jamie goode's wine blog

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Video: two top-notch New Zealand Syrahs

Here I take a look at New Zealand Syrah, tasting two top-notch examples on camera. Will it be the next big thing from Kiwiland? Too soon to say, with less than 300 hectares of Syrah planted in the whole country. But Iím a big fan Ė Iím excited by the wines that Iíve tried so far.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Video: interviewed in New Zealand

At the Pinot Noir 2010 symposium I was interviewed by Jamie Drummond of Good Food Revolution - you can view the interview here:

Jamie Drummond on Food and Wine: Episode 12 - Jamie Goode from GoodFoodRevolution on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A lovely Kiwi Riesling from Neudorf

New Zealand is, of course, famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, becoming famous for its Pinot Noir, and beginning to make a name for its Syrahs. But what of its Rieslings? I think they're a bit underrated. They are also quite hard to sell.

But I've tried some great examples of late, in both the dry style, the just-off-dry style, and the lower alcohol semi-sweet Germanic style. Here's a really good one in the second category.

Neudorf Riesling Brightwater 2007 Nelson, New Zealand
Hand-picked grapes, whole bunch pressed, 11% alcohol and 10 g/litre residual sugar. This is a really precise, quite complex Riesling with pure lemon and grapefruit freshness, good acidity, and some of that ethereal quality known as minerality. The high acid is nicely offset with just a hint of sweetness, and there's no heaviness here at all. This is a really beautiful expression of Riesling with precision and transparency. 91/100 (£15.10 Berry Bros & Rudd)

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Monday, February 08, 2010

More New Zealand pictures

Just a few more pictures from my recent trip.

The glorious views over lake Wanaka from Rippon, Central Otago (above).

This is an aerial view showing Kawarau (left) and Pisa Range (right, with its distinctive black poplar trees), in Central Otago's Pisa district.

This is one of the black poplars at Pisa Range, this time viewed from the ground.


Does having a nice experience of a country bias writers, even subtly?

Keith P posed an interesting question in response to one of my blog posts from New Zealand. To paraphrase: does having a nice experience when visiting a wine region of country introduce a degree of positive bias in subsequent reviews?

Let's put this another way. Would it, in fact, be better for wine critics to have samples sent and taste the wines blind in a relatively neutral environment, such as their offices? There are a couple of well known critics who 'don't do vineyards', for example. Is their coverage more objective? Are wine reviews done in large, blind peer-group tastings of c. 100-150 wines per day in some way more professional and therefore more useful to readers because they are shorn of such biases?

I don't think there's a simple answer to these questions, and I certainly don't claim to have all the answers. But here's my current thinking.

Visiting wine regions and vineyards, and meeting with the people behind the wines, is absolutely vital if a writer is going to be able to make useful comments about the wines. Wine is more than simply a liquid in a glass that we, as critics, measure in much the same way as a Foss WineScan might do.

I had a great time in New Zealand and met some great people. My coverage of New Zealand wine will be better for it. I'm also aware that positive experiences can lead to a desire to big-up the wines a little, but I have visited enough regions now that I'm aware of the danger of thinking that the latest region visited is the next big thing - just because I have been there.

I also think large, blind tastings have problems of their own - often the results that come from them frequently seem a bit odd when you know some of the wines included well. They are useful, certainly, but they are not the final word. The job of the wine communicator is to tell the story of the wine, as well as evaluating it.

Pictures above: top two - the gold mine sluicings at Mount Difficulty (Central Otago), viewed from the restaurant and also from above (you can see the winery from the aerial picture); bottom picture is of a vineyard in Gibbston, Central Otago.


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Leaving New Zealand

So I'm on my way home. Two weeks on the road is probably enough: I'm missing home. Still, it has been a great trip. I'm pictured above flanked by Andrew and Katharine, with whom I have spent two very enjoyable days. I wish we lived nearer to them.

I'm now sitting in the lounge at Auckland airport, sipping a very precise Man O'War Sauvignon Blanc 2008. Next time I come here, I'm going to have to visit Waiheke Island. Their Syrah was one of the high spots of the Syrah symposium last week.

New Zealand Syrah and Pinot Noir have a bright future. The future of New Zealand's fine wine dimension is very much in the hands of producers such as Pyramid Valley, Dry River, Bell Hill, Rippon, Felton Road and Ata Rangi (this is just a short list...there are many more) who focus on quality to the point of obsession. And two star turns are cool climate Syrah and Pinot Noir.

Interestingly, some of the warmer-climate Pinot Noirs and the cooler climate Syrahs share a certain style. It was interesting to try a Syrah/Pinot Noir blend from Cambridge Road (Martinborough) that was far from the disaster it sounds: it was actually pretty good.


In Auckland

My last couple of days in New Zealand are being spent with some friends in Auckland, The Hemingways. We knew them well in the UK, but a decade ago they moved out with their five children to live here.

It has been great fun. Their kids are now, with the exception of one, teenagers and young adults, and there's a real positive vibe in the house. Where they are living, some way out of the centre in west Auckland, is pretty and leafy. We're just taking it easy, swapping stories, and drinking some nice wine and playing some guitar. Their son, Oscar, is a musical genius. He plays guitars and keys wonderfully, and sings well, too. His band will make it big sometime soon, I'm sure, if there's any justice in the world.

On Saturday morning they run a market, bringing together loads of crafty people to sell their wares, so I went along with them. Pictured top is Oscar busking; just above is my buddy Andrew with two of his girls. Auckland, like Wellington, seems quite an easy city. Perhaps all of New Zealand is easy?


Wellington is an easy sort of city to hang around in for a few days. Itís big enough to have all youíd need, but compact enough to get around easily by foot. The waterfront makes it easy to navigate Ė as long as you have an idea where it is, youíd find it hard to get lost. Iíve enjoyed my short stay here a lot.

Last night was the Pinot Noir 2010 gala dinner, which was a grand old affair. I was sitting next to Nick Stock on a table at the front. Nick got picked on by one of the comedy duo the Topp Twins (topptwins.com) who worked the crowd wonderfully. They had the minister for health, Tony Ryall, on stage Ė he seemed a good sport as he was humiliated by them mercilessly, but he clearly has a great sense of humour. There were also a couple of singers performing, who are likely very famous in NZ, and I should really know their names, but I donít (one was Elizabeth Marvely).

Laugh of the night was reserved for Richard Riddiford, who presented one of the awards for champions of New Zealand Pinot Noir (Felton Road got one; Ata Rangi the other Ė both very popular choices). Riddiford, in his usual dry style, referred to something as being difficult (precisely what I canít remember). ĎItís as difficult as a 70 year old having sex: itís like putting an oyster into a parking meter.í

Oz Clarke also did a perfectly judged speech where he urged New Zealand not to go down the same road as Germany and Australia, by cheapening the image of its wines in the UK by selling bulk Sauvignon at £4.99. If New Zealand Sauvignon becomes cheap (the Ďsavvalanchí) then its Pinot Noirs wonít be taken seriously.

Considering how many people were attending, the food was brilliant. The wines were good, too, and many people had brought special bottles along with them. Mike Weersing, Blair Walter and Nick Mills all popped round to Nick and I to give us pours of some interesting bottles that theyíd brought.

Before the end, we were milling around, socializing. The highlight of this trip has been meeting so many great people. Wine is about places; itís also about people. As well as the winegrowers, Iíve met many fellow writers and commentators for the first time, and they are a great bunch of people.

While my colleagues with more stamina headed off to Havana. I bottled it and caught a good night's sleep. Enough is enough. A great conference.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pinot Noir 2010, day two

The theme today? Sustainability, and all that goes with it.

I gave my talk, in a session that included Steve Smith, Doug Bell (Wholefoods), Andrew Jefford, Nick Mills and Max Allen. I thought it went OK, although I did have a little too much information for a 15 minute presentation, and to avoid over-running had to do some jettisoning of the later slides.

The star turn, however, was the tasting of 13 wines blind. These were all Pinot Noirs from New Zealand, and all from the 2007 vintage. They were a mix of sustainable, organic (although the organic ones were labelled 'organic canopy management', which meant under row growth was controlled with glyphosate, I assume) and biodynamic.

Aside from the cultivation method, I thought all 13 wines were excellent. My highest mark (94) went to Rippon and Palliser, with Dry River, Craggy Range Calvert Vineyard and Villa Maria Reserve coming in on 93. All wines scored over 90, which is some achievement. I'd like to drink any of them.

Pictured above: the scope of the conference; and John Belsham, strangely dressed, leading the tasting session.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Pinot Noir 2010, day one

So Pinot 2010 is now in full flow. The event opened by a welcome from New Zealand PM John Key (top). Pretty cool that the PM should open a wine conference - can't see it happening in the UK! He has a good vintage, too - 1961. Seems like a smart guy with a great common touch and his speech was perfectly judged.

Today's proceedings went pretty smoothly, although in the tasting sessions I felt that the panels were being a little too polite and not saying what they thought in a more direct and helpful manner. We had a rather futile session trying to distinguish regionality in a bunch of just seven 2007 wines; this was followed with a vertical of nine 2003 Pinots from around New Zealand, most of which had lost more with age than they'd gained. The panel didn't really say this, but Neal Martin did rather bravely from the floor.

The tasting that followed was really good - I ran out of time a bit, but still managed to catch some very nice wines, including one of the home block Pinot Noirs from Pyramid Valley (Mike and Claudia Weersing are pictured; very serious wine) and some lovely single-vineyard Marlborough wines from Seresin (Michael Seresin, the film maker, is pictured below). Also appreciated the TerraVin wines from Marlborough.

This evening we had a really fun social event, which finished around 2030, and I then went for a beer with Angus Thompson of Urlar and Damian Martin of Ara. I avoided the lure of several of my colleagues who were clearly planning a big night out at Matterhorn, which sounded very dangerous and potentially messy.

I'm amazed by how big and well organized this NZ Pinot 2010 conference is. It's absolutely enormous, taking over the whole TSB Arena here in Wellington. Only a few days ago AC/DC played here! And Diana Krall is due to play here on Friday 19th - she of the amazing wine-list containing rider.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Zealand, day 6: Syrah Symposium

A bit of a change. After visiting beautiful vineyards, I've been stuck in a room all day.

But productively. It has been the Syrah Symposium here in Hawkes Bay. A mixture of science, tasting and opinion. A tight schedule, running from 8 am until 6 pm, with four excellent tasting sessions blended in with the talks.

The first, led by the excellent Rod Easthope (Craggy Range) looked at New Zealand Syrah. The second, led by Dan Buckle of Mount Langhi Ghiran focused on cool-climate Australian Shiraz. The third, presented by Jason Yapp, featured six brilliantly chosen wines from the Northern Rhone. Finally, Tim Atkin chose ten Shiraz/Syrah wines from around the world (deliberately excluding France and Australia).

After the symposium, many of us went to Steve Smith's pad for a BBQ, with imperials of Le Sol 2005 and Block 14 2004, both of which were suberb, with my preference being the latter. Nice to be able to chat to Brian Croser and Brian Walsh, as well as the Craggy guys.

The details of the Syrah symposium will have to wait for another time. I'm exhausted and we have an early start in the morning.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

New Zealand, day 5 - Martinborough/Wairarapa

Four very good visits today. Pictured above, Neil McCallum of Dry River, whose wines are just incredible. I met with him - an engaging, interesting host, and Poppy and Shayne Hammond (below), winemaker and viticulturalist, respectively. The team here is doing a fantastic job.

The viticulture at Dry River is immaculate, with a split canopy system, total leaf pluck in the fruit zone, and reflective sheets under the vine to allow extra UV exposure to the developing bunches.

Then off to see another of the region's stars: Ata Rangi. Pictured above are Phyll and Clive Paton. The wines are beautifully expressive.

Here's the team at visit 3, Martinborough Vineyard: Pete Wilkins (vineyards), Janine Tulloch (general manager) and Paul Mason (winemaking): great hosts, got a good feed, and the wines were spot on. Especially liked the rare Shiraz Viognier, and the super-concentrated low yield 2007 Pinot. Good Riesling, too.

Home block vineyard, Martinborough vineyards (above)

Final visit, before my drive to Napier, was at Gladstone, in the Gladstone district of Wairarapa about 20 minutes from Martinborough. They're making super wines, but also doing good work with their vineyards. Above is buckwheat, used as a cover crop to encourage beneficial parasitic wasps.
It's owned by Scots Christine and David Kernohan (above). Below is one of their vineyards.
Over three hours drive to Napier. Went down to dinner on my own, only to meet up with Tim Atkin and later Oz Clarke. A jolly way to pass the time. Syrah symposium tomorrow.

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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 Carrickís 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. Itís 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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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Amazing Pinot from Danny Schuster

On my last visit to New Zealand, one of the many highlights was visiting Daniel Schuster in Waipara. He wasn't there, but the vineyard was spellbindingly beautiful, and the wines elegantly European in style.

Sadly, the winery went into receivership earlier this year (see this report), and unless the buyer decides to retain Danny and his team, it looks like the wine I'm drinking tonight will become an artefact. It's a shame, because Danny's Pinots are really fantastic, although they've never really received the acclaim they deserve.

Daniel Schuster Omihi Selection Pinot Noir 2006 Waipara, New Zealand
14.5% alcohol. Incredible stuff: richly aromatic nose with dark cherry and blackberry fruit, as well as sweet, subtly meaty, spicy depth. The palate is concentrated and ripe with real intensity, yet it is still elegant with lovely purity alongside the depth of fruit. There's some firm spicy structure, suggesting a bright future for this wine, but it doesn't compromise the elegance and focus. Brilliant. 94/100

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