“We will NEVER do nine stickies in one year ever again” says a worn-out Dr Andrew Hedley. 2011 is Andrew’s tenth year at Framingham Wines, and to celebrate he and his team thought it might be clever to have a crack at making every style of sweet white wine under the sun. Yet having been called “New Zealand’s best sweet wine maker” by Bob Campbell MW and “New Zealand’s finest riesling producer” by the internationally influential Jancis Robinson MW, were it not for a long post-vintage holiday, throat cancer-survivor Hedley might could’ve easily become New Zealand’s most knackered winemaker.
Framingham’s 15 ha vineyard includes some of Marlborough’s oldest riesling vines, and while a boatload of botrytis rot might cause most winemakers to consider hari kari, for Hedley, assistant winemaker Andrew Brown and viticulturalist Anton Groffen it provided a smorgasbord of possibility. “I don’t know if having this many botrytis-infected wines is a great reflection on our viticulturalist (cue shocked look from Groffen), but hey…” laughs Hedley. “2011 yielded very dry, concentrated botrytis which was just fantastic” he says. “So we started picking and it just steamrolled from there. Once we started we just couldn’t stop, one pick turned into two, two turned into three and by the time vintage had finished, nine individual parcels had been harvested” he says shaking his head “we started hand-picking on the 20th March and finished in May, so it took a long time. We were also working with less than 300kg of fruit in some cases – so it’s small scale”. Showcasing these wines as part of a national ‘Tasty Tour’, Hedley, Brown and Groffen all agree that the conditions of 2011 extended the vintage out beyond normal parameters and they admit achieving this again is nigh-on impossible. “We’re not even sure we could be bothered again, plus we’re all really unfit. We’d probably need someone to run around making us cups of tea and deliver us energy drinks and the budget probably wouldn’t extend to that”.
Hedley is passionate about and clearly highly influenced by German riesling styles. Replicating the German sweetness scale or “Prädikat System” Hedley’s wines are classified according to their ‘Minimum Oechsle (pronounced ‘urk – sla’) or ‘must weight’ level. They range from The Framingham F-Series Riesling Kabinett 2011 $35 (84.8 Oechsle) which is has light apple essence and soft mineral notes, right through to a Trockenbeerenauslese (182.3 Oechlese) which is one of the most intense wines I’ve ever tasted (see reviews below)
Emma Jenkins, New Zealand’s newest Master of Wine asked “if NZ producers had never heard of Germany, would our winemakers have ever created Riesling’s like these?” Hedley shrugs, “we invite loads of German and Alsatian wine students over to work at Framingham and we suck their brains dry. But honestly, probably not given the lack of a market here for sweet wine and the desire by kiwi’s for high-alcohol styles” he says. “2011 gave us a unique opportunity to create riesling of every style from dry through to super-sweet so we just seized what nature gave us” shrugs Andrew “and we’re pretty happy with the result”. Just between you, me and the next page – I felt incredibly privileged to have tried these wines; it’s unlikely a tasting like this will ever happen again.
Framingham Select Riesling 2011 $35
Sweet pear and white peach aromatics followed by a burst of lime intensity in the mouth leaving an ultra-clean, tangy citrus texture on the finish – delicious.
Framingham F-Series Riesling Auslese 500ml $40
Lifted toffee-edged tropical characters on the nose followed by dried apricot and lemon flavours in the mid-palate. Very satisfying, sweet yet deliciously refreshing.
Framingham Noble Riesling 2011 $35 375ml
Exotically scented with crystallised pineapple and pear notes, while in the mouth it bursts with toffee, marmalade and honeyed heavenliness. Incredibly fresh and vibrant on the finish.
Framingham F-Series Riesling Beerenauslese 2011 375ml $50
Unctuous and silky with toffee, pineapple and candied fruits on the nose and boasting smooth, yet tongue-tingling elegant acidity in the mouth. Beautifully balanced and lengthy.
Framingham F-Series Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2011 375ml $60
Wow! I gave this wine a 20/20 score because it is perfect in every way. Masterfully created from dried botrytis-selected individual berries, scented with fresh-baled hay, feijoa jelly and sherbert-like aromas, it oozes super-concentrated marmalade, toffee, and blue-borage honey richness in the mouth. Silky, ribbon-like and luscious – it is, without a doubt, pure luxury.
The Natives are Restless…
There’s dedication when it comes to brewing beer and then there’s borderline retentive. But attention to purity had paid off for Tammy Viitakangas, head brewer at Kawarau’s Aotearoa Breweries as her range of Mata beers are winning fans around the globe. Tammy drives 16kms to collect containers of pure, certified organic artesian water which are used in every batch. To create the Taniwha Native NZ Ale, arguably her most exciting beer, Tammy and her proud dad Jouni load up the Toyota van with malted barley, chopped up kumara and potatoes and drive 40km’s to Rotorua to lay them down in an earth-oven, hangi style. Once cooked through these ingredients are then mixed with artesian water and yeast (no preservatives or additive nasties) resulting in an incredibly smooth, velvety ale which smells like wild bacon, shitake mushroom and smoke. Hardly surprising was the news that it had scooped a Gold medal at the 2010 BrewNZ awards. It’s only brewed once or twice a year, so visit www.mata.net.nz to enquire about purchasing some of your own. One thing the Mata team aren’t so keen on is peeling day when their Blondie is being brewed. The zest of a large batch of oranges, tangelos or lemons is mixed with a special Belgian yeast, freshly crushed coriander seeds, and a secret spice to make it.
Preserving Southland’s apple heritage is high on Invercargill Brewery’s hotlist. They’re supporting the Heritage Orchard program launched by Robert and Robyn Guyton of Riverton who’re on a mission to save heritage apple varieties by cataloguing forgotten orchards under threat from dairy conversions. “Heritage apples are part of our history and it seems a shame to bulldoze those trees and forget about them” says Invercargill Brewery’s head brewer Steve Nally who’s been making braeburn and granny smith cider since 1999. “The Guyton’s introduced me to more than a dozen apples, most of them tart, cooking styles ideal for cider; and of course the best way to save something is to use it”. Once a year the brewery juices whole apples in the traditional English-style rack and cloth press method. Nally encouraged Southlanders to bring in their windfall apples, or let the brewery know where they could be harvested – one woman even bought in the cores and peels from her annual preserving. “Our Nally’s cider is consistent from batch to batch; with Heritage cider every vintage is distinct – and that’s exciting” he says. www.invercargillbrewery.co.nz