Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Varieties

2010 vintage wines are starting to hit the retail shelves about now and I can’t wait to wrap my tastebuds around them. The release of the first new seasons wines seems to arrive quite quickly after harvest but about now it seems like we have to wait ages for them, even though the better sauvignon blancs are only a matter of week away.

While I have been talking to winemakers and vineyard owners about the 2010 vintage a number of them have told me about different varieties they are trialling. Trying new things in vineyards and wineries is simply part of making better wine but adding varieties that are common in Europe comes with both risk and reward. The risk is that the variety simply doesn’t deliver the flavour profiles when planted here but when they do deliver the results can be outstanding.

Another risk is that you and I are less likely to pick a wine off the shelf if it has a name we don’t recognise, for example what does Grüner Veltliner taste like – sweet, dry, fruity, austere, oaky, citrus, stonefruit? Is it a red wine or a white wine?

Now being grown in small quantities in Nelson Grüner Veltliner is a white aromatic style wine commonly grown in Austria. Regarded as a perfect food wine it is expected the variety will do well in Nelson’s cool climate and I can’t wait to find out. Waimea Estates have produced a very small trial batch this year that is highly unlikely to be sold but I am going to twist a few arms and get my hands on a bottle later in the year.

The Spanish variety Albarino is also being trialled in the region. Best known for red varieties Albarino is regarded as one of the few white varieties that produces reasonable white wine in Spain. Again, its fresh, crisp peachy characters are expected to suit Nelson’s climate.

In Nelson’s cooler climate varieties like cabernet sauvignon and merlot have limited success because, other than in little microclimate spots in the region, we don’t have enough heat for the fruit to develop fully ripe characters. However varieties like montepulciano from Italy and zweigelt from Austria deliver great flavour in our cooler climate. You will find fine examples of these at Blackenbrook Vineyards (montepulciano) and Seifried Estate (zweilgelt – bottled under the Sylvia label by Seifrieds). Others are also trialling monetipulciano so watch this space with interest.

The Italian variety dolcetto is being grown with some success by Golden Hills and again is also being trialled by other growers in the region.

Nelson may be very well known for it’s chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, dessert wines and to a lesser extent gewurztraminer but the pioneering attitude of the family owned wine producers in the region means there are lots more treats in store for you and me in the years to come.

I have been drinking

If you want to know how the use of different oak affects a wine get your hands on both of these and find out for yourself. Using the same juice, the same ratio of new oak to older, both wines were fermented with the same yeast and all winemaking processes were the same – except for the oak.

Saint Clair 2009 Omaka Reserve Chardonnay (RRP $32.95)

Fermented in American oak barrels this has a rich, generous mouthfeel, a hint of creaminess with underlying stone fruit flavours. A delicious wine.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 10 Twin Hills 2009 Chardonnay (RRP $29.95)

Fermented using French oak barrels this is rather more restrained with delightful minerality, tropical fruit flavours with hints of fresh baked biscuits in the aromas. Beautifully elegant.

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