Christmas the Kiwi way

If you ask me what my favourite wine is, my immediate answer is ALWAYS New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Not all of them by any means – the mass production that has gone on in the last 20 years or so from the region means there are some awful cheap bottles out there. But the real gems – the wines that are complex, fruity, crisp, refreshing and zingy are a true delight. 

So it was a natural choice to choose to spend our honeymoon (yes, I will get round to doing a post on wedding wine at some point) in New Zealand – and Christmas staying in Marlborough. It didn’t disappoint – sunny days and cool nights, friendly people, lovely food, more cellar doors than you could ever visit and vines as far as the eye can see.

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We stayed at the fantastic Vintners Hotel, where we had our own cabin, and most importantly were close to many of the best vineyards in the area.

We hired bikes on Christmas Eve and set off to see what wines we could taste. We visited far too many to list them all here, but I’ll pick out a few highlights and try and keep it to wines that you can find in the UK too.

DSC00459First up was Whitehaven, who have their cellar door as part of the lovely Vines Village on Rapaura Road. Their Pinot Gris was standout – it’s actually the same grape variety as Pinot Grigio, but this really packed a punch. There was plenty of peach, grapefruit and almond notes going on, with a really crisp fresh finish. The Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc was similarly enjoyable – and you can buy it via Ocado here.

A short distance down the road was the cellar door for No1 Family Estate – a vineyard which only produces sparkling wine. Established by Daniel Le Brun, they produce gorgeous premium Méthode Traditionelle wine. Our favourite was the 100% chardonnay Cuvee Blanc de Blanc, which you can buy via a specialist importer here. If you’re looking for a real talking point next time you serve up some fizz, this is it.

From there we visited Nautilus, Forrest, Fromm and Framingham. Of these, Version 2Framingham was particularly special – they’re known for their Riesling, but for us the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were some of the best we had. If you want to try the Pinot Noir for yourself, check out The New Zealand House of Wine website. Expect a beautifully rounded, very drinkable wine, with a lot more character than your standard bottle. That’s because they use a few whole bunches of grapes in the production process, with the stems giving silky tannins and a gorgeous nose. They also use a smoky oak barrel to add further layers of complexity to the wine, meaning a few savoury and spice notes along with those fruit flavours you’d expect.

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Christmas lunch was, of course, accompanied by wine pairing at the very special Hans Herzog winery. We had sparkling wine to start (80% pinot noir grapes, so a very different style of fizz), as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and a dessert Riesling. The Hans Herzog wines are organic and as natural as possible, which was a real experience. Natural wine is much more interesting to taste, do give it a go if you get the chance.

On Boxing Day we set off to New Zealand’s most coastal vineyard, Yealands. It was simply stunning – a huge expanse of vines right on the coast, with beautiful cliff views and even farmyard animals on the self-drive tour! DSC00532At the tasting we sampled a couple of their Yealands Estate Single Vineyard offerings which were fantastic. You could really taste the difference in the Sauvignon Blanc with the influences of the very mineral soil and seaspray misting over the vines. They also have a much more affordable and accessible version of their Sauvignon that’s available in the UK, including at Co-Op stores and Sainsbury’s.

Do get in touch and let us know what your favourite New Zealand wines are – twitter.com/wineblag or comment below.

 

The Best Exotic Indian Wine?

Have we tapped into a new trend? Peter Tomlinson explores the world of Indian wine in WineBlag’s first guest post.

When you think of countries making wine you may think of the ‘greats’ such as France or the more recent arrivals such as Chile … but India? Well, on a recent business trip to Bangalore I’d spent two weeks avoiding drinking the water, unless it had been fermented with hops and yeast and turned into beer. However, on night 12 of a 13 night trip I saw a bottle of wine in the hotel and asked to take a look thinking it would be imported, but no, it was a local wine from India.

First signs were encouraging, recognisable grape varieties of Cabernet and Shiraz. But, could a wine from India really be anything other than well, disappointing?

India1 India2You’ll see there is a Decanter Commendation label – usually a good sign on any bottle of wine in India or elsewhere. The main soil in India is a deep red colour, and there’s no doubt that this does makes its way, even slightly into the wine. For red wine that’s actually alright, adding to the slightly earthy notes and not at all distracting; for white wine (yes, they make white wine as well) it could be more of a problem. All the usual typical Cabernet and Shiraz tastes were there, the blackberries, peppery etc. which when combined with the earthy undertones made for quite a nice drop of red wine.

Intrigued I tried to find out a little more and discovered the Grover winery is only 25km from the impressive Bangalore (now Bengaluru) airport where I happened to be working, so in easy reach for a future trip. Curiously the grapes in India are harvested in February/ March after the monsoon rains of late autumn and a period of ripening in the drier winter months, with some slightly cooler evenings. In Europe the harvest is usually in late August or September which allows for the maximum ripening in the weaker northern climate. Further investigation revealed a Wine Society of India, with an office in Bangalore and even a Bangalore Wine Village event every two years. Travel really does broaden the mind!

Having now returned home I look back and wonder if the wine really was that good or if the two weeks of wine depravation had somehow skewed my senses and dulled my taste buds. I don’t think so, and there’s only one way to find out…..luckily I have another business trip to Bangalore in a couple of months’ time. Maybe I’ll try another bottle, just to be sure, and even a Chardonnay as well, purely for the purposes of research you understand.

Have you tried an unusual wine? Tweet us @WineBlag or comment below.