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Wine of the Week for week ending 22 August 2004
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Main Divide Riesling 2003
Canterbury, New Zealand

If you’re feeling a little blue because the August weather has been anything but august, the medium sweet Main Divide Canterbury Riesling 2003 will brighten up your day. As soon as the honeyed citrus flavours hit your palate, your mood will lift. Add to that the tropical fruit, mango and pineapple with a citrus tartness to balance the sweetness and a spicy, zesty, slightly gingery finish, you can close your eyes and imagine the day is bright and sunny rather than wet and chilly.

It's a wake-up wine, refreshing in its fruitiness with a myriad of citrus – limes, mandarin, orange and grapefruit, in fact so fruity you could almost drink it for breakfast – only it is wine, so you can't. I'd rather wait for lunch to have a glass because with just 9% alcohol by volume, one standard drink gives a decent sized tipple to match to something like seafood or a chicken salad.

It's perfect for an aperitif and I rather enjoyed it with a lazy dinner, a piece of chicken that had been lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, oven-baked and served with a sauce made from the pan drippings with only rice as an accompaniment. In fact it was a rather bland lazy-day meal and the Main Divide Riesling added the panache to make it something special. This is the important thing with this wine, you don’t want to match it to anything that is going to overpower its flavour.

Main Divide – which takes it name from the Southern Alps - is made by Pegasus Bay, the producer of one of New Zealand's best and most consistent brands. While Pegasus Bay wines are grown on the Donaldson property in Waipara, Main Divide wines utilise fruit sourced from contract growers that, in most cases, have had long term relationships with the Donaldsons. This means the winemakers have some input into the viticulture.

In this case the grapes were all grown in Canterbury, at Burnham south-west of Christchurch, at Swannanoa north-east of Christchurch and at Waipara. The wine was crafted by the husband and wife team of Matthew Donaldson and Lynnette Hudson.

It is sealed with a screwcap and has a recommended retail prices of $16.95.

How does the Main Divide Riesling 2003 compare to other lower alcohol Rieslings, a style that our country seems to be excelling at? I absolutely loved the Mt Difficulty Single Vineyard Long Gully Riesling 2003, reviewed earlier in the year but that is a much sweeter wine and has botrytis to concentrate the flavour.

Main Divide 2003 is similar to the Melness Riesling 2003 (also reviewed earlier in the year), and that's not surprising given that the Melness was also made by Matthew and Lynnette at Pegasus Bay. But in the Main Divide I don’t detect the hints of botrytis that I found in the Melness. Given the price point of the Main Divide, it tops my list as the best wine made in this style in New Zealand, perhaps in the world.

Main Divide Riesling 2003 should be widely available throughout New Zealand and as Main Divide wines are exported to Australia, USA, Hong Kong and parts of Europe, it could even be in those markets too.

Find out more about the Main Divide from their website –

© Sue Courtney
15 August 2004

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