On May 21st I ventured north to Matakana – a boutique region 50 minutes away from Auckland, with my wine buddy Steve Thompson from Seattle.
Our Noble Quest … to participate in a ‘vertical tasting’ of one of my favourite wines, Heron’s Flight’s Sangiovese. Sangiovese is the classic red wine of Chianti and a wine not grown in any great volume here in NZ.
I have long been a fan of winemaker David Hoskins’ 100% Sangiovese – a wine he will produce only in a ‘good year’ when the grapes achieve optimal ripeness in Matakana’s clay-based North Auckland soils. Rainfall and humidity late in the season can play havoc with a potentially superb vintage.
OK – a vertical tasting is what wine fans call a tasting of the same wine over several vintages. I.e. Heron’s Flight lined up eight wines from vintages covering 12 years from 1998 to 2010. (Horizontal tasting is what happens when you swallow all the samples in a short space of time.)
David does credit me with a good palate, which is very kind of him. But on the day, I felt my palate was a bit off. Dunno. Wine writers and wine critics do have their off days – which is really inconvenient for all concerned. Most days I know my palate is on the nail and every wine sample is a myriad of aromas and nuanced flavours across every subjective spectrum. Some other days, everything tastes a bit flat and I can only pick 3 or 4 wine descriptors.
Yennyhoo – here’s what I can summon from my scribbled notes evaluating eight vintages of Heron’s Flight Sangiovese.
1998 Brick red colour. Astringent, dry and light bodied with smoked meat flavours and aromas. Still quite tannic.
1999 Garnet colour. Complex, dry and earthy with cherry/almond/raspberry flavours and a gamey spicy quality.
2000 Not my favourite. Earthy and mushroomy with a cranberry/cherry astringency.
2002 Now we’re talking . Sweet and ripe, with a smooth mid palate and smoky savoury cherry flavours.
2004 Another winner. Flavours of ripe black cherry and plum, with spiced smoky salami meaty flavours.
2005 Funky aromas. Flavours of soy and black cherry. Yum.
2009 OK this one’s an experimental 50/50 Sangiovese and Dolcetto blend. In my mumbled opinion - a winner. Fermented in old oak barrels. Flavours and aromas of cherry, plum, mushroom, pepper, cloves, cinnamon and earthy forest floor.
2010 Wildly vibrant and fruity. A youthful Julian Clary of a wine. Cherry plum and almond dominate with assertive tannins and sweet ripeness.
Phil runs The Top Auckland Visitor Activity according to TripAdvisor. But what do they know.