I love the first line on the Auburn Wines website “We grow Riesling. We craft Riesling. We love Riesling. A lot.” A. Because it intrinsically explains why they chose to become New Zealand’s only riesling-exclusive winery, and B. They used the words “A lot” instead of the words “Bigtime”, “Totally” or “Fully” which they easily could have because with their wraparound shades, beanies and cargo pants, the Auburn crew (girls excepted) all look like be-whiskered Gen-Y snowboarders. Part of the recent Summer of Riesling celebrations involved spending a good few hours tasting my way through sixty seven of the nation’s finest examples region by region from driest to sweetest. Normally at events like this wine writers methodically swirl, sniff, sip, spit, then scribble down a few notes before moving on within a minute or two to the next wine, however by the time I got to the Central Otago table there was a crowd of writers local and international who’d stalled at one wine – the Auburn Bendigo Riesling 2011. I’d never tasted an Auburn wine before and it was, in a word, sublime. “I think, in a previous life, I may have been a Riesling grape” says 29 year old vigneron Max Marriot who joined forces with overseas-based kiwi riesling fanatics Dave Paterson and Andrew Burge to create Auburn back in 2008. How they make the risky, one-variety model work is that they only produce small volumes off unique sites from sub-regions such as Bannockburn, Alexandra, Lowburn and the aforementioned Bendigo. “Riesling has the uncanny ability to coax individuality and expression from its chosen site, whether it’s heavier clay soils, wind-blown loess or weathered schist gravels” adds Max whose passion for riesling “tumbled over me like a recurring wave” as his winemaking career developed. According to Max the more he tasted, the further enamoured he became with the versatility, balance, longevity, purity and loyalty to its origins of riesling. “No other grape expresses the shoes it wears like Riesling. And with its vastly contrasting landscape, higher altitude and southern latitude, Central Otago was a natural fit”.
Central Otago is also seriously dry, notching up the lowest rainfall figures in the country and the 2012 summer here, unlike the rest of New Zealand was one of the driest on record. “Ideal conditions for grapes really” says Max. “The bunches (this year) are a little larger than average and I worry that perhaps after the dry summer, we might see more autumn rain, but we only have a month to hold out before we begin harvesting. I think the grapes tell us more about the season as they’re fermenting, rather than what we see from the weather”.
Rather than naming the company after a location or geographic landmark, the company takes its name from the core colour of the landscape and also from the region’s gold rush history and the classic subregion and station names i.e. Lowburn, Northburn, Parkburn, Bannockburn etc… This “burn” suffix refers to a stream or creek in the Gaelic language. The Auburn lads decided to partner it with Au, the chemical symbol for gold, which incidentally is the colour of the medal they deserve for doing such great things with riesling.
Auburn Wines Bendigo Riesling 2011 $30 With intense minerality and gorgeous honeycomb and lemon aromas it smells so incredibly inviting, followed by a burst of deliciously toasty, nutty richness in the mouth that’s edged with clean, tangy lemon meringue notes. This wine kept changing in the glass and had real personality and persistence on the finish. It’s a sensational wine and one that will cellar nicely over the next 5-7 years I’m sure. For more info on where and how to buy this wine visit www.auburnwines.com
Misha’s Vineyard Limelight Riesling 2010 $27 I love the absolute purity of this wine. White gold in the glass, this sleek and snappy riesling has vibrant floral and citrus notes on the nose followed by vivacious lemon, lime, and honeysuckle flavours which bring your tastebuds to attention immediately. Winemaker Olly Masters is an expert in creating ‘tension’ in his wines, and he’s absolutely nailed it here with pinprick acidity adding zest and texture to the luscious, lime-laden finish. For how and where to buy visit www.mishasvineyard.com
Eden Sparkling NV $14.99 or $22 for 2 Pretty, ballet-shoe pink in the glass and created from Moscato grown in Gisborne, this new sparkling has soft berry and citrus aromas, a refreshing, tangy citrus-like sweetness and a crunchy-fresh finish. Fans of Asti-style wines will love it because far from being fizzy lolly-water, the Eden has real zing and I’d say it’s one of the best examples on the market today. At a positively virginal 6.5%, you’ll be able to have two glasses at lunchtime and still drive your computer and best of all it boasts a re-sealable ‘zork’ which means the fizz will last for up to 10 days (if you’re disciplined enough that is…) Available exclusively from Liquor King stores nationwide or online via www.lk.co.nz