It’s not my brief to review fruit wines, and I must admit a very limited experience of them, having judged them at A&P shows and the like only around a half dozen times. However, the same rules of quality assessment apply in looking at fruit wines as any grape-based wine. Quality fruit with proper ripeness handled with sensitivity is the basis, and the resulting wine must have balance and give pleasure.
However, a visit by Alisha Phelps gave me a bit to think about. She and her partner Damon Pratt want to take fruit wine beyond the popular misconception that it is only sweet and suited to go only with dessert. Their motto is “More tart than sweet” and their aim is to make their fruit-based wines to resemble grape wine, and thus be suitable to accompany contemporary cuisine and dining. Damon went to EIT Hawke’s Bay’s winemaking course, then he and Alisha set up their winery on 0.8 ha of land near Dannevirke, Central Hawke’s Bay. At present, they are making wine from certified organic fruit from growers in the central and eastern North Island, until their own fruit comes on stream. The Ruahine Wine range features dry and medium styles from feijoa, boysenberries and plums. Blueberry and boysenberry fortified wines are in the works, these being uniquely aged in Totara wood rather than oak.
A taste of a selection of the Ruahine fruit wines left me with good impressions. The Ruahine Feijoa Dry 2010 displayed excellent fruit purity with a soft and rounded palate. Not quite dry to be ‘dry’ for me. The Ruahine Feijoa Medium 2010 was more matty in expression, and without quite the fruit definition, but possessed very good balance. A Ruahine Boysenberry Medium 2010 had great vibrancy of colour, as this fruit usually provides, the fruit flavours only moderate in intensity and a little dried through the palate. The 20% alc. ‘port-style’ wines were interesting works in progress. The Ruahine ‘Blue Drake’ ‘Port of Saint Andrew’ made from blueberry was quite light and fragrant, the triple-distilled alcohol spirit showing over the fruit. And the Ruahine ‘Roaring Red’ ‘Port of Saint Bruce’, made from boysenberries, was dark and extremely powerful and concentrated with spicy wood smoke taking centre stage.
The wines show the potential to fulfil the aims of the proprietors. Already, there is evident quality and style, and hopefully Damon and Alisha continue to make progress. For more information visit www.ruahinewines.biz