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Wine of the Week for week ending 1 August 2004
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Mt Rosa Pinot Gris 2003
Central Otago, New Zealand

A new pinot gris superstar in the making.

Mt Rosa label, photo by Sue Courtney

Mt Rosa Pinot Gris 2003, a new label, one of the many from Central Otago, but a label with one of the most delicious Central Otago pinot gris wines, made in the style that my palate just adores.

It's sweeter than most, but not sweet, more off-dry to medium sweet and sitting at the gewurztraminer end of the pinot gris spectrum, reminding me very much of a Pinot Gris from Alsace.

At the first tasting I found this pale straw coloured wine to be rich, luscious, slightly musk smelling with a bright lemony fragrance behind that. There is lots of sweetness in this wine but good acidity too. Rich, intense, full of flavour with flavours of apples, pears and stonefruit, a warm rich texture, a lovely spicy complexity and a long rich finish, I can imagine this with a creamy foie gras or with my favourite pinot gris match, wonderfully tender roast pork with crackling and a spiced pear sauce.

Tasted over several days with much restraint not to knock the bottle off - every time it seems to be better, more richer, more luscious, more mouthfilling and still those delicious bright flavours of stonefruits, musk and Asian five-spices, hold.

On the second night I decided to open a bottle of Dry River Pinot Gris 2003, another of my favourites and the benchmark for New Zealand pinot gris, as the Mt Rosa reminded me so much of this Martinborough wine. The Dry River is a little more closed on the nose but with a wonderfully spicy fragrance and a lovely rich, viscous texture.

I would hate to have these two wines in front of me in unmarked glasses and try and pick which one is from Martinborough and which one is from Central Otago. But on comparison I can say the Mt Rosa is rich, luscious, Alsatian-like through and through with the most phenomenal finish. The Dry River is drier on entry but becomes rich and luscious with flavours of Asian five spices, musk and citrus zest - it is so concentrated, so powerful in its youth having recently tasted a vertical of Dry River Print Gris I know this is just a bud. The conclusion - different wines at the beginning but oh so similar on the finish.

I successfully matched the wines to a five-spice coated fillet of pork, pan-fried to seal the fillet then finished in a hot oven for 12-15 minutes. It was accompanied with a stir fry of sliced fennel bulb, apple and oyster mushrooms.

The Mt Rosa website says that their Pinot Gris is drinking well now and will improve over the next year. I agree with that but they also say drink within 18 months of release. I'm not so sure about that statement as I thought it would last for longer, especially with the screwcap to preserve the freshness. Time will tell. Hopefully I can find some more bottles of this to buy and put some away for a little longer.

The stylised logo on the Mt Rosa wine is of a Merino Ram, one of the animals that used to rule the station in the Gibbston Valley area before grapes took over the lower paddocks. They still run in the hills.

Smart packaging, smart wine, smart price. It carries 13% alcohol and retails for about $23 a bottle. Find out more from the Mt Rosa website

The Dry River Pinot Gris 2003 is usually only available on mail order and this vintage has already been released and snapped up. You might be lucky to pick some up at auction. It is well worth it to try this benchmark.

© Sue Courtney
25 July 2004

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