Sensuous wines for summer sipping

I love Thai food. There are two Thai restaurants a dangerously short walking distance from my house. Both are BYO. Whenever we decide to have a Thai curry I’m torn between choosing Rosé and Gewurztraminer. Both are a long way ahead of my third choice, Riesling. Rosé and Gewürztraminer have sufficient strength of flavour to handle even moderately flavoursome curries. Rosé is made from red grapes while Gewürztraminer is a pink-skinned grape giving both wines a flavour boost when compared to white wine made from white grapes.

Although we are often not aware of it, most curries balance the heat with a little sweetness. Sweetness in food strips out sweetness from wine. Try sipping a bone-dry white such as Chardonnay next time you enjoy a Thai curry. It will make the wine excessively austere. Most Rosé and Gewürztraminer carry a little sweetness – not usually enough to make the wines taste overtly sweet but sufficient to balance the sweetness in a good Thai curry.

Chillies are now commonly used to spice up many Kiwi dishes which might explain the rising popularity of Rosé and Gewürztraminer. Or it might simply be that wine drinkers are looking for a change from the big sellers Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.

The summer season is another good reason to move to these slightly out-of-the-mainstream styles. Both are quintessential summer wines offering flavour, charm and summer scents. They have enough flavour to survive being served well chilled when they are at their thirst-quenching best.

New Zealand’s top ten Gewürztraminer

It’s common to offer sparkling wine as an aperitif at dinner parties. I generally choose to serve Gewürztraminer – it’s more of a novelty; the lovely, scented Turkish delight flavours stimulate the appetite; it can be served very cold and if you choose carefully it won’t break the bank.

New Zealand Gewürztraminer is very good indeed. We probably make the world’s second best Gewürztraminer after Alsace in the north of France, the variety’s spiritual home. I was staggered at the overall quality of the current crop of Gewurztraminers tasted recently.

Gisborne performed well with two out of my top three wines. That region was helped by the fact that it is home to Vinoptima (tastings), the country’s only Gewürztraminer specialist. Marlborough filled half of my top ten places although that is in proportion to the number of entries from that region.

Astrolabe (tastings) earns my award for “best value” wine.

#1 Vinoptima 2006 Gewürztraminer, Gisborne $98.00

Classy wine from a Gewürztraminer specialist. It has power with restrained and rather complex flavours. Not a showy fruit bomb but a sophisticated statement that has aged well and is probably close to optimum drinking. Suave, focused wine with a great texture. – view on

#2 Huia 2009 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $25.00

Lovely wine with the classic purity and silken texture that I regard as a feature of Huia’s white wines. Seductively aromatic with rose petal flavours in a restrained and highly drinkable style. – view on

#3 Brancott 2007 Patutahi Gewürztraminer, Gisborne $34.95

The wine shows the concentration and purity of fruit delivered by a very successful vintage and by careful vineyard selection. A rich and warming wine with strong rose petal and spice. Drinking well now. – view on

#4 Astrolabe 2009 Voyage Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $21.50

Gently aromatic wine with concentrated Turkish delight, tree fruit, vanilla pod and cinnamon/spice flavours. Silken-textured and appealing wine with strong varietal definition. Moderately sweet but not at all cloying. – view on

#5 Kaimira Estate 2009 Brightwater Gewürztraminer, Nelson $24.00

Big, ripe Gewürztraminer in an Alsace-like style with sumptuous, luscious fruit and pronounced spiciness. Serious wine in a moderately sweet style that shows impeccable balance and a lingering finish. – view on

#6 Saint Clair 2009 Godfrey’s Creek Reserve Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $27.50

Elegant and moderately intense wine with appealing mandarin zest, floral and star anise flavours. An understated Gewürztraminer with impressive length and power. – view on

#7 Glasnevin 2009 Limited Release Gewürztraminer, Waipara $28.00

Fermentation and maturation in oak barrels has restrained the normally exuberant fruit flavours of Gewürztraminer while introducing a savory, toasty complexity. Linear, powerful wine that should be enjoyed with food. Good cellaring potential. – view on

#8 Pegasus Bay 2010 Gewürztraminer, Waipara $31.95

Quite a lush, rich and moderately sweet Gewürztraminer in an almost decadent Alsace style with plenty of spice, floral and savoury flavours. Quite a gutsy style with character. – view on

#9 Framingham 2009 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $28.80

Pure, delicate Gewürztraminer in a subtly succulent style. A truly ethereal texture and impressively lengthy finish are the wine’s strongest features. Floral/white rose, vanilla and very subtle clove/spice characters. – view on

#10 Seresin 2009 Gewürztraminer, Marlborough $30.00

Barrel fermentation has introduced some extra savoury complexity to an already concentrated Gewürztraminer. An off/dry style that’s beautifully balanced and shows classic rose petal and spice flavours with a hint of toasted brioche. Organic. – view on

New Zealand’s top ten Rosé

Wine retailers tell me that Rosé is one of the fastest growing wine styles. That’s certainly true on a global basis. I’m not sure why Rosé is suddenly flavour of the month – I’ve been a fan of the wine style for years.

Perhaps it’s because Rosé fits neatly in-between red and white wine styles. It has some of the flavour intensity of red wine with the crisp, fruitiness of white wine. Weather a bit too warm for red wine but you’re tired of drinking white wine? Grab a Rosé.

The quality of Rosé has suddenly improved in this country, perhaps because demand has increased rather than the other way around. It’s my guess that winemakers are trying just a little bit harder to grab a larger slice of a market that’s growing nicely.

Like Gewürztraminer Marlborough earns 50% of my top ten awards although Waipara, Central Otago and Nelson earned the first three spots.

My best value Rosé, by a large margin, goes to Tussock 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé from Nelson (tastings) which was the only Rosé to earn a gold medal at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

#1 Greystone 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé, Waipara $21.00

Very attractive wine with quite intense sweet fruit flavours, good weight and a lengthy finish. Even more impressive than the flavours is the wine’s silken and quite weighty texture. Classy wine. – view on

#2 Tatty Bogler 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé, Central Otago $25.00

Pale pink wine with a silken texture, good weight and plenty of seductive ripe cherry and strawberry flavours. This wine oozes charm. It is bright and fresh with lovely purity. Terrific Rosé. – view on

#3 Tussock 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé, Nelson $14.99

Pure, scented and charming wine with crushed strawberry, red cherry and aromatic herb flavours. Off/dry in style but with a pleasantly mouth-tingling drying finish thanks to a backbone of fresh acidity. Pure, focused Rosé at a great price. – view on

#4 Fromm 2010 La Strada, Marlborough $19.00

An attractive Rosé with an initial appealing hint of sweetness leading to a pleasantly drying finish. flavors are delicate suggesting cherry and raspberry with a touch of spice. Good food wine. – view on

#5 Fossil Ridge 2010 Rosé, Nelson $21.50

Attractive dry Rosé with pleasantly assertive cherry and raspberry flavours. Good weight and purity together with an ethereal texture. Impressive wine with class and character. – view on

#6 Auntsfield 2010 Rosé, Marlborough $23.00

Delicate, charming wine with subtle summery scents of strawberry and raspberry seasoned with a suggestion of wild herbs. The wine has an ethereal texture and yet is bone-dry. Good food wine. – view on

#7 Framingham 2010 F-Series Montepulciano Rosata, Marlborough $24.95

Flavoursome Rosé with flavours suggesting raspberry, red cherry and a hint of wild flowers. An initial hint of sweetness is balanced by fine tannins and fruity acidity to give a refreshingly dry finish. Stylish and very individual wine with character. – view on

#8 Huia 2010 Rosé, Marlborough $21.00

Benchmark Marlborough Rosé with good colour, impressive purity and a pleasingly dry and lengthy finish. Flavours suggest cherry with a hint of wild herbs. Attractive wine with character and class. – view on

#9 Cambridge Road 2009 Papillon Rosé, Martinborough $22.00

A blend of Pinot Noir (76%) and Syrah with a delicately scented aroma and sweet cherry and raspberry flavours. Charming Rosé with an initial suggestion of sweetness but a fairly dry and lingering finish. Very impressive. – view on

#10 8 Ranges 2009 Pinot Rosé, Central Otago $22.00

Delicate wine that’s still fresh and charming after over a year in bottle, in fact it may be better for it. Raspberry sherbet dab with a suggestion of cherry as well as floral characters. Impressively lasting flavours. Very attractive wine in an off/dry style. – view on

First published in Taste Magazine NZ – Mar 2011.

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