Neil Hodgson's wine column
Yes, I know the weather hasn't really been summer-like, but I have been trying some fantastic 2012 vintage wines that I think are perfect for summer.
What makes a perfect summer wine? For me, they need to be bright and fresh and packed with flavour. I have been excited about the resurgence of rose wines in recent years, because this is one of my favourite summer wine styles, especially if they aren't too sweet.
Don't get me wrong - there is nothing wrong with a light, sweet, easy-drinking summer wine, but I prefer one that doesn't just rely on sweet fruit as the reason for its existence.
I prefer my rose to taste off-dry, so even if it does have plenty of fruit sweetness, this needs to be balanced with the right amount of natural acidity, with a dryish finish and rich flavours. Fortunately for me, this is the style I am seeing the most of this year, and there are plenty of great examples on the shelves.
Of course, summer also means bright, fresh sauvignon blanc, and I think the 2012 vintage has proven, almost beyond doubt, that lighter vineyard crops produce better-flavoured fruit than vineyards that are over-cropped.
The December rains in 2011 meant many vineyards didn't produce as much fruit as they normally would.
While this has meant a much smaller crop than in what is considered a normal vintage, the wines I have tasted to date from 2012 are some of the best I have tried in many years.
Since the huge crop in 2008, wine producers (in Marlborough in particular) have been insisting that their contract growers produce a lower tonnage per hectare of quality fruit, rather than as much as they can. The key reason is that over-cropped vineyards produce lower-quality fruit, resulting in lower-quality wines.
With the naturally low crop in 2012, I think the point has been very well made.
The early release wines I have tried, like sauvignon blanc, have been packed with the bright, fresh flavours that have made Marlborough the world leader in sauvignon blanc production.
The third style of wine I really enjoy in summer is a lower-alcohol riesling.
When a wine is made, the fermentation process turns sugars into alcohol, so it is very easy to make a low-alcohol wine that is sweet, and some people love that.
A low-alcohol, sweet sparkling wine like a moscato is perfect later in the afternoon.
The real skill of the viticulture and winemaking team in a winery, though, is to produce a lower-alcohol wine that is bursting with summer sunshine flavours and has some residual sugar, but is also perfectly balanced with ripe, natural acidity, so the finished product appears bright and fresh rather than just sweet.
In recent years, winemakers have been honing their skills in the production of this style of riesling, and this has resulted in some exquisite examples from the small but outstanding quality 2012 vintage.
This summer, make sure you try some of these wines. You are likely to be surprised by how much you enjoy the results from the quite outstanding 2012 vintage.
I HAVE BEEN DRINKING
Neudorf Vineyards 2012 Pinot Rose – RRP$22.50 As the name suggests, this rose is made 100 per cent from pinot noir fruit. With only six grams per litre of residual sugar, the wine is dry but with a lovely lush mouthfeel that comes from time sitting on yeast lees. In association with the beautifully ripe fruit flavours, the wine doesn't seems as dry as it is. Another classic wine from a star producer.
Villa Maria S Series Sparkling Moscato – RRP$19.99 Produced from Muscat grapes grown in Gisborne, this bright, fresh, lower-alcohol sparkling wine is packed with sweet fruit flavours. On first taste, your mouth fills up with tree-ripened, old-fashioned apple characters that evolve into more refined raisin flavours. This is an appealing, fruity and uncomplicated summer bubbly that is oh-so-easy to drink on a sunny afternoon.
- © Fairfax NZ News