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Albariño and Arneis may not be synonymous with New Zealand; it’s a far cry from the usual fare we are used to. Add in Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Gris, the Blanc’s mutant brother, and we get to build a picture of New Zealand’s more adventurous side.
As you would imagine, compared to Sauvignon Blanc, these varietals are relatively small in terms of growth and production. In 2003, plantings of Sauvignon Blanc only sat at 4,516 hectares, now that number has shot up to an estimated 17,297ha, the largest of any varietal in New Zealand.
In relation to other plantings, Gewürztraminer – 293ha, Riesling – 868ha, Grüner has a modest 30ha to its name whilst the numbers for Albariño and Arneis are too small to mention, these wines have some way to go to compete, but it is the way forward.
At the New Zealand New Release Trade Tasting, London, these wines were given the opportunity for members of the trade to taste. More than 170 wines were on show ranging from cool sparkling wines, instantly recognisable reds and whites, lastly finished off by some succulent sweeties.
I’m not going to do normal. Instead I am going to focus on the abnormal, in the nicest way of course. Coopers Creek Single Vineyard ‘Bell Ringer’ 2012 Albariño, Gisborne, was actually one of my highlighted wines. Give me a punnet of peaches, crush and bottle the juice; this is what you would get. Throw in some additional pear, elderflower on the nose and you are left with a very, very cool wine. Here’s the added bonus, with an RRP of £13.99, this makes it great value for money too.
I like Albariño. In the past it would have been a style that that wouldn’t normally get me too excited. My palate is more suited to richer, heavier styles. On the other hand these put a smile on my face. Those soft peach characters evokes a memory of me sitting on a beach during the height of summer. What’s not to like!
New Zealand Arneis was a new one for me. I’ve had the Italians, even an Australian, but not a Kiwi. Another from Coopers Creek is ‘The Little Rascal’ Arneis 2010, again from Gisborne. The nose exhibited more bitter citrus and petrol notes. The palate was truly dominated by white pepper, not a huge amount of fruit. I won’t go overboard on the lack of fruit. You need to take into account that this wine is already two years old. The fruit is there, the pepper will calm down over time but I’m thinking not for another couple of years. It’s what I call a developer. Nevertheless still Interesting – RRP £14.50.
Brancott Estate has released an intriguing wine, the 2011 Renwick ‘R’ Sauvignon Gris from Marlborough, a variety closely related to Sauvignon Blanc. Over time the Sauvignon Blanc grape had mutated to create a new varietal, Sauvignon Gris, also known as Sauvignon Rosé. As you might expect the characters closely follow that if its big brother, in this case more intense. The nose was led by strong green peppers, backed up by some pleasant herbaceous notes, more in line with classic Loire Sauvignon. The green peppers were an abundant characteristic on the palate with a hint of green citrus fruits chasing up the rear. This wine has a lot of potential and I’ll be interested to see how it continues to develop – RRP £13.15.
Viognier is a grape that seems to cause some confusion. It is very diverse in what it can do, soft and light, big and rich, dry to sweet. It can do pretty much anything. Churton Viognier Hillside 2011 from Marlborough nestles in the big and rich column. There is a great concentration of stoned fruit with light pineapple aromas and wood on the nose. The palate is given over to bitter citrus fruit, crisp green apple and acidity. A serious wine and not for the faint hearted price wise – RRP £21. I think it’s worth it.
I haven’t highlighted any reds. Simple reason is they were too young. The potential was there to be seen but, I believe, need more time to develop.
On conclusion the tasting was a fine illustration of where New Zealand is going. The winemakers are showing great enterprise in grape and clonal selection. One or two will take time for customers to pick up but at least it’s not all about Sauvignon Blanc anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kiwi Sauvignon; however you can only have so much of a good thing before you get bored. There would appear to be a toning down of big opulent fruit driven Sauvignons, Saint Clair wines a good example.
Innovation is a point I look for in wines and there were a few great innovative wines here. New Zealand is adapting!
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