24 June 2010

Spy Valley 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and Wither Hills 2008 Taylor River Pinot Noir

I have a theory. New Zealand should just get on with it and become Australia's seventh state.

Helpfully, our Constitution was drafted with sufficient prescience to facilitate just such a development. See
here. And although the issue of compensation isn't specifically addressed, if the Kiwis did place a price on their devolution, we could simply offer to buy them some vowels.

The benefits of amalgamation are obvious. The combined nation of New Australia-land will become an unstoppable force when it comes to rugby. And, possibly, soccer. Plus, it will rectify Australia's current shortfall of blokes with names such as Phull, Rutchie and Keiran.

A further benefit will also be that the price of importing wine from NZ should fall significantly. Currently, it costs more than $120 to ship a case of plonk from Shabangabang to my door, whereas it costs a fifth of that amount for delivery from WA to the eastern seaboard (despite the fact it has to travel almost twice the distance).

That is unfair.

So, until Helen Clark (or whoever succeeded him as Prime Minister) agrees to this sensible union, I shall have to continue booking cheap Pacific Blue flights and skipping through customs with a bagful.

All of which brings me neatly to the point of this week's missive - my recent excursion across the ditch to the Marlborough and Martinborough wine regions (which will be distilled as a two part series).

Part I - Marlborough

Spy Valley 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

We’re here at the end of the harvesting season. The grapes have all been picked and the vines are almost naked. The few leaves that remain are bright red and the landscape glows with a brilliant terracotta radiance in the winter sunshine.

It’s cold. Icy cold. Cold enough to freeze the brass monkeys off the Marlboro man’s horse. Wood-smoke pours from chimneys and it hangs heavy in the air. The aroma invites the drinking of wine, and we do.

Marlborough, of course, is stupendously famous for Sauvignon Blanc. Most of what I try is pretty good. But the best I find is the ‘09 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

Spy Valley is named for the Echelon spy base across the road from the winery. The massive white satellite balls sit eccentrically and conspicuously in the rural landscape. It has a special resonance for me because my u
ncle was a spook for British Intelligence and spent many years in this very place listening in on the Chinese and cracking their codes.

The winery itself is a clever construction as well, with it’s name spelt out surreptitiously in Morse code along the side of the building.

The Sauv Blanc shows up early in the extensive tasting line-up and it's a cracker. It’s quite light in colour, but glows temptingly in the glass.

It smells sweetly like a red orange Tiro and I can’t wait to tuck in.

In the mouth, it’s very much in the usual fruity style of Marlborough Sauv Blanc, but it delivers in a lusciously smooth, yet crisp, fashion. It’s a delicious passionfruit mouth-bomb. Zippy. Clean. And I love it.

As many would know, Kiwi Sauv has a reputation for containing notes of cat urine – and this, bizarrely, is considered to be a positive trait. But not for me it isn’t, and happily the Spy Valley winemakers have managed to keep the moggies well away from this brew.

You can pick it up fairly widely around Oz for about $20, and I highly recommend you do.

Rating: 8
Drink with: 007
Price: $20

Wither Hills 2008 Taylor River Pinot Noir

Our next stop was Wither Hills. It’s a name I suspect we will be hearing a lot more of in Australia in the near future. One of the original family-owned wineries of the region, it has joined the Lion Nathan stable and clearly benefitted enormously from the injection of a bit of beer money.

It is far and away the most spectacular of the cellar doors in the region. The winery sits atop a man-made mound of earth that is camouflaged with native grasses and which cleverly houses the impressive above ground/below ground barrel room. Lunch in the restaurant is mandatory.

We were treated to a tour and private tasting with the house sommelier. Happily, it seems my dubious reputation had preceded me and someone other than just my friends and family has read my “quick and dirty” blog.

I love it when a plan comes together.

The pick of the Wither Hills range for me was a Pinot Noir that has not actually been released yet. Currently, they sell a decent - and cheapish - Pinot that is blended from grapes drawn from their various vineyards around the region. But, they are also set to release two single vineyard Pinots later this year that sit in the more premium range. The Taylor River Pinot is one of them.

As you pour, it's immediately obvious that it's going to be a solid little drop. It's very deeply coloured, but glows nicely around the rim of the glass in that lovely way that good Pinot always does.

The nose is an intense explosion of plummy spice and the local woodsmoke. Long legs dance seductively around the glass and give a glimpse of the elegant drinking to follow.

Straight up, it hits you as being pretty big for a Pinot. It gives you a rich mouthful of soft fruit that also warms you nicely on the follow through. It’s meaty and gelatinous like a slow-cooked joint of lamb, but finishes with very agreeable élan and finesse.

Because of it’s size, it really does demand food. We had it with a venison pie (which was incidentally one of the best pies I’ve ever eaten) and it went down as quickly and easily as an actress on Underbelly.

Get involved.

Rating: 8.25
Drink with: Bambi pie
Price: $40 (available in October 2010)

Images from http://www.spyvalleywine.co.nz and http://www.witherhills.co.nz