Otago Daily Times • Wednesday, March 18, 2009
SHIRAZ or syrah, depending on whether it comes from Australia or New Zealand, can range from lively and peppery to voluptuously rich and velvety, some with a firm grip that can be toothsucking. While there’s a lot of easy, goodvalue Australian shiraz around, some of the best wines reach stratospheric prices as collectors vie for them. In New Zealand, syrahs tend to be expensive — a bit like pinot noir. It’s good to see some very drinkable ones priced in the low $20s, but for a real treat, try one of the superb ones from Hawkes Bay like the Church Road Reserve, or Mills Reef Elspeth. For more wines from this tasting, see wine reviews on www.odt.co.nz
Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007 (about $34) Of the dozen syrahs in this tasting, this was my favourite, with the colour of deep velvet, pure fruit suggesting boysenberries and cherries, but mellowed by spicy oak and hints of nutty biscuits and toffee. Long, powerful but in elegant balance. Rating: ##### Value: V V V www.churchroad.co.nz
Cheers . . . Prime Minister John Key and Frank Yukich unveil a monument celebrating 30 vintages of Montana Marlborough sauvignon blanc at Montana’s Brancott Vineyard. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A vision for Marlborough By CHARMIAN SMITH IT takes a brave person and a leap of imagination to plant hectares of vines in an area where everyone tells you grapes won’t grow, but that is what is behind the story of Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Most new wine areas in the country were pioneered by people planting small vineyards, but Frank Yukich, whose father, Ivan, founded Montana Wines near Auckland, covertly bought 1620ha of Marlborough farmland to turn into vineyards in 1973. When they planted the first vines on August 24 that year, he said ‘‘Wines from here will become world famous’’, which turned out to be extraordinarily prescient. Mr Yukich left the company a year later, when his relationship with Seagram, by then a major shareholder, turned sour. Montana (now part of the multinational corporation Pernod Ricard) celebrated its 30th vintage of sauvignon blanc recently . Prime Minister John Key unveiled a monument with Mr Yukich’s words at the original Brancott Estate vineyard. Mr Yukich, now in his 80s, told the story of his dream of Marlborough vineyards and the struggle to fulfil it. It was important not to rely on past success for the future, nor to stand still, he said. At the time, conventional wisdom in the New Zealand wine industry was that wine grapes would not ripen in the South Island. Viticulturist Wayne Thomas researched the area and Mr Yukich bought 1620ha of farmland in the Brancott Valley, paying a nonrefundable deposit. However, the board of directors refused to sanction the purchase. Mr Thomas submitted his report to Prof H.W. Berg at the University of California viticulture department, who confirmed the suitability of the region for wine growing, and the board finally gave its approval. Planting, mostly of muller thurgau, went ahead, although of the first 1000 acres planted, only 250 survived the first season’s drought, Mr Yukich said. Montana planted its first sauvignon blanc in 1975, and it and a few other, smaller wine producers, including Hunter’s, grew and exported Marlborough sauvignon blanc. By the late 1980s, it was receiving accolades overseas, as wine lovers came to realise the synergy of this variety and this place produced a wine with its own character, different from anything else in the world. Now, there are more than 13,800ha of vineyard filling the Wairau and Awatere valleys and they are still extending, and New Zealand exports some 66,850,000 litres of sauvignon blanc. It’s apparently the biggestselling white wine in Australia at present.
Wild Rock Angels Dust Hawkes Bay
Mills Reef Elspeth Hawkes Bay
Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay
Rating: ##### Value: V V V
Rating: ##### Value: V V V
Rating: ##### Value: V V V
Rating: ##### Value: V V V
Rating: ##### Value: V V V
Juicy fruit suggesting raspberries and blackberries with a hint of mint, a background undertone of caramel and a firm, dry finish.
Hints of butterscotch and coffee from the oak, but with concentrated, soft, almost jammy berry fruit and a crisp, firm, tingly finish.
Top of the line from Taylors, this has all the mouthfilling generosity of fruit from Clare and McLaren Vale in South Australia, with hints of eucalyptus, spice, rich dark berries, velvety texture and long aftertaste. One of those fine Australian shirazes, many of which are now reaching stratospherical prices.
Blackberries and boysenberries with a hint of black pepper, malt and mint, balanced with spicy oak and a firm finish, make this long, concentrated wine delicious.
At present this is peppery and powerful with raw oak and a firm grip, cushioned by spicy, concentrated, dark berry fruit, but it shows great promise. Drink now if you like big, muscular wines, but if you cellar it for four or five years it may well develop into a fine complex wine.
Some smart wines from Waipara Valley By CHARMIAN SMITH LOOKING down from the hill behind the Greystone Vineyard, you can see almost the whole of the Waipara Valley, with vineyards swathed in bird nets. While other parts of the country are hunkering down under grey skies, the warm nor’wester is blowing down the sunny valley, whisking away disease spores and ripening the grapes. Waipara Valley is about 30 minutes’ drive north of Christchurch — just the distance for a long weekend visit from this part of the country. Many producers have ‘‘cellar doors’’, there are a handful of winery and other restaurants, and numerous B&Bs. There’s even a farmers’ market in Amberley on Saturday mornings. Vinegrowing started in the Waipara area in the early 1980s, about the same time as in Central Otago. Wineyards may not have spread as profusely as those in Central, but there’s a more laidback feel to the area, and the countryside is gentler. It is sheltered from the cold easterlies by the Teviotdale hills, with warm days, cold nights and warm, dry autumns. Waipara has about 1200 ha of vineyards and 80 producers, including multinationals Pernod Ricard and Constellation, mediumsized ones like Mud House, Sherwood and Pegasus Bay, and a host of small producers, some of whom are producing very smart wine. We don’t see a lot of Waipara wine in the South, loyal as we are to Central Otago wines, and many of the smaller producers sell wine on the internet, but it’s worth seeking out some of their stylish pinot noir, gewurztraminer, pinot gris, flavoursome sauvignon blancs and chardonnays, and, above all, beautifully poised and racy riesling. In fact Waipara is laying claim to riesling as its specialty and recently organised the second ‘‘In Praise of Riesling’’, the only celebration in the country dedicated to riesling. Held at Pegasus Bay winery, it started with context — a tasting of 18 superb rieslings from Germany, France, Austria and Australia, then another of rieslings from areas around New Zealand. It went on to discuss the new drysweet scale proposed for labels to give consumers more information about the style of wine, showed rieslings from Waipara producers and ended with a dinner designed by Pegasus Bay chef Oliver Jackson to go with various styles of riesling. Riesling fascinates its admirers for its many
Vineyards are spreading across the Waipara Valley, north of Christchurch. facets, from steely dry to intensely sweet, from mineral to tropical fruit and honey flavours, from delicate floral styles to big, mouthfilling wines that develop remarkably with age. But the key to a good riesling is always poise and balance between the acidity that often provides the backbone, and the richness of fruit. Many of the Waipara winemakers pay a lot of attention to their rieslings, both in the vineyard and in the winery, and this shows in the wines. Some of the many that stood out at the tasting were: The first vintage of Mountford Riesling 2008, hinting of fresh apricots and honey, with a rich, steely dry finish; the fragrant, delicate Crater Rim Waipara Riesling 2008 (about $21) with a steely backbone; the textural Dancing Water Oneuku Riesling 2008 (about $32), intense with hints of citrus, grapefruit and
PHOTO: CHARMIAN SMITH
mineral; lively, intense Weka River Riesling 2007 (about $23), which is already developing rich hints of buttered toast with lime and tropical marmalade; the charming, poised Fiddler’s Green Classic Riesling 2008 (about $23); and the luscious, beautifully balanced Daniel Schuster Hull Family Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling 2006 (about $26 half bottle) with hints of mineral and white peach with bitter skin. Rieslings will develop with a few years bottle age, and judging by the few older ones I tasted at ‘‘In Praise of Riesling’’, the rich Muddy Water Dry Riesling 2000, and the beautifully balanced Pegasus Bay Riesling 2003, they develop a beautiful hint of buttered toast with honey or lime marmalade. But Waipara also produces other varieties, the best of which share the same poise and fruit purity as their best rieslings. Waipara pinot gris is balanced, with good
variety character and texture, gewurztraminers fragrant with more of the eau de cologne character and more elegance than blowsy rose petal ones from the north. Some of the standouts I tasted were: the gorgeously floral, luscious Greystone Gewurztraminer 2008 (about $24); Pegasus Bay Gewurztraminer 2007 (about $35), fragrant with hints of eaudecologne mint and spice, with a gorgeous, bright finish; Dancing Water Tauhou Scheurebe 2008 (about $32), an uncommon variety related to riesling, this is luscious with lovely purity of fruit oozing mango and ripe peach, a lovely soft, oily texture and a long, intense, finish; the charming and easy Boundary Vineyard Paper Lane Pinot Gris 2008 (about $23); the mouth filling, textural Fiddlers Green Pinot Gris 2008 (about $23); the rich, honeyed, textural Terrace Edge Pinot Gris 2008 (about $20); the stylish Weka River Pinot Gris 2008 (about $28), with a hint of nuts and toffee; Bishops Head Pinot Gris 2007 (about $24), poised, textural and slightly nutty. Chardonnays from Waipara tend to be crisp, fragrant with hints of tropical and stone fruit, and mineral, and sauvignon blancs tend to have a hint of mineral and mint. At a lunch for wine writers after tasting chardonnays and sauvignons, I noted most of us chose a glass of the lush, complex Pegasus Bay sauvignon blanc semillon — 2006 and 2007 ($28) were the favoured vintages. While Central Otago and Martinborough have claimed pinot noir, Waipara makes some very fine examples ranging from lighter wines to go with something simple like pasta and a few mushrooms, to richer, more complex ones that call for a rich, gamey dish: Waipara West Pinot Noir 2006 (about $35) hints of leather, mineral and dark fruits with silky texture; the velvety textured, crisp and poised Greystone Pinot Noir 2007 (about $36); the stylish Mountford Pinot Noir 2006 (about $65), with sweet fruit cushioning a firm structure; and the wonderfully fragrant, complex, structured but charming Daniel Schuster Omihi Selection Pinot Noir 2006 (about $90).
On the web For more information visit: www.waiparawine.co.nz www.hurunui.com/Information/Waipara www.inpraiseofriesling.co.nz
On the menu First signs of autumn WHEN I went to buy fish at the Otago Farmers Market at the Dunedin Railway Station on Saturday and found neither of the regular fish stalls there, it made me realise just how dependent on the weather they are. The weather prevented Tony Edmonds taking the boat over the bar at Taieri Mouth all last week, Michelle Edmonds, of Edmonds Fishing, said. However, they expect to be at the market this week, as the weather is forecast to be good. However, I saw the first Central Otago quinces in the market. There are also pumpkins at some of the stalls, and apples and pears have been around for a while, heralding autumn.
Freerange pieces IT’S great to see the Dunedin Poultry stall at the farmers market now offering freerange chicken pieces. They come from Inghams and are bred in the Waikato, according to Chris Webber. For those of us who avoid the intensively raised chicken because of its lack of flavour or for ethical reasons, and find it inconvenient to buy a whole
Charmian Smith freerange chicken, it means chicken can be on the menu more often.
New wine at Te Mata ONE of New Zealand’s elder statesmen of wine, John Buck, of Te Mata Estate in Hawkes Bay, and son Nicholas, who now runs the company, were in town recently for their annual showcase of their flagship wines, including the first new one in the range in 17 years, Zara Viognier 2008. It’s named after John’s granddaughter, the first girl born into the Buck family in three generations, and made from the white variety this company pioneered in New Zealand in 1995. Since Buck bought the estate in 1974, he has concentrated on producing classical styles of wine, from their goodvalue Woodthorpe range to the flagship Coleraine which has led the way for Bordeauxstyle reds since the remarkable 1982 vintage. It’s been a longterm ideal. The familyowned estate has a 24year plan (19892012) to reorchestrate its vineyards, improving the material planted and getting to know the different blocks, and results are showing. Its flagship wines, Zara
John Buck Viognier ($29), Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc ($29), Elston Chardonnay ($35), Bullnose Syrah ($45), Awatea (cabernet merlot $35) and Coleraine (cabernet merlot $73) are fragrant, textural with exemplary fruit and impeccably balanced. Having just returned from the UK, John Buck was optimistic about the upsurge of interest in Hawkes Bay wines there, with highprofile wine British commentators such as Stephen Spurrier, Neal Martin (one of Robert Parker’s writers) and Hugh Johnson giving positive reviews. Since Neal Martin listed Te Mata as one of New Zealand’s top five wineries in the seventh edition of Robert Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide last October, the winery has received orders from people and places all over the world. www.temata.co.nz
Tasty and convenient ONE of the bettertasting brands of convenience foods I’ve tried recently are the Essential Cuisine pestos and chilled jus. The new olive pesto is piquant, with olives, anchovies, capers and parmesan, but there’s also basil, sundried tomato and an Asian one with coriander and
chilli. I find hundreds of uses for pestos in the kitchen, from a quick stir through pasta or rice to create a meal out of virtually nothing, to adding flavour to sandwiches, pizzas, nibbles, quiches, salads and vegetables. There are also chilled stocks and lamb jus and beef jus, a reduction of caramelised vegetables, stock and wine, useful for serving as a sauce.
However, a slosh of wine in the pan in which you have cooked the meat, stirred around to mop up the tasty brownings, then simmered until reduced, is quick and easy — and cheaper if you have leftover wine. An alternative to wine is the water you have cooked vegetables in. Essential Cuisine is produced by Cerebos Greggs. www.essentialcuisine.co.nz