edited by Sue Courtney
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Gisborne, New Zealand
The advertisements regularly blared out of the radio beside my work desk - "Come to the New Zealand Wine Fair, New Zealand's greatest wine experience showcasing wine from all regions in New Zealand and taste exciting new varieties like Viognier and the new vintage releases of Sauvignon Blanc, etc. etc".
It's a heavily circled event on my calendar and although the shoe leather gets worn as I walk around the 150-odd stands several times, tasting by variety rather than brand, it is an event too important to miss.
I decided to take heed of the ads and decided to concentrate on Viognier for my first round of the stands. Not a very popular variety in New Zealand yet and one that people are having difficulty pronouncing, it took plenty of walking to find the six producers that were showing a wine from this grape – Millton Vineyards, Bilancia, Trinity Hill, Passage Rock, Coopers Creek and TW Wines*.
"Vee-on-yay", I heard the winemakers explaining to the people who were trying to pronounce the grape as "Vee-o-john-nee-a" and "Vee-ojj- nee-err" but there was no mispronunciation on the words they were saying after they had tried the wines, word like "Gee, that's nice", "I like that".
Perhaps most impressive were the wines at the TW Stand – TW the initials of the producers – Paul Tietjen and Geordie Witters (pictured with Geordie on the left and Paul on the right). They've been growing Viognier for some time with some of their grapes going to Millton for the Millton Growers Series Viognier since 1998, while they produced the first in their own label in 2002.
Today they had three wines to taste, the 'Gold Label' (which is the original label) from 2003 and 2004, with a new estate label introduced in 2004.
I loved the 2003 with lovely development to the flavours, drinking beautifully now. "We're down to library stocks", they said. This proves you have to buy on release for these limited quantity wines and let them develop to their best drinking window in your cellar. That's what you should do with the new release.
TW Gold Label Gisborne Viognier 2004 is aromatically appealing with honeysuckle flowers and stonefruit, a warm, slightly mealy, nutty, bright flavour to the taste with lemon bread and delicate stonefruits leading to a long spicy, full-bodied finish that has a salty tang. Selected from the three best barrels, the oak is well integrated to the point you wouldn’t even know it was there – it adds textural richness and power. The wine is sealed with a screwcap, carries 13.5% alcohol according to the label and costs about $27.95.
The varietal tasting that showed there is a good future for this grape from the middle east coast wine regions of the North Island. Check out all my reviews on my 'Other Whites' Tasting review page.
* Other New Zealand producers of Viognier that I know of are Herzog and Babich – who were at the show but had no V to taste, while absent from the show were Ascension, Collards, Odyssey and Te Mata Estate, the latter being the first producer of Viognier in New Zealand.
Look for Viognier in specialist wine stores. The NZ wines will be hard to find but worth the effort, and while I'm on Viognier I'll also recommend the Yalumba V's from South Australia. Yalumba Virigilus 2003 (about $50 with screwcap) is an outstanding wine while Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2003 (about $17) offers an affordable introduction.
Find out more about the TW Wines and their stockists from their website – www.twwines.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
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