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Aromatic Whites in Cuisine Magazine

By February 20, 2014No Comments

The March 2014 issue of Cuisine magazine, No. 163 features the classic New Zealand Aromatic Whites of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. The findings of the tasting panel chaired by John Belsham were very positive, a reflection of the confidence our winemakers have in working with these varieties, as well as the favourable 2013 and 2012 vintages.

Cuisine’s writer John Saker stated “A brilliant line-up raised the Riesling quality bar still further” in his headline, and panel judge Dan Dineen stated “it was blindingly obvious why this much undervalued variety is so noble”. The other panellist, Cameron Douglas MS said the best of what they tasted were “fragrant and alluring, seductive and charming”. It remains a fact that Riesling, despite its nobility, just doesn’t sell as well as it should. Wine growers, makers, sellers and converted consumers argue why, but it doesn’t change the situation. The ‘Summer of Riesling’ campaign is one promotion that is working to further the interest in Riesling, but I’d imagine the variable styles and sweetness levels, the very factors which make it great, also work against it being understood, and thus, sold and enjoyed.

Of 106 Rieslings tasted, 12 were awarded 5-stars, 4 gained 4 ½ -star status and 17 at 4-star level, this high proportion indicating the general high quality. The ‘Top 10’ in order are: Invivo Central Otago 2013, Fromm Spatlese 2013, Zephyr 2012, Aurum Dry 2009, Domain Road ‘The Water Race’ Dry 2013, Spy Valley ‘Envoy’ 2010, Villa Maria ‘PB’ Marlborough Dry 2013, Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Marlborough Dry 2013, Tohu 2013 and Villa Maria ‘Cellar Selection’ Marlbrorough Dry 2013. 16 wines were listed as ‘Best Buys’, 8 of these 5-star wines, this result showing the exceptionally high value the variety offers.

Pinot Gris
The Cuisine judging panel were also very enthusiastic about the progress made in Pinot Gris, the quality of the wines from this tasting allowing a ‘Top 5’ selection to be made, something not done in recent years. All of the top wines were from Marlborough and the 2013 vintage. The wines are: Tupari 2013 and Mount Riley 2013, these two being 5-star wines, and the others Rochfort Rees 2013, Wairau River 2013 and Sanctuary 2013, these rated at 4 ½ -stars.

A better indication of how well the variety fares can be seen by the overall results. Of 145 wines tasted, there were 2 5-star wines, 4 rated at 4 ½ -stars and 24 with a 4-star rating. 77 Pinot Gris wines were assessed at ‘no-award’. There were 10 wines group as ‘Best Buys’. The situation shows a degree of separation in that the variety is commercially very successful, despite the relative less depth of quality. Clearly the ‘inoffensive, easy-drinking’ style of the variety is why it succeeds!

I find Pinot Gris one of the more challenging varieties or styles to assess. It’s more subtle nature lends itself to being focussed on one aspect or trait as a quality criterion, such as aromatics, sweetness and richness or phenolics. All must be in balance, and yet one or more of these must be a driver for quality. The results of this tasting showed quite a number of ‘second tier’ wines come through with high ratings, better than the more aspirational labels. Sanctuary, Spinyback, Dashwood, Ribbonwood and Saint Clair ‘Vicars Choice’ are not the top level wines. Is this because of greater pheolics or obvious flavours being present? Maybe the ‘top’ wines weren’t entered? This also begs the question: on what basis are winemakers and producers separating what they make into higher and lesser labels?

The Gewurztraminer class was much smaller than Riesling and Pinot Gris, reflecting the amount under vine in the country. There were 39 wines tasted, of which there was one 5-star wine, 5 wines at 4 ½ -stars and 6 wines awarded 4-stars. The ‘Top 5’ were Zephyr 2013, Johanneshof 2013, Crossroads ‘Milestone’ 2013, Spy Valley 2013 and Bladen 2013. Cuisine’s panel celebrated the diversity of style of these top wines, and discussed their versatility in dining situations.

It’s great to see good judging and good reporting on wine in Cuisine magazine, as seen in this issue. In Cuisine as in all print, the amount of page space devoted to wine is becoming limited. There are always many topics that can be discussed to give more background and thus understanding on the subject matter. It’s a pity that Cuisine can’t do that in the magazine. The associated website www.cuisinewine.co.nz will enable that possibility. I can’t wait for the Cuisine editorial staff and writers John Saker and Ralph Kyte-Powell to take up the challenge to deliver first-rate commentary on the New Zealand wine scene there.


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