Getting a taste for new varieties

02:56, Apr 27 2012

This is one of the most frustrating times of the year for people like me. I have tasted some great grape juice that is now being processed into a finished product and I can't wait to taste the final results of the 2012 vintage.

One thing I am looking forward to most is the latest version of several wine varieties that are relatively new to New Zealand.

Wines like arneis, gruner veltliner and muscat have been produced here for a few years, but as viticulturists and winemakers come to grips with how the vines perform in New Zealand conditions, we are starting to see some fantastic wines hitting the shelves.

I have been lucky enough to have had a few of them delivered to me to sample in recent weeks along with some old favourites like gewurztraminer, so here are my thoughts on a small selection of them:

Villa Maria 2011 Private Bin Hawke's Bay Arneis (RRP$21.99) is a very gentle wine. It has lovely fresh aromas and is quite light in flavour intensity. For me, paying a little extra and buying their Cellar Selection Hawke's Bay Arneis at a recommended retail price of $23.99 is much better value. The intensity in both aroma and flavour, with a more weighty mouthfeel and plenty of citrus, soft honey and river stone mineral complexity, shows how this variety can deliver the goods in New Zealand conditions.

Viognier has been produced in New Zealand for several years and one of the better examples comes from Gladstone Vineyards in the Wairarapa. At a recommended retail price of $28 this wine delivers on several fronts. First, the quality is great but most importantly, because winemaker influence was minimal, the flavours in the wine are a true reflection of the variety. Yeast lees stirring during the winemaking process has ensured the wine has a lovely rich and oily texture, but that doesn't dominate the stonefruit characters. A touch of spiciness in the long finish adds to the complexity. This is a fine example and a perfect alternative if you like chardonnay but want something different.

Osawa Wines is a Hawke's Bay-based winery that is owned by Japanese wine lover Taizo Osawa. Osawa Wines has been exporting its production to Japan for a few years and has recently started selling in New Zealand as well.

I will tell you more about this winery in a future column, but for now I think you need to try its Flying Sheep 2010 Gewurztraminer (RRP$22.99). This is one of the best examples of this variety I have tried for some time. While it has typical fresh pear and lychee characters, it also has a firm ginger spice kick in the finish. I like this wine because it is made in a dry style, and even though there isn't a hint of oily sweetness it has a rich mouthfeel with a long, dry and fresh finish. A gold medal-winning wine that is worth searching for.

Finally, among the latest releases from Brightwater Vineyards is its 2011 Nelson Riesling (RRP$25). Brightwater has won a gold medal and trophy with each vintage of this wine for the past six years and the 2011 version will continue the run of awards. Made in an off-dry style, it has just enough residual sugar to add mouthfeel complexity to the fresh citrus flavours. A backbone of minerality and crisp acidity lead to a wonderfully long, fresh finish. Another fantastic offering from this fantastic Nelson winery.