New Zealand’s Natural Gems
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ON THE NAME
Today's Vintages spotlight shines on New Zealand, featuring 20 items and six in-store-discoveries (a.k.a. ISDs). Thanks to Robert Ketchin, the Canadian rep for New Zealand Winegrowers, I was able to preview the wines being released today, including the ISDs.
With the recent warm weather, I am focusing on the best New Zealand whites. Of course, Sauvignon Blanc is the engine of international sales. I am a huge fan of Sauvignon Blanc, having judged it at numerous international competitions from Argentina to Austria, where I happen to be called Mr. Sauvignon Blanc.
For some, all Sauvignon Blanc seems more or less the same. This is certainly true if you serve it ice-cold, which make senses when you have a really crappy one. Overchilling, however, is a waste of money when you have something special. Tip: Serve it cool so you can savour all its flavours.
Getting down to brass tacks, here is the best buy of the release: St. Clair 2006 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (554196) at $18.95. What makes it special are its distinctive nuances of flavour. Instead of simply being an immense tidal wave of herbal, fresh-cut grass, there is much more complexity. Specifically, look for honey, suggestions of spice, melon and ripe lemon with lingering nuances of warm rhubarb. I love these hard-to-find rhubarb hints, which depend on the specific grape clone, terroir, vinification and vintage.
While six Sauvignon Blancs are on offer, look for two remaining gems from the last release. A definite highlight is the racy Clifford Bay 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (734095) at $19.95, which has both rhubarb and grapefruit nuances. It is very dry and flavourful with very attractive, slightly grassy, lingering, ripe lemon-melon flavours.
If you prefer grapefruit to rhubarb, then you,ll love Gipsie Jack 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (26419) at $20.95. This 100% Marlborough effort is the result of collaboration between two Aussies: John Glaetzer, long-time winemaker at Wolff Blass, and Ben Potts, owner of South Australia Langhorne Creek.
For fans of bold aromatic whites, there is the outstanding, fruit-driven Spy Valley 2006 Gewürztraminer (32870) at $20.95. It too comes from the Marlborough region and is awash in extremely spicy, honeyed lychee-rosewater flavours. Delicious but not for everyone, try it with Thai cuisine or even cold foie gras.
For Chardonnay lovers, one of the finest New Zealand Chardonnays to touch these lips is hidden away as an ISD. Eighty cases of six of the remarkable Villa Maria 2005 Reserve Chardonnay (27227) are coming out today. Do not, let me repeat, do not miss this terrific five-star effort, which is a bargain at $32.95. It has a lovely, bright, ripe-pear purée nose with hints of vanilla. On the palate, the seductive Anjou-pear flavours go on and on.
I must mention one of the best New Zealand Rieslings ever to appear in Vintages: the stunning, lime-tinged, mineral-driven Neudorf 2004 Riesling Brightwater (685800) at $22.95. It comes from Nelson,s Waimea Plains, and had Vintages presented it for tasting, it would be long gone. As of Friday morning this week, 20 bottles of this June 24, 2006, ISD were languishing on the shelves.
Finally, let me suggest something to make you smile: Mount Riley 2006 Savée Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc (32326) at $22.95. From Marlborough,s Wairau Valley and fermented in the bottle, it is dry, vibrant and effervescent with seductive, grassy-peach flavours.
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Saturday, May 26 -
Archibald's 8th Fruit Wine & Food Festival
June 1 - Annual Charity BBQ for Camp Oochigeas
June 5 - Wines of Alsace Tasting
Friday, June 8-9 - Artevino
June 9 - Artevino Gold Medal Tasting Dinner
June 10 - Toronto Taste 2007
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