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Wine of the Week for week ending 2 June 2002
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Trinity Hill 'Mistral' Roussanne Viognier 2000
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

I really liked this softly aromatic wine when I first tried it. The blossomy fragrance, the oily texture and nutty flavours, the touch of older oak that added structure and complexity, the full-bodied and long lemony finish and the sweet fruit that lingered on the finish.

That was at the winery at the end of March. It was the midst of harvest and the heady smells of fermenting grapes were quite overpowering in the cellar door tasting room. But still I thought the wine in the glass had great potential. I needed to try it again. And so this weekend a bottle was opened.

The pale gold coloured wine had the delicate fragrance of loquat blossoms over lemon and subtle vanillin oak. You smell it and think 'what is it?". It's a 'fresh' aroma quite different to the other NZ whites. I thought it was aromatically fragrant.

In the mouth it's a dry, full-bodied wine, slightly oily in texture and mealy in flavour with flowers and summer meadows, lemon and apricot, a hint of coconut and a touch of lanolin. The lingering lemony finish with that 'sucking on an apricot kernel' dryness fills out with blossoms again.

I enjoyed the wine very much on its own but it is a fantastic food wine and I think many people would enjoy it best in a food situation. Two amazingly successful matches we had were Feta baked with rosemary and roasted garlic; and Salmon and Terakihi Fish Cakes (from the 'Casual Nibbles' cookbook).

Roussanne and Viognier are two of the noble white grape varieties in the Rhone Valley. While Viognier is starting to become known in New Zealand with several labels now being produced, Roussanne is still very much experimental. For Trinity Hill the 'Mistral' was very much experimental too. From their Viognier and Roussanne wines planted in 1997 in their Gimblett Gravels vineyard just one barrel was made, i.e. 300 bottles.

The grapes were hand harvested and whole bunch pressed to keep phenolics to a minimum, then fermented and aged for 6 months in older French oak. Alcohol is stated as 12.5% on the bottle and there is no residual sugar.

John Hancock and his winemaker, Warren Gibson, have a passion for Rhone varietals. While Viognier planting will increase this winter the future for Roussanne is undecided. There was no wine from these varieties produced in 2001, due to the vagaries of the season. In 2002 about 50 cases of Roussanne will be produced while the Viognier will be a component of the Gimblett Syrah.

With such a tiny amount made, it is understandable that the wine is only available from the winery. Be sure to visit the Trinity Hill cellar door when you are in the Hawkes Bay. A tasting costs $5 per person and is waived if a purchase is made. My purchase of the Trinity Hill Mistral 2000 cost $18.95.

Check out the Trinity Hill website for more information about this Hawkes Bay winery.

>© Sue Courtney

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