“Have you ever been to New Zealand?” asked several wine producers one after another at Vinum Tasting in Zurich. When I told them that I had never had the chance to visit this astonishing green country, one of them joked that I was only thirteen films away from New Zealand. When you count the distance with films it sounds a lot closer Fortunately, the fresh air of New Zealand spread into the tasting room at Metropol Restaurant through many great examples of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot and Syrah.
There were fourteen tables full of wine and two exciting workshops led by Paul Liversedge MW. I was standing there with Johanna Dayer, a young wine professional and a new Master of Wine student just like me. We decided to go through each table and taste the majority of the wines as we had an incredible challenge ahead of us.
After few tables, the diversity of Sauvignon Blanc had already impressed me. We tasted many young, vibrant, fruity wines but also some barrel aged examples. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were dominating the tasting, followed by some examples of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Merlot and some Syrah. From the beginning, I had this question in my mind: “What’s the next thing for New Zealand?” as it has been a recent debate over the last few years in the wine trade. Indeed, the country is also reputable for its Pinot Noir and aromatics such as Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürtztraminer. Hawke’s Bay is a great source of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot. However, there are some emerging varieties in the country such as Grüner Veltliner, Arneis, Barbera, Montepulciano and Sangiovese. Although there were no examples of these developing varieties, I still tried to ask this question around. “It’s like asking what’s next for Champagne region” said Tom Maling, the Market Development Manager at Constellation Brands. “Sauvignon Blanc is what we do best, and that’s unique” It was exciting to listen how he believes in his work. We tasted different Sauvignon Blanc’s of Kim Crawford on his table including a blend of various parcels and a wine from single-vineyard called Spitfire as it showed us different styles of the grape.
Afterwards, we came across to Liam Steevenson MW, who had become the youngest MW at the age of 27. He was representing a wide range of options but we specifically spoke about how Syrah from New Zealand is attracting more and more attention in the world. We tasted this rich, mouthfulling wine Te Awanga Syrah 2014 (made by Ron Mcdonald) and continued with Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah 2012 from Waiheke Island enjoying the red plums and spices perfectly balanced with refined tannins.
We also had a quick advice session from Steevenson about our upcoming journey of becoming a Master of Wine. He was one of the most optimistic people telling us to enjoy this period and to have fun. I suppose the most important thing he told us was: “ask everything, even if it seems like a stupid question, just ask” It definitely enhanced our excitement and enthusiasm.
It ended up being a very long day with some other great wines. I realized that I was ready to pick out thirteen movies and take the trip to New Zealand at my first chance. For those who are also a fan of New Zealand wines, here are few more discoveries I made:
Giesen Wines: The winery is 100% family owned and managed by three brothers: Theo, Alex and Marcel who are originally from Germany. Today they produce award-winning wines including 7 different types of Sauvignon Blanc. It was interesting to discover the diversity of the grape by tasting wines from one producer. I very much enjoyed the Giesen Organic Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015, exhibiting elderflower and pear notes with a mineral vibrant finish. Another favorite was Giesen The August Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012. The grapes were grown with very low yield. The fermentation was carried out by wild yeasts followed by an extended maturation on lees. On the nose, the wine showed citrus and peach aromas followed by savory notes. The French oak was very well integrated and added an extra texture to the wine. It had a vibrant acidity and resulted in a lively complex wine.
Domaine Rewa: I was not expecting to be amazed by the only bottle of wine standing on the table. Domaine Rewa Pinot Noir Central Otago 2012 turned out to be exceptional with its complex dark fruit notes, spices and savory notes. The tannins were refined and very well balanced with its full body leading to a long lingering finish. I very much enjoyed discovering Domaine Rewa, which has 5.5 hectares of vineyards and released their initial label just in 2011.
Last but not least, we tasted this wine created by the legendary winemaker, Rod McDonald “One Off” Pinot Noir Martinborough 2014. Slightly darker and with a more savory character compared to Marlborough, the wine exhibits dark cherry aromas and herb flavors. One could easily order another bottle before finishing one.