Learning with a book and glass in hand

I'm often asked by budding wine enthusiasts, ''I want to learn more - how?'' There are many ways that this can be achieved.

Reading remains a key avenue for many of us at all levels of interest. Magazines line newsagents shelves that are accessible and inexpensive.

Locally, there is WineNZ, while from across the ditch Winestate and (Australian Gourmet Traveller) Wine are widely available.

From the US comes Wine Spectator, while from England, the highly regarded Decanter with more than 40 years of publication.

The public library is another excellent source of books with topics ranging from ''how to taste'', to general purpose wine guides, through to biographies.

Certainly more fun is actually tasting the stuff. An easy way is to get a few friends together and set a theme.

Challenge yourselves with something different: perhaps Argentinian malbec, non Marlborough sav blancs, or weird and wacky varieties as the whole idea is to learn something.

Instore tastings are another option: locally both Cableways Liquorland and Wine Freedom offer these.

They will have a fee, generally based on the value of the wines tasted, and may involve a visiting winemaker, an importer, or a theme put together by the store.

A great way to meet like-minded enthusiasts, and often to taste wines that you normally don't come across. A search for their websites or their phone numbers will soon get you on their mailing lists.

Another option sometimes seen here is winemaker dinners. Here, a restaurant has a winemaker showcase their range of wines alongside a range of courses designed to work with the wines.

Another great way to meet the maker and gain valuable insight. No 7 Balmac has Grant Taylor from Valli hosting a dinner in early October: a phone call to them will give you all the details.

A clutch of Merlot/Merlot blends: NZ v Australia, now there's another theme.

2014 Gemstone Organic Merlot
Price: $22
Rating: Good

Dark fruits, spice and pepper with some earthy savoury notes and oak toast. Plummy fruit at first; initially rather dry on the palate though begins to open up and flesh out with time, developing a dusty, leathery character with a top note of boiled sweets.

Moderate intensity; an easy-going crowd pleaser.






2013 Pegasus Bay Merlot Cabernet
Price: $31.50
Rating: Excellent

A cooler feel here, perfumed with red fruits, tangy berry and chocolate. Supple palate with milk chocolate: the fruit moving to red fruits, raspberry and blueberry over time with a backdrop of spice and dried herb. Subtle at first but grows in weight and structure with a leafy freshness on the close.

Deceptively powerful; appealing now but with potential.








2014 Craggy Range Sophia
Price: $95
Rating: Outstanding

Distinctly lush and dark fruited, building a dusty component and a lovely florality. Powerful in the mouth, silky at first with intense berry fruit, dark brooding elements and leaf before the tannins flood in. A serious and sumptuous wine with lovely balance, youthful and needing time.

Compelling, multifaceted and utterly delicious.


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