Saturday, February 23, 2008

Striking Gold(water)

Found a bottle of Goldwater Cabernet/Merlot 1996 (from Waiheke Island off the coast of Auckland) murmuring on the rack earlier in the week and stood it up for tonight's rib-eye. It comes from a period where most Kiwi winemakers looking at Bordo styles were OTT with both oak and extraction, but I never found that with Goldwater (that may change under the new owners). This is the sort of wine that shows how well NZ can ape Bordeaux. It's fading now, three hours on from opening, and the acidity is poking out, but it's been in that smoky refreshing Cabernet zone, with the restrained cedary finesse, smoky black fruit and lazy tannic structure that could pass for claret - I'd have had is as something like a 1988 Haut-Medoc.

Also makes me think of how 50 years from now, perhaps the Kiwis will be better known for reds than whites. After all, this is a country initially dismissed as fit only for Muller-Thurgau. Then along came Sauvignon, then Pinot Noir. Syrah is currently hot in the Land of the Long White Cloud - Bilancia is a star - with the best wines having the herbal intensity of the Rhone with more bouncy fruit. Bordo blends have been around throughout these various fads, and have been improving steadily. Don't be surprised when their day comes...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Baffled By Bullshit

On the always-lively wine pages forum, a member recently asked a question that began 'I've been researching wine-tasting terms...' He then asked for opinions on this piece he'd done called 'How to Talk About Wine'.

Let's just take our wine hats off for a moment, stand back, and take a long, hard critical look at ourselves. Now let's rehash these phrases for other genres - 'I've been researching gardening terms' or 'How to Talk About Cinema.' Anyone ever seen articles on such topics? Yet many wine folk insist on using terms to which that the majority of normal people simply cannot relate. Palate. Complexity. Residual Sugar. Finish. Length. Attack. Balance. Terroir. Structure. Fruit-Driven. Etc

Does anyone talk about the complexity of a white truffle? The residual sugar in a ripe mango? The finish on a piece of Wagyu beef? No. If those of us whose job it is to get people enthusiastic about wine can't do it in standard lingo, then we deserve to be dismissed as wine snobs or wine buffs. This doesn't mean dumbing wine down, just introducing it to people in a manner that won't alienate them from the start.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fill yer boots, correction, boobs...

The totally inspired USB wine tap may have been a work of fiction, but there's nothing make-believe about The Wine Rack. While purists may complain that it doesn't deliver wine at the correct serving temperature, it sounds perfect for Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pap, Brabera d'Asti and of course Bristol Cream.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Bill Baker - RIP

A huge vacuum has been left by the death last weekend of wine merchant Bill Baker. A man who seemed to take Monsieur Creosote from The Meaning of Life as a role model, he packed more life, not to mention food and wine, into his 53 years than anyone else I've ever come across, and despite his larger-than-life, old-school appearance, had a palate that loved the classic yet was as keen and wide ranging as any. I feel privileged to have been one on second-names terms name terms with him - I was always Woods, never Simon - and will sorely miss his garumphing laugh, bizarrely long thumb nail and generously-given advice.

For those who never came across him, Jancis Robsinson's web site currently has the episode of Vintners Tales featuring the man.