I’m writing this column on Tuesday 22nd of February from underneath my dining table after the ninth aftershock of the day. I managed to collect the children from school, battling chaotic traffic to bring them home before waiting an anxious four hours to see my husband walk through the door. But we had power, water and thankfully our lives. Watching the news coverage made my mouth dry, but everything I sipped tasted like paper (and believe me I’ve sipped plenty today). So I’m relying on my memories of the delicious bottles I opened yesterday, most of which were pinot gris. Pinot Gris is here to stay and the volumes out there are increasing at a rate we haven’t seen since sauvignon blanc. So it’s a good thing that finally our winemakers are getting their heads around the potential of the fruit and what each region and sub-region are capable of. Finally we’re seeing crisp, clean intensity of flavour, textural elegance and, in more and more cases, solid ability to age.
Pinot gris polarises people which is hardly surprising because it’s a bit tricky identifying what you’re going to get in that bottle. Some pinot gris can be so dry they’re practically skeletal, others ooze sweet, oily lusciousness, but if well made, they should all offer that distinctive pear, quince or nashi-like niceness for which pinot gris is famous. Pinot gris takes practice, it’s important to persevere – if you find one that’s too sweet or too dry for your taste don’t let that put you off the variety, reach for another one – look at the alcohol level, if it’s under 13% then chances are there’ll be a bit of sweetness, any higher and it’ll be drier.
Saint Clair’s Godfrey’s Creek Reserve Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010 ($25) 5 stars is one of my current favourites. It smells of Eskimo lollies, fresh quince, winter cole pear and has clean, crisp, textural length of flavour and a beautifully balanced finish. www.saintclair.co.nz
Urlar Gladstone Pinot Gris 2010 ($28) 4.5 stars An organic, biodynamically produced pinot gris that boasts lovely nashi, granny smith and marshmallow notes that I really like. Hints of sweetness, but a clean, refreshing finish make this one to watch. www.urlar.co.nz
Clark Estate Awatere Valley Pinot Gris 2010 ($23) four stars A single-vineyard wine that’s beautifully textural and shows juicy pear , apple and nectarine notes followed by a gripping, snappy texture. A splash of sweetness gives it extra weight and adds to its lovely complexity. www.clarkestate.com
Seresin Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009 ($30) 4 stars Enticing aromas of pear, dandelion and apricot kernel lead the way to richly flavoursome, quince and white peach flavours on the finish. Definitely a lovely example. www.seresin.co.nz
Main Divide Waipara Pinot Gris 2010 ($19) 4 stars One example which never disappoints, Waipara I think might be the pinot gris capital of New Zealand because they just keep getting better and this wine is a great example. Pear, peach and tangy tropical fruit sliced through with seams of sweetness – definitely one that won’t disappoint. www.maindivide.com
Canterbury Wineries in the quake
Wineries are reporting little damage, with the epicentre of last week’s quake to the east of the city in Lyttelton, rather than in the wine growing areas west of Christchurch.
Speaking to Decanter.com within hours of the quake, Celia Bosman of Sandihurst winery said, 'the whole place was swaying but we are fine, we have been spared this time. We had much more damage last time as we were far closer to the epicentre. '
When the earthquake hit, new tanks were being fitted at Sandihurst to replace those damaged by September's earthquake and work had to be stopped.
Tresillian Estate's Heather Anderson confirmed producers west of the city had escaped relatively unscathed: “We got far more damage last time and are ok because we are out of the city centre.”
Cracroft Chase Vineyards, a producer closer to the city centre in the suburb of Cashmere, also escaped damage to the vineyard and winery but owners Alessandro and Wilma Laryn have suffered damage to their home.
Decanter was unable to contact city centre fine wine retailers Decant and Vino Fino following the earthquake.
ROYAL EASTER DELIVERS GOLD
A record 118 wines have won gold at the 2011 Royal Easter Show Wine Awards.
New Zealand Wine Society director Terry Dunleavy said a 16 percent increase in the number of gold medals awarded this year was evidence of the increasing quality of New Zealand wines.
“What's in the bottle has shown 2010 to be one of the best vintages of the last few years, especially in our number one export variety sauvignon blanc, which won 21 golds, while our stellar red, pinot noir, continued its remarkable progress, also with 21 golds,'' he said.
More than 1500 wines were entered in the competition, up 1.6 percent on last year.
Judges chairwoman Kate Radburnd said the standard of judging was the among the highest she had ever seen.
Villa Maria Estate ended up beating it’s own competition record by being awarded 17 gold medals.“We are fortunate in this country to have a growing band of young professionals working in our wineries who are dedicated not only to making better and better wine, but have become expert in recognising and judging quality,'' she said. Trophy winners will be announced at an awards dinner on 19 March 2011.
THREE OF THE BEST
Brown Brothers Dolcetto & Syrah 2010 $17 2.5 stars
Those who like sticky, sweet, plummy reds will fall over themselves for this wine. A red wine with a hint of spritz that can be chilled right down – it’s a tasty treat for these warm afternoons. Widely available.
MacKenzies Pardon Methode Traditionelle 2008 $18 3.5 stars
Delicate brioche and lemon aromas light the way for smooth, nutty, tongue-tingling mouthfeel. Fantastic value for money, this is a surprisingly good wine of which 25cents from the sale of each bottle goes to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. www.mackenziespardon.co.nz
Ti Point Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2010 $22 4 stars If you like a bit of peach, melon and pineapple flavour in your chardonnay then look no further than this juicy number. Winemaker Tracy Haslam has created an ultra-tasty tipple complete with toasty oak and zesty acidity on the finish. Dangerously drinkable