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Marlborough Wine Weekend 2011 – Day Two Highlights

By October 29, 2011No Comments

Day Two of the Marlborough Wine Weekend was always going to be a big one, with every event planned to be conducted on a grand scale. With at least 200 wines that could be tasted by every guest, it would be an impossible task to do justice to every wine. One either had to be selective and look closely at these wines, or look at a larger number but gaining impressions only. I took the latter path. Here are the highlights of Day Two for me:

The Pinot Noir Experience
One of the best chances to see a range of Marlborough Pinot Noir, and if regionality is observable and able to be tasted. 61 Pinot Noirs with their sub-region of origin noted were arranged for tasting in the rustic and characterful Barn at Auntsfield. This event was introduced by Ivan Sutherland of Dog Point wines, one of the most experienced growers in Marlborough. Ivan gave a run-down of the history and the influences of the climate and soils.

While I tasted many of the wines, I also missed a number, no doubt worthy of mention. But I noted as interesting a spicy and complex Cloudy Bay ‘Mustang’ 2008, a firm, concentrated and ageworthy Fromm ‘Fromm’ 2009, a rich and succulent Giesen ‘Brothers’ 2009, a stylish, but serious Forrest ‘The Valleys’ 2010, a firm and oak-spiced Lake Chalice 2010, a richly textured Greywacke 2009, very concentrated, show-stopping Jackson Estate ‘Gum Emperor’ 2009, a beautifully subtle, but driven Highfield 2009, sweet-fruited, user-friendly Marisco ‘The Ned’ 2010, a crisp and tight Mud House ‘Caseys Road’ 2010, a firm and textured Nautilus ‘Four Barriques’ 2009, a savoury, complex and layered Seresin ‘Raupo’ 2008, up-front, fruit-featured, dense Spy Valley 2010, elegant and fine-featured Staete Landt ‘Paladin’ 2009, a focussed and precise TWR 2010, a refine and superbly concentrated and interestingly seasoned Vavasour 2010, classically lined and pure Villa Maria ‘SV Seddon’ 2009 and a rich, complete Wither Hills 2010.

The lessons learned here for me were the many excellent if not exceptional wines from the 2010 vintage coming on stream, and the strength of winemaker signature over regionality. I believe regionality and terroir exists, all things being equal. If anything, the wines from the Awatere Valley seemed more slim-line, pure and minerally, with crisper acidity.

The Long Lunch
It was a welcome respite to head off to lunch in a marquee next to the chapel at Clos Henri, where platters of locally sourced food were served. A range of aromatic white wines accompanied the food, my pick from the wines at my part of the long table being a right down-the-line, lime and honey hinted Toi Toi Riesling 2010 and a Fromm Riesling Spatlese 2009, sweeter, but if anything more elegant and slender. Kevin Judd of Greywacke spoke to the group (without functioning microphone) on the state of Marlborough aromatic varieties, their handling and their potential. For those who know Kevin, this was a challenge for the quiet, self-effacing man, and he acquitted himself well. A small set of ‘Wild Card Reds’, or alternative red varietal wines was available for tasting in the chapel. I missed most of them, but a serious rosé, the Framingham ‘F-Series’ Montepulciano Rosato 2011 and a ripe and well-concentrated Mount Riley ‘Limited Release’Syrah 2009 looked very attractive.
The Evolution of Sauvignon Blanc
At least 87 Sauvignon Blancs were offered to show regionality as with the Pinot Noirs. The selection also included a ‘Library Corner’ of older vintages, to demonstrate the characters of Sauvignon Blanc as they age. The wines were laid out in a marquee in the beautiful and peaceful grounds of Oak Cottage in the Awatere. Highly respected researcher Dr Damian Martin and veteran winemaker Glenn Thomas introduced the session explaining regions, soils, climate as key factors influencing the wines.

There was insufficient time to do justice to all the wines on show, but the following made an impression on me. An ARA ‘Single Estate’ 2011 was complete and rounded, an Auntsfield ‘Reserve’ 2010 with great drive, length and subtle spicing, a Catalina Sounds 2011 elegant and gentle, a Clos Marguerite 2010 distinctively cool and racy, a Greywacke ‘Wild Sauvignon’ rich, lush and robust, a refined, tight and cutting Lawson’s Dry Hills 2011, a textural, restrained Mahi ‘Boundary Farm’ 2009, a well-proportioned, textbook Mount Riley 2011, a flavour-packed and textured Marisco King’s Favour’ 2011, a seamless and decadent Seresin ‘Marama’ 2008, a pure and concentrated TWR 2011, a rounded, stylish and enriched Tin Pot Hut 2010, an exotically-fruited, sweetly lifted Tupari 2010, a densely concentrated and forceful, complex Vavasour ‘Claudia’s’ 2007, a wonderfully mouthfilling Villa Maria ‘Wairau Reserve’ 2011, a harmonious and balanced Wairau River 2011 and an intense and individual Wither Hills ‘Ranrangi’ 2010.

Many of the ‘Library’ wines were past their best, but still looking good, without undue development were the 2005 wines and 2007 vintage wines, of which the Nautilus was a standout. And as if to prove a point, a Lawson’s Dry Hills 2001 was also in excellent condition.

The conclusions I made were that in good, low-yield, well-ripened vintages, Sauvignon can age surprisingly well. While 2010 is seen as a standout vintage, 2011 offers wines with lovely soft, varietal aromatic characters that appeal enormously. Many of the 2009 wines, and older, if sensitively handled with oak and various winemaker inputs, can show very well. Regionality is a little clearer, and the established personalities of Rapaura, Brancott and Awatere and the like seem to be accepted.

The Marlborough Gourmet Feast
The formal dinner to finish the Marlborough Wine Weekend was held in the grounds of Timara Lodge. Upon arrival, guests were served an elegant No.1 Family Estate Methode Traditionnelle NV with canapés, before being ushered in to partake of a five course meal designed by Des Harris of Clooney Restaurant in Auckland. The meal was excellent with the menu working from lighter and fresh dishes to rich and more complex and flavoured courses. Here are the food courses and the wines delivered to our table:
Sauvignon Blanc Course
Milk curd, pulses, grains, natural asparagus juice
  • Lake Chalice ‘Raptor’ Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – restrained, but with layered oak spice complexities
  • Staete Landt Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – elegant, tight, gooseberries, and subtle development
Riesling Course
King salmon, cucumber, black radish, sake and sherry
  • Greywacke Riesling 2009 – savoury, complex, substantial and dry
  • Spy Valley ‘Envoy’ Riesling 2009 – medium-dry, honey, toast and pleasing development
Chardonnay Course
Pork belly, pickled apple, smoked butternut, cider
  • Seresin Chardonnay 2008 – full, lush, citrus fruits with subtle oaking, lively and lush
  • Seresin ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay 2008 – complex and intense mealy, flinty, nutty and concentrated
  • Spy Valley ‘Envoy’ Chardonnay 2007 – packed, but layered, nutty, mealy and with power
  • Staete Landt Chardonnay 2009 – refined with intensity and building complexities
Pinot Noir Course
Wild venison, preserved cherries, malt, radicchio
  • Fromm ‘Brancott’ Pinot Noir 2007 – Not tasted
  • Seresin ‘Raupo Creek’ Pinot Noir 2007 – Not tasted
  • Spy Valley ‘Envoy’ Pinot Noir 2009 – concentrated and fine with firm textures and rich spices
  • Staete Landt Pinot Noir 2008 – Not tasted
Dessert Wine Course
Strawberry, yogurt, lemon, blue borage honey
  • Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2009 – soft, subtle richness with honey and spices
  • Marisco ‘Sticky End’ Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – ripe stonefruits, honey, zesty and zingy
  • Seresin Noble Riesling 2008 – concentrated lusciousness with honey, toast and nutty nuances
  • Staete Landt Riesling Auslese 2009 – medium sweet, nutty with a fine drying thread
Lifetime Achievement Award
Wine Marlborough has honoured a pioneer of the region at the final dinner of the Marlborough Wine Weekend. The previous recipients have been Gerry Gregg and Ross Lawson. This year, the award was presented to Phil Rose of Wairau River. Phil was the person who opened up the Rapaura area for grapegrowing by fighting the objections to his plans to plant vines in the northen part of the Wairau Valley. His opposition came primarily from the forestry industry whose chemical run-offs would have made the land unsuited to most forms of agriculture. The award was a very popular one and recognises the continued role that Phil has in promoting Marlborough, its vines and its wines today.

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