It's heading into the silly season - oops, it's crept up on us and is already here. Time to think seriously about what youíre going to serve with your meal on Christmas Day. You may start with Champagne or a classically styled NZ bubbly, then pop open a few chards and pinots to accompany the main course, but whatever the lead up, you have to finish with something sweet. Chances are if you are doing the whole Xmas Pud thing, you will put on a high alcohol, fortified Tokay or Muscat-styled wine. That's sure to bring the zzzzz's around quickly. But if you forgo the Xmas Pud and finish with the meal with a Kiwi Christmas classic of 'pavlova, strawberries and cream', I can recommend a dessert wine that is much lower in alcohol, is delicate in its attack and leaves a lasting sweet impression. I know, because in the name of research for my readers, I've done the tasting to prove it
That wine is TW Botrytis Viognier 2005.
Now Viognier is the new trendy white in New Zealand and although it's been around for about seven years, now, there is still not much made. Even though, two producers have made a Viognier sticky. One is the delectable Trinity Hills Gimblett Noble Viognier 2005 made from Hawkes Bay fruit. The other is this TW Botrytis Viognier 2005 from Gisborne.
So was there something about 2005 that induced conditions for a botrytis styled Viognier wine? Paul Tietjen, the 'T' in TW, tells me his story.
"There was rain at a critical time near the end of the ripening period which induced a 'good' noble rot infection in the viognier grapes. We picked the clean stuff off and left the rest," he said. That allowed the rotten grapes to turn into sweet little raisins. And because the overall acidity of the wine is governed by the acidity of the grapes on the vine when the botrytis infection happened, if there is enough acidity, the resulting wine can be so super sweet yet still have excellent acid and sugar balance. And that's the case with TW Viognier.
TW Botrytis Viognier 2005 is deep gold in colour with a lightly orange or bronze tinge (depending on the light you are in). There's a distinct aromatic note to the honeyed aroma and intensely rich, waxy, apricot, honey and citrus flower flavours. Delicate and soft in its attack, it slides across the mouth and finishes with a sweet sensation. The tropical fruit-filled aftertaste is concentrated, but delicate and never cloying. I have to say that when I tasted this wine in July before its release, there was a slight graininess to the texture, but five months later it is all nectar, nectar, nectar.
When I was thinking about what to match to this wine, I first thought that apricots would work. And fresh apricots, or canned apricots in syrup just might. But the apricots I prepared were a disaster. I plumped up some dried apricots in a marinade of tangelo juice and zest with a little crystallised ginger and served this atop pavlova and cream. But the apricots and ginger really screamed at the wine and it wasn't a particularly attractive match. But matching the wine to pavlova, strawberries and whipped cream had me searching for seconds. A truly delicious and very seasonal match, and works well with pavlova and cream on its own. I could imagine it with pineapple and seasonal tropical fruits too.
TW Botrytis Viognier 2005 costs $28 a half bottle, carried 9% alcohol by volume and has a massive 243 grams per litre of residual sugar, though you would never guess it. The tall slender bottle is sealed with a screwcap and with its classy presentation it will look good on the table on Christmas Day - or any other time for that matter when you want a light, creamy dessert and a beautiful sweet wine to accompany it.
TW Wines have national distribution but if you canít find it in your store, dial up the TW website and check out their stockists. And of course you can also buy this and other tasty TW wines online.
Paul Teitjen and Geordie Witters, The 'T' and 'W' respectively, started their partnership after a fishing expedition in 1997. Both growers at the time and with many award winning wines coming off their respective properties, they had both been individually thinking about producing their own label. But over a few drinks on the fishing trip, they came up with a plan to do it together. They've been producing wine under the TW label since 1998. They are Gisborne's first Viognier growers and have won gold and trophy accolades for their Viognier, as well as for their other wines. I totally recommend the Black Label Chardonnay, by the way.
© Sue Courtney
3 December 2006