Te Whare Ra Single Vineyard 5182 Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, NZD $75
I like Gewurztraminer. Many people find the wine too perfumed, too floral or perhaps too sweet. Most find it hard to pronounce (it’s “gay-vertz-tram-eener”). For those reasons Gewurztraminer ranks eighth in terms of production size. It’s difficult to grow, difficult to make and difficult to sell according to one winemaker who continues to make it simply because it produces terrific wine by international standards. The fact that he enjoys drinking it also helps.
I travel to Asia often and love to explore the very diverse dishes from many countries. There’s not much I don’t eat, although I do find sea cucumbers a bit of a struggle. Matching food with wine is a fascinating exercise. I’ve enjoyed some brilliants matches although on several occasions have swapped my wine glass for a cup of jasmine tea or beaker of sake. The greatest challenge has been large banquets in China where more than 20 dishes are served with perhaps two or three different wines. Not every match works well … but its fun trying.
Pinot noir winemakers are either the most sophisticated and intellectual winemakers on Earth, or the most confused. After attending the two recent celebrations of pinot noir, a four-day event in Wellington and a two-day event on the Mornington Peninsula, and several associated events such as a couple of days in Martinborough and the Wairarapa, and a side-tasting of Ted Lemon’s Littorai wines from California, your correspondent is still in shock.
Why don’t more people drink Riesling? The answer, according to a recent survey, is that many people (my wife among them) think that Riesling is too sweet. Most Australian Riesling is dry which perhaps explains why Riesling is less popular in this country where it is more likely to be slightly sweet. The simple explanation for this difference in sweetness can be explained by the relatively lower acidity levels in the warmer Clare and Eden Valleys where much Australian Riesling is grown. Higher acidity levels, particularly in New Zealand’s cooler South Island wine regions, demand that the tangy acidity be balanced by at least a suggestion of sweetness.
Five organic Marlborough wineries recently got together to form a group with the catchy name of Mana (Marlborough Natural Winegrowers). They are Fromm, Huia, Hans Herzog, Te Whare Ra (TWR) and Seresin. I tasted 53 of their wines. Collectively they are a cut or two above the Marlborough average. Does that mean that using organic winemaking and grape-growing methods produces higher quality wine? Possibly. But it might also indicate that these five wine producers are more quality-conscious than most. It’s hard to prove one way or the other.
Australians could be accused of being obsessed with mono-varietal wines, with some justification. Just look through your local bottle-shop and you’ll see the labels mostly carry the name of just one grape, such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, shiraz or pinot noir.