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Neil Sowerby's October Wine Column

The tippler returns with more recommendations

Written by . Published on October 10th 2013.

Neil Sowerby's October Wine Column

IT was 1-0 to the smoked eel and belly pork torte with a splodge of lovage puree. Neither the 2012 or the 2013 regular bottlings of Jackson Estate’s Sauvignon Blanc could cope with the pervasive smokiness and nutty crumble crunch of the ‘cheesecake’ base. Understandable, mind. 

The Jackson Estate Vintage Gum Emperor Pinot Noir 2010 was almost Burgundian with its earthy, cherry scents and pure, velvety mouthfeel. 

Welcome, Kiwis, to Mr Cooper’s House and Garden, exquisite addition to the Simon Rogan’s Midland Hotel culinary colonisation. At a recent wine tasting dinner there both Jackson Estate founder John Stichbury and head winemaker Matt Patterson-Green were impressed by the setting and the food.

Eel and pork delight

Eel and pork delight

Hard to remember New Zealanders admitting their country couldn’t reproduce the quality of the lamb in our main, but they did. Still the accompanying Pinot Noirs from their acclaimed winery certainly did it justice. 

And those initial Sauvignons, grapes sourced from 12 Marlborough vineyards, were delicious in their own right, the Jackson Estate Stich 2012 an elegant cocktail of gooseberry and rhubarb with a lingering minerally aftertaste, the 2013 from a longer growing season offering an excellent acid/sugar balance and a more rounded palate. 

The 2012 is available at around £12.99 from a variety of stockists, including Tesco.com, Booths, Majestic, Waitrose and Ocado; the 2013 will arrive early in 2014. 

The wines are named in honour of John Stichbury, who for 25 years has guided the fortunes of a winery that has long shaken off its reputation as the ‘other one’ in Marlborough alongside cult brand Cloudy Bay. In 1867, on the family farm near Blenheim, long before vines became king, his great grandmother Alice planted a giant gum tree, called the Grey Ghost. You find its image on all Jackson Estate wines and it’s also the name of the company’s top-end Sauvignon, made from fruit harvested from their Homestead vineyard.  

The 2011 Grey Ghost is a quite different beast from the Stichs. It arrived on table too late to take on the torte. Possibly it would have been a contender with its leesy richness and stony minerality – a distance from the forthright one-dimensional tropicality of ‘bargain’ Marlborough Sauvignon there is still such a taste for. Whether it is worth its hefty £22.50 tag (Majestic, Ocado, Tesco.com) I’m not quite sure. 

It’s obvious that Pinot Noir is where Matt Patterson-Green’s heart lies and both examples on show were restrained, well-balanced beauties. Jackson Estate Vintage Widow Pinot Noir 2011 was ripe, spicy, almost smoky while Jackson Estate Vintage Gum Emperor Pinot Noir 2010 was almost Burgundian with its earthy, cherry scents and pure, velvety mouthfeel.  £19.49 and £24.50 respectively from some of the stockists, previously mentioned. For geeks: a Gum Emperor is a moth indigenous to the vineyard. 

 Villa Maria's New Zealand property


Villa Maria's New Zealand property


Villa Maria (click here) is a much bigger player on the New Zealand wine scene than Jackson, which clings to its boutique status. They have holdings across both islands as well as buying in grapes from contracted and controlled vineyards. Head winemaker Alastair Mailin, no stranger to Manchester, turned up at Room restaurant, to trumpet the merits of the 2013 vintage for their whites and introduce 10 of their range, including two examples of their take on the Piemontese white grape, Arneis. 

Cellar Selection Arneis 2013 is expected shortly at larger Tescos for £12.99. Maling said of it: ‘Arneis makes fruit-driven, aromatic wines and although named little rascal because it is challenging to grow, it will appeal to the consumer because at around 13 per cent ABV it is not high in alcohol.’ Do we sense a contender for successor to ubiquitous Sauvignon? Villa Maria only have 15 hectares of the varietal so far, but little acorns, as they say. 

The Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2013 shows that they can to do with the old warhorse. It’s classic Marlborough stuff, reeking of passion fruit and gooseberry and oodles of tangy grapefruit on the palate. Stockists include Majestic and Morrisons.  Expect to pay around £12.99. 

The Kiwis are certainly invading our shores this autumn. Marlborough must be deserted. Reserve Didsbury are hosting a tasting tutored by Ivan Sutherland from Dog Point Vineyards on Tuesday, October 22. He worked at the pioneering Cloudy Bay winery for almost 20 years where he met his now business partner James Healy. Ivan and James, together with their wives, created Dog Point in 2004 and the wines are now considered to be amongst New Zealand’s finest. 

The event starts at 7.30pm at the store on Burton Road. For £25 a head you get seven wines, including older vintages, and light bites matched to the wines. To book call 0161 438 0101 or email sales@reservewines.co.uk. 

Another fascinating tasting, Spanish naturally, is at the Deansgate Evuna on Monday 11 November, when organic Rioja winemaker Roberto Santalba puts a face to some of the vinoteca’s favourite brands, Vina Hermosa, Abando and Ermita. Price £30 includes all tapas and wine, plus exclusive offers of Evuna’s Christmas gifts, offered exclusively by Santalba this year. At 6pm there’s a guided tasting with Roberto and his wines with matching tapas, with a further sampling and a chance to talk to the winemaker from 7.30-9pm. To book ring 0161 819 2752 or visit www.evuna.com. 

Ramsbottom’s Hearth of the Ram has just scooped Dining Pub of the Year in the Manchester Food and Drink Awards and earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand after only one year in business. There’s a strong commitment to wine too, shown by an upcoming Champagne Dinner on Thursday, November 21, hosted by Joseph Perrier’s Master of Wine, Martin Gamman. The seven course menu with matching bubbly and wines costs £75 ahead. For full details visit here. To book, ring 01706 828681. 

Booths BIG Wine Event, on until November 5, sees over 100 special parcels of wines available in stores with bottles costing from £5.69 to £395. Selected wines from the range will be available for tasting during the month-long event, with a free bottle of Polloni Prosecco being given to each purchase of six bottles of wines or champagnes, while stocks last. 

The special parcels will include Robert Parker wines rated 90+/100 including Château Palmer 1996, 2001 and 2004; Château Léoville Las Cases 2001; Château Cos D’Estournel 1996 and 2008; Sassicaia 2009 from Tuscany; Châteauneuf du Pape Beaucastel 2008; and the legendary Henschke Hill of Grace 2005 Shiraz from Australia.  

In addition, Booths’ Knutsford store will let customers taste 64 wines for free from their general range by means of a gigantic sampler system using inert gas. They may eventually roll the system out to all stores.  

For further details, visit here.

S_Cellar_Selection_Sauvignon_With_Its_New_Look_Label[1]S Cellar selection, Sauvignon with its new look label

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