WSDC Event - New Zealand tasting - away from the stereotypes

What: New Zealand tasting - away from the stereotypes Event Sold Out  
When: 24 Apr 18 ,18:30 -20:30
Where: Army & Navy Club SW1Y 5JN map
See summary here



It’s official – “Brits” are the second best wine tasters in the world (the Times, October 17th 2017 page three).  We came second to Sweden (who are really only the Britons who could not sail long boats and so stayed at home).  The French felt it was the “ultimate affront” to finish nine places lower than the UK.  The teams had to taste twelve wines and identify the main grape, the country, the region, the year and the producer.  One reason for our success was thought to be the exposure to the huge variety of wines that reach the British shores and have done so since Samuel Johnson’s times even though he seems to have had a love hate relationship with wine.  “This is one of the disadvantages of wine – it makes a man mistake words for thoughts” (Boswell’s Life of Johnson). 

So now is the chance to widen, educate and hone the palate with some New Zealand wines from a variety of grapes grown in a range of conditions. 

If you took New Zealand, turned it upside down and dropped it on Europe at the same latitude, then the wine regions would centre on mid Italy and stretch from Bordeaux to Lebanon.  There is very long sun exposure but countered by the prevailing westerly Pacific Winds and a long mountain range between the wind and the vineyards.  The soil ranges from rich to poor so that there are many micro climates and a wonderful chance for diversity.  After many years of müller-thurgau being the most widely planted grape, the 1970s and 80s thankfully saw diversity and expansion. But nowadays, good New Zealand wines are not cheap.

Who started the first winery provokes delightful arguments.  French Marist Missionaries who sailed to New Zealand in 1838 with Bishop Pompallier set up the Mission Estate winery in 1851; sold their first commercial wines in 1870 and claim to be the “birthplace of New Zealand wine”. The Te Mata winery was established in 1896 and claims to be the longest established, still active winery in the country.

Liz Hewitt, inter alia, a dining club committee member, has recently travelled and tasted extensively in New Zealand – someone has to do it – and brought back a hit list of what we should try tonight.  She thought that there were “really no NZ bubblies” and the secretary agrees, but tradition suggests we start with a fizz and Lindauer Brut bottle-fermented pinot noir and chardonnay, made like Champagne, is a vfm (value for money) favourite with many.

Sauvignon blanc forged the New Zealand renaissance with lavish praise and hyperbole from around the world and in 2011 accounted for 70% of the harvest.  Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2015 is made by James Healy and Ivan Sutherland,  ex Cloudy Bay, with extended contact on the lees in old barrels and is thought by the WS to be New Zealand’s most distinctive SB. Greywacke is run by Kevin Judd (English born)  who was a founder of and  winemaker at Cloudy Bay until  2009 when he set off on his own.  He buys in grapes from local vineyards and vinifies them at the Dog Point winery.  The Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2015 is fermented in small oak Barrels with natural yeasts.  We have decanted both and leave you to judge.

NZ chardonnays have recently had bad press (Decanter February 18) with too much “struck match” character.  As an alternative we have Seresin Chardonnay Reserve 2015 (Marlborough) and Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 (Auckland) as examples which we hope show that NZ is getting to approach a Burgundian style, certainly in Kumeu River where the wine maker Michael Brajkovich was the first New Zealand MW.

Now three different grape varieties from some of the top producers.  A viognier from Te Mata: Zara 2015; a gewurztraminer from Villa Maria: Private Bin 2016 and a pinot gris from Three Terraces: 2017 (part of the Ned label empire).

The pinot noirs from New Zealand have a reputation of their own and can be extremely expensive.  We have two from probably the source of the best pinot noir: central Otago, located at the south end of the South Island.  Mudhouse Claim 431 Pinot Noir 2016 uses destemmed grapes, a week-long cold soak, indigenous yeasts and twelve months in new and old oak barrels.  Paul Pujol, the winemaker of Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noir 2013, spent time in Alsace and Burgundy and this – allied with the unusual soil of quartz, schist, clay and a layer of chalk –  reflects in the wine.

Then two pure syrah wines from the temperate climes of Hawkes Bay, 600 miles (960 km to Remainers) to the north in the North Island.  Trinity Hill Syrah on the deep warm shingly soil, cunningly named the Gimblett Gravels (2013), contrasts with Te Mata Bullnose Syrah 2015, based in the limestone hills of nearby Havelock.

For those for whom a tasting is not a tasting without cabernet sauvignon: a Bordeaux blend with Te Mata Woodthorpe Cab Sav and Merlot 2013.

Finally there is a range of sweet wines mainly based on late-picked riesling, but here is a 2011 botrytis-affected late-picked Semillon: Pegasus Bay Finale 2011, Canterbury (South Island)  for comparison with, say, a Barsac.

Tony Wright, Honorary Secretary


Dress Code: Smart casual

Guests: £49
Members: £44

Forthcoming events:
Wednesday 6 June - AGM and Burgundy Dinner at the Army & Navy Club
Thursday 5 July – Tasting at the Army & Navy Club

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