Old classic 'deserves fairer go'
It's a wine difficult to grow, hard to pronounce and which is often ignored by consumers, but Daniel Schwarzenbach reckons we should give gewurztraminer more of a go.
The Nelson winemaker, who runs Blackenbrook Vineyard with wife Ursula, is funding a campaign to re-educate restaurants and customers about the niche variety which made up just 0.5 per cent of grapes harvested this year.
He said the wine suffered from misconceptions that needed to be challenged.
"The typical comments we hear is that it only works with spicy foods, that it's really floral and something only women would drink. All these stereotypes are incorrect and it's time we gave gewurztraminer its true place on the New Zealand wine list."
Many restaurants simply didn't know enough about the wine, and either didn't sell it by the glass to encourage people to try it or didn't stock it, he said. "They put it into the `too hard' basket when in fact it's a classic variety and a wonderful match to a wide range of food."
Furthermore, gewurztraminer (pronounced gi-vurz-tra-meaner) grew superbly in New Zealand, with wine commentators such as Bob Campbell saying we produced the best outside the Alsace region of France, which is famous for its aromatic wines.
To counter some of the myths and prejudices against gewurztraminer, the Schwarzenbachs have produced and paid for a pamphlet about the variety and its food matches which they have sent to restaurants around the country and which can be downloaded from their website.
Swiss-born Mr Schwarzenbach said they had little to gain personally because they grew only half a hectare of the variety which made up only a small proportion of their production, but he had been passionate about the wine since doing a stint of winemaking in Alsace and it fitted in with Nelson's claim to be the aromatic capital of the country.
He agreed it was ironic they had launched the campaign in a year when bad weather during and after flowering wiped out all his crop and saw the amount of gewurztraminer produced nationally fall by a third to 1250 tonnes. In Nelson, just 63 tonnes was produced by a handful of growers. However, Mr Schwarzenbach said most wineries still had supplies left of their 2011 vintage, one of the best Nelson had produced, which had seen a bumper 277 tonnes harvested.
Gewurztraminer was notoriously susceptible to the weather and difficult to grow but well worth the effort, he said. "We don't want it to die out. We are all hoping 2013 will be a normal vintage."
Grant Dicker, who owns Mint Dining Room in Nelson, said he had contributed a recipe to the gewurztraminer brochure because he wanted to encouraged people to try a wider range of wines.
"We've gone through a chardonnay phase and a sauvignon blanc phase and now we are in a pinot gris phase, but people don't think about gewurztraminer."
It often surprised those who hadn't tried it before, went well with a lot of foods and was ideal as a drink with lunch, he said.
Nelson wine commentator Neil Hodgson said gewurztraminer was "hugely under-rated" and one of his favourite tipples.
"It's quite a fruity, sweeter style of wine so most people will enjoy it, and it's got more flavour and character than pinot gris.
"What scares many people off is the name, they are embarrassed to order it because they don't know how to pronounce it."
Mr Schwarzenbach said it went well with salty, spicy, smoked or fruity foods. In Alsace it was served with tarte flambe, sausage and smoked meats and blue vein cheese, while it also harmonised with crab salad, salmon and pork belly dishes.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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