edited by Sue Courtney
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Marlborough, New Zealand
One of my second priorities at Wine New Zealand held in Auckland last week over three days from Sunday to Tuesday, was to find a selection of sweet wines for a magazine article that I have been commissioned to write. Finding sweeties was a lot easier than finding Viogniers (see last week's Wine of the Week) and the Show Guide booklet even listed Dessert Wines on the cross reference page to varieties by stand, 29 in all stands in all, some with more than one on offer. Walking around the room it became clear there were many styles of sweet wine from late harvest to fully-fledged botrytised wines and made from all sorts of grape varieties such as Riesling, Semillon, Muscat, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and even Cabernet Sauvignon.
"We have the climate to make sweet wines", said one of the winemakers to whom I spoke. The wines varied in quality, however, from "simply delicious" to "I’d rather have something else".
It soon became clear that those winemakers who consistently make a dessert wine year in, year out had the edge and my favourite on the day was the Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Riesling 2002. It is light citrine gold in colour with a sweet citrus and honey aroma even when the wine is straight from the fridge, showing more honeysuckle aromas as it starts to warm. It has lovely viscosity and texture, a nectar-like liquid full of orange citrus, lime and apricot with a honeyed toffee finish.
It was a year older than most of the others, which perhaps added to the finesse of this richly concentrated, honeyed wine with great length. It had a seemingly dryish finish that balanced the sweetness and stopped it from becoming cloying, and just a hint of vanilla as it lingered. I licked my lips in pleasure.
"What would you match the wine to?" I asked Kevin Judd, who was manning the Cloudy bay stand at the time.
Like everyone else to whom I had asked the question so far, his preferred response was not dessert but rather food suited to an aperitif. Pate and blue cheese were common answers and Kevin's suggestion of Foie Gras continued the theme.
"But these are dessert wines, doesn’t anyone have them for dessert?".
Kevin shrugged his shoulders and thought for a while then decided that a citrus style dessert that wasn't too sweet, or perhaps a lemon cake, might work.
I knew I had a bottle at home so decided to experiment. Apple strudel and cheese cake from the bakery down the road accompanied my own roasted pear and baked apple.
For the roasted pear, I halved the pear along the core, removed the core and stuffed tangelo segments into the cavity. Slashes were made into the flesh of the cut side and into these I rubbed some of the sweet wine and a little butter. The pears were baked cut side up.
For the baked apple I removed the centre core from a whole Royal Gala apple and into this inserted tangelo segments and a dried apricot to plug each end. I stood the apple on a piece of tangelo peel and with the juices oozing over it as it baked, this piece of peel was a surprising hit with its tart-sweet contrast to the wine.
All the desserts worked well though runny cream on the apple strudel softened the thick pastry to make it more palatable.
Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Riesling 2002 is definitely a true dessert wine and befits the end of the meal. Blue cheese by all means if you please, but try with one of these dessert matches and you may be pleasantly surprised.
The grapes for this wine came from the Ashmore Vineyard in Fairhall and were fermented into wine in small stainless steel tanks and barrels then matured on lees in old French oak for 18 months. Packaged in a 375ml bottle sealed with a cork, it carries 10% alcohol by volume, 141 grams/L of residual sugar and 8.6 grams/L total acidity.
Cloudy Bay is best known for its scintillating Sauvignon Blanc but it is not the only wine this company excels at. Find out more about Cloudy Bay from www.cloudybay.co.nz.
New Zealand does not export sweet wines to E.U. countries but you might be able to be find our sweeties in our other international markets.
© Sue Courtney
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