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DIGEST Titirangi

WORDS ON WINE with Lindsay Nash

New Zealand wines, good, French wines better? Not necessarily. Granted, probably the world’s best reds come from Burgundy and Bordeaux, but both areas also export some cheaper (under $25) rather ordinary wines. I drank one recently (half a glass was enough) that was even slightly sweet, a little reminiscent of Velluto Rosso, still available in cask I see. Look closely at the label for “Appellation Contrôlée”, which is usually

but not always a class above “Vin de Pays”. And this is a cut above Vin de Table. Appellation Contrôlée is a guarantee of place of origin, not necessarily of quality. So Appellation Contrôlée Médoc means it’s a wine from a fairly large geographical area in Bordeaux, usually very drinkable. Appellation Contrôlée Margaux is a smaller subdivision of the Médoc area, again usually pretty good. If you see Appellation Château Margaux Contrôlée, doff your bonnet and bend your knee in the presence of greatness. Consider inviting me over. Call me fickle if you will. After my high praise for Merlot recently

I blush at being seduced by some very comfortable wines from the Shiraz or Syrah grape. New Zealand Shiraz has in general trailed behind Australian versions, with some famous exceptions. For example, I’ve been long aware of the Stonecroft Syrah (about $45) and Te Mata Bullnose (about $45) but haven’t had the chance to taste them. Great wines I hear. But now some fine New Zealand versions under $25 can be found.

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Vidal 2007 Syrah (about $25) is still a youthful deep purple hue, with a plum and liquorice bouquet which grows in the glass, and a plummy mouthfeel that has somewhat surprising length. There’s a touch of typical Syrah pepper too. CJ Pask’s 2008 (about $20) has a similar purple plum colour, with

a little more pepper in its blackcurrant flavour. The 2009 vintage (not tasted) has 4½ stars and “Best Buy” in Cuisine. My old benchmark Shiraz, Peter Lehmann, still does well, but has

been supplanted in my favour by Penfold’s Thomas Hyland, often on special under $20. I wrote about it recently and it continues to please so it was with some sense of anticipation that I opened a bottle of Thomas Hyland 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $16), an unfamiliar wine. The Penfolds website says that the Thomas Hyland range (syrah,

cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay) is overall lighter than the Bin range. Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz and Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon are certainly big wines. But I found this Thomas Hyland Cabernet Sauvignon every bit as

good as its brother Thomas Hyland Shiraz. It’s a dark, opaque purple- black. A blackberry aroma emerged, not a big smell. Its flavour began with sweet plum fruit, developing through a typically Cabernet touch of chocolate, ending with a satisfying tongue-grip of tannin. So maybe it’s back to my first love, Cabernet Sauvignon, for these

winter nights. But isn’t it good to be surrounded by a bevy of beauties, not necessarily French, from which to choose?

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