29 December 2007

Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2007

Of the thousands of wines submitted to the 2007 New Zealand Air Wine Awards competition, only three wineries entered Pinotage. All the wines that had been entered were available for tasting on the day of the awards ceremony (tasting tables pictured above). The crowds clustered around the Gold medal winners table but I headed first for 'Alternative Red Varieties'. There among Montepulcianos, Malbecs, Chambourcins and a lonely rare Marzemino I found four Pinotages.

Two of them had received Bronze awards, Karikari ‘05 and Okahu ’06 but I thought the two non-award winning entries from Pleasant Valley at least as deserving.

KariKari Estate Pinotage 2005 (Bronze award)

This wine was rich maroon colour with a purple tinge, and had a smooth silky texture with blueberry flavours and acids on a finish which was a little hot.

Okahu Pinotage 2006 (Bronze award)

Beautiful bright black colour with great mouth feel. Crisp tannins with soft tannins on the finish.

Pleasant Valley ‘Yelas’ Pinotage 2006 (No award)

Bright black core with a purple rim. Soft attractive front leads to blackberry and black cherry flavours over some gentle tannins. It’s a bit tight now and I’d love to taste this wine after it opens up with another year in bottle.

Pleasant Valley ‘Yelas Henderson Valley’ Pinotage 2006 (No award)

This is darker, more intense than the previous, with rounded soft fruity bramble berry flavours and a really good balance finished by integrated tannins and acids. I really like this wine and don’t understand its lack of a medal.

I was intrigued to see what would be a ‘Cape Blend’ in South Africa and (since the name hasn’t been copyrighted) it could be called that in New Zealand.

HiHi “Lock, Stock and Many Barrels” 2006 is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 35% Pinotage and 15% Merlot. It has an attractively soft approachable front – maybe it is that characteristic Pinotage sweetness that has rounded out Cab Franc’s sometimes green edge. “Lock, Stock and Many Barrels” is an easy drinking wine with some bright fruit flavours balanced by enough tannins on the finish to allow aging. (No award).

The annual Air New Zealand wine award competition, announced on Saturday 24 November,is the countries most prestigious. New Zealand has made Sauvignon Blanc its own and is close to claiming the Pinot Noir crown. Not satisfied with them, Pinot Gris and Riesling are also contenders. But the next major variety appears to be Syrah, and the 2007 Champion show wine was Trinity Hill ‘Homage’ Syrah 2006. (Pictured is John Hancock, CEO/Winemaker of Trinity Hill being escortedby grape angels to collect his award).

And after Syrah? Italian varieties are increasingly being planted. Not just the major ones, but also relative unknowns such as Arneis and Marzemino. So why shouldn’t Pinotage – which was a major New Zealand variety in the 1970’s – have another crack at the cherry? Where California is just planting Pinotage, New Zealand already has vineyards of mature Pinotage and winemakers who really understand the variety.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous22:17

    Thanks to alerting me to the presence of Marzemino in New Zealand. A quick google search indicates it is probably from Church Road in Hawkes Bay, who claim to be the only producer of this grape.
    So glad you got to taste the Pleasant Valley wines, as that is the winery we passed the gate of in the Henderson Valley on our 'tiki tour' in the hope we could buy a bottle of their pinotage for our tasting. Alas the cellar door was closed and I've since found out why - it is because they no longer open on Sundays. I've always had a great deal of respect for the 'Yelas' Pinotage. Now you, at least, know why.