Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A Dinner with TerraVin from New Zealand

A few weeks ago I had an invite to meet several of the investors in TerraVin, a boutique New Zealand winery from Marlborough, for dinner at the newly opened Four to Eight restaurant in Covent Garden. I remember meeting Mike Eaton the former wine maker and tasting their wines a few years back at a Jascot's tasting, there was one particular wine that really stuck in mind, and that was the Te Ahu an oaked Sauvignon, which shouldn't be, but was stunning. Since the last time I encountered there wines, they have handed the wine making reigns over to Gordon Ritchie, who had previously been a winemaker at Seresin.

On arrival we were served a glass of the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, which had all those typical New Zealand characteristics of Gooseberry, Green Pepper and Citrus, but with a much more rounded/softer acidity to it. We then moved on to the 2011 Chardonnay, now this wine is wild fermented and then aged in oak for 18 months, it is then all blended together and spends another three months in tank before being bottled. It had a lovely creamy texture with touches of butterscotch and vanilla, there was a hint of baked apple in the background, combining with a soft but plentiful acidity.

Next came the wine that I really wanted to taste again, the Te Ahu, it was also served with a cream of celeriac soup, which was just beautiful, and had an earthy character that worked so well with the flavours of this wine. You had apricots with some citrus, you also had in there some kind of almond/nuttiness which worked with the fruit perfectly and you had this soft and silky acidity which just brought it all together perfectly. The wine has this earthy character to it that worked with the soup perfectly.

With the main course we were served two of there Pinot Noir's, the 2011 and the Eaton Family Vineyard 2010. The 2011 was delicious, very typical New Zealand Pinot, lovely red cherry fruit, with a touch of smoke and spice mingled in with it, and a lovely acidity that's not to tart, but just enough. The 2010 Eaton Family however was another notch up, more depth in each of the flavours wonderfully soft and silky tannins, I have to say this was my second favourite wine of the night behind the Te Ahu.

And finally for desert we had the 2012 Late Harvest Pinot Gris, which the 3 bottles apparently had been flown over especially just for this dinner as it's not available in the UK. This was lusciously sweet as you would expect, but it had this wonderful acidity that just cut through the sweetness perfectly to show flavours of white peach, citrus and honeysuckle which were just stunning, only a shame that we won't be able to get it over here!

Monday, 10 November 2014

A Middle Eastern Delight - Chateau Musar

I had another boutique New Zealand winery for this post, which will now be my next post, but I had the opportunity to taste the 2001 Chateau Musar, which was just absolutely stunning and had to get it on here.

Chateau Musar are based in the Bekaa Valley in the Lebanon, the first vines were planted in 1930 by Gaston Hocheron on his return from a trip to Bordeaux. In 1959 Gaston's son Serge became winemaker after completing his winemaking studies at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux. Throughout the conflict that ravaged the region, they only failed to produce a vintage only a hand full of times, which when you consider it is pretty amazing.

Chateau Musar Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan from vineyard sites near the villages of Aana and Kefraya, the vines are an average age of 40 years old with low yields and planted in gravelly soil over limestone. Each individual component is fermented separately in concrete vats, then after 6 months they are transferred in French oak for a further year. They are then blended together to create the iconic taste that is Musar and placed for another 12 months in the concrete vats, when it is then bottled. After bottling it is then paced in there cellars for a further 4 maturation before they release it for sale, so by the time it hits our shelves it's already seven years old!

The 2001 had this lovely, mature brick red colour in the glass, with wonderfully pronounced aromas of dark fruit, leather, spice and cigar box. On the palate the fruit came over as much more mature, with figs and prunes, then all that lovely spice and cigar box combined together beautifully, there was a little touch of acidity and soft silky tannins. I've tasted quite a few vintages over the years even going back to one from the 60's, but this has to be one of my favourite vintages, Musar is definitely a wine that I would recommend, but make sure it's nice and mature, as it gets so much better with age.