Why I drink wine

When I drink wine I’m not just looking for a pleasurable taste experience. I loathe the idea of always trying to buy whatever wine has the highest points (within the budget).

An essential pleasure is learning more about a particular wine, or style, or grape variety, or region, or vintage. That’s why I feel it’s important that a wine reflect its ‘terroir’.

There are therefore plenty of wines I would not drink. And often in situations where these are the only available choice I opt instead for water, soft-drink or beer.

This is the difference between beverage wine and fine wine.

I seldom drink NZ Sauvignon Blanc for this reason. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s that it largely all tastes fairly similar, the variation between brands and vintages is mostly not very interesting, and it doesn’t develop/improve with age.

When a sensual pleasure is reduced to the same routine experience then we have died a little. And some people have never lived (when it comes to wine that is).


Chateau Trois Moulins 2005

87 points

Haut Medoc, Bordeaux. 13%

Exotic, or at least interesting mélange of aromas. This is a poster child for minor Bordeaux that have returned something unusually special in 2005.

Ripe with chewy tannins but still the refreshing natural acidity that is lacking so often in New World wines at this price point.

Slightly milky oak (as if there is some American).

Some raisin flavours, yet not a dull ripe wine.

Drink now to 2013.

Hess Collection Mount Veeder Napa Valley 19 Block Cuvee 2006

85 points. 14.4%

This was a bit of a surprise because Decanter magazine described the 2006 vintage in California as producing lean elegant wines. This is plush almost porty wine with very grapey aromas.

It has concentration and some new oak but it is quite approachable because of the obvious fruit and soft acid and tannin. I don’t expect this wine to fail soon but don’t expect it would give much reward from cellaring.

Quite like a good (non minty) Barossa Cabernet.

A Cab Sav, Malbec, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc blend.

Wendouree Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

88++ points

Clare Valley, South Australia. 13.5%

Unusual red. Dry savoury astonishingly dense. It’s Cabernet but with none of the florality of Bordeaux (or Margaret River or Hawkes Bay). Nor is it a big syrupy warm climate Cabernet.

At almost 10 years of age it’s still a long way off from transforming into an approachable open wine. Needs another 10-20 years. Personally I’d prefer to put my money and patience into Wendouree’s Shiraz and Shiraz blends. That said, a few bottles in the cellar would be fascinating to open in a decade or two.

Chateau Filhot 2005

91 points

Honey puffs with acid and lanolin. Baked pear and custard apple. These 2005 Sauternes are the most wonderfully approachable I’ve ever experienced and yet true Sauternes flavours. Drink now, oh I expect they will last a good while but they are in danger of losing freshness due to the soft acidity. A vintage to enjoy while waiting for others.

Domaine de L’Oratoire St Martin Haut-Coustias 2000

90 points

Cairanne, Southern Rhone. 13.5%

My last bottle of this Mouvedre Syrah blend and one of the few that didn’t taste too young, in fact this has aged a good deal. Warm leathery hints but still spicey with plenty of soft fruity tannins. And then the short finish that always reminds me of corkage and has put me off this wine so often in the past. In spite of Parker’s rave reviews I won’t be buying more (the great 2007 vintage is on sale now) because I can buy and age Australian Shiraz that is better than this.

Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah 2007

89+ points

Hawkes Bay, North Island, NZ. 13.5%

From 20 year old vines this is NZ Syrah with pedigree and in a top vintage, but young cool climate Shiraz is not a wine I like. This is pristine with lovely natural acidity, restrained sweetness and oak. It is moderately concentrated in the Te Mata style, not at all syrupy. Enough depth to think it should drink best from 2014 when more secondary savoury characters should have emerged. I could be wrong and this might be a 20 year wine and it could be more complex than it seems now – we shall see (I’ve bought a couple of cases).