Nadine Worley: Winemaker at Mud House
Did you know that there are about 5,000 different grape varieties that are
capable of making wine? No, I thought not. Though to be honest, most of the
world’s wine comes from just a couple of dozen well-known grape varieties.
But you know, the variations possible among a single grape variety are quite
amazing. Taste a Chenin Blanc from the Loire region of France and then one
from California and you’ll swear you are drinking a completely different
wine. The Rieslings of the Mosel Valley and those of Australia are poles
apart. And you don’t need to compare wines from the opposite sides of the
world. In Burgundy, a Pinot Noir can taste quite different from another one
from just down the road.
So why is this? Well, part of the reason for this variation is known as
“terroir”. It’s a French word because the French invented it. They could
have saved us a lot of bother by choosing an English word, but of course
being French, they didn’t. To be fair though, there isn’t a single word in
English that means quite the same thing. In a very tiny nutshell, “terroir”
means everything to do with the geography, geology, topography and climate
that influence the growth of a vine. Sometimes there are different terroirs
within a single vineyard. Apart from all this, the visions and skills of the
grape-growers and the winemakers have a significant impact. Yet strangely,
some of the enigmatic biochemical processes that occur between virgin grape
juice and the finished wine are still not fully understood.
These two New Zealand wines are not yet available at retail outlets. In
Chiang Mai, you can find them at Kafevino, Ratree Samosorn, and Deck 1.
That’s the restaurant on Chareonraj Road, just up-river from the Navarat
Bridge and directly opposite the RarinJinda Wellness Spa Resort. The wines
are available there at around Bt 1,600++.
Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (white), New
The best Sauvignon Blanc (SOH-vee-nyon BLAHN) wines come from
France and New Zealand, but this wine tastes refreshingly different to its
distant French cousins. It’s a delicate, pale straw colour with a
tantalising and rather unexpected aroma. The vibrant aroma is fresh, fruity,
cool and invigorating with reminders of gooseberries, grapefruit, dill and
passion fruit. You’ll probably also pick up the Sauvignon trademark of wild
grassy aromas, herbs and nettles. On the palate there’s an almost
multi-dimensional flavour: bold, very dry and sharply-focused. With plenty
of fresh fruit, the wine is balanced by a zesty tang of grapefruit-like
acidity. It’s medium-bodied with a satisfying, dry finish and at 13% alcohol
content, it would match brightly flavoured sea-food and fish dishes. It
would work well with many Thai and Asian dishes too.
This must be one of the finest Sauvignons that I have tasted recently. I am
not surprised that in 2011 it won a Gold Medal at the UK International Wine
and Spirits Competition. Wine maker Nadine Worley has not only tamed the
feisty Lady of the Loire by bringing out her sunnier qualities, but also
preserved the essential crisp and fresh character of the grape. Now I’m not
a winemaker, but I reckon that takes some doing. And it seems so do a lot of
other people, for Nadine has already acquired many international trophies
and received critical acclaim from around the world.
Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (red),
If, for some surreal reason, I was forced to live with red wine from one
grape variety and nothing else, it would be Pinot Noir. Cabernet Sauvignon
would probably be Number Two but Pinot would top the list. It hails from
Burgundy of course, where it makes some of the finest red wines in the
world, invariably at breath-taking prices. This splendid wine has taken on a
new dimension to traditional Burgundy and in terms of flavour, texture and
depth it actually seems closer to a Shiraz.
It has an alluring fruity aroma that wafts out as soon as you pour it into
the decanter. There are reminders of jammy red cherries, a touch of warm
spice and plums, hints of oak and you might just detect a seductive hint of
rose petals. The wine has a very soft texture with loads of rich fruit on
the palate including cherry, red currant and a dash of herbs and roses in
the background. There’s also a lively sharpness and a fine cut of acidity
that balances out the fruit. This clean-tasting, supple wine has soft
tannins and an oaky, persistent fruity finish. At 14% alcohol content this
is pretty well at the top of the tree for table wines. It would make an
excellent partner for roast beef, roast lamb or even roast duck.
About a third of the wine was aged in French oak barrels, to bring out the
oaky quality while the rest of it was matured in stainless steel tanks, to
preserve the bright fruit flavours. I mention this fact just as a reminder
that it’s not only terroir that brings about variations in wine, but also a
great deal of human intervention. Grape juice - left to its own devices -
would simply turn into vinegar.