It’s no secret that New Zealand Wine is increasingly popular worldwide, with recognisable brands being found on menus and in stores all around the world. With this in mind, we thought we might delve a little deeper into what Aotearoa has to offer.
Many New Zealand Wineries are experimenting – utilizing different varietals to showcase the range and scope of our unique landscape, resulting in new, modern forms of New Zealand wine.
We started our tasting with 2016 Middle Earth Albarino, a wine with a very young vine age – the youth of which providing a very fruit foward palate. The varietal of Albarino comes from the small region of Rias Baixas in North Western Spain, a coastal region where the wines are produced to go with the fresh seafood in the region and this Nelson rendition of Albarino holds its own in that regard – very young, light and fresh, with a dry mineral finish.
Our next wine for the evening was the recently awarded Best in Category at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards – the 2016 Summerhouse Wine Co. Verdelho. From a varietal that hails from Portugal, that is also one of the main grapes of Madeira and Douro Blanco, this was a dry and fresh wine with notes of lime and peach that shows subtle spice from seasoned oak ageing.
The third on our list, 2016 Jules Taylor Gruner Veltliner, is from an Austrian varietal that has seen some success in New Zealand, where our cool climate allows this varietal to retain its freshness and vibrancy. While lacking the vine age to get the complexity of that Austrian Gruner Veltliners can produce, this wine was a stand out on the evening. Doubtless with time and continued growth these wines will eventually be able to produce wines of a similar quality to those of Austria. Neverthless, this wine was fine and fresh, with stone fruit, and lemon zest notes, and a fresh mineral finish.
Next up was the 2016 Escarpment Pinot Blanc. Pinot Blanc – a mutation of Pinot Noir – can resemble Chardonnay with its high acid and neutral flavours. The oak ageing of this wine helps round the acid and soften the wine to allow the subtle spice and stone fruit to shine. A well balanced wine that will further develop in the cellar.
The 2016 Matawhero Church House Chenin Blanc showcased a wine from vines that has been planted in the Patutahi subregion of Gisborne since the mid 1980’s. The result of the extra vine age is a wine with much more complexity and depth. Chenin Blanc is suited to the maritime climate of Gisborne with cool sea breezes to help regulate the temperature. As Chenin Blanc has naturally high acidity, some residual sugar has been to left to balance the wine.
Natural wines have been garnering more attention in New Zealand of late, and not without reason. Ben Glover’s 2017 Agent Orange wine, an equal part field blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer was a perfect example of why these wines are drawing interest. Spending 30 days on skins, this orange wine has developed a hazy lemon yellow colour with interesting notes from each varietal. The richness and floral nature of Gewurztraminer soften the tannins of this wine (a result of the skin contact) and make it much more approachable.
Our first red for the evening was the 2017 Te Mata Gamay Noir, a light fruity wine that emulates those of Beaujolais Villages. Half of this wine has been fermented by carbonic maceration, a process that has been used to produce light fruity red wines without too much extracted tannins. The resulting wine is light and floral with notes of rose, and red cherries. This wine is a light and fresh wine that could even be served lightly chilled.
The final wine for the evening was the 2016 Obsidian Montepulciano, a medium to full bodied red wine from Waiheke Island. More fruit forward than those of Italy, this wine has structure and depth. However, this is still a very young wine that will benefit from some ageing in a cellar to help show case some of the savoury notes of the wine.