Last month I went to a wine tasting at Caro’s Wines. It was the first wine tasting I’d been to since I started learning more about wines. I’ve started using an app/website called CellarTracker to track the different wines I try. It also keeps track of the wines I own, but although that’s cool, I’m far more interested in keeping track of which wines I liked and didn’t like. How often do you try a wine and then next time you see it, you can’t remember if you liked it or not? Or is that just me?
The wines we were tasting at Caro’s were all New Zealand wines. I jotted down notes to put into CellarTracker, so I thought I’d share them. Now, I realise my descriptions of the wines are incredibly plebeian and as far from professional as it is possible to get, but whatever. Maybe they’ll improve as I learn more, maybe they won’t. I’ve included the proper descriptions from the wineries’ websites where possible for comparison.
I’ve noted them below in the order they were on the paper we were given (which I wrote my notes on) rather than the order in which we tried them.
Astrolabe 2015 Marlborough Pinot Noir
Website description: Full bodied wine with round, mouth filling flavours of plum, brambly fruit and dark cherry. The oak integrates nicely with the fruit, and combines well with the silky and linear tannin structure.
Elle’s thoughts: I found it quite smooth, with a peppery taste. Hubby liked it. I thought it would be nice to cellar and let mature a bit more. We bought a bottle for $32.
Big Sky 2015 Te Muna Pinot Noir
Website description: This is our flagship wine, from our low vigour, low cropping vineyard. Hand picked, crushed into 2 tonne open fermenters, hand plunged, and judicious use of new oak in ageing. We make it to show off the delicious Te Muna fruit characters — ripe berryfruit, dark cherries and plums –set against mouthfilling savoriness, warm spice, and silky tannins. Lithe and elegant.
Elle’s thoughts: Wow. Really unique flavour. Out of all the wines we tried on the night, this one stood out as being different. With the others it was more a case of ‘was it smoother or richer or whatever than the last one’ but with the Big Sky wine, it was a whole different flavour. It really grabbed my attention. We also tried their 2016 vintage, but it was slightly sharper, not quite as smooth. I asked the lady about cellaring it, and she said they were designed to be cellared. I can’t wait to try that wine in another five or ten years! We bought two bottles of the 2015 for $36 each.
Blackenbrook 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir
Website description: Deep in colour, our Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2015 impresses with seductive notes of wild black cherries and spice, a silken texture and a harmonious, lasting finish.
Elle’s thoughts: Had a big, full flavour. Hubby liked it, but I found it a bit gritty in my mouth and would prefer a smoother wine.
Boneline 2016 Waimanu Pinot Noir
Website description: Very bright ruby garnet with distinct crimson hues. Aromatically – striking & seductive, bright red fruits, heartwarming winter spice, almond kernel & cherry stone lift – in time revealing a darker core. Warm, soft & silken on the palate – palpable fruit depth – authoritive presence. A fine poised pinot which sings of where it is from, and those who have worked with it from vine to wine.
Elle’s thoughts: Thought this was quite drinkable.
Boneline 2017 Wai-iti Pinot Noir
Website description: Crimson and pink flashes on a red plum canvas. Saturating aromatics of currant pastries, wood spices, and manuka leaf. With time, subtle notes of forest undergrowth and floral perfumes reveal. Moderate fruit sweetness, fine silky tannin and restrained volume allow savoury elements to splice evenly into the tart red berry fruit core. This wine was crafted in vineyard and winery from a wild and unpredictable season, so we find great joy in the level of calm and poise it possesses.
Elle’s thoughts: I found this too sharp.
Boneline 2017 Cabernet Franc
Website description: Ruby purple with magenta hues. Fresh primary fruits of cranberry & raspberry over dried herbs and blackberry bramble. Understated oak of liquorice & char. Ripe fruit forward palate of dense plum, mocha & violets. Fine powdery tannins balance soft juicy acidity – plush.
Elle’s thoughts: I expected this to be quite harsh, as I thought cabernet franc needed a lot of cellaring, but this was much nicer than I expected. Maybe a little too dry for my tastes, but quite smooth, not too sharp.
Doctor’s Flat 2012 Pinot Noir
Website description: The 2012 Pinot Noir from Doctors Flat has aromas of black cherry, violets and red florals, with dry herb and earth notes adding to the complexity. It’s sophisticated, rich and lively on the palate, with velvety texture and long, fine finish.
Elle’s thoughts: Smooth and peppery. We both liked it. We also tried the 2015 and 2016 vintages, but found them quite sharp. We were told they’d mellow like the 2012 with cellaring, so we bought a bottle of the 2015 for $45.
Element 2016 Syrah
Elle’s thoughts: I don’t normally like syrah as I find them too sharp, but this wasn’t too bad. A tad too sharp for me, but good flavour. Hubby liked it and he thought his mum would really like it, so we bought her two bottles at $27 each. It would probably improve with cellaring but they’ll drink it soon and it was quite drinkable now so that’s okay.
Element 2016 Cabernet Merlot:
Elle’s thoughts: Quite sharp, definitely not as nice as the syrah.
Grasshopper Rock 2012 Pinot Noir
Elle’s thoughts: Too sharp for me, which is saying something considering it was a 2012! Also tried their 2016 which was actually better than the 2012, but not smooth enough for me.
Providore 2017 Pinot Noir
Elle’s thoughts: Very peppery taste and smell. Too sharp for me, but I thought it would probably be really nice to cellar and let mellow. The peppery smell hit you quite strongly before you even tried it, and I think it has definite potential. Also tried the 2018 which was very similar.
Stanley Estate 2015 Pinot Noir
Elle’s thoughts: Light and sharp. I didn’t like it.
Stanley Estate 2016 Lagrein
Elle’s thoughts: Good flavour, just a touch too sharp. Maybe it needed more breathing? Or cellaring or something.
Stanley Estate 2015 Merlot
Elle’s thoughts: Light, but a nice flavour. A little too sharp for me.
Squawking Magpie 2017 The Gravels Syrah
Website description: Premium single vineyard grapes from a great vintage have produced a lovely perfumed, dark concentrated wine. Seamless, with supple tannins this Syrah delivers a smooth and spicy finish.
Elle’s thoughts: Light and reasonably smooth.
Squawking Magpie 2016 The Gravels Merlot Malbec
Website description: This wine is deep in colour with a layered, fragrant nose of ripe plum and cassis with lifted vanilla, cedar and tobacco notes. The palate has a rich velvet texture with excellent structure, ripe black fruits and cassis flavours with a long full finish.
Elle’s thoughts: Dry. I didn’t like it.
The guy from Squawking Magpie also had two other wines there, both older, which would have given us an idea of how his wines would have improved with cellaring. He was a total snob though, and had obviously written us off as people who weren’t going to spend any money. He didn’t offer us the older wines, and appeared annoyed by us, so we decided ‘fuck him’ and went to try some other ones instead. What a wanker. You’re not going to win customers by treating people like that, dickwad. I’m fairly certain I’ll never buy any Squawking Magpie wines on principle now!
So we ended up buying six bottles, two of which are for my in-laws. Our four will go in the ‘cellar’ (we don’t have a cellar yet, just a wine rack in the kitchen!).
I really enjoyed the night because I could try a bunch of different wines and compare them, and make notes as I went along (we were given a list of the wines and pens to write notes as we tried them, which was awesome). I definitely couldn’t have remembered my thoughts on the wines if I hadn’t taken notes. And I did struggle after a while to differentiate the wines. I think I was saying ‘that’s not too sharp’ when if I’d tried it at the beginning of the night I would have thought it was sharp, but I’d had a bit of wine by then (on an empty stomach!) and had sharper wines, etc. So it was quite hard to judge each one individually, but some, like the Big Sky wine, still stood out. Overall, I’m really glad I did it, and I’m keen to do some more.