Report from the quake zone… 

If it wasn’t another foreboding rumble, it was horizontal rain thundering down, thick and fast, from the windy Wellington sky.

But life goes on, even in a city as eerily quiet as Wellington has been this week, following innumerable earthquakes (24 in the past hour, to give you an idea). More on the quakes here Geonet.co.nz but back to wine.

Life going on has meant braving not just the quakes but the traffic jams on State Highway 2 out of Wellington city yesterday afternoon to lead a wine tasting at the Upper Hutt Cossie Club.

The theme was New Wave Kiwi Wines and the only waves in my mind were the threats of a tsunami and severe surface floods on the roads there, which meant an intense backlog of traffic. A journey that usually takes 40 minutes took 2.5 hours and I arrived with 4 minutes to spare and a room of 60 to pour wine for… with their help, we got the first two of six wines into their glasses with 10 minutes and settled into a tasting which revealed a clear winner of a wine: Grant Edmonds’ first ever Albarino – a fresh dry white with a medium body made from 100% Albarino grapes which were hand picked and fermented at cool temperatures in stainless steel – to preserve their fresh green fruit and herb flavours – and then later aged for 5 months on lees (those tasty left overs that absorb oxygen and protect wine, while releasing their own flavours into it). This wine was made with grapes grown on Edmonds’ own Redmetal Vineyards in Hawke’s Bay, from which he produced 130 cases (12 wines per case).

That’s small production by anyone’s measure but, then again, Albarino is a pretty small player in the Kiwi wine scene because it is still a new thing in this country.

This quantity is about as much as Edmonds can make from this vineyard anyway, but he may consider planting more, if the wine sells well. He says he’s had lots of good comments and has also been able to list the wine at the new restaurant, Malo, in Havelock North, which opens 1 December. He also hopes that Wine Chambers in Auckland will list the wine prior to the end of the year.

As for the Upper Hutt Cossie Club tasting last night, this was the most favoured wine of the tasting.

It’s a style that struck a recognisable chord with tasters, whose comments included: dry, fresh, ‘a little creamy, like some Chardonnays’ and ‘lovely and dry to drink’.

For the record, there is no malolactic influence in this wine (that’s the conversion of sharp malic acids into softer lactic ones) but time on lees (left overs after fermentation) provides this wine with a little  roundness, enhancing its complexity, fleshing out the body, providing  smoothness to its fresh green herb (fennel and thyme-like flavours) and Granny Smith apple taste.

The wines we tasted at the Upper Hutt Cossie Club tasting…

2013 Main Divide Riesling
2014 Astrolabe Marlborough Dry Riesling
2014 Redmetal Vineyards Block Five Hawke’s Bay Albarino
2015 Millton Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc
2015 Te Mata Hawke’s Bay Gamay                                                      
2014 Rod McDonald Quarter Acre Hawke’s Bay Syrah