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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Fellowship of the Vine
Charles W. Borden

New Zealand flashed in the public eye twice during recent years: as the set for the Lord of the Rings films and for its terrific Sauvignon Blanc wines, which have made it one of the New World’s hottest wine regions.

Until a year ago, it was hard to find a New Zealand wine in Moscow, but now we have a small but good selection that includes wines from five of the “Ten Greatest New Zealand Wineries” listed in Ted Stevenson’s Wine Trade Report: Felton (2), Ata Rangi (4), Fromm (5), Te Mata (6), and Neudorf (8), and two from the “Ten Fastest Improving”: Mount Riley and Palliser. Other Kiwi wineries on Moscow’s shelves include the respectable Babich, Montana, and Clos Henri. Our wine adventurers were able to sample wines from six of these wineries.

Crispy, bright, complex, white Sauvignon Blanc wines, bursting with fruit put New Zealand on the wine map; they quickly entered “best of variety” lists. The finest Sauvignon Blanc regions are Marlborough at the north end of the south island and Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the north island. In recent years, New Zealand’s winemakers have also shown that they can produce remarkable Chardonnay wines and these have also become popular exports.

New Zealand’s Pinot Noir grapes produce the country’s best reds, some say the best Pinot Noir outside of Burgundy. This is a dif- ficult grape that can benefit from the influence of a cooler climate, thus the success of Pinot Noir in Oregon and New Zealand.

Screwcaps have become common on New Zealand and Australian wines these days, even expensive, so one must overcome traditionalism. This controversial innovation is gaining ground in the New World with good reason - bottles with traditional corks continue to suffer from “corked” or spoiled wines. Advocates say that since virtually all wine is consumed within weeks of purchase, a cork really does not matter, and for relatively short storage periods (less than a few years), screwcaps are better at preserving a wine as bottled.

Traditionalists say that a cork allows the wine to ever so slightly breath, and this influences the aging character of the wine. In any case screwcaps certainly are a convenience in a country that seems to still have a shortage of corkscrews.

The venue for this tasting was Indus, the new, modern Indian fusion restaurant with a menu by the renowned London-based Indian chef Vineet Bhatia, opened recently by Stepan Mikhailkov, son of Oscar winning film director Nikita Mikhailkov. See the review on page 51. Though an Indian restaurant may seem an unusual venue for a wine tasting, New Zealand’s white, fruity wines are well up to the challenge of a spicy meal.

Our winners

Moscow’s New Zealand wines scored very well. Below are comments from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar on our top rated wines:

Palliser Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005
A lighter textured wine with a delicate aroma for Sauvignon Blanc but quite vibrant zesty flavors with lots of limey citrus, gooseberry and herbs, and a juicy, green melon finish with a cut grass smokiness. Nicely balanced with lots of lingering flavors.

Mount Riley Seventeen Valley Chardonnay 2003
Wine Spectator: 92 … personifies the ripe Chardonnays so trendy these days. Just when you think it's too ripe and overblown, along comes some bracing acidity to relieve the palate. It's lavishly oaked with lots of tropical fruit, pear and hints of mineral flavors that play nicely with the acidity.

Felton Road Pinot Noir 2002
Deep ruby-red. Complex aromas of black cherry, blackberry, sassafras, violet and fresh herbs … quickly shows superb dark cherry and blackberry fruit flavors along with mint, cola, licorice, underbrush and flowers. Lush, generous and fine-grained, but not at all overly sweet. In fact, this is downright serious Pinot.

The fellowship

  • John Ortega, Publisher, Passport Magazine
  • Charles Borden, Director, Meridian Capital
  • Eric Boone, Director, Colliers International
  • Philippe Cassia, Client Service Director, Euro RSCG Moradpour
  • Patrick Gueguen, Mansion Hotels
  • Roger Johansson, IKEA
  • Daniel Klein, Partner, Hellevig, Klein, Usov
  • David Lane, President, Tablogix
  • Dan Levan, Sub-Regional Financial Controller, AIG Life
  • Glenn Morehead, General Manager, Carmen Media
  • Peter Pettibone, Managing Partner, Hogan & Hartson
  • Arvind Sachdev, National Sales Director, Colgate Palmolive
  • Lynda Sachdev, Assistant Treasurer, International Women’s Club
  • Tsutsui Takahiko, COO, Ichiban Boschi

Ortega Easy Rating System

I love this wine! 5 pts.
I really like this wine! 4 pts.
This wine is good! 3 pts.
This wine is not that good! 2 pts.
I don’t really care for this wine! 1 pt.



Winery and wine

District Price
Sauvignon Blanc
Palliser Estate, Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Martinborough 805 $29.81 3.74
Thornbury Wines, Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Marlborough 838 $31.04 3.48
Neudorf Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc 2004 Moutere Valley 838 $31.04 3.13
Mount Riley Wines, Seventeen Valley Chardonnay 2002 Marlborough 1442 $53.41 3.82
Ata Rangi, Craighall Chardonnay 2004 Martinborough 1676 $62.07 3.81
Martinborough Vineyard, Chardonnay 2002 Martinborough 1509 $55.89 3.73
Mount Riley, Seventeen Valley Chardonnay 2003 Marlborough 1542 $57.11 3.29
Kumeu River Wines, Mate's Vineyard Chardonnay 2002 Kumeu 1676 $62.07 3.08
Fromm Winery, La Strada Chardonnay 2002 Marlborough 1341 $49.67 2.84
Pinot Noir
Felton Road, Pinot Noir 2002 Central Otago 3743 $138.63 3.76
Neudorf Vineyards, Moutere Pinot Noir 2003 Moutere Valley 2313 $85.67 3.70
Ata Rangi, Pinot Noir 2002 Martinborough 2213 $81.96 3.58
Fromm Winery, Pinot Noir Clayvin Vineyard 2002 Marlborough 1743 $64.56 3.58
Mount Riley, Seventeen Valley Pinot Noir 2001 Marlborough 1844 $68.30 3.50
Fromm Winery, La Strada Pinot Noir 2001 Marlborough 1308 $48.44 3.50
Mount Riley, Pinot Noir 2004 Marlborough 889 $32.93 3.50
Sileni, Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Hawke's Bay 436 $16.15 3.46
Martinborough Vineyard, Pinot Noir 2001 Martinborough 2246 $83.19 3.07

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