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Joelle Thomson's online wine guide

Category: Pinot Gris (page 1 of 2)

Vineyard tales with Lauren Swift

Lauren Swift is the winemaker at Ash Ridge in the Bridge Pa Triangle, Hawke’s Bay, and she’s in Wellington today to taste her new wines with writers here.

The winery she works for is owned by Chris Wilcox (who runs the vineyard in a hands-on fashion) and Sonia, his wife. He is an ex banker who dreamt about having his own winery and bought 9 hectares of land in 2000, which was planted in grapes in four stages from 2005 onwards. In 2007, he retired from corporate life, moved his family to the Bay and made his first wine, a Syrah, in 2007. Initially, the contract winemaker was Trinity Hill.

Winemaker Lauren Swift began at the end of 2012 and has since grown production by about eight fold from 1500 cases to 8000-9000 cases. The estate vineyard is planted in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and a little Viognier – used to co-ferment with the Syrah.

The Ash Ridge wines

There are three tiers of wine made at Ash Ridge. The estate range  includes a barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rose, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah, all priced at $20; the premium range (which often includes one off wines that Swift likes to experiment with) and includes Malbec, Viognier, Chardonnay and Syrah, all priced at $30, and the reserve wines, which include Chardonnay at $40 and a Syrah at $50.

The closures… everything is sealed with a screw cap

Cork was used to seal the reserve wines in the past (Diam) and Swift does not think it added anything to the wines but she prefers the screw caps – “much prefer them”.

The wine tasting…

Body to burn Chardonnay

2016 Ash Ridge Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay $40, 12.5% ABV

Chardonnay clones 15 and 95 were used to make this wine from grapes grown on the Ash Ridge estate at Bridge Pa, Hawke’s Bay. This is a succulent wine with high acid, balanced by a full body, soft mid palate lactic tones and ripe grapefruit, peach and nectarine fruit flavours with a  long finish. Lots of lees stirring, 25% new oak, no fining but the wine has been filtered.

Fruit is the hero Syrah

2015 Ash Ridge Reserve Hawke’s Bay Syrah, $50, % ABV

Two clones of Syrah are grown at Ash Ridge estate vineyard and this wine is a near 50/50 blend of both – the Chave clone and MS (mass selection).  It was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The wine included 25% whole bunches in the fermentation. It’s ruby in colour and overtly peppery in aroma with juicy, bright, intense deep black fruit flavours; 30 per cent new oak was used but the fruit is the hero on the long finish.

Fortifed Syrah…

The 2016 Ash Ridge Ruby Syrah is 20% alcohol and is fermented on skins with 90 grams residual sugar in the wine when it’s fortified. It’s barrel aged for 12 months and sells for $25 at the cellar door.

Hot new Syrahs – Doppio, $150 for two-pack

Doppio is a new wine range from Ash Ridge in Hawke’s Bay was to conceived by winemaker Lauren Swift pin point differences in two Syrah clones – MS and Chave.

“It’s not so we can say one is better, although we all have our preferences,” says Swift.

The two new wines were made from the same vineyard site from which Swift had noticed big differences in the taste of the wines made from each clone. “The Chave clone behaves extremely differently and is always balanced with very little done to it. We spur prune it and have a very open canopy and hardly fruit thin at all whereas with the MS you need to fruit thin a lot – the bunches are huge, it grows a lot of leaf that you’ve got to remove and we trim it two to three times a season whereas the Chave we only trim once when it gets to the top of the posts.”

MS is the clone that is most widely used in Hawke’s Bay.

The wines were aged in barrel for nearly two years and bottled a year prior to release. They are available only in two-packs directly from the winery and were bottled straight from barrel with a smidgeon of SO2. Just 280 two-packs were produced. See website below for further details.

2014 Doppio MS 13% ABV

Bigger bunches of grapes provide big red and black fruit flavours in this full bodied, fleshy and succulent Syrah, which has been the crowd favourite, to date.

2014 Doppio Chave 13% ABV

Thicker skins and smaller bunches are characteristic of the Chave clone, which results in a wine with darker fruit flavours, more mocha and chocolate notes, a fuller body and longer finish. The brix are typically 21 at harvest.

Find out more at: www.ashridgewines.co.nz

Introducing… Soho Wines to Wellington

Soho Wines is now available for the first time ever at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington…

We’ve all got a day job and mine is wine writer and (part time) wine programme director for Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, New Zealand. Today I’m in Marlborough at the second Organic Winegrowers New Zealand Conference, proving the rule that writers are often at large rather than at their desks. But yesterday, the desk took the form of the counter top at Regional Wines  & Spirits while tasting the extensive range of wines from Soho, which sent its roving ambassador, Amber Hatton, to Wellington to launch the wines.

Soho Wines was established in 2009 by Rachael Carter who worked for her father’s wine importation business (yeast, barrels, corks…), prior to planting the seeds of her own wine producing company. It was a smart move. Her experience meant that Carter understood the crippling overheads that owning a winery can bring, so, instead, she uses grapes from a combination of vineyards, including her family’s  and others. She has hand picked a winemaker in each of region from which she produces wine. She has, in a sense, a virtual winery with no fixed abode, aside from its business headquarters in Auckland.

The winemaking team consists of Dave Clouston in Marlborough, James Rowan in Auckland and Grant Taylor in Otago. And so to the wines, which are now all available at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington.

The Soho wines

2016 Soho Stella Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 13% ABV

Young, fresh and intense with flavours of  tropical fruit (passionfruit, pineapple) and citrus (lemon and grapefruit), a light body and a long finish. Very good drink now, which will continue to be lively for 2 to 3 years.

2016 Soho Jagger Marlborough Pinot Gris 13.5% ABV

Its name was inspired by Mick Jagger and this wine is soft, medium bodied and smooth with white fruit (pear, apple) flavours and an off dry style (6 grams residual sugar per litre).

2016 Soho Maren Marlborough Riesling 11.6% ABV

Zingy deliciousness with a light body, refreshingly zesty lime, mandarin and orange zest flavours, balanced high acidity and a long finish. Like a sorbet in the glass, only it has a dry finish.

2016 Betty Riesling 9.4% ABV

The inaugural vintage of this sensational, zesty, intensely flavoured, light bodied Riesling was made with grapes grown in Marlborough, which were treated to an intentional medium style – noticeable sweetness is balanced by crisp acidity, leaving lingering flavours of lime zest, green apples and lemon juice.

2015 Jonny Chardonnay Marlborough 13% ABV

Creamy, soft and buttery, this light bodied, lively young Kiwi Chardonnay comes from Marlborough and drinks very nicely right now.

2014 Soho Carter Marlborough Chardonnay 13.5% ABV

Warm climate Waiheke Island was home to the grapes that went into this full bodied, smooth, richly flavoursome Chardonnay (citrus, caramel, cedar and spice).

2015 Soho McQueen Central Otago Pinot Noir 14% ABV

This full bodied, fruity (redcurrant and cranberries) and spicy young Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes grown in Central Otago’s diverse grape growing regions (mostly Bendigo – one of the warmest, most sun drenched corners of the region) and it is made by winemakers Grant Taylor and Jen Parr.

2016 Soho Syrah Waiheke Island 14% ABV

Waiheke Island Syrah grapes and Auckland winemaker James Rowan are a great team in this dry, full bodied, toasty tasting red wine with its intense spicy flavours of cloves, white pepper and cinnamon. It’s an impressive drink now and will age well for 5 to 6 years.

2015 Soho Revolver Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc Waiheke Island 14% ABV

This is an impressive big red made with grapes grown on Waiheke Island, which provided plenty of warmth to create this deeply coloured, bone dry, intensely aromatic wine with its black fruit flavours and long finish. Drink now or keep for 8 to 9 years.

Wines of the week: Top drops for $20

What’s your wine budget looking like this week?
If it’s anything like mine, a new range of $17 to $20 wines from Mud House in Marlborough may appeal – all five wines are widely available in New Zealand supermarkets and at Glengarry’s stores.

The launch this week of the new Mud House Sub Region Series wines is also timely for another reason – the affordable prices fit right into the new Top drops for $20 section on this website, which will appeal to those who periodically write in to lament the loss of  “Joelle Thomson’s Under $15  Wine Guide (yes, it was later called Joelle Thomson’s Under $20 Wine Guide), which was published every year in New Zealand from 1999 to 2007.

Books can provide great memories but, with publishing in a state of highly contentious change right now, the most logical place to write about all the great wine bargains that winemakers send me happens to be right here – online.

So, the new Mud House Sub Region wines are made with grapes grown in five different areas, hence, the brand name. They are Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc, Grovetown Pinot Gris, The Narrows Pinot Noir, Burleigh Rose (made from Pinot Noir) and Omaka Chardonnay.

The Mud House Sub Region wines

2016 Mud House Sub Region Sauvignon Blanc  $16 to $20

Take a bunch of Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Rapaura in Marlborough, ferment them into a dry wine in a stainless steel tank at cool temperatures to preserve their fruity aromas of lime, green apple and passionfruit, and here you have it – a wine that’s like a white dove because it’s so clean and pure, says its maker, Cleighten Cornelius.

2016 Mud House Sub Region Burleigh Rose  $16 to $20

“It’s now respectable for blokes to drink pink wine too,” says Jack Glover, of Mud House wines, when launching this pale pink, light bodied, dry wine, which is made 100% from Pinot Noir grapes that were grown specifically for a rose rather than a red. The result is a wine with refreshing high acidity that’s nicely balanced by red fruit flavours, without notes of sweetness. It’s a tasty light bodied pink wine, which makes it a crisp, refreshing lead-in to a fuller bodied wine.

Speaking of which…

2015 Mud House Sub Region Omaka Chardonnay $16 to $20

Silt, gravel and clay soils were home to the grapes used to make this   crisp Chardonnay, which puts its freshest, most citrusy foot forward in a  Chablis-like style (think: high acid, super refreshing, light to medium bodied and you’re spot on).

2016 Mud House Sub Region Grovetown Pinot Gris $16 to $20

Grovetown is the closest area to the coast in this new range of wines, so the Pinot Gris grapes in this wine have a zingy touch of acidity, thanks to the slightly cooler site that they were grown on. The wine was fermented at slightly warmer temperatures than the other whites in the range to encourage savoury flavours to develop. It was also regularly lees stirred to develop flavour (the lees are the left over yeast cells, after fermentation).

2015 Mud House Sub Region The Narrows Pinot Noir  $16 to $20

This Pinot Noir comes from grapes grown on a vineyard in the narrowing upper Wairau Valley on a north facing slope, sheltered by large, established pine trees. It’s pale ruby in colour, smooth and tastes of red and dried fruit; raspberries, cherries and cranberries all provide the signature flavours in this lovely fresh young South Island Pinot. (Just 20% new oak was used in the winemaking here, so fruit comes first while savoury, cedar notes are in the background.)

Winemaker Cleighten Cornelius on these wines…

“They are made from grapes grown on vineyards that we have liked for some time and we wanted to divert these grapes into specific wine styles that play to their biggest strengths. The Pinot Noir grapes for the pink wine have higher acidity than many other Pinot grapes we have access to, so it made sense to turn them to good use in a wine style that needs that acidity for freshness while the Pinot Gris comes from a mixture of heavy clay and dark soils, which provides the grapes with more intense flavours and enabled us to make a spicy wine. Each wine is made solely from grapes grown in that sub region of Marlborough, which also gives them a real story of origin.”

Speaking of origins… The New Zealand Geographic Indications Act is expected to be passed by Parliament and able to be used within the next six months, says New Zealand Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan.

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