Drinking wine from New Zealand is not a new thing in my household. Members of the family are Kiwis and my partner likes to pop open a bottle every now-and-then to relive his past holidays. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are two of the most readily available and well-know types of wine from the region. So when Ely Bar and Brasserie put together an evening of wine tasting based on other wines from New Zealand we decided to go along to try something new.
The tasting was held in Ely at the IFSC and the wine boss of the evening was Ian, who had worked very hard to try and find a range of wines outside of the Sav Blanc/Pinot Noir range. During the tasting you are sitting separately to the rest of the venue and all the wines are laid out in front of you and numbered, so you don’t start drinking the wrong one. We were also provided with sheets to help us examine and taste the wine, some wine terms, and a taste chart to help those of us who are a little unsure about the flavours. A handy grid sheet with the names of the wine was available so you could take your own notes (to try and remember what you had drank). There was even a handy map on which I was able to identify the regions of New Zealand and plan my next holiday.
I am mostly a white wine drinker so was very happy that we started with whites. Three were provided for us to taste after we examined the transparency, gave them a swirl and then a good sniff. After this you can take a sip, let some air in and swirl it about before swallowing. I am pretty terrible at picking out smells or flavours. I can tell that it is different to others and what I like but that is about it. If you are like me still give the process a go as practice will build confidence and it is a good bit of fun.
The first wine we tried was The Padder Gruner Veltiner from Malborough. This is a native Australian grape which moved next door to New Zealand. To the group it smelled of citrus and spice, I thought it was a bit raisiny. While others tasted grapefruit and white pepper, I tasted toast but hey it is all subjective! This was the first vintage and it was quite nice but not my favourite of the evening. Food wise I don’t eat meat or fish so most of the recommendations went over my head but I thought it would have went really nice with griddled tofu.
Next we had Kim Crawford Dry Riesling from Marlborough. Now, to confess I usually love Riesling and it would have been my wine of choice until very recently. Usually grown in Germany and Alsace it does well in New Zealand due to the cooler, almost European climate . After a few bad bottles recently I was losing faith in the grape so was hoping that this would deliver. It did and was delicious. Smell wise I did actually get the same citrus and kerosene scents as the group. Don’t worry the smell of kerosene is, according to Ian, perfectly normal in a New World aged wine. Taste wise it was deliciously fruity and would be a perfect match for creamy butter beans. This one was my favourite wine of the evening, but don’t let that put you off reading about the rest of the wines!
The last of the whites was Mount Difficulty Pinot Gris from Central Otago. No, I did not forget part of the grape as Pinot Gris is a richer relative of Pinot Grigio. This bottle was again nice and fruity but had quite an acidy kick to it. This means that the alcohol content is quite high. Drinking this wine I could imagine it going well with green or puy lentil dishes without much spice.
I am not a huge lover of red wine. I hate the way it makes me look like a zombie and the way it dyes my teeth. Up until now I found them quite heavy and dense tasting but through necessity at parties I have found some young reds which I have quite liked. Until they give me blue lips at least.
The first red we tried was Tinpot Hut Syrah from Hawkes Bay. I was sold on the marketing instantly as I love anything that sounds like it was made in a 1920′s bathtub which I could drink while playing Dragon Age 2. Syrah is a native of the beautiful Rhône Valley. This wine smelled like Christmas and wood which may be in odd in some circumstances but it worked here. It tasted of wood, smoke and back pepper and although very nice I preferred the smell to the actual taste. We were asked to guess the alcohol content and I was the closest so I seem to be learning something even if it is just about the alcohol! Food wise this would be perfect with portobello mushrooms or seitan.
Next we had a Kim Crawford Merlot from Marlborough. This wine was sweet and smelled like plums. The group tasted licorice and cloves and I had to agree as it was like cold mulled wine to me. It was a very heavy wine and I would not be able to have more than I glass of it. In fact I gave my second sample to the lady across the table from me who adored it. A kidney bean infused nut loaf would have been good with this wine before maybe switching to something less heavy.
Finally we tasted a Craggy Range Te Kahu Carbernet Merlot one from 2006 and one from 2009. The reason why we tasted two different years was that the mix of grapes was different. I was expecting to like the 2009 one more as I tend to prefer the younger reds but I didn’t. The 2006 was wonderful, like an oaky ribena. Food wise a big juicy portobello mushroom would have matched the dryness of the wine.
The tasting began at 7pm so as you could imagine we were all pretty hungry after work. Thankfully supper is provided with the price of the tasting. The supper provided this evening was duck for the meat eaters and the veggies actually had a choice between risotto and quiche. I couldn’t quite believe it as we never usually get a choice outside of risotto. The quiche was nice and filling and was a perfect accompaniment to an extra pouring of the Riesling.
To finish it was a very enjoyable evening. The wine and food was delicious, the staff friendly, and Ian gave us plenty of knowledge and expertise without weighing us down too much. His anecdotes about different the wines, the vineyard managers and his own experiences added a valuable, personable element to the evening. Luckily for all of us Ely are holding other wine tasting evenings and I will more than likely be back to try some more wine.
(I have not added some of the dates of the bottles as I lost my sheet with the notes on it *facepalm* and apologies)