Last Thursday evening (30 August), The Gourmet Belle captained the ship that took wine lovers on a voyage of discovery through the ‘new world’.
We anchored in the wine producing countries of Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa, and were treated to the unique varieties and styles that have become synonymous with each region.
Our journey started out on our own shores (in fact, in our own backyard) with a variety that has been embraced by Queensland winemakers. The Portuguese grape, Verdelho, has always performed well locally and the new 2012 vintage from Witches Falls is an exceptional example and was a fine start to our voyage (you can read my review of this wine here →).
From there, we hopped across the ditch to New Zealand to sample the country’s illustrious aromatic whites.
The multi-award winning 2011 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc is quintessentially Marlborough and a superior wine that I urge even SB detractors to have a crack at.
The other delicate white varieties from Marlborough were wrapped up in the second kiwi offering. The “Toru” (Maori for ‘three’) from first class winery, Te Whare Ra is a unique blend of Gerwurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris. This may sound like an overwhelming mouthful, yet the “Toru” is a sophisticated wine, which faithfully expresses the character of all three varieties in perfect balance.
Striking out across the Pacific, our next stop was the United States. Unfortunately, we don’t see an enormous amount of wine from the US in Australia; and the Americans don’t see a lot of wine from Arizona! So it was a rare treat to sample a rosé from fine wine producers, Arizona Stronghold.
This pink Arizonian tipple is made from a blend of Zinfandel (predominantly), Grenache and Petite Sirah (Durif) and has quite a unique flavour and texture. An overriding flavour of freshly picked, earthy strawberries is supported by zippy acidity and a dry, bitter fruit finish.
But, this was a ‘whistle stop tour’ and we quickly found ourselves back in more ‘traditional’ wine country; namely the Willamette Valley in Oregon. This cool wine region is renowned for its perfumed and subtle Pinot Noir and the 2009 from Argyle is a good, solid example that always appeals to the masses.
Our last stop in the US was the Columbia Valley, a little further north in Washington State, where we were offered the 2010 Boom Boom! Syrah (or Shiraz, as it is known in Australia) from reputable winemaker, Charles Smith.
When compared with the robust and jammy Shiraz wines from Australia’s Barossa Valley, this wine is perhaps more ‘Boom’, than ‘Boom Boom!’. However, this is to be expected from cool climate Syrah – a subtle wine with soft spice, pepper and savoury characters and a finer texture in the mouth.
Leaving North America, we shimmed on down south and into Chile. Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay is popping up more and more on Aussie bottle shop shelves; and at relatively inexpensive prices for reliable and easy drinking, imported wines. The Chilean climate and terrain is perfect for grape growing and the country is becoming a real force on the international wine scene.
We were fortunate to try both a white and a red from Chile – the 2009 Pinot Grigio and the 2007 Edicion Limitada Carmenère, both from Morandé. The fuller and slightly sweeter style Pinot Grigio was a hit with many; however the local specialty, Carmenère, stole the show for others (you can read a whole lot more about this unique Chilean wine here →).
A wine trip to South American would not be complete without indulging in a glass of Argentinean Malbec. This Bordeaux variety has become the emblematic grape of Argentina due to the world-class wines produced from locally grown fruit. Argentine Malbec is an elegant drop and the 2011 Bodega Catena Zapata Alamos Malbec provided us with the authentic experience – medium-bodied with juicy black berry fruit and lovely feathery tannins.
The last stop on our voyage was the new world’s oldest wine producing region – South Africa. South Africa’s signature grape variety, Pinotage, is also a very unique one. Pinotage is a crossing between the Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes and produces a strongly flavoured wine with earthy, smoky and coffee like characters. Its unusual flavour profile can sometimes polarise wine consumers, therefore uninitiated voyagers were ‘eased’ into the variety with a classic, ‘easy-drinking’ example from Beyerskloof in the famous Stellenbosch region.
As a special bonus, we also had the opportunity to sample a locally-produced Pinotage alongside the South African example. Ravenscroft Wines in the Granite Belt has turned out many successful vintages of Pinotage and the brand-spanking new 2011 vintage was a welcome addition to the line-up. The fresh and forward spicy, berry fruits of this Aussie version provided an interesting alternative to the South African and was very popular amongst the tasters.
Rounding off the South African stop-over was an über Bordeaux style blend from Rustenberg, comprising splashes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and (interloper) Shiraz.
But, the journey didn’t end there. Regular ‘Gourmet Belle goers’ know that I love to ‘play games’ and cannot let an opportunity for a wine challenge pass me by. A wine was masked and guests were asked to taste the mystery drop to ascertain the variety and its country and region of origin.
After much pondering, the wine was eventually revealed as the 2008 Koonara Ambriel’s Gift Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra (well, it was #CabernetDay after all!).
Right from the first whiff, the forward, lush blackcurrant fruit immediately pointed to Australian Cabernet (congratulations to Jasmine for correctly identifying it!).
Thus ended our vinous voyage. I sincerely hope a good time was had by all and that you discovered something new on your ‘travels’.
You can discover more new wine varieties, styles, regions and boutique producers by becoming a part of The Gourmet Belle’s Wine Circle. Being a member means you never miss out on the opportunity to join in a range of wine (and food) adventures!
The wines tasted:
2011 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (NZ)*
2010 Te Whare Ra ‘Toru’ (Gewürtztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris), Marlborough (NZ)
2012 Witches Falls Co-inoculated Verdelho, Granite Belt (Australia)*
2009 Morandé Reserva Pinot Grigio, Casablanca Valley (Chile)*
2010 Arizona Stronghold Dayden Dry Rosé, Arizona (US)
2009 Argyle Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley (US)*
2011 Bodega Catena Zapata Alamos Malbec, Mendoza (Argentina)*
2010 “BOOM BOOM!” Syrah, Columbia Valley (US)*
2007 Morandé Edicion Limitada Carmenère, Maipo Valley (Chile)*
2010 Beyerskloof Pinotage, Stellenbosch (South Africa)*
2011 Ravenscroft Pinotage, Granite Belt (Australia)
2009 Rustenberg R M Nicholson Blend, Stellenbosch (South Africa)
2008 Koonara Ambriel’s Gift Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra (Australia)*
You can have these wines delivered to your door to try for yourself!
All of the wines marked (*) are included in The Gourmet Belle’s current Wine Circle Gourmet Tasting Selection pack.
For only $279 you will receive a handy mixed dozen of these premium wines, free membership to the Wine Circle, free delivery and a free copy of the fabulous food and wine matching cookbook, “In Search of the Perfect Partner”!
Click here to make this gourmet wine selection yours (or for further details about the Wine Circle).
If you were ‘on board’ last Thursday, be sure to tell me which wine you liked best (and why) in the comments box below!
Thank you to Guro Fæster for providing many of the photos from the evening.
You can view all of the photos on pinterest!
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