Hey there sports fans! Welcome to another exciting, pulse-raising edition of the Olleydays blog. I know you’ve been waiting some time for this one but the wait is over, the anticipation has reached fever pitch and the stage is set to see several scorching wines go head-to-head in personified battle.
During the Olleyday’s world series so far, we’ve been lucky enough to try some great wine. Today sees two of the finest ‘New World’ wine producing regions of the world lock horns in an international face-off of grape proportions. Sorry, I may have just left myself a bit red-faced there. Oh stop whining. I guess I’m just scraping the oak-aged barrel here for more. Vintage stuff this.
The Mendoza Reds have the more experienced squad having been producing winners for well over 150 years. They also produce the lions share of the best wine in the country. The Mendoza region of Argentina is home to some of the best red wines in South America, although Chile might have something to say about this! It was only right and proper that we decided to see what all the fuss was about. So, after a longer than anticipated bus journey out of Mendoza, we arrived in the wine region and hired some questionably safety checked bikes. Like a front two pairing that should, on paper, be an unstoppable force, we tested out a tandem, failed miserably and opted for a pair of rusty orange 16 gear bikes, of which only one gear seemed to function. Fortunately, the area was pretty flat and the one gear that we had available to us was suitable for the terrain. Despite the weaknesses in the squad here, the starting eleven seem to suit the tactics employed and have had time to gel and know each other’s game well.
Having wasted a bit of time on the bus arrangements (anyone planning to do this, might actually want to research how the buses work in Mendoza: Buy your tickets from the small corner shop type places prior to boarding, so you don’t look like textbook tourists and subject yourselves to multiple eye rolls)and working out how to get to the Maipú region, we had to cherry pick a few places within an achievable distance bearing in mind we had about 3 to 4 hours before they started shutting up shop. The Argentinians clearly have a host of quality, but is the team selection going to have the quality to see off the Kiwi contingent?
Sandra took us to the show room that certainly had had some money spent on it to give it a premium feel with the back wall awash with dark rich woods, effective lighting and the contemporarily labelled vintages. The line up for tasting was some sparkle, a Syrah and Malbec from the 2012 vintage under their brand name ‘Domiciano de Barrancas’. Sandra stayed with us and chatted to us as we sampled, explaining that this was her 5th tour of the day and she always likes to taste the wines with the guests to share the experience! What a job! The sparkle, much like an overrated South American player with loads of potential, fizzled out, couldn’t handle the limelight and lost out to the class posed from a well established breed of european. Highlight? The Syrah, with its nose of freshly sizzling spiced sausages and dynamic flavours rifles one into the onion bag! 1-0 to the Reds!
Back on to the wine and La Rural, a smaller, less imposing Bodega with a reduced emphasis on the customer satisfaction experience, but a consistency by way of established quality and reputation. It felt like the place was already winding down, perhaps even lacking the stamina of the fresher more contemporary up and coming stars, and the chance of a tour was out of the question. Particularly as we would have required an English-speaking one. So we decided to enjoy a glass each from the comfort of the on-site winebar and let the quality speak for itself. The damp and dimly lit affair gave the tasting an even more authentic feel with huge old oak barrels surrounding the small scattering of tables. I even look like I know what I’m doing.
So, after finishing off, we decided that we’d have a nose around the place ourselves. I wondered around the cave with the numerous barrels and Michelle got up close and personal with the grapes.
We arrived in the town of Blenheim in the early afternoon and decided that it was a bit late in the day to start our tour. As we drove to our wonderful hostal, called Watson’s Way, we passed through the main vineyards and filled ourselves with anticipation for the following day. I can’t praise the lodge any more highly than recommending that if you are in the area, you need look no further for somewhere to stay. First class attentiveness from the family run business, great value Bike hire, and fantastic quality too! For more info, please see this great blog post. Click Here!
The marauding whites surged forward and toyed with their opponents. The weather brightened up and the scenery came alive. The play moved in and out of glistening vineyards despite the wicked wind. It persisted and made movement difficult, however it whipped up the clouds creating some quite dramatic scenes before moving them on over the hills in the distance allowing for moments of brightness.
Refreshed and rejuvenated for a rest it wasn’t long until the Whites offered another offensive move. The next chance for the young and sprightly New Zealand offering fell to their French named starlet, Georges Michel, whom about great things had been spoken. Arrival at the winery was impressive and, combined with the words that had gone before, it looked a highly promising prospect for a much deserved equaliser.
The wind prospered in the open terrain and was tiring the legs of the players. There was one more trick up the sleeves of the wily whites as they played their trump card; the highly decorated Hunter’s estate was the final roll of the dice.
Jane Hunter has done the late Ernie Hunter proud in taking the bull by the horns and taking the Irishman’s winery from strength to strength, not only have they won over 165 medals and 25 trophies for their vintage displays, but they can consider themselves pivotal in establishing Marlborough as a force to be reckoned with globally.
Turning to the most seasoned player in the ranks and paid dividends and in true romantic (some might say clichéd) style, the best really was saved until last.
In a delightfully unselfish display of dominance and pride, a huge selection of tasters was on offer dwarfing the 3 or 4 that had gone before. Not only was there the obligatory introductory fireworks by way of the Maori inspired fizz, MiruMiru (translating to ‘bubbles’ in the native tongue), but there were multiple tastings of both red and white and even a rosé introduced to the fray also. Not only were the tastebuds treated, tested and tantalised with an oaked and unoaked Chardonnay, but the Pinot Gris was followed up with the ubiquitous Sauvingnon Blanc and even a Riesling to boot. The sheer volume in numbers does enough to overwhelm the opposition and the Whites walk the ball into the net for the equaliser. A to cap an excellent performance and blistering end to the match-up, even the red (The Chase 2011), a blend of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Caberbet Sauvingnon, impresses and caps a remarkable display from Hunter’s. The result, a last gasp, deserved winner for the Marlborough outfit. Perhaps the final flurry from Hunter’s is made that much more impressive considering that it cost absolutely nothing, snapped up on a free transfer, whilst the other Marlborough offerings demanded a modest fee, with clauses in contracts reimbursing on further purchases.
So, the Marlborough Whites snatch it at the last from their Argentinian counterparts but perhaps the margin could have been greater had the weather allowed for a more thorough onslaught. In hindsight, perhaps the tactics from the South American’s worked to their detriment: had there been more time to experiment, it might have been a different story altogether as there were some strong individual performances.
That’s about enough for now. Time to reflect on the performances and take a look at the highlights from the closing stages of today’s play.