Union leading provider of 'other whites'

CHEERS: BARTON ON WINE

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 14:31 26/11/2013
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If you don't blow your own trumpet then no-one else will. Or so the saying goes.

Though I don't know this is entirely true when it comes to Cooper's Creek, which just in case we hadn't noticed, pointed a couple of weeks ago to a string of recent success with wines produced under its SV (for Special Vintage) label.

Maybe it was a timely reminder for those who hadn't noticed, but not for those, who like me follow with interest the goings-on at one of the country's most innovative wineries - certainly when it comes to introducing new varieties of wine.

Albarino, a Spanish/Portuguese white that Cooper's launched in New Zealand just a couple of years ago, is one of them. And one of the SV wines that performed with distinction at the recent Bragato Wine Awards, where it won a gold medal and the "other" white wine trophy.

It then went on to earn a double gold in the Six Nations Wine Challenge, to which wines gain entry only at the invitation of judges from the countries taking part - Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and the US.

The aim is to ensure the participation only of worthy wines, chosen in New Zealand's case by Master of Wine Bob Campbell, who has been involved from the start in what is the only competition of its kind in the world.

In his search for other than a mainstream white to carry our flag he would have turned naturally to Cooper's Creek because of their reputation for producing wines such as this.

Cooper's, particularly winemaker Simon Nunns, has always had an interest in alternative varieties, particularly in whites produced in other parts of the world that can be grown here and might appeal to New Zealanders.

Likewise Gisborne grapegrowers Doug and Delwyn Bell who live with the luxury of having Riversun, one of the country's leading grape nurseries, on their doorstep.

In 2006 they provided the fruit for the first truly varietal arneis (an Italian grape also known as the Little Rascal) to be produced in New Zealand, or in Australia for that matter.

In 2008 grapes for Cooper's gruner veltliner, an Austrian variety, and again the first of its kind in New Zealand, were sourced from one of the Bell's neighbours .

But they have since provided the rest - the fruit for the albarino in 2011 and now for a 2013 marsanne, believed to be the first, or among the first New Zealand examples of this variety that is extensively grown in France's northern Rhone Valley. In fact the Allison marsanne is named for an Allison motor out of a World War II Kittyhawk fighter recently restored to full running order by Doug Bell, a design engineer in a previous life.

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Such is the partnership that has developed between Cooper's Creek and the Bells who are currently trialling other varieties for Gisborne Winegrowers, which for the purposes of the exercise includes their friends from Kumeu.

Vines involved in the trial include sauvignon gris, which has already hit the market in New Zealand, vermentino and fiano, two Italian whites, and three new clones of chenin blanc, which already produces some stunning wines in the Gisborne area.

While none of these varieties, including those "other whites" already launched, is likely to become another sauvignon blanc in terms of popularity, increased plantings and sales of arneis and gruner veltliner in particular suggest there is market for them.

As there could well be for the rest.

To get the taste try:

Cooper's Creek 2013 SV Bell-Ringer Gisborne Albarino, $22-$24
So-called the makers say, because it tastes and smells as pure as the peel of a bell. In other words it's fresh and zesty with peaches and citrus in a mix that will make friends easily with seafood.

Cooper's Creek SV Allison Gisborne Marsanne, $22-$24
A surprisingly weighty, textured white that smacks of melon with a scrape of honey in the background. Started life in stainless steel but finished ferment on old oak. Interesting.

- The Southland Times

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