To help you choose the best in sparkling wine season I tasted a massive collection of wines from New Zealand and Australia. I’ve chosen a couple of winners in six different classes. If only the best will do you’ll find my short list of superior sparklers in the vintage, non-vintage and Rosé Méthode classes. I’ve also explained exactly what Méthode means and why fermenting wine in the bottle makes the world’s best sparkling wines. These bone-dry bubblies can be enjoyed on their own but they are also great food wines that will brighten up any meal. If you’re wondering what to match with crayfish, crab and many other seafood dishes you’ll find the perfect partner in a serious sparkler. My favourite with salmon is Rosé Méthode.
The Cultural Cringe is back, at least in relation to Australian wine. So says Adelaide-based winemaker Stephen Pannell, of S.C. Pannell Wines. So concerned is Pannell that he’s started a movement to get people to pledge to drink only Australian wine during January.
There is so much interest in ‘new’ or alternative grape varieties these days, not to mention obscure imported wines, that it often seems the retailers, sommeliers and press think traditional Australian varieties are too boring to bother with. The ‘chocolate and vanilla’ diet of shiraz and chardonnay seems completely old hat.
The Limestone Coast and Geelong wine shows could not be more different, but both shone the searchlight on outstanding wines. A fortnight ago I judged at Limestone Coast; a fortnight before at Geelong. Limestone Coast featured some of the biggest wine companies in Australia; Geelong none – just a raft of boutiques.
Sir George Fistonich is a survivor. But the founder and owner of New Zealand’s self-proclaimed most successful winery, Villa Maria, is also living proof of the wisdom of sticking to a quality ethic.
In 2001, Fistonich claims, the Villa Maria group became the world’s first major wine company to eliminate cork from its wines. “By 2001 Villa Maria was a cork-free zone. The aim was to guarantee that the wines would be neither corked nor oxidised and the taste would remain fresh and delicious as the winemaker intended.”
Pinot Gris is not my favourite wine. So it was with some trepidation that I sat down to taste 148 samples, mostly from New Zealand but including a handful from Australia, France and Italy.
At June 2010 New Zealand had 680 registered winemakers. The most winemaker-populated regions are Auckland, Marlborough and Central Otago. Which region boasts the highest number of winemakers?
Which wines age? It’s fair to say that around 90% of all wine doesn’t improve with age. Age-worthy wines fall into two categories; those that are unpleasant to drink when young but get better with age (Barolo is an example) and those that change dramatically with age but are good to drink young and old (top Riesling).
I’m writing this in the Koru lounge at Christchurch airport. Last night the city had it’s biggest aftershock since the quake hit a few weeks ago. I missed it thanks to a large glass (or two) of Central Otago Pinot Noir.
New Zealand makes world class Pinot Noir so it’s logical that we should also be high performers with its younger cousin, Pinot Gris. Pinot Noir is a genetically unstable grape variety that gradually morphed into the pink grape Pinot Gris (grey) and the even paler Pinot Blanc (white). I recently tasted 150 newly released samples and have selected two winning wines, one from Waipara in the South Island and the other from Hawke’s Bay in the North Island.