Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

New Zealand tries its hand at Gruner Veltliner

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

After a week in Austria, I’m  having Grüner Veltliner withdrawal symptoms. I’ve written more in today’s Journal but didn’t have space to talk much about New Zealand’s new fascination with the variety.

At last week’s New Zealand Annual Trade tasting I  tasted the four examples on show and was quite impressed:

Seifried Estate Grüner Veltliner 2011 is from Nelson and from six year-old vines. The wine is the second release. It has 12.5% abv and 5.9 g/l residual sugar. It shows quite spicy fruit, with the green apple character, typical of the variety and lemon citrus freshness. It seems tangier than the 6.7 g/l total acidity suggests. The estate has Austrian roots, so they should get Grüner right!

Nautilus Estate Grüner Veltliner 2011 (Marlborough) – a tank sample of first release wine from vines just 18 months old, has 13% abv and 7 g/l residual sugar. Light, clean and green, with lemony tones it lacks the spicy concentration that may begin to develop as the vines establish themsleves.

Forrest Grüner Veltliner 2011 (Marlborough) has 11.5% abv and 8.7 g/l sugar. Clean and not too spicy, the flavour, with noticeable residual sugar, shows a mix of ripe and green apple.

Yealands Grüner Veltliner 2011 (Marlborough)has 13.5% abv and just 2.5 g/l sugar (though in the mouth it seems a little higher). The vines are planted on gravel with loess with mica and quartz, which sounds promising for a vareity that needs water. Winemaker Tamra Washington is concerned to tame Grüner’s tendency to crop heavily and make a wine that’s balanced – and has succeeded. This has a fine lemon, apple and spicy aromas and is quite a full, creamy mouthful, with a slightly salty aftertaste.

All four wines are very promising, but I have to say that there are plenty of Austrian examples on the shelves that offer just as much fun for a pound or two less.

Johner – Germany and New Zealand

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

The Johners are probably the only family that makes wine in both Germany and New Zealand. What they make is undoubtedly very good, but is not entirely typical of either country.

From Germany (Bischoffingen in the heart of the Kaiserstuhl in Baden): their Rivaner 2009 is a minor revelation. Has Muller-Thurgau ever tasted so good? Just a little sees oak (thank goodness), enough to add a creamy, spicy overlay to the fresh, apple and pear fruit.

Sauvignon Blanc 2010, fresh gooseberry and rather mineral, with creamy peachy fruit too is fine, if a little expensive. From New Zealand: their Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is huge and exotic, with guava and Patrick Johner insists, truffle oil, which seems a bit reductive, but is unusually complex.

Back in Baden: I was impressed by their Grauer Burgunder 2009, which shows just a little oak and has nicely concentrated gingery fruit. They are not afraid to acidify. It  allows them to increase hang time in order to get more flavour in the grapes (this was allowed for the first time in 2003). Weisser Burgunder and Chardonnay 2010 (70/30) combines creamy apple fruit with a hint of pineapple and a subtle peachiness. Chardonnay  ‘SJ2007 is oakier, spicier then all lime and pineapple. The oak is well integrated. Weisser Burgunder SJ, 2008 is more obviously oaky, with gentle apricot fruit, very clean acidity  and excellent, lingering minerality. It is made from 35 year old vines, yielding around 50 hl/ha. Grauer Burguner ‘SJ’ 2008 is like smelling ginger nuts stored in a wooden box, but is intriguing and interesting, with melon, quince and spice in the mouth and a dry, rather phenolic finish, Blanc de Noirs 2010, a blend of two thirds Pinot Noir to one third Merlot is extremely fruity (raspberry and cherry), spicy and juicily acidic  – it is very well done. Roséwein 2009 , a similar blend is altogether more spicy, with rich, soft, strawberry fruit.

From New Zealand, Pinot Noir 2009 from Wairarapa shows crunchy cherry fruit, a silky texture and soft tannins. It is a little savoury. The grapes are given maximum hang time.  Pinot Noir 2008 from Gladstone is hugely ripe, with a cherry menthol aroma and has quite chewy tannins. They have planted a wide variety of Pinot clones in New Zealand. Over time, they have found that over time the berry size decreases, though the bunches, for Pinot Noir are quite open. Pinot Noir Reserve 2007 from Gladstone is hugely concentrated, big and even a little baked, with cherry, chocolate and cloves. I was not wholly convinced by it, but a tank sample of the 2010 was much fresher with more focused fruit.

Pinot Noir 2008 from Germany ‘Spätburgunder von Kaiseerstuhl’ has a lovely delicate perfume, with spicy red fruits and an elegant minerality, though firm tannins. Blauer Spätburgunder 2008 has a fine purity of fruit and good focus – again with cherry fruit and an almost floral perfume – crunchy, fresh and relatively light. Pinot Noir Bischoffinger Steinbuck 2007 is very spicy and rich, perfumed and complex and very mineral, with terrific acidity and minerality. It is a very good example of distinctively German Pinot Noir, and I have to admit, I like it better than any of the New Zealand wines. Blauer Spätburgunder ‘SJ’ 2008 from old German clones is a bigger wine, but not altogether better: huge, rich and perfumed, but at this stage of its development, also a bit oaky. It’s silky and promising.

Two New Zealand red to finish: Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Malbec 2009 from Wairarapa, twelve months in oak, bursts with bright berry fruit, and is rather sweetly ripe, herby and minty. Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Merlot 2008 from the Lyndor vineyard is also very sweet and perfumed, with blueberry, raspberry and chocolate, with a salty finish.

In the group of fourteen souls who came with me to taste, some were more impressed by the New Zealand wines than I was; but the flair and quality of wine making in either country is considerable.


Felton Road – the best Southern Hemisphere Pinot?

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

For me there were two highlights at the recent New Zealand Wine Trade tastings: a first taste of Yealands Estate (impressive, clean flavours – vibrant fruit. I’ve written up an interview with winemaker Tamra Washington for The Journal, to be published on 28 January) and the opportunity to sample the latest vintages from Felton Road. Felton Road at Bannockburn, Central Otago, uses only estate grown fruit, grown according to biodynamic principles. I love the wines and this year they seem better than ever. (The Bannockburn wines are blended from the three main blocks on the estate.)

My brief notes:

Bannockburn Chardonnay 2009 (ambient yeast, full malo in the barrel) rrp £19

Ripe toasty bouquet, but underlying very fresh fruit; rich soft and mineral in the mouth.

Block 2 Chardonnay 2009 £22

More perfumed, maybe honeysuckle, certainly spicy, but with a lovely intergration of fruit and oak. Ripe lemon flavours, crisp and finally mineral – an almost perfect balance.

Dry Riesling 2010 (9 g/l residual sugar) £15

Ripe apple fruit, with a hint of lemon, then soft, mineral and surprisingly full in the mouth.

Bannockburn Riesling 2010 (56g/l sugar) £15

Utterly delicous: the pick of the Rieslings, with the smell of confit lemon and a delciously balanced, elegant flavour – far too easy to drink.  Not massively complex – just very pure, ripe fruit.

Block 1 Riesling 2010 (65g/l sugar) £18

Much more complex and spicy, lovely fresh and tangy, but somehow, not as  moorish as the simpler Bannockburn.

Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2009 £23

Perfumed, elegant fruit – a little short but very pure.

Calvert Road Pinot Noir, 2009 £27

Deeper, more perfumed, with spicy wild cherry – seductively silky texture.

Cornish Point Pinot Noir, 2009 £27

Again, deep, spicy, wild cherry fruit – even spicier in the mouth and longer than the Calvert Road.

Block 3 Pinot Noir, 2009 £34

Deep, powerful, but a bit closed with a powerful, rich, savoury palate and a distinctly mineral finish.

Block 5 Pinot Noir, 2009 £34

Powerful but focused with rich cherry and even chocolate fruit. Long, fine tannins.

Vin Gris 2008 (Pinot Noir) £15

As delicate a rosé as one could imagine – a true gris. Big, spicy nose: mineral and savoury, which continues into the palate – big, ripe and spicy.

For more information and suppliers see www.cornishpoint.com and www.feltonroad.com