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Dhall & Nash Tasting – 01.08.14

In recent weeks I have attended two functions where fine-wine importers Dhall and Nash have showcased a range of wines; the first was a dinner at Hopgood’s Restaurant where American wines they import were matched with delicious Hopgood’s food with an American twist and the second was last week when they invited me to attend a master class tasting of wines produced in limestone soils.

Firstly at the Hopgoods dinner we were treated to a sparkling wine from America that was reasonably impressive. Produced using just Chardonnay it had rich creamy characters but the thing that really grabbed my attention is that it was poured from a can! What’s more it had a straw stuck to the side. While wine-in-a-can isn’t normally high on my must drink list I have to say there aren’t many decent sparkling wines in small format containers (178ml) available in the market and these are perfect for taking to the beach or to sell at events. This was served with delicious Maine Style lobster roll.

All of the food was outstanding as you would expect from Hopgood’s and while the wines were very good an outstanding wine and food match was the Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cut ‘Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County’ Zinfandel 2011 (RRP $59) that was paired with slow cooked smoky beef brisket, sweet potato and Zinfandel gravy. The wine was deep and rich in flavour and worked perfectly with the touch of smoke flavour in the beef.

Another great pairing was the apple wood smoked salmon with a cornmeal crab cake, avocado, dill cucumber and buttermilk dressing served with Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2011 (RRP$105). The elegance and slight acidity of the chardonnay was delightful with the delicate oiliness of the salmon. These American wines and others (excluding the sparkling wine in a can) are available at Casa del Vino.

The tasting in Auckland had a specific focus and I was one of five lucky wine writers from around New Zealand invited to try some outstanding wines made from grapes grown in soil with a strong limestone influence, from the chalky soils of Champagne, Alsace and Burgundy in France to wines from Italy, Spain and of course New Zealand. The purpose of the tasting was to see if limestone soil really did impact on the flavour of the wine, or did it impact more on the structure? Can you actually taste the limestone?

The only way to consider these questions is, of course, to taste some wines produced from grapes grown in these soils and discuss them – and that is what we did, for three hours.

We tasted Champagnes that ranged in price from $80 to around $250, a beautiful dry fino sherry, sauvignon blanc from Sancere, chardonnays and pinot noirs from Burgundy and New Zealand, pinot gris from Alsace as well as a Barbaresco and Moscato from Italy.

This was a truly wonderful range of wines with many highlights, particularly the 2004 Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Champagne (RRP$250) and 2009 Albert Ponnelle Puligny-Montrachet that according to my tasting notes was ‘elegant, soft brioche tones, beautifully enticing delicate characters, powdery minerality in finish, fresh but balanced acidity, long juicy finish, 5 star wine’

Can you taste limestone? Obviously this was only a very small sample of the thousands of wines produced on this soil type but my take is you don’t taste the limestone but all the wines did express refined mineral characters, particularly the whites.

The Dhall and Nash Fine Wines range includes fine wines from a number of countries with some top flight labels in their portfolio, they also distribute a select range of New Zealand wines many of which are available at Casa del Vino.

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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