It is very refreshing to work in an industry where so much is performed in an old-fashioned sort of way.
The wine industry has gone through amazing changes in the last 25 years, with a move to an FMCG focus driven by massive new plantings, the result of an ill-conceived tax-driven expansion leaving big box style retailers rubbing their hands at the amount of distressed sellers eager to get something for their juice.
Fortunately, there are still many producers that maintain their integrity and focus on producing quality booze and maintaining the relationships that are integral in selling their wine.
A recent trip to New Zealand saw a group of us visit some leading family-run quality-focussed wineries from Martinborough in the North Island as well as both Marlborough and Central Otago in the South Island.
I will pick one from each region as space won’t allow me to mention all seven.
Ata Rangi in Martinborough, just an hour from Wellington, is renowned for pinot noir and consistently produces wines that sit at the very top of New Zealand’s pecking order for quality. What really excited me were a couple of white wines we tried.
The 2014 Ata Rangi ‘Lismore’ Pinot Gris has trademark pear flavours along with stonefruit, lovely textured middle with a little acidity to clean things up at the back.
The 2014 Ata Rangi Kahu Botrytis Riesling was absolutely stunning. Obviously sweet with apricot flavours again the acid to close makes this wine stand out, balancing the intense sweetness.
A short flight to Blenheim saw us take in the wines of Greywacke, made by long-term Cloudy Bay winemaker and esteemed photographer Kevin Judd. His Greywacke 2013 ‘Wild’ Sauvignon Blanc was fantastic for someone who is generally not a fan of sauvignon blanc. Textured, full of tropical notes but finishing fresh and long it made me rethink what sauvignon blanc can be.
Finally down to Queenstown and a refreshing dip in Sam Neill’s vineyard dam, my contribution to adventure sports for which Queenstown is well known. Everyone knows how good pinot noir is from Central Otago but it is the Rieslings which are stunning. Extremes between day and night time temperatures ensure very high acid levels. Flavours which include green apples as well trademark lime with persistent but soft acid typify the region’s Riesling profile. Unlike many Australian Rieslings, it is common for the Rieslings from Central Otago to feature a bit of residual sugar. In many instances the residual sugar is not discernible due to the high acid levels. The 2014 Two Paddocks Picnic Riesling featured stonefruits, some mid palate weight and persistent finish, great lunch wine.
Overall, the central thread of these wineries is a total commitment to quality as well as respect for their vineyard site ensuring their little piece of earth continues to produce quality wines into the future. For anyone wanting to see photos of your scribe emerging from Two Paddock’s dam it may be more likely you will find photos of the Loch Ness Monster. Cheers and good drinking!