New Zealand Wines came into town and held a seminar, the day after the Cubs won the World Series. The morning had a feeling as if the city of Chicago had won the Golden Ticket. The city was very quiet yet there was a spirit of joy in the air. Rather appropriate that New Zealand’s World Champion All Blacks rugby team were in town to play Ireland to start off a round of international test matches. If anyone can understand the significance of sport to a town, it’s the Kiwis, as attendees wandered in slowly, most likely having a late night watching and celebrating the Cub’s game.
The seminar divided the wines into groups roughly equivalent to the positions on a rugby field. The key players headlining the seminar were: Patrick Bennett, the Beverage Director of Colicchio & Sons, who guided us through the tasting and NZ wine pioneers, Bill Spence, Founder and Brand Ambassador for Matua Wine in Marlborough and Phil Rose of Wairau River Wine in Marlborough and rounding out the panel, Gregory Collinge, the owner of Supernatural Wine Company (distributed by Candid Wines, carried at Red and White in Chicago), located in Hawke’s Bay and producer of certified organic, naturally vinified, low sulphur white and skin-fermented white wines from a north-facing hillside estate. Gregory, also, created Millar Road, a luxury accommodation set on the vineyard. With the All Blacks in Chicago, Chris Yorke, the Global Marketing Director for the New Zealand Winegrowers gave us a quick round-up on rugby versus American football.
New Zealand is long, skinny and green. From north to south, the top island is sub-tropical and then down to the southern end it gets pretty cold. Between the variety of soils including volcanic and limestone, the hilly, mountaneous terrain and the sea, there are a quite a variety of growing areas for their fine wines. Of the 10 main regions, we focused on Marlborough, the largest and most well known wine region, Hawke’s Bay, as someone commented, the red capital of New Zealand and Central Otago on the south island, a home of Pinot Noir (pinot noir is grown in other regions as well).
Having cycled throughout the North Island of New Zealand, all I can think of is green, green, green. The lush scenery is just awe inspiring, nature hits you in the face immediately and that closeness to nature I think comes through in their wines. NZ is one of the star countries, if not the star, for all things sustainable in the world. As Patrick explained, NZ is known for its cool climate, long growing season, high acidity and phenolic development in their premium wines. Most ripening is done on uv radiation with full sugar maturation, Patrick , cited the Mosel as an equivalent region. Although there are many different winemaking techniques across the wide range of wines produced, I think that purity of fruit comes through in all their wines reflecting the pristine environments the grapes are grown in.
The individual wines we tasted are listed below. For me, particularly, the sauvignon blancs, when you have a glass, the aromatics just sing “Welcome to New Zealand“. The aromas or as Patrick described “the attack” of grapefruit and grass, the bright, fresh, fruit driven flavors in your mouth, have a purity of flavor that I think is specific to New Zealand. But as this seminar showed, there are many, many, nuanced wines being created that have depth and character because of the variety of growing areas. Central Otago, for example, has a smaller growing season, a shorter ripening window and higher elevation. I listed the individual wines we tasted in the seminar below. In the walk around tasting, I tasted a nice, bright, fresh, traditional method sparkling rose made from grapes grown in Hawke’s Bay and neighboring Gisborne.
The hits for my table were the pinots and chardonnays but all the wines were delicious and fresh.
Sauvignon Blanc – Wingers
Seifried Old Coach Road 2015 (Nelson) young, fresh, bright, fruit driven, open style, grapefruit, crisp
Matua Lands & Legends 2015 (Marlborough) minerality shines through, not too much asparagus and green grass, well-balanced, grapefruit on the attack, about to be introduced to the Chicago market
Villa Maria Taylors Pass 2012 (Marlborough) 4 years past vintage, evolution evident, vinification all stainless steel, melon really coming through
Churton Best End 2013 (Marlborough) grapefruit, green grass, white flowers and some stone fruits
The Supernatural 2014 (Hawke’s Bay) biodynamic, organic, hard clay, limestone, soak on skins lush, opulent style, mentioned that 2015 cooler year, greener
Aromatics – Five-Eighths & Centre
Wairau River Pinot Gris 2015 (Marlborough) – modern Marlborough style, peaches, pears
Hula Gewurztraminer 2015 (Marlborough) Everyone really liked the restrained style of this G13, floral, aromatic, great pairing wine, great with cheese
Mt. Difficulty Riesling 2014 (Central Otago) Climate more continental, another crowd favorite
Chardonnay – The Second Row
Giesen the Fuder Clayvin 2014 (Marlborough) clean, bright, fresh, reductive style, everything done in barrel, fermeneted 1000 liter wood barrel, precise winemaking, indigenous yeasts
Kumeu River Estate 2012 (Auckland) Seminal chardonnal producer Matt Kramer loves this wine
Pinot Noir – The Back Row
Mt. Beautiful 2014 (North Canterbury) fruity, candied red fruit
Palliser Estate 2013 (Marlborough) herbs, spice, cherry pit, ripeness of fruit on attack, whole cluster fermentation, finish dry, earthy, savory
Burn Cottage 2013 (Central Otago) Ted Lemon of Literati consulted, Marquis Sauvage owner, chewier, fruit goes from red to black
Goldwater 2012 (Marlborough)
Reds – The Front Row
Te Mata Gamay Noir 2015 (Hawke’s Bay) gooseberry, berry, berry, berry
Esk Valley Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2013 (Hawke’s Bay) malbec sells better as blend in NZ, easier to manage tannins
Trinity Hill The Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2013 Hawke’s Bay Gimblett Gravels giant alluvial gravel field
Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2013 Hawke’s Bay spice, pepper, european syrah style