use my mobile and take the hit.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Carrick's new high-end Central Otago Pinot Noir

Carrick, one of the leading Central Otago producers, tried to up their game a bit by launching a new high-end Pinot Noir - this, the 2005, was the first vintage of the Excelsior, which is a selection of older vine fruit. It's a wine with the presence and structure to age; currently, it seems a bit to young to show all that it's capable of.

Carrick Excelsior Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago, New Zealand
A single-vineyard wine made from Carrick’s older vines in Bannockburn. 13.5% alcohol. Rich yet restrained nose of red berries, cherries and complex spices. The palate is concentrated and taut with lovely red fruit character, good acidity and spicy tannins. It’s lively, assertive and complex. Still quite primary, even though it is four years old, with superb balance and promise for the future. It seems a shame to drink it now: this is a serious, quite structured wine that will probably be approaching its best in a decade. 93/100

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cricket and just a bit about wine

One of the benefits of being a freelancer is that you can take the odd day off without worrying about eating into your holiday entitlements and then having to have a difficult conversation at home about why you can only manage one week by the seaside in August rather than the customary two. Actually, I find it's essential to be able to do something that prohibits you checking your emails and writing another article (or blog post) from time to time, so invasive is the nature of freelance writing, where you can end up filling every idle moment with work. And standing a deep midwicket on a lazy summer afternoon achieves this goal very effectively.

So yesterday I was down in Warnford playing for the wine trade XI versus Hampshire Hoggs. Last year the corresponding fixture was a washout - we all turned upl (including Nick Oakley who drove for three hours from deepest Essex) and looked at the sky, looked at the pitch, had a lunch with some wine, and then realized that the pitch was so wet no play was going to be possible. If I remember correctly, there was about an inch of standing water under the covers.

This year, we arrived, and it began to drizzle. The rain cleared, we started, reaching 4-0. It rained again and we came off. It was looking grim, so we took an early lunch. I enjoyed a few glasses of the 2006 Rabbit Ranch Central Otago Pinot Noir, which is made at Chard Farm. It's really vibrant and fruity, with lots of presence, and upstaged a Giant Steps Yarra Pinot by some distance. I also sneked a couple of glasses of Bodega Farina's Val de Reyes sweet wine from the Toro region. It's unfortified, elegant and really quite nice - Bibendum carry this in the UK.

Eventually, things cleared up and we played a 25 over game, but we were well beaten by a side all of whom were under 30, and a majority of whom were under 20. They were clearly good cricketers, and while the wine trade side at full strength is a club-standard side, there were only nine of us (and that's with a couple of Hoggs ringers filling in), and most of us are the wrong side of 40. We scored 113 and didn't bat out the full 25 overs. I enjoyed my time in the middle, and felt very comfortable, but got run out for 7 with a direct hit. There were a couple of other run-outs, including a comical one where Robin Copestick set off for a run, Chris Quin at the other end didn't move, Robin reached Chris, who was standing his ground, only for Chris then to sacrifice himself at the last moment, probably because Robin is his boss.

When they batted, we were really looking at damage limitation, because we knew our target would never be enough. I opened with my gentle swingers, but unfortunately I had some problems with my length, and the rather dodgy cheap ball that Chris had provided simply didn't swing, as well as going out of shape after a couple of lusty blows. At the other end Charles Taverner ditched his usual brisk offspin to revert to bowling quick and was quite effective. But we didn't make the first breakthrough until late, and by then they were on their way to victory. There was still time for me to drop a swirling up and under, though.

Still, it's such a fun way to spend a day. I'm also playing next Friday in Colchester, then the following week I'm watching the Lord's test on Thursday, as well as playing on Saturday and Sunday. You never know, with all this, I might even improve a bit. There's plenty of room for that.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

New world Syrah with an old world feel

Sometimes living in England is a bit crap. It's April. Spring should be well underway. But after a lovely day yesterday, today was utterly nasty. I took older son and RTL for a walk along the river Crane while younger son was playing cricket on Twickenham green, and despite wearing my newly acquired, snazzy Terrazas hunting top (over an Achaval Ferrer polo shirt), I was freezing.

This afternoon we went over to Purley for the 40th birthday celebrations of a good friend, Michael, which meant we met up with a whole bunch of chums from when we were first married and living in south London. It was a fantastic event, with sumo wrestling, gladiators and a 'strongest man' competition. This involved various activities such as tossing the caber, welly throwing, and running a course carrying large rocks. The large rocks bit was the toughest test. You had to run to the end of the course and back carrying sequentially heavier rocks. The first and second were quite heavy, but the third was enormous and weighed as much as a small family car. I was in no danger of winning, but I was quite proud to have completed the course - it took about ten minutes to recover afterwards, and I still feel a bit weak now.

So, to the serious business of drinking wine. Two Syrahs tonight. Both from the new world. But both with a bit of old world style and freshness. In these days of £1 = Euro 1.25, it's reassuring that the new world isn't just pumping out big, super-ripe, obvious reds.

Howard Park Leston Shiraz 2005 Margaret River, Australia
Vibrant red/purple colour. The nose is distinctly Australian, with some mint, eucalyptus and tarry spiciness, along with sweet red and black fruits. The palate shows lovely freshness, with tight dark fruit and good acidity, along with well integrated oak. A really fresh, juicy style of Shiraz with real precision – I reckon this will age well. It’s a classically Australian style, but with more freshness and focus than most. I reckon this will be peaking in five years but good for 10 more. 91/100 (£14.50 Bibendum) 04/08

The Aurora Vineyard Syrah 2006 Bendigo, Central Otago, New Zealand
A beautiful cool-climate expression of Syrah. It has a really lovely white pepper and spice definition to the raspberry and dark cherry fruit, with an almost Burgundian elegance and freshness. There’s lovely purity to the fruit here, which is ripe and dark with great natural acidity. Real elegance here: it seems nicely poised between the new and old worlds in style. Not a big, dense, showy sort of wine, but utterly compelling – it reminds me of the best of the Gimblett Gravel Syrahs in style. Bendigo is a warm subdistrict of Central Otago, which explains why they’ve been able to make this wine from somewhere you wouldn’t expect to excel with Syrah. 92/100 (£16.99 http://www.hellionwines.com/) 04/08

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Grand cru Burgundy from Central Otago

Slightly provocative title to the post, I know. But there's a hint of seriousness to this trolling title: it used to be the case that Pinot Noir, the world's sexiest red grape variety, only ever really performed in Burgundy.

Increasingly, though, I'm finding myself seduced by non-Burgundian Pinot Noir. As a recent tasting with Josh Jensen confirmed, California can make really great Pinot Noir (as well as some really bad ones), and I've even had very palatable efforts from Australia (from the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, for example). But New Zealand is my current favourite destination for world-class Pinot Noir that I can afford to buy.

Tomorrow, I'm going to a Central Otago tasting, and in November I'm going to Central Otago itself (a long way...), as well as Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. I've enjoyed some brilliant Central Otago Pinot Noir in recent months, and tomorrow I expect the average quality level will be quite high. In anticipation, tonight I'm trying a pretty good Central Pinot from Lowburn Ferry.

Lowburn Ferry Pinot Noir 2006 Central Otago
Medium colour, which is a good thing with Pinot. You don't want your Pinot to look like Shiraz. Warm cherry and spice nose which is quite aromatic and fresh. The palate has a nice concentration of spicy berry and cherry fruit with good acidity keeping things very fresh, and giving a hint of plummy sourness to the finish. A bright, supple style with a fair bit of complexity and some structure, which makes me think it might age well over the next few years. 90/100 (Hellion Wines)

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ahh, Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir can be an addiction. Every now and again you taste one that fulfils all the promise that this fickle grape offers but seldom delivers on. And then you taste half a dozen that are, at best, simple and fruity, but which probably cost you a lot of money. It's a bit like watching English sports teams: one great performance followed by six wretched ones.

Pinot Noir has the potential to make the most sublime, elegant red wines. We all enjoy gutsy power from time to time, and concentration and richness have their place, but surely the holy grail of red wine making [am I mixing my metaphors here? Shouldn't the wine be in the grail?] has to be elegance and understated complexity.

Tonight's tipple is from New Zealand's Central Otago, which has fairly recently emerged as one of the top three destinations for Pinot Noir outside Burgundy. Don't ask me what the other two are, though - I just thought this sounded less hypey than saying 'the best'.

Lowburn Ferry Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely dark cherry, spice and herb nose with a bit of chocolatey richness. Deliciously pure fruit. The plate shows red berry and cherry fruit with warm spicy richness and a light texture, despite the fact that it is full flavoured. Supple, balanced and quite textured, with some grippy tannin on the finish suggesting that this has further to go in terms of its evolution. Very good/excellent 91/100 (available from Hellion Wines in the UK at £16.95)

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pinot Noir on a Sunday night

Sunday night. It's a bit of a funny night of the week. A bit like Friday, but more muted. Let me try to explain.

For me, Friday night is time for gathering in. You go home, full of anticipation for the weekend. You draw in your family and close friends. You eat; you drink. You celebrate the successes of the past week; you banish the disappointments. You cease working and begin playing.

Sunday has a similar sense of drawing in, for me. The weekend is almost over, and there is a sense of anticipation for the week to come. Preparation for the next few days ceases as evening draws in, and it's another time for gathering together, eating and drinking. It's like the final few days of summer: you try to appreciate them all the more because there aren't that many left to come. Sunday night is my pause for breath before the week ahead.

Tonight I drink another New Zealand Pinot Noir.

Lowburn Ferry Skeleton Creek Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago
This wine is all about the fruit. It's bursting with vibrant red berry and dark cherry fruit; sweet, but not overly so. There's an appealing spiciness under the fruit on the palate, with good acidity and a subtle herby tang. Quite primary at the moment, with a juicy sort of character and some tannic structure. There's also a touch of bitter plum character which makes it very food friendly. Very good/excellent 90/100 (UK availability Hellion Wines)

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Another great NZ Pinot

Currently, I'm quite excited by New Zealand Pinot Noir. I'd grown up (in wine terms) thinking of non-Burgundian Pinot Noir as a distant second best to the real thing. As grape varieties go, Pinot Noir has proven to be one of the fussiest travellers, making weird or funky or clumsy wines in all but the most perfectly suited sites. Perhaps things are now changing: I'm increasingly coming across non-Burgundian Pinots that I really like, and at prices I can stomach. Here's another:

Pisa Range Black Poplar Block Pinot Noir 2005 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely perfumed nose of ripe, assertive berry fruit with a bit of meatiness and some spice. The palate is smooth, sweet and elegant with soft red/black fruits. Taut and spicy with a hint of herbiness and nice structure. It's a wine that successfully combines ripeness with freshness and elegance. Yes, it's new world Pinot, but it is so well balanced. Very good/excellent 93/100 (UK availability: Hellion Wines, www.hellionwines.com)

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