The March tasting at the Richmond and Teddington Wine Societies celebrated the wines of New Zealand. Specifically, we focussed on the Family of XII – a fraternity of twelve of New Zealand’s most prestigious and enduring artisanal wineries.
We tasted twelve wines – a top class example from each estate – incorporating Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and Syrah. The length and breadth of the country was represented by Auckland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Martinborough in the North Island and Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury and Central Otago in the South.
This was a fascinating way to approach New Zealand as it allowed us to compare and contrast regions as well as get a wonderful perspective on the rich diversity and incredibly high quality.
Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs were first up with examples from Lawsons Dry Hills and Nautilus. The Lawsons was soft and ripe and contrasted well with the more malic yet very attractive Nautilus.
Many people were then surprised at the elegance of the two Chardonnays from Kumeu River and Neudorf. For the oak lovers, the Kumeu won through but the Neudorf wine found favour with those seeking a softer style.
We then moved into some surprising territory. The Gisborne region deserves to be better known and the Millton estate has pioneered not only this fabulous area but also top notch organic and biodynamic wines. The Viognier was fascinating – perhaps the most commented on wine of the evening. Its extended fermentation has created a wine full of depth and complexity and a little bit away from some people’s expectations.
We concluded our look at the white wines with a fabulous Riesling from Pegasus Bay. 30% was afflicted by noble rot yet the wine was fermented to dryness. This created a deliciously, rich style with many of the earthy aromas of botrytis but without the honeyed sweetness. This would be sublime with a blue cheese or a washed rind Stinking Bishop.
The reds were up next and there was much anticipation for the quartet of Pinot Noirs – the grape variety that has really put red winemaking on the map for New Zealand.
The Fromm Estate Strada Pinot from Marlborough was delicate and easy drinking, the Palliser and Ata Rangi wines exhibited the structure and depth that we have come to associate with Martinborough, and the Felton Road demonstrated the sweet intensity of Central Otago.
Four fantastic contrasting wines that confirmed just how good Pinot Noir can be from a diversity of region.
A Cabernet Merlot blend from Villa Maria in Hawkes Bay was our penultimate wine. From the 2012 vintage, it was a great wine to show the bell pepper and tobacco characteristics of a cooler vintage balanced with a crisp elegant berry fruit.
Our final wines was a Syrah from Craggy Range. Produced from the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawkes Bay – this recently discovered gravelly soil has revolutionised the region and has put Syrah into the frontline. Not many people predicted that twenty years ago!
The wine was rich, spicy and very well balanced with peppery berry fruit and a delightful oaky seam.
Overall, this was a superb selection of twelve wines that reflected the diversity and sublimely high quality that the New Zealand Wine Industry aspires to. The Family of XII is an iconic collection of estates that are united in promoting education and awareness of some of the best wines that New Zealand has to offer.