When the Magnum Society was being formed, one of the more widely discussed topics was that of its continuity, because in making a cellar levy the committee was requiring members to invest in the long-term future of the Society. Many similar groups are born from enthusiasm, and die quickly once the initial spark is extinguished. Now, ten years have gone by, and if any practical evidence were needed of the companionship in good wine, the Magnum Society would be that proof. The initial members were people who had attended a series of lectures and tastings of wine held between 1966 and 1971 and who then expressed a wish to see the interest they had developed maintained. From the outset the format was established of members providing the food at functions so that more money could be devoted to wine. This was probably the principal fact in the success of the Society. By devoting its resources to having the `best' tastings of any wine group so it has drawn to it newer members of similar enthusiasm to those who have remained. They have appreciated that the best wine is never cheap, but that it can still be enjoyed through a group who are keen to share the cost. Since its inception the Magnum Society has lobbied in the cause of wine, produced judges, authors, and constructive critics of the trade, but above all it has spread the cause of the responsible, unpretentious, civilising pleasure of wine, and as such looks set for many more decades. The standards the Society has achieved make it the leading wine group in the land; these must not be allowed to slip; and if the cellar input is kept up then all bodes well for the future. As someone who helped in setting up the Magnum Society I can only say that at the end of the first ten years I feel very proud.
Objectives and format
The Magnum Society is a wine-only tasting group founded in Wellington by John Buck in 1972. The principal objectives of the Society are to foster the appreciation of good wines from around the world, and to build up a cellar of wines in support of that aim. Five members of the Society are involved in judging for the National Wine Competition or the New Zealand Easter Show, and two write wine articles for newspapers and magazines. Membership is limited to 70 - 75. Initially, members were graduates of the Wine Appreciation Course initiated by John Buck, and continued by Michael Morris. Latterly, new members have been admitted at the committee's discretion, but applicants are still expected to have attended an acceptable wine course, or to have equivalent experience. A genuine interest in tasting wine, and learning about wine, is essential. In recent years the activities of the Society have emphasised the study and appreciation of varietal character and classic wine styles. The cellar has been built up around these aims and now comprises a fine collection of wines with particular emphasis on Bordeaux. Each year we ask one New Zealand winemaker to address the Society, and show us his best wines. We feel this will give us greater insight into the remarkable progress the New Zealand industry has made in the last ten years and will facilitate our tasting wines not yet produced in marketable quantities. Six to nine tastings a year are held, usually at 4 pm on Sundays. The Society provides all the wine at tastings, and members bring their own glasses, and biscuits and cheese if needed during the tasting. An informal buffet supper traditionally follows each function and members are encouraged to bring a suitable dish. Cost of membership includes an initial entry fee to buy into the Society's cellar, which is calculated on the cellar value, plus an annual subscription. Present practice is for virtually all subscriptions to be invested in cellar purchases to guarantee the future of the Society. Tastings are charged out to members at historical cost price. An absentee membership is available to members who move out of the Wellington area, and who wish to preserve the right of re-entry. An incremental re-entrance fee is payable on rejoining. Prospective members generally attend at least two functions as visitors, prior to seeking nomination. Members may bring guests to tastings if space allows. Smoking is prohibited during tastings.
Tasting the wines
Our members are encouraged to note their impressions of the wines on tasting sheets at each tasting. Although demanding concentration and vocabulary, this discipline has enabled us to retain a record of our impressions of the wines over the past ten years. To itemise our conclusions on all the wines is beyond the scope of this history; the following notes represent only a selection of the highlights - and some disappointments. Introduction These notes have been categorised according to country and region of origin for convenience. Tastings have not been restricted to this format, particularly in recent years when recognition of varietal character has been emphasised. Some examples by way of illustration have been white varietals on 16 April 1978 comprising Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett '74, Dopff and Irion gewurztraminer `75, Penfolds Autumn riesling `76, Corbans chenin blanc `76, Drouhin Clos du Cailleret `69 and Ch. Carbonnieux `71; a sweet wine tasting on 25 June 1978: Johannisberger Klaus auslese `71, Ch. de Malle `61 and `70, Bernkasteler Bratenhofchen auslese `75, Mt Pleasant sauternes `70, Nederburg Edelkeur `74 and Ch. d'Yquem `68; a comparative red tasting on 10 November 1980: Nobilo's cabernet sauvignon `76, Wynn's cabernet sauvignon '76, Ch. Giscours `73, Stanley Leasingham bin `56 cabernet malbec `73, Hardy's Nottage Hill '71, Ch. Tahbilk shiraz `76 and Chapoutier Cote Rotie '72, and a potpourri of countries, grape varieties and styles in the option game, admirably directed by David Weatherburn, succinctly described by John Tomlinson as "a…. sort of sophisticated "housie" on the one hand and a serious educational exercise on the other." Bordeaux The Society has a comprehensive cellar of claret. Few have been tasted. Bordeaux is still being made in a style that in the good vintages requires at least ten years bottle age. While early claret castings were devoted entirely to this region the wines have in recent years been used to illustrate their character and style in comparison with other regions, countries and grape varieties. Corner tasting A fine example of a regional claret tasting was on 17 April 1977 when Frank Corner recalled his wide experience in Europe and the United States of America in a tasting that featured Clos des
cedary quality had emerged by 17 April 1977; a year later (7 November 1978) the wine had blossomed, fruit and oak nicely integrated, the finish firm and long. By 25 May 1980 the wine had peaked; a delightful spicy cigarbox bouquet but the fruit had receded, the oak dominant and the acidity was more obvious. A fascinating perspective of a wine over seven years. `64 Vintage Three other clarets from the `64 vintage were tasted on 22 July 1973; Ch. La Fleur-Pourret (St Emilion): intense fruit on bouquet, adequate flavour, very dry finish; Ch. Marbuzet (St Estephe): well integrated fruit and oak, ripe fruit flavour, lingering finish; and Ch. Meyney (St Estephe): light fruit but rather tannic - three years later (6 December 1976) the tannin had still to mellow. Other clarets Some other tastings have included Ch. Lagrange `70 (St Julien) on 25 September 1977: intense colour, bouquet reticent, the flavour austere, the fruit present but undeveloped promise of some interesting tastings of that vintage in the future; Ch. Margaux `66 (Margaux) at 18 May 1972: fine elegant bouquet, abundant fruit, well balanced, firm fine grained tannin, suggesting considerable life ahead, yet two years later (6 October 1974) reservation was expressed on the fruit quality, the wine appearing tired on the night, which seems unlikely in retrospect. Ch. Palmer '74 (Margaux) at 24 May 1981, a surprise, even allowing for the indifferent vintage, little fruit, rather thin and acidic; Ch. La MissionHaut-Brion `66 (Graves): two tastings; on 16 July 1972 austere, rich fruit and oak, no harmony at this stage, and 8 June 1975, some development, rich ripe fruit complemented by oak, robust dry and tannic - perhaps we should have waited. Finally Ch. Gazin '60 (Pomerol): one of our older wines, at 25 May 1980, mature herbaceous bouquet, fruit holding but finish coarse. Sauternes The Sauternes district has provided us with some memorable wines. The late Des Lagan conducted a comparative tasting of three vintages each of Ch. d'Yquem and Ch. de Malle on 21 April 1974 - at $6.50 per person! The impressions with notes on subsequent tastings were: Ch. de Malle `61: flowery fruit, light peach flavour (at 25 June 1978 bouquet had developed honey complexity, the fruit luscious although oak was obvious, the finish
Jacobins `64 (St. Emilion): delicate fruit bouquet, acid and tannin holding but fruit receding and finish shortening; Ch. Cheval Blanc `67 (St. Emilion): aromatic fruit bouquet, soft and supple texture, dry with acid finish (perhaps more pleasing at an earlier tasting on 22 July 1973 when the less obvious acid and fine tannins extended the fruit finish); Ch. Cos d'Estournel `66 (St. Estephe): sturdy, concentrated, well balanced, tannic, yet to realize its potential; Ch. Pichon Lalande '67 (Pauillac): cedary bouquet, good fruit, oak (to some) thought obtrusive, acidity noticeable; and Ch. Lascombes `64 (Margaux): some complexity of flavour but lacking depth, finish short. Ch.Pichon Lalande `67 Foresight has enabled the Society to taste Ch. Pichon Lalande `67 on four occasions. On 22 February 1973 the bouquet was thought to be fragrant, the flavour fruity with firm astringent finish. The
rather coarse grained); '66 vintage: fruity but more richness expected; and '70: flowery bouquet, some honey, immature (at 25 April 1978 the wine was luscious, oak in balance, perhaps too sweet for acidity, and with that typical granular texture). The d'Yquem, commencing with the '55 vintage; rich botrytis bouquet, well integrated oak, soft luscious flavour, concentrated and sustained - an amazing wine; '62: honey bouquet, sweet luscious fruit, lingering finish, but without the depth of the '55; and '68: slight honey, light rather acidic (similar note on 25 June 1978, oak excessive).
Our interest in Vouvray and Sancerre has been kindled by the planting of chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc in New Zealand. Until recently wines from this area have been difficult to procure, and those tasted, were austere; Moreau Vouvray '76 at 12 July 1979: pale unripe mineral bouquet, thin gooseberry fruit, high acidity; Moreau Sancerre '78 on 7 February 1982: distinctive currant bouquet, light fruit, dry short finish; and Haut Poitou sauvignon '78 at 21 September 1980: herbaceous bouquet, fruit delicate, flinty, slightly acrid. Champagne For many members champagne conjures up a wealth of happy memories. It has played an important part in the history of the Society - the inspiration for our name (the modest two bottles), some fabulous tastings and Christmas dinners. The wines have never disappointed. Our first Christmas function, 1972, was devoted solely to champagne; Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle, Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon '64, Bollinger '66 and Louis Roederer Cristal '66; Lanson red label in 1973, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne '66 in 1974, Louis Roederer Cristal again in 1975.... no other wine captures the festive season so well. On a more serious note a recent tasting on 18 April 1982 included Pol Roger '75: fine concentrated fruit, rich creamy flavour with trace of sweetness, crisp finish; Pol Roger blanc de blancs '71: fine complex fruit, mellow, well flavoured with oily richness; Taittinger Comtes de Champagne '73: elegant aromatic bouquet, delicate fruit, crisp acid finish and Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon '73: elegant subtle bouquet, delicate creamy flavour, well structured, lingering finish.
Burgundy We have savoured many fine burgundies, both pinot noir and chardonnay. Our founder president, John Buck, a member of the Confrerie du Tastevin, acquired several wines of renown (in times when they were available and reasonably priced) and his familiarity with the region made the wines come alive. The standard of our first red burgundy tasting on 15 October 1972 including Latour Corton Grancey '66, Drouhin Le Corton '69, Chanson Cote de Beaune-Villages '67, Latour Clos de Vougeot '66 and Drouhin Clos de Vougeot '69, was to be emulated, if not surpassed, in subsequent tastings.
Cote de Nuits, Corton On 10 August 1975 we tasted the Latour Corton Grancey '66: vigorous bouquet, full rich flavour, some volatility; Jadot Clos du Chapitre (Aloxe-Corton) '66: light pinot fruit, well balanced, soft and lingering; Drouhin Clos de Vougeot '69: aromatic fruit, subtle oak, also well balanced, supple and long; Lichine CharmesChambertin '64: some elegance but fruit receding, some oxidation. At the following A.G.M. 28 May 1978 (red burgundy had now become staple 'diet' at these gatherings!) the Lichine Bonnes Mares '69, Latour Clos du Chapitre '66 and Lichine Richebourg '70 did not show well while in contrast the Drouhin Le Corton '69 and Drouhin Les Echezeaux '69 revealed rich fragrant bouquets and flavours offset by fine oak, the Les Echezeaux illustrating the velvety suppleness of fine burgundy. Drouhin Tasted two years later, 17 August 1980, the Les Echezeaux was still savoury and complex - a benchmark burgundy. Other Drouhin wines at that function included the Clos de Vougeot '69, staging a revival: aromatic and spicy, subtle sweetness in the flavour, soft finish; and Hospices de Beaune Beaune '70: fine mushroomy bouquet, sturdy fruit, less concentration than the other two wines. Christmas functions, champagne notwithstanding, were not forgotten. Drouhin Clos de la Roche '67 (Morey-St-Denis) in 1972 had a delicate bouquet, smooth supple texture, well balanced style. The '71 vintage was enjoyed at the '75 Christmas dinner and later (another A.G.M.) on 28 May 1979: great depth and richness of fruit, soft elegant texture, sapid. Chablis We have also enjoyed some fine white burgundies. Three chablis have been tasted; a Lebegue Chablis '70 on 23 September 1973: citric, rather oaky and astringent; Moreau Blanchot '75 on 17 September 1978: light floral bouquet, austere, mineral texture, firm acid; and Moreau Les Clos '76 on 12 July 1981: a rich, full flavoured style reflecting a warmer vintage, enjoyed by all. Cote de Beaune A great selection was tasted at the 1976 A.G.M. 30 May 1976: Lichine Hospices de Beaune Meursault '69: fruity nutty bouquet, strong flavour but some oxidation; and four Drouhin wines - Clos des Mouches '70: earthy bouquet, soft fruit, lacking acidity;
Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatieres '70: fresh smokey bouquet, firm oak in harmony, lingering finish; Le Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche '69: refined scented bouquet, peachy flavour but lighter than expected; and Conon-Charlemagne'70: spicy bouquet, full flavoured, lingering finish. Several of these wines were repeated on 17 September 1978. The Clos des Mouches '70 had softened but the oak was dominating the fruit; the Corton-Charlemagne '70 was nutty with a trace of cinnamon, the flavour soft and mouthfilling; Le Montrachet: still refined but oxidation well advanced, an oily mineral character disliked by many; the Meursault: more intense, great depth of flavour, powerful, but oxidation more obvious with bitter finish. A Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatieres '71 was rated first at this tasting: aromatic fresh fruit, new oak well integrated, well balanced with good depth of flavour. Puligny Montrachet The Drouhin Les Folatieres '71 was retasted on 6 July 1980. The fruit had receded, the oak was more overt, but the wine was still rich and mouthfilling. At that tasting a Jadot PulignyMontrachet '74 was refined and austere, mineral and smokey, the fruit and oak beautifully harmonised, still developing. Finally, in this review of French chardonnay, Drouhin Clos du Caillerets '69, at 23 September 1973: delicate fruit, well balanced, at 16 April 1978 (in a comparative white wine tasting) complex, rich fruity style; and on 12 July 1981: complexity more intense, rich and flavoursome but some oxidation, bitterness emerging. Rhone With a cellarmaster fond of this region, it is readily understood that Rhone is well represented in the cellar. The style can be very attractive. Recall Polly Cook commenting on the Chapoutier Cote Rotie '64 "What a finale. How can a wine of that age maintain such a delicately perfumed bouquet?" Abundant fruit, soft and harmonious, with that captivating savoury, peppery elegance - a fine wine. Cote Rotie, Hermitage There have been other vintages of the Chapoutier Cote Rotie, equally memorable: the '71 on 26 May 1974: young, peppery and spicy, the fruit firm and tannic; the '72 vintage on 10 November
1980: savoury fruit, subtle oak, well balanced, firm acid finish. Further south, de la Sizeranne Hermitage `71 from the same shipper, on 23 September 1979: floral peppery bouquet, fruit yet to soften, fine tannin; and a Jaboulet La Chapelle '74 on 23 September 1981: floral bouquet which developed with standing, rich soft fruit, well balanced, fine tannins, lingering finish. German wines, whether tasted alone or in conjunction with other sweet styles, have always appealed to our members. Our appreciation and understanding of their attributes has been enhanced by two guest speakers, Drs Rainer Eschenbruch and Helmut Becker. Eschenbruch tasting On 5 October 1975 Dr Eschenbruch spoke on winemaking and the research undertaken in Germany and the viticultural research station at Te Kauwhata. The wines tasted, apart from Te Kauwhata golden chasselas and gewurztraminer were Wehlener Sonnenuhr spatlese '71: reservations were expressed as to the balance and sulphur level (confirmed in a subsequent tasting, 6 November 1977, yet on 20 May 1979 with more aeration described as having a rich honeyed bouquet, fruit/acidity well balanced); Wehlener Sonnenuhr auslese `71: rich full flavoured floral fruit, crisp acidity; Schloss Eltz Rauenthaler Baiken riesling spatlese '71: rich honey bouquet, luscious flavour, lingering finish; Niersteiner Hipping riesling spatlese '71: grapey bouquet, soft mild flavour, mouthfilling but shortening; and Ungsteiner Speilberg gewurztraminer beerenauslese `70 rich luscious honey and spice, concentrated fruit, a depth and richness of flavour that surprised many. Becker tasting Dr Becker's visit on 3 March 1980 was a rewarding experience. His comments on vintages, regions and grape varieties were informative as was his assessment of viticulture in New Zealand. The wines evaluated at that tasting were Von Schorlemer Zeltinger Sonnenuhr spatlese and auslese `76, the former flowery, fresh, with rich ripe fruit, the latter, more intense, concentrated fruit, honey rich and sustained - both with a "fatness" reflecting the hot vintage; Niersteiner Hipping riesling auslese (Schmitt) `76: scented earthy
bouquet and flavour, heavy and caramelized, lacking refinement; Geisenheimer Schlossgarten riesling spatlese (Schonborn)'76: some nectar but overall light, lacking fruit richness - thought atypical of the region by Dr Becker, and finally, Ungsteiner Honigsackel kerner and riesling beerenauslese (Koch) '76: raisiny fruit, luscious nectar flavour, oily and rich, lingering finish. Mosel, Nahe Other wines from these regions that impressed us were an Ockfener Bockstein spatlese (Staatlichen) '75 on 6 November 1977: refined with a fresh scented bouquet, rich and well balanced with a clean steely finish; Bernkasteler Bratenhofchen riesling auslese (Lauerburg) '75 on 25 June 1978: austere mineral fruit, firm acid - a wine with potential, and another highlight, Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl spatlese (Anheuser) '75 on 6 November 1977: aromatic fruit, well balanced, crisp acid, an intriguing complexity of flavours.
Rhein Of the richer Rhein styles tasted: Steinberg riesling Kabinett (Staatsweinguter) '75: nectary bouquet, light yet mouthfilling, clean and well balanced; at our 73 A.G.M. 23 May 1973 Schloss Vollrads and Schloss Johannisberger '69, the latter wine honeyed, luscious, but lacking length of flavour; the former delicate yet concentrated with depth of flavour and sustained finish; Johannisberger Klaus riesling auslese (Schonborn) '71 on 5 June 1978: soft, luscious fruit, excellent harmony and balance, ripe peach overtones, clean lingering acidity; and a magnificent Rheinpfalz, Forster Ungeheuer riesling auslese (Von Buhl) '76: rich concentrated nectary fruit, intense flavour with power that lingered on and on. Sometimes the fruit sweetness was thought to be excessive; an Oppenheimer Sacktrager auslese (Guntrum) '75 on 6 November 1977 was overripe, a heavy wine lacking acid and rather cloying. Spain Some Spanish wines, and older vintages: Marques de Murrieta '48 on 18 May 1972: all oak, fruit long dissipated; Vina Real Reserva '52 on 8 June 1975: rather burnt fruit character, tannic from long oak maturation; Companhia Vinicola del Norte Espana '59 at same tasting: delicate fruit, smooth, oak wellbalanced; and Bodegas Bilbainas Vina Zaco '64 on 6 September 1981: sweetish, acidic and astringent, an austere fruitiness "like a dusty vineyard on a hot day."
Tomlinson sherry lasting That last comment was made by John Tomlinson who conducted a tasting of dry sherry on 19 October 1980. The wines comprised Montana Pale Dry: distinctive for, nutty, young fruit, some sweetness, sharp spirit; Yalumba Chiquita: light, some for character, bland and rather spirity; La Riva Tres Palmas: sturdy, some depth and complexity but rather oxidised; Domecq La Ina: nutty and smooth, full-bodied, but bitter (the last two opinions suggesting old stock); Findlater La Luna: crisp for, light with typical "manzanilla" tang, firm sustained finish; and La Riva Guadalupe: nutty complex bouquet, mellow flavour, well-balanced dry finish. A fascinating and different experience from our usual fare. Other countries For various reasons the Society has not assessed many great wines from other countries - Portugal, Italy, California, South Africa, to name a few. Lest it be thought that these areas have been completely overlooked, remember the Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva '67 on 6 September 1981: oaky bouquet, earthy fruit, a strong iron character, tannic; a Poreski merlot '74 from Yugoslavia on 24 May 1981: "bordeaux" bouquet, ripe fruit, caramel sweetness, full round wine; Sonoma Chalk Hill chardonnay '77 on 16 July 1980: mineral bouquet, light fruit, buttery texture with hot finish; and the Nederburg Edelkeur on 25 June 1978: pungent "pineapple" aroma, full bodied, saturated with fruit, sweet, lacking acid balance. Australia Kelly tasting Geoff Kelly aroused our interest in Australian wines with an analysis of the various grape varieties, climatic and soil conditions and winemaking styles on 4 November 1976 using the following wines to illustrate his points: Pewsey Vale rhine riesling '73: resiny bouquet, distinctive varietal character but coarse, lacking style and finish; Seppelt pinot noir '70: some pinot fruit overshadowed by oak and hot ferment, rather bland and tired; Ch. Tahbilk cabernet sauvignon '70: berry fruit, soft round style; and if those were thought average, Hardy's C546 cabernet sauvignon '65: ripe curranty bouquet, soft fruit flavour, oak nicely integrated, long finish; Redman claret '74: elegant peppery bouquet, light fruit,
subtle oak in balance; and Penfold's Kalimna bin 28 shiraz '70: concentrated bouquet, robust fruit, earth and iron nuances, high extract, vigorous. White varieties Australian grape varieties have often been compared with similar varietals from other countries; shiraz with Rhone, cabernet sauvignon with Bordeaux and New Zealand cabernets, etc. As a generalisation the white varieties have not met with enthusiastic response although limited availability of the premium wines has precluded a comprehensive assessment of the country's potential. In particular the rhine rieslings have tended to be overripe, resiny, and despite being well-endowed with fruit, found lacking in acid to lift the fruit quality. Red varieties The red varieties have been more impressive; Seaview cabernet sauvignon '71 on 25 September 1977: soft ripe sweetness of fruit; Penfold's bin 389 cabernet shiraz '73 on 6 September 1981: soft fruit, well balanced, immediate shiraz flavour complemented by lingering cabernet; Hardy's Nottage Hill claret '71 on 10 November 1980: aromatic peppery bouquet, mature, good balance although some bottle difference evident; and Ch. Tahbilk shiraz '76 on same date: intense berry aroma, full-bodied, rich mellow fruit, high extract and oak tannins. New Zealand With considerable interest and pride we have witnessed a steady improvement in the quality of our own wines over the past ten years. They have always had a place in our tastings. In recent years they have held their own with, and sometimes surpassed, the imports on the day. The McWilliam's cabernet sauvignons fall within the latter category. The '66 vintage with rich berry bouquet, well-integrated oak, depth of flavour and firm finish, tasted with John Avery M.W. in 1978, was magnificent. McDonald tasting A year later, 26 June 1979, Tom McDonald of McWilliam's Wines joined us in a tasting of the '65, '68, '69 and '75 vintages. Mr McDonald, in his warm and relaxed style, recounted the making of the wines and then reflected on the industry and its future. The '65 had a rich currant bouquet, a flavour of mature fruit and oak,
well harmonised, a wine of great stature. The '68 was a lighter style, oak more dominant, fruit starting to recede; the '69: intense currant fruit and oak, assertive, well-balanced with a sustained flavour, "the biggest cabernet" made by Mr McDonald. The '75 was lighter than the earlier styles, distinctively varietal, soft and forward. The '70 vintage was tasted at the John Avery function: good fruit, oak assertive and dominating flavour, astringent finish; and the '71 vintage on 25 September 1977: ripe currant fruit, subtle sweetness, firm oaky finish. Other red varieties Two further cabernets that impressed were Nobilo's '76 on 10 November 1980: fragrant fruit with firm oak, elegant flavour, fine oak treatment although too obtrusive for some; and Montana Marlborough '76 on 21 September 1980: rich berry bouquet, distinctive varietal fruit, well-balanced acid and tannin. Nobilo's handling of pinot noir and pinotage has also been liked, the former '76 vintage on 17 August 1980: delicate pinot fruit, supple fruit flavour, counterpointed by oak; and the pinotage '76, at the Christmas function 1980: soft ripe fruit, firm oak, fine tannin. A Babich pinot noir '78 on 26 April 1981 captured the aromatic burgundian bouquet, if rather high in oak. New Zealand winemakers Several winemakers have accepted invitations to speak to our Society. Brothers John and Matthew of Mission Vineyards, Denis Irwin of Matawhero Wines, Peter Hubscher of Montana Wines, Tom McDonald of McWilliam's Wines and Randy Weaver currently establishing a vineyard at Coopers Creek, Huapai. Each has contributed immeasurably to our understanding of viticulture and winemaking and has impressed us with his candidness and dedication. Chardonnay Perhaps the white varieties best reflect the remarkable progress that has occurred since the founding of the Society, particularly chardonnay and gewurztraminer and then sauvignon blanc and rhine riesling. Chardonnays we have enjoyed include McWilliam's '78 on 12 July 1981: intense fruit overlaid with sweet oak, rich oily texture, sustained finish; and '80 vintage on 15 November 1981: more subdued oak, ripe buttery fruit, crisp acid, well balanced for further development; Montana Private Bin '76 on 12 August 1979:
fragrant floral bouquet, delicate fruit, hint of peaches; one year later at 6 July 1980: still fragrant but fruit faded with standing; Nobilo's '77 at the same tasting: assertive oak masking fruit, rich oily flavour, good acid; and the '78 vintage on 12 July 1981: fruity, oak firm, more restrained than previous vintage, good balance; and finally Cooks '80 on 15 November 1981: intense fragrant fruit and oak, ripe soft buttery flavour, not unlike Californian style. Gewurztraminer The gewurztraminer seems ideally suited to our climate. The wine is flowery, fmer and less spicy than the Alsace wines. Matawhero reflects these qualities - the '77 at 10 August 1977: aromatic, floral, crisp acid; but lighter than the '78 on 7 November 1978: more intense, mouthfilling, spicy with lingering finish; and the '81 dry reserve on 15 November 1981: austere aromatic bouquet, concentrated fruit, long astringent finish. In a dessert wine style the Collard's late harvest '81 on 15 November 1981: an elegant aromatic bouquet and ripe luscious fruit flavour. Other white varieties Montana achieved immediate success with their sauvignon blanc; the '79 on 21 September 1980: light currant fruit; the '80 at same tasting: intense curranty bouquet, good fruit with crisp acid finish; on 15 November 1981: less aggressive, more refined, elegant with ripe mellow flavour and lingering finish an excellent wine. Improved technique with residual sugar has produced some interesting sweet styles from the ubiquitous muller thurgau (eg Delegat's muller thurgau auslese '80 tasted on 15 November 1981) while the San Marino riesling sylvaner '81 tasted on the same date reflected progress in obtaining fruit delicacy without the bitterness that sometimes characterises the variety. Montana rhine riesling '80 (15 March 1981) and Collards rhine riesling '78 (3 March 1980) both revealed more fruit length than the muller thurgau wines without capturing the nectary honey character of the variety in its German homeland. Overseas judges A memorable evening was held with the Wellington Wine and Food Society in November '78 when John Avery M.W. gave us a stimulating and encouraging resume of our industry based on his adjudication at the National Wine Competition. Mr Avery has
retained his interest in New Zealand wines, promoting and selling a considerable range from Avery's in Bristol, England, and returning in 1981 to chair the judging at the National Competition. Our Society was again privileged to host a chief judge of that competition in 1980, Rev Cant from Australia. Mr Cant commented on development in Australia and then gave his impressions of the changes in our wines since he first adjudicated at the National Competition in 1975. At that time he admired the fortified wine; on this occasion it was the new varieties, sauvignon blanc, traminer, pinot noir together with cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay that created a good impression. Commentators What of the commentators; members cajoled into recording the impressions of the tasting for the next newsletter. There were some fascinating contributions: Eric Ashton in serious vein "tasting champagne is a totally different experience to drinking champagne. When drinking, it should be either a romantic or happy occasion. It is hoped that both have the same result." He did not elaborate. June Moms commenting on McWilliam's '66 cabernet sauvignon "if such wines could be made in New Zealand 12-13 years ago why are we not seeing them today?" Patience June, John and Michael are doing their utmost! Something dear to our hearts, or purses, from Ponty Hallwright. "We should be able to produce complex and perhaps consistent claret style which can compete with the French at a fraction of the cost." In lighter vein, Lyn Corner after a white varietal tasting "Some wine buffs of the Magnum Society tasted eight whites without inebriety Vouvray and traminer gold medals and finer were judged with some claim to sobriety" Mike Todd, in festive mood "it is a wine I like for its freshness It has that amazing nose that comes off the top of a barrel when the bung is pulled a friend of mine in England used to make dandelion wine which had the same nose - that was good too!" Frank Comer's ability to create pictures - "not a great enough burgundy to survive nine years ... no fruit ... in taste ... (but) some pinot smell struggling to get through" and of another burgundy "a noble ruin." And David Delany, reviewing white burgundy "a collection of six glittering golden chardonnays."
Cellarmaster There were many others, but perhaps the final comment belongs to Geoff Kelly, bewailing the responsibilities of cellarmaster " for those who suppose that a cellarmaster's lot is one long slurp the first case of Alsatian wine was stolen on the Railways, requiring - apart from follow-up documentation from Christchurch, etc. - at least eight phone calls to Railways "Goods" as they persist in calling them. If you really want your mind compressed, try spelling out (repeatedly) to a Railway employee that they have lost a case of wine labelled g-e-w-u-rz-t-r-a-m-i-n-e-r costing $10.86 a bottle, yes, each bottle, from Alsace - whaddya mean, he said: Oh the frustration of it all, can he be real ry it in two syllables, phonetic like " To Geoff and his predecessors, Roger Coles, Graham Jones, Alan Layton, Alan Turner - thank you you have made it all possible.
Christmas Functions A formal Christmas dinner has been held each year, with wines served from the Society’s own cellar. The venues were: Sunday, 3 December 1972 Sunday, 25 November 1973 Sunday, 24 November 1974 The Coachman The Coachman Industry House (prepared by Iris Robertson) Le Normandie Le Normandie The Settlement Amsterdam Restaurant Ohariu Valley Country Club Ohariu Valley Country Club Turnbull House, Bowen Street
Monday, 1 December 1975 Monday, 6 December 1976 Monday, 12 December 1977 Monday, 4 December 1978 Wednesday, 5 December 1979 Wednesday, 3 December 1980 Wednesday, 2 December 1981 Hawke’s Bay Excursion 27 — 28 October 1979 The first weekend venture for Magnum Society members. The vineyards visited were: Mission Vineyards, with comments on development and planning from General Manager Ian Clarke: long-term plans include the use of oak from a plantation of young French oak trees; Te Mata Estates: Society member Michael Morris described the restoration of the winery which had been carried out with the help of architect Ian Athfield; members were able to see the new equipment set in buildings of this, the oldest winery in New Zealand. Dinner was at Vidals Vineyard restaurant. The following day a special tasting was arranged with Mc William’s Wines in Napier; the wines sampled were: Chardonnay: 1974, 1973, 1968, and Cabernet Sauvignon 1976, 1974, 1973. Nelson — Marlborough 4 — 5 April 1981 Members were met at Blenheim airport by Peter Hubscher and his wife and by John Marris who manages the Montana Vineyards in Marlborough. John explained the development of the 1000 acres of Montana vineyards and 200 acres of contract vines on the Wairau plain; we visited the Renwick and Branscott estates and Montana’s Riverland Winery. On 5 April members visited the Weingut Seifried winery in Sunrise Valley, Upper Moutere, where Hermann and Agnes Seifried are developing their own vineyard and supplying root-stock grafts to other vineyards. Later the Society visited the small winery at Korepo Vineyard.