Toast to those with sense of adventure

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 08:00 10/09/2012
Bill Spence and Ross Spence
Brothers Bill and Ross Spence pioneered sauvignon blanc as a varietal in New Zealand.

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Let's raise our collective glasses and drink a toast to those who dare to be different - especially those who grow obscure grapes, who transform them into wines that most of us have never heard of, as well as those who reward both by giving them at least a sip, a slurp, and even a spit if they feel the need to do so.

If you are not one of the latter then the chances are that you have not yet experienced the sense of adventure which makes the pursuit of wine's pleasures so appealing and rewarding. And encourages growers and winemakers to trial new grape varieties and to make new wines.

It was this growing sense of adventure that encouraged the Spence brothers to pioneer sauvignon blanc as a varietal in New Zealand, Dr Alan Limmer to plant syrah on the Gimblett Gravels and for us to embrace both, and the other new varieties, including pinot gris, that have followed.

The good news is that more new varieties are on the way, and it comes as no surprise that some of the earliest examples are from Gisborne, home of Riversun Nurseries, which propagates the biggest selection of grape varieties in the country.

Gisborne is also the home to some of our most adventurous grape growers, Delwyn and Doug Bell, who supply grapes to innovative Coopers Creek, and Eileen Voysey, wife of former Montana/Pernod Ricard winemaker Steve Voysey, who together produce wines under the Spade Oak and Heart of Gold labels.

The Bells' latest contribution to the Coopers' Creek range is Albarino, an aromatic white from Spain, where it grows in the wet northwestern region of Galicia - a perfect fit for the weather experienced over the spring and summer of 2011-12 in Gisborne.

It has been likened, because of a distinctive peachy character, to viognier, or white traminer, the white form of gewurztraminer. Whichever, it has been hailed by American super-critic Robert Parker as Spain's great gift to the wine world.

Coopers' Creek, thanks again to the Bells, were also first off the block in New Zealand with arneis and with gruner veltliner, the aromatic Austrian white which is now being more widely planted.

The Voyseys' main aim is to find grape varieties which will do well in Gisborne. Also to produce from them either varietals or blends that will appeal.

Hence the unusual blend of syrah and tempranillo made under the Heart of Gold label by Steve, now chief winemaker for Indevin Gisborne, New Zealand's biggest contract producer; the Heart of Gold St Laurent, a distant relative of pinot noir first produced in New Zealand by Judge Rock in Central Otago; and the marsanne, tannat, petit maseng and other varieties that are still in the works.

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The Voyseys' premium Spade Oak label also has a point of difference. Some of the wines are sealed with a new German glass stopper, but like Heart of Gold they are made only in very small quantities, and are best sourced direct.

Meantime, for the adventurous:

Heart of Gold 2009 Syrah Tempranillo, $28.95
An unusual and interesting, roughly 60-40 blend with spicy plums, berries, chocolate, cedar and pepper all marrying in what is an elegant mix. Worth more than just a passing acquaintance.

Heart of Gold 2009 Saint Laurent, $28.95
Aromas: Not unlike pinot noir. An appealing whiff of the country and of berries on the nose with sweet and spicy, juicy cherries and berries on the palate. Silky smooth and dangerously easy to drink.

Coopers Creek The Bellringer 2012 Gisborne Albarino, $20
At this money this lovely pure and punchy, peachy white with a generous twist of citrus is a must-try newcomer. No paella should be without it.

- The Southland Times

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