Tales of wine, people and travel

Month: November 2018

Bring on the Gamay, Mount Edward Wines

When you’re sleeping with the doors and windows open in late summer in Central Otago, you know that either the climate is changing or it’s a freak weather pattern. Either way, the 2018 vintage in Central Otago was a year with a difference. It was so hot that Otago winemakers were the first in the country to harvest their grapes. This is unheard of in New Zealand where Central Otago can often be experiencing waves of heat alternating with frost, snow and plummeting temperatures.

“We had never seen heat like it – we were sleeping with doors and windows open. As a consequence the windows for picking grapes were quite narrow initially and the acidity was way down. Then we got cold weather in late February and didn’t get any of the rain that other New Zealand regions got, so we have classic Central aromatic flavours. The wines will be a lighter framework and pretty rather than have heavy weights,” says Duncan Forsyth, winemaker and co-owner of Mt Edward Wines, which celebrates its 20th anniversary as a winery this year.

And this week Mt Edward winemakers celebrated 20 years with wine, food and their vermouth – a beautifully aromatic elderflower infused, grape distillation with about 17% alcohol – deliciously fresh and refreshing.

Duncan Forsyth (co-owner) and Anna Riederer make some of the best wines in Central every year, thanks to their quality minded focus and adventurous winemaking.

This is the third consecutive year they have made a Gamay (the Beaujolais grape) and it’s a stunner; my favourite of all the Gamays so far made in this country.

Smooth, soft, ripe and powerfully fruity – the perfect expression of a warm vintage in the world’s southernmost wine region.

Their inspiration is Morgon; one of the 10 top Beaujolais appellations in the rolling hills of this pretty wine region on the west side of the Saone River in France. Wines from Morgon tend to be deeply coloured, juicy, fleshy, soft and structured; everything you want in a red wine.

They drink beautifully when first bottled and can age. The same is true of the 2018 Mount Edward Gamay, which is in short supply, even though its production is increasing by the year. Duncan and Anna made 192 and a half cases this year; a big increase on the 25 cases they made in 2016; their first year of production.

Their Pinots are outstanding too. The top tier is Mt Edward Morrison Vineyard Pinot Noir. A special site, but that’s another story and Central Otago Pinot Noir needs little introduction.

The Mount Edward winery was founded by Central wine pioneer, Alan Brady, who also founded Gibbston Valley Wines and his own brand, the Wild Irishman. Brady was a burnt-out journalist looking for a life style change when he first started dabbling with grape growing and winemaking in Central. And while he has retired (sort of – he’s still keen as mustard on making wine), his influence, involvement and legacy remain pivotal to this most majestic of all New Zealand’s wine regions.

Bud Burst… Wellington Sunday 11 November

Sicily, Mt Etna, winemaker Alberto Graci (right) with Italian wine importer in New Zealand, Marco Nordio

Bud Burst Natural Wine Festival is being held in the capital this Sunday 11 November from 12pm to 6.30pm at the Boatshed and Rowing Club on Wellington waterfront.

This wine festival explores the controversial world of natural wine, exploring concepts such as – is natural the enemy of fine wine? And what is natural wine all about anyway?

To kick things off, I interviewed wine importer Marco Nordio, who is based in Auckland and imports a range of interesting adventurous wines from Italy, including Alberto Graci’s wines; pictured above.


What’s the best thing about Bud Burst?


MN: It is a breath of fresh air in the world of wine. There is energy and innovation in natural wines even if in many cases it is just a return to the original roots of winemaking.  It is about shortening the distance between the land and the wine though non interventionist winemaking.  This method is more difficult than it seems as there is a lot of knowledge to acquire before reaching the  result.  Bud Burst is a great way to expand interest and  knowledge of natural wines.


How many wines will you take there this year?
MN: I will present three wines made by Luca and Carolina Valfaccenda from Roero in Piemonte, Italy. It is a project born in 2010 with the grapes Arneis and Nebbiolo planted in the Roero region, which is near to the more famous Barolo and Barbaresco. They produce five wines. All have a defined personality. There is the south facing Arneis planted in sandy soil, producing an elegant and intensely perfumed Arneis that ends up in their top wine: Arzigh (meaning hazard in Piemontese dialect). In the east facing vineyard there is more limestone with sand and clay soils, which provides the wines with a fresher, more mineral style.
Only a limited amount of SO2 is added to his wines and there is no filtration or  clarification. Spontaneous fermentation and maceration are adopted to extract  attractive structure from the skins of the grapes.
How well do you think most wine drinkers understand natural and low intervention wines?
I think the idea is spreading relatively fast but it still reaches only a small number of wine drinkers.
How can people better understand these concepts?
Those of us working with wine need to provide more information to the public so they can better understand the meaning of natural wine. These wines have a fresh energy and a distinctive personality that is very attractive but it is also about respecting the environment while making these wines. The idea is about leaving the land in the same condition it was before growing grapes and possibly better.
How would you like people to think about these wines? 
I would like people to appreciate the best natural wines for being good wines, first of all.  They can also be a statement in favour of small scale, hands off winemaking that departs from machine based, industrial wine making. It is my opinion that we should also help the wine drinker to discern between good and bad natural wine,  as quality is not a given. 
There is a lot of research and experimentation involved in making a good natural wine and a lot of wine gets disposed of (hopefully) in the process.


Bud Burst


Bud Burst is on Sunday 11 November, 12 noon to 6.30pm, The Boatshed, Taranaki Street, Wellington.


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