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Wine of the Week for week ending 23 November 2003
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Johanneshof Cellars Gewurztraminer 2003
Marlborough, New Zealand

I'd been waiting for this weekend for three years. A chance to visit the rose gardens when the roses are at their premium, to breathe in the heady fragrances, to identify some of the elusive rose scents that I find in wine.

The gardeners prune the roses so they are at their best in the middle weekend of November and the rose festivals had been advertised for weeks. Last year the frosts and the unseasonably cold spring put paid to the roses blooming when they should have and the year before the blooms were damaged by the wet spring that brought continual rain and wind. But this year there were absolutely no complaints. Everything was coming up rosy.

Walking around Auckland's Parnell Rose gardens, it was a sea of colour. The roses were looking pristine and the air smelt sweet and fragrant.

The striking yellow rose, 'Freisia' with its herbaceous grassy, almost cats pee-like scent did its Sauvignon Blanc thing for me and I found another Sauvignon Blanc rose, the 'Abraham Derby'.

'Claude Monet', a hybrid tea, smelt of tannins and reminded me of Syrah but the one that was most like Syrah was the 'Mercy Rose', a hybrid tea with the black-red colour of Syrah in the bud opening to a deep purple pink. It was a pity the heavy blooms starting sagging on their narrow stems. Back at home I found the subtle fragrance of the gorgeous velvety red 'Dublin Bay' had the pepperiness of Syrah.

'Nobilo's Chardonnay' was appropriately named, a pale rose with an apricot centre and smelling like an unoaked Chardonnay, while 'Flamboyance' another hybrid tea, was an apricot pink with a scent that hints of stonefruit.

But it was the Gewurztraminer-like roses that had the most appeal - their richly fragrant and heady musky scents than smelt a little of lanolin and oil, perhaps with hints of citrus, as in mildy scented 'Peace', or spicy as in the generously fragrant English rose, 'Sharif Asma'. I just loved 'Auckland Metro', 'Erotica', 'Margaret Merrill' and of course 'Aotearoa NZ' with its beautiful form and delicate musky scent.

At home that night the drink of choice just had to be Gewurztraminer so I opened my current favourite, the Johanneshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2003. With its lanolin, oily, musky and slightly spicy scents it was like putting my head into a vase of sweetly perfumed gewurztraminer roses. The fragrance was delightful, sweet and appealing and the flavour didn't let it down. We had some rose flavoured Turkish Delight and the delicious rose flavour of this 'sweet' could have come from the rose flavours in my glass of wine.

I've reviewed this wine before and why change what I've already said. It's very pale in colour with the slightest lemon hue, unmistakable to the variety with its perfumed rose petal bouquet and wonderful concentration of 'attar of rose', lychee and rose-flavoured Turkish Delight. It's slightly sweetish, rich and textural with fabulous mouthfeel, terrific balance and immense concentration. Musky pink 'smoker lollies' and exotic spices linger with just a hint of anise linger and a stonefruit nuance. The finish is luscious and moreish. It's a fantastic and beautifully balanced wine - Gewurztraminer made just the way I like it. The only thing I'll add that in the several weeks since last tasted, I like it even more, especially with that gentle touch of acid that will keep the wine true when it's chilled right down in the summer.

The wine is sealed with a cork and carries 13% alcohol. It costs $26 a bottle from the winery. It should also be reasonably available in retail.

Warwick Foley of Johanneshof Cellars is quite a dab hand at making gewurz. This year's Liquorland Top 100 resulted in his first gold medal and trophy for the Johanneshof Gewurztraminer but Warwick's been the winemaking wiz behind the Te Whare Ra gold medal and trophy winning gewurz's of the past.

Johanneshof Cellars are located at Koromiko on the main route between Picton and Blenheim. It you arrive at the South Island on the Cook Strait Ferry, Johanneshof is the first Marlborough winery you will come to about 9km south of the ferry terminal. Their underground cellar that was blasted out of the rock wall behind the winery is a summer tourist attraction.

Johanneshof Cellars do not have a website but you can contact them by e-mail on

© Sue Courtney
16 November 2003

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