Inspired by this week’s masterclass led by Archie McDiarmid from wine merchant Luvians, Peter Ranscombe picks six lesser-known wines from New Zealand.
FEW countries have such a strong affinity with a single grape variety as New Zealand and sauvignon blanc.
Chalking up 72% of the country’s wine production and 86% of its exports, the white grape is synonymous with the Marlborough region, where 89% of the variety is planted.
Yet the stats only tell half the story – it’s the mixture of ripeness and freshness that has made New Zealand sauvignon blanc so popular in the UK.
As Jamie Goode put it at New Zealand Wine’s masterclass in Edinburgh last week, it’s as if the “precision and brightness knobs have been turned up to 11”.
Goode was joined on stage by Archie McDiarmid, manager of Luvians’ bottle shop in St Andrews.
Both McDiarmid and Goode spent much of January on a trade and press tour of New Zealand and so were invited to share their discoveries with wine merchants, sommeliers and journalists in Edinburgh.
Sixteen of McDiarmid’s selections were used in the masterclass, which was followed by a walk-around tasting of other bottles from Scotland’s twin in the southern hemisphere.
Below is my pick of the bottles from last week’s wine tasting to help you explore some of the newer kids on the block…
Staete Landt State of Surrender Viognier, 2016 (£22.10, Hedonism Wines)
Arguably my favourite white from McDiarmid’s selection, this really stood out for me because it was so exciting on the nose, with tonnes of apricot and lemon rind aromas. Those lemon flavours headed in the direction of Turkish delight on the palate, alongside richer peach and a kick of fresh acidity. Superbly balanced.
Astrolobe Wrekin Vineyard Chenin Blanc, 2017 (£17.99 for the 2016, Waitrose)
Don’t be put off by the muted peach and red apple aromas – this chenin really delivers on the palate, with clearly-defined fruit and a delicious savoury edge. A bit pricey when you think about all the exciting chenin blanc produced in South Africa, but worth splurging out on a very special wine.
The Ned Rosé, 2017 (£9.99, Majestic)
Nope, not that kind of ned. This one is full of attractive raspberry and strawberry aromas, which follow-through into fresh red fruit flavours on the tongue. Made from a blend of pinot noir and pinot gris, the acidity is well balanced by the rounded fruit flavours.
Two Paddocks Last Chance Pinot Noir, 2015 (£44.99, Home Delivery Wine)
If you’ve not discovered New Zealand pinot noir yet then you’re in for a treat. Hailing from one of the world’s most-southerly vineyards – hence the “last chance” – this is pinot perfection, with a warm nose full of biscuit, wood smoke and ripe raspberry, leading into spun sugar, sweet raspberry jam and sharper redcurrant flavours on the palate. Owned by actor Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame.
Trinity Hill Tempranillo, 2014 (equivalent to £19, Fine Wine Company)
A really intriguing nose, with red cherry, wood smoke and herbal notes. Forget bargain-basement Spanish supermarket examples, this is a very grown-up tempranillo with an almost cough syrup-like richness to its red cherry, blackcurrant and blackberry flavours.
Stanley Estates Lagrein, 2016 (£16.40, Frontier Fine Wines)
Aye, I had to go look up Lagrein too – apparently, it’s most-commonly found growing in Alto Adige in the north of Italy. That would certainly explain the attractive red cherry and ripe raspberry notes on the nose, with the red fruit joined by spun sugar on the palate. Fruity, yet with enough structure from its tannins to carry off food too.