The latest issue of ‘Cuisine’ magazine, issue 165 for July 2014 is a good one for foodies and lovers of good living as it features the winners of the ‘Cuisine N.Z. Good Food Awards’ in which it announces their picks of the country’s best restaurants. This year, Auckland restaurant Sidart took top honours as the ‘Cuisine Restaurant of the Year’, being rated ‘3 Hats’ (toque) and 18/20, with fellow Auckland establishments Clooney, The French Café and The Grove earning the same ratings. Accompanying the magazine is a handy pocket guide which is dubbed ‘New Zealand’s Dining Bible’.
However, for wine enthusiasts the issue is rather weak and disappointing. In a magazine espousing “food, wine and good living”, the wine content is hardly significant. Of the180 pages, including covers, only 16 are devoted to wine, and of those, there are less than 10 full pages of content, the rest being a cover page and advertisements. While there is some pithy news items, the actual background and analysis of the tasting themes is minimal. There’s hardly anything to maintain one’s interest for more than a few moments. Unfortunately, this has been the trend over the last few years, and has been the result of pressures to fit in more tasting notes, according to Cuisine sources, as well as no doubt the need to fit in the mandatory advertising.
The outcome is that I regard Cuisine magazine as no longer being an essential purchase when it comes to wine. I’ve certainly given it a chance, probably more so than most readers. This is a shame, as it was once the most accessible and premier publication to go to when it came to knowing about wine scene. This is indicative of the reducing amount of print space in the paper publishing world. Cuisine have countered this trend by launching www.cuisinewine.co.nz and the on-line content is pretty much what the magazine of old had – full tasting notes of the successful wines, but has yet to blossom into something greater. There is more breadth with promotions and food matches, and I enjoy the video clips of writer John Saker discussing the top wines. So for those keen on following the wine scene from Cuisine’s work, you just need to visit the website.
The Syrah Results
The Cuisine results of the N.Z. Syrah tasting, judged by the panel of Cameron Douglas MS and Jane Boyle, led by John Belsham, with John Saker as associate, recognises the continued rising performance of the variety, this time giving the nod to a wine from Marlborough, rather than Hawke’s Bay, which is regarded as the premier growing region. Of 41 wines tasted, there were three 5-star wines with two 4 ½ stars and six 4-star rated examples.
Top honours went to the Fromm ‘La Strada’ Syrah 2011, Fromm being a producer with a strong track record domestically and internationally, and the ‘La Strada’ release being more accessible than their individual ‘FrommVineyard’ bottling. The other 3-star wines were the Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels 2011 and Crossroads ‘Winemakers Collection 2012, both from the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke’s Bay. The next two were the Giesen ‘The Brothers’ 2011, from the Wrekin Road site in Marlborough, and Elephant Hill ‘Reserve’ 2012
While Cuisine acknowledges the increasing success of Marlborough as a Syrah growing region, there’s much more to be said about the performance of the variety in New Zealand, especially the good results from cooler vintages and from a diverse range of climates, sites and soils.
The Bordeaux Blends Results
The paucity of top performing Bordeaux Blends in the Cuisine tasting may reflect several factors, including New Zealand’s focus on Pinot Noir and now Syrah, and the more difficult vintages for the varieties in this country, of late. I also suspect that not many producers entered, or had appropriate wine to put forward to Cuisine. There were only 47 wines judged, whereas there were 263 Pinot Noirs judged by Cuisine for the November issue last year. Of these, there were two 5-star wines, with the Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Merlot 2010 topping the list. This has been a superb performer over recent years, and in fact I rated it 20.0/20 early on in its life (click here to see my review).
The second top wine was the value Couper’s Shed Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet 2013. The two 4 ½ star wines were Brancott Estate Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2013 and Pask ‘Declaration’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec 2007. With the 2013 Hawke’s Bay wines just appearing, I’d like to think there will be more attention on the Bordeaux varieties. The Cuisine results are indicative of recent judging trends where wines of immediate accessibility are being well-rewarded. I have no issue with this, and indeed applaud this, but I do lament the decreasing recognition of wines with the structure and potential to develop with some bottle age. Invariably these wines are firmer, more concentrated and not in drinking balance, but experienced judges can predict with confidence which wines will be great bottles for the future.
‘Reds Under the Radar’ is the title to a very small piece on the results of tasting ‘N.Z. Specialty Reds’ in which the tasting panel rated the Coopers Creek ‘SV Saint John’ Hawke’s Bay Malbec 2012 their top wine from 9 tasted, at 4-stars. There’s increasing amount of interest in Malbec, as well as Marzemino, Montepulciano, St Laurent and the likes, so maybe we’ll hear more about these in the future in Cuisine? www.cuisine.co.nz