Cause » Wine » New Zealand
The weekend before last marked the first Pinot Palooza. One of the best ways to spend an afternoon that I could think of: tasting a great cross section of Pinot from across Australia and New Zealand. The guys at The Wine Guide did a brilliant job of bringing it all together, complete with ridiculously loud playing of Gangnam Style and #realperoni in the hands of all of the producers.
We took a bit of a scatter gun approach to the tasting, tasting a few producers whom I’ve not previously tasted (had been looking forward to tasting Bannockburn’s wine for a while), a few randoms and a few old favourites.
Overall I would say that the standing of Australasian Pinot is top notch. Young Pinot vines can sometimes produce a thin, slightly insipid wine which struggles for depth and balance. This is often the kind of Pinot that’s cheaper, but not worth the price of the glass. I can safely say, I didn’t taste a single wine like this. In fact, some of the cheaper wines really held their own.
The following are the photos I snapped of my standout wines. I seemed to have missed taking a photo of what was my favourite wine of the day, the Valli Gibbston Valley 2010.
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The thing I love about Queenstown is it’s diversity. There is a heap of crazy things to do, like bungy jumping, snowboarding and skydiving but aside from all that there are some of the most amazing eating and drinking experiences. My favourite of these is jumping in the car and driving out along the Gibston Valley, Bannockburn and Cromwell and tasting wine at some amazing producers. I’ve been to many of these cellar doors over the years but have compiled my favourites into this tour. They all have great stories to tell and amazing wine to try and buy. I’ve got a few more in depth blog posts about these on their way, in the meantime, here’s a couple of sets of photos I shot on one trip. As impressive as the scenery looks in the photos, sadly they don’t really do it justice.
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Posting may be a little slow over the next few weeks as we are in Queenstown snowboarding. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of eating and drinking.
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Surrounding the towns of Hastings and Napier Hawke’s Bay is a unique part of New Zealand. Driving through New Zealand you start to grow accustomed to the site of vineyards and wineries on all sides, but you certainly won’t get used to the geometric ornaments and motifs of the Art-Deco style of architecture. Rebuilt almost from scratch after a 1930s earthquake, Napier (and to a lesser extent Hastings) gives you the feeling you are in the Truman Show. This strange feeling continues when you seemingly the majority of restaurants and bars are closed for business.The places that aren’t shut are busy until late at night despite them being expensive, pretentious and in my experience the service being below par.
In stark contrast to the City of Napier, the wineries in the surrounding area all emit a vibe of passion and love of wine. Great red wine is the order of the day in Hawke’s Bay with wineries growing Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah) and the odd Pinot Noir. The region is not without its Whites with award-winning Chardonnay and complex aromatics (Mainly Pinot Gris, Riesling and Viognier). The climate provides great wine-making for the rich flavoured reds with hot summer temperatures, low rainfall and long sunlight hours.
Add to this a large number of micro-regions which provide the wines of this area a great deal of diversity. The most renowned of these micro-regions is the Gimblett Gravels region which has very gravelly soil providing a perfect fast-draining basis for the Bordeaux varieties. A number of wineries in the area own vineyards in this small apellation and produce single vineyard and reserve labels from them with amazing results.
We only spent an afternoon and a morning tasting wines in the area but we left wishing we had a whole lot more time, more space in the luggage and some sort of expense account. The wineries we stopped at were:
- Elephant Hill
- Kim Crawford
- Craggy Range
- Te Mata
- Trinity Hill
Having spent a fair bit of time in and around Central Otago wineries and seeing a small part of Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay’s wineries really were something special. Each of the wineries was unique, the staff were passionate, the wines were beautiful and there was a feel of history and of something special in the air. While it may not be the major draw card of New Zealand wine, it for me is what I will remember when thinking of the people and the feel of New Zealand wine.You should follow me on Twitter.
No self-respecting wine lover, or even drinker, who is travelling New Zealand should miss the opportunity to check out the wineries of the Marlborough region. This area is New Zealand’s largest wine growing area and probably it’s most famous. The Sauvignon Blanc’s grown around the Wairau River are becoming known as some of the finest in the world and by visiting any cellar door in the area anybody will see why. Each of the wineries I visited was unique but there was one common theme, the people here love wine and they love to talk about it.
Marlborough is the largest wine growing region in New Zealand with over 11,000 hectares of vineyards growing mainly in the Wairau Valley. The weather is predominantly sunny and dry (when we were there however, there was torrential rain) with hot days and cool nights, this coupled with fast-draining alluvial soils makes this an excellent area to grow aromatic varietals. Sauvignon Blanc is the most respected of these and as Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris are gaining in popularity more of these aromatic styles are being planted and grown.
The majority of wineries are located west of Blenheim around the town of Renwick, there are more cellar doors than you could possibly visit in a day and you would struggle to do it in two. Many of the wineries have restaurants and cafes on site, and you are welcome to picnic on the grounds at others. The whole area is perfectly suited to sitting in the sun (or torrential rain) and enjoying a bottle of the local poison, a few olives and some pancetta amongst the vines. Before you visit it is well worth checking out the Marlborough Winegrowers Association website which has a heap of maps and information about the area.
During our visit we visited 6 and wished we had more time, a driver and a whole lot more money able to spend on sending wine home. The wineries we visited were:
- Wairau River
- Saint Clair
- Cloudy Bay
- Mount Riley
Wine is one of these strange things that a lot of young people drink and love but they don’t become passionate about it until they get older. Peregrine winery, however isn’t the sort of place that is stuck in the same old stereotypes of old people, old buildings and old traditions. It’s hard to expect anything of the sort as you drive down the driveway, the massive white roof of the winery catches your eye, sticking out in a strange harmony with the landscape.
It’s quite difficult to actually see what you are looking at until you get closer, the judges of some bigwig architecture prize described it as “an elegant blade of light” and that “the age-old process of making wine has been radically reinterpreted for our time”. Not really sure how a building reinterprets the wine making process, but each to their own. I think the beauty of the building is it’s multiple purposes – not only does it reduce the cooling costs of the winery, but it acts as a concert stage.
Concert stage you may ask? It turns out that Central Otago summer is perfect for producing wine as the number of awards Peregrine has won attests to. The summer is also perfect for sitting on the lawn, enjoying some good wine, taking in the scenery and listening to awesome bands, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Jose Gonzalez in recent times. Needless to say, the wine flows freely and the weather is great.
Peregrine Winery is a must stop on your way through the Gibbston Valley, preferably in summer when a band is playing but if it’s winter and the mountains are snow capped the wine will still taste great.You should follow me on Twitter.
Driving into Queenstown is quite an experience, following the winding Kawarau River down through the Gibbston Valley and the Kawarau gorge is the sort of drive that you can’t stop looking around in amazement. The problem with looking around with your mouth wide open, is that you might miss the amazing vineyards either side of the road. Now it isn’t just the architecture and landscapes they are built on either, rumour has it that the Pinot Noir is pretty good. Today, I took the opportunity to test that theory – I woke up around 1, jumped in the car and headed to the closest (well not the closest) but the first winery.
Chard Farm, is a beautifully understated vineyard perched on the cliffs of the Kawarau gorge on the old (1860) Cromwell-Queenstown road. The buildings are massive Tuscan-inspired warehouses which were built in 1993 specifically for the vineyard. It is one of the oldest wineries in the area and certainly feels like it truly is part of Central Otago – the clerk at the cellar door spoke like he had been a part of the furniture for the best part of the last 40 years and the wine wasn’t too bad either.
We started by tasting the “CO2” the 21st birthday bubbly, it’s a really refreshing and light bubbly, which really doesn’t have too much more than bubbles in common with champagne. The unwooded chardonnay was a very easy drinking white with very subtle flavours, it’s certainly not what I think of when I think Chardonnay. The Pinot Noirs were all good, if a little too subtle with “2006 the Viper” being my pick, it has a great peppery note and blackberry flavours. Probably the spiciest of the wines we tasted.
At the end of the day, I wish I had have been to Chard Farm last, I think I would have appreciated it more at the time.You should follow me on Twitter.