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Cut price Kiwi 'madness'

Published:  08 July, 2009

Selling Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc at £3.99 is commercial madness, according to First Quench's buyer - despite the business starting a half-price offer on Villa Maria.

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Tastings: Simon Woods gets his lips round eight new releases and suggests where they could fit into your wine line-up

Published:  16 June, 2009

Simon Woods gets his lips round eight new releases and suggests where they could fit into your wine line-up.

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Anne Krebiehl: Final blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  10 June, 2009

So very few days are left in the gorgeous Central Otago autumn sunshine and still a little hung over after the harvest celebrations, my picking mates James and Martin and I have a tour of the Felton Road Winery:  spotlessly clean and pervaded by the smell of the fermenting fruit.

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Anne Krebiehl: Penultimate blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  08 June, 2009

Penultimate Instalment - End of Harvest

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Anne Krebiehl: Tenth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  27 May, 2009

Picking continues apace. When we get to the vineyards now, we can see more and more picked rows with foliage of burnished yellow, rust and red. By now we are all comfortable with each other and already have a well-used stock of in-jokes. It all makes for pleasant days and lots of laughter, but speed remains of the essence.

 

Owen Calvert, an executive for an international aid agency, is kept away from New Zealand on business. His Calvert vineyard on the Felton Road is thus managed by the Felton team and the fruit is contracted out to three wineries: Craggy Range, Pyramid Valley and Felton Road.

 

We pick the Craggy Range Pinot first and see the refrigerated lorry leave for Hawke's Bay. I am very lucky to have secured those three Calvert wines from 2007 at the Pembroke Wine shop in Cromwell and I look forward to holding a comparative tasting of these back in London. The ultimate comparative tasting - of the 2009 vintage that I helped pick - will have to wait until the release of these wines. It will be a prime opportunity for a reunion with some of my harvesting mates. It will be fascinating to taste the craft of three different winemakers on the same fruit, especially since the berries are very healthy and relatively small with hardly a blemish on them. Owen and his family are here for Easter and since we are picking on Easter Sunday his teenage children hide chocolate eggs for us between the vines. We get off mid-afternoon and I hop into my specially-rented car to catch the rest of the Clyde Harvest Festival. I get there just as people start packing up - but with enough time to taste some impressive Viognier and Riesling from the Hinton Estate in Alexandra. I meet up with a friend and I spot Sue Edwards of Black Ridge - great opportunity to buy a bottle of her fabulous Chardonnay. Together with some Manuka-smoked meat and a crumbly cheddar-style cheese from the Gibbston Valley Cheesery we have the perfect ingredients for a cool but moonlit picnic underneath a pine tree in a cow paddock.

 

The next morning we hear the results of the annual Alexandra Easter Bunny Hunt: 14,799 rabbits were killed on this mass cull that draws hunters from all over New Zealand. Cruel this may sound but the rabbits have hardly any natural predators and are more numerous than sheep. They can spell the end of young vines and are a real pest. At the vineyard we laughed at the Alexandra advertisers who had a special offer of 10% discount on all ammunition for this special weekend. The record number of Easter bunny casualties was in 1997 when 23,949 were killed and counted. I only hope that some of them were turned into delicious rabbit pies.

 

Later in the week, as we pick the last of the Calvert grapes, Owen and his family lay on a barbecue for our pickers' lunch that is served with home-grown sweet corn and a spicy 2003 Calvert Pinot. It is our second lunch at the Calvert vineyard: in the first week, Nigel Greening cooked us a warming, satisfying and delicious goat stew for lunch. One of the Felton flock of goats gave its life for us but it was toasted first with Felton Road Riesling and then some Calvert Pinot. Another one of Nigel's lunches, a kind of Provencal chicken stew with the yummiest polenta I ever had was served in front of the Winery at Elms. This is pleasure, eating in the sunshine with your harvest mates. Somehow all our picking days are pervaded by a sense of amicable generosity - this is uplifting in itself but coming from businesslike London it is more than touching.

 

Naturally the off-piste tasting continues. By now the people at the small car rental outfit greet me like an old friend. On the vertigo-inducing drive to Chard Farm I fear for their car and my life. The narrow single-track gravel road winds its way steeply up one side of the Kawarau Gorge and affords glimpses of the turquoise rapids in the ravine. Chard Farm, yet another pioneer winery, like many other estates have tiered their production. This is probably a commercial and cash-flow necessity but this means that the high-end stuff retails at rather high prices and shows that the top Pinots deliberately align themselves (at least price-wise) with the great names of Burgundy. In some cases this is justified in others, the practice will maybe find it hard to survive in the current economic climate.

 

The Viper Pinot Noir 2006 stands out with a lovely nose of cinnamon on forest fruit and slight leather and remains a very elegant, light wine, with the price tag to match, however. The same goes for Amisfield: their Rocky Knoll Pinot 2006 is a lovely wine but at three times the price of the 'ordinary' Pinot? What really stunned me was their Arcadia Blanc de Noirs NV, a serious, bone dry and finely scented sparkler which could easily stand up to food.

 

Along the State Highway in Gibbston Valley I visit another gem: Duncan Forsyth of Mount Edward takes time to see me and lets me taste his lovely Rieslings which he describes as 'linear' rather than round. The Estate Riesling has 15 g/l of residual sugar and has an ethereal nose of lemony, honeyed lanolin, if there is such a thing. On the palate it is incisive and goes on an on. The Drumlin Riesling, from a tiny, non-irrigated vineyard is sweeter but exquisitely balanced, the nose is all green pear and spice. And what pleasure to know that these grapes were grown organically. I also taste a clean, lean and aromatic Pinot Blanc and a berry-scented 2007 Pinot Noir with gossamer-soft tannins and tingling spice. These wines are so resonant and have immense length. I can still savour them as I drive off.

 

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Critics May May 22-24

Published:  26 May, 2009

What the press have to say over the May bank holiday weekend.

 

Guardian



Victoria Moore finds that some tastebuds are a little harder to please after lunching with sales rep Dave who claimed to have, "virtually no sense of smell or taste."



So she prescribed wines with masses of texture and body to, "punch through those dull tastebuds and give his tongue something to think about."



The first wine she recommended was an Aussie Shiraz that, "has brightness, is overt and all but growls."



Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz 2004 (£9.99 or £6.99 when you buy three at Wine Rack).

 

Independent

 

The relevance of Bordeaux's system of selling its top wines as futures, or en primeur, in the spring after the vintage, has been called into question by the "latest shenanigans," over the 2008 vintage, reports Anthony Rose.

 

Every spring, the top Bordeaux châteaux release their prices to give consumers a chance to buy early at a relatively affordable prices which are based on how they see the quality of their wine that year, of the vintage as a whole and what the market will wear.

 

But no one was expecting great shakes from 2008 not even the Bordelais, Rose reports. Until Robert Parker pronounced 2008: "a notch below 2005, but better than any other vintage of the last decade except 2000".

 

All of a sudden prices of wines rated highly by Parker went through the roof, says Rose. With the first growth châteaux Lafite Rothschild trading at £3,200 per case after releasing at £1,900 and Latour, released at £1,590, up to £2,500.

 

This means real wine lovers will be priced out of the market if the reaction is to yield to the temptation not to drop prices.

 

For wine lovers in urgent need of a case of fine red Bordeaux, here's a few names the best critics agree fulfil the essential pre-requisite of good quality and reasonable pricing: La Lagune, Calon-Ségur, Léoville Barton, Langoa-Barton, Pichon Lalande, Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Le Petit Cheval.

 

Financial Times

 

Jancis Robinson says that her a visit to New Zealand, earlier this year, she met the most extraordinary wine producer.

 

Hiro Kusuda, admits that to pursue his dream he and his young family had to subsist for eight years without any income at all, she says. "Even today, the total production of Kusuda Wines in Martinborough is but a few hundred cases of Syrah and Pinot Noir a year."

 

Bob Campbell, a wine writer and Master of Wine, sent Robinson a report of Kusuda's 2009 harvest, saying he was witness to the most rigorous grape selection process he had ever seen . "Each berry was inspected for any flaw and removed if not perfect."

 

Here, clearly, is Japanese perfectionism as applied to one of the world's most pragmatic wine industries. And the resulting wines are truly exceptional, says Robinson.

 

Just before the 2006 vintage Kusuda managed to buy a small vineyard of his own, 1.2 hectares -3 acres. "I tasted two wines made in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages and thought that not only were the 2006s unusually fine but both wines seemed to get better with each vintage," says Robinson.

 

"I'm not proud that I had no income for so long," Kusuda told Robinson. "But as the whole family sat round silently watching me taste the full range of his wines from perfectly polished Riedel glasses, I could feel their pride radiating," she says.

 

Times

 

Go on, celebrate the start of English wine week with a crisp, delicate elderflower and hedgerow-scented English wine, says Jane MacQuitty.

 

With the first new vineyards planted in London since the Middle Ages, one on wasteland behind King's Cross station and the other at Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, English wines are no longer a joke, she says.

 

Bulldog British enthusiasm, has seen plantings up by 50 per cent in the past five years, to more than 1,000ha, and our production is set to double in the next five years, reports MacQuitty.

 

Until May 31 there are lots of fun functions. Visit www.englishwineweek.co. uk for details, and contact English Wine Producers on 01536 772264 for a free map of Vineyards of England and Wales.


Telegraph

 

Everything is coming up rosé, says Jonathan Ray. As rosé wines continue to soar while those of red and white wine fall.

 

"And where rosé used to be infra dig, it's now de rigueur," he explains.



According to market researchers AC Nielsen, sales are up 17.7 per cent on the year, with the total rosé category now representing 11.5 per cent of the British off-trade by volume and worth some £533 million.

 

Value is starting to outstrip volume, which suggests that we're all finally prepared to pay more as the wines improve. Thank God for that, he says, since more than half the pink wines in this country still come from California, home of that dire vinous bubblegum, ''Blush'' Zinfandel.

 

 

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anne Krebiehl: Ninth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  21 May, 2009

As the days and weeks in Central pass, late summer turns into autumn. The poplars have turned into glowing colours; their heart-shaped leaves are flying in the gusts of wind, covering the road in a carpet of bright yellow.

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David Cox to head New Zealand Wines

Published:  14 May, 2009

David Cox is the new chief of New Zealand Wine Growers for the UK and Europe.

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Anne Krebiehl: Eighth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  07 May, 2009

The harvest steps up. Our days just evaporate, there is no standstill: we generally turn up at a quarter to eight so that picking starts promptly at 8 o'clock. On some days we are all muffled up in woolly hats, on others a jersey will do.

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Anne Krebiehl: Seventh blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  01 May, 2009

For the duration of the harvest I am staying at Jackson's Orchard just outside Cromwell. Before stubborn pioneers like Sue Edwards and Verdun Burgess of Black Ridge, Lois and Rolfe Mills of Rippon and Alan Brady of Gibbston Valley started planting vines in 'Central' in the 1980s (more of their wines in a later instalment), horticulture was and to a degree still is the mainstay of this area: Central Otago cherries and apricots are famous and there are many apple orchards, too.

Now in autumn the roadside stalls are fully stocked. I can stay at the orchard amidst rows and rows of trellised apricot trees since the season is over. Usually the huts, former motel units that were moved here, are occupied by the cherry, peach and apricot pickers and when I arrived, I saw the last fragrant batches of peaches being despatched. Since I moved in, the orchard has turned colour and I can walk ankle-deep through russet-coloured leaves to State Highway No. 6. From Jackson's own fruit stall I can buy milk, apples and tomatoes and one of these days I will have to try the Otago cherries in Kirsch. My neighbours are two Ecuadorean girls harvesting for Mount Edward and three Thai fruit pickers who keep making Tom Yum Soup in our shared kitchen shack. It is very quiet and very beautiful here and having my own little hut is luxurious.

There are two wineries in my immediate vicinity. Just a kilometre up the highway is Aurum Wines, another estate that aspires to organic standards without being formally certified. They make Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay and have just started making a traditional method sparkling Blanc des Blancs (not available yet). Two adorable blond little girls are playing in the tasting room and I learn that the older one lends her name to the barrel selection Mathilde Reserve Pinot Noir (2007). Their mother, Burgundian Lucie, managed to craft a Pinot with astonishing depth and elegance and allure from barely decade-old vines and the difference between the estate Pinot and the Mathilde is striking.

Joan Lawrence, the girls' charming grandmother conducts the tasting and explains the different terroirs of fluvial gravels and wind-blown loess that constitute her vineyards on the western shores of Lake Dunstan. We talk about how extraordinary it is for certain Central Otago wines to be so expressive at such a young vine age - quite a number of the very well-made ones really represent terroir. This may have something to do with the fact that yield needs to be restricted severely to allow ripening at all. The great majority of the local Pinots are punchy and fruit-forward but do not necessarily show any dimension beyond mere fruit. Most of these are probably also drunk too young even though some may not merit being cellared.

The better ones though, are extremely appealing and I cannot stop wondering how these will turn out once the vines have had time to stretch their roots deeper into the soil. Joan Lawrence reckons that the strong ultra-violet light and brisk climate make for a sped-up maturity in plants. Indeed, the Oregon Pines that are grown here for timber mature years and years faster than their cousins in the States, so Joan is probably right.

The Wooing Tree Winery is almost opposite the orchard. The 'wooing' tree itself, a huge old pine can be seen from the distance. Local lore has it that this used to be a prime romantic spot where quite a number of Central Otago babies were conceived...

The tasting starts with the unusual 'Blondie' a still Blanc des Noirs made from Pinot Noir, it has 4.8 grams of residual sugar and is a real pleasure wine that would work wonderfully as an aperitif. It has body and texture and is a fruit bomb, but in the nicest way possible. Then there is a nod to Pinot Gris and Chardonnay and the entry-level Pinot Noir called 'Beetlejuice'. The estate Pinot, the Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2007 is very pleasant, like all the wines made by Carol Bunn at Vinpro who makes the wines of a number of smaller properties here. It has a little herbacousness and a faint hint of cedar on the nose and needs to spend two more years in bottle to let the super-smooth fruit mellow out a little. Lots of promise. The 2005 Pinot Noir is very mellow and has lovely notes of cedar and cinnamon. Just for curiosity's sake I get to taste the very early effort of the 2002 Pinot Noir which was made from bought-in grapes- it smells like port and jam but is definitely over the hill.

More from the harvest in the next posting!

Anne Krebiehl, April 2009

 

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Anne Krebiehl: Sixth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  28 April, 2009

Excitement: the first day of picking! After the night frost I am dressed in layers of clothes. I was told to be ready for pick-up at 07.45 and Bruce, an athletic Englishman who made New Zealand his home and works for Felton Road full-time arrives promptly.


We drive to the Cornish Point Vineyard on Lake Dunstan and bit by bit various pickers arrive. As of yet they are nameless, but we are well-mixed in age and origin. We try and stay warm in the early morning and smile tentatively at each other, some of the older hands clearly know each other and we strangers laugh at their familiar banter.


The frost protection propellers, or windmills as some call them, are going everywhere in an attempt to dispel the cold and the mallow leaves on the dusty ground have an attractive rim of frost.


Everyone gets assigned a 'snip', i.e. secateurs, and we get a little health'n'safety lecture from Gareth King, viticulturist and mastermind of the entire harvest: cuts (those snips are very sharp!), accidents, sunscreen.... He introduces his full-time viticultural team consisting of Sarah, Sam and Nick. Gareth and his team are of hardy Kiwi stock and turn up in shorts!


Then we get going: we are told what to cut out, what to look out for and which bunches to discard. Small plastic crates have been placed throughout the rows and we pickers work in a long belt, side by side we move together from row to row, making sure that all fruit is picked and that what goes into the crate is of high quality. Simple rule: into the basket what you would eat, what looks, smells, tastes inedible goes to the ground. Yes, this is truly sensual work. This kind of attention during picking - where everyone is paid by the hour rather than by weight picked - ensures quality and does away with the need for a sorting table at the winery - which especially for white grapes, saves valuable time.


Our fingers are icy from touching the cold fruit but we work surprisingly quickly. As we leave the crates to go to the next row, they get picked up and taken away. That is the hardest job: being on the back of the quad-bike and heaving the full boxes up on the bike to be taken to the trailer.


The sun comes slowly up as we re-assemble in order to drive in convoy to the Calvert vineyard back in Bannockburn. Tea, coffee and buttered buns with jam await us there - and what a boon that hot drink is! We get to work on the Chardonnay first and this is very fast picking: hardly a grape needs to be discarded and whole, beautiful bunches quickly fill the crates. With every minute the sunrays are getting stronger, the hands warmer and the toes start de-frosting in the brilliant Central Otago sunshine. By midday, we can all work in our t-shirts.


It is this diurnal temperature swing that explains such a lot about the flavours of these wines: if the vines just had the sunlight and high temperatures all the time, nothing much besides the high potential alcohol levels would be there (and there is plenty of that) but the cold nights and cooling winds delay the ripening so flavours and aromas can develop.


Being an organic, biodynamic vineyard, I spot a lot of wildlife: earwigs, beneficial insects that feast on other predators, the odd ladybird and many, many spiders seem to live very happily in the vines. And it is delicious to be able to taste the sweet, ripe grapes as we go along knowing that they have not been sprayed beyond all possible life. Oh for the joys of a sugar-stupor!


Visiting other non-organic/biodynamic vineyards in the region is an eye-opener; they seem almost sterile by comparison. We have spider webs and weeds but at least the only things staining my fingers are grape juice and some dust, all rather harmless. Once the Chardonnay is all picked we break and have our packed lunches after washing our sticky, sugary secateurs and hands in a bucket of hot water. Then it's the Riesling's turn: the bunches are very tight and heavy and hardly have a blemish on them.


Again we can work very fast. Naturally, a lot of chattering is going on, we learn each other's names, stories and quirks and time flies. Before I know it, our first day of picking is over. Happiness and satisfaction.


Anne Krebiehl, April 2009

 

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Anne Krebiehl: Fifth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  14 April, 2009

On the coach again southbound from Blenheim to Christchurch: the route runs along the coast and to my right there is bush and steep cliffs, to my left is the Pacific Ocean. Fresh crayfish is sold at roadside stalls and I regret that I cannot just hop off to sample some of it.

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Anne Krebiehl: Fourth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  14 April, 2009

Red eye: am on the early coach from Nelson en route to Renwick. State Highway 6 winds its way through coniferous forests, crosses the turquoise Pelorus River in a picturesque, narrow valley and continues south to reach the expansive vineyards of Marlborough: Renwick, a sleepy highway village, sits amidst these and it's yet again a case of dropping the rucksack, grabbing bicycle, helmet and map and heading off to hit the cellar doors.

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Anne Krebiehl's third wine harvest blog from New Zealand

Published:  07 April, 2009


South Island - what a difference! Anne Krebhiel continues her tour around the wine regions of New Zeland - this week she crosses over into the South Island.

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Sparkling wine sales continue to soar

Published:  30 March, 2009

Sparkling wines continue to enjoy success at the expense of Champagne, it has been claimed by a buyer for one of the UK's most popular supermarkets.

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Anne Krebiehl, blog March 23, harvest blog from New Zeland

Published:  27 March, 2009

Hello again - this time from Martinborough in the Wairarapa - this must be the most bijou little town ever and seriously makes me think of emigrating....

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Anne Krebiehl, blog March 23, harvest blog from New Zeland

Published:  27 March, 2009

Hello again - this time from Martinborough in the Wairarapa - this must be the most bijou little town ever and seriously makes me think of emigrating....

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Anne Krebiehl, wine writer's blog from the New Zealand harvest

Published:  25 March, 2009

Kia Ora from New Zealand and welcome to the first instalment of my Kiwi wine adventure: I have come here from London to harvest grapes at the illustrious Felton Road estate -- one of the world's most southerly vineyards -- in Central Otago on New Zealand's South Island. To make the most of this long journey I decided to come early and taste my way through the various wine regions to give my shamefully Eurocentric palate a real understanding of Kiwi wines and their huge success on the world stage.

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Anne Krebiehl, wine writer's blog from the New Zealand harvest

Published:  25 March, 2009

Kia Ora from New Zealand and welcome to the first instalment of my Kiwi wine adventure: I have come here from London to harvest grapes at the illustrious Felton Road estate -- one of the world's most southerly vineyards -- in Central Otago on New Zealand's South Island. To make the most of this long journey I decided to come early and taste my way through the various wine regions to give my shamefully Eurocentric palate a real understanding of Kiwi wines and their huge success on the world stage.

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New Zealand screwcap pioneer dies

Published:  30 January, 2009

New Zealand winemaker Ross Lawson, founder of Lawson's Dry Hills, has died aged 66.

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