A quick guide to unusual red grape varieties

Last month I looked at the lesser known grape varieties now grown in New Zealand. Now it’s time to look at reds that at least some producers believe might be the “next big thing” in this country. If you feel like a break from Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah this might be a useful shopping list.

Carmenere: This long lost grape variety of Bordeaux surfaced in Chile where they are keen to adopt it as their national grape variety. Tiny quantities are grown here. Mostly blended but Ransom in Matakana (tastings) and TW in Gisborne (tastings) make good examples.

Dolcetto: The name of this Italian grape translates to “little sweet one” although the red wine it produces is distinctly dry. Can make attractive and quite gutsy red. Heron’s Flight (Matakana – tastings) and Waimea (Nelson – tastings) produce it.

Gamay Noir: The grape of Beaujolais where it can make deliciously soft, fruity red. Introduced to this country by Te Mata (Hawke’s Bay – tastings) and now also made by Rippon (Central Otago – tastings). Good early drinking red.

Grenache: Grenache thrives in the heat of the French Rhone valley and in Barossa making rich, spicy red that can be quite classy. To the best of my knowledge Villa Maria (tastings) is the only local producer. I pick that the 2013 vintage will be a cracker.

Marzemino: An Italian variety grown south of Trentino where it makes deep, plummy red. Church Road (Hawke’s Bay – tastings) is the only local maker. 2010 McDonald Series was a cracker while the 2013 is likely to be even better.

St Laurent: An aromatic, dark-skinned Austrian grape that’s the most widely planted grape in the Czech Republic. Forrest (Marlborough – tastings) and Judge Rock (Central Otago – tastings) are the only two producers of this quite impressive red.

Tempranillo: Trinity Hill (Hawke’s Bay – tastings) was the first to make wine from this very distinguished Spanish grape, although quite a few others have followed their lead. Rich, spicy wine with an attractive violet influence. I love it.

Zweigelt: An Austrian red grape cross with St Laurent as one of its parents. The most widely grown red grape in Austria. Crisp and slightly rustic red with red currant and bay leaf flavours. Seifried Estate (Nelson) is the only local producer.

Church Road McDonald Series Marzemino, Hawke’s Bay 2010 – $33.99

Lovely dense wine with a core of sweet fruit balanced by ripe, chewy tannins. Dark berry, spice, liquorice and sweet earth flavours. Mellow, chewy wine in an individual and attractive style. – view on bobcampbell.nz

Trinity Hill Tempranillo, Hawke’s Bay 2010 – $35

Moderately dense, almost jammy, dark berry and violet fruit flavours against a background of toasty oak. Smooth-textured red with an impressively lengthy finish. Good fruit sweetness balanced by fine, drying tannins. Stylish red with cellaring potential. – view on bobcampbell.nz

Waimea Estate Dolcetto, Nelson 2011 – $29.99

Fresh and lively wine with crisp acidity. Vibrant rather than rich and warming. Good with pasta and a rich meat sauce. It has a distinctly European/Italian feel that I rather like. A wine that is definitely made to go with food. – view on bobcampbell.nz

First published in KiaOra Magazine – Feb 2014.

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