edited by Sue Courtney
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Nelson, New Zealand
38 Sauvignon Blanc before morning tea, 27 Cabernet Merlots before lunch, then in the afternoon 54 Merlots more. And that was an easy day at the New Zealand Wine Society Royal Easter Show Wine judging. The day before we had 153 wines to taste – Rieslings, Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and other reds. I was envious a little of the judging panel beside me - they got the Syrah class this year. But perhaps the panel I was on was luckier in some respects as we had an awesome line-up of 2002 vintage Merlots with an outstanding result that saw almost 1/3 of those wines win either silver or gold.
The show culminates on the last day with a tasting of the best of the best. This is where the top wines, one for each grape variety, are lined up one next to the other for the judges from all four judging panels to taste the best of their and their co-judges selections and to pick, by secret ballot, their choice for Wine of the Show. And the line-up was indeed fantastic. I got to taste one of the best Chardonnays I've tried in a while as well as gorgeously textured Sauvignon Blanc, a rich inky Merlot, a succulent and savoury Pinot Noir and last but not last, my personal favourite, a dense dark, peppery Syrah. Will it be the Wine of the Show? I won’t know until next Saturday night (February 28th) when the trophy winners are announced. Meanwhile the other results should be available mid week on www.wineshow.co.nz.
It's as black as they come, a shiny black with purple rims like a ripe blackberry bursting with pristine ripe fruit. Tasting this black beauty I find a beautifully crafted wine, a rich creamy wine with fabulous fruit weight, ripe tannin structure and a lovely profile of peppery spice. Long and persistent in the palate with plums, berries, currants and chocolatey oak, it’s a big wine, built to last and the fine seam of acidity will ensure it does that. (I now know this wonderful wine was the Bilancia Hawkes Bay Syrah 2002 and it did not win the Champion Wine of the Show.)
What could be more of a contrast than a deliciously sweet wine, a wine to tame the tannins that have plastered the teeth and tongue from the solid tasting session, a wine to refresh the palate and awaken the senses? When I arrived home that's exactly what I needed and the perfect wine turned out to be the Neudorf Riesling Botrytis Selection 2003 from Nelson. You won’t find this wine in the wine show results for it was not entered. But it's a gold medal winner in my book, for sure.
Pale in colour, beeswax on the nose and full of lime honey and flower nectar in the palate, this is undoubtably Riesling with its abundance of zesty lime with nutty citrus, earthy citrus and citrus honey flavours on an unctuous nectar-like texture. Add a touch of spice and the candied lime and grapefruit peel to zest up the finish and what a clean refreshing sweetie you have.
As first I thought 'this isn’t as sweet as I thought it was going to be' but that's the winemaker's art in perfecting the balance of the sugar to acid, but the sweetness come out on the finish and hangs around for ages.
Fill tiny trumpets with this and hang it in a tree outside your lounge window and watch the tuis come from miles around to sip on the nectar.
The grapes for this palate-refreshing wine were handpicked from the Neudorf Home Vineyard in May last year after they had hung on the vine for an extended time, thus allowing Botrytis Cinerea fungus to shrivel the grapes into raisins. The wine has 11.5% alcohol by volume, 9.5gL total acidity and 103grams of residual sugar – it's definitely not for diabetics! It comes packaged in a 375ml bottle – with screwcap - and has a retail price of $28.
The back label says "Production is limited and our wines may be difficult to source", so check out the Neudorf website for further information.
© Sue Courtney
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