Fermentation defines the character

New year is often a time to reflect on the past and, in this instance, past wine columns. Having just finished reading some of what was written six or seven years ago, it's surprising how the same questions come up in relation to wine and wine tasting.

I was recently asked the age-old thorny question of ,"Why can't a wine simply taste like wine?"

Six years is a long time, so, here's a recap on why a wine might smell of tobacco or taste like apricots. The aromas and flavours we enjoy become a part of the wine due to the fermentation process the grapes go through. Simply put, the aromas and flavours we enjoy are a byproduct of fermentation.

Unfermented grape juice always smells like grape juice, but once the juice ferments interesting things begin to happen. Fermentation can create many different trace components and these cleverly mimic the aromas and flavours of other things, such as specific fruits, spices and herbs.

The proof of this comes with scientific analysis that results in the identification of components that are fragrances or flavours of other things. As an example, a certain ester will give a buttery taste. Esters are compounds formed by the reaction of acids with alcohols - so one has only to consider the combination of fruit acids and grape fermentation, and the scene is set. The subject of esters and their effect on wine from young to aged is a topic worthy of its own column.

The trace components found in wine are what makes each one taste different - no two brands of sauvignon blanc, same vintage, fruit grown in the same area, will taste exactly the same.

Picking out the wonderful flavours and aromas helps us to understand why we find some wines so enjoyable.

To kickstart an exploration of which aromas and flavours are in the wine being tasted, some guidance is often a good thing. Being pointed in the right direction with advice that Marlborough chardonnays often have some marmalade citrus flavour mid-palate, can be all that's needed for the individual to start teasing out all the different flavours that the one glass holds.

The world of wine is exactly that - an art, a science and a great pleasure.

Ara Marlborough Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($19.95)

If you had any doubts about how some of our slightly older sauvignon blancs are drinking - this wine tells the story. It has a grassy, pungent aroma ripe with underlying tropical richness, while the palate is full of lively, zingy fruitiness. Grassy, flavoursome and backed up by a little steely minerality, there's plenty of classic sauvignon blanc fruitiness here and it finishes well.

Torea (Oystercatcher) Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($19.99)

Lime and spice with some savouriness and underlying crispness.

The palate is weighty (fleshy) and complex with grapefruit and grass flavours. Crisp, refreshing and concentrated - this one ticks all the boxes including value for money.

Riverby Estate Marlborough Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($20)

Lifted aroma with gentle citrus and floral notes.

The smooth, juicy palate is well balanced with a decidedly luscious character. Perfumed aromatics add interest; this is a wine to savour. Plenty of length, a crisp finish with lots of moreish appeal.

Osawa Hawke's Bay Prestige Collection Chardonnay 2010 ($39)

We continue to be impressed by Osawa wines and this chardonnay is no exception. A big wine at 14.5 per cent abv, it retains its poise and irresistibility.

Straw coloured with a gentle stone fruit, vanilla and cream aroma - all the power and finesse is on the palate.

Satin textured with ginger, soda and apple cider flavours that are quite crisp. By mid-palate sweet lemon and some classy oak are in the mix; the length, integration and complexity this wine displays say it all.

Waipara Hills Equinox Pinot Gris 2011 (around $26)

The sweet stone fruit, cream and meal characters in the aroma are delightful. Perfumed and with a dash of marzipan, there's plenty of promise.

The palate is spicy, juicy and very fruity with ripe pear and rich stone fruit characters supported by rich tinned guava.

Complex, mouth filling and warming, the finish is spicy and generous.

Tiki Central Otago Koro Pinot Noir 2010 ($35)

Deep ruby red, slightly opaque in the glass. Delivers a ripe plum and dark cherry aroma, laced with gentle spiciness and a delicate perfume.

The palate is dry with plum, tobacco and marzipan flavours supported by savoury oak and some fruit sweetness.

Sweet and ripe, yet well balanced - a good example.

The Marlborough Express