Our Del Mundo tasting in April was a premium European tasting with Lucas. The wines we indulged in were:
Terra Serena Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut – Italian
Tonon Prosecco Conegliano Vablobbiadene Extra Dry DOCG – Italian
2017 Great Five Pinotage Reserve – South African – first released in 1945
2010 Camilo de Lellis Biferno Montepulciano/Aglianico Trebbiaio DOCG – Italian
2016 Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG – Italian
2012 Estola Gran reserve Tempranillo Cabernet – Spanish
2008 Faustino First Tempranillo – Spanish
Lucas’s presentation was lively and informative, and many attendees were surprised to learn that in Italy and Spain there are strict rules around what can be labelled reserve. Requirements vary on a regional basis, though essentially, they have to have an extended period in both the barrel and the bottle before being released.
Typically, wines at the higher end of the spectrum are aged for many years. While Chianti has to be aged for a minimum of two years, Amarone, which we tasted on the night, can only be released after four years. A grand reserve has even more stringent requirements. For a Spanish wine to be labelled as a Gran Reserva, the law requires that it be aged for a minimum of five years, with two of those years in an oak cask or barrel.
Other tidbits we picked up during the evening:
Del Mondo means ‘of the world’
Prosecco means ‘path through the woods’
In 2009, Italy Prosecco was recognised as a geographical indication (GI) by Italian law (in the same vein as Champagne in France) and the Prosecco grape variety was renamed Glera
Tempranillo was first planted in the year 800, given Royal assent in 1100
Tempranillo is also the world’s third-largest crop
The Great Five Pinotage Reserve was first released in 1945
The opportunity to try labels we were unfamiliar with made for an interesting time and the Faustino, which normally retails for $105, was a special treat.
Note from Editor
A big thanks to all Club members for mucking in and helping set up the tables & chairs, etc for our last tasting. The JCC has explained that the Fijian group present when we arrived had got their dates mixed up for their bookings and they (JCC) have given us a rent-free evening for our troubles.
New Zealand’s wine industry built its name on sav, but we’ve been putting all our eggs in one basket for too long, writes Jules van Costello.
I like to think of sauvignon blanc as the IPA of wine. It’s brash, bombastic and a little bit basic (in a good way). Like IPA, its tropical aromas of guava, passionfruit, lemongrass and a little bit of sweat jump forth from the glass. In the words of wine educator Oz Clark: “There had never before been a wine that crackled and spat its flavours at you from the glass”. It should not be surprising that some of the flavours in savvies and IPAs are the same – New Zealand’s most acclaimed hop variety, Nelson Sauvin, is named for its olfactory similarity to Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
Savvy is easy to understand and even easier to like. In the world of wine, which has a tendency to disempower consumers by letting so-called “experts” hoard knowledge, this is unequivocally a good thing.
Sauvignon blanc put New Zealand on the map. It is the foundation on which the entire export side of our wine industry has been built. But sadly, there can be too much of a good thing. While writing my new book, Beyond the Vines: The Changing Landscape of New Zealand Wine, I’ve had to wrestle with the fact that while sauvignon blanc is amazing, the New Zealand wine industry has too many eggs in one basket. It represents 63% of New Zealand’s area under vine, 74% of our wine production and a whopping 88% of our exports by volume, meaning for every dozen bottles of wine we export, over 10 of those are sauvignon blanc.
In August 2020, New Zealand Winegrowers released their annual report which stated that, despite six months of Covid-19 affecting sales, we’d actually exported more wine than ever before. Big grocery brands have done incredibly well but many smaller producers are feeling the pinch. The smaller the producer, the more likely they are to be selling wine in restaurants, which is hard when restaurants are shut or diners are too scared to go out. Secondary lockdowns in Melbourne, London and even in Auckland, as well as the huge mishandling of Covid in our biggest markets – the USA and UK – have had profoundly negative effects for many Kiwi producers.
New Zealand, the forward-thinking upstart that it is, committed to free trade in the mid-1980s. We are an export economy and from my position, this has generally helped us do business. However, one of the consequences of this is that no industry is too big to fail. Our producers, unlike those in Europe, for instance, cannot rely on government intervention to keep them afloat if the arse drops out of the market.
Sauvignon blanc is popular now across the globe, but what happens when the bubble bursts? We could face a quick trend shift à la Sideways that saw merlot’s demise, or even a sudden global event change how the wine world works overnight. Most of the players who are making big bucks on industrial sauvignon blanc will not care. They will move onto something else. The growers and the wineries will be hurting. The wine world is a slow-moving beast, but it is also a fickle one. At this stage, New Zealand does not have an exit strategy.
Savvy is important – we can make relatively high-quality juice relatively cheaply. This is what got us into this problem in the first place. But we can also make world-class wine all over New Zealand. We need to champion more serious styles of sauvignon blanc, which we excel at.
We also need to diversify, and quickly. Despite having over 55 commercial varieties being grown, land devoted to most varieties has been dwindling (all but sauvignon blanc, of course, pinot noir, pinot gris and syrah).
I myself am heavily invested in the natural and lo-fi wine game with my businesses Cult Wine and Te Aro Wine but, strangely enough, I do not think this is the saviour of the industry, nor is making more and more serious wine. We need to find something we can make relatively cheaply, well, and for which there is an international demand.
I believe light red wines are part of the answer to the problem of the sav bubble – Montepulciano from Italy, St Lauren from Austria and Gamay are all contenders. In Australia, these light reds have taken off domestically and are making waves internationally. Like sav, we can make affordable pinot relatively well so there is no reason why we cannot apply these skills to grape varieties that are a little easier to grow. I happen to like drinking light reds but this is one solution that should also suit consumers in Australia, USA and the growing Chinese market.
We also need to experiment, throw grapes at the wall to see what sticks. The bubble will pop. We need to be ready.
As you can see, all 3 of these areas are in the state of South Australia which is one of the iconic new world wine regions and so we are really looking forward to tasting some great wines from this area.
More details next month.
News just in
CoLab is now presenting a range of European wines from their portfolio. The wines to be presented include:
Alpha Domus Collection Sauvignon Blanc, NZ
Vivanco White Rioja, Spain
Guerrieri Rizzardi Pinot Grigio IGP Veneto, Italy
Domaine Dupre Bourgogne Chardonnay, France
Vivanco Rioja Crianza, Spain
Vivanco Rioja Reserva, Spain
Chateau Mauciol Cotes du Rhone Villages Red, France
As I sit to prepare this newsletter Celine Dion is singing “Another year has gone by” in the background. Surely not, I say, but it is so. Where has it gone? We can start by reviewing our year. We began with our summer BBQ at the end of January. The usual excellent occasion and thanks to Derek for continuing to make his premises available. February saw us heading on a “Summer Romance – a love affair with Wine” where some of your committee members presented their favourite summer wines. In March Mark and Susan Haythornthwaite presented some of their “Haythornthwaite” wines and told us of the success they have had adding platters to the tasting experience at their premises.
In April Simon Bell from MacVine took us on a tour of Europe embracing France, Italy and Germany. May was the usual AGM then in June Unison Vineyards from the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay presented some lovely wines. July was something of a disappointment when we went to Saigon Van Grill Bar. The meal was lacking, particularly in quantity, and subsequent efforts to redress the problem have been futile. Never mind, we were back on track in August with a great tasting from Clearview.
September saw a continuation with European wines when Maison Vauron gave us a taste of French wine with some cheese matches. Then who could forget Negociants presentation from that iconic Barossa winery, Yalumba.
The tastings for the year finished with a return to Europe, this time Portugal with Confidant Wines, and some great wine with food matches. All this travel and we haven’t had to leave home.
As I finish this Celine has moved on to “Holy Night” and is singing about a night divine. I can’t quite work out if she means Christmas Eve or the December Dinner at Juniper. You be the judge.
A ghastly night weather wise and a long list of apologies through autumn ailments meant that the turnout for this tasting was a little lower than we had hoped for. Despite that, those who braved the conditions enjoyed an excellent presentation and some great wines. Simon Bell and Craig O’Donnell from Macvine International presented for this tour around Europe. The tasting was a little different from the usual but was done with great style and enthusiasm. The wines presented were not necessarily well-known wines from Italy, France, Spain, and Germany. Simon and Craig enjoyed the evening and expressed a keenness to return in the future.
The tour included the following wines:
Andre Delorme Methode BDB (France) Pazo Cilleiro Albarino (Spain) Bernard Defaix 2015 Cote de Lechet Chablis (France) Cantina Terlan Lagrein (Italy) Dourthe No 1 Rouge (France) Alpha Zeta “V” Valpolicella Ripaso Superiore (Italy) 1994 Burgermeister Lauer Drohner Hofberger Riesling (Germany)
(These are some excerpts from an article which actually canvassed 10 things you might want to know about wine. I have picked out several that I found more interesting. The rest, in fact, we didn’t want to know.)
What is orange wine if it’s not from oranges?
Orange, some say, is the new rosé, occupying the demilitarised zone between red and white. The colour crosses a spectrum – from pale apricot to enraged Trump, all the way to amber – but what’s really different about orange wine is the way it’s made. Traditionally, red wines are made from the juice of red grapes plus grape skins. Whites are made without skins.
Orange wines are made from white grapes but get the red-wine treatment – the juice is macerated with the skins, a technique dating back 8000 years to wine’s birthplace, Georgia. The resulting texture, tannin and colour means these “skin-contact” wines have more in common with reds than whites; styles vary from fruity, floral or earthy to sour and funky.
What is natural wine and why are people so excited about it?
Natural winemaking is a broad church in which wines are generally (purists say must be) made from grapes grown without commercial chemicals. Processing takes place with minimal “intervention” – so, for example, the wine may not be filtered to remove cloudiness. Additives, such as sulphur dioxide – used for centuries to keep wine tasting fresh – are shunned or kept to a minimum. It’s a departure from the kind of large-scale industrial winemaking that values hygiene and consistency over quirks and imperfections.
As with conventional wines, quality varies hugely. There’s no regulation of what’s called natural, so if you’re going that way to avoid chemicals, look for certified organic or biodynamic wines – they’re more likely to be what you’re paying for. When made by winemakers of skill and integrity, the best natural wines celebrate quality, individuality and character – hallmarks of all great wines, regardless of whether they’re pitched as natural.
What’s better – Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio?
Same grape, different name – one name is French, the other Italian, with “gris” and “grigio” both meaning “grey”. In Europe the French approach to making gris produces a highly perfumed wine with plenty of mouthfeel; grigio from Italy is often (not always) a crisper, lighter wine. “Better” is in the eye of the beholder – good news is they’re all food-friendly styles. So in short, no difference in the grape, just the name.
Why might some wines contain traces of eggs, fish or milk?
Egg whites with fish bladders and milk: a dish that might make guests at a Game of Thrones banquet actually welcome the post-dinner massacre. Yes, it’s medieval stuff – each of these has been used for centuries to “fine” wine. Fining is a process in which one or more of these proteins is dropped into unfinished wine to bind with components that taste bitter, astringent, or are likely to make the wine hazy. They are then removed. Traces, as the label states, may remain. If any of the above have been used you’ll find them listed on the label as allergens. The fish bladder derivative also goes by the name isinglass and is rarely used in Australia but egg whites and milk products are still common.
How long will a wine keep after it’s been opened?
Like fish and houseguests, opened wine smells less appealing after three days. Aim to finish an open bottle over no more than two nights. As a rule of thumb, red wines stay in condition for longer than whites (some robust reds taste better on day two). Exposure to air changes the aroma and flavour of opened wine, so reseal a bottle you’re not planning to finish in one go.
A bottle that’s mostly full will last better than one with only a glass or two left. It’s about the proportion of air to wine – more air in the bottle means faster deterioration. Store an opened bottle upright, not on its side. If you keep a clean, empty half-bottle handy, decant unfinished wine into that – it will stay fresher than in a full-size bottle. Otherwise, start scouting wine-saving devices.
(This last item may not reflect editorial opinion, surely once the bottle is opened it deserves to be finished in one sitting. The person I live with frequently draws my attention to the week that passes between a tasting and when the committee downs the tasting leftovers, but members may not understand the deterioration that has occurred during that time and the generous effort made by committee members to get rid of these leftovers on their behalf.)
Glengarry’s Sunday ramblings of all things vinous, grain and glorious. A tour of Italy – Part 2 comes from The Sunday Sediment Issue 6.
The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily boasts the greatest number of wineries of any Italian region. Leading light on the island is the fortified DOC wine, Marsala; so brilliant for cooking and superb when served with a hard cheese like Pecorino. While there are some impressive DOC wines here, there is also great value being offered by top quality producers making very good IGT wines from native varieties.
Generally, the south of Italy is all about value and generous, forward wine styles. Abruzzo is located on the coast north and east of Rome, the region home to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Historically significant as the place the vine first arrived in Italy from Greece, Apulia (or Puglia) is located in the middle of the heel of Italy’s boot. Known as a large volume producer, there are now top-rated DOCG, an impressive 25 DOC zones and a chariot-full of great Italian foods.
Produced largely in the north, Prosecco is the current high-flier of Italy’s respected sparkling wine industry. In 2009 it was awarded DOCG status, that important ‘G’ on the end adding a rock-solid guarantee to the quality of the wine. Franciacorta is both a highly-rated DOCG area and a sparkling wine with a huge reputation, produced a la champagne, but with even more stringent aging requirements than its French cousins.
The Italians have been perfecting their heady spirit known as Grappa since the Middle Ages. A unique concoction produced from grape pomace (the skins, pulp, seeds and stems left over after the juice has been extracted for winemaking), Grappa began life as a coarse, home-made drink enjoyed by farmers after a hard day’s work. From these humble beginnings it has evolved into a highly refined spirit. By EU law, Grappa must be produced in Italy, without any added water, from fermented and distilled pomace. To produce it, the pomace is heated in a bain-marie (also known as a water bath or double boiler) to create steam, which is forced through a distillation column. The resulting colourless, filtered distillation can be enjoyed immediately, but the finest Grappas are aged in glass or wood, which changes the colour and adds complexity. Flavours, too, can vary considerably depending on the origin of the grape pomace, the blending and the aging process. Great post-prandial, or added to espresso.
Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
Glengarry’s Sunday ramblings of all things vinous, grain and glorious. A tour of Italy – Part 1 comes from The Sunday Sediment Issue 5.
Veneto is home to the glorious sinking city of Venice and the romantic jewel that is Verona. Here, you’ll find great value Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino wines. Less than half of the wine produced in Veneto is able to be labelled with the Italian quality mark of DOC, with large quantities of IGT (table wine) produced there, making it an important region for quantity. It is also home to the superstar Amarone, and to the sparkling Prosecco wines made in Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
Piemonte produces some of Italy’s most long-lived wines. A treasure trove of culinary delights, it is home to Barolo, Barbaresco, truffles and hazelnuts. The predominant red grapes are the indigenous Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, the whites, Arneis and Moscato. The wines are distinctly regional and oozing with flair. Lovers of Pinot Noir will feel right at home with Nebbiolo, which is bottled in its own right as well as being the variety behind the famed Barolo wines. Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
A long with Piemonte, Toscana (Tuscany) has the highest percentage of top-tier DOCG wines, and is home to the scarlet giants Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. It is here that the new meets the old head-on, giving rise to the so-called Super Tuscans. The main variety in Tuscany is Sangiovese, used to make Chianti, with the variety’s greatest expression derived from the legendary Brunello clone developed by Montalcino’s Biondi-Santi family.
Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
The tastings of 2016 continued with Cangrande’s offering of Italian Festive Wines. Michele presented with enthusiasm and was very knowledgeable and informative. We had a very good turnout with 35 members and one guest. The Italian themed supper was great with everyone mixing well. Thanks to the organisers.
The evenings offering included wines and beer along with some options for olive oil and balsamic vinegar which were available for the supper. The tasting included a Verdicchio aperitif style for the quaffer, three sparkling wines, an Altaluna Belgian Ale, a Primitivo and a dessert style from Pantelleria, the Donnafugata – Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a couple of coffee bean options were also available for purchase.
Cangrande proudly presents the widest and highest quality range of Italian wines in New Zealand.
They have chosen to focus on excellence in order to ensure the exceptional standard reached in the last few years by Italian winemakers is fully represented in their catalogue. They currently offer several product lines, based on value, which can meet and satisfy the demands of mass retailers, restaurateurs, caterers, wine shops and any kind of wine traders in New Zealand. However, for all of these ranges, the price/quality ratio remains outstanding. For those interested in Italian wines, Cangrande is opening a shop in Petone, keep your eye out.
Cangrande stepped in late in August 2014 to give us a delightful taste of the wines of Italy and we are sure that they will produce a great range of wines to fit the festive theme. Work on this tasting is progressing but we have not quite finalised details as yet. Suffice it to say that it will be a great experience with a clear Italian theme.
We apologise to members for the lack of a newsletter last month.
If you read these newsletters you will know that your editor was “swanning off” in USA & Canada while poor Wayne had work related and home problems to cope with.
Never mind we are back in business this month with a couple of great events coming up.
We were pleased that Francesca was able to attend the July Dinner when her life membership was formalised. Congratulations Francesca.
Programme changes roll on
In the June newsletter, I mentioned a couple of changes. The late change to the Cuba Street Bistro was a success.
Moving on though the astute among you will also have noticed that this month’s meeting is also a change from that previously notified. There was a misunderstanding about scheduling with Millton.
Cangrande have stepped in and as you will have noted have offered a great chance to sample some high-quality Italian wines.
And I have already mentioned Villa Maria coming in for October. Some members of your committee have had to step up and do a great deal of negotiating to re-arrange the programme at short notice. Congratulations for the great work.
A friendly reminder that subscriptions are due. Wayne will be happy to accept subs at next week’s meeting.
In addition, membership cards will be available at that meeting.