Last week, for the first time in history a New Zealand riesling won the London-based International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) Trophy for Single Vineyard White.  The wine in question was the Two Sisters Vineyard Central Otago Riesling 2007 ($35) and now I’m itching to try it myself.  This is a phenomenal international achievement for a kiwi riesling and it just might wake the international wine set into realising that we are not just a nation swimming in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

That said, at the same competition the Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 came away with the highly prestigious Bouchard Finlayson Pinot Noir Trophy. An extraordinary result not just because they were battling against thousands of entries which had poured in from all ends of the globe but because in a freaky coincidence the owner of Two Sisters Vineyard Adam Peren was also (the last time I checked) part owner of Peregrine! Just one year ago the same Peregrine pinot scooped three trophies including the all-important Champion Wine of the Show award at our own Air New Zealand Wine Awards.  It’s an incredible wine but at the positively bargain-basement price of fourty-ish dollars a bottle chances are it won’t last long on the shelves.  Don’t be shocked when I say ‘bargain’ and ‘fourty dollars a bottle’ in the same sentence; great pinot is expensive to produce, and I’ve tried a few lately that cost at least twice that and don’t compare.

Clearly the team at Peregrine are well-chuffed and in a press release issued following the announcement the double-hemisphere achievement Peregrine Wines’ Managing Director and co – owner Lindsay McLachlan said they were all extremely proud and humbled.

“Although we’ve been quietly confident all along with the standards of wines we produce, never in our wildest dreams did we think we would receive two fantastic accolades like this so early in our history,” he said.
“We never thought we would deliver the best wine in New Zealand and one of the best in the world in just our 13th year of operation.  To have a wine recognised by hugely experienced judging panels at different ends of the world is truly unique. I’m not aware of a wine like this that has won to this standard in both hemispheres.”

The press release went on to say that the judging panel was full of praise for the wine. “When you taste a wine like this you understand the term ‘Peacock’s Tail’ in the way that the flavours display themselves across the tongue,” said the panel. “Sensuous, nervously controlled elegance are the hallmarks of this absolutely stunning wine.    This rose effortlessly to its supreme gold mark with the panel.”

Another extraordinary result was that in this, one of the world’s most important wine competitions New Zealand won a phenomenal 305 awards including 18 gold medals, 15 of which were ‘Best in Class’. According to those in the know, this tally of medals blitzes the competition average of 4.9 gold medals per country. Hopefully this precious metal will translate into cold hard cash for our struggling industry. Despite New Zealand being the fastest growing country for volume and value in the UK and our exports to the USA (our third largest market) being up 21%,  times are still very tough out there and our high dollar definitely isn’t helping.  Earning international accolades such as the ones above definitely help where marketing is concerned.

Harnessing the Sun

Nelson has long held the crown of New Zealand’s Sunshine Capital and those extra sunshine hours make it the perfect environment for wine grapes to thrive.  “But if you can trick your vineyard into thinking it’s located just a little bit further north then that’s ideal” says Tim Finn, owner of Neudorf Vineyards and a fan of encouraging light reflection up into the canopy.  “We’ve been using oyster shells which work really well” he says, kicking some of the crackly white stuff back underneath the vines.   “During veraison (ripening) you’ve got two things going on , sugar accumulation and ripening of the phenolics – so more exposure to light encourages that and it means you can pick at an earlier stage of sugar ripeness which of course leads to lower sugar levels and more elegant alcohol levels .  It’s particularly effective in our 10/5 pinot clone which can sometimes have that slightly green, herbal character – that extra degree or two of ripeness helps get rid of that”.  But it’s his pinot gris which really spins my wheels because over all the years I’ve been tasting pinot gris, I can’t recall ever being disappointed with one from Neudorf.  The trick I think is how they manage high alcohol levels (14.5% in the Maggies Block) without a hint of heat in the wine.  Theirs always have freshness, elegance and purity of fruit – and pinot gris is a style where high alcohols tend to stick out like (insert well-used canine reproductive simile here).  Hand-picking is essential to manage the phenolics ( those bitter characters that come from the juice being exposed to the skins and seeds of the grapes during processing) and a hint of drying, phenolic character is really good for pinot gris according to Tim, “it stops the wine from being blousy” he says.  “We come from a winemaking background in New Zealand of getting rid of phenolics, yet I don’t think we should always do that – it’s in the fruit, so you’ve gotta work with it”.   

Sip of the Week

Neudorf Maggie’s Block Nelson Pinot Gris 2011 $26

If you’re a fan of dry Pinot Gris then fret no further.  Perfumed with vibrant, clean pear and quince flavours, this Nelson wine, grown at their Balquhidder vineyard at Brightwater washes over the palate with juicy generosity and leaves a hint of oily texture.  Excellent length of flavour and a tangy, spicy finish just extends the appeal.

Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 $40

I was so mesmerised by the sexy red currant, cranberry, tamarillo, sweet rhubarb and spicy, cocoa-edged aromas that I had to remind myself to stop sniffing and actually take a sip.  Thank the lord I did because this is superb stuff.  Silky, fleshy and sewn together with elegantly elastic tannins and a youthfully fresh finish, this has all the makings of a magical wine with just a touch more time.  Buy from

Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Viognier 2010 $14

Textbook viognier aromatics here – orange oil, apricot and mandarin peel, while in the mouth it’s ripe, rich and boasts a lush, oily finish.  It’s an in-your-face style with warming alcohol and good length of flavour – and is a great partner with sweet and sour pork.

Stoneleigh Latitude Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011 $26

Fresh-cut nashi notes, ginger and elderflower aromas lead to clean, refreshingly sweet pear, quince and honeydew flavours in the mouth.  Sourced from Marlborough’s ‘Golden Mile’ this new addition to the Stoneleigh stable is unfussy, straightforward and juicy and sensational with spice-crusted beer can chicken or garlic and chilli stir-fried prawns.