Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Summer of Riesling – Published 03.02.12

It started in New York and now it has reached New Zealand – the Summer of Riesling is a bold initiative to engage the consumer with the many delights the riesling variety has to offer.
This international movement was started in 2008 by Paul Grieco from Terroir Wine Bar in New York and to help local organisers Angela Clifford from Waipara and Duncan Forsyth from Mount EdwardWines in Central Otago kick start the first Summer of Riesling in New Zealand Paul, the self-styled Summer of Riesling Overlord, joined the celebrations being held around the country.

The object of the Summer of Riesling is to encourage the consumption, discussion and enjoyment of Riesling and New Zealand’s Summer of Riesling started on the 12th January and so far has included winemaker dinners, tastings and wine lists celebrating what is the single most versatile wine grape produced

In 2008 Paul decided that only Riesling would be offered by the glass as the white wine pour at Terroir and the concept has caught the imagination of producers, retailers, restaurantuers and consumers. What began as one man trying to convince customers to try this noble variety has resulted in about 500 restaurants and wine retailers in the US taking part as well as restaurants and retailers in Australia, Canada and now New Zealand.

Pauls attitude of ‘If you like chardonnay then there is a rich, succulent, barrel aged riesling to keep you happy; if you prefer crisp fruity sauvignon blanc then you will probably enjoy a dry, vibrant riesling’ and his belief that providing great service means making great recommendations to his customers (rather than just being a host and giving them what they ask for) was the beginning of the Riesling Revolution and earned him the Summer of Riesling Overlord crown. Last year Terrior Wine Bar had only Riesling on its wine list for the ‘94 days of summer’, 30 by the glass and over 90 by the bottle.

Last week I joined in with two parts of the Summer of Riesling celebration in New Zealand; firstly a national riesling tasting, featuring about 45 versions from different regions in New Zealand, that was attended by wine writers and restaurantuers from the US, UK, Australia and of course New Zealand. This was held at the stunning Tipapa luxury lodge and function venue at Greta Valley, just north of Waipara.

Part two was the CLIMAX celebration dinner at Pegasus Bay Winery where supporting Waipara wineries had a range of aged rieslings for us to sample and each person took along a bottle of riesling that best expressed what they love about the variety to share with their dinner companions. Not only did we experience some stunning wines from around the world but Pegasus Bay showed why Cuisine magazine judge them the best vineyard restaurant in the country year-after-year. Unbelievably good food, a fantastic environment and people who know how to celebrate!

This year more than 30 dining and retail establishments along with about 40 wineries from around New Zealand are celebrating the Summer of Riesling so as the website says “Become a foot soldier, choose Riesling. Viva la Revolution!” www.summerofriesling.co.nz

I have been drinking

Gladstone Vineyard 2011 Riesling – RRP $25
Produced in Gladstone in the Wairarapa this is made in a off-dry style the initial flavour is a burst of green apple that quickly evolves into zesty lime flavours with a backbone of river stone minerality. With a touch of honeyed sweetness in the finish to balance the mouthwatering acidity this would be perfect with pan seared white fish.

Julicher Estate 2011 Pinot Rose – RRP$19.95
This multi-award winning winery in Martinborough has produced another cracker here. Made from 100% pinot noir fruit the wine has a luscious texture in the mouth and is bursting with fresh summer berry flavours – strawberries and cream with a twist of spice and just enough sweetness to make it a delightful lunchtime wine.  

Nelson Region rainfall – published 20.01.12

While the heavy rains and flooding in Nelson that destroyed homes and land just before Christmas last year was headline news the impact on the wine grape growing sector has yet to be fully determined.
Rainfall statistics show some of the heaviest rain in parts of the region since records began with Nelson Airport recording six times its mean rainfall for December – 446mm while in Takaka about 1100mm of rain fell - more than 8 times its normal December total.
City residents got to feel like they were living in Auckland with the closure of one of the main arterial roads into the city for more than a week, resulting in a normal 15 minute drive taking up to three hours and the horticulture sector (particularly market gardeners) having to deal with flood damaged crops.
A photo published in The Nelson Mail showing people walking through a flooded vineyard was a dramatic visual reminder of just how much rain we had and while it probably made many winegrowers hearts sink just a little the effects of the rain on the 2012 vintage are still only best estimates at this stage.
With the main rainfalls occurring over a few days the impact of the rain on flowering and fruit-set was limited. Reports from across the region indicate the hardest hit variety is Gewurztraminer with most growers spoken to expecting no crop this year. Grape berry growth known has ‘hen and chicken’ appears as big and small grapes on each bunch. This is quite normal for the Mendoza clone of chardonnay but its occurrence in other varieties is both unusual and unwanted because the individual grapes will have different ripeness levels at harvest time and this has the potential to effect flavour profiles of the finished product.
The impact of the big wet on other varieties is very much location dependant with vineyards in some areas expecting a harvest at either near normal levels or down 20% - 40%, again dependant on how far through flowering the varieties were when the rains hit each vineyard.
Because of dangerous wet, slippery conditions on some sloping vineyards growers were unable to get equipment onto some vineyards to get disease control sprays on their vines and this has lead to some high labour costs as growers resorted to manually trimming the vigorous canopy growth to help dry the sodden bunches. One grower even resorted to using a helicopter to apply some anti-fungal sprays.
Those who were able to manage their vineyards intensely before, during and after individual rain events appear to be mainly disease free however some are reporting outbreaks of mildew in vineyards and, depending on whether or not these outbreaks can be controlled, this will also have an effect on the size and quality of the 2012 grape harvest in this region.

So it looks like this grape harvest is going to be below average in size in the Nelson region and quality is going to be highly dependent on weather patterns over the next few months. No more rain and lots of long hot days until mid May are at the top of every grower’s wish lists for 2012.

I have been drinking

Kaimira Estates has put together a deal where you can buy two $12.99 wines from their Brightside range for just $20 the pair. This deal is available at Fresh Choice Richmond and Takaka
Brightside 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – RRP$12.99
Vibrant fresh tropical flavours of passionfruit with a twist of lime are supported by firm river-stone minerality characters making it the perfect budget wine to enjoy with seafood off the barbecue this summer.
Brightside 2011 Rosé – RRP$12.99
Made from a blend of merlot and pinot noir the beautiful pale raspberry colour hints at the luscious creamy flavours of the wine. Fermentation in oak barrels adds texture to the mouthfeel and lets the blueberry and currant flavours shine. This is a serious wine for the price point and won’t disappoint rosé lovers.