Wine column for week of June 3

Family-owned vineyards in France and New Zealand feature this week, to show the importance of tradition and terroir.
A three-masted sailing ship, La Minerva, features on the label of Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere in Bordeaux, a tribute to former owner Count Hippolyte de Maures de Malartic, an admiral of the French Navy who fought against the British at the battle of Quebec in 1756.
In 1792 he defended Ile de France, known today as Mauritius, from invasion by the British. An obelisk was erected in his memory in the Champ de Mars at Port Louis in Mauritius.
Malartic-Lagravière is one of only six classified growths in both red and white in Bordeaux. The Bonnie family from Belgium bought the estate in 1997 and have spent millions of euros upgrading it, plus acquiring the neighbouring Chateau Gazin-Rocquencourt and investing in Argentina under the Domaine DiamAndes label.
Jean-Jacques Bonnie runs the estates in Bordeaux and has focused on organic growing methods, banning insecticides and planting a range of plants and trees to encourage biodiversity.
The estate received Agrocert certification in 2008. This is a French government ministry responsible for quality in agriculture. The result shows in the wines, which are elegant and opulent at the same time. The 2008 grand cru classes de Graves — 85 per cent sauvignon blanc and the rest semillon — coats one’s palate with joy.
The 2007 DiamAndes from a new estate in Argentina is a blend of 70 per cent malbec and 30 per cent cabernet sauvignon. This is the first vintage yet this wine has silky tannins and a nose of mocha and black fruits.
Jean-Jacques Bonnie said the temperature differences in both Bordeaux and Argentina produced a concentration of flavours in the grapes. Wines made in Bordeaux are defined by national laws, but Argentina allows the company a chance to experiment with grape combinations.
“Business is business, but what’s in the bottle is what counts, year after year,” Bonnie said.
DiamAndes is part of the Clos de Los Siete estate. The wine consultant Michel Rolland, featured in the famous wine documentary Mondovino, partnered with six Bordeaux winemakers in the Uco Valley in Mendoza. They divided more than 850 hectares into seven plots with the aim of producing quality yet unique wines.
The Bonnie family own 130 hectares of this estate. They planted grapes in 2005 and built a winery in 2009. It won an international award for wine tourism in 2011.
Meanwhile in New Zealand, the Brajkovich family has been making excellent wine since 1944 on a property northwest of Auckland, the major city in the north island. Winemaker Michael Brajkovich became New Zealand’s first Master of Wine in 1989.
He crafts superb chardonnays from estate fruit. Lisa Perrotti-Brown, writing in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, described Kumeu River chardonnays as “some of the best in the world”. When I first visited the estate in 1991 Brajkovich only had a handful of wines. Now the estate has five superb chardonnays. The best known is the Mate’s Vineyard, named after Michael’s father. The first vintage appeared in 1993, the year after Mate died.
Michael described the 2010 Mate’s Vineyard as the best he has yet made. It is a superb wine, with white peach notes on the nose and lively acidity leading to a crescendo of flavours, balanced by restrained minerality. The zesty acidity would make it a perfect match for a range of Asian foods.
The 2007 Hunting Hill chardonnay is a recent addition to the range. The first vintage was in 2006. This is another elegant white with floral notes on the nose and a smooth combination of peach and butter in the mouth. It has received glowing reviews in all of the major wine publications.
The 30 hectares of the vineyard consist mostly of clay soils on a sandstone base which retain moisture, meaning the vineyard does not require irrigation. The vineyard is situated between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. These keep the temperatures moderate in summer and slow ripening helps to enhance fruit flavours, Michael Brajkovich said.
Michael Cooper in his book Classic Wines of New Zealand describes Kumeu River as “one of New Zealand’s great chardonnays”. Sometimes wine writers tend to overuse adjectives, but in this case the descriptors are appropriate. Kumeu River makes great wines.
Words: 690

Categories: Not home, wine

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