Thursday, May 6, 2010

2010 Grape Harvest in Nelson

The 2010 wine grape harvest in the Nelson region is winding down with the vast majority of fruit safely harvested and being processed in wineries. Each year I spend some time visiting wineries in the region tasting freshly pressed and partially fermented juice to get an overview of the quality of the fruit being harvested and the likely quality of the finished product.

I can tell you that this year I have tasted some of the most flavoursome juice I have ever tasted in the region. Not only were the harvested grapes in pristine condition but they are packed with incredibly pure varietal flavours. In fact the word ‘purity’ is one word you will read a lot more of in this column in future months.

It can be difficult sometimes to predict what a finished wine will be like when you taste the fresh juice because often the true flavours are disguised by high sugar characters (sugars are fermented into alcohol so the sweetness we see now is reduced markedly as the juice is turned into wine). This is often the case with varieties like pinot gris where you can’t really taste fruit flavours at this stage, however this year the pinot gris juice I tasted is already bursting with ripe pear and spiced quince characters that are clean and pure - no honeyed botrytis characters to overshadow the fruit.

Neudorf Vineyards are celebrating their 30th vintage this year and when I spent some time with Tim Finn and winemaker John Kavanagh last week they were smiling contentedly as we tasted the fresh juice, it will be a vintage of superb quality to mark the 30 year milestone.

Daniel Schwarzenbach from Blackenbrook Vineyards has a smile from ear-to-ear as he proudly lets me taste juice that has such delightful balance and flavour purity that you could almost bottle it now as grape juice, something I would not normally be saying about wine grape juice.

Pat Stowe from Rimu Grove Wines had a similar beaming smile as we tasted some fantastic freshly pressed juice while he declared it was the very best fruit he has seen in the history of Rimu Grove.

Even the notoriously cautious Hermann Seifried from Seifried Estate is happy to talk about the great quality of this year’s vintage. He does however caution that even if producers make great wine this year they still need to sell it and the international market is still very fickle.

It doesn’t matter how good this vintage has been it will be remembered in this region for the tragic loss of viticulturist David McIntosh who has made a significant contribution to the local industry. The whole industry has been affected by the tragedy but none more so than the team at Greenhough Vineyards where he was a close friend as well as a workmate. The industry’s thoughts are with David’s family and his workmates.

No 1 Family Estate Remy Cuvee - RRP $55
Made by bubbly guru Daniel Le Brun and named after their 21 year old son Remy this is a real treat. The wine is lively, fresh, delicate and complex at the same time. Fresh apples in the aromas with just enough lively acidity in the luscious palate and a satisfying biscuity finish make it a delight.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay 2009 Viognier – RRP $21.99
It already has a gold medal and trophy hanging from its belt and I think we can expect it to win many more. A luscious palate weight packed with flavours of spiced quince, yellow peach and just a touch of honey combine to make a multi-layered wine of great complexity. Perfect autumn drinking.

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