March 2009: Ata Rangi (New Zealand)
Ata Rangi (www.atarangi.co.nz)
is one of five 5-star wineries in Robert Parker's book and is synonymous
with New Zealand Pinot Noir. Based on the North Island in Martinborough just
a short drive from Wellington, this operation sited in a low rain-fall area
has earned a well-deserved reputation for consistently producing Pinot Noir
of high-quality but it would be a mistake to overlook their white wines. The
2007 vintage produced very lean wines with high tannin levels that are only
just starting to reveal themselves. I think the verdict is still very much
out on this one. The 2008 vintage was again a victim of the weather, with
frost affected vines and low rains resulting in a 50% reduction in yield.
Good vineyard and harvest management will result in wines with expressive
aromatics and robust fruit flavours.
Rangi Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Martinborough NZ
$25. A 'curvy' drink that is rich and fleshy. Hand-picked fruit from 5
blocks, half of which was cold soaked for a few hours before drain and
press. 10% was fermented in 3-year old oak, the rest in stainless steel. The
wine sits with 13.5% alc and is high in acidity. Passionfruit and citrus
flavours standout in this simple drink, not to say that it's linear. Good
with food. Drink now till 2010. 87/100.
Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris 2008,
$40. Made in the richer style resembling Alsace but slightly higher in
alcohol at 13%. Fruit is hand-picked and pressed with a membrane press. 20%
fermented in 3-year old barrels. Pleasing mango and lychee flavours with
aroma of orange buds. Very nice for a casual drink. Drink now. 88/100.
Ata Rangi Petrie Chardonnay 2008,
$30. Fermented in 25% new Burgundy barriques, 30% underwent full malolactic
fermentation and aged on lees for 7 months. Light aroma of browning butter
seasoned with a sprinkle of sweet Chinese spice. A dry mineral introduction
followed by an explosion of lemon and lime flavours. Drink now till 2012.
Ata Rangi Criaghall Chardonnay 2008,
$60. Fruit from 20+ year old, low-yielding Mendoza clones. Indigenous yeast
fermented in 22% new oak with lees stirring. 60% malolactic ferment, aged on
lees for 9 months. A complex nose of white peach, hint of melon and a lift
of lime. This is a very fruity drink, sweet and voluptuous. Drink now till
Ata Rangi Celebre 2005,
$45. A blend of 30% merlot, 35% syrah, 35% cabernet franc/sauvignon. Dark
red colour, drying red berries with sweet herbs and clove. Hint of liquorice
even. Well integrated tannins, a bouncy well-rounded fruit core with good
length in the finish. 91/100.
Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2008,
$32. 100% whole berry crush underwent 2 -7 days pre-ferment maceration.
Constantly hand-plunged during 2 weeks of tank ferment. 9 months in 25% new
French oak for complete malolactic fermentaion. 14% alc. Cherry with wild
berry fruit in the background. Red plum and cherry flavours dominate and are
held in check by the even sappy tannins. There are the obvious rough edges
to this but is an easy drink overall. Drink now till 2010. 86/100.
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2007,
$90. From the extremely low-yielding 2007 vintage due to bad weather in the
flowering season, fruit bunches and berries were small, so skins to juice
ratio was high resulting in high levels of tannins. ~28-year old vines of
various PN clones, 10% whole berry crush spent 5-8 days pre-ferment
maceration. Malolactic fermentation was completed in the 12 months spent in
25% new French oak. 14% alc. Black cherry and dark berry fruit aromas with a
dense but very stingy fruit core supported by supple tannins. Not bad given
the conditions of vintage. Might open in 3-4 years but won't make the most
cellar-worthy list. Drink 2012 - 2016. 91/100.
Ata Rangi Kahu Botrytis Riesling 2008,
$45. 130g/L RS. Very nice nose of ripe nectarine, sweet talc powder and
spice. This has nice flavours but lacks texture and has turned out to be
quite the syrup drink. 87/100.
5th March 2009:
Paradise IV, Geelong, Victoria
This is one winery I'm not familiar with. Winemaker Doug Neal has
drawn praises from Campbell Mattinson of The Wine Front who expressed his
keen anticipation of these 2007 releases. But surely the Geelong climate is
all wrong for shiraz and cabernet sauvignon? Well, only one way to find
out... here comes the tasting...
Paradise IV Batesford Shiraz Cabernet 2006, Geelong
$30. There's an earthy funk to this one, with cherry as the major fruit
aroma, mingled with faint herby notes. A moderate fruit load, the tannins
are on the higher side for a soft shiraz blend. I think this is still a
disjointed drink some what, but who knows how this will develop. 88/100.
Paradise IV Chardonnay 2007, Geelong
$40. 14-year old chardonnay vines, affected by the frost that set in during
Sept Oct 2006 followed by the lack of rain in summer. 80% of the total crush
underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured in 20% new oak barrels where it
underwent further malolactic fermentation, and the wine sat on lees sans
stirring until it was ready to be bottled. Stored in underground cellar for
1 year before release. Firm but sharpish acidity in this one for me, and I
can taste the greenish fruit on the lean palate. This is clearly not my
style of chardonnay as I prefer my chardonnays to be open and expressive
whilst maintaining a decent fruit load. It's all about balancing the fruit
with acidity without having to compromise one for the other. 86-87/100.
Paradise IV Dardel Shiraz 2006, Geelong
Ok, there's fruit, and there's tannin.. that's about it for me.. 87/100.
Paradise IV Dardel Shiraz 2007, Geelong
$40. The 14-year old vines were heavily cut back at the end of the 2006
vintage, and I think there is a slight improvement, coupled with more
selection for this 2007 offering. From vines sited on clay soil on
mid-slope, drought has affected the fruit resulting in a small quantity.
Whole berry ferment in one tonne open fermenters with 1% viognier to give it
some lift. Pressed after 8 days and matured in 40% new oak where it finished
malolactic fermentation. Racked twice, stored underground for 10 months
prior to release. A darker wine than the 2006, more concentrated in
flavours. Doug thinks the 2008 will be even better than the 2007. 88/100.
Paradise IV Chaumont 2007, Geelong
$40. Made from 14-20 year old Cabernet and Cab Franc vines with 6-14 year
old shiraz. Cold soaked for 4 days, then fermentation occurred over the
following 9 days before pressed off into barrel where malo was completed.
Matured in 40% new oak, 30% 1-year oak, rest 2-3 years. The greenish
cabernet characteristic is prominent, mellowed out by the Cab Franc. I'm not
convinced the shiraz is contributing much significant overall. 88/100.
14th March 2009:
Veneto at The Montague
The Montague is one of
the most unassuming pub/restaurant establishments in Melbourne where you can
indulge in high quality beers, wines and food without the distractions of
noisy patrons. Here, you can relax inside reading the Saturday paper over
wonderful salty cod balls with aioli or soak up the Sunday sunshine with a
nice, crisp beer with friends. This time, I was there for a friend's
birthday luncheon, and was taking advantage of the wine-paired lunches that
the restaurant side was putting on together with
Prince Wine Store.
The region of focus was Veneto, the third largest wine
producing region in Italy encompassing 30 DOC zones.
Scampi was cooked to near perfection, probably only
requiring just a touch longer as most grains had the underdone white
core visible. The combination of flavour and texture is vital for
risotto, and this was prepared with sufficient stock such that it
wasn't dry but not too soggy or sticky either. Yet you could taste the rich
flavours from the stock. The sizable prawn
was fresh, touch of lime and parsley provided a lift to the typically strong and heavier seafood flavours.
Bits of mussel and scampi meat was a balanced addition.
Pieropan Soave Classico
Superiore DOC 2007 is from the DOC of Soave, south east of
Verona. 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soava (an ancient native
variety). Nice straw colour with a greenish hue, delicate nose with
floral notes and a hint of almond. Very nice rich flavours with firm
acidity allowed it to hold its own with the seafood risotto, then
fade off cleanly. ~$30. 88/100.
Fegato di vitelli, cipolla scremata
e spinaci appassiti (calves liver, creamed onion and wilted
spinach) was a very appetising dish with a pan-fried liver that
retained a slightly chewy texture, wasn't over-cooked and still had
the lovely pink colour in the centre with some red juices. The
weighty liver flavours were balanced nicely by the sweet caramelised
onion. The bacon with the base of mash and spinach were good
The Speri Valpolicella
Classico Superiore 'La Roverina' DOC 2006 is a blend of 70%
Corvina Veronese, 20% Rondinella, 5% Molinara and 5% other native
grapes from a single vineyard. This wine was aged for more than a
year post-fermentation. Ruby red, a rich aroma profile with dense
berry flavours that carry over to the medium-bodied palate. It
doesn't overwhelm which is why it's perfect for calf liver with a
rich base sauce. ~$25. 87/100.
The Valpolicella DOC is trying to shake off its infamy for producing
overly commercialised lifeless wines. The region has since turned a
corner and is on the slow ascension to regaining it's previous
lustre. This region is also known for semi-drying racks of grapes
before fermentation. The resulting wines are classified as the
Recioto di Soave (sweet white made from Garganega), Recioto della
Valpolicella (sweet red made from the three local varietals) or most
famously, Amarone (with the sugars fermented out of the wine).