Kiwi kings of Chardonnay

Posted 16 September 2015

This column was first published in Living magazine in The Herald on Sunday, Auckland, New Zealand, 30 August 2015.

Kiwi winemakers often joke that it takes a lot of beer to make a good wine, but you could also say that it takes a lot of chardonnay to make a good pinot gris.
Chardonnay plays third fiddle to sauvignon blanc and pinot noir in New Zealand. Unlike the dominant duo of savvy and pinot, chardonnay has declined recently; from 3,900 hectares in 2009 to 3200 hectares today. That’s significant and now that gris is nipping at chardonnay’s full bodied heels, it is important that Kiwi pinot gris is big on flavour and dry rather than sweet; as in the past. Pinot gris lacks natural acidity to balance any hint of sweetness, so it is refreshing to taste one from the family who have forged the greatest reputation for top New Zealand chardonnay. Kumeu River Wines has just released four top chardonnays from 2013 (Estate, Coddington, Hunting Hill and Mate’s) and two pinots; gris and noir. Their new Kumeu River Pinot Noir is their best yet, if a tad pricey at $50. The gris is exceptional.

Drink of the week

What: 2013 Kumeu River Pinot Gris 

How much: $25

From: specialist wine stores or www.kumeuriver.co.nz

Why: The grapes were pressed as whole bunches, allowing the winemakers to extract firm tannins, which add a smooth, full bodied grip to this outstanding white wine.

Glass of the week

The world’s poshest glassware company, Riedel, has launched a flash new set of sparkling wine glasses; the Veritas Champagne Glass sells in pairs and are shaped as elegant white wine glasses to accentuate bubbly flavours.