Monday, March 8, 2010

Ernst Loosen

In my last column I wrote about the recent symposium to explore aromatic wines that was hosted by Nelson winemakers. This was the second such symposium and this time the focus was on riesling and gewürztraminer.

One of the international guests at the symposium was Ernst Loosen who was born into a great tradition of German winemaking. In the 1980’s he made the move from archaeology to taking the reins of the 200 year old winemaking dynasty that is Weingut Dr Loosen.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Ernst for an hour or so and talk about his thoughts on New Zealand aromatic style wines. It is obvious that he has thrown himself at the challenge of learning about wine, not just 200 years of tradition at the family estate but also about winemaking around the world. He has taken many things he has seen and learned on his travels and incorporated them into Dr Loosen winemaking today, ensuring that not only is heritage preserved but that it continues to evolve.

This attitude to learning about wine is reflected in his thoughts on New Zealand wines. He is quite firm in his belief that New Zealand winemakers must continue to learn about their land and grape growing conditions so they can make the best possible wine from the best quality grapes their piece of paradise can produce.

This wine could be anything from sweet to dry and austere in style and he says there is no point in trying to make something you think the consumer wants if it is not good quality. The focus should always be on quality and then go out and find a market that wants the style of wine produced. He says, for example, there is no point in trying to sell fruity floral wines in Germany where their tastes are more accustomed to dry style wines.

As we talked about the quality of the wines he tasted in his time here he kept coming back to two wines in particular, Stonecroft Gewurztraminer and Vinoptima Gewurztraminer. To use his words “I was totally impressed by the gewürztraminers, that is the style of gewürztraminer I really like …The Stonecroft and the Vinoptima we had in the tasting, even if they are so different I totally understand the style and would say ‘where is the Munster cheese?, they are fantastic wines”

Ernst also told me he does not drink a lot of gewürztraminer but he was excited about not just the quality of the winemaking but the incredible flavours and structure balance. He says New Zealand winemakers are starting to understand the importance of place and this is reflected in Nick Nobilo from Vinoptima growing just a single variety of grape, gewürztraminer, and making the absolute best example of this variety he can. It shows in the finished product.

His final piece of advice for selling our wines overseas – “not only am I a winemaker I am the average consumer and to sell your wines you need to open them with as many people as possible so they can taste them, if they haven’t tasted them they may not buy them”.

I have been drinking

Olssens 2008 Riesling

From Central Otago this vibrant dry wine has lots of flavour (apple, citrus and subtle honey) with a streak of delightful steely minerality in the finish. This isn’t a shy style, you know you are drinking riesling and you know you are drinking quality.

Big Villa 2007 Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay

Big Villa is the house brand for Advintage Wines who have a reputation for delivering wines that are as they describe them and at great value. In typical chardonnay fashion this is packed with butterscotch and lightly toasted nut characters. Check them out at and join their mail list.

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