Wine industry lightens up

UK talk show host Graham Norton has jumped feet first into making New Zealand wine for Elton John's charity.
UK talk show host Graham Norton has jumped feet first into making New Zealand wine for Elton John's charity.

There is nothing wrong with a little bit of gimmickry, even in the wine industry which has a long tradition of taking itself rather seriously.

But not too seriously in this part of the world, where a couple of Kiwi producers have, in the space of a week, delivered what you might call a double-whammy.

Young go-getters Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron, of Invivo Wines, last week launched a Marlborough savvy in British entertainer Graham Norton's name after going to rather extraordinary lengths to make the connection.

And in Hawke's Bay, Sileni Estates unveiled a trio of single- serve wines in an all-in-one glass and bottle developed in partnership with French producer Paul Sapin and claimed to be a world first.

First the Norton connection, which is the result of the TV talk show host's liking for Marlborough sauvignon blanc and for Invivo in particular. Why not, mused Cameron and Lightbourne, get him down here to help us make some of his favourite white and bottle it in his name?

When Norton said he was too busy they decided instead to take the mountain to Muhammad as it were. They hand-picked a tub of sauvignon grapes which were flown by helicopter from the vineyard to the airport accompanied by winemaker Cameron who then made a whirlwind 10,000 kilometre dash to London where Norton rolled up his trousers and trod them on the set of his London TV show.

Less than 24 hours later the juice was flown home, where Cameron reunited it with the rest of the grapes from the vineyard block that five months later produced what is now famously known as "Graham Norton's own SaviGNon Sauvignon Blanc". The label is, predictably, a pretty purple and the wine about as fruity (aromatically, that is) as Marlborough savvies come.

The best part for Norton fans is that it will be widely available in New Zealand at $20 a bottle and is unlikely to be a oncer. Norton is now a shareholder in Invivo.

The project that led to the introduction of Sileni Estates's Nano range of single serve wines in a plastic mini-bottle with a clip-on glass was a bit more complicated than this and could have far- reaching implications for the way some wines are packaged.

It all began more than four years ago when Sir Graeme Avery, who owns and drives Sileni, began a search for an alternative to the big 750ml glass bottle that would offer more convenience, that didn't compromise the quality of the wine and would allow people to enjoy a glass wherever they might be.

The obvious answer was a smaller, lighter plastic bottle, but one that protected the wine from oxygen and light, that didn't break or leak, that was fully recyclable and, most of all, ensured the wine still tasted great when it reached the consumer.

In Franc,e Paul Sapin was looking for the same thing so they joined forces .

The result is a 187ml lightweight screw cap plastic bottle that protects the wine from sunlight and oxygen, has a two-year shelf life and, best of all, has a glass (plastic too) clipped over the neck.

The first Nano wines to be released include a Marlborough sauvignon blanc, a Hawke's Bay pinot noir and French Grenache rose. They sell for $5 a bottle - and glass.

WINES OF THE WEEK

Babich 2014 Winemakers' Reserve Gimblett Road Hawke's Bay Syrah, $30: Fans of this variety from this area will appreciate this lovely, vibrant blackberry-driven red that is layered with spicy oak and cedar and has a liberal dash of pepper. A perfect match for a beef tangine.

Babich 2013 Elspeth Hawke's Bay Chardonnay, $39: A chardonnay in the Hawke's Bay tradition that is worth every penny. Made mostly from fruit off the Gimblett Gravels it is a creamy mix of stonefruit and citrus with an appealing toasty, mealy character. My kind of wine.

The Southland Times