Alternative New Zealand

For many wine drinkers, New Zealand is synonymous with a relatively small range of grape varieties, led of course by Sauvignon Blanc, which accounts for almost seven out of every 10 bottles made in New Zealand. Beyond that, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Bordeaux varieties and Riesling are easy to find on retailers’ shelves, but those half dozen or so are far from the full story.

New Zealand now grows a range of alternative varieties from Pinot Gris to Gewurztraminer, and from Gamay to Saperavi. Someone, somewhere on the twin islands is passionate about these less expected varieties.

The small selection below of French, Spanish and Austrian origin, would not normally be associated with New Zealand by most wine drinkers.

The Wines

(2023) Austria's Gru-V in the hands of the talented Jules Taylor, who vinified part of the blend cool in stainless steel, a second portion wild fermented in old French oak. It's aromatically vibrant, cut lime and a shimmer of sherbet over clean apple aromas. In the mouth it is a concentrated wine, quite powerful phenolics adding grippy texture, and plenty of pithy acid, quite slippery and saline in the food-friendly finish.
(2023) From Millton's certified organic range of wines, this has a touch of gold to the colour, and an open nuttiness on the nose. Viognier peach and almond is expressed aromatically, with a touch of guava or something more exotic. In the mouth, textured and quite full-bodied, and that exotic fruit note is there, but driven along by a firmer white fruit and lemon acidity that keeps this taut through the mid-palate and finish. Price and stockist quoted for previous vintage at time of review.
(2023) Hawke’s Bay is the source for this Albariño, Galicia's star white grape now finding popularity worldwide. It's realy fresh, and undoubtedly more aromatic than most Spanish examples, extra pot pourri and sweet but delicate mango and peach lusciousness to the nose. In the mouth a touch of tutti frutti character in this very young wine, which should settle down a bit, as the orangy and lemon tang of acidity and lick of salt balance the fruitiness nicely.
(2023) From the biodynamic Black Estate on the South Island's North Canterbury, this was made in 600-litre barrels, is un-sulphured, and pours with a light haze. Arresting natural wine aromas, expressing fruit skins and nuttiness, sweet new-baked bread and some golden apple fruit. There's a perceptible fruit sweetness on the initial attack, very ripe and punchy fruit, but the light kaolin earthiness and plenty of vibrant Mandarin orange acidity kicks in. Delicious interpretation of Chenin. Black Estate imported by Lea & Sandeman, but no UK retail listing for this Chenin at time of review.
(2023) Cab Franc from Central Otago is a new one on me, this made in extremely small quantities, in older oak barrels, and without added sulphur. Extremely vibrant purple in colour, the nose has Indian ink and blueberry, a very deeply hewn interpretation of Cabernet Franc, coal dust and emerging floral notes adding to the intrigue. The palate is racy, dry, and very, very pure, the bittersweet black fruit and tart fruit skins running into a rasp of tannin and fresh acidity. It's a fascinating wine, showing Otago's cool climate purity but real substance. No UK retail listing at time of review.
(2023) Also from the North Island's Hawke’s Bay, and its famous gravel soils, this saw careful barrel maturation, only about 10% new oak, where it rested for 21 months. It's another vibrantly dark purple wine, aromas of plush black fruit, a touch of cedar, and a pleasing touch of more lifted cassis and violet. In the mouth there's a creaminess to the fruit and texture, quite a primary fruit character with plum skin grip and tartness adding to the freshness of the finish. No UK retail listing at time of review.

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