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Wine of the Week for week ending 1 February 2004
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Melness Riesling 2003
Canterbury, New Zealand

Here it is, the brand new release of the Melness Riesling 2003, a wine with a huge reputation to live up to as it follows on from the trophy winning Melness Riesling 2001 and the trophy winning Melness Riesling 2002. But never fear, the flavour and quality is there.
Norma and Colin Marshall, Melness Wines
Norma and Colin Marshall of Melness Wines in their cafe

Packed in the familiar looking bottle with the flourishing M on the label, the only difference in the outward appearance is the vintage date and the screwcap wine seal.

The aroma leaps forth as the newly bottled wine is poured into the glass, the fragrance of lime zest and blossom with hints of marmalade so appealing and refreshing. In the mouth there's lovely acidity to the fantastically balanced flavour that tastes like juicy white-fleshed nectarines (in season in NZ right now) and lovely soft citrus. It's a beautifully fruited wine the flows across and stimulates the palate with a pure seam of acidity leading into a deliciously long, vibrant and zesty, citrus refreshing finish and the most satisfying flavour lingers for ages.

What it is about the Melness Riesling that makes it so good year in, year out? "It's the cold nights, I reckon", says Colin Marshall as his wife Norma nods her head in agreeement. "It helps with the development of flavour".

Colin knows now they never have to worry when if it rains around the main harvest period because Riesling will hang on the vines for about another 4 weeks – and in Canterbury that means a long dry autumn with warm sunny days and cold chilly nights.

At Cust, northwest of Christchurch where Colin and Norma live, it is far too cold to grow Riesling successfully, as Colin found out the hard way. So they contract growers who are dedicated and grow exactly to the strict specifications that Colin insists upon. There are two grower vineyards in Burnham (south of Christchurch) one in Swannanoa (quite near Cust but closer to the Waimakariri River) and two in Canterbury's most well known viticultural region, Waipara. Add to this the winemaking skills of Riesling perfectionists, Matthew Donaldson and Lynette Hudson of Pegasus Bay, it's the recipe for success.

"Matthew and Lynette do an absolutely amazing job", says Colin. "They constantly taste the wine as it is fermenting and when they feel it is ready, they stop".

If you like German Riesling, then you will love the Melness Rieslings of the last few years. The 2003 is a low alcohol wine, just 9% alcohol by volume with lovely balanced sweetness, so clean, fresh, pure and fruity with subtle hints of botrytis in the honeyed finish. I expect it will become quite honeyed with time. Now it's in a screwcap it will appeal even more to those who want to cellar with confidence.

The wine was released the weekend of Janury 24th/25th and those who visited the winery, as I did, tasted it first. It will be soon available in retail at fine wine stores or join the Melness Wines mailing list and pay just $23.50 a bottle.

Melness Wines also produce Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I had a sneak preview of the Melness Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2003, a soft wine, not too sweet for a late harvest style – there was no botrytis - just deliciously tasty served chilled as a summer aperitif. It's an impeccably balanced wine with at first a lemony, lemon meringue, lemon honey, musky, spicy flavour with just a touch of ginger, then the unctuous richness and rose-flavoured Turkish delight oiliness and sweetness come through. If you are a Gewurz fan like me, then you will want to try this. It wasn't released when I tasted it on Saturday, so join the mailing list and you'll be sure to get some when it is. With a 375ml bottle, it's the perfect intimate size for two.

It you are in the Canterbury region, take a drive on the inland scenic route from Rangiora towards the main highway to the West Coast and you'll find Melness Wines halfway between Rangiora and Oxford. They have a terrific little café where you can get sustenance for your journey or simply make it your destination for lunch. Then after lunch walk through the wines, smell the roses and take in the ever changing light on the westward hills across the plains, before you leave.

Melness Wines, Colin and Norma Marshall, Main Highway, Cust.

© Sue Courtney
25 January 2004

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