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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."


Thursday, May 10, 2012

So much wine, so little time.

Being in the wine writing business, I do irregularly get sent trade samples to sample and evaluate.
People do this in the hope that I’ll write about their wine and say something nice about it.  Just last week I received 22 bottles of wine from diverse producers, to that end.  Which all sounds very fab to the layman.

But the (ahem) ‘downside’ is that I have to open and sample these in short order, and make some sort of subjective judgement on them.
This means I can’t realistically say – ‘thanks a lot for the wine. I’ll just pop it in the cellar and let you know what I think of it in a few years.’  I open them and share and discuss with friends and family and reach some sort of opinion eventually.

So essentially, I get sent a lot of very new wine that is pretty edgy and youthful.  Some find this a charming attribute in, e.g. a Sauvignon Blanc where the flavour and intensity of a wine that was a bunch of green grapes less than a year ago.  But when you’re tasting a Cabernet/Merlot which needs about 5 years to mellow out, you have to try to forecast what it will be like in the future.

I do have a very good friend who makes Sangiovese.  His opinion is that if the wine is not ripe, soft and drinkable on bottling, then it’s not going to get any better.
In essence, he believes that if the grapes have not reached optimal physiological ripeness at harvest, then the wine will never be good. 

I tend to agree. I was recently at a tasting of allegedly high end French Burgundies – that is, Pinot Noir.  I found them all to be wildly tannic, dry and stingy.  I really couldn’t see these wines getting any better - other than some age-related softening of the tannins over 5-10 years.  Today I tried Syrah from one of Hawkes Bay’s Gimblett Gravels top end labels.  Again, this was a tight, astringent and thin-to-medium bodied red which I think was below average.

I personally think that a wine that will be a keeper, generally has full ripeness and a hint of sweetness (not from residual sugar but from intense fruit flavours derived from optimal ripeness).  It needs to be full bodied and intensely flavoured. And it needs a higher level of alcohol to preserve the wine over time (say, 14.5% plus).  I’m immediately thinking of an inky purple and ripe AUS Shiraz, with a sweet ripe velvety tannic softness and a good 15% alcohol.  Now that’s one to put away.

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