Monday, May 12, 2008

Report from ... New Zealand Preview – May 1, 2008

And with a simple flip of the calendar we’re into May and that can only mean one thing (besides spring is here) … The New Zealand tasting is just around the corner. Every May Wines of New Zealand invades Toronto and puts on one of the premier events for wine lovers, and it is for that reason (amongst others) that they have been so successful in weaned us from their kind of Sauvignon Blanc onto their other aromatics (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer) and also into some good reds (Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet-Merlot blends). On May 1st, a first rate food and wine preview tasting was held at the LCBO Summerhill – a preview for both the New Zealand Wine Fair (May 15) and the Vintages release (May 24). Twenty-eight wines were on for show and tell and taste. There are some values, some high-end treasures and some value priced treasures. Below I’ll let you in on my Top 9 (three in each category) … so let’s get on with it.

Values …
A couple of nights ago I opened a New Zealand Riesling that lacked the acidity but definitely had all the flavours a good Riesling should have. The Forrest Estate 2007 Riesling ($19.70) thankfully has both. Then there’s the Lawsons Dry Hills 2006 Gewürztraminer ($19.60) with its spicy-sweet floral nose and spicy-peppery-floral-rosy palate … very nice, very refreshing, very Gewurzt-like – which is good, if you’re a Gewürztraminer. Kim Crawford’s “Pansy Rosé” has always been a favourite, and the 2007 version is no different, with its neon pink colour and refreshing raspberry-strawberry nose and taste. This one’s made entirely from Merlot.

High-End Treasures …
Sure it’s $35.15 – which seems pretty high for a Sauvignon Blanc, but Brancott has been a favourite of mine at the low-end level for quite a while, so their Brancott B 2007 Sauvignon Blanc is an easy step up for those special occasions … and those flavours are even more pop-pop-bang in your mouth that the $15 bottle.

Looking for a Pinot to impress? The Craggy Range Te Muna Road 2006 Pinot Noir ($46.95) should do the trick nicely. Great nose which is followed in the mouth with cherry, raspberry, strawberry and cranberry. Also from Craggy Range comes the 2005 Sophia ($61.95), a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. This is one of those eviro-friendly big-bottle wines, where after you’ve finished what’s in the bottle you can recycle it as a weapon or a weight to hold open the fire escape door. Nice dark fruit here – leathery, juicy, big tannins, good flavours and some real ageability under the hood – a wine made for the long haul.

Value Treasures …
This is my favourite category of wine – wines that over-deliver for their price point. Coopers Creek 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($16.95) with lots of gooseberry and grassy smells here, in the mouth it is all grapefruit and citrus which replays on the medium finish.

It’s hard to find a good value in Pinot Noir, but the Shepherds Ridge 2006 Pinot Noir ($24.75) delivers in spades. Dark and dirty on the nose, and though a touch jammy at first on the palate it opens nicely to reveal red fruit and earth with good tannins and acidity.

Finally, in the value treasures, is a Merlot that is simply lovely – Sacred Hill 2006 Basket Press Merlot ($19.95). The nose serves up dark fruit and blackberries; while in the mouth the dark fruit continues along with earthy undertones and rich tannins. It’s big and ballsy with a lingering dryness on the tongue, it truly does fit the bill of over delivery at under twenty-bucks.

All of the above wines will be available in the May 24th Vintages release.

No comments: