Every bottle has a story

I am not a wine expert, but with each bottle I try and share with friends, I learn more. Wine is an exceptional social drink; it is the marijuana of alcoholic beverages because it must be shared. I seek to share with you my thoughts and experiences as I drink the wine in my closet, as well as my enthusiasm for the finds that come my way and the excellent values that I find. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences too, so please share!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Two delicious Kiwi finds

I had mentioned in an earlier post a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I had tasted many years ago that had the distinct flavor of bell pepper. It was astonishing when I first experienced it. That was more than 10 years ago, and since then I have not encountered a similar wine. The lush grassiness of the Kiwi wines? Yes, I had drunk and enjoyed many of those. But by and large, the strong herbal Sauvignon Blancs, the ones that taste like a fresh bell pepper, were absent. And the normal experience was with far too many wines in which grapefruit was the dominant flavor.

Well, hello baby! Bell pepper is back big time with these two New Zealand bottlings. And both these intriguing wines can be had for less than $10 per bottle.

The first is from Yealands, a 2009 Marlborough that I randomly grabbed from the shelf at the Binney’s in Skokie. I could smell the herbs and bell pepper right away and I was instantly excited. The bell pepper was prominent on the taste as well, very forward but not over expressive. It had a lively citrus zing as well of lime, and a mineral quality that gave it structure. The finish was juicy and refreshing. It was an easy drinker on its own, but it went very well with some simple baked chicken and frozen vegetables. I’m thinking this one is definitely on my short list for my annual summer purchase.

But then a few days later, I opened another Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, this time a 2008 by Starborough. This, too, had a delightful herbal nose, with the bell pepper on the taste much subtler than with the Yealands, but still the dominant flavor. There was a zest of white pepper as well, just a hint to give this wine some very interesting character. And oh my, the juicy citrus back end and finish left the palate totally refreshed! This was definitely a wine that could be drunk on its own! But again, it paired well with simple foods. One night I had it with penne pasta in an Alfredo and basil pesto sauce served with a chicken breast that had been marinated with Chinese marinade. And right now as I write this, I am finding it goes really well with comfort food, like the homemade chicken noodle soup I am enjoying. The herbs in the soup tend to subdue the herbal nature of the wine, but it’s still there. Coming forward now is the fresh lime with just a hint of grapefruit – just enough to remind you that you are drinking a Sauvignon Blanc.

Also during this recent round I tasted an un-oaked Chardonnay from the Australian producer The Wishing Tree. This 2008 vintage, also for less than $10, is a decent find. The Wishing Tree is a solid and consistent producer, and this wine will be favorably received by anyone you may serve it to. It’s definitely a safe wine to bring with you to a gathering with friends, a picnic in the park or at an outdoor concert. I must say, however, there is nothing particularly noteworthy about this wine. It is good, presenting apple and pear with a little citrus appeal thrown in. But it’s not on my list for my summer case. Despite that, if you’ve been looking for an un-oaked Chardonnay, definitely give this one a try. Remember, everyone’s tastes are different.

The Yealands I will give a solid 8, while the Starborough gets a definite 8.5. The Wishing Tree un-oaked Chardonnay, while good, I will score with a 6.5.

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