Wine tasting: New Zealand's Waipara Valley
New Zealand is famed for the beauty of its landscapes and has become a hot location for Hollywood. A recent movie review said: "If a country could be eligible for best actor award, New Zealand could be in the running for every gong going."
When it comes to wine, New Zealand's star is sauvignon blanc from Marlborough. The flamboyant and vibrant aromatics have set the benchmark sauvignon blanc style that wine producers around the world are trying to emulate. Not to be forgotten are the country's other regions and grape varieties that are quietly building up a reputation for producing high-quality wines with unique personalities.
The Waipara Valley is the thriving home to an increasing number of boutique wineries. Located in the north-eastern part of the South Island, the region has a maritime climate and is protected from strong winds by undulating hills. The diverse soil types and microclimates allow winegrowers to produce notable aromatic white wines from chenin blanc, pinot gris and riesling. For red wines, try the pinot noir, which has perfumed red fruit and an elegant structure.
Bishops Head winery is a small, family-owned winery named after the iconic limestone rock face in the Waipara Valley. Prior to setting up his own winery, owner Peter Saunders accumulated extensive experience at Cloudy Bay and as wine maker for Domain Georges Michel in Marlborough. His winemaking style is strongly influenced by his work at Domaine De Montille and Domaine de la Vougeraie in Burgundy. Bishops Head wines tend to be more understated and restrained in style. The wines allow the fruit to play the starring role.
Bishops Head Pinot Noir 2009
Intense notes of raspberry, strawberry, cherries and showing some developed savoury notes. Quite round on the body with fine tannins and a long finish. An understated pinot noir that is more restrained and Burgundy-like in style. Perfect for drinking now. HK$210
Bishops Head Chenin Blanc 2009
Chenin blanc's home is the Loire Valley in France, where it produces bone dry to rich dessert wines that can age for decades. South Africa also has extensive plantings of this grape variety, producing wines with clean tropical fruit flavours. This chenin blanc is a blend of the old and new world and has developed its own personality with riper fruit, a tight knit structure and high acidity. Intense fruit with honey, lanolin and hints of bruised apple. Medium body with tight structure. Crisp acidity, a touch of sugar and a long finish. Will pair well with Thai and Sichuan dishes. HK$198
Bishops Head Riesling 2011
New Zealand is producing some unique rieslings which are close in style to Alsace wines. Most of the country's riesling is produced on the South Island, where climatic conditions are cooler, and can range from dry, to off dry and dessert wine. Complex notes of floral, lime, some hints of petrol. Medium body, crisp acidity balanced by some residual sweetness. A suitable aperitif and will pair well with spicy Asian cuisine. HK$170
Wines available from wellspringwines.com.hk