Issue: 61 / Sunday 10 March, 2019
February has come and gone with time moving in one direction and our memories in the other. What a fabulously busy month with 6,864 bottles being dispatched from our warehouses. Website sales increased by a staggering 96.5% (against February ’18) and it stands as our fourth busiest ‘online’ month in The Vinorium’s short, five-year history. Of course, our private collection sale helped hugely with over one hundred orders being received within the first twelve hours, which is not far off our record. Like-for-like, online sales have increased by 70% compared to the start of 2018 which is a sure sign that our customers prefer the on-line experience to in-store. Conversely, and if one runs annual sales comparisons, our HQ shop sales are declining a little, perhaps a sure sign that wine shop-fronted merchants are finding life a little tough.
1,160 bottles of Clarendon Hills sold, which I am thrilled with and not for reasons associated with revenue. For me, Clarendon Hills is one of Australia’s greatest producers, but and for reasons I am unsure of, has never found favour with our domestic customers, save a handful of loyal followers. Our international customers have always been the strongest supporters but, and following last week’s sale, the tables have turned a little. Clarendon Hills rarely puts a foot wrong and certainly produces some of the best Grenache in my opinion. I love their 2005 Onkaparinga which is a steal at £132.50 under bond for a six pack, particularly compared to our nearest UK rival who offer their six-pack at £247.00.
Varietal wise, Shiraz was, as one expects the clear winner with precisely 3,663 bottles selling during February. For the first time, Grenache took second place with 980 bottles followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Regardless of seasonality and climate, Vinorium customers are red wine drinkers (88% red wine sold last month) against a mere 699 bottles of white (10%). Believe it or not, these statistics change marginally throughout the year, even in the summer months. That said, a cool bottle (warehouse temperature) of Pinot Noir or Grenache is rather lovely in the summer as many Rosé wines perpetually underdeliver. Speaking of Shiraz, I must admit that I am surprised to see the ’05 Dead Arm still available albeit less than two cases – I thought this would sell-out immediately as it was one of the most requested wines of 2018…
In terms of producer success, Two Hands leads the field with 1,625 bottles sold. At this rate and given our most recent order of 6,000 bottles (Garden Series), which will be leaving Adelaide in a matter of weeks, it will undoubtedly win the coveted title of wine producer of the year (for the third successive year). We received what must be the most magnificent sample from Two Hands in the form of their special project named Love Over Gold (Eden Valley). Only the oldest vines are used, most of which exceed 90 years in age. The fruit is handpicked and then, to ensure only the best fruit is used, is destemmed by hand, berry-by-berry by a team of 16 (it takes three hours to destem a single ton). Roughly a tenth of the fruit is left intact and is fermented entirely whole cluster along with the hand-destemmed portion. Fermentation occurs naturally and with foot stomping twice a day as the only means of extraction. After three weeks the must is gently pressed to a single 500 litre second use French puncheon, with only the free run juice being used. The wine rests quietly, in single-barrel solitude for 18 months. 50 cases are produced… As expected, this astonishing labour of love comes with a price tag befitting all the hard work.
We have also received their 2016 ‘Avenue to Gold’ a wine produced in slightly larger quantities (200 cases, which is still considered tiny). The more accessible of the two wines, though also the 'bigger' of the two. A small proportion of the 90-year-old vines are used but much of the fruit comes from the younger hillside plantings in addition to the 'Imagine' and 'Inspire' blocks at the base of the hill. The fruit is handpicked and then, to ensure only the best fruit is used, is destemmed by hand, berry-by-berry by the same and incredibly patient team. Once fermentation is complete, the wine was transferred to small concrete tanks where it matured for 12 months to preserve purity of fruit and freshness (a lovely way to show and express fruit). The remainder of maturation was in 3 to 5-year-old French Oak hogsheads and puncheons.. Two Hands are keen for The Vinorium to exclusively represent these two wines in the UK – We’ll let you know how the tasting goes next weekend.
A leading wine importer released their ‘on-trade wine report’ last week titled ‘Where does opportunity lie?’ and as posted by Harpers with their rather sombre summary “In what can only be described as turbulent times for the industry – marred by everything from a looming Brexit to duty hikes, staff shortages alongside wage increases and a significant drop in Britain’s core wine drinkers – the trade is facing an uphill struggle with good news stories few and far between”. Their report also highlights a trend towards consumers increasing their average spend per bottle, which and without sounding self-important, is nothing new at The Vinorium with the average bottle price spend (February) standing at £26.19 which is incredibly high. A fluke you may ask? Not at all, as January, the notoriously killer month for wine merchants saw a 40% increase in sales with an average bottle spend still sitting well above £20.00.
Wine trends are a funny thing and notoriously hollow in my opinion. Trendy for the sake of being trendy or certainly being seen to be writing about the ‘top wine trends’ is simply daft and one of those annoying fashions on which far too many feel compelled to offer their opinion. 2019 trends include lighter-style reds, the grape Fiano, vegan wines, New World sparkling – Tasmania being the one to watch, lower alcohol levels, less Aussie Shiraz in favour of non-conventional plantings!
Accepted, there is a seismic shift away from big, bold, brash style Shiraz, which I am in support of, to a degree. As the new era of winemakers emerge, experimental plantings are coming to the market with more and more gusto. Even the old-guard and some we work with directly take more fun from new, Italian varietal plantings than their bread and butter varieties.
Others remain unyielding in their craft for Shiraz and Grenache. Many questions can be asked about the sustainability of these new trends, particularly given the significant time a vine takes to age before producing fruit of notable quality. I truly wonder if there is mileage with these new trends or if there will be a small pocket of bohemian growers, left behind but creating a stir, nonetheless.
Our annual directors report is a detailed analysis of your very own drinking trends, which in turn, shapes to some degree how The Vinorium moves forward. Would we (collectively speaking) be considered un-trendy if we reported that we sold 83,809 bottles of Australian Shiraz in 2018 (which we did)? Clearly so! Of course, Shiraz comes in all forms from spine curling intensity to those with the balletic balance of Rudolf Nureyev. That said, I wonder if we are entering a new Max Schubert era with underground, artisan winemakers secretly producing non-conventional wines, which someday will be considered iconic for their time. A romantic thought and time will tell…
Back to the ‘now’ and given our trends, based on 7,000 private & trade customers and most importantly, a success story to back-up the words; we conclude that we / you are uber trendy and generally care little for the drivel that is written about wine trends.
Samples galore arrive daily too however, and with much regret, the sample of the 2016 Leung Estate, Ma Maison Pinot Noir did not cut the mustard and will not be featuring this year. Why? In short, and given the success of the sensational 2015, it simply failed to deliver. Perhaps our expectations were too high, but we were left underwhelmed. Do not get me wrong, the wine is well made but and given the slight price increase, it had to be, at the very least, on-par but it failed to deliver. The Vinorium has a simple desire to offer great wine at all price levels and our expectations and demands of any wine is high, which I believe is an integral ingredient to our continued success. Nevermind, there’s always next year. In the meantime, we continue to hunt for wines which over-deliver, a hallmark of The Vinorium.
Many will be delighted to learn that we have the full range of samples from the organically farmed, Greystone (North Canterbury, New Zealand). I confess, I nabbed the Chardonnay sample and took it home with me during the week. Superb in a word and certainly one wine we will be stocking (if, and only to serve my habit!). The team and I will be piling through the entire line-up with the expectation to place our order next week. New Zealand has featured heavily during our week. Samples, flown in from the Gisborne producer, Matawhero are being sampled on a day-to-day basis. One of the standout wineries from the January New Zealand trade tasting was Pegasus Bay (North Canterbury). We’ve sampled and stocks have arrived at our HQ. A full introduction is below but and if I were to describe their wines in one word – “exquisite” says it all. Their 2015 Pinot Noir was one of the standout wines at the trade tasting and it sits comfortably as a wine which overdelivers. In fact, the entire range is sensational – Their Bel Canto Riesling is off the charts in terms of enjoyment.
We hosted Andy Smith winemaker / owner at DuMOL for a spectacular tasting of his 2016's. Andy kindly shipped his full range save for a few cellar door specials. I make no bones about it, I believe DuMOL produces some of the best Pinot Noir & Chardonnay to come out of the US and his 2016 edged-out Paul Lato’s wines which had little competition. Andy’s Charles Heintz Chardonnay was spellbinding, and every Pinot Noir, so thrilling… With a little hindsight, I must have run out of superlatives on the night! We have placed an order for all four Chardonnays and their five Pinot Noirs. Contact Magda if you would like pre-arrival notification and the opportunity of first dibs. Andy kindly showed several Syrahs – The Estate and his Greywacke Eddie’s Patch however, these were left off the shopping list as I believe Gramercy Cellars is untouchable at this price-point. Their ’15 Lagniappe Syrah is insanely good and a full thirty-quid cheaper.
We were also treated to a pair of expensive Cabernet Sauvignons. One from Spring Mountain Napa and the other from Coombsville. Delicious they were but more expensive than Andy’s Pinot Noirs which lacks logic as Andy’s touch with Pinot Noir is otherworldly. Again, the perfect, 100 point Gramercy Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is in a different league and cheaper too. Also, and upon reflection, the ’13 Corryton Park would comfortably sit (in terms of quality) alongside both of Andy’s Cabernets. It just goes to show that Australia can produce world-class wine within a very affordable budget whereas Napa Cabernet needs a small mortgage.
On that note and to highlight Napa pricing, our allocation for the 99 Point 2013 Promontory was released on Wednesday at £400 per bottle (RRP). The pricing structure for Napa Cabernet is impossible to follow, with Screaming Eagle being offered (last week) by merchants for £2,300 per bottle. Similarly, a six pack from Realm (The Absurd) sits around £2,900 and £2,000 for a case of the Oakville Cabernet from Harbison. All these wines received 99 points, and all seem incredibly expensive compared to The Continuum at £1,000.00.
March has begun and spring has arrived although, and as Mark Twain said, “In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours”. Of course, March is the signal for Brexit and the outcome remains a mystery to all. We are fully prepared, whatever the outcome, with our final 2016 Bordeaux shipment being collected on Tuesday with arrival into LCB, Vinotheque on Thursday 14 March. I neglected to mention in my earlier reference to our new, Two Hands shipment that 3,360 bottles have pre-sold. Max’s Garden has sold-out with Harriet’s on the endangered list. Drop Magda an email if you would like to pre-order a case or two. The remainder of the Garden children, Bella, Lily, Samantha & Charlie are looking okay at this stage. Of course, and without upsetting the wine trendies, this large shiraz order is clearly going to place it at the top of March’s leader board!
Enjoy the remainder of your weekend and thank you as ever…
Occidental Freestone Pinot Noir 2016
The 2016 Freestone-Occidental wine shares the same winemaking techniques as our vineyard designated pinot noirs. The 2016 Freestone-Occidental is a vibrant, perfumed wine with a chiseled red-fruit character that is typical of the wines from our Bodega Headlands and Bodega Ridge properties. The 2016 Freestone-Occidental offers a superb balance of primary red fruits and saline elements. It conveys outstanding energy, precision and lift in the mouth and finishes vibrant and long with discreet tannins. Its modest alcohol (13.4%) makes this wine a perfect complement to any meal. It is delicious now and will develop nicely in bottle.
£60.50 per bottle
96 Points - James Suckling "This is impressive for the sense of presence and depth it delivers on the nose and palate with subtly spiced dark plums and cherries, as well as cocoa powder and a superbly composed structure that delivers a seamless, long and fresh finish. A blend of 73 per cent zinfandel, 17 per cent carignane, seven per cent petite sirah and three per cent alicante bouschet. Drink or hold."
£38.95 per bottle
Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2016
95 Points - Antonio Galloni "The 2016 Lytton Springs is a powerful, dense wine. Black cherry, plum, lavender, new leather, cloves, licorice and menthol flesh out. Deep, plush and richly textured, the 2016 Lytton Springs packs a real punch. The 23% Petite Sirah is felt in the wine's darkness and overall gravitas. There is more than enough richness and structure to support many years of fine drinking. What a gorgeous wine this is."
£40.50 per bottle
Ramey Syrah Rodgers
Jancis Robinson - 18 Points "I am a horribly stingy scorer. For a young, non-classic wine to get 18 points out of 20 from me is embarrassingly rare. So today's wine really is exceptional in my view."
£64.95 per bottle
Truly exceptional Syrah from New Zealand’s only cult wine. More like Côte-Rôtie & Hermitage and painstakingly produced with each individual berry picked by hand!
£67.95 per bottle
Phylloxera outbreak in Yarra Valley
"Phylloxera is a mite that attacks the roots of Vitis Vinifera, the vine species that almost all wine grapes come from..."
A Phylloxera outbreak has been identified in the Yarra Valley region of Australia which is being treated as a significant concern for the Australian wine industry and could result in devastating effects.
Phylloxera is a mite that attacks the roots of Vitis Vinifera, the vine species that almost all wine grapes come from. During the late 19th Century and early 20th Century Phylloxera hit Europe on an epidemic level, spreading across the entire continent and bringing the wine industry to its knees. This microscopic Aphid was responsible for nearly destroying every grape vine across Europe and spread further to many other parts of the globe. Thousands of hectares of vineyard were grubbed up and burned and many livelihoods ruined in an attempt to halt the spread but with no success.
Luckily, it was discovered that Phylloxera was already present in the United States which had it’s own indigenous species of grape vine which produced fairly unappetising wines. Through a millennia of existing side by side with this tiny bug, the American vine species had developed a resistance to Phylloxera.
This led to the invention of grafting European Vitis Vinifera vines onto American rootstocks and finally a solution to the problem was found.
Although Phylloxera did reach Australia, many parts were unaffected which is the reason for many of Australia’s ancient vines. These vines however, are not grafted onto American rootstocks so this outbreak poses a “major threat” to the vast majority of Australia’s ‘old vine’ vineyards that remain on it’s original roots.
A 5km quarantine area is now in place around the infested vineyard and careful controls have been put in place to monitor any movement of goods and organic matter to stop the pest from spreading.
“It highlights the critical role that industry must play in preventing further spread. The outbreak is also clear evidence of the need for a new national management strategy for Phylloxera, on which work has recently commenced. We need to do everything in our power to protect our vines and manage the risk.”
Australia is lucky to have a unique wine heritage and a wealth of ancient vines that many regions have built an industry on. However, this latest outbreak brings light to the fact that strict controls must always be in place. Many of Australia’s vineyards are vulnerable and diligence has to be paid in order to protect this heritage.
Australia’s cooler side of Shiraz
Written by Peter Robinson
If you think you’ve got Aussie Shiraz pegged as rich, bold powerhouse wines then think again. Of course, there are ample examples of this style, the hot, dry plains and ancient vines of the Barossa Valley is ideal for some full bodied, monster truck wines that became popular during the 90s and early 2000s but have endured to become some of Australia’s most iconic wines. If this is the style you enjoy, then why look anywhere else! Hobbs of Barossa Ranges, Torbreck and countless others more than cater for this.The producers of that ilk are, and rightly so, unapologetic about a style of wine that has almost defined the country’s wine industry. Shiraz has continued to be Australia’s most widely planted grape variety, and incidentally, dominates our own portfolio in both range and sales.
Still, as tendencies change, tastes develop and the growing trend towards capitalising on Australia’s multitude of sub-regions and micro-climates continues, the character of the wines develop with it. Shiraz is now planted in every valley, peak and coastline across the country, from the highest points of Clare Valley to cool, windswept coasts of Tasmania and it is these conditions that the industrious winemakers are utilising to the highest level in crafting wines of elegance and finesse from Australia’s most iconic grape variety.
To offer an alternative to the powerful Shiraz that we associate with Australia, we look to the country’s cooler regions to give a different perspective on Shiraz, showcasing all that this grape has to offer. An interesting point to mention is that the distinctive spice character that we find in many premium wines of the northern Rhone is down to a compound that is found to be of a higher level in Shiraz than any other grape. This compound is also found in abundance in black and white pepper and it develops in Shiraz between the point at which the grape begins to ripen, to when it is harvested.
The cooler the climate, the longer the ripening period so these peppery notes show themselves much more in cool climate Shiraz.
The high altitude of Clare Valley enjoys some of the country’s coolest temperatures, which incidentally accounts for the world-famous Clare Valley Rieslings found here. Clare Valley Shiraz can be extremely complex showing flavours of blueberry, black cherry, spice and distinct forest aromas.
Our top pick from Clare Valley.
Two Hands Heartbreak
Heartbreak Hill comes from a vineyard off the beaten track in tough growing country, high up in the north eastern corner of the Clare Valley region. Early ripening despite its elevation, this wine displays the elegance and lively aromatics of Clare, with a powerful accent and mineral tannins. At the top of this steep hill, stands a proud Australian flag raised on the flagpole, which adorns the Heartbreak Hill label. Michael knew this site offered something very special from the moment he was first shown the vineyard and needed to secure this fruit. Grower and friend Richard Hughes didn’t make it easy for him though, with negotiations going back and forth over a few years, hence its namesake.
£43.50 per bottle
Surrounded by ocean on three sides, Margaret River is heavily influenced by the coastal breezes cooling the vineyards. Shiraz from here tends to be deeply coloured with dense, black fruits, oak and a particularly silky texture.
As one of Margaret River’s ‘founding five’ wineries, Cape Mentelle pioneered many of the region’s renowned wine styles and is a benchmark for the quality of the
region’s wines today.
Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2003
The fruit is destemmed, berry sorted, cold soaked and traditionally fermented. Maturation in both large oak vats and small barriques is aimed at retaining the refined fruit, floral and spice characters of the variety. Deep ruby with floral, violet aromas develop into lush plums and dark cherries along with hints of cedar, coffee and tobacco. Delicious mocha and cherry flavours cascade over the mid-palate leading into spicy white pepper and cardamom characters. The tannins are fine and powdery showing excellent persistence on a long and complex palate.
£26.95 per bottle
Eden Valley is part of the Barossa zone but has higher altitudes and an overall cooler climate. In contrast to the rich, velvety Shiraz of its immediate neighbour, the Barossa Valley, the cooler vineyards of Eden produce dense, highly structured Shiraz that can be some of Australia’s most age worthy wines.
Yacca Block 2016
Perched high up on the hillside of the Eden Valley, this beautifully positioned vineyard is surrounded by ancient Yaccas. Yacca Block sits at the top of Menglers Hill and is a prime example of the role sub-regionality plays in serious winemaking, with this vineyard only a 25 minutes drive from the western ranges of the Barossa Valley. The soil here is a mix of both quartz and ironstone and the vineyard’s high altitude allows for slow ripening that leads to a very soft and elegant shiraz. Grower Joel Mattschoss has been a great supporter and friend of Two Hands, recently starting a business partnership with a new, exciting project titled ‘Love Over Gold’. This vineyard site also supplies Shiraz for Charlie’s Garden, and Riesling for The Boy.
£43.50 per bottle
The full bodied Shiraz that Australia has become famous for is undeniably unique and has its place amongst the world’s most distinctive wines, but Australia’s cool climate regions are producing Shiraz that is rapidly gaining popularity and offers a refreshing contrast to the norm.
Below are a few more of our favourite examples of Australia’s cooler side of Shiraz.
Deep Woods Block 7
Margaret River Wine Show 2016:
96 points - James Halliday
Partly from the first planting at Deep Woods in '87, partly from an adjacent, mature vineyard. Whole bunches, cold soak and partial barrel fermentation are all in Julian Langworthy's arsenal, then a selection of the best French barriques that have matured the wine for 14 months. Deeply coloured, it is full-bodied, yet dazzlingly light on its feet on the finish and aftertaste, fruit, tannins and oak all on the same lines of the same page.
£34.95 per bottle
2017 Mundus Vini Grand International Wine Award: Gold
95 Points – James Halliday 2018 Australian Wine Companion "Night-harvested, 4 days cold soak, small batch-fermented for up to 2 weeks, matured for 8 months in American (27% new), Hungarian (7.5% new) and French (5.5% new) oak. Deep colour; a very complex shiraz, in terms of flavour and structure; oak plays a significant role in the mocha/dark chocolate/spice components, but the purple and black fruits are more than a match, assisted by tannins in creating the stimulating texture on the back-palate and finish."
£17.95 per bottle
Henchke Keyneton Estate Euphonium 2001
A combination of 70% Shiraz, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot aged 18 months in wood (15% new), the 2002 Keyneton Estate boasts impressive intensity, richness, concentration, and aromatics (black currants, licorice, earthy spice, and a hint of wood). A beauty, with a meatiness to its richness and intensity, it should drink well for a decade or more.
£36.95 per bottle
Henchke Keyneton Estate Euphonium 2002
95 Points - James Halliday
An elegant mix of a full range of red and black fruits; medium-bodied, with delicious silky mouth feel; 70% Shiraz/20% Cabernet Sauvignon/10% Merlot.
£44.95 per bottle
95 Points - James Halliday
50% shiraz, 48% grenache and 2% mourvedre, the shiraz crushed and destemmed for open fermentation, the grenache and the mourvedre were 100% whole bunch open-fermented and foot-stomped; the shiraz was pressed at 6 degrees baume to finish fermentation in used oak; matured for 7 months in used barriques and puncheons, 230 dozen made. Vivid crimson-purple colour beyond east coast shiraz grenache blends; the energy of the blaze of red fruits on the palate is utterly compelling, and creates the long finish and aftertaste, underlined by superfine tannins.
£17.50 per bottle
Two Hands Charlie’s
From one of the highest vineyards on top of Menglers Hill, this quintessentially Eden Valley Shiraz has a soft bouquet of red fruits and fresh cut flowers with a moderately powerful fruit profile that finishes with an amazing minerality. Acidity is the true key to this wine. The elevation provides acidity retention & slight relief from weather extremes. Skeletal gravelly soils provide a fine boned mouth feel. Wildlife & gumtrees surround this vineyard, a natural inspiration for the colour of this label.
£27.50 per bottle
Pegasus Bay Chardonnay 2016
97 Points - Stuart McCloskey “Reductive with aromas still very much in development. That said, this impeccably made wine is centred around textural elegance, satiny structure, mid-palate depth and an effortless sense of cohesion. Decanting for a short while is essential as the oxygenation takes it from the ordinary to immensely appealing. Layer upon layer of fruit and white flowers harmonises beautifully with oatmeal and a beautiful vein of minerality. This is more tensile, finer than many, which adds an intellectual quality found with high-quality Burgundy. This is a superb Chardonnay from one of New Zealand's leading producers. I recommend a drinking window from now to 2025 but would not be surprised to see this peak beyond 10 years.. Sampled in Zalto Bordeaux glassware and comes highly recommended”.
Q&A: Reduction in wine
What is reduction in wine?
Reduction is a slightly sulphurous smell that is apparent when the wine is first opened.
What causes reduction?
It is caused by too little oxygen being present in the wine.
The Sulphur Dioxide, be it natural or added, does not have enough oxygen in the wine to neutralise. This creates Hydrogen Sulphide which is responsible for these aromas.
Why is it caused?
Many winemakers these days are tempted to limit oxygen contact throughout the whole winemaking process. They will often use techniques referred to as anaerobic, which means that the entire wine making process has been done under a blanket of Carbon Dioxide, protecting the wine from any contact with oxygen. When the wine is then bottled under screwcap, which are pretty much completely airtight, there is almost no oxygen absorbed into the wine. Wine bottled under cork rarely experiences this problem as cork allows a certain amount of oxygen through.
What can I do if I experience reduction in a wine?
Usually these aromas will dissipate after a little aeration so letting the bottle breathe for a while, decanting or simply swirling the wine around the glass will always help.
"Pegasus Bay constitutes one of
New Zealand’s best producers."
Written by Peter Robinson
Back in January, Stu, Magda and I visited the Tastes of New Zealand tasting. Those of you that regularly read our weekend magazine may remember the article back then in which we admitted that overall, we were left feeling a little flat by the experience. However, there was one producer that we highlighted as being by far the stand out of the day.
We tasted separately and reconvened at the end to discuss our thoughts of the day and there was one name that was on all of our minds, Pegasus Bay. Standing head and shoulders above the majority in the room, Stu, Magda and I were unanimous in the fact that their Chardonnay was by far and away our single favourite wine of the day. It is a rare thing to see such unanimous agreement between three strong minded, wine loving individuals who value their own opinion above all else but on this occasion we managed to find a rare moment of instant harmony! Their Chardonnay is produced using traditional Burgundian winemaking methods, fermented in large oak puncheons, 70% of which are old so as not to impart too much oak flavour, followed by a further 12 month maturation.
We were impressed with all of Pegasus Bay’s wines. Their Rieslings also stuck in our minds as before the tasting, we had enjoyed a delicious feast at the German Gymnasium for lunch accompanied by a glass of German Riesling and as the constant professionals that we are, spent lunch discussing the quality of German Riesling against alternatives. The Pegasus Bay Rieslings and in particular, the Bel Canto was as close as any of us had come to such a quality outside of Germany, both Rieslings in fact being better than the one we had enjoyed with our lunch. In fact, I feel that New Zealand as a whole is the only country that comes anywhere near. The Bel Canto Riesling is produced from bunches that have been affected by at least 30% Botrytis which
maximises the intensity of flavour and concentration.
Pegasus Bay claims to have the second oldest Pinot Noir vines in the whole of the country, the Prima Donna is only made in exceptional years from the best barrels of the oldest vines.
An entirely family run operation, owned by the Donaldson family, Pegasus Bay vineyards are based in Canterbury’s famous Waipara sub-region. Due to its protection from cool, Pacific breezes from the east by the Treviotdale Range and its gravel soils with large, heat radiating stones, Waipara has an unusually long ripening period with warm days and cool nights. These conditions promote a high level of ripening, with grapes that are intensely flavoured.
Pegasus Bay have a strong belief in minimal intervention and sustainable vineyard practices and is an accredited member of the New Zealand Wine Growers (NZWG) sustainable viticulture program, employing completely natural methods of disease and pest control and clarify their wines by natural settling.
Awarded the highest 5 star “outstanding” rating by Robert Parker and considered by Neal Martin as “one of New Zealand’s best producers” they have received countless praise and high ratings by the critics.
Their Chardonnay is produced using traditional Burgundian winemaking methods, fermented in large oak puncheons, 70% of which are old so as not to impart too much oak flavour, followed by a further 12 month maturation. Their estate Pinot Noir is produced from various blocks that were harvested at different times to give varied fruit profile which are individually fermented and matured separately for 22 months in 40% new oak barriques made by Burgundian coopers.
Prima Donna Pinot Noir 2013
96 Points - James Suckling "The refinement and brilliance of the fruit on offer here really sets this wine apart from the regular Pegasus Bay pinot noir. Deliciously rich dark cherry aromas and flavors are presented amid silky, refined and long-form tannins. A great wine, in every respect. Drink now. Screw cap."
£45.95 per bottle
96 Points - James Suckling "Super vibrant with plenty of earthy forest floor aromas as well as toasted spices. The palate reveals a core of pristine dark cherry fruit flavor, beautifully judged ripe tannins and a level of effortless depth that singles this out as a consistently great New Zealand pinot noir. Drink now. Screw cap."
96 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz - "A serious, multidimensional Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Sweet raspberries, forest floor evolving to red cherries and pomegranate with a little aeration. Tannins, as you would hope for, are satiny and wrap the fruit perfectly. A hallmark of the producers is elegance but the wine fans-out beautifully on the palate." Served in a Zalto Burgundy Glass.
£25.50 per bottle
Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Riesling 2015
18.5+ Raymond Chan "Bright, light golden-yellow colour with some depth, paler on the edge. The nose is elegant in proportion with rich and concentrated, well-packed aromas of ripe citrus fruits along with honey, marmalade and musk, unfolding exotic floral elements. Dryish to taste and medium-full bodied, the palate has a concentrated, dense heart packed with harmoniously integrated flavours of ripe citrus fruits, marmalade, honeysuckle and musk. This has real body and presence, and the palate has a rounded and gently unctuous mouthfeel. The acidity is ripe and soft, providing underlying energy and drive, and the wine carries to a long, lingering finish of honey, citrus fruits and musk. This is a full and concentrated dry Riesling with ripe citrus fruits, honey, musk and marmalade botrytis flavours on a rounded, unctuous palate. Match with Asian and Middle Eastern fare over the next 4+ years. Hand-picked bunches with at least 30% noble botrytis, cool-fermented in tank to 13.6% alc. and 7.2 g/L RS, TA 6.3 g/L."
£20.50 per bottle
The aromas and flavours invoke impressions of ripe stone fruits, such as nectarines and peaches, supported by hints of tropical spices, passionfruit and lycees. There is a backbone of tangy lime- and lemon-like citrus fruits which add a zesty “nervosity”. It has a spine of minerality and crisp acidity which keep it tight-knit and focussed, drying out its lingering after-taste.
This classic style Riesling is different from the 2007 because of the botrytis. It has a star right lemon hue and while lemons, limes and mandarins come to the fore, there is a background of ripe stonefruit such as peaches and apricots. Honeysuckle and honeycomb influences come from botrytis, which has also made the wine more full bodied and concentrated. It has a spine of natural acidity and tingling minerality that helps draw out the palate structure to a citrus zest finish.