G’day guys and here I am today back on home soil, back from New Zealand. I hope you all enjoyed the photos and Tweets I did while I was there. New Zealand, as a land mass is best summed up by my idea that God thought to himself one particular creative morning while making the earth “Right, that Tasmania place I made earlier, that turned out very nice, so what I’ll do is I’ll make a bigger version of that. Oh, and I still have some mountains leftover from when I made Scotland and France, I’ll toss them in too”. Overall, I enjoyed the trip, though the less said about the plane ride there and back the better. If I ever meet someone from overseas, that alone should speak volumes about how important it will be to me, so do not expect me to spring forth from the gate all bright eyed and bushy tailed, because I will look like a man praying for death. Travel is funny when you think about it, you go out to find something new and explore the unknown, and after a few hours of the agony of air travel and being corralled by customs in a sea of fifty thousand unnecessarily loud Chinese tourists with little if any concept of personal space with the odd equally confused Canadian and Deutschman somewhere in the mix, you become so overwhelmed, disoriented and jaded you cling to anything with any comfort of familiarity. And as for Queenstown, what a town. From the plane I was greeted by the visual treat of high snowcapped mountains, and once landed was graced with the spectacle of towering high rocky green mountains surrounding me in all directions. Even in summer these heights of rock piercing through the soil had coatings of snow plainly visible from where I was hundreds of kilometers away. You could travel k’s up or down the highway aside Lake Wakatipu, the huge lake Queenstown was built round and still be looking at the same set of mountains with the same snow. Having spent most of my life in Queensland, the existence of snow seemed almost fictitious. Living in a furnace every summer with air conditioning serving as a life support system, the idea that weather could be so cool you’d need to make preparations to compensate for it went along with the same “looking a gift horse in the mouth” that would apply to such situations as complaining that your Aston Martin gets poor fuel economy and having a marital spat with Karen Gillan. This was why no matter how cold I actually may have been I never complained once, because God knows when I stepped off the jetway inside Brisbane airport I immediately missed it. In additional to the beautiful weather and scenery, the food and drinks there were great. The hotel I stayed at, the Rydges, had an awe-inspiring wines and spirits cabinet. Wines and champagnes of many and varied terroirs and vintages as well as many bourbons, Scotch, Irish, Tennessee whiskeys, Cognacs, rums, vodkas and all manner other spirits and liqueurs of all varieties and labels. Then there was the restaurant I went to the following night, the Colonel’s Homestead. A restaurant only accessible by boat, a one hundred and six year old steamboat, the TSS Earnslaw that met us at a dock in Queenstown and served us wine while the boat steamed up Lake Wakatipu towards the homestead. When I did get there, I was served with an aperitif of Martell V.S.O.P. Cognac, and an open buffet of New Zealand green-lipped mussels, octopus, Canterbury pork and a dessert of what had to have been the best ice cream I have ever had and as many chocolate mousses and crème brûlée I could physically fit into my stomach at that time. By diligent effort, I learned to like it. After that, I basically just lived off venison. New Zealand though, is a very perplexing country. I met no more than four people in the entire journey who were definitely Kiwi, everywhere else was awash with Asian tourists and English and American wait staff. It’s as if New Zealand has no real citizens, I can’t think of one town I passed through that wasn’t run for the benefit of tourists, certainly I never passed through a town like Maryborough that existed for the benefit of itself. Even the small rural towns were this way. You’d think Footrot Flats should have been based round a man running a motel. It was strange. Any of you who are interested in my travels, there will be a few photos at the footer for you to see, my Cybershot finally got a real workout on some real landscape shots. But without wishing to unintentionally offend anyone privileged enough to live in Middle Earth I am so glad to be sleeping in my own bed again. Less glad to be out of a country with a much more pleasant Summer, and back into God’s furnace. But today’s article also comes from an equally hot place, so let’s make the most of it with this.
Today I will be drinking Tempranillo Reserva Rioja, a wine from sun-drenched Spain (Sun-drenched and sun-kissed of course, is all tourism code for heatstroke and perspiration, like it is here in Queensland). I’d never heard anything of Spanish wine and probably would have never had anything to do with it were it not for it’s dictated rule of aging. In a wine book I read, it’s said by law in the wine-growing region of Spain; Rioja, a Tempranillo Reserva must be oaked for at least two years, and bottled for at least three. This grabbed my attention straight away, since this wine was basically made to be vintaged. Since oak prolongs and repels the tiring of wine and these rules guarantee that the wine you buy, no matter how random your selection, even if you buy it on your way to a friend’s barbecue, the wine you buy will be at least three years old. Not an excessive vintage but enough to make a difference. Indeed some drinkers have a Reserva Rioja somewhere fifteen-years-old collecting dust they daren’t crack open. It may not be one of those big names like a ‘seventy-one Château Lafite, a ‘sixty-one Grange or a nineteen-fifty-five Crimean. Bottles bought and stored away somewhere dark and cobwebbed, by people who own a Mercedes-Benz and a sailboat, not one or the other. This bottle is much more down-to-earth, more my speed right now. Tempranillo as a species is a black grape native to Spain, and popular in Portugal and evenly spread throughout the Americas, from Canada to Chile. Though it is also found in wineries sprinkled throughout the globe, here in Australia for one, in New Zealand for another. The name Tempranillo, derivative of the Spanish word “temprano”, which translates simply to the term “early”, referring to the grapes quick ripening in comparison to the other native Spanish red wine grapes.
The bottle I picked up for this article is a twenty-thirteen vintage – depending on when exactly this was bottled this vino is at least a five year old vintage. One could argue the vino, having existed, crushed, fermented and ageing in barrels for years that this is technically even six or seven years of age. Twenty-thirteen was an important year for me too, my first shock of adulthood having left high school in two-thousand-and-twelve and had my life turned upside down at the hand of spinal rod surgery to correct for my scoliosis, leaving me in pain so intense I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy and as weak as paper bag in the rain. Humbling to think that this vino was bottled at such a horrid time of my life. It almost seems wasteful to drink this wine for the sake of something as superfluous and menial as a blog. But God knows better liquor has been wasted on much more menial basis. I’ve had a Próximo Rioja in the past, another much simpler variation of Tempranillo that adheres to none of the guidelines of Reserva Rioja. It gave me an idea of what this will be like, but when I drank the Próximo I was down with a cold and had a blocked nose, so I probably missed out on the majority of the nose and some of the taste. What I did taste was full-bodied, dry and sour. The Reserva Rioja bottle is lovingly adorned with gold-coloured wire wrapping the bottle, and glossy labels. As well as a label that at first really took me by surprise. Below the Marqués de Riscal label, is a label bearing the name “Bordeaux”. The relationship between Rioja and Bordeaux, so the story goes, dates back to the late Eighteenth century when Don Manuel Quintano travelled there to study fine wine at the hand of the French to improve their wine. Bringing back with him the knowledge he learnt, and French Oak. I did wonder where the Spaniards got the oak from, so that answers one question. The first little hurdle with this vino is the wire it’s wrapped in, too well fit to unwrap by hand. You would think that being a wine bottle, it’s intentions to be opened wouldn’t be so easily hindered, but a good quick snip in the right spots with some good kitchen scissors did the job easily. And a new cork to add to the collection as well, a little something to remember it by.
Now, the wine. I uncork and the nose is very subdue. Reminiscent of that Próximo Rioja I had several months earlier. Deep and sour. But I pour a glass, a completely separate nose wafts past, a nose like that of cake batter, extremely unexpected. I check again, it’s still there. The two complementing one another in the glass. Confused and bewildered, I leave the glass to breathe. I smell again, this time there’s an entrance of cinnamon sugar in the nose, clearly the contribution of those two years the vino spent inside the French oak. And a background of the smell aliken to crunchy bread crust. Now we’ll actually taste; the taste of this Reserva is also reminiscent of the Próximo, sour and fruity. Body of apple juice, and a dry spicy finish. Delicious. A full glass and no difference in taste though it comes with a smoother almost creamy texture.
So to close: This is a well-rounded wine that possesses many different flavors. By all accounts this wine is immature, I relish the thought of the day I possess my own wine cabinet to store several cases of wine to set aside for the future. This wine would be an unquestionable addition to this collection. Those of you with room to store wine for a decade or two should do likewise.
And as promised; those New Zealand photos –