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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rock Ferry Wines - Marlborough

One of the best things about my annual catch-up with my 89 year-old Blenheim step-dad is the chance to also explore the Marlborough wine region.

This year, the whole family flew down and we met for lunch at Rock Ferry cellar door and café.  It is small, friendly and cosy, with a relaxed feel, and a good range of organic local produce on the menu also largely gluten-free (which is great for my gluten-intolerant daughter). Reasonably priced, hearty servings at about $27.  I had the organic steak open sandwich with hand cut fries, my wife had the Aoraki salmon with udon noodles and miso/lime dressing, My daughter opted for Portobello mushrooms with dukkha and pumpkin, topped with blue cheese and hazel nuts. All the meals were generous, tasty and perfectly cooked. Highly recommended.

A small family winery, Rock Ferry is operated by Tom Hutchison and his wife and co-owner Fiona Harvey. Tom is a former Wellingtonian who followed his love of wine to explore Europe’s wine regions and ended up studying viticulture at famous wine campus UCLA Davis in the US. On his return he started his own vineyards in Marlborough, and in 2005 they launched the Rock Ferry label. They own three vineyards – two in Marlborough and one in Bendigo, Central Otago. All vineyards are certified organic. They have a diverse range of grape varieties including sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling, pinot blanc, grüner veltliner, viognier, pinot noir, tempranillo, and nebbiolo.
Before lunch, we did a tasting through their range. I ordered a mixed case of three wines to be shipped home from their top tier single vineyard range:

Rock Ferry Central Otago Trig Hill Vineyard Pinot Gris  2013 $33.00
Dry and flinty style with just a tiny hint of sweetness (7g per litre), aged in a mixture of stainless steel tanks and large oak ‘puncheon’ barrels. Gentle aromas of citrus blossom, bee’s wax, tropical fruits and poached pear. With the oak influence, the style is very similar to Chablis. Flavours of Packham pear, crisp apple juice, quince and a musky lengthy palate with a dash of clover honey. Would be fab with seafood.

Rock Ferry Central Otago Trig Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 $65.00Fermented with wild yeasts in French oak barrels. Smoky spicy aromas and red berry fruit, with a hint of earthy truffle. A good example of a great Central pinot, it opens up in the mouth with medium tannins, liquorice, black cherry, poached plum, vegemite, and a long finish of leathery gaminess. Would go well with duck, lamb or mushroom dishes.
Rock Ferry Central Otago Trig Hill Vineyard Tempranillo 2013 $40.00
Tempranillo is the main ingredient in Spanish Rioja wines. This is a lovely full-bodied red. Nice brick red in the glass with subtle aromas of baked Black Doris plum, cherry and a hint of savoury spices.  In the mouth, it’s a generous and seamlessly ripe soft palate of dark berry fruits, poached tamarillo and subtle spice. Great with Boeuf Bourguinon or a rich tomato based Italian dish.

Availability – through their website.
Cellar Door & Café
80 Hammerichs Road
Open 7 days 11.30 am–3.00 pm.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Screwcaps - we all need closure

New Zealand right now has around 95% of its wines sealed with a metal screwcap closure. 
The paramount reason for that is the problem of cork taint (or ‘corked’ wine). This occurs when a chemical known as TCA (trichloroanisole) in tiny amounts, contaminates the wine and contributes a mouldy odour and flavour. TCA occurs naturally in a mould that affects cork trees. 

Are screwcaps cheaper than corks? Yes, slightly, but the cost of converting a bottling line from a cork to screw cap is a very significant investment for the winery.

Will the wine last as long?  Experience with screw caps doesn’t go back much more than 20 years, but observations indicate that fruit flavours are preserved for a longer period. Yet the wines will still age and change characters over time. A cork on the other hand allows a small ingress of air which leads to faster ageing and oxidisation.  

Can a wine still be ‘off’ even when under Stelvin?  Yes, nothing’s perfect. It can happen but extremely rarely. There is the potential problem of sulphite formation in wines, leading to a bad egg/cabbage aroma.

What other closures are there? Plastic corks - are only good for drink straight away wines. They can leak, give the wine a plastic flavour, and are nigh on impossible to remove with a cork screw. Taint-free composite corks are making inroads – they are made from powdered cork that has been sterilised and are held are together by an inert polymer. Glass closures look pretty funky but rely on a plastic flange for a perfect fit. 

Anyway, here’s a line-up of great wines, sealed under different closures.

Schloss Vollrads Rheingau Riesling 2014 $31
A German Riesling with pale gold colour and aromas of apple cider and lemon squash. Not sweet, but it is just nudging off-dry with a bright palate of apple, citrus, Roses Lime juice, raisins and minerality with a clean crisp finish. It’s a very refreshing clean and crisp light wine ideal for the warmer summer months. Glass stopper

Bourillon Dorleans La Coulee D’Argent Vouvray 2014  $27
Vouvray is a French Chenin Blanc appellation. Subtle aromas that hint of stone fruit and citrus blossom. On the palate, it’s clean and crisp with Chardonnay-like flavours of minerality, fresh cut apricot, pineapple and lemon with a hint of vanilla oak. Cork.

Seguinot Bordet Petit Chablis 2015 $20.00
Chablis is traditionally a French style of Chardonnay that has minimal or no oak ageing.  And… zut alors - even the French use screwcaps sometimes! It is a young wine, fermented in stainless steel tanks. Smells like citrus, minerals and stone fruit. In the mouth it’s crisp, elegant and dry with flavours of apricot, lemon, and nougat. Screwcap.

Coopers Creek Swamp Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013  $40 Aromas of rock melon and vanilla with a hint of toast and min erality. Swished around in the mouth, it is a mouth-filling, ripe and generous wine, opening up with hazelnutty oak, sweet vanilla, peach and mandarin with a lovely tangy sunset of honeyed yeast. Screwcap.

Bond Road Gewürztraminer Gisborne 2009 $60
I’m a huge fan of Gewürztraminer. This seven year-old wine has matured into a glorious mouth-filling off-dry style. Aromas of grapefruit, marmalade and preserved ginger. Generous palate of toffee, spice, tonic water, ginger in syrup, clover honey and a long musky finish. Cork.

Soho Westwood Waiheke Rosé 2016 $26
Hand harvested fruit - a beguiling fruit salad of Bordeaux grape varieties that have been fermented with minimal skin contact to produce a copper pink colour. Aromas of toffee apple and red berry fruit compote. Nudging just off-dry with flavours of strawberry, raspberry and hint of candy floss and a tangy crisp finish. Screwcap.

Hecht & Bannier Saint Chinian Southern France  ‘Vin Rouge’ 2011 $36
A blended wine made mainly from Syrah, with some Grenache and Mourvèdre. Smells like dark berry fruits, black cherries and tar. On the palate, rich and ripe flavours of cassis, liquorice, poached Black Doris plum and blackberry with gorgeous soft ripe tannins and a lengthy finish. Cork.  

For availability – I highly recommend international wine finder

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