Wine column for week of 20 May 2013

Fine wines from Chile and New Zealand, though made from different grape varieties in different parts of the world, reflect the profound influence of wine-making philosophy and history.
Lapostolle Winery in Chile, founded in 1994, focuses on reds blended from Bordeaux varieties and the local carmenere. Alana Estate started a year earlier and produces the classic white varieties of riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, plus pinot noir.
Both use bio-dynamic or organic methods to produce grapes that make memorable wine.
Lapostolle is connected with the Marnier family of France, owner of Grand Marnier, the most exported of all French liqueurs.
Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle decided to create her own winery outside France to make world class wines. She has surely succeeded. The Clos Apalta has received 90 points or more every year for the past decade from Wine Spectator magazine, making it the most awarded Chilean wine. In 2005 the magazine pronounced Clos Apalta the best wine in the world.
Apalta has a special meso-climate different from the rest of Colchagua Valley where the vineyard is based. Hot days and cold nights produce a wide range of temperatures, which concentrate flavours, noted Alexandra’s son, Charles. “Slow maturation allows the grapes to reach ideal maturity with high concentration and character, preserving the fruit and high levels of natural acidity, ensuring a long ageing potential.”
Fog from the ocean cools the vineyard in summer. It is similar to the fogs that bring relief to America’s Napa Valley and helps to produce world-class Bordeaux blends there.
The 2003 and 2010 vintages were tasted, the former to show how the wine evolves and the latter to illustrate the latest release. These are superb wines, dense black cherry in colour and brimming with ripe black berry and cassis flavours in the mouth. The colour comes from the carmenere grapes that make up about two-thirds of the blend, with merlot and cabernet sauvignon providing the balance.
The vineyard has adopted bio-dynamic methods — what some people describe as an extreme form of organic production. Lapostolle uses these techniques “because they work,” said Charles de Bournet Marnier Lapostolle, a rational man who trained as an engineer. “Vines are like humans. When they are happy they work better.”
Alana Estate in New Zealand is also organic because of the perceived impact on the quality of the fruit. The Martinborough region near the base of the country’s north island remains one of the best places to produce wine in that country.
All grapes are hand harvested. The winery is built into the side of a hill. The natural slope allows the maximum use of gravity and reduces the amount of pumping. This limits the introduction of oxygen to grapes — oxygen can kills flavours. The gravity feed means the grape juice is treated gently, which also preserves flavours.
Different parcels of fruit are kept separate and made into wines that allow specific grape varieties to sing. The attention to detail shows in the wines.
Tasting the 2011 riesling is a profound experience — a majestic concentration of lime and pineapple wrapped in a cloak of acid tang and beeswax smoothness. A wine to return to in a two decades.
The 2011 sauvignon blanc is more sophisticated that many wines made with this grape in New Zealand, which tend to smell too much like the result of a cat trapped in a room without a litter tray. This white is dry and lean and has a minerality that makes it a perfect match with oysters or clams.
The 2011 chardonnay suggests a blend of caramel and cream biscuits within a structure of lemon and toast.
The 2009 pinot noir was my favourite. It offered a bouquet of ripe cherries, vanilla and dried spices. In the mouth it was a blend of savoury acids and ripe raspberries, with hints of liquorice and tobacco leaf. A wine to enjoy in a decade.
Both the pinot and the chardonnay won silver medals at this year’s Hong Kong international wine challenge, and the pinot also received a silver at last year’s Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International wine competition.
* Published 24 May 2013. Find a link here.

Categories: Not home, wine

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