Update: There will be no new post today. Check back for the upcoming Sunday Suds article. – Cheers, Tyler (5/13/2011)
For those who have been following my Central Coast Saga, I am glad to say that even though I love Californian wine immensely, the series is complete and I can finally move on to some new and exciting things. I’ve been tasting some spectacular wines from both famous and undiscovered regions from throughout the world lately and I can’t wait to cover them.
One of the regions that has captured my attention lately has been New Zealand’s Central Otago. Today we will be talking about two white wines from this fascinating place. I like to think of Central Otago as the Alsace of the Southern Hemisphere. For those who might not know, France’s Alsace, which borders Germany, is a high latitude region with an unexpectedly warm climate, courtesy of a high altitude mountain range that blocks extreme cold weather patterns. The sunny days fully ripen the grapes, yielding rich, complex, and flavorful wines, while the high altitude conditions bring a cooling influence that gives these wines incredible precision and balance.
On the other side of the equator, New Zealand’s Central Otago, located at the southern end of the South Island, sits in a high altitude valley that mirrors Alsace. Central Otago is actually the most southern wine region in the world, at 45 degrees south latitude, and the vineyards average an elevation of around 1,000 feet. Despite all these cooling influences, the vineyards are protected by the surrounding mountains and the climate is moderated.
With growing conditions that resemble Alsace so closely it comes as no surprise that Central Otago specializes in many of the varietals of Alsace, particularly Pinot Noir and Riesling. Today we will be talking about s a Pinot Gris and a Riesling from one of my favorite Central Otago producers.
Wine #1: Rockburn 2006 Central Otago Pinot Gris
Rockburn makes some fantastic wines sourced primarily from two select vineyards in Central Otago. Their line of wines is driven by whites, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling, but it also includes both a rosé and red Pinot Noir.
Their Pinot Gris is made using a fascinatingly complex wine making process. Half of the grapes were harvested early in the season and fermented at warm temperatures to encourage greater extraction of flavor and aroma components, while the other half was harvested later and was fermented at cooler temperatures to preserve crispness. Most of the fermentation was done in stainless steel to keep the purity of the fruit flavors intact, while a small percentage underwent some oak aging to enhance the wine’s body.
Banana cream pie absolutely dominates the aroma of this wine. Some mixed spices, particularly clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon appear, with some graham cracker and vanilla showing as well. A spin in the glass reveals an additional streak of apples and green melon with a crisp mineral edge.
The palate is crisp and fresh with a zip of cut apples and peaches initially. There is a subtle kiss of key lime, some mixed mineral tones, and a very clear lemon zest component toward the mid palate. A subtle roundness also shows around the core, with a soft, spiced cream component driving the silky mouthfeel. This is a well structured wine, with an interesting level of complexity and a good balance between minerality and ripeness. This wine is beginning to show signs of age, and although it is drinking well right now, it would be best enjoyed soon, or from a more recent vintage.
Worth Trying. 88 points.
Wine #2: Rockburn 2007 Central Otago Riesling
Our second wine sources its fruit from a single Central Otago vineyard. The fermentation took place entirely in stainless steel to keep the fruit precise, and it was stopped at a just off dry sugar level, leaving a subtle sweetness.
The nose is sweet smelling and flowery, with lovely spun sugar, banana cream pie, and kitchen spice tones coming through. A spin in the glass reveals orange slices seamlessly integrated firm petrol, rubber, and limestone.
Beautifully balanced, full, and rich on the palate, this wine has impressive intensity. Bright orange slices, pomelo dipped in white sugar, and a touch of vanilla and honey all play into very subtle petrol notes. This is a beautifully balanced wine, with perfect varietal expression, ripe fruit, and plenty of interesting complexity. Very well done.
Worth Trying. 91 points.
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The Grapevine: What’s your favorite New Zealand wine?