Published NZME Regional Newspapers Sat 1 Aug 2015
In all my years writing wine columns, one of the most common questions I’m asked, is whether it’s possible to find grape juice made from the types of grapes that make wine? Why? Believe me, once you’ve tasted the juice of a wine grape, it’s almost impossible to go back to bland old supermarket grape juice. This’ll sound snobby, but it’s like the juice equivalent of 100% cotton sheets. Once you’ve bought and slept in your first set of crisp, high thread-count sheets – polyester just makes you die a little on the inside.
So what makes wine grapes different? Well wine grapes are grown in such a way as to concentrate and intensify the flavours in the berries – the vines are kept on a tightwire of starvation so the vine channels its energy into tiny, explosively tasty berries. The ‘table’ grapes used to make everyday juice are grown for volume, with big bunches of berries swollen with watery, boring juice.
There are a few wine producers in New Zealand producing non-alcoholic grape juice from the same grapes as they make their wine, and they’re great because they taste like the wine they’d normally make yet they’re sweeter and contain no alcohol. Millton Estate in Gisborne produce an organic juice called Amrita, meaning ‘Nectar of the Gods’. This biodynamic grape juice is made from fruit handpicked, gently pressed and made into juice on just one day of the year.
David Hoskins from Heron’s Flight Vineyard in Matakana produced his first non-alcoholic grape juice for sale in 2004 and they’re hugely popular – particularly his sparkling sauvignon blanc. This week I tasted a new range of pure grape juices from First Press in Gisborne. They’re made from Hexton-gron chardonnay, a lychee-laden gewürztraminer from Patutahi and fruit from Tolaga Bay goes into their merlot and a spicy-sweet rosé crafted from syrah grapes. They’re delicious and available from www.gisbornegourmet.com.
However if you prefer grapes that give you a glow, then check these out…
Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz 2012 $32 ★★★★½
Even if you were somehow blind to the bling on the label (gold medals for Africa here) you’d know as soon as you took the first sip that this wine is astonishingly tasty. It’s scented with red rose, dried herbs, cocoa and ripe black fruits, all of which soak through to the palate. Lionheart is named after grower Carl Lindner, a lifelong protector and devotee of old Barossa vines. Many of his vines, which produce the fruit for this wine, are well over a century old, surviving and thriving on their own roots – a rare thing in our time. www.winedirect.co.nz
Lawsons Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2014 $23 ★★★★½
Tangaliciously tasty quince, crunchy apple, roast pear and spicy, strudel-like flavours make this a definite new favourite for me. Full-flavoured, rich and luxurious to drink – it’s fresh and has a splash of sweetness on the finish. Fantastic with aromatic Indian dishes. www.lawsonsdryhill.co.nz
Hãhã Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 $16 ★★★★
Wow! Bursting with intense passionfruit, lime and peach flavours bouncing around in a bucketload of classic grassy, herbaceous notes, this is a juicy, generous sauvignon that finishes tangy and taut. Great value. www.hahawine.com