|Fleur (centre) with L'Atitude owners Beverley (left) and Emma|
|Tom (left, Fleur and Cathal|
|Fleur with Maurice of Wine Alliance|
Little Beauty Comes To Town
In 2002, the land in Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand, where the grapes for the Little Beauty wines now grow, was a sheep farm. Fleur McCree and her partner spotted its potential and got to work, planting from scratch and patiently waiting three years for their first crop.
“It was exactly the kind of place we were looking for and we wanted to work it,” she told the appreciative audience as she held a tutored tasting of the wines upstairs in the newly opened L’Atitude Wine Cafe at No 1 Union Quay.
There were many hurdles to overcome, including starting to sell their first wines as the recession hit. But sell she did and sell she does, this Irish call the prelude to trips to Scandanavia and Russia and maybe a call to Pro-Wine.
She sells these wines to luxury hotels in the UK and the prices there really underscore the point that Little Beauty’s Irish Importer Maurice O’Mahony of Wine Alliance makes frequently: these wines over perform at their price points.
Irish stockists sell the range at anything from €15.00 for the Sauvignon Blanc to 25 for the Pinot Noir. In the likes of Claridges, the Savoy and the Gleneagles you’d be paying anything from 50 pounds sterling to 70.
Prices could well rise here. The emergence of China, Hong Kong and Japan as big markets for NZ wine has pushed Ireland from 5th to 8th in the league of NZ wine importers. If that trend continues, it is possible that less and less wine from that beautiful far country will find its way here.
We started off with the 2009 dry Riesling. This was bursting with flavours, fine, balanced and refreshing. A Bronze Medal Winner at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Challenge, this wine is currently being presented at 2* Michelin Restaurant, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Scotland.
Marlborough is the home of NZ Sauvignon Blanc and when you know that the Little Beauty winemaker Eveline Fraser was “stolen” form Cloudy Bay, you know this is going to be good, and it didn’t disappoint. It is indeed “A fine example of an aromatic, intense and mouth-watering single vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc”.
The limited edition Pinot Gris was next up and by the way all the wines were accompanied by really tasty nibbles from the kitchen at L’Atitude, quite a reminder to the punters that this a venue worth visiting on a regular basis. The pale Pinot Gris had a fresh and inviting aroma and felt full and creamy on the palate, a step up for sure on some regular Pinot Grigio visitors to these parts.
|Fleur and yours truly|
And then came the Pinot Noir, the silky star of an altogether excellent show, and Fleur recommended matching it with lamb. It is a gorgeous wine, full of plum, raspberry and red cherry flavours. It has an attractive background spice and has benefitted from 12 months in new French oak.
A Little Beauty to finish a delightful session in L’Atitude. The Wine Cafe intends holding a series of these events and the next, on the Rhone (presented by Simon Tyrrell of the Wine Store), takes places on Monday March 5th. Check with the venue for tickets.
And that isn't all. L’Atitude also holds classes for both novices and those interested in going further and indeed the next series is due to start shortly. The contact number is 021 2390219 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also keep an eye on their Facebook page