Champagne Dom Pérignon: the extreme years, with Richard Geoffroy

Richard Geoffroy in full flow

Richard Geoffroy introduces Dom Pérignon vintages 2003, 2006 and 2009, underlines why each is an extreme wine, tells us which is his favourite vintage ever, and explains why vision is more important than vineyards.

‘It has been such an exhilarating period,’ began Richard Geffroy, Chef de Cave of Dom Pérignon, referring to the string of releases that included 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. There will be no 2007 released, and he was in town to showcase the next vintage of Dom Pérignon, which will be 2009. ‘We are not declaring 2007 and we have decided to switch 2008 and 2009 around.

‘I’ve been critical in the past of those who have done this,’ he admits. ‘Sometimes I found it was more of a communication ploy than anything else. The truth is that 2008 is not ready. Not at all. It could be another 1996 in that sense. 2009 is approachable enough. Frankly, it would have benefitted from another couple of years, but all in all it is the best compromise we could come up with. 2007 is too slight – it has been considered, but in the end we found out that it didn’t have the substance or flesh. 2011 is another of the slight vintages where we can’t get a distinct DP character.’

Dom Perignon

Of course, with Champagne, when you are using a distinctive bottle like that of Dom Pérignon, you have to decide at blending stage whether you are going to go ahead and make the wine.

‘When I joined Dom Pérignon in 1990 the vintage declarations were pretty conventional. It was about declaring in the best vintages only. Now I find that the vignerons and winemakers are meant to witness the Champagne years for what they are. It is an element of storytelling.’

2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 were all declared. ‘These wines were awesome,’ says Geoffroy. ‘We had a responsibility to showcase them. All in all, looking at the first decade of the 2000s, the years were extravagant, sunny and generous (not in crop size), and the solar warmth translated into ripeness and richness. These wines are rich by all means, but the overall balance is definitely unconventional. 2003 is the least conventional Champagne profile of all. It is closer to a still wine than a Champagne. It is border territory for Dom Pérignon.’

2003

The surprise is that 2003 is Geoffroy’s favourite vintage of all. ‘2003 is the most extreme vintage I have been through in my 27 years of Dom Pérignon. It is not just scorching heat, but also heat on top of a small crop. In 2003 Chardonnay was 20 hl/ha. The heat caused photosynthesis to shut down in early August. At picking there was an element of dissociation between sugars, which had been stuck for a week, and phenolics and flavours which kept building up. Acids were dropping too, but this is the least of my concerns. I’m not after the sacrosanct acids: I take it as it is, low or high. The lowest acids were 2003 and 2009, and we had some success. Acids are part of the vintage character. It is not part of the Dom Pérignon style. I am not picking on pH.’

‘2003 was the mother of all solar years. It was the earliest harvest since 1822. To me, 2003 has been a seminal vintage for me. There is before and after 2003. I am known to make comparisons with collective sports. The sense of achievement in winemaking is so collective. It has been the most exilharating vintage to make because there were so many challenges. Luckily, we were able to take them one after the other, because they were staggered in time. If we had been facing them all together we would have failed. The most important thing was to be clear on our picking decisions, and to understand the photosynthesis shut down, and to pick one week earlier than anybody. Most people were monitoring ripening by the solar parameter of sugars. We had been measuring sugars alongside berry tasting and measuring phenolics. Combined together, we picked close to a week earlier than anyone else. When you start of with the right foot you only have to maintain the beat. There was a sense of collective achievement that helped the team grow up.’

‘Since then I have been on a mission to make a point with 2003. I’m pretty excited about this vintage. I’m often asked what my favourite vintage is in my 27 years at Dom Pérignon. My answer is not based on pedigree: it is based on the sense of satisfaction to really have taken the challenges and the doubts and all these emotions. 2003 is that for me.’

‘It is the vintage with the highest ever phenolics. People don’t realise it, but Champagne is higher in phenolics than you’d think, for good and bad. It depends on the vintage and the winemaker. If you cross phenolics and oxidative characters and it dries the wine out and makes it astringent. I am told this is a traditional character of Champagne, but I don’t like it. I want the glide! The continuous, simultaneous gliding holding the notes on and on, so that the finish isn’t depending on the physical astringency or the acids.’

‘These three wines are so low in acid. They are insanely low acids. Whenever I show them to my winemaker colleagues they are shocked. The low acids make up for the bitterness. There is good and bad bitter, combined with salinity and minerality, with a minimum of the reductive as well. The intriguing thing is that 2003 could have been really forward, extrovert fruit character – the tropical and exotic – yet it is all balanced out with intriguing dark reductive characters: not what you would expect from such a warm year. Welcome to Dom Pérignon!’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2006

2006 was an outlier year, and it made the least acidic Champagne ever. ‘The most challenging vintage of all from a technical viewpoint wasn’t 2003, but 2006. It was the most difficult blend to balance up. There was an issue with pH: it was the highest ever in the history of Champagne at 3.20. At the time of blending I had been making this wine with some symmetry: something very polished, almost too sleek, with a finish that wasn’t so defined. Rationally, it was rather foolish to go and declare it. We had been betting on the fact that in the long run of a lengthy yeast maturation the wine would emerge with a decent texture and precision, and a better finish. It materialized, but it kept me sleepless for a few nights. It took a long time to emerge, If I had released 2006 at the same age as 2003 at 8 years, I would have failed. We had the privilege of being able to release it at 10 years in the spring of 2016, and this helped a great deal.’

‘It has a striking bright, juicy dimension of fruit, like a bright light. There is less of a reductive mineral quality like in 2003. The centre of the wine is more fruit than anything.’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2009

2009 is the ripest vintage of all. ‘There are two things I could easily state about 2009. We have been going further with the ripeness of our fruit since we achieved our extra confidence in 2003. 2003 helped the project of 2009. We won’t be going any further with ripeness: it is pretty hard to go beyond 2009.’

‘The season started off so-so. There was mildew pressure. Then things cleared up and we had non-stop sun throughout August and September. The potential sugars were high. The fruit profile was super-ripe and Pinot Noirs were light coloured. It was a challenging year for red wines.’

‘There are various expressions of phenolics. In 2003, phenolics helped define the structure, whereas in 2006 and 2009 phenolics are more an element of texture.’

‘I am puzzled: some people are not declaring 2009. Why not? Is it a philosophical standpoint, or bookkeeping? My philosophy is that when you witness the year and you face an outstanding year, you take it. You never turn a good year down for the sake of accounting or to create artificial scarcity.’

‘In the late 1990s we worked hard with our in-house vineyard team to try to achieve extra ripeness and crop size and balance of vegetation and fruit load. We went through quite a few things but the truth is that most of it had been coming from mother nature. Many people complain now that Champagne has low acidity and blown out fruit characters. But one has to be consistent in the overall process. I am after more ripeness but my process is reductive. If you start crossing extra ripeness and oxidative winemaking, you are going to be in trouble. We have a coherent process from start to finish, and then the whole thing is completed with lengthy yeast maturation to bring layers of complexity, intensity and texture. From the viticulture side, our wines are all geared to that lengthy process of maturation.’

‘Some people were concerned with forward development in 2009s. Early on, I was concerned. Did we go too far? I am an anxious guy. It is very difficult for me to be at peace. Then I started looking at the wine on lees, and after 3 or 4 years ageing it was on the right track.’

He emphasised that the decision to switch 2009 and 2008 had to be made. ‘Trust me: 2008 is nowhere. It has been fantasized by so many people. I hope the wines will live up to this.’

‘Dom Pérignon is so much about a vision. Often, to be provocative, I say that the greatest asset of Dom Pérignon is not its vineyards but its vision. I put the vision above the vineyards. Once you are set on the vision you can venture out. It is like an itinerary for a journey. If you go out without the itinerary you get lost.’

Champagne Dom Pérignon 2009 France
Fine, expressive nose with some floral hints to the clean citrus fruit. There’s a sense of ripeness and weight on the palate with sweet pear, cherry and some nectarine, as well as a delicate citrus core. Linear and fresh with a smooth, saline core, and a tiny bit of grip from the phenolics. It’s ripe but not heavy, with precision and delicacy. A really pretty expression of DP that should develop in interesting ways. 93/100

Champagne Dom Pérignon 2006 France
Fine toastiness on the nose with delicate bready notes and sweet citrus and pear fruit. There’s some mintiness, too. It’s ample and generous in the mouth with lovely ripe citrus, tangerine and nectarine fruit with some bright, tangy lemony notes on the finish. The toasty notes balance the lemony freshness. There’s a bit of nice reduction keeping things tight, just when the toast and ripe fruit seems in danger of running away. Just delicious. 94/100

Champagne Dom Pérignon 2003 France
Beautiful toasty, biscuitty nose with attractive ripe fruit. The palate is rich but balanced with nuts, spice, honey, tropical fruit and citrus. Generous and broad, and very rich with nice savoury, bready, toasty characters and real depth of flavour. Showing the first signs of savoury maturity, but so fresh and balanced considering the vintage. Accessible and quite serious at the same time. 94/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

2017 in pictures (1)

Time to take a look back on 2017. Quite a year. I’ll do this in chunks, beginning with January to mid-March.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After a quiet early January it was off to New Zealand for three weeks. I began with a couple of days in Hawke’s Bay, and this picture shows Syrah in the Gimblett Gravels region: this is one of Craggy Range’s vineyards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is me with Craggy Range winemaker Matt Stafford, after a range tasting. Picture credit: Hannah Burns.

IMG_5306

This is the view from the Te Mata Peak in Hawke’s Bay: a wonderful place

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then on to Central Otago, which is always a beautiful place to visit. This is a dramatically situated vineyard in Gibbston.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is looking across Lake Dunstan from Bendigo, towards the Pisa subregion on the other side. The lake is hidden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The famous view from Rippon in Wanaka.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In Marlborough we had a Pinot Noir safari, exploring the best sites in the region for the Pinot: the southern valleys and the Awatere. Marlborough is making some very impressive Pinot Noir these days, but it’s been hiding a bit in the shadow of Sauvignon.

Villa Maria's Seddon Vineyard

Villa Maria’s Seddon Vineyard in the Awatere, Marlborough

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mel Brown, Clive Dougall, Kat Wiggins and Bree Boskov, at the Churton vineyard at the end of the Pinot safari.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In Wellington for Pinot Palooza. Here I’m chatting to Yealands senior winemaker Natalie Christensen. We’ve had lots of subsequent chats, too!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the Pinot Palooza: Hannah Burns of Craggy Range and Rudi Bauer, Central Otago winemaker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pinot 2017 in Wellington was epic. Lots of good people, too. Here’s Dean Shaw (Central Otago winemaker – he’s responsible for a lot of Central wines) and Andrea Frost, the talented Australian wine writer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And here’s too cool for school Theo Coles (winemaker in North Canterbury) and Rebecca Goodall (UK sommelier).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the Waipara I took part in the Forage North Canterbury event. It was brilliant. Participants split into teams and then went foraging, and a group of chefs then made a stunning multi course menu from the foraged food. Follow the link for a video of the day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We also had an aromatics symposium in Nelson. This is James Millton (winegrower in Gisborne), Melanie Brown (of the NZ Wine Cellar in London) and Peter McCombie (co-chair of the IWC and consultant).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A wine flight took us over four different regions on the way to Hawke’s Bay. This is Marlborough, with the town of Blenheim in the distance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the Hawke’s Bay: here I’m with Steve Smith.

mornington

After New Zealand it was off to the Mornington Peninsular in Australia for the Pinot celebration. This is a region that really excels with Pinot Noir, as well as Chardonnay.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the view at Yabby Lake, one of the top producers in the region.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And this is a new close-spaced vineyard at 10 Minutes x Tractor, who are making some superb wines. They’ve just hired Sandro Mosele from Kooyong, so things are looking very promising for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the celebration, pictured here: Paul Pujol (Prophets Rock, Central Otago) and wine writers Jane Skilton, Joe Czerwinski and Huon Hooke.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also in February, a trip to Vancouver for the Vancouver International Wine Festival. Harbour Air, operating out of Vancouver, is the world’s largest float plane operation.

ontario pinot noir

The focus of the festival was Canada, and I took part in a few panels. The Canadian wines showed really well. See here, here and here for write ups

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vancouver in February

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then it was off to Elgin, in South Africa, for some vintage. I spent a day each with four wineries, getting stuck in. This is loading the press with Riesling at Iona.

Almost full

Almost full

This is filling a basket press at Almenkerk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These are good-looking Sauvignon Blanc grapes waiting to be harvested at Elgin Ridge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Digging out an egg at Elgin Ridge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sorting Pinot Noir, Paul Cluver

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There will be a noble Riesling in 2017 at Cluver

Crushed Sauvignon in the press, with dry ice pellets sitting on top

Crushed Sauvignon in the press, with dry ice pellets sitting on top, Almenkerk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also in March, I visited Greece to speak at the Oenorama conference, and taste a lot of very good wines

giannis vertigo

This is Giannos Signals, whose shop, Mr Auster, has an amazing selection of wines from Greece and elsewhere. Giannos showed me round the fair and pointed out some of the most interesting producers. There’s a lot of good wine being made in Greece.

Some Kiwi Pinot: Seresin, Astrolabe, Saint Clair, The Elder

IMG_1129.HEIC

I’ve been drinking a fair bit of Kiwi Pinot Noir of late. Here are a few notes of good bottles consumed.

The Elder Pinot Noir 2014 Martinborough, New Zealand
14% alcohol. Supple with lush, textured sweet black cherry fruit and some plum and damson notes. It’s leaning towards richness but also has a nice grainy, stony undercurrent. Nice balance between the sweet fruit and the more savoury characters. Classic Martinborough with plush fruit and bloody gaminess combined. 93/100

IMG_0937.HEIC

Astrolabe Province Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Smooth, supple and refined with juicy cherry and berry fruit. Quite silky with some green sappy notes in the background. Has a little bit of spicy bite. Really appealing and drinkable. 91/100

IMG_1122

Seresin Leah Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Juicy, fresh, textural and lively with sappy cherry fruit and a bit of spice and meat. Nicely complex and savoury with herbs, iodine and iron notes. Really satisfying and drinkable. 91/100

saintclairomakareservepinotnoir

Saint Clair Omaha Estate Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
10 months in French oak, 32% new. Rich and textured with sweet black cherry and plum fruit. This has a lot weight with smooth, sweet fruit and fine spicy structure. There’s a bit of saltiness, too. Subtle undergrowth and spice notes, too. Really convincing. 93/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal 2006

roederercristalchampagne

It’s so nice when legends live up to expectations. I had six bottles of this, as payment for judging the Roederer awards a few years ago. But my teenage kids broke into a locked wine cupboard and had necked four bottles with their friends before I discovered the loss! So just two bottles left, and my last night in the UK for a while seemed a good excuse to open one, with my recent birthday another excuse. It’s a really lovely wine, and will age beautifully in bottle over the next decade, or perhaps even longer.

Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal 2006 France
This is just beginning to show what it’s capable of. Fresh, linear and citrussy with some fine toasty, nutty notes. There’s lovely fruit expression here with a lovely crystalline citrus fruit character and subtle hints of almond and marzipan, as well as some salty notes. Has a real drive to it and should age beautifully. Rich and vinous but fresh at the same time. Fine waxy, bready notes on the finish. 95/100

Find this wine with wine-searcher.com

New releases from star Marlborough producer Dog Point

Dog Point Vineyard in Marlborough's Southern Valleys

Dog Point Vineyard in Marlborough’s Southern Valleys

I tried these new releases from Dog Point, another of the leading wineries in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, where I’m staying for a while. They are such characterful wines. As many readers will already know, Dog Point was started by Ivan and Margaret Sutherland and James and Wendy Healy, who previously worked together at Cloudy Bay, and the basis for these wines is the substantial vineyard that the Sutherlands own, which is on the border of the Omaka and Brancott Valleys (in a subregion known as the Southern Valleys), near where vines were first planted in Marlborough back in 1973. Unusually for the region the grapes are all hand harvested and viticulture is organic.

Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
12.5% alcohol. This is intense and lively with keen acidity and pronounced lemon and grapefruit characters, together with a hint of green pepper and cut grass. It shows a racy, lean character, but there’s a bit of pear, citrus and apple fruit sweetness there on the mid-palate binding all the zippy notes together. There’s a lovely presence and harmony to this wine. Grown up Sauvignon Blanc. 92/100

Dog Point Vineyard Section 94 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Cork sealed. This is so distinctive: bold chalky, green pepper and pear notes with some citrus and fine herb character. Really linear with some grapefruit on the finish. Powerful, edgy and potentially age worthy. 92/100

Dog Point Vineyard Section 94 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
Cork sealed. 13.5% alcohol. Now aged 10, this is a Sauvignon built for ageing. Natural cork. Deep yellow colour. This is superb stuff, with some nectarine and canteloup melon, as well as a twist of fig and some toast character. There’s some quince, too. Multidimensional and delicious with lovely weight and richness, and still lots of freshness. Finishes fine and spicy, with a hint of cabbage. Lovely wine. 94/100

Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Cork sealed. 13.5% alcohol. Such precision here. There’s some matchstick minerality on the nose, which blends beautifully with the sweet but taut citrus fruit. Intense and direct on the palate with a fine crystalline acid and mineral spine, fleshed out with some yellow plum and white peach fruit. Incredible precision and concentration here, with real finesse and massive potential for development. World class. 95/100

Dog Point

Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Cork sealed. This has a really nice density to it. Concentrated with a savoury, slightly cedary edge to the sweet cherry and raspberry fruit, with nice focus and structure. A bit grippy in its youth but showing nice texture and potential to develop medium-term in bottle. Very appealing and with some seriousness, possessing non fruit complexity. 93/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

The wines of Te Whare Ra, Marlborough, New Zealand

Te Whare Ra

Anna and Jason Flowery, Te Whare Ra

Last week, I popped into Te Whare Ra to taste the new releases. This is one of the most interesting producers in Marlborough. When the vineyard was originally planted by Joyce and Allen Hogan in 1979, it was pretty early days for the region, and this was the first boutique, small, privately winery to be established. Interestingly, the vines that the Hogans planted were grafted, which was new for the region: the large vineyards of Montana, Corbans and Penfolds were at the time all on their own roots. What this means now is that phylloxera took out all the earlier vineyards (first plantings in the region were in 1973) so Te Whare Ra’s surviving original vines – Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer – are now the oldest vines in Marlborough.

Jason and Anna Flowerday purchased the vineyard in 2003, and while they’ve kept some of the existing vineyard, they’ve also planted Sauvignon Blanc (there was none here) and Pinot Noir.

Marlborough's oldest surviving vines: Gewurtztraminer (here), Riesling and Chardonnay planted in 1979 at Te Whare Ra

Marlborough’s oldest surviving vines: Gewurtztraminer (here), Riesling and Chardonnay planted in 1979 at Te Whare Ra

Farming here is organic (they are biodynamically certified), and the wines that are made from the 11 hectares of estate vineyard are labelled SV5182, which is their organic certification number (from Biogro). Te Whare Ra were fully certified in 2012, and put it on label with the 2013 Pinot and 2014 whites.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They also have a few other vineyard sources, including (as of the 2016 vintage) some fruit from the famous Clayvin vineyard. I tried the freshly bottled 2016 Pinot and a barrel sample of the 2017: they are superb.

Te Whare Ra are now being represented in the UK by Les Caves de Pyrene.

Te Whare Ra Rosé 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Pinot Noir. Deep pink colour. Textural and interesting with cherries, strawberries and some herbs. Nice weight in the mouth. 89/100

Te Whare Ra Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
When they bought there was no Sauvignon planted here. A blend of Awatere and Wairau. Concentrated, fresh and subtly herbal with some sweet pear and citrus fruit, as well as a bit of fig richness in the background. Lovely texture and depth, with the green nicely integrated. Has substance. 91/100

Te Whare Ra SV5182 Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Home block, certified organic. Cropped at Pinot levels (7 tons ha), 80% fermented in large (600 litre) oak. Very textural with pure citrus fruit, some white peach, and lovely complexity. Fresh and delicate yet it has some richness and depth. Real finesse to this wine. 93/100

Te Whare RaSV 5182 Riesling ‘D’ 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Planted in 1979, so these are oldest vines in Marlborough. ‘At that stage hardly anyone planted on rootstock,’ says Anna Flowerday, ‘but here they did, and this has been our benefit.’ Lovely, linear, dry wine where the acid is really nicely integrated. It’s bone dry but there’s some fresh, with pure citrus fruit and a hint of honey. Lovely, intricate finish. 93/100

Te whare ra riesling

Te Whare Ra SV5182 Riesling ‘M’ 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
Planted in 2004. pH 2.85, TA 9 g/l, sugar 27 g/litre, 9.5% alcohol. Lovely fresh style with bright lemony acidity and some delicious rounded mandarin characters. Juicy with just a hint of sweetness. Very stylish. 92/100

Te Whare Ra SV5182 Pinot Gris 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
A third is fermented in large format. This is fresh and precise but with good concentration, showing a hint of cherry and bright citrus, as well as some crisp pear fruit. Nice balance with a hint of phenolic bite. Finishes dry. 90/100

Te Whare Ra SV5182 Toru 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
First made 12 years ago. Biggest selling white wine after the Sauvignon. Aromatic, fruity and textured. Cofermented Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Lovely pear, table grape and lychee fruit buttressed with some citrus character. Very pretty but also has a serious side. Multidimensional and quite delicious. 91/100

Te Whare Ra SV5182 Gewurztraminer 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
The old vines, 1979 planting, 3 tons/hectare. 12 h skin contact. Serious nose of ginger, lychee and green tea. The palate is broad, textural and spicy, with low acidity and nicely integrated phenolic structure. Very satisfying. 93/100

Te Whare Ra SV5182 Chardonnay 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
1979 plantings, Mendoza clone. Highly aromatic with toast and nuts, as well as some bready notes. Nice texture to the boldly flavoured palate. Moved to large format because barriques were drying out the wines. 25% new wood, 600 litres. Thick staves. Lovely integration here with some fruit sweetness, but also a lovely smooth mouthfeel. Rich but very balanced, with fresh citrus on the finish. 93/100

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Te Whare Ra Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Half home block, half from a vineyard on hillsides in the Omaka Valley. This has lovely freshness to the sweet cherry and plum fruit. Good structure with nice fine-grained tannins under the supple, slightly savoury, silky red fruit character. This has finesse and balance, and it’s really impressive. 94/100

Te Whare Ra SV5182 Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is a selection of barrels from this site: what expresses the site best. Just 100 cases or so, released later. Blend of all eight clones. Berry sorted so it can be left on skins for longer. This is really beautiful. It’s perfumed and really pure with very fine red cherry fruit, but also definite structure and seriousness in the mouth. The fruit is silky and fine with subtle sappy notes. Tension and balance here with purity and precision. 95/100

Te Whare Ra SV5182 Pinot Noir 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
First bottling of this. Lovely focus to this wine. It has generous red cherry and raspberry fruits with hints of undergrowth and spice. There’s some warmth to the mid palate, and nice texture. Structured yet with some silkiness, it is quite a serious effort with a savoury side. Nice grainy, grippy finish. 94/100

Te Whare Ra SV5096 Clayvin Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Bottled in February. Dark, muscular and brooding but also with real beauty. Black cherries, plums and spice, with good structure and focus. Lots of ripe black fruit but also good structure and intensity, and good acidity. Still very youthful with density to it, but lots of potential. Thrilling wine with massive potential. 96/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

Gamay 36, Mount Edward Muirkirk Vineyard Gamay 2017

mount edward gamay

Had this last night at Scotch Bar in Blenheim. It’s a new wine from Mount Edward, and it’s a Gamay with no additions at all, including sulphites. And it’s utterly delicious and brilliant. Good work Duncan Forsyth and team!

Mount Edward Muirkirk Vineyard Gamay 2017 Central Otago, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. No added sulfites. Concentrated, fresh and a bit spiky with some peppery hints and sweet raspberry and cherry fruit. So lively and pure with brilliant fruit expression. This is a really lLovely wine with amazing depth of fruit. 93/100

Find this wine with wine-searcher.com

A mixed case of reds from The Wine Society

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Following hot on the heels from my selection of 12 top whites from The Wine Society tasting, here are notes on 12 top reds. There’s some great drinking here: these are all wines that I would buy.

Aldinger Trollinger Fellbacher Alte Reben 2015 Neckar Valley, Germany
12.5% alcohol. Light red in colour. Pretty, supple and expressive with cherry and strawberry fruit, a lovely texture, and just enough acidity to provide a counterpoint. Deliciously drinkable. 92/100 (£14.95 The Wine Society)

Muré Pinot Noir Côte de Rouffach 2015 Alsace, France
13.5% alcohol. Supple and inviting with cherries, wild strawberries and some spiciness. Has lovely fruit, real elegance, and some structure. 92/100 (£21 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Château de Lacarelle Beaujolais Villages 2016 France
12.5% alcohol. Fresh, delicious and focused with lovely red cherry fruit and an appealing stoniness. Pure with a bit of raspberry crunch. Uncomplicated, delicious drinking. 89/100 (£7.75 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Domaine de Bellene Bourgogne Rouge Pinot Noir Vieilles Vignes 2014 Burgundy, France
13% alcohol. Lovely stuff. Has sweet cherries, some strawberry and some spiciness. There’s structure here under the sweet fruit. Has a grown up savoury side as well as the sweet fruit. 92/100 (£12.95 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Domaine Sylvain Pataille Marsannay Rouge 2014 Burgundy, France
Fresh and detailed with lovely sweet cherry and raspberry fruit and a fine sappiness. Has focus and real structure with good presence. Delicious. 93/100 (£16 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Regina Viarum Mencia 2016 Ribera Sacra, Spain
13.5% alcohol. Despite the bonkers packaging this is an excellent wine from the banks of the River Sil in Ribera Sacra, Galicia. Subtle sappy raspberry and cherry fruit with lovely perfume and freshness. So drinkable and expressive. Pure and stony and delicious. 92/100 (£11.50 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Viña Zorzal Malayeto Garnacha 2015 Navarra, Spain
14% alcohol. This is brilliant value. Vivid colour. Very fresh, fine and supple with lovely pure red fruits. So fresh and vivid with cherries and plums and good acidity. Silky and fresh at the same time. 92/100 (£8.50 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mas Doix Salanques 2014 Priorat, Spain
14.5% alcohol. This is very Priorat on the nose with leather, red fruits and a touch of wax. The palate is concentrated and quite structured with fine-grained tannins and some leather notes. Good acid and some spiciness to finish. 93/100 (£30 The Wine Society)

Château Sainte Eulalie Minervois La Livinière Cuvée Canilène 2015 France
14% alcohol. This has an elegant, smooth texture to the sweet, refined berry fruits and there’s also a twist of spiciness. Stylish stuff. 92/100 (£13.50 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Adega de Colares ‘Arenae’ Ramisco 2007 Colares, Portugal
12.5% alcohol. This is aromatic and expressive with a very stony edge to the vivid raspberry and red cherry fruit. Stony and structured with nice grip and quite beautiful. 94/100 (£20 for 50cl, The Wine Society)

 

Torraccia del Piantavigna Ghemme 2007 Piedmont, Italy
14% alcohol. From the north of Piedmont this is a blend of 90% Nebbiolo and 10% Vespalina matured in 2800 litre botti. Faded colour. Lovely weight with refined structure and sweet cherries, plums and spice. There’s also some tar and herb character. 93/100 (£25 The Wine Society)

The Society’s Exhibition Barolo 2012 Piedmont, Italy
14.5% alcohol. Supple and elegant with nice weight. Has some spice under the raspberry and cherry fruit with a savoury twist. 91/100 (£25 The Wine Society)

Walking the Abel Tasman

This weekend Nat and I headed off to spend a couple of days walking the Abel Tasman Track, a stunning route at the top of the South Island. To do the 60 km path properly takes three to four days, and you carry all your stuff with you, staying on camp sites or in huts. We did the lightweight version, staying overnight in the lovely Awaroa Lodge. Access to the route by road is limited so the best option is to take a water taxi from Kaiteriteri, and then get one back from your end point. The walk is absolutely stunning.

The water taxi

Here’s a short film of the Abel Tasman Track:

A mixed case of whites from The Wine Society

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just been looking through my notes from the recent tasting put on by The Wine Society, which is one of the very best places to buy wine in the UK. Here’s my choice of 12 whites. I’ll select some reds, too, later in the week.

Santa Venere Vescovado Guardavalle Bianco 2016 Calabria, Italy
13% alcohol. This intriguing Italian white is made from the Vescavado variety, organically farmed by the sea in Calabria. Generous, rounded textured melon and pear fruit with a hint of almonds and a subtle creamy edge. Lovely weight. 90/100 (£9.95 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

La Crotta di Vegneron Petite Arvine 2016 Val d’Aosta, Italy
13.5% alcohol. A Swiss white variety grown in Italy. This is expressive with tangerines, some herbs, a twist of citrus pith and some ripe apple notes. Really distinctive. 90/100 (£12.95 The Wine Society)

Domaine Turner Pageot Le Blanc 2016 Coteaux du Languedoc, France
14% alcohol. The Marsanne portion in this blend had 30 days skin contact. The Roussane is treated as a white wine, and then the two are blended in barrel. Deep yellow in colour with complex notes of apples, honeysuckle and pear skin. Very appealing and rounded with a bit of structure and a hint of cider. 90/100 (£11.95 The Wine Society)

Domaine Louis Michel Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux Vieilles Vignes 2014 Burgundy, France
13% alcohol. Fresh, quite mineral and stony, with lovely citrus fruit and good acidity. Tight and very typical, this is fabulous stuff. 91/100 (£20 The Wine Society)

The Society’s Exhibition Saint-Aubin Blanc 2015 Burgundy, France
13.5% alcohol. Made by Domaine Henri Prudhon, from Le Ban vineyard. Very sophisticated white peach and citrus fruit with subtle toast. Broad but balanced. 91/100 (£16 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Château de Puligny Montrachet Saint-Aubin Blanc 1er Cru En Remilly 2014 Burgundy, France
14% alcohol. Very fine and expressive with white peach, citrus and minerals, with fine toastness. Very refined and mineral in style. 93/100 (£27 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Domaine Peillot Roussette du Bugey-Montagnieu Altesse 2016 France
Thrilling Alpine fare: refined honeysuckle and herb nose leads to a fresh palate that’s mineral with good acidity but also a rounded, complete character with a stony finish. 93/100 (£16 The Wine Society)

Domaine de Roche Ville Saumur Clos de la Thibaudière Brézé 2013 Loire, France
12% alcohol. Stony limestone soils and Chenin are a fine combination here. Beautiful Chenin nose leads to a lively palate with brisk lemony acidity and a hint of cream, as well as straw and herbs. Very tight with high acidity. 92/100 (£17.50 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Château Latour Martillac Blanc 2011 Pessac Léognan, Bordeaux
13.5% alcohol. Stunning white Bordeaux bringing together 65% Sauvignon and 35% Semillon, and now 6 years’ old. Lovely subtle waxy grapefruit nose. Stylish, textured palate with well integrated oak. Some structure and good balance. 93/100 (£29.50 The Wine Society)

Josmeyer Riesling ‘Le Kottabe’ 2015 Alsace, France
12.5% alcohol. Stylish, textured, honied citrus fruit with some pear and hints of spiciness. Very stony in the background with just a hint of cream. 91/100 (£18 The Wine Society)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Gewurztraminer 2015 Alsace, France
13.5% alcohol. Very soft and broad and textural with nice lychee and grape flavours, and just a touch of rose petal. Very stylish wine. 91/100

The Society’s Hunter Valley Semillon 2017 Australia
11% alcohol. Made by Brokenwood. Lemony and refreshing with keen acidity. Direct and fruity with subtle herby hints accompanying the lemony fruit. Stylish and amazing value. 89/100