Decanter contributing editor Stephen Brook is in New Zealand - we catch up with him in Central Otago
A full day in Central Otago on Tuesday, beginning with a regional tasting that showed the wide range of styles on offer from this dispersed region. It also showed the potential for Riesling here.
Global economic trends have put a stop to vineyard expansion, and some have been abandoned – a distressing sight to the locals. Lunched at the spectacular Peregrine winery, with its immense roofs in the shape of a falcon’s outspread wing.
I moved down the valley to Bannockburn, where I toured the area’s vineyards with Michael Herrick from the Mt Difficulty winery, the region’s largest, before tasting a large selection of their wines.
Nigel Greening from Felton Road came to collect me. Nigel, fizzing with energy as always, introduced me to the biodynamic estate’s chickens and cows, and to the winery cat, Jancis. Above her cat-bed is a photo of her patron saint.
I was supposed to dine with Nigel, until someone reminded him that it was his wife’s birthday that day. For some reason he preferred her company to mine, but left me in the hands of Blair Walter, the Felton Road winemaker whom I have known even longer than Nigel.
The wines, as always, are sensationally good, including the Rieslings: the 2010 Block 1 is a dead ringer for a Nahe Riesling from Germany.
Is there any other New World region that can come so close to fine German Rieslings in style? Some older vintages with dinner at Blair’s house, but the celebrated Block 5 Pinot was just too meaty and overbearing for my taste.
The next day I visited other properties: the tiny Pisa Range, with its very consistent and intense Pinots, and the recently planted Misha’s Vineyard, a large site overlooking Lake Dunstan. Richard, the estate viticulturalist, cooked up some whitebait (that resemble elvers more than British whitebait) in the vineyards, washed down by unusually refreshing Gewurztraminer.
A late afternoon flight brought me to Christchurch, and another flight the next morning took me to Wellington, and then by car to Martinborough.
More Pinots! These I sampled in a large blind tasting, with excellent wines from, among others, Alana, Cambridge Road, Margrain, Brodie, Schubert, Escarpment, and Pond Paddock.
In the evening I dined with Hiroyuki Kusuda and his wife, after sampling almost every wine he had made since fetching up in Martinborough in 2002.
Incredibly intense Pinots of real refinement, and some of the coolest cool-climate Syrahs I have ever tasted. And some racy Rieslings to go with the raw fish.
Written by Stephen Brook