Wine Review: Quartz Reef Chauvet Method Traditionelle

Quartz Reef is a winery in the Central Otago part of New Zealand. The slightly odd name is taken from the largest Quartz rock deposit in New Zealand that lies below the winery. As many Otago wineries they are strong with Pinot Noir but in this instance I sampled their Brut Sparkling wine. The winery was formed in 1996 by Rudi Bauer an experienced winemaker who has worked in Germany, Oregon and Champagne. He was also one of the people behind creating the Central Otago Pinot Noir celebration and he has multiple Pinot Noir wines available. I must try to sample some of those as well in the future. The winery has around 30 hectares near Cromwell in Central Otago. In addition to several clones of Pinot Noir they also have Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Back to sparkling wine though. Rudi was one of the pioneers of sparkling wine production in New Zealand. He made his fist attempts with sparkling wine in New Zealand in 1990 and before that he had spent time in Champagne with Champagne-maker Clotilde Chauvet and Jacques Peters of Veuve Clicquot to master the process. I am not sure if that is where he learned all of his skills but I was impressed by his wines. The fact that more than 70% of the total production for them is sparkling wine suggests that consumers also like it.

The one I sampled was the Quartz Reef NV Brut Method Traditionelle. It is blend of 58% Pinot Noir and 42% Chardonnay, it has been aged for 24 months and has 8g of residual sugar per litre.

The wine has a nice nose of lime, melon, brioche, lees and fresh green apples. It is refreshingly dry with clear acidity, pleasant if that is your thing. There are clear notes of citrus and the finish is full of mineral and chalk.

A very good wine that I would not hesitate to have again. It makes me want to sample the rose as well as the vintage sparklings. It is in between a 3.5 and a 4 in quality rating but being generous I give it a 4. I had a glass at the excellent wine bar Monvinic in Barcelona and there a bottle was a bit more than €50 and a half glass was €6.5. From the producer it is possible to buy it for 30 New Zealand Dollars which is about €21 and that would be really great value for money. In Europe it is likely to set you back a bit more (if you can find it) but I have seen it available for around €25 from Winedirect in the UK and that is great value for money. Very good value for money at €25 so a 4 for that.

Wine Review: Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs

These days I seldom find much of interest at airport duty free shops but occasionally there are some real bargains to be made so if I have the time I often at least browse what they have. I stumbled across the Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs at Schiphol airport where it was sold for around €45 which to me is a really great value for money.

Mumm is one of the old champagne houses. It was officially founded in 1827 but already in 1761 the family produced wine in Cologne under the name P.A. Mumm after its owner Peter Arnold Mumm. The family also had ownership of vineyards in the Rhine valley and as they were business minded they also realized that there was a great business opportunity in the excellent sparkling wines produced in the champagne region. They then decided to establish a branch of the company in Reims in 1827. The focus was decided to be on quality with the motto of Georges Hermann Mumm “Only the best”.

Mumm’s own vineyards cover an area of nearly 218 hectares and they are Pinot Noir heavy (78% is Pinot Noir). The Pinot Noir is mainly in and around Montagne de Reims with the Grand Cru vineyards of Cramant and Avize. They do however also have vineyards dedicated to Chardonnay in the Côte des Blancs and in the Vallée de la Marne Pinot Meunier prevails.

The prevalence of Pinot Noir makes the Mumm de Cramant sort of an oddity being 100% Chardonnay. Historically it was only made for friends of the family and was sent with a folded business card. This history can still be seen in the label that has integrated the folded part in the top right of the label and an old style bottle. The wine is made from a single Grand Cru vineyard that Mumm acquired in 1882. This champagne is actually only aged for two years on the lees. The idea is to preserve the fresh, citrus flavors of the Cramant Chardonnay, before disgorgement and not to give too much away but it works. This cuvée is bottled under lower pressure than normal (4.5 atmospheres of pressure vs the normal 6) and this creates a more delicate wine with tiny bubbles that sort of melt in the mouth.

The color is pale yellow and it has a wonderful aroma of brioche, lemon, fresh fruit and white flowers. The palate is creamy with fine texture and a pleasant acidity. The aromas present in the nose are also present in the flavor but there are also hints of almond, ginger and pleasant mineral note to it. A really excellent Blanc de blancs and to me by far the best that I have sampled from Mumm. Actually I have not been that impressed by what Mumm has produced in Champagne, I have even preferred Mumm Napa above the champagnes but this really changes all that.

For me it deserves a 4.5 in quality rating and when I bought it at €45 it deserves a 5 in value for money. That is perhaps not entirely fair as it was a sale on and normal price would between €70-90 (in Sweden it would cost 799 SEK approximately €85-90) and at that price the value for money rating would more be like 4. I am however glad I managed to pick up two bottles and will have a look next time I pass through Schiphol.

Wine Review: Oyster Bay Brut Sparkling Cuvée

When arriving in Singapore we were treated to a bottle of sparkling wine by our friends. This having been a trip largely without quality wine we were excited to try some sparkling even though it was not something we normally would have bought. This was a New Zealand sparkling called Oyster Bay Brut Sparkling Cuvée and is made with the Charmat method on 100% Chardonnay grapes. For those who do not know the Charmat Method it involves the wine undergoing the secondary fermentation in stainless steel tanks instead of in individual bottles, and after that it is bottled under pressure. It is a method commonly used in Italy for making Prosecco and generally produces fruity and fresh wines. What is often missing for me is the toastines and brioche-like characteristics more commonly found in Champagnes and occasionally Cava. So it is both an unusual choice of country and method for us but we are happy to try new things.

Oyster Bay is probably more known for their Sauvignon Blancs at fairly modest prices for the quality than their sparkling wines but it was interesting to try it. They are a family owned company with a vision to became a premium wine maker and they make a full range of white, red and sparkling wines.

The color is light golden with persistent bubbles. A bit bubbly for my taste but not overly aggressive so nothing disturbing. The nose has hints of grapefruit and floral notes. On the palate it had clear flavour of crisp apple, zesty citrus but also creaminess and in the finish minerals.

For me it was a pleasant surprise (both coming from New Zealand and a sparkling made using the Charmat Method) and it works really well as an aperitif on a hot day or as a companion for some Asian food. It is however clearly a fairly basic cuvée so for me I was surprised when I saw the price in stores here in Singapore. At Cold Storage it was almost 70 SGD (and that was a special promotion, approximately €45). It is available in the UK for around £14 (approximately €19) and that is of course a lot less but for me it would have to be around €10 to be decent value for money. Quality rating it is a nice basic wine so a 2.5 but value for money in Singapore is 0 and if looking at the UK it would be a value for money rating of 2.

Wine review: Chandon Brut (Australia)

As promised in a previous post, the review of @494, the wine at the Grand Hyatt in Bangkok we are following with a review of the Chandon Brut from Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley of Australia. As I may have mentioned before I am often not a fan of Moët Chandon but they should be given credit for what they have done to develop the Australian sparkling wine industry. The Chandon Brut is part of their basic assortment from Australia. I would not characterize it as a bad wine, just not a very memorable one. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made with the méthode traditionnelle (champagne method). The grapes are from various cool climate vineyards in the southern wine regions of Australia (according to Chandon from the Yarra Valley, Strathbogie, the King and Buffalo Valleys (Victoria) and Coonawarra (South Australia). I have been trying to find out what the mix between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is in the specific one I had but not been successful yet. In general the mix is around 60% Chardonnay and the remaining 40% Pinot Noir. The wine is aged on the yeast lees for 15 to 18 months and there is a small amount of dosage added. After an additional 3 months of bottle aging the wine is released. The color is perhaps best described as straw yellowish. The bouquet (nose) is influenced by the Chardonnay and is somewhat fruit driven with citrusy notes and hint of pear and nectarine. I could also sense a slight whiff of yeast but very faint. It is a dry wine but not overly so and retains a fairly nice balance with a creamy character and zest to the finish. Lacks complexity and the finish is a bit short. Nice to drink properly chilled but not at all a remarkable wine. It is however nice to enjoy cool on a hot day. While not at all a poor choice, I would not actively seek this out. However, here in Thailand this seems to be one of the better options at a reasonable price level. We had it the @494 wine bar for 349 THB (roughly €9-10). A bottle in a store would set you back around 800 THB. From what I can see online it is otherwise mainly available in Australia and Hong Kong at prices starting from €17 and up to around €25. In that price range I would rather have some very nice cava but as that is not really an option at my current destination this is a decent option. Quality wise I would give it a rating of 3 as it lacks some of the complexity I like in a sparkling wine. Looking at value for money it is a 2.5 but it is of course relative as I find it excellent value for money in Thailand (more a 4 or even a 5 compared to what else is available, see for example our most recent Wine warning ) while the rating of 2.5 is how i view it if in Finland, Sweden or the UK.

An Evening in Sonoma

I wish! But almost as good, an evening with wines from Sonoma at Gaston.

Last week, Gaston wine-bar had a theme week. Every evening that week they had wines from a different wine-region together with food pairings. We were not able to make it for more than one night, so we picked one of our favorite wine-regions: Sonoma. Why a favorite? Well because we have a Pinot Noir lover in the house, that’s why! We did a trip a few years back to neighboring Napa Valley, and soon realized that we were around 50 miles off. Its not that we are not fond of the powerful CABs (Cabernet Sauvignon) or Chardonnays, well maybe not Chardonnay, but Pinot Noir is something my husband (from now on known as M) really loves. I promise you, Sideways has nothing to do with this! So we did not make as many new finds as we expected to. However, we have plans to go back. And Sonoma-Night at the local favorite (favorite wine-bar I mean) was a good way for us to do some research.

Gaston is a very warm and cozy bar, so even with not that many people there (we came at 17:30) it didn’t feel empty. We got a lot of positive attention from the sommelier (who was by the way from the region) who took time to chat about the wine-list for the evening. And, we were also offered the chance to order half glasses, which I think amounts to a very good service experience. We ended up selecting six wines to try for the evening. The sliders that were meant as food-pairings had not worked out for Gaston, but we ordered hamburgers from neighboring Flying Elk (they share the kitchen) instead, so this was not really a disappointment.

About the wines in general, I can say that they were well selected. Someone had done some serious thinking around the menu. There were typical grapes from the area, with some untypical characteristics. When served, every wine was well presented, with some information about the producer and the wine in question. If one might say something was a downside, well, the selected wines were not form the cheapest end. Yes, someone who has planned for the evening, excited about tasting the wines, would not perhaps mind the price. But I think it does scale out some of the casual pop-ins’. The bar was full before 19:00, so the real fans (and there were many of them) came despite that. Business-wise, I cannot really judge the cost. As wine-entrepreneurs we also understand that there is a high costs associated to importing alcohol to this country, especially from outside the EU.

And the about the wines: in tasting order:

  1. Lioco 2011 Russian River Chardonnay: This was not at all an oaky chardonnay. Soft, delicate taste, not heavy on the oak (just the way I like it) with minerally and citrusy notes as well as hints of peaches and apricot.
  2. Broc Cellars 2012 Vine Star Zinfandel: Well-balanced, with tones of pepper and herbs both in nose and taste. Nice and notes of black and red fruit with hints of cardamom.
  3. Hirsch Vineyards 2011 San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir: Nose of cherries and anise, and a restrained flavor of sage, cherry, plum and fresh berries.
  4. W.H. Smith 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: This one makes me feel I am sitting in my dad’s library (my dad doesn’t really have a library, but you get the picture). Scent of leather and tobacco when poured, softens up after some time in the glass. Taste of Dark cherries, blueberry, plum and hmm cola? Quite dense and concentrated.
  5. Hobo Wine Co 2012 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine does not really stand out. I would say the most boring of what we tasted during the night
  6. Lioco 2012 Indica Carignan: A very juicy wine that makes your mouth water. A nose of anise and a taste of ripe fruit.

All in all, my favorites were perhaps the Lioco Chardonnay and Carignan. I did not think of making too many notes about all the producers from all of the above, but I did google a bit about Lioco. The winery will be 10 years old this year founded by two kinder-spirited wine-professionals; with an ambition to bring out more subtle tastes, using Europe as an inspiration. Another characteristic in their wines was the ambition to make them lower on alcohol (12.5%). It seems that the house does not own their own vineyards but buys grapes from different growers. They make mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and they produce both single vineyard and blended wines. A quick look at the prices online show a very sensible cost level for Sonoma wines. However locally, the monopoly website reveals that there are a only a few Lioco wines available in this country. And they are in the “special-order” selection with prices that are also not very friendly anymore. This is exactly why we started our business.

Back to Gaston, all in all great experience. The happy travelers made it home by 21:00, just in time for a good night’s sleep. Hopefully this event (or theme-week) will not be their last. Looking at the amount of people rolling in when we were already parting, I don’t think so.