Hard to credit I know but the 2014 southern hemisphere grape harvest is now just weeks away – and could even begin this month in parts of New Zealand. Heidi Seifried from her family’s winery there reports on a “sensational start to summer in November and early December” with the wind quickly drying up any rainfall so that “canopies are kept nice and dry to minimise disease pressures”. Alastair Maling MW, Head Winemaker at Villa Maria tells a similar story with “a strong flowering and fruit set” leading to “excellent vineyard conditions creating strong expectations”
So, as a curtain raiser to the upcoming harvest, let’s take a look at a few wines from the last (2013) vintage – although not too many have arrived here yet. One that has, is the sauvignon blanc from that Seifried family winery at Nelson – just west of the mighty Marlborough region. 2013 Seifried Nelson Sauvignon Blanc (£12.73 at www.vintagemarque.com) has a predictable frisky and sustained acidity that shouts freshness but that assertiveness will slowly modify to become a mere background for the wine’s traditional gooseberry components. What is especially appealing about this example, however, is the way the pink grapefruit flavours are delightfully underpinned by the orange -centred substance. That is very much the trademark of classy, modern sauvignon.
Top marks also go to 2013 Jealous Sisters Sauvignon Blanc (£9.99 at Aitken Wines in Dundee and Broughty Ferry) –from the Gladstone Vineyard at Wairarapa on the southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. Chief winemaker there is Glasgow-born Christine Kernohan who has ensured that the wine’s minty, lime acidic freshness underlines, but never intrudes on, its other components. These run from an initial green apple crispness via some neat touches of melon to a mellow and pleasing apricot finish. None of that complexity, however, compromises the wine’s essential dryness.
Pinot grigio from the vintage has also arrived here, and 2013 Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Grigio (currently £9.99 at Ellies Cellar shops in Central Scotland) represents a real contrast to the gentle comfort drinking of many Italian PG’s. No one can complain about the lack of acidic balance here; there are firm orchard flavours that harmonise with the wine’s basic off-dry character and enliven it well. That tendency to sweetness centres around some attractive peach touches but there is a savoury and slightly spicy edge too.
While on the subject of Villa Maria and Italy, the company has been experimenting with a very fickle but pleasingly aromatic Piedmont grape variety – arneis. There it is often used to soften robust red wine but in 2013 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Arneis (£12.99 at Tesco) it flies solo to bring us full and deep, pear charged flavours that are lifted by a lime finish yet given a Rhone-style savoury edge. It is an interesting addition to New Zealand’s wine options that seems equally at home with oriental cuisine or seafood dishes.
Our look at less than common wines does not end there. 2013 Stanley Estates Noble Harvest (£13.59 for a half bottle at Great Grog) is a Marlborough sauvignon blanc – but a botrytis affected version. The result is rounded, sweet, orange and honey flavours with a comforting rich texture but – since this is sauvignon – a tangy edge which, here, brings more than a suggestion of tangerines. It is an appealing dessert wine with which to round off both a meal – and this week’s column.
2013 Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc: Coastal Region, South Africa: 13.5 per cent: A new vintage chenin that combines that customary crisp, green apple depth with a long and mellow spicy edge embellished by a slightly surprising – vaguely pineapple – spritz. (£5.99 – instead of £7.99 until 11 February – at Waitrose).
2011 Extra Special Vignes de la Citadelle: Cote de Bourg, France: 13 per cent. A great value and well made claret from the St Emilion side of the river with minty, black cherry and blaeberry flavours, firm but not intrusive tannin, slightly assertive acidic balance and some appealing deep dark colours. (Currently on promotion at £5 with Asda)
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