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Friday, 30 July 2010

Mount Brown tasting at Cambridge Wine Merchants

Earlier this week, I went to hear Catherine Keith, Sales and  Marketing Director of Mount Brown, a small, recently established family winery based in the up-and coming Waipara Valley on the South Island of New Zealand, present her own wines alongside some from other producers at the Mill Road branch of Cambridge Wine Merchants. There was probably an element of pragmatism in her decision to show not just her own wines, since the Mount Brown range is currently quite narrow with just four wines at present.

According to their website, Mount Brown is owned and managed by the Rutherfurd family. Tony Rutherfurd heads the commercial side of the business, his son Mike runs the vineyard operations and Catherine is responsible for sales and marketing. Tony apparently has been involved in horticulture since 1990 and viticulture since the late 1990s. Mike is the vineyard manager and Catherine who has lived in the UK since 1998 sells the wines directly to independent wine merchants throughout the south-east of England.

So, along with the Mount Brown Sauvignon, Riesling and Pinot Noir, were a sparkling rosé, plus a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Cab/Merlot blend from CWM's stocks.

I had tried the Sauvignon and Pinot a few weeks ago at an in-store tasting and Mill Road manager Matt Boucher invited me to come along to the event.

The sparkling rosé was something of a revelation for me - sparkling wines I can generally take or leave, whilst rosés I usually prefer to leave, but this one from Lindauer was yeasty, well-structured and reasonably complex with a good finish.

The first of Catherine's wines was a Sauvignon - it was highly aromatic and herbaceous on the nose with refreshing acidity and a good, clean finish. It hails from the Waipara Valley, further south than the more well-known Marlborough with a more restrained and leaner style as a result.

This was followed by a Chardonnay from Mahi which, for a wine aged in oak barriques remained surprisingly crisp and steely, but with some butterscotch on the finish. Catherine explained that the malolactic fermentation had been minimised, leaving crisper malic acid in place instead of it being turned into the more buttery lactic acid. I rather like buttery Chardies, so for me, this was a case of less is less.

We then tried a Pinot Gris from The Edge in Martinborough; with white stone fruit on the nose, refreshing acidity and good balance on the palate followed by a slightly off-dry finish, it seemed to be halfway between the lean and steely style of Pinot Grigio and the lush, perfumed tropical style of an Alsace Pinot Gris.

I am an unfashionably big fan of Riesling in either the Austrian style - ripe and full-bodied yet also minerally and completely dry - or the similar but slightly-less-bracing Alsace style. Catherine's Riesling was more in the German style which I am less familiar with - lighter and with some residual sugar, but still crisp and well-structured and as Matt Boucher pointed out, a great match for smoked salmon.

The star of the evening was the Pinot Noir - I had tried it at CWM a few weeks earlier and was impressed again by the hedonistic nose of truffles, woody mushrooms and forest floor. Garnet in colour, it is quite light on the palate with aromas of cherries and smooth, well-integrated tannins from some oak aging.

As Catherine pointed out, this wine comes from vines that are only 6 years old - mere infants, really - and yet it has won a Decanter Bronze. Expect subsequent vintages to keep improving as the vines age and produce more concentrated flavours - the same is probably true of all the Mount Brown wines as the Pinot vines are actually the oldest, being the first ones planted.

We finished off with a Bordeaux blend from Main Divide in Marlborough. Primarily Merlot-based, there were plums, dark forest fruit and vanilla on the nose from oak aging, a smooth rich palate of plums and a finish of well-integrated tannins.

All the wines were well-made, characterful, appealing and complex; some seemed to deliver rather more on the nose than on the palate, but this may well have been due to the specific local climatic conditions - it was a hot, close evening that night in Cambridge, resulting in the wines being perhaps a degree or two warmer than ideal serving temperature and therefore showing better on the nose than on the palate.

The event was very well attended with a range of people and some interesting comments and questions posed. One person tasting the Riesling said he was getting raw tuna on the nose (which I could sort of see) but also asked if there was any Merlot in the Chardonnay (there very obviously wasn't). Another, who explained it was her first wine-tasting, asked if tannin was a good thing and what did it taste like (the answers being yes if it's balanced and stewed tea respectively).


Cambridge Wine Merchants - http://www.cambridgewine.com/

Mount Brown - http://www.mountbrown.co.nz/

Lindauer (website) - http://www.lindauer.co.nz/

Lindauer (rosé tasting note) - http://www.pernod-ricard-pacific.com/TransferData/tastingNotes/pages/ICP-Communication/Communication_PRNZ/Tasting_Notes_PRNZ/Lindauer_Rose_NV.pdf

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