I’m shocked to see that I haven’t posted a blog article or tasting note for months. I can blame all manner of things, work pressures, multiple tax returns, busy family life etc etc but the truth is probably procrastination and laziness. Time to get a grip!
Let’s start with one of the best wines I had on a holiday to New Zealand earlier this year (I told you I’d been busy!) It was a family holiday so there wasn’t a lot of time for serious wine visits but I did squeeze a couple of serious wines in. This was one of them.
Situated on the beautiful island of Waiheke just off Auckland, Man O’ War is located on the Eastern side of the island on exposed volcanic hilltops. This is their regular Chardonnay which receives a light oak touch with 2/3 of the wine fermented in stainless steel but this is enough to give it a tight flinty structure. Generously proportioned melon and grapefruit is threaded with a subtle floral note and leads to a stony mineral finish. 90/100
Bought for NZ$25 or about £13 this was the bargain of the holiday and the photo above was taken on Palm Beach in Waiheke were we spent a fabulous few days with friends with a fair quantity of this wine contributing to the experience!
I haven’t seen this vintage in the UK yet but Wine-Searcher shows 2009 at about £18.
Despite being disappointed to be away from home and my family this Christmas and having to work, I was determined that the day wouldn’t be a complete washout. Arriving at Pudong international airport at 2am on the 25th and having to operate a flight back to Hong Kong at 4am on the 26th was not exactly conducive to a fun and wine filled Christmas day but it was just about possible to get enough rest in, observe the strict rules on alcohol and flying, and still enjoy the day.
After grabbing a few hours much needed sleep I dragged my jet-lagged body out of bed, armed with a bottle of Uva Mira Chardonnay 2010 and headed in to Shanghai on one of the world’s first maglev trains at 300km/h.
I hadn’t spent any time in Shanghai since my Virgin Atlantic days over 10 years ago so it was reassuring to see that the Shanghai metro worked seamlessly and the city still seemed relatively familiar, at least at the usual tourist haunts of the Bund and Xintiandi. Obligatory photo on the Bund for the Chardonnay completed its Chinese tour and next on the agenda was finding a restaurant to have Christmas lunch.
Lack of planning on my part, due to misplaced optimism that my flight would be cancelled, meant that we couldn’t get in to the really interesting restaurants like Otto e Mezzo or Mr & Mrs Bund so we turned on tourist mode, jumped in a taxi and headed off to Xintiandi to see what we could find.
I wasn’t expecting too much when we came across KABB bistro and bar, but they were open, had food and, more importantly, allowed me to open up my bottle of Uva Mira Chardonnay for an almost reasonable 150 RMB corkage charge. Deciding that a burger really wasn’t appropriate for Christmas lunch I went for one of the day’s specials and had a very passable duck confit. It may not have been the best Christmas lunch or confit that I’ve ever had but I was pleasantly surprised to find an enjoyable dish that complimented the bold flavours of the Uva Mira.
It’s always a pleasure to introduce this wine to new people and today was no exception as I shared the bottle with the other pilot, a friendly Kiwi who had no idea that South Africa could produce wines with this depth and elegance. This wine has never let me down and it was on top form today with the usual integrated oak notes supporting the linear stone fruit flavours. A thread of citrus developing as the wine gently warmed up in the glass and a zesty acidity cutting through the duck fat. It remains one of my firm favourites.
Christmas! Just the mention of the word starts to bring a shiver of excitement. Sadly, I’m a long way past the days of waking up ridiculously early with a feverish anticipation of what amazing goodies Santa may have left below the tree for me. More importantly though, this is the time of year when we celebrate with friends and family. When loved ones come together to share happiness, joy, good food and of course wine.
This excitement at the imminent arrival of guests can be edged with a certain amount of trepidation about getting the food just right and having the perfect wine to serve with it. While I can’t help with the cooking as well as Nigella or Delia, I can offer you some handy hints and suggestions for wines that will match, and compliment, your efforts in the kitchen.
The obvious choice here is Champagne and why not? Champagne can be delicious, it’s the perfect celebratory drink and a wonderful way to relax your guests and get the party started. Champagne is refreshing and is also a wonderful foil to anything with a pastry base, seafood or charcuterie.
Tarlant Brut Reserve Champagne NV £25.95
A beautiful Champagne that is seductive and generous with powerful aromas of crunchy apple, mirabelle and grilled almonds. Remarkable liveliness with hints of honey cake and caramel, this champagne will delight your guests
Oysters straight from the shell, tiger prawns, even lobster are all beautifully complimented by a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Sancerre is the old fashioned choice, but South Africa offers a style of Sauvignon Blanc that is perfectly poised between the overtly fruity New Zealand style and the sometimes austere (and overpriced) minerality from Sancerre.
Tremendous value for money this is more old world and mineral driven than tropical fruit forward. For those seeking a good value alternative to Sancerre, the refined balance of this refreshing wine, combining ripe flavours of gooseberry, lime and fig with bracing acidity, gunflint and minerality, this Sauvignon Blanc gives the perfect match to a wide range of seafood.
Awarded a Gold Medal at the 2009 Michelangelo International Wine Awards and listed in First Class with South African Airways.
The traditional meal at this time of year is of course turkey which is a wonderfully versatile meat that offers a range of flavours and textures that are delicious with a variety of wines. As this will normally be the main event, it makes sense to pair with a high quality wine that will neither dominate the meal nor be overpowered by it. We’re looking for balance, elegance, depth and complexity and two grape varieties fit the bill perfectly, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The recipient of a coveted 5 stars from Platter, this is the only South African Pinot Noir to receive this honour in consecutive vintages.
It has superb intensity on the nose with wild strawberry, Morello, crushed flowers and a touch of citrus lemon, a real doppelganger for Burgundy. The palate is well balanced with crisp, fleshy red berry fruit with crisp, taut acidity and a feminine silky smooth finish. This is how Pinot Noir should be: vibrant and life affirming! 93 points – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
Consistently rated 4½ – 5 stars from Platter, previous vintages of this wine have won many awards, including IWSC Best Chardonnay in the World. This is a stunning Chardonnay with Burgundian minerality and beautifully finessed oak integration. The perfect wine for special occasions that is the equal of Burgundy’s finest Premier Cru wines.
Sourced from 14-year old vines, winemaker Matthew Van Heerden has produced one of South Africas outstanding Chardonnays that stood out like a sore thumb in a blind tasting. – 94 points, – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
A succulent fillet or an extravagant rib of beef deserves an equally bold wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannin in the wine melts in to the beef protein allowing the bright fruit flavours of the wine to come to the fore.
A total of eight barrels of hand-made wine, originating from the 2 Ha of environmentally friendly vineyards surrounding the Amares winery. The nose hints at dark-skinned berries, a promise of mint and other herbal aromas. The wine has a broad palate with an attractive mouth feel from ripe grapes backed by mature tannins and a dry cedar finish.
Awarded best Cabernet Sauvignon in Stellenbosch and Simonsberg by the South Africa Terroir Wine Awards. A deserving title for this elegant wine that is gaining in complexity with time in the bottle.
Christmas Cake, Christmas Pudding and Stilton Cheese
There can only be one choice at Christmas time and that is mature vintage Port. South Africa has been producing fortified wines for over 300 years and this example from JP Bredell’s shows the benefit of all that experience.
Grown in the well drained soils of the Helderberg basin, the traditional Portuguese Port grape varieties combine to give a powerful fortified wine that is capable of rivalling the best of the Douro. 5 stars from Platter, a Gold Medal at the 2006 Michelangelo awards and an Old Mutual Trophy in 2008 are testament to the quality and purity of this wine.
Mature and ready to drink now, this Vintage Port style wine is powerful with aromas of dried fruit, plums, raisins, ripe blackberries, blackcurrants, Christmas pudding, liquorice and spice. The palate is muscular with strong tannins and alcoholic grip but is voluptuously rich and packed with dark fruit flavours, mocha and mint. This is a decadent wine to finish a perfect meal matched with the finest Stilton cheese.
These wines are all available at www.vincisive.co.uk and a mixed case of these 6 wines is on offer for £105 giving a saving of over 10%. Delivery in the South Cotswolds area is free. Please email email@example.com to order, quoting xmas
This post first appeared as a guest article on one of the wine world’s most entertaining and thoughtful blogs – Quaffable
Given the fine literary talents usually displayed by Mr Quaffable, it is quite a daunting prospect to rise to the challenge of writing a guest blog. Stick to what you know would probably be good advice, but this is a wine blog and not an aviation blog. OK, perhaps I know a little bit about wine but is any of it interesting or vaguely entertaining? After all, I don’t want Quaffable’s blog ratings to plummet – it’s a competitive world in the wine blog arena and it might be nice to be invited back some day.
Tell a story perhaps? Hmmm, well they all start with a bottle of wine and usually end up with me not remembering what happened between the second bottle being opened and waking up in another familiar hotel room on the network. Although I’m pretty sure I would have managed to solve many of Cathay Pacific’s rostering, pilot pay and recruitment issues during the course of the evening. There would undoubtedly also have been perfect solutions to the problems of bankers’ bonuses, the Euro and world peace. Throw a bunch of pilots together, add wine, all your problems solved!
Right, back to wine it is then, why on earth does somebody with a reasonably well paid job decide to start up a business importing South African wines? We all know that the wine business is sewn up by the big boys, there’s cut-throat competition, miniscule margins, import duty, VAT, large upfront costs, and of course there’s only a small niche market that is interested in anything other than Jacob’s Creek or First Cape.
The answer is passion. A passion that develops from the instant that you taste a wine that utterly blows you away. A wine that unexpectedly takes you by surprise with its elegance, mineral purity and complex depth of flavour. That wine is Uva Mira Chardonnay.
Stellenbosch may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of elegant Chardonnays, but Stellenbosch includes the picturesque Helderberg mountain which rises majestically above the plain with panoramic views to Cape Town. Uva Mira is located at the top of this mountain, above Hidden Valley and Ernie Els and stares down to Ken Forrester’s Chenin Blanc FMC vineyard. The Chardonnay vineyards are at an average elevation of about 1700 feet and this provides a cooler climate enabling chardonnay grapes to retain their freshness, elegance and mineral focus. Restricted yields of 32hl/ha, careful handling and hand sorting are all part of winemaker Matthew van Heerden’s fanatical approach to quality.
Fermentation is in new, lightly toasted, French oak with the occasional batonnage and a small amount of the wine is allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation for some added complexity.
Returning back to the UK after tasting this stunning wine I was amazed to see that it wasn’t available anywhere. Why hadn’t this wine been discovered? I still don’t know the answer to that question but a few phone calls and emails later and I had started a new business, invested a sum of money that caused some ‘discussion’ with my wife and Vincisive was born, importing the wines of Uva Mira as their UK agent. The worst thing that could happen would be being left with a pallet of fantastic wine that I would have to drink by myself, now wouldn’t that be a shame!
Fortunately, I’m not alone in thinking it’s a great wine. Take Neal Martin for example,
The palate is very well balanced with a delicate entry that expands beautifully across the palate with notes of orange peel and subtle apricot. It is both long and vibrant in the mouth with a palpable sense of tension. This Chardonnay exudes thoughtful winemaking and is highly recommended. 94 points
With reviews like this, my stash of fine Chardonnay that I can keep to myself is getting smaller. Production is limited to 800 cases a year so it’s not easy to secure a bigger allocation. However, I’m prepared to make the sacrifice as wine this good should be shared and enjoyed by a wider audience! Passion for wine is something that cannot be indulged in alone, it needs to be articulated, debated, discovered and above all enjoyed. I look forward to having that conversation with you over a glass of South Africa’s finest Chardonnay!