A tasting of aromatic grape varieties from New Zealand. Aromatic varieties do what they say on the tin: their perfume usually reflects floral notes as well as distinctive fruit aromas, sometimes herbs and spices too. It’s a diverse set of wines with no real rules and no real classification for what ‘counts’ as an aromatic variety. Many of the grapes have significant levels of terpenes: compounds including geraniol, linalool and nerol that can give an enhanced, pungent bouquet.
These samples supplied by Wines of New Zealand were to be tasted in pairs, matched mostly on specific grape variety.
Left Field, Albariño 2020Gisborne, New Zealand, Dry White, Screwcap, 13.0% abv
(2021) From Gisborne, this opens with pretty and delicate fresh-sliced apple and peach juice aromas touched by the tang of sea-spray. In the mouth substantial ripeness of fruit has a fruit gum brightness, with very nicely balanced acidity into the finish. Medium-bodied and very drinkable.
Nautilus, Albariño 2019Marlborough, New Zealand, Dry White, Screwcap, 13.0% abv
(2021) A year older than the Left Field example, and substantially deeper in both colour and aroma. There is some straw and hay-like character here over apricot and pear. In the mouth much more exotic and unctuous than the Left Field, guava and scented, super-ripe Ogen melon, lots of tang and orangey vibrancy to the acidity too. A bit of a show-stopper for the often reserved Albariño.
(2021) Very much in the style of an Alsace blend, this is composed of 67% Gewürztraminer, 22% Riesling and 11% Pinot Gris, and is just off-dry with 6g/l of residual sugar. It is a co-fermented 'field blend', with all of the varieties planted and vinified together. Lovely Gewurz spice leads the way here, then relatively subtle florals and fresh herbs, fruit quite cool but gently exotic, like Asian pear and fresh lychee. In the mouth it is the Gewürztraminer that dominates again, a big surge of grapefruit giving the required sourness and freshness to offset more tropical mid-palate fruitiness. Quite grippy in the finish, some fruit skin firmness to round things off.
Te Mata, Zara Viognier 2019Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, Dry White, Screwcap, 13.5% abv
(2021) A small proportion of this is aged in Acacia wood barrels, which perhaps adds to the intense florality of the nose, a really expressive take on Viognier that verges on Gewürztraminer aromatics, and makes sense of the pairing with the Te Whare Ra 'Toru'. In the mouth it is rich in texture and full of luscious fruit, moving into pineapple from apricot. There is acidity here, but I confess the whole thing feels just a little heavy in the mouth.
Escarpment, Gris 2019Martinborough, New Zealand, Dry White, Screwcap, 14.5% abv
(2021) Larry McKenna's Pinot Gris sees a little oak, and has a very pleasantly spicy, lightly floral aroma, the fruit being quite rich and deep: more baked apples and pears, some tarte tatin pastry notes too. In the mouth the sweetness of a little residual sugar emphasises the luscious fruit, lots of succulent nectarine leads to fine citrus. Acid slices through rather beautifully.
(2021) From Central Otago, a little more subdued than the Escarpment version, a little more honeyed, still good spiciness. Again there is a significant level of residual sugar here, the mouth-coating texture of the wine making it quite heady, extremely luscious and off-dry. A full-blown Alsace style this (winemaker Paul Pujol once worked there), but gorgeous acidity sears through giving it great balance too. Delightful.
(2021) Quite a full buttercup colour for a Riesling, and plenty of wax and nettle character on the nose, some fat lemony fruit notes beneath. Off-dry on the palate, there's a bit of slippery weight to the texture and plenty of juicy and ripe fruit here, but it is nicely constrained by the acidity. Quite a stony, salty dryness kicks in on the finish.
Pegasus Bay, Riesling 2018Waipara, New Zealand, Off-dry white, Screwcap, 13.5% abv
(2021) Tinged with green, this is one year older than the Framingham example and has a more intense slate and mineral character, touching into those petrolly aromatics, but also quite honeyed and luscious fruit. Lots of sweetness on the palate, both ripe peach and nectarine, onto mango, but also some residual sugar (over 20gl) and beautifully done I must say. I tasted this wine early in 2021 noting its delightful bon-bon sweetness, and depth of nectarine and mango fruit, and it still has that lime-fresh acidity in a gorgeous wine.