Monday, 18 April 2011

The Wine Society - Exhibition New World Classics - Whites

Hello All!

Last week I covered the reds from this Antipodean case (see here:) so this week we're onto the whites. 

So, without further ado, here's how the whites fared...

The Society's Exhibition New Zealand Chardonnay, 2009
This is made by the famous Kumeu River estate, just outside Auckland, who according to the Wine Spectator make the best and most long-lived Chardonnays in NZ. Lets, have a peep at this one then....12.5%

The Look: A deep lemony yellow with green hints.
The Smell: Lovely minerally smells with some citrus and tropical hints.
The Taste: Complex, minerally example of Chard. Lots of fruit, can't quite pin it down but citrussy/peachy/tropical/pineapple type flavours? Bright. Delicious. I'd agree about the long-lived also: this was still fresh after spending several days in the fridge after the initial glass - no discernible difference!
The Score: Bright acidity, good fruit and minerality. Well made and not at all harsh. Excellent 8/10. Highly Recommended
VFM: This is £12.50 normally, so not on the cheap-side but slightly cheaper than Kumeu's usual branded wines. VFM is decent at 0.64. Again, it's worth re-iterating that NZ is making complex "terroir-driven" (to use the cliché) Chardonnay to compete with the best.

The Society's Exhibition Tasmanian Chardonnay, 2008

From the cool climate of Tasmania's east coast. This is made in a Burgundian style using French oak barriques for 8 months' maturation.13.5%

The Look: A crisp, glassy, pale lemon with a watery white rim.
The Smell: Lovely nutty, almondy, vanilla-cream. Slight grapey-fruitiness to it also.
The Taste: A nice complexity, balancing acidity, honeyed texture. (D says "Syrupy"). Plenty of fruit, but restrained and not any one particular fruit evident, just hints of ripe, zesty fruit, maybe grapes or apricots. Not even a slight hint of harshness - very well made.
The Score: Very good. Burgundian creaminess, restrained fruit and a delicious glass of wine. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: This is £13.95 normally, so again, not cheap and not exceptional value at VFM = 0.54. Again, cool-climate Antipodean wine making is triumphing. As good as many other Burgundies we've had in this price range.

The Society's Exhibition New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, 2009
This is made by the famous Jane Hunter OBE from Hunter's Wines who've been in Marlborough for almost 30 years. This has been superseded by the 2010 since purchasing but is normally so consistent I doubt any difference could be told (by me at least!). 13.5%

The Look: A pale lemon with a hint of deeper gold.
The Smell: Hallmark Marlborough; grassy, peas, tropical fruit, abundance.
The Taste: VERY bright and refreshing, typical Marlborough with lots of passion fruit and ripe gooseberry. Zingy and tangy acidity with a bitter, grapefruity edge on the finish.
The Score: Very nice but not the best we've had. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: This is £10.95 normally, and in my opinion a bargain. NZ Sauv can be, and more often is, £13 plus.  This gives a VFM of 0.68.

So, there you have the trio of Exhibition whites to finish of the case. All Recommended or higher and slightly better than the reds, which I would not have guessed prior to drinking!  Again, well done to The Wine Society on some cracking wines, but for pure value and taste/price ratio I would also recommend the Society's Own label wines.

As always,

Speak to you soon.



Monday, 11 April 2011

The Wine Society - Exhibition New World Classics - Reds

Hello all,

Regular readers might recall I did a feature on the Wine Society's own wines not so long back (here:) and found them to be of superb quality and value. In addition to the basic "own label" range (although basic is the wrong descriptor) they offer some other wines that are bottled under the Society's name but known as the exhibition range. Described on the website thus; "Exhibition wines are selected to be flagship examples of their regions and styles and are frequently exclusively made for, or offered to, The Society by some of the world's top winemakers". Obviously these come at a slight premium when compared the standard own-range wines, but judging by what we tasted last time around, I thought they might be worth a look. Top winemakers' wines, re-badged and sold cheaper than their usual offerings? Sounds like a frugal opportunity...

The case that caught my eye was a 6-pack of the Society's Exhibition New World Classics, although a more accurate description would be something like "Australasian Classics" as the case is comprised entirely of wines from New Zealand and Australia! I can't for the life of me remember how much the case was (not very frugal I know, but "Do as I say, not do as I do" is what my mothers' overweight doctor would say...) but I will base it on individual bottle prices. If memory serves, they were about £11 or £12 each as a case-average, so yes, they are a bit more "upmarket".

Anyway, to the wines...Reds this week, Whites to follow next week:

The Society's Exhibition Victoria Shiraz, 2009

This is made by Mount Langi Ghiran in the Grampians who produce some serious high-end wines, notably Shiraz. They've been there since the 1870's! Langi's vineyards are high and cool which should lend some Rhone-style spice to this and also a nice bit of bottle age being an '05! Looking forward to this...but a massive 15% could be hot...

The Look: Super-dark, black plum skin coloured, almost opaque and showing some lovely age with a red/brown rim.
The Smell: Lots of blackberry, smoky, pencil-graphite. Some more "reduced" raisiny hints and some complexity/secondary aromas from the age.
The Taste: Smoothly textured. It is hot but not obtrusively so (this is a big Aussie Shiraz after all!). Lots of concentrated blackberry, violets, raisins,  and lots of oak. Nice acidity, bright red fruits appear also. A leathery complexity turns to delicious chocolate after a while.
The Score: Very good. Nice to see a bit of age showing through. 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: This is £14.95 normally, so not on the cheap-side. VFM is mediocre at 0.50 but I would recommend this over a similar-scoring similarly-priced wine from a more recent vintage to taste the complexity.

The Society's Exhibition Martinborough Pinot Noir, 2009

This is made by Craggy Range. I must admit, I love the Syrah from Gimblett Gravels (one of the few wines to score 9/10) so I await this with baited breath. This is from the Southern tip of the North Island and  very big for a Pinot at 14.5%!

The Look: A lovely translucent ruby red with plum-purple at its core and strawberry red at the rim.
The Smell: Smoky. Initially violets and blackberry. Alcohol is apparent. Blueberry. Meaty, peppery notes. Developed a smoky cherry niff too. Deceptive - smelling blind I would have said Shiraz!
The Taste: Smooth, silky texture. Too hot initially but did fade slightly. Opulent fruit, cherry, blackcurrant, peppery. Acidity is bright but balanced, not overpowering. Old, over-ripe, soft plum. Shiraz-like! Long finish.
The Score: It's nice, but confused? I really did question whether they'd put the Syrah in the bottle and mis-labelled it! Good if you fancy a BIG Pinot with a little difference? 7/10.
VFM: This is  £12.95 normally, so again, not cheap. VFM is mediocre at 0.54.

The Society's Exhibition Central Otago Pinot Noir, 2009

This is made by the same crew at Craggy Range but from Central Otago vineyards - probably the most revered of all NZ Pinot regions? Slightly more modest, but by no means shy at 14%!

The Look: D.A.R.K. Dark! Plummy, black-purple, not quite opaque, much darker than the Martinborough one.
The Smell: Oaky, smoky, blackberry, slight violet, alcohol, very similar but without the meaty-pepperiness.
The Taste: Lovely but again not typical Pinot finesse. Spicy cherry, black cherry and raspberry. Warming, not quite as hot as the Martinborough effort.
The Score: Again, very good but confused. Where is the finesse and silkiness? It doesn't detract from its delicious flavour but this could have been immense! If only... 7.5/10. Recommended
VFM: This is  £12.95 also, giving a slightly better VFM of 0.58. 

So there we have the Reds. All very good wines, the Shiraz I could drink again anytime. The Pinots I had trouble picking between them. Both shocked me in a way by being too big and hot. Maybe that's the way NZ Pinot is going, but I remember far more finesse and silkiness. Maybe it's just Craggy...? No way, that's sacrilege! Mental note: Try more NZ Pinot.

Anyway, next week: The Whites. Two from NZ (again!) - a Chardonnay from Kumeu River no less, and a Sauv Blanc from Hunters! Plus a Tasmanian Chardonnay who's producer escapes me but will be revealed next week...

As always,

Speak to you soon.



Monday, 4 April 2011

Laithwaites Mystery Case - Final Part

Hello All!

Welcome to the final part of the Laithwaites Mystery Case (see here: to refresh your memories). After a slightly dismal middle last week, we had 3 very pleasant whites this week to finish the case off. They were:

Long Terrace, Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, 2009

One from Sam Trimboli (who makes a multitude of wines under different labels for Laithwaites) and the generic "South Eastern Oz" appellation. 13%

The Look: A very greeny-yellow at its deepest with bright lemon coloured highlights.
The Smell: Honey, citrus and peach. Some minerality.
The Taste: Lovely and drinkable. Very similar to the nose, lots of peach and a bit of honeyed citrus. Unassuming. Not overly harsh at all. A good balance.
The Score: A nice enough Chardonnay here 7/10.
VFM: This is only £4.99 normally! Absolute bargain and leading to a superb VFM of 1.40, but we paid a little over the odds at the £6.42 case average.

Don Cayetano, Reserva, Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier, Central Valley, 2009

The Don Cayetano brand is also a popular one at Laithwaites. Unusual to see this trio together, but the Chardonnay should give structure, the Sauv Blanc some acidity and freshness and the Viognier some aromatics. 13%.

The Look: A pale but bright lemon yellow leading to a water white rim.
The Smell: Very aromatic; peachy, grapey and full.
The Taste: The taste was again grapey and peachy, full and voluptuous. The Sauv Blanc acidity and fruit reined-in by the body of the Chardonnay and the smoothness of the Viognier. Plenty of fruit in the background but restrained and a slight minerality. 
The Score: Couldn't fault it but it didn't "Wow". 7/10.
VFM: This is £6.99 normally, giving a bang-on VFM of 1.0! Nice.

Palacio de Menade, Rueda, 2009

An unspecified white blend from the Rueda D.O. area Northwest of Madrid, although likely a blend of Verdejo and Viura (the white Rioja and Cava grape) as these are the most common grapes. 12.5%

The Look: A bright gold with greeny hints.
The Smell: Probably a bit cold to start off, but a nutty, creamy smell developed into more fruit with a zesty, lemon/lime or (maybe orange peel?) with a more delicate peachy/melon aroma.
The Taste: Very restrained and minerally to start. There is a lemon/lime citrus burst but with a restrained acidity; it gives freshness but does not overpower. This then fades quickly to a creamy, oaky, mineral finish. 
The Score: Very nice. A bit more than just fruit, with character and balance. Interesting and well made IMHO. 7.5/10. Recommended!
VFM: This is £7.99 normally! Absolute bargain and leading to a very respectable VFM of 0.88.

So, not a bad end to the case with some very respectable scores and some refreshing whites with some character. All good value. But, was the case worth it and did I get my value? Well, I guess so. I worked out that the case would have cost about £8.11 per-bottle delivered. Did I enjoy them? Mostly. Did I get reimbursed for faulty ones? Yes. Would I buy them again? Hmmm, probably yes, but I still can't explain why...?

As always,

Speak to you soon.