Friday, April 16, 2010

Blended White Wines

A couple of years ago I commented on the production of blended white wine and noted at the time that “blending different wine varieties and styles has happened all over the world for centuries, all in the name of producing a finished product that is better than the individual parts.”

We see this approach in France where Bordeaux red wines are generally made from blending four red wine varieties; they still produce single varietals like Merlot but blends tend to dominate in this famous region. Winemakers have also been blending the white varieties of semillon and sauvignon blanc for many years.

In 2006 John Forrest released the first version of his “The White”, a blended white wine that came with a $50 price tag at the time. In developing The White Forrest set out to make a wine with defining characters that are expressively New Zealand – great aromatics and ripe fruit flavours with fresh acidity.

But does it make sense to blend the pure flavours of some white wine varieties with others? I think it does. Take Forrest’s White as an example. This is a blend of seven different white wine varieties and is made using fruit grown in regions of New Zealand best suited to each variety (viognier from the warm, stony Gimblett Gravels, pinot gris from the limestone soils of North Otago’s Waitaki Valley and sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay, chenin blanc and gewürztraminer from Marlborough) and the distinctive characters of each variety contribute flavour and texture components to the finished wine.

The trend for producing blended white wines has increased significantly in the last year or so and while the cynical talk about it being a way to use up surplus juice I think it is a sign that the winemaking industry in New Zealand is starting to find its place in the world.

New Zealand white wines are characterised by a delightful purity and brightness in flavour and winemakers have been working tirelessly to produce the very best varietal wines they can so is there anything wrong with taking beautiful wines with lush fruit flavours from varieties like gewurztraminer and pinot gris and combining them with the purity and fresh acidity of varieties like riesling then maybe adding a twist of complexity with some chardonnay?

Sure, these wines are not a pure varietal expression but when made with thought and balance they can be an expression of everything that is great about New Zealand white wines and I still stand by my earlier thoughts that blending white wines can turn the mundane into the enchanting.

I have been drinking

Waimea Estates 2009 Edel - RRP $21.90

This is a blend of riesling (47%), pinot gris (38%) and gewürztraminer (15%). Combining the spiciness and rich palate weight of gewürztraminer with the fruitiness of and luscious texture of pinot gris along with the purity and freshness of riesling then making sure there is a little bit of residual sugar to balance the acidity has resulted in a wine that is delightful as a late afternoon aperitif, a great match with Asian dishes and perfect with sweet Nelson seafood. Actually, I could just drink this by itself anytime because it offers so many flavours and characters. A thoughtful wine that is super drinking.

Running With Bulls 2008 Barossa Tempranillo - $17.99

It smells like ripe boysenberries overlayed with smoky oak and tastes like blended juicy black berry fruits with a hint of dark chocolate and has lashings of powdery tannins in the finish. If you like ripe Aussie reds without jammy sweetness then this one fits the bill. Fantastic value, easy drinking elegant red with great flavour and balance that is even better on the second night.