What have you been drinking over summer?

NEIL HODGSON
Last updated 11:49 17/01/2014

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Neil Hodgson's wine column

Nelson's food and wine in perfect harmony Grape harvest looks to be another big one Wine books best for information What have you been drinking over summer? Goodbye to 2013 Smaller labels have seductive products Sampling the delights of Otago Warming up for summer Pick of spring bunch There's always something to write about

If you enjoy wine as much as I do I hope you have treated yourself to a fine glass or two over the summer holiday season. I certainly have.

What makes a wine special totally depends on the consumer. It might be a bottle that is slightly more expensive than you would normally drink (Champagne for Christmas dinner instead of a sparkling wine), a bottle someone gave you as a gift that you have been keeping for a special occasion or a wine you have cellared for several years waiting for it to reach its maturity peak.

In my case it has been all of these, especially wines we have cellared for many years. Some of these wines you would expect to drink when they are young and fresh, sauvignon blanc for example, but I love seeing how these wines change over time and more often than not they turn out to be a fine glass of wine.

Wines like full-bodied reds that need cellaring to be at their best are beautiful when treated properly.

Many of the wines we enjoyed with friends over the holidays are not available to buy now so finding the last bottle in perfect condition is truly rewarding for the wine lover. We have a wide range of wines in our cellar with modern era wines dating back to about 1989 with a few even older that we have acquired over the years.

I often buy older wines at specialist wine auctions and it is surprising how cost-effective they can be if you are smart about what you buy.

I avoid wine brands that are widely known and popular because everyone wants them; I prefer to buy wines made by less well known producers and varieties others may not be confident enough to buy.

I am constantly surprised how good some of my auction buys have been. A great example was a wine we enjoyed on New Year's Eve - 1989 Chateau L'Arrosee Saint Emilion Grand Cru.

When I pulled the cork out it was grey and looked anything but enticing, the wine inside however was rich, luscious and silky smooth making it a simply outstanding glass of wine.

I paid about $60 for this wine and considering how old it was I think it was a bargain. New release Grand Cru Bordeaux wines sell for much more than this and they won't be at their best for many years.

Another wine we enjoyed on New Year's Eve was from a bit closer to home - Neudorf Vineyards 2000 Moutere Chardonnay that we have cellared carefully since 2001.

This wine was remarkably fresh and lively considering it was sealed with a cork and was simply perfect with the slow roasted pork belly we matched it with.

While these and other wines we enjoyed over the holiday season were old most of them we didn't pay a lot for by today's standards. We simply kept our hands off them for quite a few years and it proved to us once again the value of starting and maintaining a wine cellar, something I can recommend everyone should do.

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While there is lots of information about setting up a wine cellar available and plenty of recommendations for wines to age, only experience will tell you what wines age best.

You will have a few that you will end up pouring down the drain but that in itself is part of learning about aging wines.

Some key things that all wines need to age well are acidity, fruit flavours and tannins in red wine. Avoid wines that don't have these characteristics because if they are soft easy drinking wines now they will turn into flabby, flavourless wines if you keep them for 10 years.

Store your cellar wines in a dark place with a consistent, moderate temperature (13 to 15 degrees is perfect but not strictly essential) and leave them alone, don't check them every ten minutes, let the bottles get dusty.

A wee bit of patience now will pay huge dividends in your enjoyment of fine wines in future years - 2014 is the perfect year to start.

I'VE BEEN DRINKING

Te Mania Nelson 2012 Gewurztraminer RRP $21.99 This is a delightful example of this aromatic variety, succulent floral aromas with layers of rich flavour. The soft ginger background is enhanced with lychee and Turkish delight characters while the spicy finish makes it refreshing and moreish. A delicious wine.

Seifried Estate 2013 Nelson Riesling RRP $25 (but you will find it on special for as low as $13). Lively lemon citrus aromas leap from the glass and are reflected in the clean, fresh palate. Powdery minerality adds an almost spritz character to the wine, I think this makes excellent summer drinking now and will allow the wine to develop some nice complexities if you cellar it for up to five years. At this price it would be the perfect wine to start a new cellar with.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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