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Cuisine’s Bumper Sparkling and Pinot Noir Issue

By October 24, 2012No Comments
It’s a welcome return to some solid wine content in Cuisine magazine after a period of skimpiness and dwindling pages devoted to the subject in a magazine on “food, wine and good living”. Issue 155 for November 2012 is the pre-Christmas edition and features the results for Champagne and Sparkling Wine as well as New Zealand Pinot Noir, the styles that will be very popular over the festive season. Of 188 pages (cover to cover), the wine section is from page 130 to 159 (with a few non-wine related full-page advertisements), and this represents a significant commitment to the category. So congratulations to the Cuisine team for getting back on track as being one of the most influential New Zealand wine publications. www.cuisine.co.nz
Champagne and Sparkling
The magazine has divided its sparkling wine report into three sections: Champagne $100 & Under, Champagne Over $100 and ‘Party Poppers’ covering other sparklers, to conform with style and price point definitions that operate from the consumer perspective. The quality of Champagne has never been higher, and reviews of Champagne throughout the world have reported so, with Cuisine supporting these views. Cuisine also points out that there are a number of high quality Champagnes that offer great value, this tasting revealing as ‘Best Buys’ Beaumet Cuvee Brut NV and the perennial H. Lanvin & Fils Brut NV which can be purchased for under $50.00.

From 32 wines tasted for this class, 11 were awarded 5-stars, 3 were awarded 4 ½ stars and 6 wines 4-stars. Only one wine was not recognised with an award. The ‘Top 10′ Champagnes $100 and Under class, as judged by John Belsham, Ralph Kyte-Powell, Sarah-Kate Dineen and Andrew Parkinson were, in order: Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Brut NV, Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial NV, Beaumet Cuvee Brut NV, Ayala Brut Majeur NV, Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label Brut NV, Veuve Cliquot Rosé NV, Moet & Chandon Rosé Imperial NV, Ayala Brut Rosé Majeur NV and G.H. Mumm Brut Rosé NV. Panel member Sarah-Kate Dineen mentioned the impressive diversity of styles, stating “All were a joy to judge”.

As could be expected, the findings of the Champagne Over $100 were up a level. Of the 12 examples judged, 9 wines were awarded 5-stars, 2 wines 4 ½ and 1 wine 4-stars. In order, the ‘Top 10′ were: Laurent Perrier Brut Millesime LP 2002, Taittinger Brut Reserve NV, Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 2004, Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosé NV, Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut NV, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2004, Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2004, Taittinger Prelude Grands Crus Brut NV, Bollinger La Grande Annee 2002 and Dom Perignon 2003, the last wine earning 4 ½ stars. Panel chair John Belsham said “this tasting again confirms that Champagne producers, with their phenomenal expertise and centuries of fine tuning, deliver beautiful wines.”

The Party Poppers category also yielded a diversity of successful styles. For the third year running, Lindauer has topped the tasting. Of 99 wines tasted, there were 6 wines awarded 5-star, 4 wines at 4 ½ stars and 10 at 4-stars. Nearly two-thirds, 60 wines, gained no award. Clearly there are many ordinary sparkling wines out there. The ‘Top 5′ were: Lindauer Classic Brut Cuvee NV, Hawkesbridge Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle 2006, Lindauer Classic Rosé, Brancott Estate Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Brut Cuvee and Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut NV (from the U.S.)
New Zealand Pinot Noir
A massive 326 New Zealand Pinot Noirs were judged by John Belsham, Alastair Maling MW, Jane Boyle and John Saker. The top wine was Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir 2010 from Alexandra. In fact all of the ‘Top 10′ came from Otago states Cuisine, 9 from Central Otago (of these, one I believe with Waitaki fruit in the blend) and one from the Hakataramea Valley in North Otago (but since it’s on the northern side of the Waitaki river, it’s technically South Canterbury!). This is a great result for Phil Hanford and his partners who have made one of Alexandra’s top Pinot Noir labels for a number of years, this award bring due recognition for a sub-region that is overshadowed by the regions closer to Cromwell. I recently rated the wine 5-stars also (see my review here).

Of the total judged, 25 wines were awarded 5-stars, 27 wines 4 ½ stars and 51 wines rated 4-stars. There were 150 wines, just under half of the 326, not awarded. The great consequence is that over 100 wines are given exposure, and this is important for our industry which has Pinot Noir as its most produced red variety. For those attending the Pinot Noir 2013 conference (click here to go to the website), this gives an indication of what to look out for! While Central Otago was the most successful region, Marlborough also featured, this being no surprise for those who have looked closely at the wines from there. The fact that Marlborough has by far the most plantings has no bearing on the level of quality that has been achieved by the leaders. As judge Alastair Maling MW said “we are seeing regionality factors more so than ever before. Otago might dominate from an image perspective, but more than one region is producing outstanding New Zealand Pinot Noir”. Unfortunately, wines from Martinborough, Waipara and Nelson were not well-represented, this probably more a reflection of what was entered into Cuisine for judging, rather than the regions’ poor performance.

The Top 10 New Zealand Pinot Noirs were, in order: Grasshopper Rock Central Otago 2010, Tatty Bogler 2010, Valli Gibbston 2010, Valli Bendigo 2010, Ceres Composition 2010, Gibbston Valley Central Otago 2011, Carrick Unravelled Central Otago 2010, Rock Ferry Central Otago 2010, Pasquale Hakataramea Valley 2010 and Yealands Reserve Central Otago 2011. While most of the awarded Central Otago wines were from the highly touted 2010 vintage, it is encouraging to see the lighter 2011 wines come through well, showing the attractiveness of elegance, and a number of 2009 vintage wines holding up very well.

With the Pinot Noir category so crowded, and competition exacerbated by the GFC, the number of good value wines has increased substantially. Cuisine’s ‘Best Buys’ in Pinot Noir number 15, and indeed the first on the list is the overall top wine, the Grasshopper Rock 2010, with a price of $29-$32. It’s a good time for consumers to enjoy Pinot Noir.

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