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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"

A Left Island Impression from the Taste of New Zealand Wine Fair
© text and photos, Murray Almond
2 March 2002

I spent two days at the New Zealand Wine Fair when it was recently in Melbourne and I'll spend the next couple of columns discussing my impressions from it.

A disscussion on the winesThe Taste of New Zealand Wine Fair is a great showcase for New Zealand wineries, both large and small, to present their wines to the industry and the general public. The Melbourne Fair this year included 38 wineries and was comfortably held in the ANZ Pavilion within the Victorian Arts Centre. The makers I spoke to remarked that this was a far better venue than in previous years. My only criticism of the venue was that table wine glasses were used which were not ideally suited for wine tasting. On the second day I took my own ISO glass, which was enviously viewed by a number of people both behind and in front of the stands.

The wineries generally presented a selection of their range for tasting; for example Cloudy Bay did not serve their 'standard' Sauvignon Blanc, choosing instead to highlight the intriguing Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc. Alongside the major wineries such as Montana and Cloudy Bay were smaller wineries seeking a foothold into Australia. Some, like Mills Reef and Okahu, were also seeking distributors in various states.

Across the two days I tasted 110 wines from 23 wineries, I'll go into specific in ensuring columns, but in the meantime are a few generalised impressions:

  • Much of the vineyards in NZ appear to be recent plantings with many in the 3-7 year age bracket, often the wines reflected this young age however once these vines age a bit more the will be a strong improvement, especially in the Pinot Noirs.
  • Sauvignon Blanc is being made in contrasting styles, from the big aromatic grassy styles to the more austere fruit driven styles. This appears to be roughly broken down by region, with the "Marlborough style" distinct from the "Martinborough style". Bottle shapes often reflected this distinction as well. Quality was generally good, the Cloudy Bay 'Te Koko' tasted for the first time showed interesting wild grass characters. Sauvignon Blanc is clearly aimed for early drinking. One maker suggested that it should be drunk before the next vintage comes out; another 'you could age it, but why bother?'.
  • Chardonnay ranged into the heavily worked (oak/malo/lees the whole bit) and those that had better balance to the fruit. My preference is very much for the latter style, which I think provides better impression of the fruit, however I do recognise the quality in the fuller styles when it's there.
  • Rieslings were generally good, ranging from austere to being supported by Residual Sugar, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer provided a nice spicey contrast.
  • The fuller bodied reds tended to be a bit green, as though there was difficulty in ripening, particularly in the 2000 vintage, in a generalised view, especially when cab is included, however I thought the Okahu from the far north produced a good red, and the best full bodied red there.
  • Not too many bubblies shown and ranged from decent quaffing (Lindauer) to classic (Pelorus) to really interesting (Highfield).
  • The wines presented in screwcap were met with interest rather than surprise, with the Australian market already acceptance the screwcap for Rieslings. Forrest Winery from Marlborough presented their 2001 Sauvignon Blanc for tasting in both cork and screwcap. I found that the wine in cork had a muted nose than the screwcap wine, although the palate was consistent in weight and flavour profile across both wines.
  • The winemakers and representatives behind the tables were enthusiastic, informative, and great ambassadors for the New Zealand Wine Industry.

In coming columns I'll present my tasting notes from the wines tasted. The New Zealand Wine Fair is a great concept and congratulations to all involved in the organisation, particularly the Wine Institute of New Zealand.

Click here for notes from the first day of tasting.
Click here for notes from the second day of tasting.

Murray Almond
2 March 2002

Any feedback? Send it to Murray at fromtheleftisland@yahoo.com.au


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E-mail me: winetaster@clear.net.nz