Summer wines

Summer wines should be as fresh as a mountain stream. They should be packed with intense fruit flavours. They must be able to quench a desperate thirst. They should go equally well with crunchy summer salads, seafood that’s so fresh it’s practically moving and smoky barbecued foods.

Which wines can possibly satisfy that demanding job description? Let me introduce you to Rosé and Gewürztraminer.

Rosé Rocks

Don’t think of Rosé as a wimpy red, think of it as a white wine on steroids. Good Rosé has the freshness, fruit and mouth-tingling acidity that we expect to find in white wine but it also has some of the power and richness that makes us reach for a decent red. Rosé is red wine that’s made for summer drinking.

Rosé is remarkable versatile. It’s the perfect wine for a spot of serious social sipping at the end of a long hard day at the beach but its also great food wine. It has the freshness to match any seafood and the power to handle many red meats. Rosé will snuggle up to anything that can be cooked on a hot plate or grill.

Not all Rosé is equal. I find the drier and fuller-flavoured wines are more suited to food. Unison 2007 Rosé Hawke’s Bay $19.95 (tastings), Puriri Hills 2007 Rosé Clevedon $25.00 (tastings) and Clearview 2007 Black Reef Blush Marlborough $16.00 (tastings) are great examples of wines that I’d pick to match my char-grilled snapper or freshly steamed mussels.

However these more austere food wines are less satisfying when I just want a chilled glass of Rosé to sip without the complication of food. Woollaston Estates 2007 Pinot Noir Rosé Nelson $18.00 (tastings), Ata Rangi 2007 Summer Rosé Martinborough $18.00 (tastings) and Sandalford 2007 Protege $20.00 are perfect picks when you want to be totally seduced by a wine without the complication of food.

Rosé should be enjoyed within a year or two of vintage date while the pungent flavours are at their fruitiest best. For that reason it’s safer to buy wines sealed with a screwcap rather than risk buying prematurely aged wine under cork.

Local wines offer plenty of choice but don’t ignore imported wines, particularly from Australia where Rosé tends to be fuller flavoured and drier or from France which produces the big, spicy, bone-dry classics that warm the hearts of dedicated Rosé drinkers.

Grab a Gewürztraminer

It’s easier to drink than to ask for. If you can manage to say “gay-werts-tram-eener” the person behind the counter will probably regard you as a wine expert. This German grape variety can be a bit of a tongue-twister.

“Gewurtz” translates to spicy, a feature in some of the best examples. The spice character in a big and complex Gewürztraminer often tastes like cloves or root ginger.

The most common flavours in Gewürztraminer resemble flowers – with rose petal high on the list of frequently used descriptors. A good intense Gewürztraminer reminds me of liquid Turkish delight. Some have exotic tropical fruit characters such as lychee and Pawpaw.

Gewürztraminer is usually low in acidity, a feature that adds to the wine’s softness and charm. Anyone who suffers from acid reflux might find that Gewürztraminer offers a safe harbour.

Gewürztraminer has a tendency to leave a slight bitterness in the mouth when the wine has been swallowed. Many winemakers like to leave a little unfermented grape sugar in the wine to mask that bitterness. For that reason most are at least slightly sweet although the best are never cloying.

It’s the heady floral and exotic fruit scents of Gewürztraminer that makes it the perfect wine for summer drinking. You can enjoy the tactile and thirst-quenching benefits of very chilled wine without losing the flavour – Gewurztraminer has flavour to spare.

New Zealand makes many great examples but the French wine region of Alsace famously makes the world’s best Gewürztraminer. These intense, complex and spicy wines are often worth their premium price.


68 wines reviewed, the top 21 featured.

Gold Medal

93 Unison 2007 Rosé, Hawke’s Bay $19.95

Bone dry Rose that reminds me a little of southern French Rose. Quite concentrated berry and spice flavours with good weight and length. Very smart wine for the dinner table.

Silver Medal

90 Woollaston Estates 2007 Pinot Noir Rosé, Nelson $18.00

Pink/orange. Delicate wine with lovely fruit purity. A suggestion of sweetness is perfectly balanced by fresh acidity giving a drying finish. Pretty and charming Rose.

90 Puriri Hills 2007 Rosé, Clevedon $25.00

Pretty pink and dry with a lovely texture and ripe fruit flavours suggesting plum, cherry and raspberry. Very attractive Rose with character and style. A good food wine.

89 Ata Rangi 2007 Summer Rosé, Martinborough $18.00

Appealing wine with quite intense crushed strawberry flavours that linger tantalisingly after the wine has been swallowed. Initially slightly sweet the wine finishes dry. A great aperitif.

89 Sandalford 2007 Protege (Australia) $20.00

Full-flavoured Rose with strong raspberry and wild flower flavours. Great fruit purity and freshness – a real charmer with flavour to spare. A suggestion of sweetness and a pleasantly dry finish.

89 Auntsfield 2007 Pretty Horses Rose Marlborough $24.80

Ripe flavours in the plum/cherry spectrum gives the wine a sunny, summer feel – it oozes charm. Slightly sweet but perfectly balanced with no suggestion of cloying.

88 Clearview 2007 Black Reef Blush Marlborough $16.00

Made from Chambourcin (a French/American cross with good disease resistance) Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Rich, fleshy wine with some white pepper/dried herb characters. Dry and full-flavoured.

88 Tresillian 2007 Rose d’Akaroa Canterbury $20.00

A blend of Merlot (70%) and Pinot Noir (30%). Moderately deep colour with a mix of ripe plum and cherry flavours plus a suggestion of strawberry. Soft wine with gentle flavours. Charming.

87 Fromm 2007 La Strada Rose Marlborough $16.90

Dry Rose with plenty of weight, flavour and texture. Raspberry and strawberry flavours are evident. Stylish wine with character. Good food wine.

87 Wooing Tree 2006 Central Otago $18.90

Quite a full-flavoured Rose from Pinot Noir with appealing strawberry and wild thyme flavours. Soft-textured wine in an off-dry style. Lengthy finish.

87 Peninsula 2007 Oneroa Bay Waiheke $20.00

Flavoursome wine made from Merlot. Berry, floral and spice flavours offer appeal. Smooth-textured Rose with a good balance of fruit sweetness and fine tannins.

87 Vavasour 2007 Awatere Valley Marlborough $25.00

Pretty pink. Dry and delicate with subtle spice and strawberry/cherry flavours. A serious Rose that needs food to bring out its best.

86 Squawking Magpie 2007 Rose Hawke’s Bay $17.95

Pale pink with the delicately aromatic aroma of strawberries and cherries. Slightly sweet at first with a drying and slightly grippy finish. Pretty wine.

86 Crawford Farm 2006 Rose Gisborne $22.00

Full-bodied, dry and quite gutsy Rose with strawberry and spice flavours. Good food wine. Pleasantly peppery tannins on the finish.

86 Banfi 2006 Centine Rose (Italy) $24.00

Attractive flavoursome wine in a fairly dry style. After a year in bottle savoury Bovril-like flavours are beginning to emerge. Quite a complex wine – good food wine.

85 Newton Johnson 2006 Felicite (South Africa) $15.50

Attractive wine in an off/dry style with red fruit and forest floor flavours. Rich and savoury with a hint of spice.

85 Stoneleigh 2006 Marlborough $20.95

Pretty wine with plenty of ripe strawberry and plum flavours plus a suggestion of toasty characters from bottle age. Nicely balanced with a touch of sweetness on the finish.

85 Kim Crawford 2007 Pansy! Rose Gisborne $21.00

Flavoursome Rose with initial sweetness balanced by tannins to give a pleasantly drying finish. Good weight and flavour. A slightly warming peppery finish adds character.

85 Dessert Heart 2007 Central Otago $22.00

Pretty wine with crushed strawberry and crystallised cherry flavours. An off-dry style with a gentle texture, good mouthfeel and reasonable length.

85 Olssens 2007 Summer Dreaming Pinot Noir Rose Central Otago $23.50

Moderately dry and slightly peppery wine with cherry/strawberry flavours. Quite a classy Rose with character and some charm.

85 Domaine de la Mordoree 2006 Tavel Rose (France) $27.50

Made predominanlty from Grenache and Syrah with small amounts of Cinsault and Clairette. Bone dry with an appealing mix of spice, herb and dried fruit flavours.


53 wines reviewed, the top 21 featured.

Gold Medal

95 Vinoptima 2004 Gewürztraminer, Gisborne $54.00

Big, powerful wine with an almost chewy, oily texture. Very complex with layers of floral and exotic spice characters. Very powerful indeed and still remarkably fresh. A truly class act.

94 Saint Clair 2007 Block 12 Lone Gum Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $24.95

Lovely wine with an appealing pungent aroma and wonderful fruit purity. Quite complex with classic rose petal/Turkish delight characters plus anise, ginger and exotic Oriental spices. Absolutely silken-textured.

94 W Gisselbrecht 2005 Gewurztraminer (France) $32.00

Scented spicy wine with lovely delicate rose petal/potpourri flavours plus a subtle spicy influence. Absolutely delicious wine that lingers long after it has been swallowed – a sign of great power.

93 Lawson’s Dry Hills 2007 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $25.95

Incredible concentration of rose petal, anise, liquorice and oriental spice flavours. A wine with a great pedigree – it comes up smelling of roses every year. Long with restrained lusciousness. A proven winner in the cellar.

93 Cloudy Bay 2005 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $34.00

A moderately sweet style with exotic floral, spice and fruit flavours including rose, liquorice, anise, cloves, jasmine and lychee. Very complex wine that’s well worth the price. Powerful with a lingering finish.

Silver Medal

92 Blanck 2004 Altenbourg Gewürztraminer (France) $50.99

More concentrated than the regular label with some savoury bottle developed characters now emerging. Plenty of spice and wild flower characters. Silken-textured wine with a long finish.

91 Kemblefield 2006 The Distinction Gewürztraminer, Hawke’s Bay $21.00

Smooth-textured wine with lifted lychee and floral flavours. Lovely fruit purity. Concentrated yet elegant wine with strong varietal character.

91 Blackenbrook Vineyard 2007 Reserve Gewürztraminer, Nelson $29.50

Concentrated wine with good fruit purity and strong varietal characters suggesting Turkish delight/rose petal. A medium/dry style with a very lengthy finish.

91 W Gisselbrecht 2004 Grand Cru Frankstein Gewurztraminer (France) $47.00

I’m tempted to call this a “monster of a wine” but despite it’s obvious power the wine is fairly elegant and subtle. Wild flowers, cloves and Turkish delight flavours. Moderately sweet with impressive length.

90 Huia 2006 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $24.00

Gentle understated wine with an ethereal texture and lingering finish. Classic rose petal/Turkish delight flavours. A charmer that shows subtlety with considerable power. Will age well.

90 Blanck 2006 Gewurztraminer (France) $36.99

Quite a sweet style with lovely spice and floral flavours. A restrained Gewurztraminer with a silken texture and very lengthy finish. Pretty wine with complexity.

89 Johanneshof 2007 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $20.00

A moderately sweet style with lovely fruit purity and a lingering finish. I like the rose petal characters that show a delicate seasoning of star anise and cloves. The finish is long and the texture silken.

89 Villa Maria 2007 Reserve Gewürztraminer, Gisborne/Marlborough $24.99

Strongly perfumed wine with potpourri, rosewater, anise, liquorice and clove/spice flavours. A complex and appealing wine in a medium/dry style. Richly textured with a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.

89 Forrest Estate 2006 Gewurztraminer Marlborough $25.00

Oily-textured wine with moderately strong Turkish delight and anise flavours. Long and luscious wine with a seamless texture.

88 Kim Crawford 2007 Gewürztraminer, Gisborne $21.00

Unusual Gewurztraminer with very ripe flavours moving into the stone fruit/apricot range of characters. It also has floral and spice. Solid 15% alcohol adds warmth, richness and length – the wine seems to be able to handle it. An intriguing and distinctive wine.

87 Spy Valley 2007 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $19.95

Big, concentrated wine with strong clove/spice, lychee and rose petal flavours. Chunky Gewurztraminer with a good texture and length.

87 Ohinemuri 2007 Matawhero Gewürztraminer, Gisborne $22.00

Ripe, lush and appealing wine with tree fruit/apricot and spice characters. A little initial sweetness dries on the finish thanks to fine tannins. Intense and powerful Gewürztraminer.

87 Saint Clair 2007 Godfrey’s Creek Reserve Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $26.95

Soft-textured and slightly sweet wine with subtle Turkish delight/rosewater and clove-spice flavours. Very pure with a silken texture and reasonably long finish.

86 Huia 2007 Gewurztraminer Marlborough $27.00

Very subtle Gewurztraminer that’s more about texture than taste. Soft, silken wine with good mouthfeel and perfumed, rose petal flavours that build in the mouth. High alcohol is evident on the finish. Has ageing potential.

86 Te Whara Ra 2007 Gewurztraminer Marlborough $32.00

Quite sweet and fairly concentrated wine with a mix of lychee, rose and ginger flavours. Very varietal wine. Soft with good fruit purity.

85 Forrest Estate 2007 Gewurztraminer Marlborough $25.00

Solid varietal wine in a moderately sweet style. Lychee, rose petal and a hint of spice are evident. The wine has a heady perfume and a lingering finish.

First published in Taste Magazine NZ – Feb 2008.

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