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Marlborough Wine Weekend 2011 – Day One Highlights

By October 28, 2011No Comments

The third Marlborough Wine Weekend has built on the successes of the previous two events, showcasing the strengths and diversity of the wines of this country’s largest wine growing region. To cater for around 200 guests is no mean feat, and it was done so with much aplomb and style. While some of the activities were tried and true, there were some that broke new ground, especially brave, considering the numbers of people involved. No doubt the organisers will work at continuing the theme of showcasing the best, while educating visitors and locals on the finer points of winegrowing in Marlborough. I don’t think they’ll shy away from trying something new for the next Marlborough Wine Weekend in two years’ time.

From my viewpoint, one of the shortcomings was that the latest weekend was under-promoted. It had slipped under the radar for me, until the last minute really. It is crucial that our most important wine growing region be seen at the forefront of promotional activity and such events must be advertised boldly. And who were the target audience? There seemed to be a disproportionate number of trade and hospitality personnel present. While these people are very important in promoting and selling the wines as the region, it is arguably the final consumer who should be the target, and these people seemed a little short on the ground. Is the Marlborough Wine Weekend a ‘trade’ event, or is it for the public? It felt as if it was geared for the latter by way of its more generalised theming of its events. More detailed and in-depth events could be created for the trade, who would appreciate a more sophisticated approach.

Notwithstanding these points, the Marlborough Wine Weekend was thoroughly enjoyable. Marlborough seems to be on a high, with the 2011 and 2010 as excellent vintages under their belt, vignerons have plenty of good material to work with. Confidence is building, especially after the difficulties caused by the 2008 harvest. Following are some of the highlights from Day One for me.

The Winemaker’s Bench – Pinot Noir Blending
This was a tried and true exercise where guests formed teams and tried to blend a Pinot Noir from component wines, the resultant blends being judged by the resident winemaker. This is always a great deal of fun and can be quite competitive, the judgement depending on the preferences of the winemaker, and whether the winemaker is feeling serious or adventurous. I was at my host winery, Spy Valley, where winemaker Paul Bourgeois gave nothing away in what style he preferred, except that a “harmonious wine” was what he enjoyed. We had four component 2011 wines to use, and this is what our team came up with, the blend being the winning one:
  • 50% – F 10/5, mature vines, deep clay soils, cool site – very aromatic with violets and herbs, elegant and very fine
  • 5% – Bell Abel whole cluster – stem influence, moderate clay/stony site – brown woody aromas with grip and structure, some greenness
  • 30% – Outpost 5, 6 – distinctive fruit structure, moderate clay hillside – solid and dense with black fruits, a rounded mouthfeel
  • 15% – Outpost 115, new barrel, distinct fruit, moderate clay/stony hillside site = very oaky with spices, cedar liquorice and raspberries

Other teams had much greater proportions of the component with new wood, and higher amounts of the whole bunch wine. At other wineries, as many as 6 components were offered for use, or as few as three.

Marlborough White Wine and Cheese Pairing
A most ambitious masterclass session with 6 wine from the Marlborough region served alongside 6 cheeses from Whitestone, near Oamaru, and from Sherrington Grange, in the Mahau Sound, near Picton. Bob Berry, founder of Whitestone and Lisa Harper of Sherrington spoke on the cheeses, and a panel of commentators including Fiona Smith of Cuisine, Tim Heath of Cloudy Bay and social media expert and wine critic Jason Bryant spoke on the various pairings. The wines served were:
  • Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2010
  • Giesen Riesling 2010
  • Mud House ‘Woolshed’ Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Cloudy Bay ‘Te Koko’ Sauvignon Blanc 2007
  • Staete Landt Chardonnay 2009
  • Greywacke Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2009

The cheeses served were:

  • Whitestone ‘Mt Domet’
  • Whitestone ‘Lindis Pass’
  • Sherrington Grange Soft Goats Cheese
  • Whitestone ‘Danseys Pass’
  • Whitestone ‘Duntroon’
  • Whitestone ‘Windsor Blue’

It was generally agreed to be a fascination session, but too complex, with 36 possible interactions and a fairly limited amount of time to look at them. While there are many synergies between winemaking and cheesemaking, both endeavours are appreciated with practice and education. Unfortunately, few people are conversant to the same degree in both, and the assessments of the suitability of the pairings become somewhat subjective in such circumstances. Obviously basic principles of compatibility using complementary and contrasting componentry can be used. For my palate, the most versatile wine working with more cheeses was the Chardonnay, followed by the Riesling and the Complex Sauvignon. The most successful cheese was the Whitestone ‘Lindis Pass’ cows milk brie style followed by the Whitestone ‘Duntroon’.semi-soft goats cheese. Different tasters had their preferences, some being outstanding, but the comment was made that there was no one outstanding and classical pairing. I will need to investigate wine and cheese pairing further!

The Twilight Garden Party

Set in the magnificent garden grounds of the luxurious Timara Lodge, attendees visited stations of varietal wines with match food pairings at each station. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris were lined up and offered. It was an ideal opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow attendees, tasting and dining on smaller portions of food. As socialising was the order of the day, I only managed to look at a few wines. In such circumstances, I often tend to look at wines and labels that are unfamiliar to me. From the Chardonnay table, I enjoyed the subtle Astrolabe 2008, fine-featured and spicy Lake Chalice 2010, the tight and concentrated Vavasour 2010, long and complex Spy Valley ‘Envoy’ 2007, a subtle, building Te Whare Ra 2010 and a rich, luscious Auntsfield 2009.

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