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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Friday, 28 May 2010 11:24

Passing by: Kiwis and Marlborough Country

Thinking of the Kiwis instantly brings images of the Kiwi fruit and the Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough on the northern end of the South New Zealand. There were two protagonists, one Kiwi passing by to launch the fruit by Zespri and the other, a viticulturist of Cloudy Bay in Marlborough training and tasting with the trade this week, writes Subhash Arora

Photo By:: Adil Arora

Siobán Harnett is the viticulturist for 7 years with Cloudy Bay Vineyards, considered the pioneers in popularizing Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough for the last 25 years- in fact, this year marks 25 years of their first vintage in 1985. The kiwis may not tell you proudly that the project was started by an Australian David Hohnen, the then owner of the Margaret River based Cape Mentelle, now a part of the LVMH group. 

The Moet Hennessey owned winery uses half of its own grown grapes from 4 vineyards while the other half are sourced from 9 contract farmers. Siobán who is responsible for both was in Delhi on a maiden visit, in order to educate the clients and conduct the tastings. She had just finished conducting a training class for the Hyatt Regency when I met her for tasting some of their wines.

‘It is my job to make sure we get the best fruit from both the avenues. We have about 60 different parcels and we harvest and ferment the grapes separately. Then we assess each lot by marking it 1-2-3 (one for the best-3 not useable) and then blending in such a fashion that the wine is the true expression of the fruit varietal and the flavour fairly consistent every year,’ If it reminds you of the process of champagne making , you may not be too far off. Champagne is known to be about the only region in the wine space where the blenders are the critical personnel whose job is to make sure that the product maintains the consistency of flavours every year, no matter how the crops are.

‘To achieve this end, we order more fruit than we really need. After tasting the different ferments, we normally discard the ones which in blind tasting rank number 3. These are sold as bulk wine.’ So how does it feel to be part of the luxury group? ‘We have quite an advantage as the corporate people are marketing savvy. Our job is only to make the wine- very good wine. In fact, we have to continue till we are able to satisfy them with what is in the bottle.’

So what we are drinking in the bottle is not only Sauvignon Blanc-it is like experiencing a Louis Vuitton bag or opening a Dom Perignon- luxury in all its facets. Naturally, it shows in the price too. It is not unfair to say that Cloudy Bay is not for every Tom, Dick and Harry and for people who can afford the luxurious life style.

Tasting the Cloudy Bay

Sauvignon Blanc is the most logical and impressive choice from Cloudy Bay to start as an aperitif and the 2008 did not disappoint. Vivacious, fresh and crisp wine with tropical fruits on the nose, it carried on to the palate all the way till the end which is long. Very zestful wine that teases and exhorts you to take another sip.. and another. “it is our effort to have a balance between tropical fruit and herbaceous character in the wine so it maintains a good balance’ explains Siobán.

But what I found more impressive was the Te Koko 2007- a Sauvignon Blanc with a difference. Made with a balance of blending wines using 90% wild yeasts and 10% of inoculation yeast and then  using  French barriques only 10% of which are new, the wine is aged in the bottle before release- the 2007 was released only a couple of months ago. A delicious wine with lots of spices and fruit, complexity and length, this one has a lot of personality. Not recommendable or perhaps affordable as aperitif, it would be an excellent match with fish and seafood or vegetarian and chicken Biryani.

For mutton Biryani or dishes with heavier sauces one would want to taste their Chardonnay the 2004 vintage of what one tasted as a delicious food wine. The oak was predominant and had the Australian hand in it. But dishes with white mushroom sauces would be delightful. I would not mind it with tandoori chicken either!

Pinot Noir has not yet entered the Indian market so it was interesting to taste the 2007 which had already been released last February- 2 years after the harvest. Generally lighter on the palate, it was quite elegant, with fruity expressions caressing through the palate. But if Chardonnay was a bit heavy on the oak, this one reeked of it. Perhaps the winemaker has chosen to use it to make it age longer. But, it appeared ready to drink and might improve for a couple of years- by which time the fruit may start declining. With a bit less oak, not only would the company save some money on the oak but the wine would be perfect drinking now. It would be interesting to store a bottle of this vintage for a couple of years and see how it evolves in the bottle.

Kiwis at the Kiwis’

The Cloudy Bay tasting followed another tasting at the residence of the New Zealand High Commissioner. It’s a tough and unenviable job welcoming people with a permanent smile and making small talk with around 200 guests. But H.E. Mr. Rupert Holborow, the New Zealand High Commissioner and Cliff Fuller, the Trade Commissioner did it warmly.

Also at hand was. Daniel Mathieson, the Regional Market Manager for South/Southeast Asia for Zespri, the other passing- by Kiwi, who was in Delhi to launch their second well known product, Kiwis are known for- Kiwi in both colours- the Green and the Gold-which is not easily available so far.

There were plenty of snacks- if by chance you were allergic to the kiwi fruit, you would have starved, Every dish was made with kiwis in some form or the other- mostly delicious. There was the ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc from Villa Maria. One cannot go wrong with most Sauvignon Blancs although a tough job after the delicious Cloudy Bay range, but it looked like the Kiwis miss out an opportunity to showcase their Pinot Noir  which are proving quite popular wherever the price is right.

The Cabernet Sauvignon from Villa Maria is not quite an aperitif wine-one can excuse Indians serving tannic Barolos as a status symbol but the kiwis would be better off with promoting Pinot Noir whenever feasible- from Marlborough or any where else.

Subhash Arora


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