Mike Matthews looks at new styles emerging from New Zealand at its New Release trade tasting
Albariño and Arneis may not be synonymous with New Zealand; it's a far cry from the usual fare we are used to. Add in Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Gris, the Blanc's mutant brother, and we get to build a picture of New Zealand's more adventurous side.
As you would imagine, compared to Sauvignon Blanc, these varietals are relatively small in terms of growth and production. In 2003, plantings of Sauvignon Blanc only sat at 4,516 hectares, now that number has shot up to an estimated 17,297ha, the largest of any varietal in New Zealand.
In relation to other plantings, Gewürztraminer - 293ha, Riesling - 868ha, Grüner has a modest 30ha to its name whilst the numbers for Albariño and Arneis are too small to mention, these wines have some way to go to compete, but it is the way forward.
At the New Zealand New Release Trade Tasting, London, these wines were given the opportunity for members of the trade to taste. More than 170 wines were on show ranging from cool sparkling wines, instantly recognisable reds and whites, lastly finished off by some succulent sweeties.
I'm not going to do normal. Instead I am going to focus on the abnormal, in the nicest way of course. Coopers Creek Single Vineyard ‘Bell Ringer' 2012 Albariño, Gisborne, was actually one of my highlighted wines. Give me a punnet of peaches, crush and bottle the juice; this is what you would get. Throw in some additional pear, elderflower on the nose and you are left with a very, very cool wine.
I like Albariño. In the past it would have been a style that that wouldn't normally get me too excited. My palate is more suited to richer, heavier styles. On the other hand these put a smile on my face. Those soft peach characters evokes a memory of me sitting on a beach during the height of summer. What's not to like!
New Zealand Arneis was a new one for me. I've had the Italians, even an Australian, but not a Kiwi. Another from Coopers Creek is ‘The Little Rascal' Arneis 2010, again from Gisborne. The nose exhibited more bitter citrus and petrol notes. The palate was truly dominated by white pepper, not a huge amount of fruit. I won't go overboard on the lack of fruit. You need to take into account that this wine is already two years old. The fruit is there, the pepper will calm down over time but I'm thinking not for another couple of years. It's what I call a developer. Nevertheless still Interesting.
On conclusion the tasting was a fine illustration of where New Zealand is going. The winemakers are showing great enterprise in grape and clonal selection. One or two will take time to for customers to pick up but at least it's not all about Sauvignon Blanc anymore. Don't get me wrong, I love Kiwi Sauvignon; however you can only have so much of a good thing before you get bored.
Innovation is a point I look for in wines and there were a few great innovative wines here. New Zealand is adapting!