Ferment, November 2009

Ferment, November 2009

November 12, 2009 0 By IWM

Emboldened by my super smooth flight to Blenheim in September, I accepted an invitation from Wine Marlborough to be part of the Wine Weekend and dutifully packed my bags for a weekend of fun. I left Auckland in brilliant sunshine and flew the first leg to Wellington marvelling at NZ’s stunning landscape NZ. Unfortunately I exited the plane in Wellington into a cold, storm force wind. I am beginning to think that it is this country’s unique climate that gives New Zealanders their laid back, can-do anything attitude. Any nationality that can deal with heatwaves, monsoon rains, hurricane force winds, snowstorms and frosts, often in the same day, must take a philosophical approach to life.
Anyway, off the teeny Beechcraft and straight to the opening garden party. This is the second time Wine Marlborough has hosted a dedicated wine weekend and judging by the attendees, there seemed to be a mix of interested consumers (many of whom had flown from Australia), hospitality folk, distributors, media and local winemakers. It seemed a pity to refuse a glass of wine, and there were some delicious ones making the rounds, but I had work to do in the afternoon and I was still in a celebratory mood having made another sober flight form Auckland.
Onto the coach and off to Winegrowers of Ara. I hadn’t visited the estate before and it would be fair to say the scale of planting is mind boggling. Lying between two mountain ranges, the vineyards quite literally stretch as far as the eye can see.
The object of the afternoon was to showcase 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and 2006 Pinot Noir. The rational behind this seemed to be to show that
a. Marlborough sauvignon blanc can age
b. To benchmark NZ pinot noir with others from around the world.
It is pretty hard to pull out any firm conclusions with such a small sample and even more difficult to make any definitive statements. But the tasting gave an opportunity to taste some Burgundy (never a bad idea) and to revisit older sauvignon.
Naturally one always has the best ideas after the event, but with all the research that has gone into sub regional differences in Marlborough, I would have like to see the wines chosen, and grouped according to style. So Awatere alongside the methoxy dominant wines of cool climate South Africa and the Loire, Wairau with warmer Robertson, perhaps Chile etc. The oaked Marama with Napa Fume Blanc, white Bordeaux etc. No doubt there would be some arguments regarding selection but perhaps if the tasting sheet mentioned vintage and subregion, but not price nor winery name, then tasters could make objective judgement without being influenced by reputation.
Saturday was spent visiting the Awatere (Yealands), Southern Valleys (The Ned) and then Wairau (Terraces Vineyard). At each venue a marquee has been set up with wines from the particular subregion showcased. We were left to wander around the various tables, tasting at our leisure.
Finally back to our accommodation to prepare for dinner.
Al Brown of Wellington’s Logan Brown had been asked to prepare the Gala Dinner and it was without doubt one of the best I have been to. Simple clear flavours, lots of local produce and decent helpings meant it was possible to enjoy the wines on offer without wondering (as happens so many times at industry events) whether there would be an opportunity for a kebab on the way home.
It is hard to be critical of events where you have been hosted. Even when the organisers ask for feedback one cannot help but feel a bit churlish mentioning any areas for improvement. Personally I would have liked to see a few more spitoons – I resorted to spitting on the grass until I caught the eye of some one looking on in horror.
Anyway back on the Beechcraft and home to Auckland. Another smooth and stress free flight. I think I may be getting a taste for these wee planes . . . .