New Zealand’s sweet wines are one of the wine world’s best kept secrets. That’s partly due to the fact that until recently they were banned from being exported to the EU, possibly to protect the interests of sweet wine makers in Europe. Another reason for their avoiding the spotlight is the fact that they simply can’t be made every year. They are the hand-made product of nature and cannot be produced with production-line certainty.
The most celebrated examples are created by a vineyard mould called botrytis cinerea but nick-named “noble rot”. For maximum effect noble rot needs a little moisture to kick-off and then a very controlled amount to do its work slowly and surely. Too much rain and the grapes can split. Too little and the rot won’t develop.
Most winemakers leave it up to nature but a few apply a controlled amount of water through overhead sprinklers. In an ideal season the grapes turn into sugar- and flavour-rich raisins capable of making wine that is truly nectar of the Gods. Ideal seasons are few and far between.
Vinoptima Noble Gewürztraminer, Gisborne 2007 (375ml) – $250
By my reckoning this is the most expensive New Zealand wine ever made (excluding auction prices). It’s also one of the most intensely sweet and unctuous New Zealand wines I’ve ever tasted. A thick, syrupy wine with the texture of thin treacle. Pungent musk, manuka honey, licorice/anise and many other exotic fruits and spices that are simply too hard to identify. Extraordinary wine made by a Gisborne specialist with a fanatical eye on quality. Enjoy it on ceremonial occasions with friends who appreciate great wine.
Spy Valley Envoy Noble Riesling, Marlborough 2010 (375ml) – $29
The juice that oozed out of the hand-picked raisins was nearly half as sweet as Golden Queen syrup. It was fermented slowly in old oak barrels to produce an intense, luscious wine showing a strong honeyed botrytis influence. Rich, luscious wine with a super-smooth texture. Layers of exotic fruits, spice and musk. It’s like liquid Christmas cake. Try it with blue cheese and manuka honey on an oatmeal biscuit – heaven! – view on bobcampbell.nz
First published in KiaOra Magazine – Jun 2011.