Nanny puts some fun and class into wine
Flicking through the results from the New Zealand International Wine Show I was struck by one name in particular - not that of the winemaker (no prizes for guessing which one) who dominated the gold medals table, but the name of one gold medal- winning wine in particular.
Because it was different; probably made-to-order for supermarkets to sell for grandmas' birthdays, but it turned out better than anyone thought.
I was wrong on both counts.
Super Nanny is a very smart wine - the super version of a pinot noir made by Nanny Goat Vineyard, a Central Otago label owned by Melbourne businessman John Valmorbida, who 10 years ago decided that rather than take the gondola he would walk up to the Skyline restaurant above Queenstown.
It was supposed to be a gentle climb that he turned into an adventure by deviating from the track and winding up in country more suited to the nanny goats that cling to the sides of mountains in these parts than to visiting Australians.
But the rewards were worth the effort - on the way up he found a fun name for the wines he planned to produce, and at the top good food and wine awaited.
I mention this only because too many New Zealand winemakers seem to me to be so super-serious about the wines they produce - and there's nothing wrong with that - that they have lost their sense of humour, their sense of fun, or are afraid of showing either for fear of losing customers.
By that I mean the kinds of customers who think that wines worthy of their attention come only in bottles with faux French labels and have names that sounds as though they command respect.
Many of the wines with fun labels are simple fun wines, but very drinkable nevertheless.
Remember Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush, a sauvignon blanc; Glamour Puss pinot noir; and Fat Cat chardonnay; all from Cooper's Creek?
How about Hihi's two cheap and cheerful bubblies - Gizzy (for Gisborne) Fizzy, a chardonnay- based sparkler, and Sweet As, a bubbly made from chardonnay and gewurztraminer. One sells for $15, the other for $12.50.
Slightly more upmarket is Trev's Red ($24) a blend of cabernet franc and syrah made for good Kiwi blokes and named for Trevor Bolitho the orchardist who turned to growing grapes and launched the Waimea label.
Likewise the Tatty Bolger range of Otago/Central Otago wines produced by Forrest Estate and given the name used by Scots for scarecrow.
Super Nanny, however, is the name given the flagship of the Nanny Goat fleet; a pinot noir made from the pick of Bannockburn vineyard fruit, but only in small quantities.
"That's what we've always called it in the winery," I am told by one of the blokes who helps to make the stuff.
"So we just stuck with that."
It's a bit like the story about a super-ripe block of shiraz in David and Diana Anderson's Wild Duck Vineyard in Australia that was picked as an afterthought in the early 1990s.
Some wag in the winery labelled it Duck's Muck - David's nickname is Duck - and the name stuck.
The opulent wine is the same red that was a short time later catapulted to fame by American critic Robert Parker (with a little help from its name) and became a phenomenon that still sells for hundreds of dollars a bottle.
The Nanny Goat range:
Super Nanny 2012 Central Otago Pinot Noir, $48
A rich and powerful, but elegant berried wine that mixes spice and herbs with the earthiness of a walk in the woods.
Nanny Goat 2012 Central Otago Pinot Noir, $36
A lighter-weighted wine with rich, dark berryfruited flavours, a hint herbage and florals and a satisfying finish.
Nanny Goat 2012 Central Otago Syrah, $36
Who says you can't grow syrah in the deep south?An interesting, unusually complex nose with spicy, berried body.
Nanny Goat 2012 Central Otago Chardonnay, $36
A citrus and stonefruit-driven wine that manages to keep oak in the background.
The Southland Times