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Sunday 17 April 2011

Private Bin East Coast Gewürztraminer, 2010 - Villa Maria

Gewürztraminer is said to be one of the first grape varieties that novice blind tasters can learn to identify because of its distinctive perfumed aromas; it is certainly one of the most aromatic of all the noble white grape varieties and for that reason was also once considered a good place for beginners to start with its prominent fruit aromas - in the days, of course, before crisp, aromatic, fruit-driven wines were the norm as they are now.

Gewurz stood, briefly, on the edge of greatness a few years ago as being potentially The Next Big Thing after oaky Chardonnay, but in the end that accolade went to Pinot Grigio and these days it seems to have fallen out of fashion again, being mostly known as "the one that tastes of lychees and rose petals and matches with Asian cuisine".

My own experiences rather mirror this pattern - many years ago, as a newly enthusiastic wine drinker, I tried a couple of Gewurzes and initially really liked them. After a while, however, I found the aromatic nature and residual sugar just too much and quickly moved on.

Gewurz grapes
The Gewürztraminer grape originated in Tramin / Termeno in what is now Italy (formerly Südtirol, Austria); with pinkish berries and highly prone to mutation, it is not an easy grape to cultivate, being susceptible to spring frosts and needing to be picked at just the right level of ripeness for the varietal aromas to develop but before it becomes too overblown and blowsy.

The grape does best in a dry, moderate climate and in Europe the best expressions generally come from Alsace where it is made into a range of styles from fully dry to botrytis-affected sweetness.

This Private Bin East Coast Gewürztraminer from Villa Maria is rather different from my early experiences of the grape - it still has plenty of varietal aromas, but instead of dominating like an over-heavy perfume, they form part of a balanced whole; moreover, the residual sugar is expressed in the form of complex fruit sweetness, giving richness and a drier finish.

It is blended from fruit sourced in the moderate-to-cool regions of Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Auckland, Marlborough and Waipara (all along the East coast, hence the geographic tag in  the name), so the emphasis here is more on balanced varietal characteristics than any particular expression of terroir

On the nose, as well as the characteristic lychees and passion fruit, there are some slightly toasty notes with hints of brioche and nuts.

The palate shows some initial mouthfilling fruit sweetness developing into honey; it is ripe and rounded, in part due to the residual fruit sugars but also has a good, complex acidic structure. The finish, which is long and rounded , feels very smooth, seamless and balanced.

The back label notes that the style is intended to be generously-flavoured and approachable; that is certainly the case, and overall, it feels focused and extremely well balanced - rounded and technically well-made, there is enough ripe fruit for quaffing but also the structure to match with food.

You could try this with Thai coconut curry with prawns or chicken, or equally with a jazzed-up roast chicken with plenty of zingy lemon and aromatic thyme.

It has a Gold Medal from the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards, 2011.

£9.99, provided for review.


Villa Maria - http://www.villamaria.co.nz/

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