Wine New Zealand - the biggest showing of New Zealand wines under one roof- was held in Auckland last week over three days. There were over 100 exhibitors showing over 1000 wines with lots and lots of new releases including the unveiling of many of the 2005 vintage sauvignon blancs.
I knew I didnít have long at the Show as I could only attend two of the three days and a decent chunk of that allotted tasting time would be taken up with seminars to attend and the Sommelier of the Year to judge. So I made a plan to visit first-time exhibitors, to look at all the Syrahs, to taste my current favourite drinking wine, gewurztraminer, with a look at this, that and the other - and of course lunch - in between.
It was a good plan and the 'lunch' box and the 'this, that and other' box ended with ticks inside them. But my attempts to visit all the new producers and to taste all the Syrahs, were thwarted. And I think I only tasted one or two gewurzt's in the whole room - such a shame. I just didnít have enough time, especially when my palate was continually shocked and excited by the exuberance of the new vintage savvies.
Still, I told myself, itís not the best environment for writing tasting notes - especially on the stands when they want to tell you what a more lauded wine writer has said about their wines.
So what I enjoyed was - tasting some wines I had tasted before, wines that I knew what I'd written about before, wines I'd been excited about before to see if the thrill came back.
I found one of those wines on the Francis-Cole stand and it is simply called Bianco.
Francis-Cole Bianco Edition One NV is an unusual white wine. With 'Edition One NV', you might be expecting a sparkling wine, but this is a still wine. It is unusual, therefore, in that it is not vintage specific and though it is a blend, there is no clue on the bottle of what that blend might be.
When I tasted it back in May, I found a fragrant, floral, aromatic, soapy smelling wine with soft acidity, a reasonably weighty palate with a lightly oily texture, apricot and tropical fruit, musk and Asian spices building to a full, rich, spicy finish. I saw little influence of oak. But I loved the wine and I could taste gewurztraminer in the unnamed mix. That, of course, hooked me.
Tasted at the wine show, three months later, the oak was a little more obvious, slightly coconutty American oak, subtle but adding another interesting nuance to the wine.
"It's all about the temperature you serve it", said Rebecca Worsley, the marketing arm of the company. It was warmer in the wine show hall than it was when I tasted the wine at home. So for an interesting bottle of wine, with flavours changing over the course of the bottle, this is a top pick.
This is a wine for someone who wants to drink and not think, someone who doesnít care whether they have a bright acidic riesling, a zesty sauvignon blanc, a spicy gewurtz, a neutral pinot gris or an oaky chardonnay in their glass.
It could be a blend of three, four or five varieties. Who knows except the winemaker? But if you care, then think about what the producer grows in the vineyard - that is Marlborough Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, Pinot gris and Gewurztraminer, and Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, then think about what you can taste.
There's not much oak, just enough to make it interesting. And it is simply great on its own or with lightly spiced foods. In fact if the contestants in the Sommelier of the Year 2005 had mentioned this wine as the new world wine match for the Paua Sausage on Kumara Mash with Wasabi Roe and Soy Glaze, I might have given them extra marks for being adventurous.
Bianco carries 13.5% alcohol by volume, costs $21-$24 and is sealed with a screwcap.
Bianco is a partner of Rosso, a similarly styled red blend. The well-structured earthy, savoury, slightly herbal Rosso didn't push my buttons like the Bianco did, I would have like a bit more sweet fruit to make it a 'wine-by-the-glass' prospect. But if you are looking for an interesting red to have with a portobello mushroom and venison pizza, try this.
Francis-Cole is not a new producer, but in its short life span it has changed its name. It is the of owner/winemaker Simon Lampen. When Simon's partner Penelope gave birth to their twin sons Sebastian Francis and Julian Cole, the company was re-branded with the twins' second names.
You can find our more about Francis-Cole and their wines, including the delicious new release Francis-Cole Pinot Gris 2005, from the www.francis-colenz.com.
© Sue Courtney
28 August 2005