Frivolous pink froth or tasty marketer’s dream?

When I first saw the new wine, Frivoli, at Wither Hills Winery this week, I was impressed by its appealing packaging and the Italian sound to the name, but the taste is even more impressive. Yes, it’s a sweet lower alcohol bubbly, but careful thought about when to pick the grapes means that this wine tastes fresh and refreshing rather than sweet.

Two hectares of Gewurztraminer that were destined for death row have found a new lease of life in a lower alcohol, sparkling pink wine that’s sealed with a crown cap at Wither Hills cellar door in Marlborough.

The wine is only available for purchase at the cellar door and it outsells all others on a hot day, says winemaker Matt Large, who was motivated (with fellow winemaker Sally Williams) to rescue the few remaining Gewürztraminer vines they had amongst their sea of Sauvignon Blanc. While Sauvignon Blanc is the New Zealand wine industry’s cash cow, it now accounts for over 80% of vines in Marlborough and an even higher percentage of total New Zealand wine exports.

This means wines like Frivoli are important for keeping diversity alive and well in the burgeoning sunrise industry that is New Zealand wine today – n ow the country’s sixth biggest export earner.

2016 Frivoli $25, 8% ABV, crown seal and delicious

It rocks a total Moscato d’Asti taste but is made from Gewurztraminer with a miniscule dash (about 2%) of Pinot Noir, which adds the pink colour. It’s carbonated so it can be sealed with a crown seal.

“The idea came out of ‘we’ve got this Gewurz’ – is there anything we can do with it?’ or do we just top graft it and get rid of it? The new wine was first made about 4 or 5 years ago; contains 8% ABV and 50-60 grams of residual sugar, although it doesn’t taste as sweet as that, thanks to picking the Gewurztraminer grapes in a condition that Matt describes as ‘quite underripe’ (between 20-21.5 brix) which helps avoid the intense rose petals and turkish delight character that Gewurz’ can taste of.

It’s also the first bubbly made using the Wither Hills brand name.

Wither Hills wine brand is now owned by Lion NZ.