Recently I found myself reading Oz Clarke’s article on Sauvignon Blanc. I found myself disagreeing with it on an epic scale. It also reminded me that I owed you all a blog post relating to my recent trip to the land of gooseberry and passion fruit, New Zealand. So here goes. Spoiler alert: it is NOT about Sauvignon.
In fact, throughout my whole time in New Zealand, I drank Sauvignon Blanc just once. Well, ‘drank’ may be an overstatement, it was more of a case of it being ‘forced down my throat’ by my lovely friend Kat and swiftly gargled with a much nicer drink, Seresin Chardonnay. So I did well then. Yes, NZ produces wines other than SB!
This was actually my first trip to Middle Earth and wine was not the no.1 item on the agenda. That was to follow in the footsteps of the Fellowship of the Ring, do some hiking and indulge my obsession with volcanoes (volcano-spotting, if you will). Of course I can’t help being an MW student and therefore had to visit at least a couple of wine producing regions to learn a bit more about them. And when I wasn’t prancing around vineyards, I was tasting in bottle shops or drinking in wine bars.
What follows are a few observations about the regions and wines. I should stress that I am no expert on New Zealand wine. I don’t often drink NZ wine at home due to my Sauvignon phobia but I know that NZ can offer so much more. Here are 5 observations:
1. NZ Riesling is getting pretty good. Perhaps it’s because the vines are growing up, perhaps it’s better winemaking. In any case, by the end of the trip, Riesling became my restaurant white of choice. My favourite producers were Pegasus Bay and Valli. I thoroughly recommend a visit to Pegasus Bay, it’s simply stunning and not far from Christchurch.
2. Central Otago needs a rogue. Perhaps they have one and we simply did not encounter him/her. This is a young wine region, granted, but I could not help feel that the wines we tasted were somewhat samey, especially in the case of Pinot Noir. Often picked far too ripe and showing that sweet rhubarb character accompanied by liquorice. No tannin whatsoever. Consumer-friendly to the tee but perhaps not challenging enough for me. This is by no means a bad thing, merely a personal preference (I like tannin!). I just feel like I want to see someone break the mold and do something brave, make a wine on the wild side. The best Pinots I tried were Felton Road 2014 Calvert (more elegant than the opulent Cornish Point) and 2012 Burn Cottage, the latter from a cool vintage and therefore showing savoury, sappy fruit.
3. Syrah is where it’s at. Whether from Hawke’s Bay or Waihiki, Syrah is the variety to get excited about. No news there, I know, but it’s nice to be reminded. I loved the restrained style of Te Mata (the 2014 Bullnose is classy) and the structured intensity of Elephant Hill’s 2013 Airavata. It has tannin! And 30% whole bunch! Yay! And then there is the famed La Collina, a wine that isn’t afraid to show a little funk.
4. There are 7ha of Gamay planted in NZ. 6.7ha of those belong to Te Mata in Hawke’s Bay whilst the rest can be found at Rippon in Wanaka. I happened to try both! Very varietal and fresh, great reds for hot NZ summers. I believe Te Mata Gamay is even available in the UK so check it out.
5. I found a Gewürztraminer that I liked. It is called The Gallery and it is made by Misha’s Vineyard in Central Otago. The 2013 vintage had pared down aromatics, textural mouthfeel and actual acidity! All natural!
And that is it, my friends, short and sweet. Like I said, it was a holiday. We had hobbitses to visit and a ring to dispose of. If you haven’t been to NZ, I would strongly urge you to go. Even if you have no idea what a hobbit is.
The Evil Monkey