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27 April 2013

New Zealand: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer

New Zealand winemakers are well known for their lively expressive Sauvignon Blanc wines and Chardonnays too made in different styles (fresh & fruity, rich and toasty, somewhere in between...). So it makes sense that other 'aromatic' white varieties are coming to the fore in cool climate New Zealand wine country including Riesling, Pinot Gris (Grigio) and Gewurztraminer. Let's not get too excited though: they're still small fry in the vineyard scheme of things, as these three grapes combined amount to about the same area of Chardonnay overall - a bit over 3000 hectares - and are dwarfed by 20,000 ha of ubiquitous Sauvignon blanc.
Maybe this is why the wines are quite expensive - you'll struggle to find one under £10 in the UK and €12 in Ireland - but the best are definitely worth a go (think Thai, Chinese or Indian food) and aren't completely in price cloud-cuckoo land when compared to similar quality from Alsace, Germany or Australia.

From forrest.co.nz
Among many fascinating stats in the New Zealand Winegrowers' 2012 Vineyard Register report, I noticed a few other 'aromatic' white varieties lurking around too, in relatively tiny quantities but there's obviously some experimentation going on, such as Albarino, Arneis, Gruner Veltliner, Muscat, Petit Manseng, Pinot Blanc, Verdelho... as well as slightly more substantial plantings of Viognier. Anyway, back to the focus of this piece: these dozen Rieslings, PGs and Gewurzes were mostly sampled at a recent NZ tasting in Dublin hence the € prices, although should be easy enough to find elsewhere in the world.


2011 Felton Road Bannockburn, Central Otago (9.5% abv) - wild lees edges and enticing oily 'kerosene' (!) notes, pretty sweet on the palate (60 g/l residual sugar or RS) underlined by nice fresh acidity, elegant and quite long. A little on the sweet side although does have attractive Riesling character. €18.50
2011 Esk Valley Marlborough (13%) - aromatic floral 'chalky' nose, fairly concentrated citrus fruits then more honeyed on the palate with some oily development vs crisp bite and a touch of roundness too (slightly off-dry style). Quite good, lacks a bit of character perhaps. €14.99
2011 Richmond Plains Nelson (organic, 12%) - developing oily honeyed characters vs quite intense lemon and lime fruit, crisper and 'chalkier' mouth-feel vs off-dry and fairly long finish. €14.75

Pinot Gris

2011 Forrest Wines Marlborough (13.5%) - quite complex maturing fruit showing spicy honeyed notes and ripe cantaloup melon, rounded medium-dry palate with exotic fruit vs still a little freshness riding underneath. £10.99 / €16.50 James Nicholson
2011 Amisfield Central Otago (14%) - quite rich and leesy, honeyed 'waxy' palate vs nutty  spicy and toasty edges even; rounded vs crisp profile, weighty and off-dry finish with refreshing bite too. Good stuff.
2011 Pasquale Hakataramea Valley (13.5%) - juicy and honeyed with fairly exotic sweet fruit, pineapple almost vs yeasty toasty nutty edges, a touch of oomph vs bitter twist on the finish. Nice start, ends up a little bitter though. €26
2011 Babich Marlborough (13.5%) - yeast lees notes and mix of guava and greengage, quite rich then tighter and crisper mouth-feel, fairly dry with light bitter twist. €12.99
2010 Bilancia Hawke's Bay - more golden in colour, oily honeyed developed nose with spice notes, has a bit of oomph vs bitter twist and dry bite, attractive lingering maturing fruit. €18.99


2011 Greystone Waipara Valley (14%) - lightly 'cheesy' vs lush sweet lychee and Turkish Delight, big mouthful of exotic fruit, medium dry with a hint of 'chalky' bite and bitter twist to finish. €20
2011 Te Mania Nelson (organic, 14.5%) - powerful lychee and pineapple aromas / flavours, has a little bite on the palate with lingering perfumed fruit, quite alcoholic although this helps cut through its medium dry/sweet side. €16.99
2010 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao, Auckland (13.5%) - developing complex oily notes and pretty intense lychee, has good weight and finishes with a little bitter twist. €26.99
2009 Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough (14%) - more restrained to start, although turns a bit confected with that Turkish delight, boiled sweets and lychee combo; finishing with a kick and medium dry. €22.50

To follow: New Zealand Pinot Noir focus. And on this blog previously:

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.