If you're serious about collecting wines of rarity and significance, then you could do worse than cast your eye over the offerings at the 22nd Hawke's Bay Winegrowers' Charity Fine Wine Auction this Queen's Birthday weekend.
Saturday, June 1 will see 35 exceptional one-off lots go under the hammer at the most glamorous event on the Wine Country calendar. It's the oldest, most highly rtegarded wine auction in New Zealand, having raised over $2 millon for Cranford Hospice since its inception.
These rare wine lots are sourced solely from Hawke's Bay, and this year they include two special "tribute" lots dedicated to recent Cranford patients Sir Paul Holmes and Joseph Brimer. They could also very soon be yours, because come June 1, obtaining their ownership will be open slather. So you'd better secure your paddle, sort out your phone bidder or register asap, because thanks to a nifty new website, the rest of the world will be nipping at your heels to get a piece of the action.
Here's just a splash of the lots looking for new owners: Gordon Russell and his team at Esk Valley have handed over a 28-litre Octer barrique of 2012 Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon; and Alpha Domus is offering a 56-litre quarter barrique of Antonius, a traditionally made fortified wine created from petit verdot.
The team at Church Road is donating a 112-litre of unfiltered Reserve Chardonnay that the vintage staff have been lovingly nurturing since harvest; and Ngatarawa is rolling out an entire 225-litre barrel of 2011 Syrah - that's 300 bottles of ravishing red wine inside just one vessel!
Plus, there are more salmanazars (nine litres), imperials (six litres), jeroboams (three litres), magnums, degustation dinners, original artworks and vertical line-ups than you can sling a screwcap at.
Silent bidders will be able to place conditional bids for parts of the lots - and guess what? It can all be done online.
Registered online bidders can also bid using the "syndicate" button, so they can have part of a larger lot without the hassle of having to organise a syndicate themselves - and word's out that online bids are already rolling in.
I have a feeling this year's auction is going to smash records. Why? Well, when you look at the prestige and pedigree of the lots being donated, a few things become clear. The first is that these are no ordinary wines; there are wines here that'll make successful bidders the envy of collectors the world over. But perhaps of greater magnitude is the realisation that just by bidding you'll be giving someone the gift of Cranford care when they need it most.
To register, visit www.charitywineauction.co.nz, or monitor auction updates on Facebook or Twitter.
Scotch in space
Two years before Ardbeg took out the World's Best Single Malt title at the World Whisky Awards in London in March, the 300-year-old distillery was thinking about the taste of the future. In a never-been-done-before experiment of Mars Rover proportions, the team at Ardbeg loaded a rocket ship with research vials of precious Ardbeg malt molecules and natural compounds known as terpenes (which are very aromatic and flavourful) alongside some charred oak particles and sent it off to the International Space Station.
After they've been sitting there for two years, scientists from Ardbeg's Texas-based partner NanoRacks LLC will analyse how effectively these molecules interact, change and mature together in zero gravity, compared to control samples here on Earth.
Established in 1815, Ardbeg is revered by whisky connoisseurs around the world as the peatiest, smokiest and most complex of all the Islay malts. Where will this research lead? Who knows, but someone get Spock on the phone because I want to know if this is logical.
A riesling by any other name......would be as sweet?
Not if, like the team at Neudorf in Nelson, you separate the juice and ferment half with wild, indigenous yeast and half with a more efficient strain - because then you get two completely different styles, separated only by the "residual sugar".
Yeast converts sugar to alcohol, and the residual sugar (RS) is simply a measure of how much natural grape sugar is left in the wine after the yeast has done its job. The RS dictates how sweet or dry the wine tastes, and how much alcohol it contains.
The Neudorf Moutere Riesling 2012 ($29) is tangy, tropical and packed with lime-curd loveliness, and has 47.1g/l RS and only 9 per cent alcohol; the Neudorf Moutere Dry Riesling 2012 ($27) is crisp apple, lime and mineral-infused magic with only 9g/l RS and 12 per cent alcohol. This pattern will give you a clue if you need to predict how sweet a wine will taste - simply check the alcohol. The higher the alcohol (over 12 per cent), the dryer the wine; the lower the alcohol (below 12per cent), the sweeter the wine.
Three sips for the week
Lawsons Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2012, $20
If you're a fan of classic juicy pear, quince and tropical notes in your pinot gris then you'll enjoy this one. It's luscious and lovely, particularly with North African, Moroccan-type spicy dishes. www.lawsonsdryhills.co.nz
Cloudy Bay Pelorus NV, $37
Delicious biscuit and creamy characters on the nose, and a cloud of almond-meal, lemony loveliness and breadcrusty beauty on the palate. The elegant acidity and enduring length of flavour in this wine signal why it's one of the finest sparkling wines New Zealand has to offer. www.cloudybay.co.nz
Murdoch James Blue Rock Martinborough Syrah 2011, $39
Syrah from Martinborough might not be on everyone's radar but I think it should be after tasting this example. Grown on one of the only elevated sites in the region, it has a clean line of peppercorn, spices and sweet plum and berryfruit on the palate. It's robust, generous and has a liquorice-like length of flavour - making it magic with venison sausages. www.murdochjames.co.nz