I love to share my thoughts on how a wine tastes and I can rattle off things like ‘this wine has delicious plum/peach or berry flavours – yadda yadda. However because of that, people tend to ask me “Yvonne, how and when do the winemakers add the plums/berries/peaches to the wine?” and the answer is they don’t. Wine is made out of grapes. Grapes are a plant. Many plants share the same chemical compounds between themselves and some of those ‘compounds in common’ only occur after fermentation has taken place. So that is why merlot smells like plums, chardonnay smells like peaches, syrah smells like peppercorns and sauvignon blanc smells like grass and passionfruit. In sauvignon blanc’s case it’s that classic note of lawn clippings that wine lovers the world over are going crazy for. “But ‘grass’?” you might say. “That’s going a tad far isn’t it?
Finding ‘grassy smells’ in a glass of sauvignon is actually very real because the sauvignon blanc grape happens to share some of the same genetic gobbledegook as grass. Grassiness comes primarily from the following aldehydes: hexenal, trans-2-hexenal and cis-3-hexenal, which are formed from the enzymatic cleavage (which for those lacking chemical cleavage knowledge, is when a compound is split under the action of an enzyme) of linoleic and linolenic acids, which are found in green grapes and they’re also found in grass.
Ever wondered why Syrah and Shiraz wines have such a strong black pepper characters? That would be because the grape (shiraz and syrah are one in the same) contains the same compound that gives black pepper its spicy kick – a compound called Rotundone. Chemists are discovering that fruits, vegetables and organic matter share the same DNA, so why should the grapes that make our wines be any different. I’ve always been curious about the ‘cat’s pee’ thing with sauvignon; until I found out that it comes from sulphur-containing aroma chemicals, such as para-mentha-8-thiol-3-one and 4-mercapto-4pentan-2-one. They’ve been identified in sauvignon blanc, blackcurrants, passion fruit, gooseberry and, I’m sorry to tell you, cat’s pee. No fruit/veges/spices of any type are ever added to a wine to give it flavour, it’s only ever grapes. Grapes are plants. They have smells and flavours in common. There you go. We just did some science.
Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Chardonnay 2017 $19.99 (4 stars)
Chardonnay lovers ahoy! This new vintage of a Marlborough favourite, is heaving with fresh, toasty oak that wraps itself around the core of grapefruit, pineapple and peach perfectly, just like one of those ballerina cardigans. Fresh, generously tropical, bursting with character and has a sexy, caramelized spice note to the finish. Yum!!
Bald Hills Last Light Central Otago Riesling 2010 $28 (5 stars)
How awesome is this wine! I’ll tell you how. Maturing beautifully, this is a superb example of how dry riesling should be standing the test of time. Pure, precise citrus elements shine through creating an intensely clean wave of flavour across the palate and zingy acidity compliments the classic honeysuckle, hints of mandarin, racy lime and lemon and green apple flavours that we all seek in great riesling. So fresh and frisky it’s outstanding with crispy five spice pork salad.
Renato Estate Nelson Pinot Noir 2016 $25.90 (4 stars)
The grape gods must have been smiling on Renat Nussbaumer and his tiny Nelson vineyard in 2016. The fruit ripened beautifully, giving wine that roars with spiciness and the acidity is zesty-fresh and feisty. I get some soy and black tea amongst the usual cherry-suspects.
Summerhouse Marlborough Verdelho 2016 (4 stars)
Finding great verdelho is as awesome as finding cold chicken in the fridge. It’s a very satisfying thing, yet a very rare one here in NZ, with only 4 companies that I know of growing it. Historically verdelho was used to make Madeira, but it’s found a new talent as a table wine. Exotically perfumed with honeysuckle, lime, peach and a squeak of toast from a 9-month stint maturing in older oak barrels the Summerhouse is stunning with teriyaki chicken.
Maison Saint AIX Vin de Provence 2017 $26.99 (5 stars)
Such a beautiful, ballet shoe pink colour, this is quite the most glorious rose I’ve tasted in ages. Classic crunchy-crisp and dry, it’s a true Provence style in that it’s beautifully aromatic, and saturated with cherry and raspberry notes, and spruiking loads of spice. It’s fresh, frisky and fabulous to drink.